Istanbul, Turkey
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
My globetrotting wife is happily back home (and sleeping soundly). I've been working on uploading her pictures. The link to the right with the sunset is for pictures of Moldova and the flowers are from Istanbul. There are some great pictures in both sets. J said she'd blog over the next few days.



Favorite Cities

Berlin, Germany
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
After considering for a day Ryan's recent list of his favorite cities I came up with my own list of my 10 favorite cities that i've visited, in order:

1. Berlin!
2. Rome, Italy
3. New York
4. Chicago (tie)
4. Boston (tie)*
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
7. Dublin, Ireland
8. Minneapolis
9. Brussels, Belgium
10. Washington, DC (tie)
10. Prague, Czech Republic (tie)*

I've also been to Amsterdam and San Francisco, and I have a feeling that they would be on the list, but I'd need to visit them again. In SF I don't think I understood enough about cities to really enjoy it. In Amsterdam I was travelling with my parents (which isn't the best way to do Amsterdam).

I encourage you all to post your favorite places.

*If all things were equal, I'd like Boston better than Chicago. Boston wins food and culture. Chicago gets housing prices and weather. Both have great architecture and public transit. I couldn't pick a winner. With Prague and DC, I think I'd pick Prague as a place i'd rather visit, but I think i'd be more likely to live in DC long term. Likewise, Minneapolis rates high as a favorite place because I love the people and culture, however some things like public transit make me feel like it's unlikely I'd want to live there again.



Days Three and Four: San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
Day three it was my mission to go and see the new Tren Urbano that just started operation. I got a bus to Sagrado Corozon in Hato Rey to meet up with the train. Along the way, the bus passed though the Miramar, the neighborhood that is right across the lagoon from Condado. I didn’t get off, but it looked way cooler. Next trip.

The Tren Urbano is the first of three planed subway lines in San Juan. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s the first heavy rail line to be built in “America” since the Metro in DC and the BART in San Francisco were built in the 60’s. Students from MIT planned it, at least in part. Unfortunately, the construction ran waaaaay over budget and years late. Who knows if they’ll find the money for the other lines.

The stations and the trains were great, but they were really empty. It was a Sunday, I guess, but it probably also has something to do with the price of tickets being 500% more then the buses. They also had heavily armed guards on all the platforms. You defiantly got the feeling that they were trying to exclude certain classes. The trains were Siemens and were pretty wide, bigger then NY and Boston. I think they were about the same as the S-bahns in Berlin.

I started by taking the train to the University of Puerto Rico to visit the museum of anthropology, but it was closed (misread the guidebook). I wandered about the campus for a while, which was really nice. I then wandered into the Rio Piedras neighborhood, which adjoined the campus. It reminded me of Spanish Harlem. There was a small market going on which I shopped at for a while but then it started raining.

I decided to take the train out to the end of the line, both because I like trains and because my map said there was a mall, and I was almost done with my book. A lot of the train stations were really nice, with good public art. They had both elevated and underground stations, as well as recessed ones (sunken into the ground but not covered). They also had several stations that used really dense greenery instead of walls. I thought that was pretty cool.

The mall was like malls everywhere, but without a bookstore. Actually, the only book I could find was the latest Oprah book (belch). They had a movie theater though, and since it was midday and the heat was getting bad I watched Wallace and Gromit. Not Bad, but not my favorite movie ever.

I took my time getting back to Old San Juan and then did a bit of shopping. It was my last night, so I had to go out for good food, so I settled on an Indian-Caribbean fusion place. It was really good. I had some kind of Indian chicken, but using Caribbean fruit and spices. mmmm.

Day four I took the bus out to Ocean Park (another ritzy Atlantic bordering neighborhood) to transfer to the bus to the airport. I had a little time to walk around. It was better then Condado, but still not great. I then flew back. The End.



Day Two: San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I woke up late and walked a few blocks to Plaza de Colón on the east side of Viejo San Juan to a little place called Café Berlin with outdoor tables. I had yogurt with fresh fruit and musli. I love Latin (by which I mean Italian/Spanish/Latin American) plazas. They have a way of making brick and concrete and fountains and statues and building facades and greenery all blend together in a way that seems so natural. It’s almost like they just grew there, which I guess is why Gaudi existed.

After breakfast I walked to San Cristóbal, the other fort. It was less impressive then El Morro, but did have some nice views of the newer parts of the city skyline. The new city is a lot of midrise condos near the oceanfront and then gets shorter as it moves inland. The whole city is pretty dense and traditionally urban until you get out to the gated suburbs. Anyways, I lingered a while and then went to walk through the old city some more and visit the museums and churches. The Cathedral was ok and I found an old church on Calle de San Francisco that had beautiful wood-carved stages of the cross. The Church that I really wanted to see, Iglesia de San Juan, was closed for repairs. It was the only colonial church in the new world that was old enough to be built in gothic style. The museums I went to were ok, it was mostly nice to stand in some air conditioning for a while. Most of the museums were also free or extremely cheap which was nice too. I also walked though Casa Blanca, which is the family house of Ponce de Leon.

I found it best to retire in mid-afternoon for a short nap, while the heat was the worst.

After lunch and my nap I decided to check out some other neighborhoods. I walked east to Puerta de Tierra, which was originally the neighborhood where the mixed race people who weren’t allowed to live within the city walls lived. A lot of the neighborhood was taken up by the Capitol building and some government offices. The rest was pretty run down housing. The Capitol was pretty cool. It looked like a Romanesque version of the US Capitol building. I guess the US paid to have government buildings built in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines when then took them over in the Spanish American war, so they all have buildings that mirror the US Capitol, but in slightly different architectural styles. Incidentally, that’s why they all have flags that are red, white and blue and look kind of the same. The north side of the neighborhood had some nice Atlantic beaches, so I waded a bit and watched some surfers.

From there I kept walking into Condado, which is an upper class neighborhood that’s wedged between the Atlantic and the Laguna Los Corozos. It was mostly resort hotels and six to twenty story art deco condos. I’m told that it’s a lot like Miami Beach. There was some okay architecture, but overall it kind of sucked. For such a dense neighborhood it was extremely unvital. I guess it’s a kind of urbanity for people who don’t really like cities.

It started to rain, so I took the bus back to Viejo San Juan (I had found a map) and did a little shopping. 25 cent buses. How cool is that?

Puerto Ricans are total foodies. Part of Old San Juan is called SoFo (South of Calle Fortaleza) and is just packed with high-end NYC style designer restaurants. Unfortunately it also means that good restaurants are really expensive. I don’t really care to eat alone in nice places anyways, so I was planning on just going out once. As I was walking, looking for a place to eat dinner, I heard some salsa wafting though the air. I followed it and came upon an open air Salsa concert. There were all kinds of elderly Puerto Ricans dancing the night away. I bought some food from a street vender (some kind of Pupusa, but stuffed with pizza stuff) and enjoyed the show. It was one of the highlights of my trip.

*That's the end of the journal for the day. I’m actual Zakcq talking now. I finished uploading all of my pictures. If you click on the angel at the right, it’ll talk you to the photo set.

I talked to Jessica this morning in Istanbul and she says she’s having a great time. She finished up her work in Chisinau. She said she’s got lots of great pictures and hopefully she’ll blog her journal when she gets back. She also said she had a great run in with a strawberry flavored hookah. Awesome.



Day One: San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I landed in San Juan at about 11. I was planning on taking the bus to my guesthouse in Viejo San Juan, but I couldn’t find anyone who knew bus routes, or the bus stop for that matter, so I ended up taking a cab. Conversation with my (red-haired and freckled) cap driver:

cab driver: vacación?
me: que?
cd: vay-cay-shun?
me: ahh, si.
cd: uno dia?
me: quatro.
cd: bien. Friday… Puerto Rico… Party… Saturday… Puerto Rico… Party

So anyways, I got to my guesthouse, which is the most ghetto I’ve ever seen. How ghetto? The lock on my door is a padlock.

I got settled and took off to start getting my bearings. My guesthouse was in old San Juan, which was the colonial Spanish part of the city. Like Boston, San Juan is definitely a city of neighborhoods. You can spin in a circle and tell by the architecture and feel of place where you are. Viejo San Juan has tight cobblestone streets and beautifully colored buildings with gorgeous balconies. The neighborhood is on a peninsula with walls on two sides (they demolished the other two sides in the late 19th century) and two big forts in the two corners on the Atlantic side. A couple quick notes on some interesting planning things: The peninsula is on a hill, with the highest point being in the northwest and the lowest being in the southeast. If you walk on any of the north-south streets you climb at a pretty steep grade, however if you walk east-west and then back west-east and continue doing that, you can make it to the top without ever walking up hill. The second cool thing was that the heights of the buildings made it so that at least one side of the street was shaded all day.

I walked around for awhile and then made my way to a cemetery that I saw on a map, where I was joined by an old fellow from Tennessee who was in San Juan on a Caribbean cruise. He had the annoying characteristic of using good-ole-American-common-sense to point out the stupidity of other cultures. Example: “Why’d they put a cemetery here? Don’t they know it’ll fall into the ocean the first hurricane they get?” Yeah, the 500 year old Puerto Rican cemetery has never weathered a hurricane. grrr.

From there I went up to El Morro, the bigger of the two forts. It was pretty impressive. It ran about six stories in the cliff at the edge of the peninsula. It was run by the (US) national park service and they had this hilarious video that they showed. The whole thing was about all the times that El Morro had been attacked and repulsed invaders. They finally get to the Spanish-American War and they talked about the Americans taking the fort. The video was from the perspective of the defenders and the music was all ominous. So anyways, the Americans won and took over Puerto Rico, and then the video has this terrible transition to a picture of the American flag and it starts playing the star-spangled banner and the narrator comes on and says, “Now the stars and stripes flies over El Morro as a symbol of protection.” hmmm.

My foot was getting to me by that point, so I bought a copy of Bartolomé de las Casas’ Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies at the gift shop, found a shady rampart and spent most of the afternoon reading.

I uploaded some more of my pictures, and I’ll get the rest up over the next few days. Stay tuned



I'm back...

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
and I'll blog my journal over the next few days as I upload my photos.

I had a great time. San Juan is a very cool city. I'm not really sure what I was expecting (actually I am... I thought it would be like San Jose, Costa Rica, the only other Latin American city I've been to) but San Juan is much larger, older and more cosmopolitan.

My foot did well. I took it easy the first day and after that it was fine. The weather also cooperated. Apparently when they predict rain in Puerto Rico what they mean is really really hard rain for 10 minutes twice a day, not 30 days straight of drizzle like we get in Boston.

Anyways, must get to bed, more tomorrow.



A Slight Change of Plans

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I ran over my foot with 700 pounds of books yesterday, so it looks like i'm going to be visiting Puerto Rico on crutches (please imagine sad-faced Zakcq).

On the bright side, the weather looks like it might be good enough for me to elevate my foot on a beach instead of in the hotel and I don't have to work the next few days, so i'll have more time to study for my midterm.



last blog for awhile...

Trip Planning
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
... mainly because i've got little to no time in the next week or so. I've got a couple papers and a midterm and work, but it's not so bad because next friday I leave for San Juan. I promise plenty of pictures and bloging when I'm there (or just back at the worst). Jessica leaves next Thursday for her business trip to Moldova and Turkey as well, and she's said she'll make sure to blog and post pictures when she gets back too (speaking of which, she just confirmed that she gets to go to Egypt for three weeks right after Christmas for work too).

Have a good week.



Wahl 2005

Well, it seems that Angela Merkel finally was able to throw together a grand-coalition between the CDU and the SPD in Germany.

I can't say I'm super excited about this outcome. SPD will retain control of the foreign, finance, labor, justice, health, transport, environment and development ministries. Union gets economy, defense, interior, agriculture, family and education portfolios. Which means, in rough terms, that everybody ended up with the portfolios that they are most likely to screw up.

The bright light is that the FDP seems to have been left out, although it also means that the Greens (who frankly have done a very good job in government) are also sitting in opposition.

I was really hoping that everybody on the left would have been able to work out their bickering and bring in an SPD-Green-Left Party government.

Here's hoping that they can't get anything done and a new election gets called soon. Prost.

Completely different topic:

J & I just went to see Good Night, and Good Luck. Best movie I've seen so far this year. See it.




Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
For my readers who actually live in Boston (which I think are unfortunately few in number). J and I ate at a restaurant that we loved last Friday.

It's a tapas place called Tasca in Brighton on Comm. Ave by Washington St. (B line on the T). It had great atmosphere, great food, great wine... mmmmm

I highly suggest the following: Plato de Quesos, Patatas Bravas, Carpaccio de Buey, and the Jamón Serrano although the menu is long and everything looks great.

I just got myself really hungry and all I have at home is mac and cheese.



At Home

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
Today, 4 October 2005, marks 14 months and 4 days that J & I have lived at 110 Chelsea. Unless I'm wrong that means that I have had this address for about 4 days longer then I've ever had any other. I lived at Auerstr. 44 for 14 months and 233 Oak Grove Street for 12.

Since I turned 19, I've had seven addresses. I'm kind of a gypsy. It's actually kind of weird thinking that I'm going to be here for at least 10 more months.

That said, it is nice that 110 Chelsea finally feels like home. I don't think we've ever taken such a long time adjusting. In both of the other apartments that we've lived long term, we got to choose exactly what neighborhood we got to live in. Walking around Berlin or Minneapolis, I was never like, "oh I want to live here." Because I already lived where I wanted. Loring Park and Friedrichshain were both exceedingly cool neighborhoods. In Boston it's so expensive that East Boston is basically the only place that is near the city center that we could afford. Walking around Boston I can find plenty of places that I wouldn't mind living instead (in order: North End, South End, Fenway, Back Bay, Beacon Hill). It's kind of tough to get really attached when you feel that way, but sometime in the last few months we finally started feeling at home in Eastie. It helps that it's been cleaning up a lot. We painted our apartment and bought some new furniture.

In celebration for our 14 month anniversary, I've uploaded a photo tour on to flicker. Click on the picture and then try out the Home slideshow for our apartment and the East Boston one for our neighborhood.




Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
J & I went to Octoberfest last night at the Harpoon Brewery. They had all kinds of good old school Germanic events like chicken dancing contests, keg bowling, wheelchair basketball and cake eating. The Jolly Kopperschmidts were oomph-ing for us.

I uploaded a few blurry photos.


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