Friday, July 23, 2010

14/07 Zweibrucken Day 5

Our third day of class started with a lecture by Dr. Moorehead on color and human perception. I really enjoyed this lecture a lot.
Dr. Brill then gave a lecture on Geometry vs Topology of data structures. I had heard a similar lecture before in the data structures class I suffered through at State. It was a nice refresher though.

For lunch, mom made pork steak and tirimasu. She also agreed to leave the kitchen unlocked so we could eat it for dinner too.

In the afternoon, we spent time with the german students to gain some cultural awareness. So, the Germans took us rock climbing.
The rock climbing building was an indoor gym with a huge set of bouldering walls. In hindsight, rock climbing in a foreign country probably wasn’t all that safe of an idea. But with insurance card in hand, we had a blast and can report no injuries. The pictures are on another guys camera. Ill get em uploaded when I can.

13/07 Zweibrucken Day 4

Breakfast was incredible again. Fortunately, Dr. Moorhead picked up his rental car last night. He and Dr. Brill drove us all up the hill/mountain for class.

Class number two was on mapping. I was actually kind of bored because Tims and I spent about 8 hours and went through the entire book the night before. We did get to see their Microsoft Surface Setup. After class, we went to the lab and quickly finished our homework before starting on personal projects and sample codes.

Before lunch, we got a tour of the Zweibrucken MEMs facility. It is their clean lab for producing silicon wafers. It was not too impressive because we make such larger wafers in Starkville at Semi-south. However, it was really cool to see it so up close.

For lunch we had an extremely salty version of something that looked like a hamburger steak. It was still extremely tasty. For desert we had homemade strawberry sorbet.

We all spent the entire afternoon and evening programming.

12/07 Zweibrucken Day 3

Today was our first day of class. We started the morning off with an amazing breakfast from our housemother. Then we walked half a mile straight up hill in 90 degree heat to our university. It was absolutely miserable.
The university used to be an American military base and the architecture is very representative of that.

Our classroom is not air conditioned and super hot so we spent most of our time in the lab today where the computers have to be cooled.
The first class was an overview of things to come and lacked anything of too much excitement.

For lunch, our housemother made lasagna without the meat sauce. It was pretty good.
I spent the afternoon doing work familiarizing myself and my mac with the code we’ll be using.

In the evening, we walked to a mediteranean resteraunt and had gyros for dinner. I accidently told the worker that Tims and I were from South America and he gave us a discount. I didn’t realize my mistake until we were outside.

We watched a famous south park episode on the german website in English. We were surprised to find all of the Hitler and holocaust scenes censored out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Luxury Cars and Vineyards

11/07 Zweibrucken Day 2

We got up this morning and had a multicultural experience at the local protestant church. The church was beautiful with rustic stained glass. The crowd was almost all older people. The funny part was that the music was done by the Ghana Presbyterian choir. The Germans weren’t in their typical reverent moods. The offeratory procession was dancing down the aisles to a typical south African hymn. We were lucky to figure out what was going on before they passed.

10/07 Stuttgart Day 3 to Zweibrucken

We left the hostel for the train station around 10 am. We were finally able to walk around the city of Stuttgart. It was a really cool town. They’re known for their wine and also have a pretty awesome mountain bike culture. The city is full of engineers as well. It’s definitely a city I could enjoy living in.

We took the 1:30 train to Manheim. It was a really nice train with electricity and A/C.

In Manheim, we got on an S-Bahn that was more or less an above ground subway. It was super hot.

We arrived in a small station just outside Zweibrucken where we met Dr. Brill’s family and colleagues who drove us to our dorm.

The dorm itself is a very large, old house. We were told it was over 200 years old and one of the few buildings in Zweibrucken to survive allied bombing in World War II. Zweibrucken was an important railway hub into France during the war and was nearly taken to rubble.
We are directly across the street from an old brewery and 100 yards from the cities main shopping district.

Its a really is a good location. We also have a house mother that does our laundry, cooks, and cleans for us. It’s a pretty good deal. There are some students from Ghana here now. Some French students should be here next week too.

In the evening, we walked to the public viewing of the Germany vs Uraguay match for 3rd place. I tried a couple more different kinds of sausage. Its all becoming a little redundant.
Germany won the match, and we celebrated by eating more sausage. Afterwards, we had a tour of the city at night.

09/07 Stuttgart Day 2

We spent the morning at Mercedes Benz getting a tour of their 3D capabilities. Mercedes was a lot bigger and in a lot more countries than I expected. I really enjoyed learning about their truck and bus industries. They do in fact make more products than just luxury cars. We were given 3D face tracking glasses and controls to take apart a three-dimensional truck motor to check for collisions.

In the afternoon, we had an English speaking tour of the Mercedes museum. We saw some amazing old and new Mercedes. The concept cars were the pretty awesome.
The coolest part of the tour was not the cars but the building itself. The building was three stories and centered around a large, open, circular area. On the top floor, in the middle of the circle was a large turbine. All along the walls were air jets angled in specific directions. The purpose of the design is if there is ever fire or smoke in the museum, the turbines will create a controlled tornado to extinguish the flames and remove the smoke. It was incredible German engineering.

We went back to the hostel for the evening and grilled steaks for dinner. We also had several different types of sausage that were incredible. I needed an easy evening as I was very tired.

08/07 Munich Day 4 to Stuttgart

We started off the morning with a tour of Feynsinn. There, they do stereographic (3D) VR and augmented reality. The coolest part was an augmented reality they used for marketing in which they held a brochure of a car under a webcam and a 3D model appeared. The model of the car could be exploded into parts, cycled through colors and options, or even driven around the page. It definitely gave some marketing ideas for second semester of senior design.

We then took the afternoon train to Stuttgart. Unfortunately, the air conditioning was out and it made a 3 hour trip feel like 6. When we finally arrived in Stuttgart, we took the subway to our hostel and then had to hike up a large hill to our hostel.

Stuttgart is a very hilly region of germany. Its known for engineering and wine making. There is also a large mountain bike culture. It would definitely be a fun city to live in.

The hostel itself was pretty nice. The rooms felt like dorm rooms as we were split two to a room.

In the evening we went to a smaller beer garden. It was actually more enjoyable without the huge crowds. I had jagerschnitzel with fries and a local beer. It was the best meal I’ve had in Germany- possibly in Europe.
After dinner, we took a walk in the park near the garden. There was a huge group of german hippies hanging out there. It was truly a sight to see.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


07/07 Munich Day 3

We spent the day at the BMW FIZ where we got to tour the research and development centers of BMW. We couldn’t bring any cell phones or cameras into the building. The took us to see some incredible renderings of concept cars and showed us the software behind the visualizations. We also got to see some camouflaged versions of next years BMWs, shaker tables, an EMI chamber, and a motorcycle wheelie testing machine.

This evening, we’re going to the Beer Garden to watch the Germany vs Spain match. It should be a good one.

06/07 Munich Day 2

I had breakfast at my hostel before leaving to meet up with the rest of the guys. I’m no longer a solo traveler. I’m looking forward to seeing some friends but will definitely miss being alone.

I managed to find the hotel without too much difficulty. I was there for around 5 minutes before the rest of the class showed up.

We took a little time getting situated before walking to Marienplatz which is the main square on a gothic cathedral. We ate lunch there at a large restaurant. I had the German meat sampler which was more sausage than I could have ever imagined much less devoured.

After lunch, we visited the BMW museum as well as BMW World. The BMW museum was very interesting to see all of the historical BMW’s, race cars, James Bond cars, and hydrogen vehicles. It was a total of three stories with a spiraling staircase.
BMW world was a more interactive building with video game-like kiosks. They also had a place to customize, buy, and ship a new BMW.

Later, we met at the pedestrian part of the city and found a sports bar to watch the Netherlands vs Uraguay soccer game. I actually enjoyed the game, I was sitting next to a German man who told me everything he thought about the match… in German. I mistakenly ordered spaghetti without meat sauce. It tasted like straight vinegar.

We back to the hotel after the game finished and actually got a good nights sleep.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tour de Germany

In another hostel that doesnt do picture uploads.. Youll have to check my facebook for pictures.

04/07 Brussels Day 4

Today is the Tour de France and I’m crazy excited. In my hostel, I met a guy from China who lives in New York and a girl from California who lives in Spain who are both going to the race as well. I was excited I didn’t have to go alone. We stopped by a grocery store to buy some food cheaply so we didn’t have to buy expensive food at the event.

We started off at the tour picnic at the base of the atomium which is a national symbol for Belgium. There really weren’t many people there. However, when we turned the corner and saw the main stage and strip for the finish line, there were people everywhere. We took some pictures as we walked down the street to find a place to watch the race. We ended up standing 350 yards from the finish. There was a big screen close so that we could watch the race as we stood there for 3 hours protecting our spot.
Before the riders came in, there was a parade of sponsor floats, team cars, and buses. It was really cool to see that side of the tour de France that I never knew existed.
The glory of the finish was cut a little short when a wreck 1000 yards out caused a lot of the riders to go down. Instead of a huge finishing sprint, there were lots of riders limping across the finish line on their bikes. Some just sat on their bike while teammates on both sides pushed them across the finish.
We then walked to the podium and caught the awards presentation.

After the tour, I took a much needed nap before going out to the delirium village bar with the girl from California and 5 Colorado guys.

It was weird celebrating the fourth of july in Belgium. It made me really miss fourth of july parites at crossgates pool in Brandon. Im glad I got to experience the tour though. I think it was a fair tradeoff.

05/07 Brussels Day 5 to Munich

I packed up this morning and left the hostel heading back to the tour. I got to the Village around 11:00 and stood outside “The Shack” bus in hopes of catching a glimpse of Lance Amstrong. He finally walked out at around 11:45 and greeted the crowd. I took lots of pictures. After Lance got on his bike, I rushed to the starting line. I had to climb up a wall on the side of the garden of the grand palace to be able to see the race, but it turned out to be a great place to watch the race. It was very different from yesterday but still really cool.

I ran back by the hostel after the race to get my things before heading to the Brussels Train Station. I managed to catch the 2:30 train to Koln and will hopefully get to Munich around 9 tonight if all goes well.

The trains were a bit tricky in Cologne in that one arrived at 4:15 and my train out to Frankfurt was at 4:20, but I managed to make it without any problems.
On the train to Frankfurt, I had a mild freak out because I couldn’t find my Eurorail pass for about 5 minutes. Usually when I cant find something right away, I keep telling myself, “it’s a big backpack with lots of zippers, don’t freak out.” However, after I looked in the typical places and couldn’t find it, I freaked out a bit. I finally found it in the “Other” folder in my daypack. I also barely managed to get off the train in Frankfurt to get on the one in Munich. For some reason my change wasn’t at the Hbf or main station but at one just before the city. I noticed last minute that the name of the station matched the one on my timetable so I got off and then quickly on the train to Munich. I’m obviously a little tired and will be looking forward to a good night sleep in Munich when I get there.

I made it to Munich. The hostel is actually pretty nice. Gonna call it a night soon so Im well rested for meeting my class tomorrow.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Brussels and Bruges

07/03 Brussels Day 3: Day trip to Bruges

I got up this morning and caught the train to Bruges with a guy who was in my hostel. A lot of other backpackers talked about how cool the city was, I had an extra day on my train ticket, so I decided to go.

When we arrived, Joel and I found his hostel and had a traditional Belgian morning strawberry beer. It was pretty good.

We then walked to the main square in Bruges and visited Our Lady Church to see Michelangelo’s Lady Madonna.

On our way, we walked through a park and saw some old castles.

After the church, we headed to the Groening Museum and bumped into my Canadian friends I met at the festival in Brussels. We had intended on all going together but somehow missed each other at the train station. It was by luck that we found each other. The Groeninge Museum was great. My favorites were Peter Pourbus and Gerrard David.

When we came out of the museum, it was raining some so we hurried to the next museum- Salvadore Dali. The Dali museum was small, but really cool. His art is very symbolic. It was also very sexual and mildly disturbing.

Joel, went back to his hostel after the Dali museum, and the Canadians and I went to the half moon brewery where we got tickets for a tour. It was an hour long tour where they took us around the facilities of an actual old brewery in downtown Bruges.

The best part, however was the view from the top of the brewery over all of Bruges.

We went back by the market square to grab a bite before heading to the train station. My classic food ordering got me fries with mayo. Its actually a Bruges delicacy.

I got back to Brussels in time to see Spain win their soccer match. This is the view out of my hostel window.

07/02 Brussels Day 2

I got in to the Medieval festival last night. It was called the Ommegang and they’ve been doing it here since the 1500s. There were horses, singers, and dancers. Everyone was dressed in historic clothing. The finale was a battle on stilts. It was really fun to watch.

I met two Canadians and we walked to the delirium pub after. The pub holds the record for the most beers on tap. Its also the brewery where they make delirium tremens- my personal favorite beer.

I spent the morning doing laundry. It was surprisingly not too expensive- around 6 euro to wash and dry everything.

In the afternoon, I walked downtown passed the cathedral to the museum district. I first visited the museum of Rene Magritte. It was amazingly bizarre. I was a little disturbed by some of it at first. It definitely took some getting used to. My favorites were Ignorant Fairy, Domain of Amheim, and the Empire of Lights.
Next, I went to the museum of Brussels where they had Peter Bruegel’s art. I really enjoyed that as well.

After the museums I walked down Place de L’Albertine. It was a pleasant garden with fountains.

I continued down the road passed the Belgian landmark mannequin-pis. Its actually pretty unimpressive.

As I continued my walk, I met a French Canadian guy who was biking across Europe by himself. We stopped and ate together. It helped that he could speak French to the waiters.

I went by St. Katelijne cathedral. It was big but not very pretty. From there, I took a lift to the top of a parking garage someone had recommended where I could get a view of the entire city of Brussels. It was actually pretty awesome. After that, I returned to the hostel for a break.

I went out to a famous soccer bar called Celtica. I was kinda bored with the bar so I left and went back to delirium to hang out with backpackers. After there I went to find a Belgian waffle. It wasn’t hard. I ended sharing a table with three girls from Michigan who were studying in France. Then I called it a night.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rest of Amsterdam and Brussels

7/01 Amsterdam Day 4 and Brussels Day 1

I decided to go ahead and travel to Brussels. I accidentally double booked July 1st in Brussels and Amsterdam. Shame on me for thinking there are 31 days in June. But I really appreciate the freedom to leave when I want.

I got up early and rode my bike to Anne Franks house. The line was short since I was there around 9.30. The house was an amazing experience. It really changed my opinions about the holocaust and its relationship to racism in the states.

They literally had the pages of Anne’s journal on display. I say “journal” because Anne filled her diary in the first week and resorted to writing in notebooks. Her ‘diary’ was actually stacks of notebooks. They also had on display the children’s school lessons, and fake passport.

We then got to walk behind the bookcase and see the hiding place. The secret annex was actually pretty large (bigger than my hostel). However, the depressing part was the lack of trees. I did see the Anne Frank tree which can be seen out of the attic through a mirror.

I’m currently sitting on the train headed to Brussels. I really enjoyed Amsterdam but am ready to move on.
Just got to Brussels and the hostel is super nice. Gonna try to catch a medieval festival tonight. Glad I’m here for four nights. Might make a day trip to Bruge.

6/30 Amsterdam Day 3

Back on my own again- completely. The Spaniard and two Frenchman that were in my room all left this morning and ill be getting three new roommates. Depending on how they are will decide if I stay another night in Amsterdam or go on to Brussels.

I rented a bike this morning and road to see a windmill on the east side of the city. The windmill was actually kind of small. I walk through an open market after. I went back to my original culture immersion technique of ordering what ever the person in front of me got. I ended up with some fruit and shrimp. It was extremely good.

From there I rode all the way south of the city along the bank of the Amstel river to see another windmill. This one was actually pretty large.

I stopped on my way back to rest and write in Begraafplaats Zorgvlied which is a large park with huge oak trees that has a cemetery for famous Hollanders.

After a long day of biking, I called it an early evening. I’m pretty tired and kind of homesick. Looking forward to Brussels and getting back to my extroverted self. Its hard to want to make new friends after my ones from California just left.

Big thanks to Randle Looney and Tyler Ingram for talking to me on facebook and making me feel a little better about being alone. Miss you guys.

Evening: So my three new roommates are 17-year-old german girls. They came in at around eleven, redid their makeup and hair, left for the clubs, and didn’t come back til around five. Note to everyone reading this: Do not let your 17 year old go to Amsterdam.

6/29 Amsterdam Day 2 Continued

Spent the early afternoon at the Van Gogh museum. With some art, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. However, with Van Gogh, its easily recognized what makes his work so special to see in person. His brush strokes create layers to the paintings. The “Lillies” painting was my favorite. The museum was expensive but completely worth it.
My friends from California agreed that this museum seemed better than the Orsay just because it didn’t feel like a failed attempt at the louvre.

After the Van Gogh Museum we walked to the famous “I Amsterdam” sign to take some pictures.

From there we walked to the Heiniken museum. I was very skeptical, but it was starting to rain and didn’t mind. The museum was actually very well done. It was actually a lot of fun going around the facilities and learning about how they made the beer and where they got the recipe. Also, that two of the Heiniken men had won top honors by the government in Holland for their outstanding beer making. How bout those priorities?

After the museum, we walked back to the white tulip hostel where the California guys were staying for dinner and me to update my blog. I hung out with the guys for a while at their hostel before heading back to mine for the night.

Gonna miss those guys. Sean, Neil, Jarin, and Larry- thanks for letting me join up. I had a great time.