I spent all of last week in Germany—my maiden trip out exploring Europe since I first moved here. I am pleased to report that my EU visa works, and I was freely able to country hop. About three-quarters of my time was spent in a teeny-tiny town called Oberwolfach (at the MFO, a fairly renowned mathematics institute) and the last two nights were with a good friend of mine from grad school.
All in all, I had a wonderful time.
After flying into Germany, I got to experience first-hand their ultra-efficient train system, which allowed me to systematically (and quickly, like 250+ km/h quickly!) get from Frankfurt to the teeny town without needing any hand-holding. I got to try out some of my broken German from language courses so long a go. I was also lucky to see their countryside and experience small town charm at its finest.
The institute was a remarkably serene place; purposefully built in the middle of nowhere to avoid being bombed during the Second World War. I got to meet a lot of interesting people in my field as well as my former boss. The food was authentic, rich and varied. The discussion just varied. Having no TVs or Internet access (or even locks!), the spartan (but fully functional) rooms at the institute encouraged people to be out interacting. The meeting itself was informal and free form—exemplified by one session running late into the night causing a ruckus from the sleepy crowd.
While my work obligations were to keep me at the MFO until yesterday, I skipped out a little earlier to head out to Stuttgart to be with a friend—who too had decided on a post-doc in Europe after finishing her stint at the uni. It was a blast being with her again, and we were able to explore the town, sampling some of the finer things it had to offer—courtesy of a (very elaborate and crowded) wine festival!
Now, after a surprisingly exhausting week of arguing with older Italian gentlemen about select terms in obscure equations, figuring out the German transport system, extremely fun and eventful evenings running late into their subsequent morns, I am finally flying back home. Relaxed and rejuvenated, with a definite plan forward and some neat research ideas to pursue.