Finally! After two months of living in Europe, I got to take my first trip outside of Denmark. Even though the trip was business-oriented (attending the 2016 The Science of Making Torque from Wind conference, frequently shortened to just “Torque”), I still squeezed in quite a bit of cultural experience. And where was this lovely conference, you might ask? Why, that would be in Munich, Germany, my good friend!
The conference extended from the 5th through the 7th of October, 2016, and it was held at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). This was a fabulous conference for me for a variety of reasons. First, I traveled to Germany with (and stayed in the same hotel as) over a dozen of my colleagues from DTU Wind Energy. Not only did this greatly simplify travel logistics (“Where do I stay? Oh, the hotel with everyone else in it.”, “What plane do I take? Oh, the one with everyone else on it.”, “What taxi to TUM do I take? Oh, the one with everyone else in it.”, etc.), it also meant that I got to spend some time hanging out with some really fun people for a few days. As you can see in the picture below from our first night in the hotel, my coworkers are cool. Okay, “cool” may be the wrong word to describe us. Fun. We are fun.
The second reason that I really enjoyed Torque, and I’m going to show a bit of my inner nerd here, was that it was so absolutely, amazingly, perfectly well-run. I’ve been to several conferences, and to my knowledge none has been as on-point as this one. I mean, we’re talking branded, color-coded maps all over the building with corresponding mini-maps in our conference booklet, contingency plans for the fancy dinner options based on how many people showed up and decided they wanted to attend, a freaking bell they would ring as they walked through the crowds to let us know that our coffee break was over and it was time to get back to the presentations, I could go on at length. Normally I would joke that this must be German efficiency at work, except that the main organizer from the Technical University of Munich, Carlo Bottasso, was Italian. Regardless, he and his team of grad students put in an amazing amount of work and executed a flawless conference. The inner events coordinator in me had quite a heyday at Torque.
Outside of the conference, I did manage to squeeze in a bit of sight-seeing during the 3.5 days I was there, and I learned something interesting: I really, really enjoy the feel of Munich. Our hotel was decorated in what I think of as classic Bavarian décor, with loads of carved, dark woods, wooden paneling, and brass light fixtures. There was a similar prevalence of dark woods in the beer houses that we visited, giving a hobbit-like warmth to the beer halls that encouraged you to doff your jacket and scarf, grab a stein of Weizen, and raise your glass to the band before taking a big swig.
Outside of the cozy interiors, the weather was chilly and cloudy, but the streets of downtown Munich still managed to look like doll houses grown to full size. The opera house and Munich’s famous clock tower, called the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, were particularly grand. Unfortunately for me, I was never able to attend the daily show at 11:00 am, when the dolls come to life and reenact two scenes from historical Bavaria: the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V and the coopers’ dance. I was quite disappointed to miss the clock’s animation…so much so that I will probably have to take a trip back to Munich while I am here in Europe. Since I liked the city so much and would love to see it again, this is really a win-win. 🙂
The trip was so quick, but there are still so many experiences that I can think back on that make me smile. Poster sessions and business-card exchanges. Bavarian dances with ridiculously spinning girls and boys who slap their leather-covered thighs so loud I would swear it leads to bruising. A conference dinner in the Flugwerft Schleissheim aviation museum where I spent a good chunk of the evening wandering alone between planes of ages past, running my fingers just above dented metal and wondering what stories they could tell. Being given steins of beer and Bavarian pretzels during a conference break only to be immediately ushered into a keynote lecture, beers in hand, to listen to the charismatic Bob Thresher tell stories of the beginning of wind energy in the U.S. An amazing Bavarian feast in the top floor of the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl beer hall, in the same room where Hitler and the National Socialists held their first meeting in 1920, eating käsespätzle and learning the classic Oktoberfest song. Flying home on the last day of the conference, with a smile on my face and a traditional Oktoberfest cookie resting on my lap, reminding me of the good times I had had and the good people I had met.
So much we had done, in so little time. All in all, I think it was a very good trip.
To see more pictures from this trip, check out my Flickr album here.
I also uploaded two videos on youtube of the Bavarian dancing/whipping we saw during our feast in the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl beer hall, check ’em out! It was pretty neat. (WARNING: the videos are loud.)