Not everyone lives in such typical places. For some people, normal everyday life, and the homes they live in, are really quite unusual
Most of us live in a house or an apartment in a city or town filled with people just like us. We have our front yards and our backyards and our neighbors and friends and our homes which look just like thousands and millions of homes across the world.
But not everyone lives in such typical places. For some people, normal everyday life, and the homes they live in, are really quite unusual.
Did you ever think it might be cool to live in a cave? Well, in Coober Pedy, Australia, one third of the population lives in caves. Coober Pedy is really an opal mine in a desert. That means that people there hunt for precious jewels called opals and sell them to make money. The problem is, Coober Pedy is in a desert, which means it’s hot in the summer. Really hot. The people there have found an excellent way to escape the heat without paying for expensive air conditioning. Caves! Okay, not exactly caves. In Coober Pedy, people dig their homes out of the mountain. That means they’ll have a three-bedroom apartment dug deep into a hill. There you go, a perfectly insulated home that stays at a comfortable temperature all year long.
Because there are so many homes underground, when you look at a picture of Coober Pedy, it looks like no one lives there! But really, all their houses are just doors in the mountain. The only downside? No windows!
So you’d like to visit Coober Pedy…
Coober Pedy is in Australia. That means it is wintertime in July and August. Keep that in mind if you’d like to go for summer vacation.
Coober Pedy may look exciting, but once you’ve looked, and of course bought some opals, there isn’t much else to do.
Great news: There are underground hotels and restaurants in Coober Pedy. The restaurants aren’t kosher, but you can book a hotel room and get the full experience. Enjoy!
Average price of a home: $80,000
Okay, so you could pitch a tent in your backyard and say you live in a tent, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Could you imagine living in a tent all the time?
No, living in tents is not a thing from the times of Avraham Avinu. There are people who live in tents even today. And if you live in the Tristate area, it might not be so far from you. In a place called Ocean Grove, along the Jersey shore, rows of tents form a line of homes that people actually live in. The tents have wooden frames, so they look like little houses. But when you get up close, you see that every house is made of canvas. At one point there were 200 tents for people to live in! Today, the people who rent these tents come just for the summer. It’s a bungalow but different.
The bathroom and kitchen are in a shed in the back, kind of like an outhouse. But that’s inconsequential if you get to live in a tent! It’s not so easy to rent a tent, though. The people who live in them have been renting them for years — and if you want to get a turn, you’ll have to sign up on the waiting list.
Under One Roof
What if your entire town lived under one roof? Need to get something from the store? No problem, it’s only an elevator-ride away. Want to ask your teacher a question? No problem. Just pad on down the hallway in your socks and knock on the door. And you never have a good excuse for coming late to school. What are you going to say? There was traffic on the elevator?
In Whittier, Alaska, almost the entire town lives in one building. Begich Tower was originally built for the US military, but when they left, regular everyday people moved in — 220 families, to be exact. The town only has one tunnel going in and out of it, so leaving can be a bit difficult. But with everything right there in one building, you don’t have much reason to leave. Even the frigid winter weather doesn’t matter if your police station, government office, and grocery store are all in your building. You never even need to go outside.
Unfortunately, privacy can be a bit of a problem. With everyone in the same building, you live in very close quarters with the rest of the town. Keeping a secret is almost impossible. That’s why there are a few residents of Whittier who don’t live in Begich Tower. The mayor is one of them — he got tired of people telling him their opinions all the time. They’re much less likely to drive over than they were to walk down the hallway!
So you’d like to visit Whittier, Alaska…
Don’t. No, really, don’t. It’s quite impossible to visit during the freezing winter, and in the summer, most of the population goes to Anchorage to take care of the tourists there.
After a quick look around the one building in town, and a small walk to see the rest of it, you’re done. Now go wait in line for the tunnel out. Just beware — the tunnel closes at 5 p.m., and if you’re on the inside, well, you’re stuck until morning.
Average price of an apartment: Rent is approximately $1,000 per month
The Four-Month-Long Night
Wouldn’t it be great to live in a place where you’re not allowed to die? In Longyearbyen, Norway, people are not allowed to die. It is so far north, and so freezing cold in Longyearbyen, that bodies don’t decompose. The cemetery has been closed for 70 years already.
Besides that, in Longyearbyen, the sun sets on October 26th and doesn’t rise again for almost four months. On February 15th, when the sun finally climbs back into the sky, the whole town gathers to wait for it. It doesn’t rise until midday, and then the town is off on a week-long celebration of daytime! So next time you see the sun out, remember, not everyone is going to see the sun today.
So you think you want to visit Longyearbyen…
The weather here only gets up to 45 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. So no matter the season, don’t forget your winter coat.
Have you heard that polar bears are endangered? Well, here, it doesn’t feel like it. In Longyearbyen, there are more polar bears than humans, and the law requires people going outside to carry a rifle to protect themselves from these animals.
Instead of cars, most people get around on snowmobiles.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Gently Down the Stream
Or, in this case, row your whisper boat gently down the canal. In Giethoorn, the Netherlands, houses are built right up to the canals, which serve as roads. It’s different from Venice, though, because every person lives in his own little cottage with a yard that borders on the water. It’s a quiet town, and silent boats called whisper boats are used instead of cars in order to get around.
In the past, no one knew about Giethoorn, and it was a quiet, sleepy village. Today there are hundreds of tourists each year.
So you think you want to visit Giethoorn…
Summer is the best time to visit Giethoorn because the weather is so beautiful. But if you love ice skating, go in the winter, when all the canals turn to solid ice!
The water in the canals is about three feet (one meter) deep. So don’t worry if you can’t swim.
Cost of a home: $350,000
The Strangest Homes
Guess what? If you want to live in a strange house, you don’t need to live in a strange place. There are some very unusual homes which could be in regular places like Lakewood or Yerushalayim. Don’t believe me? Check out these homes:
The Keret House, Poland
An artist in Poland, Jakub Szczęsny, lived in the very crowded city of Warsaw. But that was not a problem. Until he decided that the space between buildings was being wasted and he wanted to do something about it. You know the space between buildings in Manhattan? The one-and-a-half-person sized space? He built a house there. It’s not wide enough for two people to stand side by side, and to get from floor to floor, you need to use a ladder. But Mr. Szczęsny proved his point. And now he gets to live in a house so narrow he can’t stretch his arms out all the way even if he wanted to.
It’s not just one or two people who thought this was a good idea. Many people across the US and, over time, throughout the world, agree that turning an airplane into a home is an excellent idea. Not convinced? I’ll sell it to you: Airplanes are big, and if you strip out the chairs and overhead bins, and add doors, you’ll have a really large house to call your own. And it’s cheap, too. All you need is an empty one-acre lot of land. Then you can buy an old airplane from the junkyard and have it schlepped to your lot for only a few thousand dollars. In some places, the whole thing can cost you less than $30,000! Airplanes can be fitted with anything found in a regular house: washing machines, heat, a kitchen. You name it, you can put it there. The wings even become really great porches! And airplanes are very well insulated since they have to withstand the freezing temperatures up in the air. That means you save money on heat and electricity. Still not convinced? You’ll have very little trouble with bugs and mice because the whole thing is made of metal. Now I bet I got you!
Hello? Is Anyone Home?
Imagine climbing deep into a mountainous area in the middle of Japan and stumbling across a small village. You see a man fishing in the river, another three sitting by a pole. But although the school appears to be full of children and the town seems to have many people going about their daily business, all is quiet. And completely still. That’s because most of the people in this town aren’t really people at all. They’re life-size dolls made to look like people who used to live here!
When Tsukimi Ayano came back to her childhood home to take care of her elderly father, something bothered her. Although the town she grew up in was still there, most of the people were gone. From a population of 300, there were only 30 people still living in Nagoro. If that doesn’t make the town creepy enough, Tsukimi decided to make a life-size doll that looked like her father. After placing the doll in the field, she went on to make dolls of other people who had lived there when she was young. She put those dolls just where the people would have been. The school might have closed, but the classrooms are full of dolls that look like the children who had studied there. The baker, the grocer — everyone has been replicated as a doll. There are now 350 dolls in a city that, at last count in 2019, had only 27 people living in it. Talk about strange!
So you think you want to visit Nagoro:
You won’t make it if you’re scared of heights! In order to reach the city, you need to cross a high bridge between two mountains. The bridge is just a bunch of wood tied together, and the spaces between the slats are big, so be careful.
The youngest person actually living here is 55 years old.
Cost of a home: Well, you probably don’t have to worry about this one. There are so many abandoned properties here. Just ask the doll for permission first.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 939)
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