Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Prague: The cheaper, more awesome Amsterdam!

Lots of things have happened since I last posted so I feel it is my duty to update you! I have visited Prague, Amsterdam and Ösnabrück and I have also experienced Clausthal with snow!!! I have also, sadly had to leave Germany :(, so that I can finish my degree. Currently, I have been having extreme amounts of fun writing my dissertation for the time I spent in Germany but that will be over soon and I will be able to get back to normal life again. Yay!!!

Of the last two months in Clausthal, I think I only spent about 3 weekends there. The weekend after my trip to Austria, I decided to visit Hamburg because I have not seen any of northern Germany and I heard they are a little strange up there. So, I thought I would have a see for myself. However, it was about a 5 or 6 hour journey to Hamburg by train so we did not arrive until quite late but we did get to see an awesome train station that had some very strange architecture as you can see in the picture on the right, which was right in the middle of the station.
When we arrived in Hamburg it was dark (damn winter!) but it did mean that we got an awesome walk through the lit up city, which was quite beautiful.

The most important thing that we found in Hamburg, however, was the first glimpse of Christmas. When we reached the center of the city, next to the Rathaus or city hall, there stood a small group of wooden houses that all had Christmas lights and decorations. This was my first taste of the famous Christmas markets of Germany. This also made me very happy because
it meant that Christmas was very close and it is, by far, my favourite time of year, as my friends in physical chemistry will tell you. This signaled that start of singing Christmas songs and, even better, it signaled that start of playing Christmas songs on my soundtrack T-shirt!

The next day, we were able to get a guided tour of Hamburg in the light of day, including a boat tour around the harbour, which was awesome. However, after all the fun of discovering the city, we had to take the train back and sitting down for several hours is very tiring.

The following weekend I planned to go to Prague with a few friends however last time I tried, I was not too successful because apparently they do not allow German cars in eastern Europe! So I tried again and this time we succeeded! One thing I did not realise was that Prague is a more laid-back version of Amsterdam. Where in Amsterdam, cannabis is legal, in Prague everything is legal!!! So this was definitely going to be an interesting weekend. One thing is for certain, that Prague is a very beautiful city with a lot of history as can be seen in the pictures.

There are a lot of old Gothic churches within the city which is by far my favourite type of architecture but something that was very interesting was the castle on the hill within the city. I think someone said that this castle took the longest time to build, which can clearly be seen because as you look across the castle, the buildings change quite dramatically. However, the best was the cathedral within the castle, that is majoritarily in a Gothic style but decided that the tip of the last spire should take the form of the style of that time and so is a complete contrast to the rest of the building. This can be seen in the picture to the right, where all three spires are from the same building.

Apparently, Prague is also the birthplace of the astrological clock which can be seen to the left. I heard that they owners were so scared of other people stealing this idea that they tried to cut the tongue and eyes out of the engineer that designed it. He did not like this idea, so instead decided to jump into the gearing! This makes me glad to be a physicist because I can hide in the background and let engineers die for me.

We decided to take a tour of the city and saw some really cool things. However, the most awesome thing was the money, where being a student, I never really have very much but when I went to Prague, I had lots of monies!!! I think the exchange rate was about 25 krone to 1 euro, so we were walking around with a couple of thousand krone! It reminded me of when I was a kid, where I used to go on holiday with a little pocket money which transformed into millions of pocket money!                                                

On the first real night, we decided not to go out partying because we had been walking all day around the city so instead we went to a pub that had about 50 different beers, which we naturally sampled nearly all of them. This added to our running total of beers from the trip to Belgium. Strangely, this pub also happened to have English football hooligans in, that randomly started singing football songs, and a group of English students. It is a small world!

Finally, on the last day, we discovered a bit more of the city but most importantly, we finished our quest in search of "true" Absinthe. We found a small shop, called the Absinary or something similar, which sold about 30 different types of real Absinthe. So now I have added two bottles to my collection of alcohol from around Europe.

Ok, I am bored of writing now and I should probably go to bed. Hopefully, when I have time, I will update you on my journeys to Amsterdam with the physical chemistry lot and the awesomeness of snow in Clausthal.

Until then, have fun!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Long time, no see!

So quite a lot has happened in the last few months but I have not really had the time (could not really be bothered) to write anything until now. There are probably going to be lots of things that I will miss out because as most people know, my memory is not very good. So don't blame me!

Firstly, for those interested, my project has taken many ups and downs. I managed to go through a 2/3 month period without really doing much because my experimental setup went kaputt!! I still have no idea why but we decided, mostly, just to ignore it. Then in the space of about a week, it took a massive change in direction, going from testing of a setup to higher order Autocorrelation functions (its a bit too complicated to explain on here!). It is safe to say that that was the most difficult week for my brain, trying to keep up with my supervisors train of thought. However, on the upside, we presented these new ideas at a conference in Surrey (typical that the only conference that I go to is at my own university!) and won third place for the poster. Not bad for a weeks work. Recently, I have been doing a lot of programming which has been fun but would, maybe, be much better if not done in Delphi. It is such a frustrating language! However, it is a little scary that I only have a month left and I think I will end up trying to cram as many experiments in as possible.

I think one important thing that I have to mention, that has happened in the last few months, is the moving on of friends, which is very sad. Since June (the end of summer semester), a lot of people that I have become friends with have returned to their own country and will be missed. Not all are in this photo but it was the best one I could find.

In July (I think), I went on a hike around the Harz mountains with my institute (not mental institute, Eleanor!), which was great. I saw a lot of the beautiful nature of the surrounding area and it was topped off with a BBQ and a fire at Dr. Adams house.

Most recently, I went on another trip around Europe, this time going to the other side of Germany. We had a few problems as usual, but one of the strangest was that German cars are not allowed in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately we hired a Mercedes, so our plan to go to Prague was out the window. So instead we took a slight detour around Czeck Republic and went firstly to Nuremberg (Nümberg). This was a really nice Historical city but unfortunately I was not allowed to take the car around the Nuremberg ring :(. However, Nuremberg did have one of the most awesome museums ever, a toy museum!

The next day was very long. We planned to see two cities in one day also travelling just under 200 miles (300 Km for the strange people). The first city was Passau, which is a small town in the strange region/country of Bavaria. It had an awesome castle at the top of the hill, which, after a very long tiring walk up a billion stairs, we reached. From the top of the castle you could see the amazing view shown to the right. However, I think the highlight of our visit to Passau was what we found in the car park. The first level of the car park was signposted "Frauen". It was a section especially dedicated to female drivers, with very, very large parking spaces. There were also foam poles to stop women from doing to much damage if they hit the wall. I thought this was the most amazing and hilarious thing I had seen!

Then next was Linz however, just before we arrived in Linz, we came to these traffic lights. I am pretty sure that there was someone controlling them, laughing their heads off, because I am sure we were sat there for about 20 minutes before they changed to green! Anywho, in Linz we arrived quite late but we managed to find the most awesome Hostel. It was only 18 Euros a night but was probably equivalent to a 3/4 star hotel. When we went out to explore the city, I came across a very strange sight.
They have buses that are attached to wires from above just like trains or trams. I have never seen this before but apparently it is quite common in Europe. Overall though, Linz was a very beautiful city was some great old Cathedrals and other buildings.

On the way to our next destination, we found a small village with a spectacular building above it but I cannot remember what it was called but it is shown in the picture to the left. The next city that we visited was Vienna (Wien) naturally. Here again we were very lucky with the hostel getting a private 4 bed room for about 15 Euros per night. The city, I think, was even better than Linz with countless beautiful buildings and many other things to see as well as a large city center to go out and enjoy yourself. While wandering the city, we came across a very bizarre Sculpture. I have no idea what was going through their minds when they thought that making it would be a good idea. The actual shape was
 not too bad, you could say quite interesting but after a certain time,
it starting making some strange sounds that could only be well described as white noise! And worst of all, it is surrounded by houses that I am                                                                                                                        
 pretty sure people live in.  After we spend a day in Vienna, we decided to go to Bratislava in Slovakia. Based on the film Eurotrip, I was expecting to go to a 5-star hotel with a couple of Euros but no! Do not be deceived, it is not that cheap and thinking about it, it is probably relatively expensive compared to some of the places I have visited. However, it was here that I found probably the most unlikely shop ever. As you can see in the sign, there is a Tesco in Bratislava! Also just a word of warning, if you ever visit Bratislava, do not be put off by the area surrounding the train station. We managed to walk through the worst part but after a while we found the old city and it was much, much, much nicer. There was yet another awesome castle above the city which had a great view of everything and much to the girls disgust we also
went to the memorial even higher up to get an even better view of the city. It was here that I started my quest to find a bottle of real absinthe with the hallucinogen in (more specifically with a scorpion in as well). This would add to my collection of 80% Rum (Stroh)...

Unfortunately, when we returned to Vienna, we found that our car had been broken into and the genius' managed to steal my favourite hoodie but miss the satnav (navigation), worth several hundred Euros, that was still plugged into the cigarette lighter. We managed to acquire a new car and visited the schönbrunn palace and then started the nearly 10 hour journey home to Clausthal. However, the sacrifice of my hoodie was not in vain because the trip was a great experience and great fun.

Wow, you managed to get this far. Congrats! It took me hours to get here. Sorry for such a long blog but like I said before, I have not written in a long time.

 On the next episode of Mein Blog, Ross travels to Prague (finally!) and then again to Amsterdam, if everything goes to plan. He will also be experiencing some of Germany's famous Christmas markets with lots of Gluhwein and Rum. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Dutch are freaking crazy!

So I have not post for a little while now but now something interesting happened so I felt obligated to inform you. Some stuff has happened since I last blogged but it is too long ago for me to remember so I am going to just ignore that.

So the Interesting thing that happened. Me and a few friends decided to go on a short trip around Europe which took a lot of time to prepare. Firstly we wanted to see north Europe, that quickly changed to a 1500 mile trip around south-east Europe but we finally decided on the countries west of Germany (obviously).

The first part of the trip involved travelling to Hannover to collect the car, which was fucking huge (Citroen C4 Picasso) compared to cars I have previously driven but oh well. I also had the fun of getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road but that was not the worst.

The destination of the trip was Amsterdam (naturally!) which was a very long 5 hours away from Clausthal but was worth it. However, Amsterdam is a petrifying place to drive because there are hundreds of cars, trams and millions of cyclists. You can definitely tell that cannabis is legal in there because you can really smell it! The city itself is quite picturesque with many canals and classic buildings but it obviously also has another side. We spent a lot of time indulging in the local cuisine, beers and other things...

I think that one of the craziest things about Amsterdam was the shear amount of bikes. I heard somewhere that there are more bikes there than people which is ridonkulus! We visited the train station where we saw a field of bikes which from the picture you can see the extent of it and this is not even close to all of them. Also randomly I found some green cheese!

The next stop was Rotterdam which is another city close to Amsterdam.  This was apparently the biggest harbor in Europe. Again this city was very nice with a slightly more modern feel to it than Amsterdam but definitely was still a Dutch city. Here we decided to camp which was a very bad idea. Me, being an inexperienced camper did not bring a camping mat with me so I spent the entire night laying on a hard ground that sucked all my heat out. But oh well we learn by our mistakes! It was here in Rotterdam that we started our great beer tasting. We heard about a pub in Brussels that sold 2000 different types of beers and we intended to try as many as possible so we got a head start here.

We finally left Holland for Belgium, a place famous for its chocolate and beers :D. Whats not to love! The first port of call was Gent which when we first entered looked like we had somehow quantum-teleported to eastern Europe but after a long time searching for somewhere to stay, we found the city centered which looked much more like what I was expecting. I think this place must hold some sort of record for the most churches in a small area. It was great here because you did not need to walk very far and you could find a chocolate shop or pub with a great selection of beer.

Here is where we found a ridiculously cheap place to stay. We got a small hut to ourselves for only 8 Euros per night per person so we decided to stay there and travel to the next destination, Brussels. The temptation to spend so much money was too large here. There were chocolate shops, waffle stalls and pubs everywhere! So much for money! As you can see, I indulged in the best tasting waffle ever... fact! Which was followed by more chocolate covered strawberries and then by lots of beer. We visited an awesome pub with literally hundreds of different types of beer. It had 46 beers on tap!!! I definitely think that the best beer that I tried by far turned out to be a German beer called Schlenkerla which had an amazing taste. Finally I saw a great sight in the middle of Brussels. Not just one but 8 Segways randomly passed us through the street.

After all this excitement, we finally headed home back to Hannover to return the car and nearly went on the Bierbike until we found out how much it cost. They want 250 Euros for 2 hours and 11 liters of beer!!!

Overall this was an awesome trip of a lifetime and I have to thank George, Erika, Aurora and Christian for putting the trip together and for the great fun that we had. Also quote of the week: George "I'm not gay, I'm a prostitute!"

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Life in the hectic town of Clausthal

So I have been in Clausthal for over a month now and I am starting to settle in. I have met and made friends with lots of lovely people and I have explored a lot of the local area.

Clausthal is known (by a few people) for its millions of lakes so I thought that I should probably take a look. I had no idea where any of them where so I just started walking and eventually found a pathway that goes past a few of the lakes. Just to give you a guide of how cold it is, most of the lakes are frozen over although it has started warming up. I found signs that explained the origins of the lakes but I cant read German that well yet so I may have to go for another trip around when my German is better.

After having explored most of Clausthal, I figured that I should visit the local town of Goslar so I decided to go with Merlin (my partner on the project) and his girlfriend Steffi. Goslar is quite a vintage town with many churches and sort of Edwardian house architecture but also had many modern shops so overall was a very nice town but was still not what I expected Germany to be like. I can probably put that down to being up in the Harz mountains. One thing that I noticed was that Germany still have Woolworths which is quite strange becasue they went bankrupt in England. The journey back to Clausthal was quite interesting because Steffi drove and she was mental. I think that I can extrapolate from this experience that all Women drivers are scary!!

This week is when all the international students arrived so I had an introduction day where I was shown around Clausthal and had a very exciting library tour but at the end of the day, we had a BBQ where they sold beer and a bratwurst for 1 euro. At this, I met a huge variety of people from different countries and a lot of Chinese people (I swear they are taking over the world). As soon as it got a little to cold, me and few of the new people I met decided to go to Ano which is a local pub. Its safe to say that the next day was fun at work. Then the following day, I had a party to go to. It was Katja's (a colleague from the institute) moving in party which was a lot of fun. We had a lot of home-brewed shots and I got to see a few of my colleagues quite drunk as you can see in the picture which made the next day at work was quite interesting.

The most recent trip that I have done was visiting the beautiful city of Hannover. Me, George and Erica (the people i met from the international day) caught the train to Hannover which was quite entertaining because none of us had any idea about the train system. We ended up paying twice as much as what we had to but oh well. On the train, we got speaking to some German citizens which was difficult because we could not speak very good German and they knew no English. I took a while but we eventually understood each other. Luckily, Hannover is a tourist friendly town with a red line running through it showing all the places of interest which we stuck to religiously. Hannover was the perfect city because it had a big shopping area and some very interesting architecture but also had some very large fields and a huge lake. I have also found the most awesome form of transport.
 Its called a Bierbike which is basically a bar on wheels where you can cycle around the city. I am definitely going on that when I next go to Hannover!
 During our time there we also visited the Markthalle which was a massive hall filled with stalls that sold food from all over the world which was also awesome! We ended the day by the lake with music playing in the background and the entertainment of a group of drunk people getting off the bierbike and some people doing parkour which was the perfect finish to the day. Hannover was more the kind of Germany I was expecting to see but we are planning to visit several cities throughout Germany like Hamberg and Munich so this will hopefully give me a better view of Germany.


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

So apparently in Germany, they all speak German

Yeh, I completely forgot about the blog until recently and a lot has happened in the last 2 weeks since I last blogged.

My first day in Germany was overwhelming to say the least. It started with a long car journey through the mountainous/forest roads driving on the wrong side of the road. Then when I arrived in Clausthal, I was introduced to the people I would be working with for the next ten months, my project and all the information behind it (which went in one ear and out the other) but worst of all, the kind of institute that I would belong to; The institute for physical chemistry!!! This explains the chemistry degree. I then had to sort out lots of admin stuff like a bank account and my room and a phone. I was finally able to go back to my room to sleep at about 6pm which meant that I had not slept for over 30 hours!

I thought I would give a quick description of the project I will be working on for the year so you may want to just skip this part if your not interested. Basically as I have said before I will be studying latex films (which I only just found out can be any type of polymer in the form of a micro-particle in a dispersion) as they are drying so that we can gain a greater understanding of the particle dynamics. The main way that I am observing the particles is through dynamic light spectroscopy (DLS) where you bounce light off the moving particles and then some witchcraft is done through an autocorrelation function and out pops the cooperative diffusion coefficient. I also will be doing diffusion wave spectroscopy but I have no idea what that is at the moment.

The next day I worked very hard. I got to the institute at 10am which is the time they they go on break, I was then on a break until 11am when I had a group meeting which went on for an hour. During this I had the living daylights scared out of me when the at the end of the meeting, everyone just randomly knocked on the table! I had no idea but apparently this is what Germans do instead of clapping. I then went with everyone to lunch for over an hour so I did not make it to my office until gone 12. A very productive morning! I also found this picture in the toilets which I thought was hilarious!

It took me until Wednesday to get internet and a phone so I was essentially cut off from the world for a week. I had to learn the hard way how important internet is. My room is pretty awesome! I have my own fridge-freezer and bathroom with an amazing shower however I do not have any access to an oven which kind of screwed me because I do all my cooking in the oven. I also learnt that chicken is not really eaten here (which is rubbish because it is basically the only meat I cook) but they do however have an entire aisle dedicated to all the different kinds of sausage.

Last Saturday, I was invited to go to a party that was celebrating, one of their friends leaving to go and do a phD in England. Guess where he is going? Thats right, he is coming to the University of Surrey and he is going to be studying under Professor Keddie. What are the chances of that? (and dont actually try and work it out). Then on Tuesday, I went to a pub quiz. As you can probably imagine, this was quite difficult because it was done in German and mostly on German topics. However I did manage to contribute a point because it was on  old English football so no-one else had any idea. I also learnt something very interesting during the quiz about something called the mull of Kintyre test (look it up!).

Anyway I have written far too much so I will stop now. I hope all of you are getting on ok and I may see you in April some time.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Travels to lands afar

Now I have the fun of organising the trip out to Clausthal- Zellerfeld which involves a flight, through an airline company that has just transferred their services to Gatwick, a train journey, using a foreign language, and then travelling by car with a person I have never met before. So all in all, my journey is going to different to say the least.

I have finally managed to organise the sending of my desktop out to Germany but I have had to take a massive gamble because I am not entirely sure where I am living (mostly due to the strange way the university has set up their address system) and because it may arrive before I get there and I have no idea what will happen then so its all fun and games.

I also have to say good-bye to a lot of the friends that I have made during my time here at Surrey who may not be here when I get back from my placement which makes me a sad panda : (. To those people, I want to say that it has been a great pleasure knowing you and I hope you have a great life. I am sure that we will have some kind of reunion in the near future. To those that I will see when I get back, fuck off! Just kidding, have a good year and I will see you soon.

Then to the most important person in my life - Jonny... I mean Faith. I am definitely going to miss you very much over the next 10 months but I am sure that it will pass quickly and we can always look forward to graduating together after the very daunting final exams. I will probably talk a lot to you on skype anyway.

So now that the rant and the goodbyes have been said, I can now have a week of enjoying all of your company and the great life of England before everything changes.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Starting a blog

I have been told by a certain person (Jonny) that I should start a blog so that all you people can find out about the amazing adventures ahead of me so here it is. Just to pre-warn you, I will most likely completely forget about this within a couple of months.

As some of you may know, I am going out Germany to do a three year Chemistry Degree and also a Physics placement which will all be taking place in the next 10 months (good old German efficiency). So I have a busy time ahead.