How’s it going with the US

210620091371 So, how’s the trip going?

Its 2 o’clock. I’m trying to arrange all the photos from the 18062009988camera and to find time to write something. I just (3 hours ago) got out of the pool and the water slide in the hotel (somewhere in Montana) and now I have Two and a half men on the background while drinking Yellow Trail (merlo).

Here are a few teasers.

I’ll write when I have more time to do so. Gotta go to sleep because I’m doing rafting tomorrow.

NY, part 3

12062009369 We just got on the plane to LA. And I just finished my fourth coffee. The flight attendant on the last flight asked me where I’m from when I asked for the strongest thing he had. Then told me a story about his stay in Sweden where some people laughed at him when he made something and called it coffee, they called it warm water. There wasn’t enough time to eat the Wendy’s salad I bought at the Phoenix’s airport, so brought some food on board. BTW, on these domestic flights they don’t serve food. The cheap bastards. On the last flight there wasn’t any food. Only some chips for 6 bucks.

On the left is a picture of these guys wanting to x-ray even my shoes. USA is such a police state.10062009272

So NY. This is the third post for it. What more could be said about it? It’s crowded, it’s dirty. The metro, being 100 years old, is OLD and ugly. The asphalt on the roads is not that well made.

There’s the “grid system” which means that all street are perpendicular (and I’m talking only about Manhattan, because this is where I stayed). The streets parallel to the length of 10062009274 the island are called Avenues (1st, 2nd, Madison ….). The streets parallel to the width of the island are called streets. So I stayed on the intersection of 2nd and 86th.

Update: On the right is Macy’s – the biggest department store in the world – it has nine floors, mostly girl stuff. There was only half a floor of men’s shoes. There were still something like 4000 pairs, but' that’s another story.11062009283

Oh, yea, we also went to Broadway and watched Shrek. It was amazing. The storyline was based on the first Shrek movie (or the other way around). The stage was something very hi-tech, because it was split into different parts that could move in circles and up and down. The costumes were very well done.  Did I say it was a musical? Yes it 10062009280was. They were singing all the time, but there were so many jokes that it was pretty fun. We were first row on the terrace and I was prohibited to put my legs on the terrace itself. I so wanted to 🙁

The left is me having a jin and tonic in the intermission.

On the right is me on the 46th floor (the rooftop) of a building close to Empire State Building. And still ESB seems like going sky high.

That’s it from NY for now. Gotta go rafting.

Update: Pictures here:

Long Island, Fire Island

Currently I’m on a A320 (very comfortable seats) plane flying from Chicago to Phoenix en route to LA. This is the only 07062009178 opportunity for writing blog posts. But it’s hard the muse has left me (only 3 hours of sleep and some Metaxa (hope I spelled it right) last night.

So Long Island. When I came to US my geography was pretty bad. I wasn’t good with states, and cities. Everybody know where NY is on the map but I had no idea that NY is entirely seated on islands. Manhattan is an island (one of the five boroughs). The others are Queens (to the right of Manhattan), Brooklyn (below Queens), Bronx (to the north) and Staten Island (just below Manhattan).

So after a night in Queens we all decided we could use the Sunday and go the bea07062009197ch. We went to Fire Island – a small island below another island below the middle of Long Island. We went to a nude beach (friend’s choice) where the view wasn’t pretty. Anyway we had fun as seen from the  picture and went inside the water (was very cold).

Oh yea, and we brought a small freezer with like 4 sixpacks (twenty-four .330l bottles) of some crappy beer and only the three of us tried to drink it.

The gorgeous girl on the right is Erica.

Update: Pictures here:

New Haven


Meet Iva. Iva is a friend of mine and I’m staying with her in New Haven. Both of us will also travel through the US. After a few days in New York, we went to Chicago for the weekend (will try to write about it too) and now we’re flying to LA.

S03062009082o New Haven. New Haven is where Yale University is. It’s a small and poor (in Iva’s words) town that has a pretty high crime level. On the right is some important building part of Yale, but God forbid I can’t remember what it is. Anyway. After landing in the US the first place I stayed was New Haven. Because of the time difference the next morning I woke up at 6:00 and had to be quite for 6 more hours and stay in my room because Iva doesn’t get up very early.

Since they don’t have internet I 09062009215had to steal some from a nearby wi-fi router. The good thing was that in Bulgaria everyone was up so I had something to do.

When the trip around the US is over I’ll make some more pictures. Until then here a nice one – 20 one-dollar bills are drying after being in the washer.

Update: Pictures here:

NY, continued


Still on the flight to Phoenix. The battery is half-dead. And I’m drinking the third coffee. Oh, not to mention that I burned my hand pretty bad with a Starbucks L09062009218atte so now I hate Starbucks.

I was just looking the pictures and it’s hard, really hard. I still have to write a lot about NY and then Staten Island, and then Chicago, And from Chicago I have a lot of picture. Damn memory card that can hold 2000 hi-quality (the phone says they are high quality) pictures.

So what else was there is NY. I was mostly in Manhattan, so let’s talk about it. The first picture on the right is from the Marriott Hotel on the 46th floor on a platform th09062009236 at turns 60 degrees in 60 minutes. The platform is a restaurant and the view is awesome. Unfortunately it was at night and the picture is not very nice.

09062009229 The elevator that took us there was one with an open view and we could see the lobbies on every 15 floors. The inside of the hotel was hollow and there lobbies (major floors) were separating the inside of it. Flying with it was a bit scary because at one time one could see the bars 20-30 meters  away and then suddenly a concrete wall with a hole wide enough only for the elevator to go through. The elevator could be seen on the upper left picture.

So what else did we do? Oh yea a friend invited me to see her workplace at the UN headquarters. The one on the left shows10062009259 the General Assembly. There was a session going on and still tourist were let in. The one on the right shows the Security 10062009255Council’s press “wall”. And I’m there giving a press conference and discus sing the problems in North Korea and there second test of their missile. The last one in in front of the building with all the flags. (The pictures are so big that’s hard to write enough text that fills the space between them).

The picture below is part of my sole walk on Times Square in the middle of the night and it shows the NYPD which is in the middle of 


the square and is full of cops. 09062009245Isn’t that enough for this post? I just looked at it and it looks very ugly, but I’m too tired to make it look better




Update: Pictures here:

NY, first impressions


Here’s the first pic I have from the US: standing in front of Grand Central station 03062009081in Manhattan

Couple of days ago i was in New York and stayed there for a few nights. The first two nights I stayed in Manhattan (2nd ave) pretty close to Central Park. The first time I went there it was raining for 20 hours so obviously I didn’t enjoy it much. I had to stay the whole day with my shoes being wet.

05062009088The next day I walked on my own and here’s what I saw: the NY fire department 🙂

The first evening the roommate of one of the friends had a birthday and celebrated it in East Village. It looks a bit like Amsterdam.

This is Ivan and I in front of a building in which the outdoor scenes of Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise (if I’m not wrong) was filmed. That day it was raining, I was 05062009099wet, he was late and both of us were really hungry. That’s why we’re not so happy.

It was a pretty sleepless stay. We broke in in the Russian Tea Room restaurant (2nd floor was closed) to make pictures with the giant crystal bear (it was 2 meters tall). Then being with t-shits went to the ball on the 3rd floor and made pictures while on the dancing floor.

The cab drivers all seem to be Pakistanis and they all seem to have taken the driver’s license by change. They don’t care how comfortable one feels. The cars most of the times are some old Fords which seem IMG_0492like 10 years old. The driver is separated from us with a glass. They have this touch screens on the glass that airs commercials or have a map with where the taxi is at the moment.

This is the World Trade Center 7 building which was rebuild after it fell on 9/11. I can be seen having a beer on the 27th floor on a working Friday in the office of Company magazine (Erica, correct me if I got the wrong name).IMG_0500

The one on the right is with Ivan. Behind us is the construction site on Ground Zero where some really big building is supposed to be built.

(I have to write more text, otherwise the pictures fail to display correctly, so this is my filling text 🙂

06062009145 This one is from the the tour we made around NY with Silva. We’re on Brooklyn Bridge.

I saw Times Square, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, I dined beneath a skyscraper in the only restaurant where one could smoke. We all went in the nude beach in Long Island (called the Fire Island).

I’ve been to Queens and today I’ll stay in Brooklyn. I’ve seen the Queensboro bridge. Made fun of the cab drivers. Got pretty drunk.06062009166

This is the bear on the right. The picture is with pretty bad quality, but that’s the best my phone can do in the dark.

Maybe I should write a bit more to fill in the space that the picture opened. But I’m too tired to think.

Update: Pictures here:

Having mobile internet in a foreign country – one of the best things one can do

In a previous post I was complaining a bit of the speed of the internet bandwidth from T-Mobile which was something like 3-4 kb/s. Well is some areas it went up to 30 kb/s and stayed at 20 average. But that’s not the point.

Even at 3-4 kb/sec one could use the internet for so many things – the first one is Google Maps. Undoubtedly one of the most useful apps. Especially when you can search for your hotel just when typing “The Gershwin Hotel” and it finds it or just “Public transport –> airport”.

But that’s not all. We could check in online. I could work using skype (Skype for symbian is just too slow, so I use fring; Fring doesn’t support skype chats though which is kind of annoying). We could search for nearby restaurants. We even bought tickets online for Madison Square Garden. We wrote mails, send pictures to friends which we just made.

But that’s not all. The top of the cherry is another amazing story. So here it is. On my laptop I didn’t have Picasa, which I needed to upload the pictures to Picasa Web Albums. So I wanted to download it, but I didn’t want to stay in the hotel and wait for 20mb to be downloaded while the laptop was using the phone as a modem, so I opened the default browser on the phone and tried to download Picasa on the phone. The default browser couldn’t handle the javascript so I tried with Opera Mini. The latest versions of Opera Mini download files themselves, they don’t depend on the default browser for downloads. BTW Opera Mini operates by using a special proxy which “chews” the internet page to be more suitable for the Opera Mini browser. So with Opera Mini the downloads started and while I was enjoying Chicago in my pocket Picasa3 was downloading. I could still make calls, browse with the default browser or use Google Maps. I downloaded Picasa for Windows and for Mac, and I downloaded each twice to make sure that at least one of the downloads would work. So in one afternoon being in the pocket Opera Mini downloaded something like 60 megabytes using a connection that could sometimes drop down to 1 kb/sec.

Google Maps for Symbian vs. Garmin XT

When one goes to an entirely unknown place one tends to take stuff that gives him some security and might help in case of emergency. That’s why I loaded my GPS with offline map of the US using the Garmin XT software.

The GPS device is a Nokia E71 mobile phone (there are some other articles in the blog about it I think, but can’t link to them – I’m in offline mode). It has a 1500 miliamperhour-battery, which is the most I’ve ever seen on a phone and a pretty small screen, so lot’s of time being online.

I had to buy a data plan (I chose T-Mobile, $77 sim with unlimited data) so naturally I decided to try Google Maps for Symbian S60. First of all it’s free as opposed to Garmin XT (even the software is not free, not to mention the maps).


Google Maps has an outstanding navigation (by navigation I mean going up/down/left/right and zooming in/out), it’s always fast no matter if the map is loaded or not (shrinks/enlarges the image it has, then replaces that with the newly downloaded one). Garmin’s navigation is plain stupid – the cursor accelerates as one presses up/down/left/right, so one would never know where the cursor would end up.


Searching in Garmin is like this: Where to go? –> Address/City/POI –> Choose Country –> Choose City –> Choose number –> Choose street. And this takes a while. And it doesn’t always return a result or at least not what one would expect. Google Maps would give you a result if you type “Grand Central, NY”. With Garmin XT if it works it would be hard and time-consuming to do.


Garmin wasn’t very fast with a 20 mb map of Bulgaria. But it’s definitely slow with a 1.2 gb map of the US, even on “very low detail” setting. Google Maps is always responsive no matter how much it takes for it to load.


Currently I use trains or metro or just walk. Routing with with Google Maps is fast – three tabs (Public transport, Car, Walk) and then I have to give only start and end locations – that’s it. It gives me amazingly correct results. In Garmin one has to go to the settings and change the Routing to Pedestrian/Car. I don’t even think it has the public transport option.

No GPS option

Google Maps can work without a GPS – it uses the network cells and wi-fi routers to know where it stands. It’s not very accurate but it doesn’t drain the battery with the GPS. It’s very easy to start the GPS – a few clicks away.

The Nokia E71’s GPS is always very quick to find it’s location. I’m guessing the phone starts the GPS for short period once and a while to keep it’s internal clock synchronized. So this option of Google Maps is extremely useful.

Start time

Google Maps is faster and it doesn’t have the annoying warning in the beginning that one has to click on to continue using the Garmin XT.

Satellite view

Very useful in Google Maps. I think Garmin has something similar, but can’t remember how was it.


Google Maps works so good only in the States. The last time I tested it in Sofia the map was pretty low detail. And Google Maps obviously needs a data connection. The traffic is not that much though, the data flowing is pretty size-optimized it would seem.


Google Maps is fast, user-friendly and easy to use, but needs internet. It can do more in less time, but sometimes it’s maps are not as good as Garmin ones. Garmin XT is pretty unusable and slow but can work offline and the maps most of the times are the best one can find.

Garmin is a nice-to-have second option in case Google Maps fails somewhere or there’s no network coverage.

European Parliament and local government elections

This is stealing. They are denying a taxpayer to post his vote (no voting section will be raised in NYC):
(Bulgarian Embassy in the USA on the EP elections on 7th of June)

For such a voting section to exist for the local Bulgaria government, 100 voters have to register “either personally, via FAX or via a scanned document saying they want to vote”. So now I have to find a scanner.

The vote is on 5th of July.


First impressions from the US

The cars are different, the pipes are different, the knobs are different.

The mobile internet

Today we were wandering for half a day in the local ghetto looking for an AT&T store.. They wanted $20 for 100 megabytes and we decided to turn to T-Mobile.

T-Mobile offers unlimited mobile data for $24.99s and 600 minutes for $39.99. So for a total of $77 ($5 for some tax) I’m now always connected. The connection sucks big time. It’s normally like 2-3 kb/sec and the max I’ve seen is like 20kb/s.

The knobs

After 20 something hours of travel (2-hour flight, 2-hour wait, 9-hour flight, 1-hour bus ride, 2-hour train ride, 20 minutes in a cab, and god knows what else) there were so many smells coming out of me, so the first thing I needed was a shower. It took me like a minute to figure out how to start the shower and a minute more how to get the hot water. The knob was like an arrow of a clock. Originally it pointed 11 o’clock. It could move only counter-clockwise and from 10 o’clock until 8 o’clock is the cold water. The hot water is at 3 o’clock. At first I moved it only a bit and had to move away pretty fast. The strength of water flow cannot be controlled – it’s always the same and it’s pretty well chosen.

Politically correct

The word negro MUST NOT be used in any conversation even one being taken in Bulgarian or at least I was told so. Otherwise one could get beaten up, or when being in a ghetto - get shot.

Update: Pictures here: