Back to The Edge for a bit

bb_m_in_a.jpgWe’re going on a trip soon, back to the motherland, to visit my mother (and many others). I’ve been reading a great book on loan from zurika about the American influence on the English language. Here’s a quote that struck me.

Made in America, by Bill Bryson:

As early as 1955, the phenomenon was noticed by the writer A.C. Spectorsky, who coined the term exurbia for this new kind of community that was emotionally and economically independent from the metropolis that had spawned it, but it was not until 1991, when a Washington Post reporter named Joel Garreau wrote a book called Edge City, that this vast transition in linving patterns gained widespread notice.

To qualify as an edge city by Garreau’s definition, a community must have 5 million square feet of office space, 600,000 square feet of shopping, and more people working there than living there. America now has more than 200 edge cities. Los Angeles and New York have about two dozen each. Almost all have been created since 1960, and almost always they are soulless, impersonal places, unfocused collections of shopping malls and office complexes that are ruthlessly unsympathetic to non-motorists. Many have no pavements or pedestrian crossings, and only rarely do they offer any but the most skeletal public transport links to the nearby metropolis, effectively denying job opportunities to many of those left behind in the declining inner cities. About one-third of all Americans now live in edge cities, and up to two-thirds of American work in them. They are substantial places, and yet most people outside their immediate areas have never heard of them.

Whoa.

empower_airplane_power_adapter.pngIs it really as depressing as all that? Certainly not for us, because of our friends and family and memories there. But for those looking to make a fresh start there, I imagine this description is a pretty good deterrent. What do you think?

Also, for the plane trip, I’m trying to get one of those EmPower adapter thingies (and trying to get seats with a port like that reserved, but I can’t check in until Monday at the earliest). Does anyone have one of those already? Where did you get yours? I’m a little behind the game here — can’t get it purchased online in time for our flight, and there’s probably not time for me to shop for one between now and our departure. Amazon.de is showing a price of about €4, but Amazon.com wants at least $9.99. Yikes.


Volksboutique Microresidence

Some friends in Berlin passed on an ad they’d seen for a rental apartment in Prenzlauerberg — a part of town that intrigued us and we’d liked before in November 2005, when we stayed near Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. The landlady was helpful and informative via email as we were finalizing our plans, and we were pretty worn out when we arrived in Berlin, so we were thankful that her directions from Tegel Airport to the apartment were spot-on.

The first impression the apartment makes is a good one — just like the pictures she’d sent us via email upon our request. But that’s about where the satisfaction stopped.

We saw short and curlies in the tub greeting us upon our arrival (so they couldn’t have been ours…). The WLAN connection was extremely weak — so unreliable that it really shouldn’t be counted as an amenity. The bed — something typical from IKEA — would have been fine, had it had a normal mattress. I suspect it was Jaren. This was the hardest surface I have ever paid to sleep on.

Speaking of paying — when you book accommodations somewhere, do you expect to pay by day or by night? The Volksboutique Microresidence charged us by the day:

  1. arrival late Thursday night (as planned and communicated well in advance)
  2. Friday
  3. Saturday
  4. check out Sunday

…at 40€ per day, not per night, that meant 160€. Well, the price was still pretty good (by normal accouting it would work out to 53€ per night for Thursday night to Sunday morning), so we didn’t complain about that part.

When I found the door to the “tea kitchen” padlocked shut though, I managed to send her an email inquiring and the response was

I’m sorry for the misunderstanding…and that I forgot that was still listed in the Berlin Scholars posting. A small kitchenette is planned, but we’ve had so many guests that I haven’t been able to install it! I had been making interested parties aware of this fact, but in reviewing our correspondence, I realize I forgot to address it with you both. My apologies. I hope your stay is enjoyable all the same.

A place to eat donuts or something and have coffee in morning and — especially during the heat wave they’d been having in Northern Germany at the time — keep some cool bottled water at the ready was a big part of the reason we opted for a vacation apartment instead of a hotel stay.

Unfortunately, that’s not all that was wrong. The tub didn’t drain properly, so soap and shampoo scum (and aforementioned hairs) always await the next user. The bathroom had some bare wiring in place of a lamp over the mirror.

The price would have been great had it not been for all the the above points. The area is trendy and there is good access via the M2 tram line.

But I will be looking elsewhere for our next Berlin trip.

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