Archive for the ‘places’ Category

The Runaround

After nearly two months in Kigali, I went on a run. The delay was due to a number of excuses, the most paltry of which was that I insisted to myself I needed to buy first a fan for cool-off  (and they are quite expensive), but in the end I was able to drag myself out of bed and had a great run in the cool dawn hour. Here’s my route (click to enlarge):

Kigali Run - Satellite View

What the satellite image doesn’t reveal is the topography, which is what makes the route my most challenging yet. Here’s a view of the terrain, expanded out a bit so you can see a bit more of the city (and no, I haven’t yet played a round on that golf course).

Kigali Run - terrain

Kigali’s about a mile above sea level, so the air is noticeably thinner. Did I mention Rwanda is known as the Land of a Thousand Hills?

Elevation Change

The Kigali run offers some great views, but I’m undecided if it tops my first regular route in Schwerin. Where Kigali has hills, Schwerin has lakes, beautiful lakes.

Schwerin Run -Satellite

Contrast those with my two American routes. The one in my parents’ neighborhood is mostly on a walking trail following a creek. Not quite a lake, but…

Simpsonville Run

And here’s a route I ran for a few months in Columbia. It had the virtue of…uh, being the correct length?

Columbia Run

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It’s official: there are only three dirty hotels in the whole of Germany:

We looked everywhere, honest. But our members tell us there aren’t that many dirty hotels in Germany.

  1. Hotel Modern, Munich, Germany
  2. Central Hotel am Dom, Cologne, Germany
  3. Ludwig Hotel, Munich, Germany

HT: Gulliver

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For a land where pork is a dietary mainstay, Germans are showing remarkable compassion for wild swine:

Gabriele Klose simply couldn’t let the hunter kill the wild boar running around her flower store. Not after it looked up at her with big, innocent eyes.

The hairy beast was one of thousands of wild boars that have discovered the charms of urban living in Germany’s leafy capital city. When the creature trotted out of rush-hour traffic one morning last month to root around the flower store, Ms. Klose’s first thought was: “That is one ugly dog.”

After a second glance, Ms. Klose phoned the police for safety — and a local tabloid for publicity. The police called in Matthias Eggert, one of a crack band of hunters with license to kill hogs in urban areas. But Mr. Eggert’s plan to dispatch the boar appalled Ms. Klose. The hunter says the tabloid reporter brandished a camera and warned him he’d have the whole of Berlin on his case if he pulled the trigger. Mr. Eggert sensed a PR debacle, so he phoned around until he found an animal sanctuary 40 miles from Berlin that granted the boar asylum and named the swine “Amanda.”

This is the first I’ve heard of boars running amock in Berlin, despite having lived a two-hour train ride away and visiting a couple times. Frankly, the whole thing is just bizarre to me.

According to the article, the boars are normally docile, but they dig up gardens and lawns and can turn violent when cornered, occasionally goring to death dogs and even a person or two.  The city has appointed special hunters to limit the population, but Germans in their typical pacifist fashion will often accost anyone trying to shoot these majestic creatures.

Atypically, some Germans are  failing to live up to Prussian ideals by subverting the law and feeding the boars. I love this bit:

Mr. Gericke says he has been feeding boars here every night for 12 years, making him the doyen of Berlin’s boar-loving underground. Every two weeks he spends €15, or about $20, of his jobless benefits on a 110-pound sack of corn. “Feeding them corn diversifies their diet,” he says.


Berlin’s forestry officials say they’re filing charges against Mr. Gericke that could lead to a hefty fine. Mr. Gericke says that won’t stop him, because he can’t pay anyway. “Even if they send me to prison instead, I won’t stop.”

Back of the envelope  calculations suggest this man has spent around €4,000 feeding wild pigs in the past dozen years–how much of that came from jobless benefits is anyone’s guess. But good luck fining him, he’s poor!

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The Cost of Living (Abroad)

According to ECA International, the most expensive city for expatriates is Luanda, Angola. That’s in Africa, by the way. But if that didn’t surprise you, consider that London ranks in this year at 72!

Thanks primarily to the wild fluctuations in currency exchange rates, London and Seoul have fallen from the ranks of the most expensive cities on Earth for expatriates. Moscow earns the honor of most expensive city in Europe and Tokyo is the most expensive in Asia, according to ECA International, a human resources consultancy which tracks the cost of living in cities around the world.

With the pound plummeting, London is listed at 72nd, well behind Copenhagen, Oslo, Paris, Vienna, Berlin and a host of other cities, ECA reports. The Angolan capital of Luanda remains the most expensive city for expats, according to the study, which tracks the prices of 125 consumer goods and services (although it excludes property).

Moscow is now the most expensive in Europe, Tokyo for Asia, and Caracas, Venezuela for South America. Manhattan is unsurprisingly the most expensive place in North America, but it ranks only 21st (NYC as a whole is at 29).

Africa offers the most variance, with some of the most and least expensive cities in the world. That is of especial interest to this expat, but more on that later.

HT: CI of E

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The Island

Browsing bookforum this morning, I come upon an article about the remotest place on earth: Tristan da Cunha, an archipelago smack dab in the middle of the South Atlantic:

Tristan Da Cunha is home to a population of 270 very isolated people, with an economy based in the fishing industry. The climate is sub-tropical, with very little variation in temperature from season to season, and it would probably be a pleasant place to stay… if there were more arable land: the only sort-of level bit of land is located at the northwestern edge of the island, and the rest is mountainous and rocky.

The Wikipedia page contains more neat tidbits:

  • One of the islands is imaginatively named Inaccessible Island. “Attempts to colonize [it] have failed.”
  • “Livestock numbers are strictly controlled to conserve pasture and to prevent better off families accumulating wealth. No outsiders are allowed to buy land or settle on Tristan.”
  • “[T]he population of 271 people share just seven surnames: Glass, Green, Hagan, Lavarello (a typical Ligurian surname), Repetto (another typical Ligurian surname), Rogers and Swain. There are 80 families on the island.”
  • “There are instances of health problems because of endogamy, including asthma and glaucoma, largely because of the inevitable marriages among closely related couples, for example marriages between second degree cousins, that comes with having such a small gene pool.”
  • “The islands’ main source of foreign income is the lobster factory and the sale of stamps and coins to overseas collectors”
  • “There is no airport, so the islands can only be reached by boat. Fishing boats from South Africa regularly service the islands.”
  • “Television did not arrive on the island until 2001, and the sole channel available is the British Forces Broadcasting Service from the Falkland Islands.”
  • “Tristan da Cunha’s isolation has led to an unusual, patois-like dialect of English.”

I am absolutely fascinated by such small and discrete societies like this one. I dub them “Cheers” societies, because everybody knows your name. Though I do not think I would like to have grown up in a place like Tristan Da Cunha, part of me is envious of having so specific and rare an identity. Even comparatively large places like Rhode Island or Lichtenstein are imagined by my romantic mind as large communities sharing the same neighborhood pool.

Something strikes me as odd about this secretive and exclusive island, however. A cover for the Dharma Initiative, perhaps?

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