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6 février 2007 : Chez nos voisins Allemands

12 février : Dernière matinée munichoise : la pompe à hydrogène

Le moment où nous nous rendons le mieux compte de la trompeuse apparence de vacances que peut revêtir notre aventure pour tout travailleur digne de ce nom est probablement de bon matin lorsque notre hôte du jour part bosser.

Lundi matin, Munich. Nous n’avons d’autre obligation que celle de nous « mettre à jour ». Dernières recommandations du Vincent papa poule (comment aller à l’aéroport, ne pas oublier le linge sur l’étendoir) avant que ne commence notre journée sans mentor ...  nous avons du mal à nous en séparer : il est dur de rêver meilleurs accueil et compangnie et nous ne savons trop ce qui nous attend pour la suite !
Du départ de Vincent jusqu’au nôtre pour l’aéroport, nous profitons du wifi de son voisin (merci au capteur magique qui attrape les ondes traînant sur la terrasse!) pour préparer un tant soit peu notre séjour espagnol. Résumé de situation : nous débarquons le soir même à Barcelone, et nous n’avons que très peu de rendez-vous confirmés. Heureusement qu’il existe des personnes réactives ici-bas : coup sur coup, Elodie ne peut retenir sa joie et saute deux fois au plafond lors de la réception de confirmation de rendez-vous... demandés le matin même pour le lendemain ! La question subsidiaire reste bien entendu la suivante : comment ferons-nous dans les pays où Internet sera moins accessible ? Nous relayons vite cette arrière-pensée saugrenue dans un placard de nos occiputs en nous promettant qu’il suffira de mieux nous organiser...

Juste histoire de border sur ce thème dont vous aurez constaté qu’il est assez récurrent, voici une historiette dont on espère qu’elle vous fera sourire, et nous aussi a posteriori, naturellement. Au milieu des courriels du matin, Elodie reçoit une confirmation de vol d’une compagnie low cost espagnole, pour un vol à 15h30. Branle bas le combat, elle annonce tonitruante à Blandine que le vol de 17h a été avancé de 90 minutes, et que le camp doit être levé bien plus tôt qu’escompté. Nous connaissant, vous pensez bien que nous partons « ric rac », et que notre arrivée essouflées à l’aéroport ne manque pas de charme. D’autant qu’elle ne sert qu’à nous rendre compte après avoir couru dans tout l’aéroport que l’horaire du vol en question, 15h30, est celui du Barcelone – Madrid 2 jours plus tard et non pas le Munich – Barcelone, et que nous avons, tenez vous bien, de l’avance, le vol étant  à 17h ! L’hôtesse recevant nos questions affolées  n’a pas tout compris à notre baragouinage incompréhensible sur un vol que nous serions en train de louper sachant qu’il décollait 3 heures plus tard ;-)
Etant donné qu’au lieu d’avoir à négocier d’arrache pied notre embarquement nous nous retrouvons avec une avance pour le moins inaccoutumée, nous remettons sur le tapis un projet que nous avions abandonné en pensant être parties trop tard. Blandine avait été informée de l’existence d’une pompe à hydrogène dans une station service à proximité de l’aéroport. Quitte à être coincées à l’aéroport, autant optimiser le temps que nous y passerons en allant visiter ladite station pour en mieux comprendre le fonctionnement.
Après consultation du point information où les hôtesses nous font répéter deux fois notre question tant elle semble inhabituelle (aller voir une pompe à hydrogène qui sert à alimenter les bus ?), nous partons armées d’une carte sur laquelle une croix localise ladite pompe. Au milieu des chargements / déchargements de frêt, à un arrêt de S-bahn de notre terminal, nous attend théoriquement notre Graal. C’est sans compter sur le manque de mise à jour d’Internet (et des informations de nos charmantes hôtesses), puisqu’après avoir marché 20 min (sous la pluie, naturellement !), nous nous faisons dire par un ouvrier que la station en travaux sous nos yeux est maintenant une « Wasser stoffe » (?) mais certainement pas une pompe à hydrogène quand bien même il est un grand écriteau devant le chantier où s’étalent en larges lettres ‘Muc H2’. Le temps de l’hydrogène serait résolu, la station serait transformée en ACNI (autre chose non identifiable). Après une photo souvenir comme preuve de notre périple nous repartons en direction du terminal.

Le 22 mars, selon Zinedine Zidane :
je vous encourage pour le voyage!!!

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11 février : Aventures matinales

Bien longtemps après, alors que Blandine et Vincent s’occupent d’apprivoiser la machine à laver le linge (qui nous a mangé moult pièces sans pour autant – version 1- laver notre linge, - version 2 – l’essorer de son jus de chaussette, - version 3 – le rincer du savon nettoyant) Elodie, disparaît pour acheter des viennoiseries. Il s’agit là d’un véritable élan de bravoure, non pas tant parce que, c’est vrai, il est bien tôt, mais surtout parce que si ces quelques jours ont familiarisé l’oreille d’Elodie à l’accent teuton, le bavarois est tout de même un idiome bien particulier. Le langage commercial dépasse il est vrai toute vélléité linguistique. Cependant, la boulangère dut lui jeter un sort sans qu’elle s’en aperçoive, car, de la Backerei, impossible de rentrer dans l’immeuble où habite Vincent (alias ‘sortir sans clef et sans connaître le nom de la propriétaire sur la sonnette peut être une gageure’) : c’est un elfe qui libère finalement Elodie de ses diverses conjonctures, et deux gourmands qui fêtent avec appétit son arrivée.

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11 février : Munich à pied

C’est glorieusement que nous appareillons le ventre plein, par une journée ensoleillée et vers 13h pour découvrir ce que nous pourrons de Munich la bavaroise. Après un passage devant les grandes médiathèques et pinacothèques que nous nous contentons d’admirer de l’extérieur, nous entrons dans une église où la peinture fraîche sent bon la dîme gouvernementale perçue par les différentes communautés religieuses, arpentons telle grande artère, et retrouvons Etienne et une de ses amies (ragal ragal ?) dans le grand parc qui traverse la ville et dont le nom nous échappe aujourd’hui. Nous y passons la fin de l’après midi, et ce n’est qu’à la nuit tombée que nous rebroussons chemin, passant devant la Residenz aux jardins si jolis l’hiver qu’ils doivent être merveilleux l’été. En longeant les murs princiers, nous serrons la patte des lions porte-bonheur. Noirs de cuivre oxydé, ils ont des pattes toutes dorées qui, certainement, changent tout ce qu’elles touchent en or.

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11 février : Surfer, manger, dormir - que demander d'autre ?

Du lion, c’est le cœur que nous retenons : direction le Richards sur une jolie place bordée de monuments en dentelle de pierre moyen-âgeuse. Etienne a des examens, il nous abandonne léchant les vitrines de la probablement très célèbre boulangerie pâtisserie où nous jetons notre dévolu sur des parts diversement sucrés et plutôt pas mauvaises. C’est par assolement triennal que nous mettons nos assiettes en jachère, et décidons de tripler la mise en investissant dans un copieux gâteau pour passer la longue soirée d’hiver. Il accompagne d’ailleurs à ravir les spaghetti bolo que nous dégustons sur la table de chevet de la propriétaire de Vincent, avant de boucler la journée par différents usages d’internet volé sur la terrasse à on ne sait quel complaisant voisin (bénis soient les gens qui n’encryptent pas leur connexion wifi !). Sur le chemin du retour, nous aurons pris le temps d’assister à l’eucharistie dans la cathédrale, et parcouru de nouveau la longue rue piétonne le long de laquelle siège notre taverne de la veille. Soir pluvieux peut être, elle n’en est pas moins animée par la musique interprétée par un joli quatuor (occasion pour Blandine de découvrir à quoi ressemble un basson) dont les musiciens semblent d’origine et turque et germanique.



C’est que Vincent travaille le lendemain – et que pour une fois que nous sommes à peu près reposées, ce serait ballot de dilapider ce précieux héritage. Au dodo, après une séance mémorable de pose photo (merci au Lions club d'avoir prêté la pièce maîtresse de nos essais artistiques, cf photos) – et merci beaucoup Vincent pour ton hospitalité et ta disponibilité !

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11 février : Retour sur image - des Atoms et de la BJ

Etienne et Jean nous ont accompagnées hier chez Vincent (Humpty et Dumpty s’en portèrent d’autant plus facilement), qui habite un petit studio fort bien aménagé. Il semble que le dénicher ait été un véritable tour de force : Etienne et Vincent ont passé plusieurs semaines à hanter canapés et spare rooms chez l’un ou l’autre avant de mettre la main sur de quoi passer à l’abri du froid leur séjour munichois. L’option ‘sous les ponts’ aurait même été considérée, à des fins rhétoriques ou pratiques, nous ne le saurons jamais...

 Petit débriefing, plus facile en français qu’en anglais : Antoine, Etienne, Jean et Vincent forment une dream-team qui s’est constituée à la BJ, il y a maintenant presque 7 ans, dans l’immortelle prépa Atom. Blandine avait la chance de n’être que d’une année leur prédécesseur, de surcroît la ‘marraine’ de Vincent. D’où, bien que cela n’explique pas comment les quatre larrons se sont retrouvés à Munich, qui même pour des germanophones n’est pas nécessairement le nombril de Jupiter, the fact qu’ils se connaissent les uns et les autres. Et puis : Atom un jour, Atom toujours ! n’est ce pas Gabi qui, une soirée de janvier, retrouve Etienne aux fiançailles d’une Atomette, dis ‘bonjour-comment ça va- tu sais quoi – tour du monde – etcetera’ ? et à Etienne de saluer via Gmail la petite Blandine, qui reprend par là contact avec son fillot nouvellement munichois.

Il n'est pas petit le monde ? C’est bien la peine de vouloir en faire le tour !

 Pourquoi Munich ? Parce qu’Etienne, Jean et Antoine ont choisi d’y étudier à des moments divers de leurs cursus d’ingénieurs, et que Vincent les a rejoints pour travailler chez Accor (dis, ils vont nous sponsoriser alors ?) : pourquoi en effet ne pas se retrouver ?
Bon zou, il est tard, Jean et Etienne vident le plancher – via le dernier tram attrapé in extremis
et le trio résiduel s’écroule vite fait dans un sommeil profond à souhait.



Le 4 avril :
Que de choses à lire et à découvrir. Est-ce de Jean Prudhomme qu'il s'agit.
Bise à tous. Denise

Le 5 mai, selon Blandine :
Coucou Denise !

Non, c'est d'un autre Jeannot, tout aussi sympathique ceci dit, qu'il s'agit.

Blandine et Elodie

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10 février : Bamberg in Bayern

Hum – what a lovely great long night! Saturdays are very pleasant days in the week: no appointment to be met, time to rest and visit the places which we otherwise race through, time to try to put the blog up to date … Wonderful Saturdays !
Nina and Christian had prepared a quite compete meal for our breakfast : chocolate and cheesecake, ham, different types of bread, cheese … Blandine was lucky to have Christophe call: it is very likely that she would otherwise have eaten so much that she would not have been able to make a single step afterwards.
 Which would have been a pity, Bamberg (Franconie) being the lovely city that it is. As small as it may be, Bamberg is a famous city in Germany, as we came to learn during the previous week. Anytime we’d tell people that we’d be there for the week-end, we met very knowledgeable smiles. Is it for its university, for its basketball team (whose successes Christian and Nina would make sure to follow and imitate during their Californian stay in 2005) or for its uncountable breweries?  Most likely a mixture of all these + the fact that it hosts our very famous friends.
We climbed the central hill up to the cathedral (the ‘Dom’) where Saint Cunegonde is honored and a pope buried, walking through beautiful old cobblestone streets whose every corners are guarded by a Saint or hero statue. All, as well as the windows and wall paintings, are taken very good care of – there is little doubt that they look even prettier than at the time at which they were put up.
 Around the ‘Dom’s place’ stand the Prince’s palace and its rose garden, whose winter cover is not as desolate as one would first think, the small green bushes delineating the flowerbeds giving it an almost springly look. From the garden’s terrace, the city roofs and church bell towers smile at us. One of them is St Martin’s, which we entered for a very short service. Paintings and statues seem to us typical of the ‘Contre-Reforme’ movement, which developed as a Catholic reaction to Protestantism.
Nina and Christian showed us around – and helped us find a place where to buy our Valentines ‘kitchissimes’ postcards (sehr wichtig !) – which haven’t been sent yet … but will hopefully be before next year ! Time flies in such good company – and it was very quickly time to go fetch our bags so as to not miss our regional train to Nuremberg, which almost happened given Elodie’s worthy attempts to delay our departure by forgetting her African plane tickets at Christian and Nina’s.

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10 février : Setting off to Nürnerg and its Reichsparteistagsmuseum

Sandwiches have been our main diet in Germany. Bamberg’s station will have been that of sugary mayonnaise and salami. As soon as we’ve reached Nuremberg’s station, we hunt for the ‘consigne’ where we leave our luggage for a few cultural hours. Not that we don’t find our cumbersome bags quite a fashionable attire, but we have decided to be in perfect shape when we reach the Bresilian beaches – and that means looking more like slim and slender nymphs than sturdy truck-drivers.

Christian had advised us to visit Nürnberg’s Reichsparteistagsmuseum, but the train that can bring us there was only to leave half an hour later. Given that we already had planned on taking the 7 pm Munich train, we were set to not loose a minute of our city discovery – so we set out for the old town center. From the main station, one can see the old city’s walls, and the large door that leads to St Lorenz church which was very heavily destroyed during the Second World War. Were it not for its many statues and golden adornments, Bamberg would seem quite a grey city in comparison with the red stones that constitute Nürnberg’s base construction block. The streets we tread on are pedestrian-only, and we all the more easily surrender to the delicious smell of a small sidewalk Lebkuchen shop that there is no roaring flow of vehicles to prevent us from getting there: we hope that our München friends will like these German ginger bread (well, if they don’t, we’ll eat them all!).
We get back to the train station, jump onto to S-Bahn (equivalent de RER) and set off to Frankenstadion – where we get off, in the middle of nowhere. Only reference point it seems : the soccer stadium. Hum. Where’s our museum ?

Do not worry, gentle reader: Blandine has taken 5 years of German in high-school + 3 years in college. She feels completely at ease and decides to show off a little in front of meek Elodie who does not speak a word of Goethe’s language (she’ll learn ‘teuflich gut’ 24hours later – but this has yet to come).
‘Wo is der Reichstag?’ does she ask, in a very self-confident way, to the two teenagers who just happened to be passing by us. They look at one another, not sure they understood the question correctly. Nothing to diminish Blandine’s courage: she repeats her question.
‘Hey, in Berlin !’ comes back the answer (understand ‘Hey, in Berlin
–what- a- fascinating- question- where- does- that- come- from- it’s- Bundestag- nowadays- anyway- given- that- the- Reichstag- burnt- in- 1933- how- come- you- don’t- know- that’).
Thunder and superstition ! in Berlin? Was ist denn das?

All her knowledge of German suddenly turns into thin air, and with great fear of being mistaken for a Hitler commemorator, Blandine desperately tries to play Taboo (game where you’re supposed to make someone else guess a word by saying anything you wish but a few forbidden words. For e.g., try to get someone to guess the word ‘moon’ without saying ‘star, earth, planet, sky or satellite’) with our potential saviors :
‘euh, Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi, Stadium, Museum?’

A Martian would have been more successfull... Until the ultimate revelation strikes her : the key to our mystery will be to add ‘partei’ in between ‘reich’ and ‘tag’, and open become the doors to the end of our quest.

Which is still some 20 minutes walk ahead, the museum’s entrance being at the other side of the lake, which surrounders a coliseum like structure meant to become the NSDAP Congress Hall. It hosts the Reichsparteistagsmuseum which describes the main steps of the Nazi party rise to power, and the special link it had with the city of Nüremberg.
 ‘Fascination and Terror’ (Fazination und Gewalt) is a very well designed exhibition, which makes great use of historic footages, speeches, photographs and other visual supports to describe how the Nazi party gained momentum in Bayern and Germany – as well as how the Nuremberg trial was organized at the end of WWII (which we unfortunately didn’t get to discover given that our history lesson was put to an end by the museum’s closing time).

Back to the train station, encounter with two Spanish tourists, back on the S-bahn, rush to the luggage cabinet and then to the train platform since we hope to get on an earlier train which we won’t be able to take because it’s an express train which our Regional ticket won’t allow us on, sprint for yet another sandwich and finally into the Munich train. As usual, we open our laptops and prepare emails to be sent out as soon as we find a wireless spot until the batteries are dead, before diving into our current readings (‘C’est vert et ça marche’ de Jean-Marie Pelt et ‘L’identité’ de Kundera)

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10 février : French connection in München

We had informed Etienne and Vincent of our late arrival – yet it’s not one, nor two handsome French young men that welcome us at the train station, but a full committee of five wonderful people. Four of whom are Blandine’s ‘supiots’ (a year younger in the same class at University) – ‘Atom un Jour, Atom Toujours’ ! Merci beaucoup à Jean, Antoine et Marie-Laure, Etienne et Vincent pour votre accueil chaleureux ! Time to eat they say - so off we go for a typical bayerish brewery (I’m telling you : those bags are much easier to carry when on those well-built boys’ backs), where one eats just as well but for half (or so) the price when in the back room. Not as tidy, somewhat more smelly, but much warmer atmosphere than at the ‘chic end’ of the place. We sit at Tuomas’s table – and are being taken care of by a French-speaking waitress whose unbuttoned lap would be full of promises for a not-as-sober-as-we’ll remain person. Tuomas is a Finnish aeronautics engineer who we get to talk and take pictures with, and who gives very good advice on how to choose a beer (helles und heisses für uns – do correct us if those are not proper). Quite unfortunately, Blandine has drunken so much of that delightful beer that she cannot stop talking of her entrepreneurial dreams and personal utopias: all are too polite to tell her that she gets on their nerves, and only the discontent of having ordered too late to get a second glass gives our group a good excuse to leave the tavern and head back to one’s bed.
Which we do too, Vincent having been so kind as to leave us his one-room-appartment’s couch to sleep on … until too late to dare remember the following day.

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9 février : Fraunhofer Institut für Solar Energie

Given that we had only had a frugal dinner, we set ourselves to stuff our stomachs with a large breakfast. We also discover (five minutes before our due departure time) how to log on the internet from a Deutsch Telekom public phone cabin (stuff it with coins, take the code that will be spitted out on a small piece of paper and log on wireless internet – quite useful little pink button which we’ll try, alas with no success, to find on all the public phones we’ll meet the following days) and send out a few emails, which we as usual believe to be very precious pieces of information or questions. Unfortunately, we end up being late at our meeting with Andreas Gombert, director for materials research at the Fraunhofer Institute für Solar Energie in Freiburg.

He tours us around the very energy efficient building which hosts some of the institutes’ research teams, and explains to us the prospects of a few solar energy converting systems which the ISE has been working on. Welcome to the future – and that of plastic solar cells among others!

 

These have the potential of being a very cheap and very flexible in use way to generate electricity from solar energy. Michael Niggemann, who works in Professor Gombert’s research group at the Freiburg University, goes through a presentation which explains how electrons can be generated and circulated in certain polymers, and how this property is taken advantage of to make solar cells. Although this is a very promising technology, there are still a few technical questions to solve before they can reach the commercial market. A question of time – no more than 15 years: time to think about what it can be used for, knowing that there’s no limit to imagination in this field !

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9 février : Polycity in Scharnhauser Park

Nico and Matthias had already left when we finished packing our bags. Down the five flights of stairs, onto the street and into the S-Bahn to Scharnhauser Park we go.

The City of Ostfildern is building there a new residential area: Stuttgart is a vibrant city, and its suburbs are meant to accommodate a growing population. In Ostfildern, it was decided that the new area shall be planned with energy efficiency standards in mind: the apartments and flats are built according to the fairly advanced in that matter German standards, a cogeneration plant for the town’s heating network and electricity needs is running on biomass and natural gas, and a few buildings are meant to be demonstration projects for such innovations as cooling by using a heat source.

The later are part of the Polycity project of the EU Concerto program which (as we understood it but you would find more information on its detailed website) aims at demonstrating the use of state of the art energy saving building methods and equipments on a large scale. Ursula Pietzsch (Polycity), Frank Hettler (City of Ostfildern’s energy manager), Wolfgang Lotz and Jochen Fink (SWE, company managing the cogeneration biomass plant) meet us and our four bags at the City Center.

We promise that all they told us with respect to the Scharnhauser project will be reported in the ‘project descriptions’ part of this website – but we yet have to find the time to write down all the information which they shared with us, first around the town’s small scale model, then on the terrace of the Stadthaus, and finally at the cogen plant.

It was so plentiful that time ran out fairly fast – and Ursula took us to the town center to meet with another Ursula : Dr Eicker, the University professor who is the coordinator for the Polycity part of this project.


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9 février : Italian lunch in Greek-owned German restaurant : welcome to Europe !

Dr Eicker and two of her colleagues invite us for lunch in an Italian restaurant managed by a Greek maître d’hôtel. The place is quite chic – and the food is stunningly good and well presented (seafood spaghetti for Blandine and fish duo with broccolis for Elodie – who cares? we do !). We make the mistake of asking only for ‘Leitungswasser’, when everyone is expecting us to order some wine … which we realize a little too late. Not to worry ‘though : there’ll be plenty of delicious Mediterranean spirit at the end of our lunch, given that the owner of the place insists that we taste some of his new acquisition, a mix of Sauvignon Blanc and some Greek grape species.
After lunch, we get back to the University meet again with professor Pietrushka, who mentions one French school in the Lyon region he’s involved in the energy monitoring of. Ursula P. gets back into her journalist shoes, and asks us a few questions that may lead to a published interview, before explaining us how to reach the station on foot.

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9 février : From Stuttgart to Bamberg

Going back to that place which we had only seen by night the previous evening, we walk along pedestrian streets filled with a continuous flow of people. The beautiful weather combined with what must be the Stuttgart ‘get out of office’ time turns the main shopping street into a very lively picture, where street performers compete for the attention of passer-bys. Special attention is given to a glass musician, who plays Beethoven’s heroic symphony on a set of variously filled with water crystal glasses.
We once again get in the process of buying train tickets – they’ll be regional this time, meaning that up to five people can travel on a 27 euro ticket for the whole day in all the Bade-Württemberg Land. Ain’t it crazy? The only inconvenient is that one may only use regional trains (ie not the ICE fast trains), but it sincerely is only a meager one given how often and punctually they run. So off we go to Bamberg, after having also bought a Bayern regional ticket given that Bamberg is a Bayerish (and not a Stuttgart like Schwabian or any Bade-Wurttembergian town).
Two concerts are taking place at the station, whose wireless spots we quickly identify to send out a few late emails. By the way, don’t you think that wifi should be defined a public service and that there should always be a place in town where you can log on a wireless feed for free?
The train wagons are jammed, and we feel lucky to find a seated place for both ourselves and our bags, which we definitely should baptize given the importance that they take in our lives. What about Humpty and Dumpty? I like it … let’s organize a vote in the comments’ section : don’t hesitate to give us your opinion !

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9 février : At Christian&Nina's

We arrive in Bamberg, where Christian picks us up. He drives us to the apartment which he shares with Nina, in an old farm where several flats have been set up. They live there with two guinea pigs (Ellsworth p(a)lace roomies : don’t you remember Annelise accounts of eating guinea pigs in Ecuador?) and hopefully soon plenty of blond and basketball fan kids, since, ‘hear hear’, Christian is getting married to Nina, and Nina is getting married to Christian !
Christian is a software programmer, and Nina – who studied media communication – presently gives German and culture classes to Turkish ladies wishing to be granted the right to stay permanently in Germany and who hence need to pass an exam on the fundamentals of the German law, culture and language.  
Humpty and Dumpty are set near a wall, and we go out for dinner, in a very nice tapas restaurant not too far from Christian and Nina’s. Going there, we meet some of their friends – which we’ll have to get used to: Christian and Nina have always lived in Bamberg, and everybody there knows them (I won’t discuss why it is that everybody greets them, because you will have guessed that their kindness and gentleness are responsible for the trick). And going out, we make a little tour around old Bamberg, its river, its cathedral up on the hill and the cobblestone place in front of it, all of which we’ll spend more time visiting on the following day.
After having checked on Humpty and his Dumpty friend, we take a nip at Nina’s chocolate and cheese cakes, before going to beds that in a flash become our best linen friends of the day.

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8 février : Freiburg Greens

We’re supposed to meet with Martin, whom we got introduced to via Couchsurfing, at the main station. We thus resolve to eat our lunch there (another set of our homemade ‘bread sandwiches’ – but without muffin to put in between the slices this time), on the first floor from which we can keep an eye on the station’s activity. It’s quite a nice place to hang around by the way : not only are its two towers plated with solar cells (Freiburg is a green city, and it shows – it’s also a place where solar businesses are flourishing, quite a techie town to live in), but the inside modern and glass building hosts a variety of restaurants whose clients sometimes find it convenient to eat without being seated.

Given that Martin won’t be there for another 30 minutes, we take our time to invent the ‘GHG-tiquette’ (pronounce ‘gage-ticket’), better known in French as GES-tiquette. What is this amazing concept? Something to put a patent on, we’re telling you ! The point is to add to the price tag which most products you use are sold with, a ‘green-house gases tag’ which will also help you choose which products you’d rather put in your buying basket. All ideas on how to launch a company selling this service are welcome – do get in touch with us (our first target would be the large food retailers like Carrefour, Leclerc, Aldi …) who we think would easily buy into this system.

But Martin arrives and takes us over to Per’s political permanence for the Greens party. Both of them tell us about their personal commitment in politics, and how they came to be involved with the Greens party which is very influential in green-mayored Freiburg.

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8 février : Vauban and new housing concepts

We then set off by tram and foot for Vauban, a newly built Freiburg neighborhood whose architects were asked to comply with very ambitious energy saving standards in housing. Whereas the average consumption of a house in France is about 120 kWh/year (check our numbers: google wasn’t available when we were writing this down), the municipality imposed that no new construction should consume more than 65 kWh/year, and encouraged higher efficiency standards, with a set of houses spending hardly above 15 kWh/year. The solar neighborhood and the Solarschiff mall are all about PV, the other houses are painted in vibrant colors, have large windows to let the sun in, are arranged in a very convivial manner, are well isolated … are set in such a way that the place is home to a very close knit community. Nora, one of Martin’s friends, lets us in her Vauban house – whose comfort (esp. with respect to lighting) we admire very much. Would we be available to come back in October to talk about the discoveries we’ll make around the world? With great pleasure !

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8 février : The Havana Club in Stuttgart

We leave, as usual in a hurry, for the train station where we pick up our luggage and jump into the cram-packed train to Stuttgart. Freshly arrived in the capital of Baden-Wurtenberg, we eat a quick herring sandwich snack at Nordsee in front of tattooed Johann Nakasemura’s picture (the national waterpolo team is sponsored by Nordsee’s fish and chips). We get the feeling that German train stations are much more hospitable places than the French ones, that they are home to a large set of businesses and restaurants which people actually go into, and that it’s not so weird that concerts should take place in their hallways (which they do !).
 Time to set off, bag in front, bag on back, to the Havana Club.
Yes, couchsurfing is great ! Our Hamburg experience did not deter us from trying to give this brand new to us concept a second try. After having met with Martin in Freiburg, our opinion of the CS community had been seriously raised from ‘nice but weird’ to ‘diverse and interesting’. So we had asked Matthias whether he could host us for a night.- Matthias lives with Nico, and the two of them have decided to baptize their mezzanine ‘Havana Club’. Here you go !
 After having taken the U-bahn, and by very carefully following Matthias’ directions given over the phone at the station, we arrive at M&N’s place where we discover that they live on the fifth floor, and that there’s no elevator to their little cloud on top of the building – damned. Yet, we get up, and are met on top of the stairs by a prison runaway : Matthias is trying on his Köln festival’s costume, which we must admit, is really not bad at all.
 Nico et Matthias are two young Stuttgart engineers who love soccer and work for French companies (Thales et Alcatel Lucent - viva la Francia !): such sensible people can’t be bad, can they? Especially when they welcome you in a very tidy, well arranged flat, offer you nice beers and interesting wine, and are eager to share their knowledge of their town with us. By the way, if you too are an English speaking person and think it was a good idea to write some of that blog in English – do thank Nico (it’s not difficult to see that such a brilliant – alas time consuming – idea would not have germinated in our tired minds). Nico, who definitely is full of resources, also puts on his Koln costume – yes, that’s the hippie on the picture (but don’t worry, he’s not even close to looking like that in real – and BTW, Christophe, Nico wears Mephisto shoes too …) – and tells us about this German couple who set off for a moped world tour that was supposed to last 10 months … and only ended after 16 years of travel.
 Gosh – we hope we won’t face the same fate! Seems like there’s little chance given that despite all impressions, we’re first not a couple and second not likely to mess around as much as they did with their motorbike, even turning it at some point into a raft propeller. But who knows: it seems that going to India can leave one with severe secondary effects !
 Everybody’s working on the following day, and it’s once more extremely tired but awfully happy to have met both Matthias and Nico, that we go to bed.

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8 février : From Stuttgart to Bamberg

Going back to that place which we had only seen by night the previous evening, we walk along pedestrian streets filled with a continuous flow of people. The beautiful weather combined with what must be the Stuttgart ‘get out of office’ time turns the main shopping street into a very lively picture, where street performers compete for the attention of passer-bys. Special attention is given to a glass musician, who plays Beethoven’s heroic symphony on a set of variously filled with water crystal glasses.
We once again get in the process of buying train tickets – they’ll be regional this time, meaning that up to five people can travel on a 27 euro ticket for the whole day in all the Bade-Württemberg Land. Ain’t it crazy? The only inconvenient is that one may only use regional trains (ie not the ICE fast trains), but it sincerely is only a meager one given how often and punctually they run. So off we go to Bamberg, after having also bought a Bayern regional ticket given that Bamberg is a Bayerish (and not a Stuttgart like Schwabian or any Bade-Wurttembergian town).
Two concerts are taking place at the station, whose wireless spots we quickly identify to send out a few late emails. By the way, don’t you think that wifi should be defined a public service and that there should always be a place in town where you can log on a wireless feed for free?
The train wagons are jammed, and we feel lucky to find a seated place for both ourselves and our bags, which we definitely should baptize given the importance that they take in our lives. What about Humpty and Dumpty? I like it … let’s organize a vote in the comments’ section : don’t hesitate to give us your opinion !

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7 février : Cosy trip from the city of Ham to Freiburg

Must have been the only day of our lives, when we were happy to hear the alarm clock ring at 5 …
 Back to the Turkish shop where we had bought our not-to-be-eaten gift cake on the previous day, we fill our tired bodies with vitamins (carrot juice – miam), get to the train station (Hauptbanhof), collect our luggage and change (remember? smelly clothes … beurk) our T-shirts, add in a little caffeine and get on the train to Freiburg.
 We quite luckily have been assigned a desert compartment. Elodie takes her (smelly) sleeping bag out of her backpack, and the two of us set out for somewhat of a refreshing sleep: we discover that ICE trains (equivalent of our French TGV) are exquisitely comfortable. Lots of snow on the first part of the trip : it seems to be all molten when we reach Frankfurt where a very nice person who had gotten on the train a little earlier leaves us.

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7 février : Freiburg, ecology capital of Europe

Freiburg is so close to France (Colmar is not that far – notice how nicely that rimes) that Blandine soon stops trying to show off her very meager knowledge of German, given that people more often than not answer back in France. Freiburg holds a claim that it is the ‘ecology capital of Europe’, and as far as we can tell, it certainly is true. Just take a look at public transportation. There’s little we know of Germany, but we ended up taking U-Bahns, S-Bahns, trams, trains and regional railways quite often, which makes us think that we have a fairly representative opinion of the quality of the German public transportation system. As good as they are (and they are wonderfully comfortable, on time, well-timed, and so easy to book), Freiburg’s still stand out as uniquely performing. As Jurgend Hartwig will make us realize, a perfect example for the city’s commitment to the development of efficient alternative transportation is the intermodal main station’s platform. When getting off the long distance train, you can take a lift to a bridge across the tracks where the tram stop stands, and from where the bicycle storage is very readily accessible. A flight of stairs below, and onto the long distance bus terminal you land, whereas the city buses pass nearby. The whole city is thus interconnected, with cheap group and daily regional tickets enabling you to very conveniently switch from one transportation mean to the other, whose frequency is deliciously high (no need to run to catch your tram : there’ll be one in the next 5 minutes).
 
We love Germany, especially for its public transportation system.
 
Jürgen Hartwig works at Freiburg Futour, which organizes trips around the city to show and explain its very distinctive features. He meets us at Café Vélo, where he tells us (in French) how he came to work on energy use sustainability, and gives us his opinion on how slow change is occurring – especially in France. Quite interesting !

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7 février : Staying at the youth hostel

We drop our luggage at the main station, and set out to look for the tourist information center, where we’ll be told where the youth hostels are. There seems to be two of them, whose prices we check out over the telephone. The cheapest is also the nearest, so we set out for it… to land at the other one (don’t ask us how we manage these sorts of  tricks – those are trade secrets). Too tired to go back to the budget place, we convince ourselves that we had always wanted to stay at this little house hidden in the woods because, on the way there from the train station is a stadium lit thanks by solar panels…
 Our first shower since our Hamburg CS stay is a refreshing spell. Too bad we left all our clean and crispy change at the Hauptbanhof … so back into stinky clothes we go. Since you noticed how brave and enduring we are, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that despite our great desire to lay down and – yes – sleep, we set off for the town center, from where we hope to reach Vauban, a Freiburg neighborhood whose houses have been built according to very ambitious energy efficiency standards.

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7 février : Food and wifi : homo modernus needs

Alas, night falls early at this time of year. At 5:30 pm, we decide to hunt for food (not much is left with Blandine of her German classes, but she remembers that shops close at 6) and set our choice on ‘spezialitat’, tomatoes and bread. Since we lost plenty of time looking for a decent food shop, there’s no point in heading for Vauban – we try instead to find the wifi spot which we were told about at the information center. Of course, it starts to rain – what a blessing ! Wireless internet is available in a Deutsch Telekom cabin ! It’s raining, it’s cold, our hair is wet and the wireless is not free – but Freiburg is a lovely city, equipped with a ‘pedestrian-only’ town center, and nice looking old buildings.
 
Blandine as usual is getting hungry. Since we bought a whole loaf of bread but only a few slides of ‘spezialitat’ and ham which are supposed to last for the following day too, she ends up making and eating a ‘bread and chocolate muffin sandwich’. Nutella may have been better – but this one wasn’t bad ! The only problem is that the crumbles are quite hard to handle, so we miss our stop. Two “Opas” very kindly take our fate into their hands and advise us to stay in the wagon given that the terminus is only one stop away and that the tram will then head back in the other direction. 
 
A little walk in the dark, along the river bank, through the (dark) woods and back to our rooms : how promising looks this long sleep tonight ! So optimistic are we that we take the 7th of February resolve : given that our trips ends in Brazil, we’ll make sure to be fit by then for our tour of Rio’s beaches. Hence, on our plate are 50 abdominal reinforcements per day – so it be said !

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6 février : Couchsurfing in Hamburg - Jonas and his alternative friends


And surprise, surprise, after a very short flight, we arrive in Hamburg where we do find our smiling bulky bags. We take a bus to the central train station, leave our luggage in the dedicated room (definitely a worthy investment), and tour this other Hanseatic harbour. If Elodie decided to specialize in ‘animal photography’, Blandine picks up a taste for industrial pictures and does serial shots of cranes and other containers – don’t ask why.


Hamburg was our first couchsurfing experience – and we’re quite happy that none of the following came even close to being that ‘special’. Couchsurfing is a very attractive and convivial concept: after having subscribed to this mostly young and urban web community, one may ask the other members whether they can put him up (on a couch as you would expect) for a night or two. Then, according to one’s experience of each other’s hospitality/courteousness, feedback can be left on the website for future hosts/guests to check your profile before answering your enquiry. The only fee is a voluntary one, paid to help maintain the website and develop its features. Ain’t it a wonderful idea?

Our spirits pretty high given the very detailed explanations that Jonas had given us on how to reach his place and make our hole in the CS community (upload a picture, donate a few bucks to the web management team, make a complete description of your interests …), we take the Bahn from the Harbour to Vedel, where we go up the main street flanked by Turkish shops to reach the flat which Jonas shares with a few friends – whose number we learn to be quite undefined, given that everyone’s friends is more than welcome to camp on the floor and couches.

We open the door: it ‘teuflichly’ stinks (comprenne qui pourra) ! And that is certainly an understatement, given that hell is known to be hot but never described as smelly. We try to retreat to the internet café downstairs, but Jonas’ hospitality is disarming. He leaves his antifascist, anti racist, anarchist, feminist poster decorated room to our internet savy hands, and gets some tea ready. Jonas is an ‘extreme left anti globalisation’ activist who leaves in company of pink or green-haired and body-pierced black clad kind students, and we have a very interesting conversation at dinner with him on a few topics including the pros and cons of nuclear energy. His flatmates and him take turns in preparing dinner and cleaning up: we are presented with spinach, mashed potatoes, and fish. Not bad but the dinner setting is what upsets Blandine’s stomach, not quite used to the very loose hygiene standards of our host (pour les details graveleux, faudra revenir, on est polies tout de même !). 

Time to play – Siedler (‘pioneers’) is our game. One has to build roads, villages and towns by taking advantage of the rock, timber, corn, or wool resources that dice roll in one’s hands. Nothing too hard to think about, but a very long lasting game. Dessert comes by, which only Elodie has the guts to taste with the shared-by-all spoon.

Time to sleep too, given that we’re to be on the following day at 6 am at the train station. This conviction is not really shared by our hosts, who very kindly put off the light but put on the music and watch U-tube videos. The smell is still there – we decide not to take our cloths off. When we wake up, we discover that there are five of us in the room (versus only three when we went to ‘bed’) and that our sleeping bags, clothes and bags have never been stinking so much … Yet, we had been given the best places to sleep on (couches vs floor) and have been quite kindly being taken care by these very tolerant group of people. We must say we are quite ashamed of our own lack of acceptability of their difference – but it’s hard to fight one’s nose’s sensitivity.

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