Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Purgatory of Stan-Hunting

Ok so I've visited a stan in Blok 21, my husband's favorite skyscrapers at the edge of Novi Beograd. And really, it was lovely inside. I'm not talking about a renovated stan either: I don't think this one's been touched since the 1970s. For such an inhuman-looking building from the outside, the insides are rather wonderful. The rooms are not too big, not too small. There's a sense of comfort and, dare I say it, grace and human proportion. Plus, lots of windows. Very nice indeed.

I was startled to find myself think, "I could definitely live here."

But, the stan we saw was on the Northeast corner of the building. I'm obsessed with sunshine and my husband is obsessed with a good view. That means the stans worth buying for us are in the Southwest corners of those buildings, on floors 7-14 above the traffic noise but below the neon advertisements perched on their rooftops. I asked the realtor what he could dig up. He laughed with ever-so-slight derision for my naivete. Everyone in Belgrade knows those Southwestern stans are the best. The chances one would make its way onto the open market are slim at best.

Meanwhile, my stan-hunt in Vracar, my favorite neighborhood in the old Belgrade, was bearing similar fruit. We saw stans with lots of windows but all facing into the walls of close-by buildings; or lots of windows all facing North; or lots of closets but bedrooms too skinny to fit our bed into.

Every owner was eager to volunteer which walls could and could not be knocked down. No one thought to mention about parking (even if they had it) unless we asked specifically. The prices of particular stans varied, sometimes rather widely, depending on which realtor you asked. But all indicated the official Internet price was a ceiling from which the owner would naturally expect to come down.

I broke free of the hunt and wandered disconsolately through the streets near the Kalenic Pijaca green market. Then I turned a corner and there it was. The stan of my dreams. My heart literally skipped a beat and then I think it exploded.

But, is it for sale? Probably not. But one never knows in Belgrade of course. How much money would the crazy Amerikanka care throw at the problem? That said, if we're talking multiple heirs, all bets are off because they'll never agree. Two Serbs have three opinions and probably four political parties.

The problem with being in love is of course it makes it very hard to carry on seeing other stans. I don't want to play the field anymore. Stan monogamy.

My husband says I'm wearing him out with all this emotion. Would I please have pity? Less darkness and fewer exaltations. I say, 'You're a Serb. Emotional is your genetic nature.' But, really he's right, it's wearing for me as well. This hunting and searching purgatory.


Anonymous said...

If you buy an apartment in a building that is near completion, you can more often than not buy two apartments either next to each other or above each other, and make a loft or a way bigger apartment.

We bought our place in a brand new apartment building, one of the best in the city here, they built another one next door and the builders showed us the top floor, where you can buy the entire attick space above it and instead of your place being 80 square meters, it can be 210 square meters and you can develop everything as you want, have space for 2 king sized beds in a room if you like, to stay true to American standards.

This is not America, but still, if you want to make it like so, you can if you buy in new buildings that are not yet fully done, so you can do the interior design.

jeju said...

If you don't have to make a decision, keep looking. Don't settle for something you're not happy with, in particular don't settle for something out of the area you want to live in. Do you really want to sacrifice location and everything that goes with that, for a slightly better apartment in Novi Beograd?

Mia said...

My aunt & uncle bought an apartment in Novi Beograd in the 70s, when they were being built. It seemed super luxurious, compared to my baka's post war 1950's 2 room apartment near Slavija. Now, a developer wants to build an additional floor ON TOP of their building (!) Is this safe?

Rosemary Bailey Brown said...

Lots of developers have been putting "Extra" floors on building in Belgrade and Novi Beograd for more than a decade now. Some are OK, some are not in terms of legality and structural safety. One big concern is the strength of the building below - can it hold such a load, in particular as these extra floors are almost always concrete. In particular, what happens in event of an earthquake? The "Yugoslav" era buildings may be the strongest and safest to build on, but nothing's guaranteed unless you've had a very good structural engineer examine things.