I went to Atlanta to take part in GECCO'08, but staying on for 2 days after the end of the conference I had a chance to explore the city. I did not like it. It made the impression of a third world county. Dirty, hot, loud, and so full of beggars that you cannot cross the street without being harassed for money. I have not seen so many homeless people in my life.
On the way from the train station to the hostel I turned into the wrong street and had to pull out a map to look for the right way. Half a minute later I was engaged by a nice young guy who asked me what I am looking for. Maybe I became naïve while living in Australia, but there it is not uncommon. People are nice in Oz and when I was new to Melbourne it happened a few times that a random stranger would ask me what I was searching for when seeing me walking with a map. In Melbourne people are happy to help a stranger and you get used to trusting people. The guy in Atlanta was also nice. He showed me the way to the hostel but it did not take long to figure out what he was really after. Money. He did not do anything bad or intimidating, he simply asked for spare change. I gave him the coins I had, a dollar or so. I did not yet know that next day I would find out that this sort of thing happens every five minutes. Next day I quickly learned that the best way to deal with "nice" people is to ignore them or to talk back in a language they do not understand.
I stayed in the Atlanta International Hostel, which was conveniently located not even 5 minutes walking distance from the conference location. It is a nice and charming hostel, with a homey and cosy atmosphere. I paid 55$ plus tax for a private room per night. I am normally not picky, but I did find some of the furniture in the social area little disgusting. It was extremely old and the persistent smell constantly reminded one that some of the sofas were due for replacement. Quite a few students from the conference stayed in the same hostel and the atmosphere was very nice, and really, one should not be too mindful of the age of sofas in this kind of places.
Together with other students from GECCO I went out pretty much every night while in Atlanta. We’ve been to several bars including one with a nice band playing country music (something you cannot escape in that part of the world). Atlanta did not make an impression of a city that is particularly great for going out, but if you make a little effort to look for places and are prepared to take a cab at times, you can find some nice locations.
The day after the conference we went to the Atlanta aquarium. We were told this was the largest aquarium in the world, and indeed, it was very big. Having been to the Melbourne and Sydney aquaria I new what to expect, but I still found it very nice. My Brazilian friend Aranildo was quite amazed. The next day we went to the Coca-Cola museum and to CNN studio tour. I went there because I have been told that these are the things to see in Atlanta. In the Coke museum you essentially pay money to see a lot of Coke adverts. They have a nice 3D movie though, with moving seats and water sprinklers - a very nicely engineered show. At the end of the museum there is a room with over 60 different Coca-Cola corporation products from all over the world. Although the room was well overfilled with kids on sugar hype, I fall into the try-it-for-free trap and tried about 50 different liquids. Most of them consisted of sugar, carbonate gas, water and some chemical taste enhancer, in this order. Some were better than others, but after the visit I was sick for about 4 hours.
The CNN tour was interesting, particularly since the alternative would be watching TV in the hostel. In the evenings we continued to explore the local culinary specialities with a strong emphasis on the art of brewing. Sweet Water is a local beer that I can indeed recommend.
After a short struggle with Thrifty car rental, who fucked up my reservation and did not bother to say more than a dry "sorry, sir", I rented a car from a different company and departed towards Chattanooga and Knoxville.