Italy, Germany, and Portugal
Since its been a while since I mentioned what I do outside of my research (due to how much time I spend inside of it), here is some information about some of the fun I have had over the past few weeks. First, there was Italy, which all of us PIRE members here in Barcelona went to. Overall, it was a pleasant stay. Then came Germany, which was the trip I was most looking forward to and it was great. Finally, Portugal, which is where we celebrated Independance Day, was also a great place.
This was my first visit to a European country other than Spain, and it was intersting to see the similarities and differences. It was also the first time that I was in a country where I did not speak the language, which was quite difficult, yet strangely entertaining. We started off in a Rome, which was a very nice place with a friendly atmosphere. On the second day we went to Naples (Napoli), where there was more sightseeing and exploring to do. First, we went to the (ruins of) the ancient city of Pompei, which was destroyed by a volcano. Some of the structures were still in place and you could vaguely tell what they were (e.g. homes or restaurants), but very little. After getting back to Naples, we did some exploration of the city. It was not as pleasant as Rome in terms of views and cleanliness. Also, the beaches were a bit dissapointing since there was no sand. However, I was glad to see more of the "real Italy," as opposed to the more touristy Rome.
The next day was a shorter day, and it was Sunday so it was the proper day to stay again in Rome and go visit the (nearby) Vatican City. After seeing the huge cathedral and a portion of the Sunday mass, we went out to witness the Pope himself address the crowd. He spoke a prayer in various languages. Each corresponding country would of course cheer when he spoke in theirs. A great experience indeed.
- The Colesseum
p6201003 - Pompei
p6221190 - The Pope
I was eager to go to Germany since I found out that I was coming to Europe in the first place. As an auto enthusiast the reasons were this were the Autobahn
and the Car Museums of the big european companies (Volkswagon Group, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW).
Well, first of all, I missed the first bus to the Girona airport. Which meant that I was taking a bus that would get me there 20 minutes before the flight. Fortunately, I got the director to get a bus out 15 minutes earlier (>si estas leyendo esto, gracias
). Traffic was good as well, so I ended up arriving with a few minutes to spare. My first stop was Hamburg, since it was the closest city to Wolfsburg (aka Golfburg for the Volkswagen Golf, which is popular in the area, and the fact that VW headquarters are here) that RyanAir had service to. Hamburg actually turned out to be a nice city, although I did not spend much time there.
p6261201 - I missed the first bus to the Girona airport, so this is what time I got there (for a 5:40 flight)
p6271214 - hamburg rail lines from central station
Day 1 - Wolfsburg
On the second day, I visited the VW headquarters an museum (i.e. the Autostadt). This was a huge place, so I am glad I scheduled an entire day for it. In fact, I was going to go to a nearby science museum, but had no time. The Autostadt is both entertaining and educational. I found out about design processes of the cars, a history of automobiles in general, with an emphasis on VW's role, and about future trends with alternative fuel sources such as their own SunFuel.
p6271251 - Inside the VW pick-up center, if you look close, you can see a bunch of cars lined up - vertically and horizonatally
p6271325 - Peice of decorated landscape. There were four of these, as there are four circles in the AUDI logo, which I came to find out stands for the four companies that merged to form AUDI in order to survive tough times. The next day I found out that the Daimler-Benz merger was done for the same reason.
Since Berlin was nearby and I had a few hours to spare after the Autostadt closed, I went by there, since that was the most touristy and historical place of Germany, although, frankly I was tired of such things after Barcelona and Spain. Overall, it was also a nice city, but frankly I have nothing special to say about it (I was only there about 4 hours). I include some pictures below.
Day 2 - Stuttgardt and (not quite) Munich
This day should have been two days, as I didn't anticipate how much time I would spend in city one (that and a mishap with the DeutcheBahn and being lost in translation). In any case, it was still the highlight of all of my getaways here in Europe. I started off going to the Mercedes Benz headquarters and Museum. I must recommend anyone interested in the automotive world to come here if they ever can because it is quite a spectacle. I spent much more time here than I expected to. I learned a bunch about the invention of the automobile and events that motivated and advanced the industry. I also learned some other interesting little facts, such as that "Mercedes," is actually not the name or any of the inventers (who are Daimler and Benz) nor their family, but rather the daughter of a race car driver who helped put their brand on the map. Purportedly, she never even learned to drive.
xp6281434 - me before the Mercedez-Benz Museum
- Thanks to Daimler-Benz, even really fast runners were no longer able to escape the police (well, we can thank Motorola as well)
- Very cool stuff. Applications of EEG to improve driver safety
My next trip was to Munich, which is the home base of BMW. Their museum closes at 8 PM, so I should have had a couple of hours there despite staying at Benz so long, but a misunderstanding with the DeutcheBahn caused me to miss it. I ended up getting there are about half past 8. I still got to see it from the outside (boo hoo) and I saw some of the other things that BMW has there. They actually have an entire hotel there, with some of their cars inside. Additionally, there are a few small museum-like sections there. It is right across from the olympic stadium, which I passed by as well.
xp6281748 - Dome in the olympic stadium - Munich
- Festival-type thing by the olympic stadium. Intersting "cultural" experience
- Back inside the BMW hotel. I can't think of a better way to decorate the interior of a building (except maybe with Lotus' and Porsche's)
Overall, this was a very educational couple of days. Not only did I learn about the history of automotive, including the events that helped the industry grow so much, but I also became aware of some of the cutting edge research going on in the industry. Particularly intersesting were the EEG-based driver safety feature that Meredes is looking into, which I would like to look into some more, and the alternative fuels (or alternatives to fuel).
Last Day - Cologne
Cologne was the city with the nearest airport for RyanAir, so it was my final destination. It is also closest to the famous Nurburgring, which is a famous road for testing a cars limits (many automakers use it). Since I was unable to rent a car, I canceled my trip over here. Instead I opted to do some sightseeing in Cologne. This turned out to be a good idea, since there were some spectacular views.
xp6291803 - Catchedral at Cologne. You can hear the service bell pretty at a pretty far off radius from the cathedral itself, when mass is about to start
xp6291868 - At the chocolate museum. I got to see how one of these are made.
- Shot taken from a bridge at Cologne
- Cool scenery walking through the woods
- View from the top of the Cathedral. Getting up here requires climbing up 300 steps! (no elevator option)
- I didn't have much time at Frankfurt, so here's the Central Station with a nice skyline
Note: I could not post any of the pictures of Lisbon since the USB output of my camera failed, apparently. I will modify this section when I am able to access the picture files
Portugal was my final visit to another country. This was another recommendation by Marlon. We spent all our time in the capitol, which is Lisbon. The city itself has a cozy and laid back feeling to it. People are generally friendly. In terms of tourist attractions and architecture, it was definetely the least extravagant of all the places I had been to, which helped to make it the most quiet and laid back. We had no official "plan of action" here. Instead, we went to a few of the cultural and tourist attractions. Of which there were a few statues. There was a very nice part that had a well-decorated peice of landscape and a nice view of the city.
IMG - landscape
We took a trip to the aqueduct, which was a fun adventure since it involved going through all kinds of terrain, but we weren't really able to see much of the aqueduct itself.
The next day we went to the bay area. First, we went by a park with a tall monument and then we went to the beach. The beach was surprisingly full for a Friday. The overall beach area was nice, although the water was just above freezing. Figuring I would probably not be visiting Portugal any more, I decided to jump in and try it out anyway. This was my first chance to test the waterproof abilities of my camera (it survived). Inadvertantly, I guess it also allowed me to test the freeze-proof feature, which it also survived. Altough perhaps this is what did the USB input in. Oh well.
IMG - beach
Keywords: bsc, germany, italy, PIRE, portugal