heidelberg. or: how to put 360 north americans in a german university town

Under blazing sky,
Ancient music spreads softly
Through the old city.

This weekend was the DAAD-RISE 2009 conference in Heidelberg, which meant that the 390 (only 360 were from North America.. others from the UK) interns hired by the programme to come to Deutschland for the summer were treated to a weekend in the city that houses Germany's oldest university. The conference itself involved thanks from the organisers (amazingly, the organising team is just 5 people, which is probably why their email response time is somewhat... laggy), a jazz ensemble made up of a trio of a previous year's interns, chats about how to go about getting funding to do a Master's or PhD in Deutschland, company visits, and a trip for everyone to the Culturbräurei.

The company visit that I went on was a little bit (read: quite) dull. It was a trip to Agilent, a company that makes measuring instruments for chemicals. I mean, that's an important thing, and some of the machines that they demoed for us were pretty neat. For instance, there was a chip that they invented that vastly simplified the tasks of geneticists who have to do electrophoresis-type experiments: you just put in a tiny sample, put the thing in a box hooked to your computer, and the box and software magically record everything about the sample for you and run whatever experiment it is that you've told them to run. I don't know why no one thought of this before, but it was kinda sweet. Maybe I was jaded about the content of this tour because of all the Take Your Daughter to Work Days I've been to; Dad's toys are way cooler than these people's.

Other people went on other company visits, based on the area of their internships. Alex (Mr. Geologist) went to Messel Pit, a UNESCO site with a lot of interesting dead things in it. After that, the group went to a vineyard to experience, um, German hospitality.

At the Culturbräurei, there was a moment that made all of us realise that we're not in Kansas (or even North America) any longer; one of our dear friends who had enjoyed herself a little too much at the winery passed out on the table at dinner. In NA, this would be grounds for a kicking-out, but in Deutschland? The bartender brought her a pillow.

Thanks to the DAAD, all the interns were also given a free tour of Heidelberg. There's a famous castle there, and there are a few awesome things about it. For one, the inner courtyard is filled with buildings in the Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic styles. Evidently, the castle has been home to many prince electors (they get to choose who is king) over the years, and each one wanted to feel like he contributed something to the design of the place. One thing that stayed the same for all the live-ins, though, was a wine cellar, including the largest wine cask I've ever seen, located in a room obviously built specifically to house it. There was also a gate that was built for Queen Elizabeth. For her birthday. In one night. See what I'm expecting, guys? ;)

Other than the scheduled things, there was a lot of free time to explore the city. Heidelberg is positively brimming with culture, as most cities around this area, and I was thrilled with the opportunity to go to a Bach concert in Peterskirche. It was put on by a group at the university in Heidelberg, and it was awesome. There was a choir and a pipe organ, and lots of "yay." ^____^

Also! I finally got to see my 4(+7)th of July fireworks! Saturday night, one of the famous bridges in Heidelberg was closed to foot and car traffic in order to put on a pretty good lightshow. The schloß was alight, too, and made an awesome backdrop. To make it even better, the moon was near-full and rising, and the beer was only 80 cents.


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