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Actually, Germany. And I'm not mad, I'm just pronouncing it wrong ;). A friend from North Carolina worked the photo processing booth in the town I lived in and she said that one day a lovely couple came in to have their film developed of the trip they had just made to <hard 'G'> "Germany"... Hearing stories from her was always an educational experience. I had stated in my post in August about my trip to Chicago that I would post about my trip to the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg, Germany ", and that "hopefully I can get to it before December". Hmmm... December is looking pretty near, and I'm planning my next trip to DESY in January (this time, I will be visiting both the Hamburg facility and their Zeuthen facility, which is just outside of Berlin... suweeeet!). It's going to seriously mess me up for my classes at the start of the school term (yes, I'm still an undergrad, ugh... doing this and having to continue to deal with offspring [now adult, wtf?, how did that happen... I'm still not sure I'm an adult yet, heh] is brutal), but seriously... Germany! Oh well, my life is, if nothing else, not boring.

So, where to start? Hmmm... let's start with Air France sucks farts from dead cows. The flight from Montreal, Canada (I had to take an "Air France" charter bus from Ottawa to Montreal) to the Charles de Gaulle airport in France was late getting in, so I missed my connecting flight to Hamburg. By the time I got there, I had missed all of the train connections to East Germany. I had planned to visit my very good friend [profile] blackbird_tanya (sorry to Dreamwidth users, that will be a broken or incorrect username) in and around the Erfurt region, and that was why I had arrived on the weekend before the conference. It only would have been for a day or so, but she visited me (and others, of course) while she was heading across Canada on family business, and I thought it proper to reciprocate since I was finding myself within reach of where she lived. But, it was not to be, there were no trains out that night, and if I tried the next day, I'd just have to turn around and head straight back to Hamburg at the crack of dawn on Monday. I was, shall we say, not a happy camper. When you add to that the fact that I had not made any arrangements for accommodations in Hamburg until Monday evening, and I was travelling on a starving-student budget (it was travel on the hairy edge of possible even though it was nominally funded by Carleton, I was on my own for any expenses outside of the three days of the conference proper I was going to, and wasn't expecting my piddling paycheque until Monday as well), I found myself stranded in Hamburg with no place to stay, not nearly enough money, and I had found out that I was going on the trip only a week or two before I left so I didn't even have a chance to learn a few words of German to let me function. It was not a good scene. I knew I could figure out a way of staying off the streets that weekend (I am, if I may say so, resourceful), but I was seriously bummed out about not being able to visit with my friend because of crappy airline service.

So... what to do? On the streets of a foreign city with no place to go, not knowing a word of the language (okay, no useful words... seriously how far was knowing how to say "lederhosen" going to get me?), and pretty close to broke for two more days. I did what anyone in my situation would do: called my punk friends to ask if I could couch-surf for the weekend! Now, to be fair, I had planned to meet up with them later in the week since they were living in Hamburg (thank goodness I was in Hamburg and not Bucharest or something), but this was an unexpected turn of events and I figured I should a least start there before I spent my last centime on two nights accommodations (presuming I could find a place cheap enough). Ultimately it all worked out and they were ultra-awesome in letting me impose for a few days. I managed to figure out how to buy a U-Bahn ticket, and then found my way out to the neighbourhood they lived in (they provided directions and met me at the station... Hamburg public transit is amazing... and my friends are even more amazing!!!), we grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant on the way, and I got to stay with one of the coolest people on Earth for the weekend: [personal profile] dextra (hmmm... someone does seem to have this username on Dreamwidth, but it's not the person I'm talking about). [profile] pfloide was away at a mathematics conference or something at the time (or was it working on the updates for a paper that had been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal?... I know he was doing that too, my memory is a little fuzzy on the specific details, it has been a while and a lot has happened in the intervening months), but I did get to meet up with him later in the week for a fun get together with a bunch of expats, and few Germans (including someone that I knew in the physics community in Hamburg, who came out with me). I developed a nominal friendship with their crazy cat that weekend, and managed to get myself better oriented in Hamburg before heading in to the conference Monday morning. I remain very appreciative and thankful that my sorry ass was saved and that [personal profile] dextra and [profile] pfloide were so gracious that weekend. I was still bummed about not making it to Erfurt, but it was really good to get together with another old friend that I hadn't seen in many years. You can tell just how fierce their cat was in this picture I took...

Note: As with all of these sorts of posts, you can click on a picture to open the full size image in a new tab... just in case you should be so desirous ;).

I arrived at DESY bright and early Monday morning. My presentation wasn't until 17h25, so it was a day of being sprayed with a firehose of information on high energy physics and detector technologies. And yes, I seriously loved it! For anyone who has a burning desire to see what sort of stuff I'm working with, you should have that looked at by a doctor (or you can look at a PDF of my presentation, here). The building it was held in was only recently built (new buildings were going up elsewhere on the DESY campus too), and the internal architecture was pretty cool.

Photos of the insides of the building are under the cut... )

After we were done for the day, myself and some physicists from the conference went out for dinner in the harbour area of Hamburg (Hamburg is the 2nd largest port city in Europe from what I was told). The World Cup was on, so finding a place where we could hear ourselves think was something of a challenge. We ended up at a Portuguese restaurant a few blocks away from the waterfront, and it was divine! I ended up having a "country style rabbit stew" (or at least that's the best I could make out from the German translation of the Portuguese name for the dish) and it was certainly the envy of the others at the table (who ended up ordering much less adventurous dinners). The flavours were simple, but perfectly executed, and it was hearty and very satisfying. I also ended up having the best beer I had while I was in Germany, but can't recall the name of it, sigh... The meal did turn out to be the best I had while I was in Hamburg (overall the restaurant food was surprisingly disappointing), but I did have a few other good meals at least while there. I should mention that the cash machine they had in the cafeteria building at Hamburg did accept my bank's Interact (debit) card, so I could withdraw Euros from there to spend, so that all went well while I was there!

Photos of my first view of Hamburg's harbour are under the cut... )

So, there was my first few days in Hamburg. Coming up next is the tour I was able to tag along with on the following day to the decommissioned HERA ("Hadron Elektron Ring Anlage") accelerator tunnels, and many more amazing pictures of Hamburg (some of them are some of the best photos I've ever taken I think). Until then, I leave you with this picture of a tractor pulling out of the DESY facility. This was taken on my way in Monday morning. It's kind of bizarre, because other than the sign, it's just a typical Hamburg suburban street. When you walk in, you can see that's it's an industrial campus, but there are no clues standing where I was... Now that I've at least started my Hamburg posts, I can get back to studying for my 4th year Cosmology test on Monday (I've been grumbled that I haven't had the time to blog in months, it has been, as I have said, a brutal few months).


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