I couldn't say no when my supervisor asked me if I would present my work to one of the industrial partners of my PhD in Germany on a three-day trip. I actually appreciated the chance to stop and gather my research so far into something coherent. With a lot of presenting experience behind me, I also no longer get nervous at the thought of explaining my research to others. So with a memory-stick containing my slides in my bag, I jetted off to Frankfurt with my supervisor last week to catch the team up on my part of the project.
My first challenge of the trip was to figure out how the sat-nav worked in the rental car. Once I navigated the German system enough to program in our destination and ‘Tim’ (the UK guide voice), we set off from Frankfurt airport with our sights set on Lahnau. We arrived after a short drive and went straight into the meeting.
The presentation went really well, resulting in a lot of work for me to follow up on! Afterwards the team took us out for dinner at an old mill by the river, where I had my first taste of German cider. Although I mixed it with lemonade to try and sweeten it up, I think I will stick to the wine next time!
Before we left Lahnau I had to get a memento of our visit. Taking a photo of a manhole cover may seem strange, but I snap a photo of one in every town I visit as a reminder of where I've been. European covers are a lot more interesting than those in Britain as they are often adorned with the name of the town or district and it's coat of arms. It's a tradition I started back when I used to live in Germany and makes a cheap and easy keepsake.
The next day we met the Moselle river where it joins the Rhine at Koblenz and took a scenic drive alongside it to Cochem. The town sounds like a cool name for a cobalt chemistry group, but I can assure you that absolutely no inorganic chemistry was discussed over our lunch outside the town hall. We did however sample some of the local wine from the steep slopes of the Mosel vineyards we had passed on our journey.
After a stroll around the town we set off for Worms, along what can be described as my supervisor's worst nightmare - up about 7 steep hairpin bends. I thought that the Sat-nav was sending us the wrong way but Prof was raring to take up the challenge. We met some pretty active mature cyclists at the top, who I think were glad to be cycling down the hill!
The trip was rounded off the next day with a walk down memory lane - or more accurately, a walk down Worms high street. I spent my placement year (September 2009-2010) working for Grace Davison there. The company continues to host Surrey university placement students; I accompanied my supervisor on her visit to check on their progress.
With fond memories of the mocktail 'Kiba'(a mix of banana and cherry juice), I had my heart set on visiting the Wein- und Bierschänke for our final evening. Unfortunately the current placement students instead took us for a meal at (what is referred to by the locals as) 'the chicken place'. As you can imagine, it was not the best place for a plant-based meal. The view of the river, the company and the beer made up for the fact that my salad arrived with ham, despite me specifically ordering it without.
After a wander through the town buying gifts on the last day, I took the bus to Grace - the same bus I took almost everyday to work four years ago! The ride was a lot smoother than I remember it. Once I arrived I had a quick catch up with some of the technicians and researchers I used to work with before we had to leave to catch our flight home. Frankfurt business lounge was our one last indulgence, although it was slightly tarred with the lingering smell of lukewarm Frankfurters (farewell Germany)!
Road tripping with my Supervisor was a new experience for me and I'm glad it was Germany we had the pleasure of driving together. Germany still feels like a second home to me - I enjoy going back there often. Last year Charles and I took a trip to Dresden over Christmas and I think a weekend trip to Berlin may be on the cards next year. Hopefully see you again soon Germany and until then, viel Spaß!