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.


Eugene said...

I've biked to that "oil refinery" before (if it is what I think you are talking about). It's kinda a strange place I must say. In fact, south of campus, beyond the medical school the whole place feels like a rundown dead industrial zone.

Jackie said...

Well, you can clearly see what I'm talking about on Google Maps: it appears as a lot of white circular drums or something. (By the way, I know I'm like 3 years too late, but Google Maps is so awesome.)

Jackie said...

Oh, and that's right, there's a giant off-track betting parlor there too. How could I have forgotten that?

Eugene said...

Hehe! I didn't know about that off-track betting parlour.

I see those white drums (yes google maps is awesome) that you are talking about. I thought those are fuel containers for the ships.

My little private spot in New Haven is the (ironically) island-triangle at the busy Whitney-Trumbull junction,+New+Haven,+CT+06510&sll=41.313435,-72.921817&sspn=0.009622,0.022659&ie=UTF8&ll=41.313983,-72.921045&spn=0.009622,0.022659&t=h&z=16

Just 30s walk from my old place. It is a cherry blossom garden (dedicated to some couple whose name I have forgotten). It reminds me of the little roadside zen gardens I saw in Tokyo.

Jackie said...

Fuel containers? You're probably right. And Whitney & Trumball? How odd. That's really, really busy: it's the highway exit!

Eugene said...

I know! It is a busy junction with 3 roads converging! I walked past it (twice!) everyday for a year before I "discovered" it. There are a couple of benches, and during spring time the flowers will bloom and with the cherry blossoms falling, it's quite enchanting. Maybe it's the fact that the plants and trees all grow away from the roads, it feels shielded from the hubbub. Needless to say, nobody hangs out in the middle of a busy junction so I am always alone there.

Jackie said...

Well, you'll be alone until the day a drug deal goes down in front of you, a homeless man rather unsuccessfully tries to ask you for directions in a non-threatening manner, etc.

Eugene said...

Hehe! Well, the worse I've gotten was a drunk white kid slumped on my favourite bench on a very early Sunday morning (not that I woke up early : I just didn't sleep the night before).

Douglas said...

That little corner seemed nice to me (just visited Daisuke last week), but maybe I'm just jaded from my time in Chicago. That, and I only walked past there around 11am when presumably the dealers are getting lunch.

Everywhere else in New Haven seems to be under construction both on and off campus. Of course I only really saw downtown, the physics building, and the walk along Temple/Whitney or Church/Whitney from my hotel to science hill.

I didn't even realize I was that close to the ocean.

Jackie said...

Doug -- I didn't mean to suggest that my time in New Haven was totally crime-ridden. I did observe significantly more 'suspicious activity' than in Hyde Park -- but probably I was just out on the street more. Also, New Haven's totally been yuppie-fied since I lived there.