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Is there a screenwriter in the house?

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It is not a particularly rational decision to travel half-way across the world to bash your head against the wall to do a PhD, especially when there are perfectly capable universities nearby with walls you can bash your head against. Once you get here though, you do try your best to justify your decision - cheap beer, good research, saving the world, student lifestyle and an excuse to learn another language are a few quick and dirty justifications I've been telling myself. The best reason I've found for why I'm slap-bang in the middle of Europe, is so that I can make the most of travelling around. Accordingly, on the weekend I went on a bit of a road-trip around southern Germany and Bavaria.

Stephan, a friend from the lab, is a bit of a veteran traveller and has been all over the world, although somehow he's missed out completely on Australasia. It was on one of his trips, where he was cycling around India, that he ran into an older Japanese man, who he nicknamed "Shogun". He later went on a trip to Tokyo to visit him, and now he's reciprocated, coming down to Germany with his wife. So I found myself in a car whose inhabitants were two Japanese people whose grasp of English extended only to a handful of verbs (although there was a translation machine to help out), a German guy who can speak English pretty well, and an Australian-English-Indian guy who can speak English much good, but his German is atrocious. The car stereo was naturally playing a mix of the Amelie soundtrack, Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk (more on that later) as we drove along. The whole experience was slightly surreal and international, as we spoke to each other in broken English, trying to get various points across. The Japanese couple were very typically Japanese, making the "Waaah" astonishment sound that it seems like Japanese and Taiwanese seem to share. If they had a mobile phone, I'd expect them to answer it "Wai?". The best reactions from them came when they ordered their typical Bavarian foods in the restaurants, and a plate full of more meat than they'd eat in a year arrives. Lots of "Waaah"'s there. I think the whole interaction between Stephan and his guests would make an absolutely hilarious film - I just need to find a screenwriter to make sure this movie is made. It would be a cross between a road-trip movie, and "Lost in Translation", with a token observer who just sits there chuckling at the cultural differences. The tag-line for the movie would be "I can't believe you guys teamed up for a war!".

We almost managed to cover four countries in one day, but only managed to do Germany, Switzerland and Austria (pronounced Australia if you're from Japan). France was about 20 minutes away (at Strasbourg) but we couldn't be bothered to make the side-trip. We travelled south past Donaueschingen, which is the spring or source of the river Danube apparently, although all I saw was a kid throwing gravel into a bubbly pool. We travelled south to Switzerland from there, popping into the town of Constance, although I'm a bit disappointed we didn't make the short detour to Zürich. I'm starting to think that I should get a car, since it's pretty easy to get to Zürich and Paris from Heidelberg, maybe a few hours in each direction. The driving certainly affords you a lot of freedom to go and stop in little towns and find cheap places to stay.

From Switzerland, we moved on to Austria briefly, checking out the lakes and the increasingly mountainous terrain as we got closer to the Alps. We stopped off close to the Austrian and German border for the night, staying in a cosy B and B. The next day entailed a visit to Krazy Ludwigs Krazy Kastle. It's basically a relatively modern castle (about 150-odd years) that was built in the Romantic period of architecture (or something like that), and basically is a stylistic inspiration for the Disney castles. Like anything Disney, the place was full of tourists, and I spent my time trying to break out of the guided tour of the castle so that I could explore it myself. I didn't have much luck.

Krazy Kastle

The castle itself has a great big papier-mache cave inside for no discernible reason, and might have been the tip-off that the king of Bavaria was just a little crazy-go-nuts. He looked like a whole heap of fun though, and he dedicated the entire castle to Wagner - so he liked his music. If I were King, I know I would spend my money on making this big-ass castle in the middle of nowhere - I mean what else does royalty do nowadays anyway?

We popped into Munich after the castle, dropped off the guests, and started the long drive back to Heidelberg. To pass the time, I ended up trying to translate various German songs that were living on the resident iPod. Kraftwerk ended up being the easiest to translate, and I managed (with a lot of help) to get through "The Model" and "The Robots". I can't say that I'm too sure the words that I picked up would be the most useful, I don't know how many people really have batteries which are fully charged, and see models drinking only champagne in night-clubs.

I've also been doing the planning for my trip to Florence, and I re-found this great website WikiTravel with a bit of info on various cities. The number of Wikis that are springing up to contain information about various pet projects is amazing, and we're getting really close to finally having that wildly inaccurate tome of information - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - available to us. Sometimes you don't want to know the fully referenced history for a particular country, or what the exact form of government is - but you really want to know how to find a good place to catch a few hours of sleep at Stansted airport.

5 comments

Keith *

I dispute the capability of the other institution that you have quoted in this article.

Hiren Joshi *

I can attest to how amenable to head-banging the facilities are there. I spent a whole year doing such activities.

captin_nod *

ROFL - "I can't believe you guys teamed up for a war!"

Thats so very retarded, in a special sort of way :)

Hiren Joshi *

The Dover to Calais crossings work at about €15(ish) - The big question then is how to get across from Germany to Calais, and then Dover to somewhere else, for a cheapish price.

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