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7:03pm on Thursday, 19th March, 2009:

Magdeburg Vignette


Despite the best efforts of two people who wanted to prevent my coming to Magdeburg by cutting the perimeter fence at Heathrow (runway closed for 15 minutes; we took off 45 minutes late), I made it to Magdeburg on time. Here are some of the things I've observed about the place itself and the conference (no pictures as I took them on my phone but can't get them off it just yet):

Mageburg is safe at night. I walked back to the hotel from a restaurant at 11:pm, a journey of about 20 minutes, and not once did I feel like I may be mugged. Mind you, the two old guys I caught up with at one point were spooked that I might be the one going to mug them...

The streets are very wide, and not just because they have tram lines running down them. One in particular is especially impressive. Its name, I noted, is "Breiter Wag". When I mentioned this to the conference organiser, he told me it's German for "Broad Way". Hmm, perhaps I ought to have guessed that...

Outside the university, there's a very strong smell of sawdust. There must be a factory upwind that manufactures it.

Outside the opera house, there's a very strong smell of toast. It's delicious, but I've no idea why an opera house would smell like that.

The coffee available at the coffee breaks at the conference is quite the worst I have ever tasted. Maybe they make it out of the sawdust? Fortunately, the tea is actually pretty good.

The university's Vice Chancellor is surprisingly passionate about computer games. He gave a very strong introductory speech on the subject. I can't imagine Essex University's Vice Chancellor doing that, but then again he probably doesn't have a daughter doing a PhD in computer games like Magdeburg's Vice Chancellor does.

One of the other four people who gave "welcome to the conference" speeches spoke on behalf of the magnificently-titled Department for Politically Less Interested Target Groups. Why can't we have one of those in England?

I asked questions at every session at which I was present, except my own. I hate it when I do that, but people keep talking about interesting subjects!

My mobile phone gives me a picture of Neuschwanstein (or however it's spelled) castle in Baveria to let me know I'm in Germany. The stereotypical picture I get in the UK is the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. I wonder if, given the opportunity to select an instantly-recognisable landmark to identify their nation, either population would have opted for the ones Vodaphone chose? I bet they have the Eiffel Tower for France...

The traffic lights have the same man-in-a-hat symbol that they have in (East) Berlin. The red symbols to stop you crossing are like the Angel of the North statue (wearing a hat).

The River Elbe, upon which Mageburg stands, is the same river that runs through Hamburg and Prague. I didn't know that until today — I guess I should have paid more attention to the names of rivers on those hex-based wargames I played in the 1970s.

No, really, that coffee is awful.

The last time I was in the USA, I left the American half of my universal adapter behind in the wall socket. I'm going to have to get a new one. Thus, I'm not entirely enraged that I won't be able to get my European adapter out of the wall socket here without the use of some kind of gripping tool. Hmm, better make that some kind of non-conducting gripping tool.

Several of the streets in the centre of the town are named after famous scientists and philosophers — Leibnitz, Keppel, Hegel, that sort of thing. I don't know if these street names are original, or whether they were given to replace some no-longer-palatable ones imposed during the Communist era.

Magdeburg apparently has the tallest wooden building in the world. It's like a huge tent with a helter-skelter on the outside.

It may snow here later this week.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).