Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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In the process of the current summer school at our department, it was my job to organise one of the excursions for our guests – which took place this Saturday.

I quickly decided to go to Hannoversch Münden, a small town about half an hour away from Göttingen, which is quite pretty with a remarkable number of half-timbred houses and can call three rivers its own. Getting the basic planning – for buses, city tours, a brewery tour, lunch and a boat trip – done was surprisingly easy. Just fixing all the details in the end and making sure all the different parts of the trip were teethed together smoothly was a bit more effort. Basically having to negotiate things with different parties when at least one of which will insist on sending you confirmations by fax (apparently still very popular with small businesses) or even proper mail can slow things down considerably.

View of the Weserstein where Werra and Fulda meet to form the Weser

That said, everybody I dealt with was really friendly and helpful, so it wasn’t too bad. That’s particularly true when keeping in mind that I planned to invade their city with a hoarde of 150 mathematicians, most of which don’t speak German. So we had to get all the tours in English, which in turn made things a bit more difficult because of their small number of English speaking tour guides.

The worst thing of the trip happened before we departed from Göttingen. The buses arrived perfectly on time at a convenient location but it turned out that only 80 people were present. It looked like everybody else preferred to go elsewhere or just relax in the sun instead. Despite the trip having been announced all week long, apparently it wasn’t made clear that we actually expected people to come along. With food and everything having to be pre-ordered for such a large group, I guess they’ll have to make people sign up for the second excursion.

Road with half-timbred houses in Hann. Münden

But apart from that lesson learned, the fact of many people not showing up spoiled my way there a bit as I was busy picturing how I’ll look like an idiot who doesn’t come with the number of people he announced and that it’d be my job to break those bad news to the people I had made and re-negotiate our reservations in a way that kept everybody happy. In the end, things didn’t turn out too badly. Of course we had to pay some reduced rate for the lunches and cake we didn’t eat, because it had been bought and prepared just for us. And after settling that, I started to be more relaxed and try to make the best of the situation. With less people to shuttle through the city and feed, the situation was definitely more relaxed…

The city guides we had were quite good and enthusiastic. One of the English speaking ones also spoke Russian while the other also spoke French and Spanish. And they were keen to have little side chats with people in those languages while showing us around. On the tour we saw plenty of half-timbred houses, their church and the story of ‘Dr. Eisenbart’ who was a bit of a crook but still is featured along with a Glockenspiel they have on their city hall at twelve and three. On that you can see the wonderful medieval technique of ‘hammer anesthetics’.

Dr. Eisenbart show with the Glockenspiel at the city hall

After the city tour we went for lunch in the ‘Ratsbrauhaus’, a little brewery in the basement of the city hall. It included a short tour of their beer making process which the girls working there had particularly prepared to do in English (and which worked rather well). They don’t make a lot of beer and sell most of it off the tap right there. As a local you can also buy it in special containers to take home. The lunch was a large buffet with all sorts of meat and vegetables. A bit too rich for a hot day perhaps, but quite tasty.

After some free time to stroll around town, we finished the day off with a boat trip up the Fulda. That was nice and relaxing and we even got some cake along with it. Meaning that in the end everybody was at least well fed. And probably a bit exhausted from all the walking around, drinking beer, and the heat. So on the way back we sent one of the buses straight to the youth hostel where many of the guests stay, rather than making them go all across town to be ‘home’ and relax.

A lock closing in the Fulda

And while not having done particularly much myself throughout the day – I still ended up being quite exhausted when I arrived back home.

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July 23, 2006, 1:44

Tagged as travel.

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