Three years

Already more than three years have passed since I left the town of my PhD, and nearly three since I arrived in France. It is amazing how quickly time passes these days.

In these last three years, I blogged less than I had hoped to, traveled a lot (but not in France), worked too much, started learning Korean and Spanish,…

Originally, I had planned to stay here for at most three years. But I kind of like the institute I am working at, and so I decided to take the opportunity to stay for three more years. So I guess, the big news is that my impeding unemployment has been averted.

Bologna sightseeing

On the first “full” day in Bologna, we decided to do some more sight seeing in the city: In the morning, we visited the old university, including the anatomy lecture hall, some more churches, the university quarter,… We had lunch outside at an Osteria and had the local classics: Tagliatelle con ragú and Gramigna alla salsiccia. Delicious!

In the afternoon, we went up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, about 300 m above the city. To get there, you walk through an arcade of 666 arches. You can clearly see it on Google maps. For getting back to town, we decided to take the bus. Until the 70s, there also was a cable car going up to the sanctuary but these days the only public transport is the bus.


The sanctuary of San Luca

The sanctuary of San Luca

To Bologna

My first idea when I started to consider visiting some cities in northern Italy was a round-trip. But the idea of having to move my luggage every day was not very appealing, so instead a searched for a base of operations and found it in Bologna.

I arrived just a few minutes before my mother, who was coming by direct train from Munich. After checking in at the hotel, we headed straight to downtown Bologna. We visited the Mercato delle Erbe, and had a look at the palazzos at Piazza Maggiore. We also visited the Duomo, which despite the sinking sun was illuminated just by the windows.

One of the Palazzi at Piazza Maggiore

One of the Palazzi at Piazza Maggiore


On the second day of my trip I went sight-seeing in Milano. I did not have much time, so I only could visit the Duomo. I had to queue for about half an hour to get in, but it was well worth it. Milano also still has a tram network, and some of the trams seem quite ancient or at least built in vintage style. But I decided to ignore them, in favour of a walk in the nice sunny weather. The route from my hotel to the Duomo also was very nice: I crossed a big park, passed the natural history museum (with the obligatory dinosaur model in front of it), saw the Scala and a classic “shopping mall”.

A classic "shopping mall" in Milano

A classic “shopping mall” in Milano

EXPO 2015

I originally had no special plans for my trip to Milano, but then I realized that the EXPO 2015 would still be open. Some of my colleagues had already visited it, and were highly recommending it. Also, the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” seemed interesting.

So on the first full day of my vacation, I joined the masses. Already the underground to the site was packed, and there was an amazing number of visitors. Even spread out on the huge area of the EXPO is was still pretty crowded. There were long queues in front of all the major pavilions and food stalls. Because the EXPO was so huge and queueing took quite a bit of time, I could only visit a few of the pavilions.

I particularly enjoyed South Korea, where I also had lunch. The theme of south Korea was 한식 (Hansik), i.e. korean cuisine. It was mostly about fermentation. One of the exhibits was a room-sized fermentation jar.

Most of the pavilions seemed like a mixture between tourism and industrial advertisement. The Uruguay pavilion got me to seriously consider a vacation there.

I could easily have spent a few more days visiting EXPO, alas I only had one day in Milano.

An international fort

During my recent work trip to the French Alpes, we visited the Redoute Marie-Thérèse. This fort is part of the anti-French defense line built by the Kingdom of Sardinia in the early 19th century. Austria had insisted that the defense line had to built after the Napoleonic wars and the funds actually came from France. Marie-Thérèse did not remain Sardinian for very long: Already in 1860 Savoy, and with it the defense line, became part of France. However, the non-French history of the fort is still very visible, as it was built following design principles popular in Austria.

We got a tour in which we learned about the history of the fort and its neighbours, how they were built and how life was like for the Sardinian soldiers stationed there. The tour was quite interesting, and if it was not for the remote location, and would be a nice spot for a day trip, as the surrounding scenery is just lovely.

This year, I went on vacation directly after our science retreat. Or, to be more precise, I went to Milano. Now, as our science retreat is high up in the mountains, the plan was to find somebody to take me to Modane, the last train stop of the TGV on the French side, which is next to impossible not to go past on the way home, and then to take the train from there to Milano.

However, I was very lucky: One of my colleagues was going to Milano by car. So instead of going down the valley to Modane, we went up the mountain, to the pass and the lake and then all the way down to Turino.

From Turino on, we took the motorway, and my colleague dropped me off at a subway stop near the motorway. The motorway had changed a lot since I last took it more than 15 year ago. What surprised me were the bus stops which could be found in small side lanes near the official exits. It seems that there now a busses which just stay on the motorway and don’t leave it to pick up passengers.

As the TGV from France to Milano only goes three times per day, I ended up arriving five hours earlier than planned and could have a nice dinner in town. I went for “American” pizza, which had been thoroughly re-italianized. The scamorza, potatoes and bacon pizza I chose was very good, and a good culinary start for the trip.


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