Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apartment Hunting In Pristina

Ah, I meant to say hello earlier but alas, it slipped my mind!  Let me give a warm greeting to the new American contingent who arrived early last week.  I got to go flat hunting with a friend who was previously here and boy-oh-boy are people seriously trying to rip-off the internationals!  Eastern European friends say that it's worst when you are from the US, Germany, or other Western European states...they really want to stick it to us for some reason :(  We looked at a one bedroom place where the guy was asking 700 Euros and I had to hold back the laughter...did we really look like we were born yesterday???  Unless you possess fantastic bargaining skills I would estimate that a flat in Dragodan where the landlord isn't really trying to take you for a ride would be around 500 Euros for two bedrooms.  For a one-bedroom pad (which is a little harder to find with the mega buildings) it shouldn't cost you more than 350 Euros all inclusive.
Make sure that you sign that rental contract and specify who will be paying what (all inclusive is best so you know that you won't get stuck paying someone else's power bill!) And the three most important questions to ask in Kosovo when looking for an apartment are 1.) Is there a generator 2.) Is there a water tank (don't fall for the "oh we have water all the time, don't worry" line!) 3.) Is there central heating?  And naturally, if you don't want the landlord coming into your apartment uninvited, make it clear to him from the very beginning that you like your privacy and while you are renting the place, it's yours and he and his family should have permission to enter the place!

I think I have previously expressed my dismay (ranted, raved) at people traveling the wrong way down the one-way streets in Dragodan where I reside...so last week I decided to tell a few of the law-breakers what I thought of their illegal travels...I got very similar answers from both that just had me shaking my head (blood pressure rising...must control Fist of Death!)  The first guy I stopped expected me to back-up out of a line of parked cars so he could pass.  I did so but partially blocked the end of the lane and rolled down my window to have a "friendly chat".  I asked the law-breaker if he realized that it was a one-way street and that he was going the wrong direction.  The reply I got had me fuming..."it's okay," he tells me, "I just live down the street a couple of houses".  My response to him was "if you live on this street then you should know better than to drive down it the wrong way" :-P Gaaaaa, how does living on the street justify breaking the traffic laws?!  It's almost as good as telling the police that pulling them over is "against their human rights" (read 28 May's entry for that story!)

The big news in Kosovo today is that UNMIK and the EU have signed an agreement that paves the way for the UN mission to begin transferring assets, buildings, but not authority in police & justice over to the EU mission.  The document signed is not what the media has heralded it to be but more of a technical agreement between the two organizations.

The EU is due to bring more staff in the coming months (currently only approximately 350 of planned strength has been deployed) as the UN continues its downsizing exercise to bring it staffing levels to 30% of the current mission.  100 new EULEX staff are expected to deploy to Kosovo each week until the full 1900 international staff are on the ground.  The planned timeframe for the reconfiguration with the eventual handing over of authority is four months.  Serbia's foreign minister stated the UNMIK was "making a mistake" in turning over policing in Kosovo to the EU mission without the consent of the Security Council.

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