25 May 2011

Updates From Bremen

So far here in Bremen, I have really done nothing at all. For all that you hear of German efficiency this is the most disorganised course I have ever been a part of. You can’t really fault the institute though, they make it perfectly clear that industry and money making enterprises are their first priority and anything that does not result in a profit, such as educating, takes a back seat. The bonus is that I have time to get to know Bremen. The downside is that there has not been much opportunity yet to meet people and socialise, nor learn what Bremen really has to offer. One thing that it has is what every real city has – lots of shops! I must not do as I did in Vienna and give in to my terrible shopping habit. Although I hear that there are a lot of outlet stores around here somewhere so I guess we’ll just wait and see. Aside from shopping, I have had a good look around the city centre, which consists of shoppings streets and old touristy streets. There are two main old areas, one is called the Schnoor, which means the line, because it is a tiny little street with tall skinny houses all cramped together, now filled with little tourist shops and cafes.

Then there is the Bottcherstrasse, the artsy tourist street with interesting brickwork and a giant glockenspiel, which is actually a big lot of bells strung up between a couple of buildings. And when it was playing I couldn't see them moving so maybe it is a recording. There are expensive cafe's and expensive artsy tourist things and a candy shop where you watch them make sweets and get free samples.

There are about four big cathedral-like churches all in the same area, I'm not sure why they were built so close together. I think that three are churches and only one a cathedral - I went inside it, it was nice but just like all other churches. They are not really very exciting. One of them I am not sure about because it has a cross but also a star of david. And I can't read the plaque that is beside the door because it is in German.

There is a big city park here, full of trees and wildlife. I saw a rabbit and a deer. A deer! In the middle of a city! Very strange. There are ducklings too, or perhaps they are duck adolescents, they are quite large and gangly looking.

There are far too many bakery and ice-cream cafes. All the time you see people eating and drinking and so want to do the same. So many pastries and cakes, they all look delicious and sugary, though the cakes are mostly cream with a little sponge. Not really substantial. So you might as well have gelato. Even on campus in the canteen they have gelato and cakes and pastries. I guess the hardworking students need good sustenance.

So yesterday despite there being no class I visited the university in an effort to get my computer fixed and to be shown about the institute that we are supposedly collaborating with. I doubt that they will ever provide much in the way of collaboration considering that they are only out for profit and a couple of PhD projects are unlikely to supply any such thing. It was sort of interesting though; as well as molecular biology stuff the Fraunhofer institute does all sorts of materials science. They are working on electric cars and fancy paint lacquers that are scratch resistant and all sorts of things like that. They make metal things, like they create all sorts of shapes using lasers and construct implants and such things. So a lot of that was interesting but at the same time our tour guide (our absentee collaborator) just kept going on and on about god knows what, the institute this and colleagues that. And random observations made yesterday - on campus I came across two one-armed men in a single day. What are the odds of that?

Today was the first day of the course and it was very long and boring. My internet is still playing up, it does not like some networks but it seems happy enough with the Starbucks wifi so I guess I'll just have to make a habit of frapacinos. For now we are treated pretty well on the course, like a business meeting with tea and coffee and chocolate being supplied. Hope they keep up the chocolate bars. There are only three days of classes this week, then three days next week because there will be a four day weekend. So I guess I’ll have to find some way to fill all my spare time! Maybe a trip away somewhere? Then there will be a couple of weeks of intensive lab work, so lots of fingers crossed that all the analyses that we hope to do actually work and then the course will prove to be productive. Of course lab work is often a case of long periods of waiting, in between tiny short bouts of mixing things together and pipetting stuff from one place to another. Hopefully the company will be good!

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