Day 6: Towers and Tribulation

Friday, May 11

This morning we walked as a group to the Augsburg Hauptbahnhof and took a train to a town called Ulm. Running on 3.75 hours of actual sleep from the previous night, I was not thrilled to find out that our first destination was the tallest church tower in the world. And it doesn’t have an elevator.

The Münster in Ulm is a very old, centrally-located church, and the only way to the top is a long, claustrophobically spiraling staircase that claims to be 768 steps high. Counting these stairs was an excellent distraction from my burning lungs (although I only counted 757, going up and coming down). This church is approximately 530 feet, so we climbed almost the exact equivalent of the Cathedral of Learning. After this experience, I am thoroughly grateful for Cathy’s elevators! Although, I do think that all the effort put into getting to the top added an extra element of pride to the fantastic view.

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We all became spread out on the way up, so there was plenty of time to recover at the bottom while we waited for our group to reconvene. Once we had all had a breather (and a bathroom break), we met up with a tour guide outside of the tourist information building right near the Münster.

One of the first things we did was explore the rest of the church, though luckily no more stairs were involved! We walked around the ground floor only, stopping briefly in the pews and at a mark on the floor that lies directly below the highest point on the church. Actually, there were two marks close to each other. They indicated a range over which the highest point can vary. Our tour guide informed us that this is due to slight shifting of the tower as the building moves due to poor soil and wind.

We then headed back outside, where we learned that 80% of the city of Ulm was destroyed within the span of 34 minutes one night during the Second World War. A few buildings were left standing, including, amazingly, the Münster. As big of a target as it was, the only damage the church suffered was to its stained glass windows. As the tour continued, we got to walk a bit of the way through the Altstadt (old part of the city), which was situated right along the Donau River.

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After the conclusion of the tour, we went to lunch at the Pfannkuchenhaus, a restaurant famous for its pancakes. The menu was split into three sections depending on taste; there were sweet, savory, and spicy pancakes to choose from. I stayed simple and went with the cinnamon and sugar pancake. When our food emerged from the kitchen, the plates were huge! These were not “pancakes” as an American would expect a pancake to be, but more of a giant crepe-style hotcake. Regardless, they were delicious!

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Once we finished eating, it was time to head back to the university for a talk from a BMW representative. The topic of the presentation was specifically autonomous driving and BMW’s work in that area. By the end, we had acquired some useful information for the engineering section of our final presentation. Again, no spoilers!

After that, we were on our own for dinner. Most of the group wound up at the same restaurant in the center of Augsburg. I ordered Currywurst, which is a type of sausage served with a unique curry sauce.

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One thing I learned is that this dish has some historical background in Germany. It was invented by a husband and wife in post-WWII Berlin. American culture had strong influence in the American sector of the city. One traditionally American food was steak, sometimes eaten with ketchup, but this was somewhat of a luxury. Currywurst was created as an imitation of steak and ketchup made with more affordable ingredients. It was virtually an overnight success and it grew to become a popular German street food!

Step count: 16,143

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