The next topic came to me from an interaction that I had with my boss's wife. She was showing me that she had a coat hook which I could hang up in the first floor of their home if I liked. She said that all I had to do was put a screw in the wall and the coat-hook would hang off of that. This led me to the question: what the heck is the wall made out of anyway? I know the walls of their home look very different than in America and are made from a different material. So, after a long discussion I figured out just what a wall is made of, what is behind the wall, and how houses are built. Due to this conversation I am now inspired to share more about the difference in building between what I am familiar with in America and what I have seen here in Lebork.
The first style of housing that I want to write about is the standard apartment building. I see these housing units all over Lebork and I must admit they are very practical. They seem to be able to house a lot of apartments or flats and this is very good for allowing more people to live in one building, while saving space at the same time. I believe there are many American cities that have similar buildings. New York City certainly has many such buildings and it is somewhat common to find the same block style apartment building in any major American city. So, it seems that apartment buildings or complexes are common the world over and there are many parellels between what is here in Lebork with what is in American cities.
While apartment buildings may be the same, there are some key differences between houses in Lebork and houses in my own region in America. The styles are much different. Most houses in my region have more sloping roofs and roofs made with shingles or metal sheets. They are also wider and not as tall as the houses here in Lebork. Another difference is that most homes in my region have basements or lower levels. These are floors of a building that go below the ground and it is very uncommon to not have one in my home region. Most are what we call 'not finished', which means that they are not a place that could be used for a living space but are instead a space where you can store things or have your washing machine and/or dryer. For example my Mother uses her basement for laundry and my Grandmother uses hers to house her furnace and firewood.
The way the buildings look are also much different. Most American homes have a thing that we call 'siding'. This is a thing that is put on the side of homes to help protect the material underneath. Most of the time it is made from plastic or metal, but sometimes it can be made of something more expensive. Siding is essentially a cheap way of covering up the structure of a house so that the weather does not damage this. I have noticed that most Polish houses are made of concrete or brick. There are American homes that are made from similar material, but if they are most do not have siding and one can see the layers of brick that make up the structure of the house. However, brick homes are more expensive so more common are homes that are made from wood. These homes are less expensive and have cheaper parts than brick homes. They are not entirely made from wood as the foundation is made from concrete, there is insulation in the walls, and the siding and roofing materials are made from plastic, metal, or rubber.
Regardless of what a house is made of there is always the problem of heating and cooling. In my region it is very common to have a wood stove. These can be small and in living areas so that they are more like a fireplace. They can also be large and in this case they usually go in a basement or outside but close to a home. My Grandmother has two wood stoves in her basement and my Uncle has a large heating sytsem connected to a woodstove outside of his home. If a house does not have wood stove then they have a heating system that is powered by gas. However, burning wood is very common in my region. In fact, my cousin and I sold firewood when we were young to make extra money. My uncle and my cousin are also quite crafty because they burn their garbage in the stove that heats their house. Of course this is not very good for the planet and it would be better if they recycled, but they have done this for years. My own family also burned their garbage for a time when I was young, and it was even one of the chores which I had to do. Now, we try and recycle more, but since most people live in the countryside there is not a great recycling or trash system in place.
Walking around the neighborhoods of Lebork I am happy to smell the wood-smoke in the air. It reminds me of my own home and there is something primal about using a wood fire to heat one's home. Maybe one day in the future humans will come up with some new super-effecient way to heat homes, but for now I appreciate and like the old traditional way of burning wood. As the saying goes, if it isn't broke then don't fix it!
Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan David was raised by his parents with his two sisters and brother.