Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chapter 4, In which so much was accomplished that this blog post was knocked into next week

Last weekend was a long one for me -- Monday was a free day, as the new people for this 4-week session were arriving and classes were cancelled. I took the 3 days to do some sightseeing in the region. I visited Cologne on Saturday, Essen on Sunday, and then did normal mundane things here in Düsseldorf on Monday. But boy were the days packed!

The plan for Cologne came together about a week in advance. I am, you see, an avid Starcraft II player, and it came to my attention that there was a tournament in Cologne. In point of fact, the 16 best 1v1 players in Germany would be competing to represent Germany at the European level. I thought that sounded neat, so I made plans to attend! It was pretty cool -- and I'd never been to one of these before. I encountered a minor snag on the way there, in that I took a train to a little station expecting to purchase a ticket there and switch trains, only to find that the ticket machine was out of order -- it would only take credit cards, and mine didn't cut it. So I had to come back to the main train station, and reroute...long story short, I made it!

SC2 tournament in Cologne
I was awarded an SC2 T-shirt for my trouble, and all in all it was pretty neat. There were lights and music and everything. But the emphasis was of course the players, and they were quite fun to watch. Sort of like watching chess grand masters compete -- very interesting. I did get a picture of all 16 of them on stage:

The best 16 SC2 players in Germany
After a couple of hours of spectating, I left, and made my way to the Chocolate Museum in Cologne. It's within walking distance both of the tournament, and the main train station. Even better, it entailed a brief walk along the Rhine -- (it's worth noting here that I have at this point walked along the Rhine in three different cities here. Cool, right?) and some sightseeing! 

Approaching the Rhine promenade 

Coming up on the museum

Sight from a deck on the museum's roof
The inside of the museum was also fairly cool - I've never really thought that much about chocolate before!
A ... chocolate fountain!? That's right. A chocolate fountain.
I'd say the coolest part of the museum was having my own chocolate bar made: I specified the ingredients, and they made it on the spot. This is best explained with pictures:

Start with the ingredients and some molten chocolate...

Add them by hand!

A little here...

A little there...and done!
At the end of the day, I must say, I took a picture of my loot:

Chocolate. More chocolate. And some other stuff!
The next day (Saturday), it was nowhere near as nice, weather wise. Nonetheless, I headed out to see the Ruhr Museum in Essen. The general concept behind the museum is given in the name: the Ruhr is a river that runs through this region, and the region is therefore known as the 'Ruhrgebiet,' or 'Ruhr region' in German. The Ruhrgebiet has a fairly rich history, but this museum focuses on one particular element: coal. The museum is located in an old coal mining facility that was revamped for use after coal was no longer in. This is actually a trend in this region of Germany -- coal was a big thing a few decades ago, but no longer. They had this problem: what to do with all the old mining equipment and buildings?


Zollverein, Essen

Scale model of the premises
The insides were not particularly photogenic...but there was a LOT to learn. I wandered around a while, then grew tired, and returned home. By Monday I was pretty tired, so I just did bland things and rested. That's going to be all for now, but I'll finish with some uncaptioned pictures I didn't manage to work smoothly into my dialogue from Cologne. Happy viewing!