June 25, Solingen-Vogelpark to Leichlingen
Climate change is what you feel extremely when you are in Germany.
Our institute, Max-Planck institute for iron research, was built a couple of decades ago. And according to the standard and the needs of that time, there is no air conditioning in most of the offices. It was not really a problem, until we now started to realize, that the temperature can go up to 35 °C these days.
That was what I was thinking about, when I organized a hike to Duisburg, which took place a couple of weeks ago (although I planned a different route this time). Fortunately or unfortunately, we saw an extreme fall after last Friday. And today, it went to merely 24 °, a bit cloudy but generally fairly sunny. Until yesterday, it was fluctuating between stormy and sunny. So good that I was courageous enough to change the plan completely. The pressure of playing the right card in the right moment is something that makes difference in life. And I like it.
And this time it extremely made sense, because I decided to organize a hike from Solingen Vogelpark to Leichlingen, which is a region that is going to be closed down from July until the end of August. I heard that they are actually constructing a new railway station for Wuppertal. By the way, the area around a station is always a catastrophe in Germany (for some exceptions such as Cologne). If you come to Germany for tourism. Don't be too disappointed at arrival.
The meeting time was 10:30 today. I arrived almost in time. By the way, I never arrive in time (I guess I talked about it recently). Actually not many people do. That's also the reason why I put the meeting time well ahead of the train departure. Well, today it was somewhat different. I guess among the 30+ people who came with us, most of them arrived before me, even Alfredo, who is Spanish and usually does everything 2 hours later than foreseen. You can see Alfredo on the photo in a beautiful red T-shirt, which I guess would have been deadly if it was in Spain. Théo, who is also on the photo, is another blacklisted of delay. But he arrived in time, too.
This time it was again part of Neanderlandsteig. A risk-free one, since it was also near Wuppertal.
I find it extremely good that the Germans now come as well, especially because there was one session with no single German. But there's something I noticed here: German girls almost never come twice. It is rather surprising because in France girls were much more active and came with us a lot. By the way, apparently the fact that there are generally more boys is due to the number of male engineers in this region. This region is a quite industrial region and there are obviously still more boys in this domain.
By the way, we were not having many Muslims in the last sessions, because it was the period of Ramadan, and since the sun is there for maybe 16 hours a day right now in Germany, many of them don't dare to go hiking, well maybe except for Sajjad, who came consistently every time and still refused to eat and drink. Yesterday was the last day and if I understand well, today is the Eid al-fitr and therefore they still didn't come. Well let's see what's gonna happen next week.
Last week, only what we wanted for the break was shadow. And it is not quite difficult to find in this region around Wuppertal. Today, it was other way around. And if you look for a place with a lot of sunlight, it's not easy to find. Looking for a place to have a break is always quite a task. But so far we managed it pretty well.
And today was quite a success, too. We found a patch of lawn in front of a tennis club, which also offered ice cream, beer and rest rooms.
When I planned this hike, I was not sure whether to start from Vogelpark or Leichlingen. But in the end, I decided to start from Vogelpark, because I saw a bar right at the station. And I must say, it was a great idea. Even though Leichlingen itself was a very small village no one has ever heard of, the bar was probably as large as the largest bars in Düsseldorf. And of course, there was virtually no one there. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to organize another hike to Leichlingen in the near future just because there's a great bar at the railway station :)
By the way, I found this cool website called outdooractive.com to plan hikings and so on. With this, I created a couple of trails for the future sessions, although I guess I'll go there by bicycle once in advance to see if it's really okay or not. But at least now I'm having so many possibilities that actually I don't have to create new trails for more than one year even if we did the trip every weekend. Well, I'm looking forward to the future sessions and seeing new people at every one of them!
June 18, Wülfrath-Aprath to Gruiten
There were quite some long weekends in Germany this year. If there's something to do, it's pretty nice. Something, like a bicycle trip maybe in my case. Unfortunately, as I was looking for a new apartment, I was not sure how much money I should save. In the end, I decided to do something that I like and cheap. Well, the answer was clear; hiking.
And that's also a part of the reason why I organised two hikes this week. It was actually also important for me to do something during the weekend, because Shuto, who I taught German about one year ago to and was about to go back to Japan after his exchange year, was at my place, too. Being just 19 years old (and coming from Japan), maybe he was not quite into hiking, but still it belongs to the German culture. So maybe it was also a nice opportunity for him.
Whatever the reason was, we went to where we finished last time, namely to Aprath. Again, it was a part of what is called Neanderlandsteig, which makes a huge circle around Neandertal, which is right next to Düsseldorf.
Before I came back to Germany, like half a year ago, I bought quite some winter clothes, because the winter that I spent here last time (end of 2010/beginning of 2011), was extremely harsh. For me, Germany was a very cold country. Who would have thought that we would have more than 30 °C for more than 3 or 4 days in a row in June here. Especially there, where there were much less trees than last week, or no lake to dive into.
Despite the temperature and the long weekend, there were still more than 30 people this time.
Those who have seen my entire map probably know that there are quite a lot of routes planned for the future hiking sessions. It means that after the first draft, there might be quite some period until it is truly done. This was particularly the case for today's route, where I didn't even really remember how I created the route. All I knew was that the total distance was 14 km and it was supposed to be a part of Neanderlandsteig. However, when we got out of the station, we saw the tag for Neanderlandsteig and the sign next to it: Gruiten 18 km...
In this moment, I was really not sure, if I should trust my route, or we were about to go 18 km. At least I knew what it would be a disaster, considering the heat and the number of newcomers.
The answer for this question came relatively fast after the beginning. As we quickly left the path of Neanderlandsteig. Obviously, I had created a much shorter route. Even though this was necessary, I now think think I could have planned it better. Especially the fact that we had to cross relatively large streets was not so much fun.
Maybe until lunch, we were not completely out of civilization. Luckily, the trend changed there. Firstly, we got a really nice place for lunch, as you can see on the photos. Then actually we came back to the route of Neanderlandsteig. We went then only forest paths. And I must say it was the right course on such a sunny and hot day.
Shuto was to take a train at 6:22 pm from Düsseldorf to go back to Munich. When we arrived in Gruiten, we still had 45 min before the train that I was planning to take to go back to Düsseldorf safely. Following our tradition, I wanted to propose to grab a beer somewhere. After a hike in the excruciating heat, everyone must have been exhausted and I didn't really think anyone would join. I was wrong.
Behind me there were still more than 20 people. And Gruiten is a very small city. There were only 45 min remaining before the departure of the train. I was about to give up, when we actually saw a small post office at the station, which actually also functioned as a kiosk. The nice guy working there also made the toilet available, so that it was probably even better than a beer garden, as we could simply sit around.
I just don't wonder why he closed it right after we all got beer :D
June 15, Wülfrath-Neviges to Aprath
At this point, maybe I should make it clear that I organize these events because anyway I go hiking. In this sense, it really does not matter whether other people are coming with me or not, because I just simply go my way. However, still I enjoy talking to new people and it's a shame that I can't talk to everyone, especially when there are a lot of people there. Imagine there are 40 people. If you talk to every one of them for 10 minutes, it takes at least 6 hours and a half.
With this in mind, I decided to simply organize two hikes this week, also because we had a long weekend here in Germany and I didn't really have any other idea.
I don't know whether it truly split up the people who may all have turned up on Sunday, but there were much less people this time, namely 18. It might have been because people were travelling or maybe they were having a party yesterday or whatsoever. It doesn't matter. There were anyway less people. And I'm glad that I could talk to all of them, especially because I know that there were people who already came several times and still I hadn't talked to them.
Today's path (cf. map above) was a part of what is called Neanderlandsteig, which makes a round hiking trail near Düsseldorf. Essentially we had to follow the corresponding tags on the trail. In the sense that I didn't have to check my phone to know where to go, it was good. On the other hand, we lost the way at least 10 times. You might be wondering what it was like for me as an organiser. Well, not quite surprisingly, no one made me responsible for that. Actually no one has ever made me responsible for anything so far. I don't really understand why people often say they don't want to organise anything because they don't want to take the responsibility. I mean, these people are much cooler than that.
People might be cool, but it was not particularly the case concerning the weather. It was actually even hotter than last time. The fact that there were forests and fields may have been even worse this time, because the sun was unbearable when we were in the field. Probably I should organize a hike that includes a lake or something like this in the future. It's just difficult/impossible to know in advance whether it's going to be hot or not.
June 11, Schloss Burg and Müngsten Bridge
A couple of weeks ago, probably some time in March, we had a very sunny day with 19 °C. I felt the arrival of summer. Well, that was a couple of weeks ago. Today, we had 28 °C. THIS was summer. Of course it was sunny. And I really want to have it sunny today, because in addition to the hike, there were two important spots. The one was called Burg Castle and the other one is Müngsten bridge. They are not far away from each other.
There were, however, essentially two problems. Firstly, there is no train that directly goes to Burg castle (but there are for Müngsten bridge). And secondly, there was no decent hiking path that was proposed in the Internet.
A couple of weeks ago, therefore, I decided to cycle through the region to see if there was a good hiking trail. Actually over the couple of sessions, I learned how to look for a trail myself. This is truly an ability that I acquired with the hikes I organised.
However, it turned out that the one that I planned first (and that I also did by bicycle) was horribly bad, because firstly we would have had to cross a large street for cars and there was a quite steep slope. This region, Wuppertal, offers sometimes quite steep hills. Sometimes it's not just a question of whether the route is good or not. Maybe there's isn't a way.
As I could not see much more on my bicycle that day. Still when I went back home and checked that region again, there was another possibility nearby. So I decided to take this one. After all, this was the only one possibility.
Well, anyway this allowed me to create a trail that would look like a real hiking trail.
10:30 in front of the main entrance of Düsseldorf Hbf. I saw maybe 10 people when I arrived there. Actually they do not have to come so early, since I give the meeting time always about 30 min earlier than the departure of the train. Actually I feel a bit sorry about that, because the reason that I put the meeting time 30 min ahead of the train is just because I know that there are always people who arrive with delay. It's a dilemma that I would probably not be able to get rid of.
A couple of minutes later, there was a huge group in front of the station. In the end, it was a group of 45 people. So it surpassed the record of Duisburg where there were 44 people. I mean, it's impressive...
There was another surprise concerning today's session: a few days before the hike, there was someone who was asking if it would be possible to take his small daughter with him. Actually I have got a couple of questions like this. But no one has ever come with their children. As the distance was fairly short, I thought I would be okay for children, too. I didn't expect them to show up, but they did. And this was the first time that there was someone who was significantly younger than students. I don't know what the future sessions will look like, but it would funny to see more children on our hikes. Well, maybe some of them are little bit too long, so maybe once a month or so, I could organise a shorter hike with maybe side activities that can be enjoyed by children, too (although I cannot really promise that it would happen).
So the replacement for the horrible part that I had to change when I cycled through turned out to be quite flat, which you can see on the map above (which is the first part of the trail). As you can see there, it's a strongly winding road that I was really not expecting to be flat. A surprise, probably a good one, as most of the people were not used to hiking. Another good thing was that there was no other possibility than the way we took. So even though we were walking everywhere, there was no one who got lost (although it happened after the lunch).
Part of my mission for today was to convince people that there's nothing complicated in the organization of the hikes. Since there were quite a lot of local people today, especially Germans, I tried hard to get a co-organizer. Unfortunately I don't think I was so successful. Maybe I just skip one session sometime in future and see what happens with the people who gather at the station. I'm pretty sure that they'll figure out what to do.
Just as last week, there was pretty much no field this time. Only forests. Well, I guess we were actually lucky that there was no field, because in the shadow, the heat was bearable.
The Schloss Burg, which is quite a tourist attraction of this region, is on top of a hill. It was a perfect place for this group because it offered quite different possibilities: bar, stand, restaurant, park etc. The only one problem was that there was very little shadow. As always, I had my picnic blanket, so I had a long nap under a tree.
Right after we left Schloss Burg, we found out that we lost two Chinese girls, although it appeared to me like a wonder that we hadn't lost anyone until that moment. The way to Schaberg was actually quite nice. We simply went along the Wupper, which was the other side of what we did last week. And it was fairly short.
There is a large café under the Müngsten bridge, but it was full. So we simply bought beer (or ice cream) and sat on the grass. By that time Indira (the 6 year old girl) found out that I was not just a directorial organiser, but someone she could talk to. So she decided to ask me a question every 5 seconds.
Indira: "How can we go up to the train station?"
Sam: "I don't know (of course I knew though). Maybe we have to climb up the bridge?"
Indira: "I can't do that!?"
Sam: "I can't either! Can you please carry me up to the station?"
What I should have done in that moment, by the way, was to check when the train was arriving. The thing is, when I checked it, there was actually only 20 minutes remaining. And there was still about 1 km remaining up to the station, mainly uphills.
We didn't have to run, but it was still quite a distance. Well, I decided to run. And when we arrived there, there were still 10 min remaining. Not bad!
I'll organize two sessions next week, because we have a long weekend there. Probably there'll be less people than usual. Let's see! Let's see!
June 4, Solingen-Schaberg to Wuppertal
When there is something people do every week, it may feel extremely weird if it does not happen just one time. I had to wait for this hike with this really weird feeling this week, as last week I cycled to The Hague with Clara. It was anyway really a pity that no one wanted to organize it last week. Apparently I could not convince other people that it is really easy to organize a hike. In the future it's going to be important, because I'm sure that I cannot forever continue all alone...
The hike in Unterbachersee was the first time that I planned the path entirely. Today's path was the second one. Actually I accidentally found this path when I was cycling to Schaberg a couple of weeks ago, where I somehow arrived in Wuppertal. Then I decided to cycle along the Wupper. Well, it's actually anyway not so difficult to create a hiking path around Wuppertal, as the nature offers quite a lot here. It's just important to know where the railway stations are (and also that it's still the same train company, because the east of Remscheidt is again a different company).
There were slightly less people this time than usual (32), probably because it was a long weekend. Most of them for the first time, though.
After the last hike from Ronsdorf to Wuppertal, the temperature soared and we saw a couple of days over 30°C. I didn't think or expect it to continue much more, but still it was quite disappointing to see that today was pretty much the first day with unstable weather, although still it didn't really rain during the hike, which is already quite suprising for the German standard. And also surprisingly enough, the train did not have a delay at all today. It was like a miracle.
Wuppertal Schaberg is a station, which we can be grateful for, because there is nothing around, only one restaurant and a handful of houses. It is actually important for the Müngsten bridge, which is a famous tourist attraction. But this tourist attraction itself is actually a railway bridge, so Schaberg itself made a tourist attraction. Otherwise I don't see any reason why it should be there. But of course, for people like us it is a precious station, as we just hae to get out of the station and immediately we are in the middle of a forest.
On the other hand, there was pretty much only forest today, which was maybe not so bad since the weather was not particularly good and the trees hid the sky. But I guess changing landscape is also something a good hiking path should offer. Still, it was a real hike in the sense that we went up and down quite a lot. It appeared to me like a wonder that I managed to bike through this path.
Whenever I organize something on couch surfing, I always notice that locals do not join physical activities (drinking or partying is a different story). A couple of weeks ago, there was no German at all, which of course still was an exception. Today, however, a lot of them joined us. Hopefully this is also going to be a place which helps communication between locals and expats. I guess they liked the hike so we can expect their participation in the future as well :)
Today's trail was supposed to be something like 14 km, which is not particularly long or short. However, as it turned out, it was not even 3 pm when we finished and I did not really have the feeling that we walked so far. I don't know whether it was because I am now getting used to walking so much or because today's participants walked so fast or something else, but at least the fear, that I had after the sessions like in Unterbachersee or Drachenfels, is something I guess I don't have to have all the time, even if I plan the path myself.
A couple of days later, I had an occasion to talk about this region with Charlotte, who arrived in Düsseldorf in April and joined us only once so far. I must say it's really interesting how much I know now about this region, whereas before coming here, I didn't even know how the big cities were located in this area. In a couple of weeks, I'll probably be able to say something about most of the villages around Düsseldorf. Something I'll have to look at more in detail is how the villages are connected, i.e. how to get there by which train etc. Well, if I get a good hand on it, I might end up being a tourist guide instead of scientist :) I'll look forward to it (although I love to be a scientist too so it's not really an option, either).
May 21 Hiking Ronsdorf-Wuppertal
I thought it was a crazy session last week and most of the people agreed, but I got also extremely positive reactions just because it was a massive hike (not that I had received negative reaction though). I guess I'm going to plan massive hikes every now and then as well from now on.
Yesterday was what was called "Japan Day", which turned out to be pretty much the same thing as carnival (of this region of course), i.e. people dressed up and drink, although it's more about anime characters that I don't really understand. I must say, I would have been disappointed if they had just tried to reproduced the Japanese culture or just made a commercial event out of it (which is pretty much the case in Lyon). The Japan day of Düsseldorf is its own festival, which has nothing to do with anything you would see in Japan. And I found it great. Well, maybe except for one problem: if you think of Germany, you may think of a high technology country, which is extremely wrong if it is about the Internet. If you are in an industrialized country, you can think of what it was like 10 years ago. That's more or less the situation in Germany. What happened to me was that because of the event and the large number of people, the mobile phone network was virtually down. In the end I had to spend the evening all alone at my flat, from where I could see the fireworks so well, which other people must have been obliged to see in a mass.
The region around Düsseldorf, especially the Ruhr region in the north, is known to be quite flat. The hikes so far near Düsseldorf have therefore never really been "hikes" in this sense (maybe except for Werden to Steele). This time we took a train towards east, which has a slightly different landscape in this sense. Actually we already planned a hike in the Wuppertal region a couple of weeks ago, which had to be cancelled, because the German railway apparently found it funny to paralyze the entire region for a month. This time, finally we managed to organize a hike there. And it was crucially important for me because they are going to shut it down again in a month.
In the morning, I made a passionate request to take a look at the map that I prepared on Google Maps, explaining the fact that we had to wait for other people for more than one hour last time, only because they were not really aware of the existence of the map or because they thought other people would care about that. The self-consistent hike group that I pledged a couple of weeks ago has not been realized in the form that I wished so far. Well, my personal experiment will go on.
I might have written this before, but whenever an event is organized on CS and X number of people sign up, you can expect may be half of them to turn up. This is indeed the case in my hikes as well, but it is also important to note that in my sessions there are also people coming without signing up and in the end we are about the same number of people as those who signed up for the event. This time, we were about 40 (+ one dog this time!). Anyway as I expected, the number of people is getting stable. Well, as long as they don't get lost, I don't mind to see more people.
Optimization is a big thing. As I was not a skilled hiker, I had followed the hiking paths proposed in this page. But as I discover more and more tools for the planning and more locals are joining, I am getting more aware of the fact that the path proposed there is merely one suggestion. Today's path was largely modified, as it was obvious that it was not going through the best possible path. Also because there was this new guy Florian who was from Remscheidt to guide us.
The total distance of this hike was said to be 15 km on the map above, but usually it is up 30 % longer in reality, probably because it draws straight lines, which doesn't really correspond to the reality. I (probably also everyone else who was there last week) was sort of prepared to have another strenuous one. However, the distance was correct. And clearly, there was still energy remaining.
This was probably the reason, why we not only managed to go to a beer garden afterwards, but also we went to a restaurant back in Düsseldorf together. Moreover, we decided to go to the riverbank (which is rather beautiful in the European cities, Düsseldorf included) to stay and drink there until maybe midnight. Great that I'm going to Manchester tomorrow to catch the plane at 6:50 am...
May 20 New Page
If you live in France or Japan (and probably many other countries), you may not so much wonder whether the film you're gonna watch in a movie theatre is synchronized or not, because by default it isn't. Here in Germany, however, it is extremely hard to find a not dubbed film. So whenever you want to watch the original version, you must look for "OmU" which stands for "Original(-fassung/-version) mit Untertiteln".
Anyway, it is so much work every time to look for original ones. There are websites like kino.de which offers a search with this option, but it shows only the list of movies for a given day and not an overview for the whole week or so, even though there are only a handful of movies in whole Düsseldorf in OV each day (and it's stupid to have to see so many advertisements on every page). So, I decided to write a program that shows all the movies in Düsseldorf in OV on this page. Check it out and tell me what you think of it!!
May 14, Königswinter
There are a certain number of things that I hate to do. One good example is taking a train in Germany. If you live in a different country, you may think that Germany is well organized and Germans are reliable. Yes, that's fairly true. But I don't understand why this is so fundamentally wrong when it's about the trains here. Essentially if you have a choice, don't take the train.
This was particularly the case today. Starting off with the first one: they canceled. We were of course not really aware of it, because it was not written in the Internet. Anyway the App they offer crashed at each step so you do not really have to hope it works. Then the next one got a different schedule and was not going to the destination (which was Cologne for the first one). Then the third one had a delay of 15 min. Actually a delay of 15 min is like a dream for a German train, because a significant number of trains have a delay of 58 min. 58 min because they are obliged to pay back the ticket if they have a delay of more than one hour. Since this system was introduced, all the trains started to have a delay of 58 min. Anyway, the German railway system is like a spoilt child. There's certainly nothing you may want to do to make it better. Anyway, thanks to this delay of 15 min, we missed the next train in Cologne, forcing us to wait for another 30 min at the station.
Today, we were about 30 people. It was a huge unknown as for the first time we went to the Cologne region. The complicated thing about North Rhine Westphalia is that there are two different railway companies: VRS and VRR. And essentially, if it is not the same company, the students and all the subscribed people cannot take other people. It appears so crazy to me that we have to pay to use this crippled system.
The main reason why we decided to go so far is Drachenfels, which is essentially a castle on a cliff. I didn't know it before, but many people requested to go there. Well, why not exploring other regions. Also there isn't an infinite number of paths around Düsseldorf. It's maybe time to go further.
Prior to the hiking, I sent the whole path (which could be read with Google Maps) to everyone, because I acquired this technique recently (for which I spent quite some time) and today's hike was fairly complicated. As it turned out, no one took a look at it. And some of us got lost, maybe for one hour. I guess there's something that we can do better.
Luckily, there was a nice place to have a break, called Petersberg, where unfortunately there was neither Vodka nor Goulash, but great view over the Rhine.
We had to spend more time there, as those who were lost arrived 1 hour later. Well, as it was raining sporadically, it was not a bad idea to stay there.
I must admit that even though I was saying that this was a special session, I didn't think that it would be so exhausting. For some people it was just simply more than enough, so that they decided to go back to Düsseldorf when we were already near Drachenfels.
Indeed, the weather was not perfect, but Drachenfels is impressive. It is on top of a cliff (although the German word "Fels" already somewhat implies cliff) and you have a great view over the Rhine, just as in Petersberg, but at a higher scale.
It was silent inside the train back to Düsseldorf. It was 9 pm when we were back in Düsseldorf. Even though the region was really beautiful, it is not very likely that I'm going to dare take the Deutsche Bahn for such a long distance for a while.
May 7, Unterbacher See
One great thing about hiking is that you can go to different places. This is certainly one of the reasons why this event has been so hugely successful. On the other hand, of course there is not an unlimited number of paths, especially not in the internet. For now, I have been largely dependent on this site, which proposed really cool ones. This time, however, I decided to create my own plan for the first time. In order not to make a huge mistake, I chose Unterbachersee, which is a lake near Düsseldorf and is well known among the locals here. Essentially in summer, there will be people everywhere.
But firstly, there is something I finally managed to do this time: sharing the path with other people (who have only Google Maps). I personally do not use Google Maps, because Openstreet map is simply much more precise and has much more information, especially if you are in the nature. But it is true that most of the people heavily rely on Google Maps (which I call a capitalistic solution). What I was doing wrong was to try to send a gpx or kml file directly, which for me made sense because "gpx" is a Google Earth format. But in reality, I had to create a new map using my laptop with my Google account. Then a kml or gpx file had to be imported, which then can be shared with other people. Essentially, you cannot directly share a file with Google maps and it has to be web-based.
So far so good. The problem is, in the end no one took a look at the map... So in the end I was still the only one who knew where to go. This is not really a problem for me, but I guess for everyone it is much more convenient if they know where to go, because they may want to have a break whenever they want to and they may not want to be dependent on my decisions. I will continue promoting the idea of walking independently further on.
Here in Düsseldorf we saw a horrible period of time in the last 2 or 3 weeks concerning the weather. It was simply cold all the time, although it was not quite the case whenever we hiked. Today, it was not exactly the same, since the weather was much better yesterday. Still it was mildly warm and the sun was still there every now and then.
By the way, there was no French today. Maybe because of the election (which later turned out to be partially true). On the other hand, there were quite some locals here. Maybe I already talked about that but it is fairly rare that locals appear whenever I organise something on Couch surfing. Probably because they usually already know a lot of people here. The same thing happened in France, although it was rare to see Germans there, too...
The nature around Unterbacher See looks somewhat artificial. Maybe it is not, but just for being a recreational place it seems to me like this. At the same time, there was for example a farm where we could get fresh milk, or also an outside café to have a break. Maybe we were also lucky that the weather was not perfect, because I can well imagine that there would be a crowd if the weather had been good.
You may already know but I'm actually a theoretical physicist. And theoretical considerations often diverge extremely from the reality. This was quite the case today, as I found out that the path that I planned was not 12 km, but 20 km in the end. Not to mention that it was VERY calm in the train back to Düsseldorf :)
Well it is not directly related to today's session, but as I organize the hikes, there have been quite some people who asked me to organize other things, which include:
- Laser game/Laser tag
- Demonstration by bicycle
Well, it is not impossible that I organise those things. But I just want to make other people understand how easy it is to organize something, especially when a full program is already there (like canoeing or laser game, but maybe not for demonstration...). Of course I am the one who learned it merely a few years ago, but now I really want to encourage you all to dare to do what you have in mind. Just give it a try and you'll see there's no reason to be afraid of anything.
So, the next session is a little bit special, as we'll go to Drachenfels, which was suggested by many people. It is quite far away from Düsseldorf. So we can almost consider it as a day trip. Anyway, thank you for your suggestion and I'm looking forward to seeing you there!
Aprill 30, Werden to Steele!
It was a very weird period of time maybe for 2 weeks, as the temperature dropped significantly. I had to go to the institute in freezing weather. Fortunately, today it was different. With a little bit of cloud above us, which made the scene somewhat spectacular, the temperature went up to 20 °C.
As May 1 (which was a Monday) is a holiday, I thought maybe people don't mind walking a bit more and many people would be on vacation and somewhere else. So I decided to put something a bit more strenuous than usual. As the other side of Werden-Kettwig, which we did a couple of weeks ago, had not been done and it was not particularly easy, I put the event there.
My assumption, that the people go on vacation, was partially true, as many of the standard members (e.g. Anirban, Alfredo, Théo, Crypton, Nicola etc.) were not there (and not even in Germany). On the other hand, many people joined us for the first time, among others my colleagues. As they are students (and therefore can take someone else for free in the train), they were twice as welcome :D. There were also a lot of new people from Cologne, which is a little bit far away from Düsseldorf. As they were also students, they could come to Düsseldorf for free, but it really makes the impression that this event is becoming a state-wide event (of North Rhine-Westphalia). This "semester ticket" which enables students to travel everywhere within the same state revolutionized the way they travel. Not a wonder that the extent of the hikes that I organize in Germany is not comparable at all with that of France.
In the article of last week, I talked about the lakes in Duisburg as if they were the only one recreational place with water this region (or at least this was my understanding). As it turned out, there are quite some lakes nearby. This time, we were walking along the river Ruhr, which gives the name Ruhr-region, and the Ruhr river itself obviously was a sort of a resort. You may not expect anything like this if you hear "Ruhr", but apparently it is like this nowadays. As today's path was a bit hilly, it was quite nice to see the Ruhr from above, although the photographer (me) totally failed to take a spectacular photo.
According to the map given in this page, the total distance was about 17 km, which is quite a lot, especially regarding the fact that most of the people who come with us are not quite used to hiking itself. The problem is also, when there's ONE person who says he/she is tired, the feeling propagates really quickly. So I constantly looked for shortcuts. I have the feeling that this was my main activity of the day... On the other hand, for the first time I became really aware of one problem: the paths proposed in the website, which are given in kml and gpx format, cannot be read common programs such as Google Maps or Apple maps. Since I have an Open Street map based app, I just have to click on the link and it's automatically loaded. Particularly for today's session I wanted them to know where to go, as I wanted to stay near the end of the group, but it turned out that I was the only one who knew the path. So I had to pay attention both to the head of the group and the end of the group. I really have to figure out how to solve this problem. By the way, the app that I use is called maps.me, which is a great offline map and often contains more information than Google maps. If you have it on your phone, you can simply download the path ahead of the event and you don't have to wait for me to know where to go.
Everywhere, like on the CS page and in the WhatsApp group, I put the warning that today's hike would be harder than usual. I guess everyone was prepared for that, but maybe due to the shortcuts, it ended rather earlier than I thought, although it allowed us to have a long second break right before the end of the session, in a vast field at the Ruhr. Even though the weather was really nice and the temperature was fairly high, the water was freezingly cold. I'm already trying to go to the water every week but obviously it's not going to happen within a couple of weeks.
This was then followed by a beer garden, which presented the perfect ending of today's session.
By the way, my computer is getting repaired right now. This week I'll have to do everything with my phone (I'm proud of myself for having written so much with my phone). There are things that I cannot update from my phone but I'll do it as soon as my computer comes back.
April 23 Duisburg through 6 lakes!
44. Yes, it's 44. According to Wikipedia, 44 is a happy number. I don't know what it means, but it was still 44.
As you may have already guessed, 44 was the number of participants today. As you may well know, it is the largest number so far.
Maybe needless to say, but I was completely losing control over the group, which did not become a problem luckily. So the problem started in the morning, when we were going from Düsseldorf to Duisburg Hbf. In that moment, we must have been something like 25 people in the train (other people joined us later on). Maybe I never talked about it, but here in North Rhine Westphalia, there's a particular system for people with a ticket subscription (which automatically includes all students), namely if you have a subscription, you can not only ride a train as much as you want within this region, but you can also take another person for free on weekends. Essentially, if there are more people with a subscription, we don't have to buy a ticket at all. If there are more people without subscription, we essentially have to buy only the number of tickets corresponding to the difference between subscribers and non-subscribers and we simply split the cost. Thanks to this system, usually we do not have to pay at all most of the times. And even if we have to, we can often divide one ticket by three or four persons. So it's anyway not a big issue.
Paying these tickets is indeed not a big issue, but it is an extremely complicated task to count the number of people who need a ticket and those who can take another person. And I'm sure that it is much more complicated than you think for the following reasons:
- Regardless of the meeting time, there are always people who arrive later, mostly because the railway system in Germany is a disaster and people simply cannot arrive in time.
- There's always confusion with the language(s) (I understand that some people come to Germany to learn German, but at the same time Düsseldorf is an international city, so we cannot blame either of them...).
- Some of them raise a hand maybe for 2 or 3 seconds.
- Some people (who don't have a subscription) arrive with their partners (who have a subscription). I do understand their logics (although it's not quite compatible if we try to split the cost) and I do respect their decision, but it just creates confusion as they often wobble between having a ticket and not having a ticket. (It was perfect when Daniel Kuschinsky, who didn't have a subscription, came with his girlfriend, who had a subscription, as they simply got out of the circle saying they are not a part of the discussion).
So next time, I'm gonna ask those who don't have a ticket to find a partner (i.e. someone who has a subscription) themselves when they arrive, and I'll simply count the number of people who could not find a partner. This has actually been proposed by some people several times. I never did it. Thinking back what I did, going through all people myself is also somewhat against my policy of not intervening (or as little as possible) in the organization. It was quite stupid of me.
Anyway, after counting several times, I thought we did not need to buy an extra ticket. Also there is usually no control in the German trains (for those who live outside of this area: ticket control in Germany is INSIDE the train and not before entering it). So I sat back in the train.
A couple of minutes later, I heard a voice from far away "Fahrscheine bitte".
The ticket inspectors were in our coach. I started to recount the number of people who had a subscription and who needed a ticket in a hurry. As it turned out, there was one guy who I thought had a subscription, but in reality he actually needed a ticket, meaning we needed two more tickets. As far as I know, the fine is 60 € per ticket, so 120 € for two tickets.
This was the moment, when the train arrived in Duisburg Hbf. We rushed out of the train, with me saying "Hallo" to the inspectors warmly. We saved at least 120 €, maybe more. Lennart, whom I met at an expat meeting, who participated for the first time today, was worried about me having trouble. To be honest, I'm myself not particularly proud of myself having created the trouble at the first place. Anyway this incident taught me something to some extent.
At Duisburg Hbf there were people from Bochum waiting for us. Most of them were students. So for the train from Duisburg Hbf to Duisburg Bissingheim we did not have to pay anyway. Bochum is a small city, but there's a big university there. Düsseldorf, on the other hand, is much larger than Bochum, but the university is very small. For this reason, it's always like students from Bochum and oldies from Düsseldorf in our hike group. Anyway, I don't know how much I appreciated to see students in that moment.
Today's area was famous among the locals for the 6 lakes there, which certainly were not impressive for Théo, who comes from Marseille, or Alfredo, who comes from Málaga. But for the German standard, it is quite a resort. Except for the sporadic rain and fairly low temperature (around 10 °C?), it was quite nice to walk around this area.
I met some more Syrians today. Apparently Qusai brought them with him. I wonder how much the world would appreciate them if we knew them better personally. As I am going to Café Eden tomorrow, maybe I am going to invite some of them to the coming sessions.
Today, there were a couple of groups who got lost. And I don't know how many of them there were. At least one group, that could not catch the train from Duisburg Hbf to Duisburg Bissingheim, because they arrived too late in Duisburg Hbf (and this, of course, because of the German railway), arrived in a different station and tried to look for us. Apparently this group then split up into small groups for some reason. There was another group, that was actually with us at the beginning, but somehow they got lost. Everyone arrived in the same place when we were having a break on a beach (?) which is where the path looks like a hook in the map above. I'm sure that the place would have been really lovely if the weather had been good.
Whenever I say I'm from Tokyo here in Düsseldorf, they often talk about the Japanese community here, although I have myself never really been there yet. It is funny to think about the fact that it was the first time today that I spoke Japanese since I came back to Germany, as Koichi spoke a little bit Japanese.
As I stated above, the success of this hiking group was quite unexpected. According to Bhavna, who was there for the first time, there is no other group in North Rhine-Westphalia that organizes hikes regularly.
At the beginning of this article, I wrote "the problem started in the morning". It continued at the end. The railway station we were heading for, Duisburg-Bissingheim, is a rather isolated place and not really well frequented. Appropriately enough, there was only one train and one bus every hour. The bus did not come into question anyway since there were too many people there, but I didn't really check the timetable. When we were about 600 m away from the station, we found out that the train was to arrive in 5 min. Great organization.
Waiting for one more hour in an isolated railway station is not so much fun, especially when people are exhausted. When we arrived at the railway station, I was cursing my bad luck.
And here you are, God bless the Deutsche Bahn: 5 min delay. When we arrived there, almost simultaneously the train arrived. Isn't it great that the German Railway is a disaster?
Next weekend is a long weekend. We'll hike from Werden to Steele, which is the other side of what we did two weeks ago. Looking forward to your participation!
April 16 Hiking from Grevenbroich to Neuss!
There's this thing called Easter, for which here in Germany we have a long weekend. Originally, I was planning to go to the south of Bonn for a hike with other people. The problem was that we organized the stuff way too late, so that the hotels were fully booked. It is maybe important to note that during a long weekend or school holidays, a significant number of people go hiking in Germany. Remarkable, that you may bump into bears or Germans in the mountains in Japan, but not into Japanese people.
Even though I'm still quite impressed by the number of possibilities that this region offers for hiking, it is not infinite. Today, therefore, I planned a particularly long one, because I expected only a handful of people to appear because of Easter. And if there are not so many people there, it does not matter whether they complain or not.
Actually in the morning, it was even raining and quite cold. The thing is that since I told everyone that I would anyway be there regardless of the weather, I still decided to go to the railway station, expecting no one to appear.
Until I saw 20 people in front of me, I didn't realize how wrong I was.
It is interesting to see the spectrum of the participants every time. This time, there were a lot of Indians. Most of the Indians are engineers, usually working in Bochum. At our institute there are quite some of them.
It's a little bit of a side story, but there's something I misunderstood until I came to Germany regarding the foreigners. It is true that the science is far more advanced here in Germany than in France. I initially thought it is because of the Germans, but what I actually found out was that there is not a huge difference between the French and German researchers. What is significantly different here in Germany is the foreigners working here, especially those from India and Iran. Fairly enough, the article that made me decide to come to Düsseldorf was also written by one of our Iranian coworkers. Anyway, at my workplace, I see that I am not doing the bellwether research anymore, because these Indian and Iranian researchers are doing brilliant work. But as a matter of fact, maybe I was not that special either in France. Maybe I just did not know that the relatively small number of Iranian and Indian researchers were actually doing a very good job. The difference may have been that France demands that everyone adopt the French culture, Germany doesn't. The French requirement was not particularly stringent and I totally enjoyed my life there. However, still I wonder whether the foreign students there would have done a better job if the situation there was like here in Germany.
So I could feel that I was with a group of engineering brilliance. Not to mention that they are quite polite and modest. If you know me personally, you know that I'm not particularly a person who talks about serious stuff. The nonsense and meaningless jokes that I told during the hike sounded like I was speaking a language no one spoke.
In general, it was a lovely walk today. But I must say the weather was simply nasty. Only the restaurant on the way, Am Fusseberg, which turned out to be an Iranian restaurant, offered a quite nice moment. If I have the chance to do the same path again, I'm sure that I'll go back to this restaurant.
By the way, I bought a bicycle last week and I looked around a little bit during the holidays. As I got some new ideas around Düsseldorf, I'll probably offer a couple of hikes nearby in the coming weeks. I guess it's gonna be enough warm in May for lakes and a bit more up and down, we'll see more variations.
PS special thanks to Darshan for the first photo.
April 14. Mystery of Tandem
If you've been following this blog, you certainly know that I downloaded an App called "Tandem" a couple of weeks ago. After writing an article about it, I had to delete it very quickly, as it turned out that I was completely wrong about the assumption, that it would be just used for flirting or maybe for fraudulent activities. To be honest, I was looking forward to some kind of trap, but this never arrived so far.
Still, there are couple of things that I don't understand well.
Firstly, out of the most recent 20 people who talked to me, 19 were girls. As well as I hate asymmetry, it appears to me like a huge surprise, maybe because on Tandem I offer German and Japanese. And both in Germany and Japan, there's a strong gender separation (it took me some time to get used to it again when I came back to Germany a couple of weeks ago). Indeed, generally it is interesting to see the number of girls and boys going abroad with an exchange program, because there are a lot more girls. Over the course of the immigration policy in the recent years here in Germany, the tendency was reported that it was rather the young girls who were open to accepting immigrants and old men were against it. So it is maybe not quite a surprise that simply the absolute number of girls learning language is higher than that of boys (although the difference is mind boggling).
But concerning the Japanese language learners, the distribution of nationalities is quite weird: I do understand that there are a lot of French people, because the mutual love of French and Japanese people originates from the 19th century and it is still an on going issue. For Brazilians, it is a different form but there's a similar reason. However, in spite of my initial expectation, most of the people who talk to me for Japanese are Italian... Well, I know that the Japanese culture is barely known in Italy. I was surprised to see that my ex flatmate from Italy had never heard of studio Ghibli or Miyazaki before knowing me. And more interestingly, even though they say they're learning Japanese, they never speak it. So in the end, it is rather a good exercise for my Italian, which is a good thing, but I'm maybe a bit tired of telling them that my favorite city is Cremona and how I learned Italian from the exchange students who forced me to understand Italian by never learning German here in Germany and talking to me simply in Italian etc. Here in Düsseldorf, I know a couple of Italians, like one doing her Ph.D in cryptography, although she's herself like cryptography. For the others, we never talked about Japanese stuff. Well, anyway I'd be curious about why there are so many Italians learning Japanese. Let me know if you have a clue.
April 9, Hiking @ Werden - Kettwig
Thank you all for the birthday wishes. I myself had a great time in my new apartment. I did not really think about organizing anything but in the end, I ended up inviting quite a couple of people on both my birthday and the eve. Regardless of the occasion, I'm sure that I'm going to organize a lot of things at my apartment, so please check it out every now and then!
Whether it's my birthday or not, the hiking goes on. The highlight of this session: construction work around Wuppertal. I have certainly talked about it somewhere on my website, but if you come to Germany, never trust DB, which is the national railway company. I know that everyone prefers trains to airplanes or buses, so do I, but you never know what may happen with DB. Anyway, they happened to decide close all railway stations around Wuppertal for two weeks. And we happened to have planned a hike near Wuppertal.
So two days before the hiking, I promptly decided to change the plan. Actually on the website of wanderwege-nrw, there are not so many possibilities anymore near Düsseldorf. On the other hand, luckily I'm starting to know new people, like this great Ph.D at our institute, Felix, who comes from this region and hikes a lot. He and Joachim recommended me a path near Essen. Did you know that Essen was the green capital of Europe this year (cf. wikipedia)? For someone like me, who thinks Ruhr region is just grey, it's not something that can be understood right away, but indeed you can find quite some space in the nature to enjoy. Particularly this one seems to be famous among amateur hikers.
Despite the unexpected change of plan, many people turned up this time: around 40 (not everyone is on the photo above, btw. great thanks to Anirban for the photo). Not to mention that some people arrived later due to the 30 min delay of train.
What we did was half of what is proposed here (as you can see in the map above), not only because it was long, but I knew that it's somewhat hilly, especially compared to what we have done so far. We did a great head start by going up 100 m maybe within the first 1 km. Do you see the happy faces on the photo?
The consequence of having 40 people with no particular common background is of course the difference in hiking experience. We started at 11 am from the Werden station. Around 12:30, I sensed the first indication of exhaustion among some people. It is, however, important to keep in mind that until you think of the possibility of having a pause, you can keep going on. For this reason, I had to look for a place to have a break without really asking anyone. It is like the politicians who are criticized for hiding information, but sometimes there's no other way. Well, of course the problem comes from the fact that I do not check the path ahead of the event. In this sense, actually there's no reason for the people to be thankful to me for the organization :) In the end, we had a break in the middle of nowhere (well done!). Still I daresay it was a beautiful place (look at the pictures!).
There's an old castle in Kettwig (which was our final destination), which may have been the highlight of the day. As it turned out it was closed to visitors. At least it offered a neat garden, where we had a second break. In total, it was an easy-going hike.
As the hiking itself had almost 40 people, we were something like 20 people looking for a pub after the hike. Under the endless blue sky, we were desperately looking for a place which would offer enough space for 20 people. It's important to know that whenever it's sunny, all Germans go out, which is rather other way around in southern Europe. Well the weather forecast says it's going to rain next weekend so maybe I should be grateful for the weather of today...
It's going to be a long weekend (Easter weekend). So In addition to the usual hiking session, I'm going to cycle around Düsseldorf (I bought a bicycle on my birthday!). Feel free to contact me if you want to join us!!
April 2, Hiking @ Mülheim
This week was a particularly important one for me, because I moved out. My old apartment was also a nice place, but I could not organize anything. Now the situation is entirely different and I'm really looking forward to inviting you guys to my place.
Today, we went to Mülheim, which is right next to Duisburg. This was pretty much the first time that it was somewhat far away from Düsseldorf. The problem was I misspelled the name (I wrote MüHlheim) and obviously it created a lot of confusion, especially also because there was another Mülheim (although it's the same spell as the one we visited) right next to Cologne. So good that I happened to indicate that it was right next to Duisburg.
We were something like 21 people this time, almost like last week. I was actually expecting the number to drop, but so far it is staying somewhat stable. Anyway there are always new people and old faces at the same time. My guitar was also there this time (well it was there last week too, just it was not used). There's this great song, Libre, which I learned from my former flatmate, Adrián, although I never really sang it when I was in Lyon. There's another one, Viva la vida, which for me was also Adrián's discography and I never sang in Lyon either. Both of them saw a big success today. However, in this multicultural group, it was difficult to find people who could sing Aladdin or the Beatles (the lyrics was there). I really have to figure out what to take next time.
Next week we'll go to the south of Wuppertal, which right next to where I lived 13 years ago when I first came to Germany. For the Easter weekend, I'll have to figure out what to do. Maybe I'm going to organize a hiking session to look for hiking paths.
March 26, 2017 Hiking in Neuss
There's something I was made aware of recently: I start quite a lot of messages by talking about the change of season. This is probably because I retained something from the Japanese culture, as this directly derives from Shintoism, which is somewhat considered as the religion of Japan (although it is usually not seen as a religion). Interestingly, if you look at the lyrics of many (even recent) Japanese songs, it is also often about nature or seasons. I can hardly imagine Taylor Swift or Maroon 5 seriously singing about the change of season, but in Japan, they would. Moreover, most of the family names in Japan are also related to something found in nature, like rice field in my case, or river for my mother's maiden name. Fairly enough, I can come up with one exception, which is that of the prime minister, although I'm not particularly surprised regarding the controversies that concern him.
And today was pretty much the day, where we could feel that winter is entirely over, especially after the rain we experienced last week. As always, the weather forecast was predicting cloudy weather. Tell me what you think after taking a look at the pictures (although I must admit I'm by far not the best photographer...)
To be honest, I was terrified by the number of participants that I had seen on CS: 41 (+ my colleagues that I invited). In the end, however, we were something like 25, which still marks the highest number of participants, but compared to the growth we had seen until two weeks ago, it seems to start stabilizing. My plan was to organize the event every week, so that not all of them appear every time, in order not to have to put any limitation on number of participants. This seems to be working now. So perfect.
The hiking route, which you can find here, was probably the easiest so far, which was also what I wanted, as today was the first day after it changed to summer time. It's gonna be fairly easy next week as well, but I guess as soon as we don't have to carry heavy clothes, I'll certainly organize more thrilling sessions.
At the end of the day, as always, we could find a nice bar near the main station of Neuss, drinking beer under the brilliant blue sky. Maybe this is the highlight of the day :)
Well, that was what it was like for today. From here it's a little bit of side story, which came to my mind after today's session: before meeting Adrian, who was my flatmate back in Lyon, I never really thought of doing anything in a large group, because I didn't really think I was able to do so. Essentially, it's something I learned with him through the interactions with a lot of people in Lyon. So now I'm trying to find someone who wants to co-organize the sessions, just as I used to do with Adrian, but so far I haven't met anyone like him, so I'm still doing to just myself. Organizing a session like this is not difficult. I just look for a route, which can be easily found in the Internet, I just create an event on CS, then people sign up. Basically, that's all. However, the difficult part comes after this. Whenever I make a new WhatsApp group on the previous day, or taking a break during hiking, I promptly think why not creating new rules. The limitation on the number of participants that I mentioned above is one of those. The thing is, as I am organizing it all alone, I painfully realize how easy it would be to become a dictator this way. Well, this was one thing, but today, in addition to this, I got another issue from another perspective, when we were making a break on the riverside of the Rhine. As I had to make a decision on how long we were staying there, I spontaneously said 50 minutes, which was based on nothing, maybe except for the fact that it was slightly less than 60 min so that including the delay we would anyway have, we could go on after one hour, although this ONE hour itself was again not based on anything. In the end, I myself had a delay of 10 min, since I went away to grab a cup of coffee. Then it turned out that there were people who seriously thought it'd be important to be there on time, so that they decided not to go grabbing a beer which they would have done otherwise. Here, I would like to sincerely apologize for causing the trouble. At the same time, I just wonder how to create a self-sustainable group, where they may have been able to change the length of the break according to their needs for example. I could be a moderator and make a collective decision out of what people say, but I don't want to be a dictator, which I don't think solely applies to what happened today, but as in today's society, despite the notion of democracy, we tend to blame the politicians for the problems in our daily lives, as if they were living in a separate world and governing distantly. I think it is important to realize that politics is also just a compressed version of what we are, and it's up to us to change something. In this sense, the politicians may moderate it, but I don't think I would expect them to do more than that.
In this sense, I'm not offering empty apologies to those who had to undergo this trouble today. I'm going to keep moving on and figure it out.
March 18, 2017 Hiking to Neanderthal
As some of you may already know, whenever I organize something, it never rains. This magical power was unfortunately not as strong as what would be required to stop the bad weather in Germany. So, today, after two sessions with great weather last week, it rained. Until the previous day of the hiking, the weather forecast never changed. Still, as I had announced that I would be at the railway station anyway regardless of the weather, I thought I just simply go there only to confirm that no one is there. Well, this assumption turned out to be quite wrong: on the previous day, I created the WhatsApp group for today's session, in which I made it clear that the weather forecast was predicting rain. There were these two energetic girls, Maria and Clara, who immediately replied they would come. It's apparently an international thing that girls are more active and outgoing.
With Maria towing the entire group on WhatsApp, 13 people showed up. I must say if it was in France no one would have wanted to go hiking on a rainy day like this. Here in Germany people probably cannot quite care about it anymore, because it is just always like this here. Anyway, in the end it did not rain so much. I may have regretted not going there if I had canceled the event.
I still think that a nice thing about these hiking sessions is that it's not an automatic weekly event, so that nothing has to repeat every time. Still, a basic pattern has been apparently somewhat formed: we start hiking at around 11am, we have a break between 1pm and 2pm, essentially whenever we can. Then we finish at around 3pm and go for a beer to enjoy the last moment. Isn't it nicely German?
March 17, 2017 Coursera community?
"Learning makes you stupid" was what I usually heard from my father when I was small. Fairly enough, homework was not something to do at home. And since I didn't do homework at home, I didn't do it at all. 20 years went on, now I'm a scientist. And my life is all about learning.
There was this bright guy Vitali I met a couple of weeks ago, who talked briefly about Coursera, which is a platform for online learning. Essentially, you can participate in university lectures for free. It's actually been a while that I use this website. Especially, I had a great course about Machine Learning from the university of Washington, which is now implemented in my code (and soon you'll see a great scientific article written by me while employs the techniques I learned). There were a couple of other courses I've visited so far: philosophy of physics, functional analysis, game theory etc. Yet I never considered coursera as something to talk about with other people, partially because I know that attending lectures at the university is not something normal people would do willingly. However, in this large number of people I've met so far in Düsseldorf there are maybe some who can share my interest as well. So it might be interesting to think about some sort of community, although I don't know what it looks like, maybe something like meetups for Coursera users? Anyway, Vitali and I are now there. Let me know if you are interested!
March 11, 2017 Hiking to Ratingen!
March 8, sometime in the afternoon, I wrote a message to the mailing list of Ph.D students at MPI, announcing the hiking to Ratingen. At my institute in France, I had a hard time going out with my colleagues (although they were still lovely people). So initially, I did not think about this possibility, which I decided to explore, since I'm having thrilling time with my new colleagues here.
5 people replied. Well, I guess it makes 10 % of all Ph.D students. Anyway the interest has been nucleated. Let's see what's gonna happen in the future.
I would like to make one thing clear regarding this hiking: for the very first hiking a couple of weeks ago, there was only Chaomo who came per CS (although there were my flatemates, Théo and Alfredo, who came with us, too). Last time, we were 9 in total. And this time ... 22. This gang of hikers marched through this small village called Ratingen, which I didn't have the slightest intention to take the responsibility for.
Until three days before the hiking, the weather forecast predicted rain. Two days before, it became cloudy. In the end, it was sunny. I'm proud of myself having the courage not to cancel the event.
Not only the weather, but the timing was also an important thing that worked perfectly today: right in the moment that we needed a break, there was this great village called Homberg, where we could have a short break of 1 hour. Then after the hiking there was an outside bar. I don't know how much I was enjoying my weekend.
Next day, I had a long discussion with a Mexican guy over whether to create a WhatsApp group for hiking. Indeed, I decided to create a group for every session, but I don't have the intention to continue to use it after hiking, even if the same people participate. This is because I just find it beautiful to say that the connection of the people is something personal, and not based on the WhatsApp group. And by creating a new group every time and adding each single person, I can think of the person for a moment, even if it is just something instantaneous. It is true that I may forget some people and they may have to remind me of that, but still I think there's something humane in it. Especially I don't want to be a person who simply sends a message to a whole group of people without knowing who is actually in the list. Lastly, I guess there were people who would not see each other anymore, but the memory remains. In order to allow this memory to be eternalized, it is important that the event altogether goes to an end every time and not to have an open end discussion.
Next hiking will take place next Saturday, on 3/18/2017 and we'll go to Neandertal. Looking forward to your participation!
March 3, 2017 Hiking to Gerresheim!
When you think of Ruhr region, you may think of the densely populated cities and extremely narrow apartments. In reality though, this city, Düsseldorf, offers quite a lot of nature, without going so far away. This time, we went to Gerresheim, which is still a part of Düsseldorf.
Two days before, Thursday, 3/2/2017 in the evening.
Nicola: "Are you sure that you want to organize it? It's maybe going to rain"
There's this thing called weather forecast, which has no meaningful utility in this region, because they will most likely say 50% risk of precipitation. In short: it may rain, or maybe not.
Saturday, 3/4/2017, on the hiking day, you could see in the sky that it might rain or maybe not. This unpredictability of German weather will beat the UK referendum or the US presidential election.
A great thing about organizing an event like this on CS is that you can expect at least one or two people who know the place. This time, it was particularly the case with Nicola, who used to live there for a while, and Tareq, who lives there. I just simply say "let's go" and someone else will know where to go. So perfect.
In the end, it did not rain. The cool thing is that so many people turned up this time, which ended in a huge success.
Next time, we'll go to Ratingen, for which I've already created an event on CS, which you can find here. See you there!