The New Building

I’m not dead, I’ve merely moved to Krowodrza. It’s similar to being dead, but the rents are higher and Internet access is less reliable. Although I am now just a few tens of metres beyond Aleje, this is enough to make me a suburban person. Us suburban people do not have access to 24-hours shops and are low on the list of priorities for Internet service providers. Netia promised to connect us within a month, but all they’ve managed to do so far is send round a Laurel and Hardy duo to cluck in a sceptical manner at the socket in my wall. Actually that’s not quite true, they also provided me with a mobile internet dongle that gives me a whole gigabyte of data transfer to lavish on a month of Internet use; putting this post up will probably eat half of it. Imagine what it would be like to be pleasantly surprised by customer service here, just once.

We were seduced by a New Building. After three years of living in a hundred-year-old kamienica in a flat with the kind of spiral staircase specifically outlawed by the Geneva Convention and average winter temperatures to rival Kamchatka we fell irretrievably in lust with a 50-square-metre-square pad with a balcony. I was always of the opinion that, if I was going to live in Krakow, I should be able to look out of my window and know I was in Krakow. Now I step onto my palatial balcony and look out on a scene that could well be Birmingham. I make myself feel better by fleeing into what seems like a vast kitchen and cooking scones.

The New Building is the acme of Polish urban ambition. It has an awful lot to recommend it. There are two lifts, one of which is large enough to take bikes, everybody has a balcony big enough to host ballroom dancing, and the heating comes on at October 1st sharp and will probably have us opening windows in February. People are far too polite, it’s as if we’re all permanently at a school open day where everybody says “Dzien dobry” and holds doors open all the time. The hardest thing to get used to is the guy on the door. He’s not there all the time, and I’m not really sure what his job is, but he wears a uniform and looks you up and down disapprovingly every evening. I think he’s supposed to be the building’s conscience.

Eventually I will get used to this strangeness and return to my habitual insightfulness.

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22 thoughts on “The New Building

  1. ut_eagle says:

    It’s all fun and games until the drilling in the apartments around you is enough to drive you mad. I’ve been in a new building for a year and still listen to drilling on an almost daily basis. Other than that, enjoy the new palatial estate!

  2. guest says:

    But Scatts is definitely dead.

    prove me wrong, Scatts !

  3. scatts says:

    I wish I could, guest, I wish I could.

    There’s been an awful lot going on at work recently, mostly positive stuff so nothing nasty but it’s sucking up all my time even weekends and when I’m not working I’ve been doing loads of other stuff so blogging has taken a seat right at the back of the bus. My own blog is no better than my contributions here, unfortunately. Stats are now in minus figures, there are more people un-reading my blog than there are reading it!

    I’ve been itching to post about a number of news items, not least of which is the rapid slide into madness of my fave twin, his refusal to shake hands and demands that various public servants should be exiled. Then there was the recent coach crash, latest in a very long line of coach crashes (might still do that one actually).

  4. guest says:

    OK, let’s hope it is actually you and not Nelson….

  5. Sylwia says:

    “the heating comes on at October 1st sharp”

    Haven’t you watched the news? No heating this year.

    “I think he’s supposed to be the building’s conscience.”


  6. scatts says:

    Welcome to a world of kitchens, balconies, heating and boxiness, Jamie!

    Have you really got one of those communist heating systems where Big Brother decides when to switch it on? I’m surprised in such a new block.

    Laughing my arse off at Netia! At least it’s not just TPSA that suck.

    Must pop down and check the place out sometime.

  7. Cosi says:

    “(…)a mobile internet dongle that gives me a whole gigabyte of data transfer to lavish on a month of Internet use; putting this post up will probably eat half of it.”
    Ha ha, some 15 years ago it would be enough for life-time posting ;P Ahh, sweet ol’ times…

  8. island1 says:

    Actually, there is drilling! Do we live in the same building or is this a standard feature of all of them?

  9. island1 says:

    We do have communist heating. Either that or I’ve seriously misunderstood something. Maybe the Internet also gets switched on on October.

  10. island1 says:

    Human trivia expands to fill all available bandwidth.

  11. island1 says:

    Them peskie Ruskies again?

  12. Outsider says:

    That’s completely insane! I would have thought Commie heating arrangements went the way of meat queues and toilet paper rationing sometime in the early 90s. Before reading your post, I even would have bet serious money on this kind of installation being banned for new apartment buildings. o.0

  13. scatts says:

    It is still fairly common even in new blocks because of two reasons, I think:

    a) Poland is paranoid about gas installations (therefore not common to run gas pipes through blocks to your own boiler & heating system – because you’ll just go and blow everyone up!)

    b) it is a cheap installation so the builder can make more dosh. Assuming the pipes are not too far away and other technical stuff.

    Even though it is a royal pain-in-the-arse, it is perhaps better than some alternatives, like our last place where the only heating was electric convection devices. They dry you out like a prune, make you sick and cost a fortune in electricity.

  14. Sylwia says:

    In fact it’s much cheaper than gas heating and much more convenient. We use it because we have new installations, not some 19th century ones.

  15. Sylwia says:

    And I forgot about one more pro argument and a very Polish one, too: if you have no heating none of your neighbours does. ;)

  16. Outsider says:

    A royal pain the ass is right. I remember as a kid shivering under blankets for weeks while the outdoor temperature stubbornly hovered just above what the rules deemed cold enough to start heating. And when the heat finally came on, in a concert of metallic knocks, gurgles and loud cheers from every corner of the blok, it soon got so hot we had to cope by opening the windows to the glacial wind at regular intervals.

    When renting an apartment, there are things I can compromise on, but letting a faceless bureaucrat decide on the temperature of my habitat – out of the question. I’m quite frankly astonished anyone would willingly put up with that, especially in what looks like a nice middle-to-upper-middle-class residential tower.

  17. polkaontheisland says:

    Your very own doorman? Why, that’s the best source of gossip you could have – except for laundry ladies.

    Carreer, Island! Tsk-tsk.

  18. Sylwia says:

    Was it a building made out of wielka płyta? It no longer works this way. Nowadays buildings are warmed up, so it doesn’t get that cold inside. Also, you have this termostat thingy that actually works. I have one heater permanently turned off, because it’s warm enough. But sometimes, on warmer days, I turn off all of them and turn them on only for night. It’s up to you, not some bureaucrat.

  19. Outsider says:

    @ Sylwia (I can’t reply underneath your post for some reason): yes, I’m talking wielka plyta in the ’80s. Glad to hear there’s been some improvement, but I still don’t really understand how it works nowadays: does someone at the spoldzielnia decide when to make heating accessible for everyone and you just turn it off when you don’t need it, or do they have a huge common boiler working all year long which you can pump from at will? If it’s the latter, I can accept the idea as a viable low-cost solution.

  20. Piotr says:

    As far as I know, it’s the spółdzielnia who decides when to cut off heating in spring and when to turn it on again in autumn. They do it, because if it were turned on all year long, they (and by extension you) would still have to pay for the transport to you, even when no one would have the radiator turned on at their apartment; somebody has to pay for the heat coming from the heat supply station to your housing estate. That’s how central heating works. :-) And of course, you also have to pay for what you’ve actually used in autumn/winter.

  21. mjd says:

    been living in Boston for a while now and all the apts here seem to have big brother heating, too.

  22. bob says:

    Jamie – you should run to be the Przezes of the spółdzielnia. That would really shake things up – a Westerner!

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