Saturday, August 16, 2008

Convenience, German-Style

I've made my frustrations with Germany's lack of convenience pretty clear, but the title of this post isn't meant to be derisive: I'm actually going to point out one aspect of living here that is convenient.

Bonn is a fairly small place made up of even smaller places. What used to be several different villages is now all part of the city. This means that street names change every few block (not convenient) but also that a few minute walk will bring you to a different neighborhood. In addition, places to go for a walk or for a run are abundant around my apartment.

To illustrate, I made a map with Google Maps (illustrated with a few old pics) and I annotated (with links!) below:

View Larger Map

I live in Poppelsdorf (I left off where exactly to give all my stalkers at least a little bit of a challenge). Work is the red flag, a 10 minute bike ride away (no commutes for me). It's next to a large field that's mostly farmland. It's a good place to go running, but who needs to go all the way the work, when I've got 3 alternatives right next to my apartment? (Also, I'm a terrible, terrible runner, so I'm fine with some very short routes.)

The two blue dots are Poppelsdorfer Friedhof and Kreuzberg Kirche. It's a nice, but steep, walk up to a Kreuzberg Kirche where you can sit and enjoy the view or walk or run through a wooded area.

I usually run around Poppelsdorfer Schloss (the green dot) and down Poppelsdorfer Allee towards the Zentrum. It's nice and flat for a quick morning run and the path isn't all concrete. (It's also around mile from my apartment to the Zentrum and the Rhine. The path along the river goes 50 km, all the way to Koblenz.) Unlike going up to Kreuzberg Kirche, though, there's always people on this route.

Finally, 5 months after I was embarrassed by how long it took me to discover Kreuzberg Kirche, finally, I found out how to get to the wooded area clearly marked by the purple flag on the Google Maps. (So embarrassing.) But I went today. It's a little steep getting there, but run-able once you're there. While the wooded area is probably less than a square mile, it was pretty empty at noon on a Saturday and I couldn't see the road at all. (It's also an Escher drawing of unmarked, criss-crossing paths and I spent a lot of time memorizing exactly how I got to where I was.)

During my last year in Chicago, I'd occasionally run from my apartment to the Lake in the mornings, crossing Lake Shore Drive via the pedestrian underpass across from the Museum of Science and Industry and running north to the Point. A ten minute run in Bonn can get you from Poppelsdorf to any of 4 neighborhoods. A ten minute run in Hyde Park will get you somewhere else in Hyde Park. But on the lakeside path at the Point, you leave the 6 lanes of cars and run straight east. As you reach the end of the point, the field house blocks your view of the city and the sound of the cars dies away and for maybe 20 steps, you're totally alone. And, then, you circle around and it all slowly comes back. But, you know, in the last year of grad school, those few seconds were probably the highlight of my day.

I suppose that was still more convenient than when I lived in New Haven and the two options were to run 10 minutes toward the Physics building (really did I need to spend more time in its vicinity?) and past it in the vague direction of East Rock Park. Still you never quite shook off the feeling of being on campus. The other option would be to run through the ghetto and through an industrial zone to Long Wharf and out on the pier. (Hilariously, New Haven is a port city that's totally turned away from the water. I'd guess that the vast majority of Yale students have never been out to the harbour, not that there's any reason for them to go out there. Aside from a restaurant or two, there's nothing out there but empty lots and what looks like an oil refinery.) It was always empty and a good place to get away from everything (well, except for that one time when a homeless man asked me how to get to the bus station).

And look at that; I made a new post mostly out of links to old posts. How very ... efficient.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Globe-Trotting in Latitude and Longitude

In the past few years, the realization that I've never been to the Southern Hemisphere has slowly worked its way it into my consciousness. Thankfully, it's not something that's going to bother me for long, since I'm going to Sydney in September (yay!). But it's got me wondering just how much of the globe have I covered in latitude and longitude?

Until today, I had assumed that the furthest south that I have been is Taiwan, which sits on the Tropic of Cancer, the 23 parallel. As it turns out, Honolulu is slightly further than even the southern tip of Taiwan (which I've been to) at 21 degrees and Maui is south of Honolulu. The furthest north I've been (not counting, of course, while on an airplane) is Amsterdam at 52 degrees. I admit, not very impressive at all.

My east-west coverage is a little better. I've hit both coasts of North America and Hawaii, which gets me from 158 W to 71 W or so, although I'm missing some points further east in the Carribean and South America. And I've gone from 15 W (Canary Islands) to 19 E (Budapest), but then there's a big swath from Eastern Europe to the Pacific coast of Asia (120 E back in Taiwan) that I've never been to.

So there you have it: the (lack of) breadth of my globe-trotting in precise geographic coordinates. I'm sure you are all more impressive. Go ahead and gloat in the comments.