Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Les week-ends français

Bonjour !

It is quite unfortunate that I have not managed to post on the LMF summer blog until now. It is definitely summer, no question. Europe is expecting a heat wave to hit: France has activated its national heatwave emergency plan, Wimbledon's "heat breaks" in women's games are causing controversy surrounding gender (in)equality in tennis, and EMBL is set to celebrate 4 July with a summer festival and a temperature of 100 °F (38 °C). For comparison, my country's highest recorded temperature is 35.6 °C. I guess my plan to escape from the Boston summer by running away to Germany is not working as well as I hoped.   
My roommate has two cats
This is actually already my second summer doing MISTI-Germany. In 2013, I was terribly late with my planning and started the process in April (MISTI recommends applying by November). I swore I'd never leave making plans for the summer so late again. Well, guess what, I was not completely sure what I'd be doing this summer until the Friday before finals. 
The three vehicles of Germany
EMBL canteen offers asparagus risotto (pictured above), crème brûlée, and dim sum
Everything worked out great in the end, though. I am working on the epigenetic of neurodevelopment in the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg until the end of August. Our lab is small (PI, technician, two PhD students and a post-doc who is in France) and I like my job a lot. Two days into my internship, the Genome Biology unit had a two-day retreat in a fancy hotel close to the French border (my phone thought I was in France). Everybody had to present their research, you can probably imagine how much I had to tell. On the second day, we walked to a winery, had lunch and wine in the cellar (after an hour's walk in the sun, many struggled with leaving the cold room). The person directing us back to the hotel was not the same as the one who got us there, so at some point a hundred molecular biologists were stranded on a hillside between grapes and had to slide down the dirty slope. Definitely not what I had expected after the first half of the "hike" had been on a nice asphalt road.
The main form of agriculture in Baden-Württemberg
My first weekend here, I worked on Saturday and travelled to Frankfurt on Sunday to meet LMF alumni travelling in Germany. Ben '12, Juan '12, Adrienne '13, Sophie '14, Rashed '15 and me '16 - five classes of LMF, pretty neat. Not much French was spoken, but we had ice cream and sat by the river. Frankfurt itself is not the most exciting city.   
Gutenberg Museum in Mainz (Gutenberg used dogskin to "ink" the machines because it has no pores) 
Jesse and Daniela on a shelf in Wiesbaden Hbf (we initially thought that Bräutigam was just an ugly male name, until I realised it means "fiancé" in German)
My second weekend here, two friends from Estonia were visiting and we went to Strasbourg. My first time in France proper, actually (airports don't count as having been to France and CDG should not even count as a proper airport). The old town was beautiful and the European Parliament has a nice glass building, although the entire neighbourhood looks deserted at 10 p.m. on Saturday. The trams were the best, though, such beauties. While Germans seem to often switch to English even when you speak German, French waitresses will stick to French even when you make it clear you do not understand the language.
We visited Karlsruhe on the way to Strasbourg (disclaimer: the cranes in Luxembourg were used for slightly different purposes)
What a beauty! ("Tere tulemast" is in Estonian) 
Le Petit France
My third weekend here, I went to Luxembourg to visit some friends who go to university in Scotland, so I do not see them too often. They have a dog! Luxembourg had just celebrated Grand Duke's Night, the official birthday of the grand duke. Oddly enough, no ruler of Luxembourg has ever actually been born on 23 June and the current one's birthday is in April. We had dinner (a veggie BBQ) with some family friends, who were also British. Their dogs drink tea with milk and "Beowulf" is bathroom literature. One of their sons also goes to Oxford, so the weekend had elements of all my three great loves: dogs, trains and Oxford.
New York skyline has skyscrapers, Luxembourg City's skyline has yellow cranes
I thought Luxembourg was mostly German-speaking. I was so wrong. Turns out that Luxembourgish the language is doing pretty well (although the Britons seem to find it too ugly to learn) and French is actually the most prevalent lingua franca. So, somewhat unexpectedly my third weekend ended up French as well.   
Heidelberg is pretty!


  1. I love your crane photo (with the house).

    All of your descriptions of pretty little cities are making me miss Europe! I'm so glad you're taking advantage of your stay there :)

  2. "Jesse and Daniela on a shelf" is a pretty awesome find! The Gutenberg museum and the cat donut looks really cool. One thing I am still wondering about is France's emergency plan for the heat wave .... I never realized they had a plan =P

  3. Haha, "dogs, trains, and Oxford." Classic!