Oh, what a day!

Trip Start Aug 23, 2005
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Trip End Aug 2006


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Friday, December 16, 2005

Oh what a day. Although it happened a week ago today, I can still remember quite clearly how it all began....

"So, do you have the directions?"
"No, I figured for sure that you would."
"Matt, do you have the directions?"
"Hmph. Of course not. I knew I was coming with you girls and I thought one of you would be responsible and write them out."
"Well, I was going to copy them down, but my Internet was on the fritz again." (Yes, the last one 'speaking was me - it is fixed now though!!!)

So, we sat there and brainstormed a bit. We were on our way to Karlsruhe for a Baden-Wuerttemberg stipendium conference, but we didn't know where to go from the Bahnhof. All I could remember was that it was being held in Karlsruhe's old children's hospital. Ein Kinderkrankenhaus. Ok. We could work with that.

But that was just the beginning of our 'oh, what a day!', because we hadn't bought our tickets before we got on the train. Apparently if you do, two people can benefit from the 50% off with the Bahncard 50, instead of just one... Lets just say that that was an expensive lesson learned. Fortunately, I was one of the owners of just such a card, so I was still able to pay just half of the normal price. Two of our fellow travellers, however, ended up having to pay 30 euros each to get to Karlsruhe, a mere hour away on the fast ICE train.

Anyway, we arrived in late in Karlsruhe which made us even later getting to the conference (which turned out to be not such a bad thing). By the time we got in Karlsruhe, asked around for directions to the altes Kinderkrankenhaus and got to the conference, we were about 40 minutes late, at which point we discovered as we were signing in that we would have to pay to eat. At the Mensa. If I hadn't had a clue earlier in the day that we were headed for disaster, this was it. Four euros to eat in a student cafeteria? You have got to be kidding!

Thankfully, on account of our lateness, we were subjected to just 30 minutes of the organizer's less than stimulating drivel which high-lighted (like in good ol' Blaubeuren) the background of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Stipendium. Oh yawn, er yeah.
In the longest coffee break I have ever had (it lasted about an hour and a half, running to lunch), we were supposed to talk to the other winners of the stipendium. After I had grabbed a drink and a few cookies, and had talked to a girl from Cuba for a few minutes, I took off with a fellow CYFer to check out the city. Damned if we were going to repeat Blaubeuren all over again.

We visted the castle and glanced at the Weihnachtsmarkt and then made sure that we were back PUNKTLICH to go for lunch. We shouldn't have bothered. Ten minutes after the set meeting time, we finally straggled over to Karlsruhe university's 'maze of a Mensa'. We stood in line, got our food and sat down where we figured we would be ok. Oh, the naivity! Two ended up going back in line to get more (well, we had certainly paid more than enough for it!) because one dish was not vegetarian, and one of the girls was. So anyway, it was that which brought on the Mensa confusion. While they were in line, a bit of a problem started up and it turned out that they didn't have any money left available to pay for the Stipendium group's food. After the argument ended, (warning: long aside - funnily enough, it was actually between a Chinese guy from the stipendium program who insisted on arguing with the cafeteria lady who kept telling him, "ich spreche kein English!!!" I don't speak english), one of the girls was swept away to the festsaal (fest hall) where we were supposed to eat with the other stipendium winners. The other girl came back and we loaded up everything to go to the festsaal too. Unfortunately, we had no idea where it was.

"This door do you think?"
"I dunno, try it."
"Scheisse, I am going to drop my food."
"What a freaking ridiculous system!"
"What system are you talking about?!? This seems like disorder to me!"

The room which we had entered had about 6 doors in it, all of them looking the same, but one of which contained the mystery 'festsaal'. After trying two, someone finally directed us to the right one (to give them credit, I don't really blame them for not helping us right away - I am sure that we were quite amusing as we wandered into the room, staggering under the weight of everything which we had brought with us to Karlsruhe, in addition to our loaded trays of food).

So finally we were there. The festsaal. Everyone gave us wide eyes, but we pretended not to notice. We sat at the back of the room and finished our (now cold) cafeteria food. And the funny thing was, they had food at the front of the room for us. Why they told us to get in line in the first place, I have no idea. I don't think that they did either, to be honest with you.

After lunch, we headed back to get ready for our afternoon outing - the highlight. We were going on a brewery tour and we didn't want to miss it, so we made sure we were back in enough time to hear them say that, actually, we wouldn't be doing the activities for another hour. So just sit and wait. By now, I am slowly losing my faith in German Punktlichkeit, especially when it comes to the BW stipendium program activities.

Finally we left for our brewery tour and it turned out to be worth all of the day's troubles. Especially at the end when we got to try six of the brewery's beers in their brewery/restaurant. The tour itself (considering that our guide just found out at the last minute that we were coming - yet again, more disorganization) was excellent. Since we were such a small group, we were allowed into the room where the beer is at its bubbly stage (see the picture).

But that was not the end of our excitement for the day, no siree!
While we were finishing up our beer and were contemplating heading back to the Weihnachtsmarkt for a snack (and maybe some Gluehwein) we got a call from a girl who was to be travelling back with us to Freiburg.

The conversation was in German, but it was basically to the effect that we should get to the train station. Pronto. The train was leaving in 25 minutes. So out we ran, and it is a good thing, too or we would have missed the strassbahn (tram) and thus our train. We made it to the station with five minutes to spare, at which point we realized that we didn't know where our travelling companion was who, it is important to point out, had already bought our return ticket. After sending some quick SMS messages from the platform, she finally came running up the stairs and we jumped on the train just before the doors slammed shut.

Oh, what a day.
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