The cathedral-like entrance hall to Leipzig station

The cathedral-like entrance hall to Leipzig station

Breakfasting and bidding goodbye to my good friend in Leipzig I managed to squeeze in sending a postcard before jumping on the first train of the day from Leipzig to (ironically) Frankfurt Airport. When I booked the ticket online the upgrade from standard to first class was 10 Euros for the entire trip (Leipzig – London). Now, I’ve never travelled first class before. Anywhere. So, I thought it was probably worth it, just to see how the other half live, especially at 1 Euro/ hour on the train and with the potential for included food and drink probably offsetting the cost of me having to buy lunch/ dinner. So, first class it was and it was quite pleasant too. Unlike UK trains (thinking East Coast) which apparently include tea and coffee, there was nothing extra included in the service but the seats were more roomy and, importantly for work, I got a plug socket to myself which meant I got a large chunk of work done on both this and the subsequent leg (Frankfurt-Brussels) of the journey. I don’t know whether I’d pay the upgrade on DB again, perhaps unless I knew I needed a plug socket in order to work, but it was a new experience nonetheless. Oh, and they do give out free Haribo…

However, it was on the Eurostar where the upgrade paid dividends as it did include an evening meal and even a glass of (veggie-friendly) wine. Add to that the fact that the wonderful crew went searching to find me a vegan meal which resulted in a tasty fruit salad for dessert and a catch up on English-language media and I arrived back into St Pancras thinking it probably was 10EUR well spent.

Thank you wonderful Eurostar train staff!

Thank you wonderful Eurostar train staff!

Tube and then train back home to Chelmsford followed by a slow trudge home with a backpack heavy with German beer samples. Still, I was happily rewarded by a newly baked loaf of bread to which I joyfully toasted and slopped some marmite on (try putting the marmite on toast before margarine, it’s so much better). It’s funny the things you miss.

And that about concludes this episode. More travels and interesting work is planned later in the year, so check back or sign up to the email if you want to hear more ramblings, but until then…tschuss!

Home. And I think I was expected...that's a lotta fruit!

Home. And I think I was expected…that’s a lotta fruit!

I’ve been lucky enough to get a place on the EU Leonardo placement scheme working for two weeks on a anaerobic digestion (biogas) plant in southern Germany sponsored by the Germany renewables body (GerBio) and the Renewable Energy Agency (REA), to both of whom I am very grateful as I was in a bit of a tis about what to do with myself post-PhD. Despite having a near-worrying love for renewable energy technologies, I know really only a little about AD, which was really my main motivation for applying. Once on the scheme I was given the choice of a range of host companies in Germany but I really wanted some on-the-ground practical experience. So, I ruled out all of the office-based roles and whittled the list to a shortlist instead focussed on the operating plants and equipment manufacturers. Having read previous accounts of trainees working at Sturm farm (the scheme has been in operation for over a year now) I was hopeful of a placement there and got very lucky to be paired with another Brit for two weeks of an intensive on-site placement learning how a real 500kW biogas plants operates. The following blog is more of a diary of my time with the Sturms and includes a few technical bits and bobs, but is equally in line with the other aim of the project which is to teach trainees about German culture. Despite a fair amount of travelling and a number of internships (and jobs) in a range of industries I was a bit nervous about this before leaving but, as I hope you’ll soon see, my time as a lactose-intolerant vegetarian on a pig farm in Franconia, southern Germany was incredibly enlightening and (so far at least) an intensely rewarding experience…

I was wondering whether to blog about this or not but then I saw this. And yes, I know it's the soppy sort of crap you see at all transport hubs but I like it.

I was wondering whether to blog about this or not but then I saw this. And yes, I know it’s the soppy sort of crap you see at all transport hubs but I like it.

Saturday 15th February

Chelmsford – London St Pancras – Brussels.

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Here we go again!

Have been dashing around a little bit of late (only back from Leeds on Thursday) and now setting off around 4pm with a rucksack and a bag of food, including two delicious fuul sandwiches…well there’s one way to make me miss home! Arrived at St. Pancras with about 90 minutes to spare so bought a coffee and settled into some work, managing to rewrite the vast majority of a rebuttal for a paper which was good progress for me – maybe I’ve forgotten how well I work on the train or in train stations? Boarded the Eurostar, completed the rest of the rebuttal and before I knew it I was in Brussels.

Now, Belgium in general isn’t my favourite place and unfortunately, as a welcome to this fine country, Brussels-Midi/South makes you walk an extra mile (or what seems like it) before getting out of the international section. On the plus side I’d been here before and so knew which way to turn to get to the main station before heading to my hotel. With a further kick in the teeth my ‘available offline’ Google maps were suddenly no longer downloaded. But it’s okay, all train stations have a map of the local area and I have the address of where I’m staying…Not Brussels. It has the roads next to the station but stops there. I suppose it would be possible to ask at the information but they’re all shut. Right then off we go in the direction I think it is from the zoomed out map I’ve printed. (Bear in mind that is my 3rd back up, damn you Belgium!)

Fortunately the hotel is close and well sign posted. I check in (around 2300), submit the rebuttal and decide I should at least try to find some Belgian beer or chips and mayo. All of the bars about don’t seem too welcoming and I decide I’ll walk for a bit instead before heading to bed. I’m knackered and have an early (5:30) start in the morning to catch the 6:25 train so eventually, finding nothing of interest close to where I’m staying – perhaps not surprising near the train station, head back to bed.

Okay, that’s journey one and day one complete. So far (for this country at least) so good.

http://lowco2motives.wordpress.com should get you there