Day 10: If this is what it takes to reach Heaven… I’m good, thx.

We had an early departure, although I think anything before noon is early, so I don’t think that means much coming from me. We had to catch a train, the best one we’ve been – it was a fast train and got us to our destination within an hour. I fell asleep during the ride, but I would soon be woken up by quite the experience.

When we reached Ulm, we immediately headed to the large cathedral. There, we encountered a huge spire of 768 steps that was meant to bring you closer to heaven with it’s incredible height. I knew we were climbing hundreds of steps, what I wasn’t expecting was the width of the stairway: it was so narrow! I have claustrophobia and so this was a little more than average terrifying for me. Needless to say, I strained my already strained mind-body relationship: we just don’t get along that well. There was a small landing platform, where I was able to capture how narrow the stairway truly was!

But at the end of the day, all that truly matters is that you get a good instagram picture. And after climbing the 768 stairs, I got a ton of the city of Ulm. Looking out, although terrified, of the beautiful city underneath me, I was excited to roam the streets and explore it in person later during the tour.

In all seriousness, the incredible spire and cathedral provoked a lot of thought, both from a cultural and technical perspective. I tried, but failed, to imagine what it would have taken to build such an impressively tall spire without the current technological capabilities that we have. There had to be some really religious and really dedicated engineers and sponsors for this project, because I can’t imagine anyone without a strong desire to reach up to heaven risking their life building this. It was so impressive, it really underscored the common saying of “where there’s a will there’s a way”.

As we descended the spire, we met up outside the administrative building for Ulm’s tourism and got an introduction to where we would be heading on our tour on this little stone map. I was excited because I knew little about the city, but was aware it had a really rich history.

As it turns out, ancient Ulm was as rich as its history: one of the wealthiest cities in olden times. It was so wealthy it bought its autonomy from the king of Germany and became independent. With clever manipulation of trade routes and traffic flow using the river, Ulm was able to become a center in that part of Europe for trade and business, allowing them to gain unimaginable wealth. These riches were cleverly used and translated to productive infrastructure, such as a city wall that still exists today, and a beautiful town hall to manage the city’s business, depicted below. It really put it into perspective the difference between medieval European economies and worldwide modern economies. Today, a countries’ economy is typically determined by the amount of major corporations that trade under its indices, following the countries’ regulations. However, in olden days, it was a lot more strategic, since geographical location and appeal to customers was a direct play. Merchants couldn’t list something on amazon and deliver it in two days; goods had to be physically brought to a location and sold on site. Walking around the city really emphasized this difference to me, since I was able to imagine all the ways medieval business could have been conducted on the roads I travelled hundreds of years ago.

Ulm wasn’t just a wealthy city with power and influence, but also a really aesthetic one. There were little streams of water that passed through, with vegetation usually growing inside/amongst it (picture below). There was also the world’s most crooked hotel, built directly in the water. To some people this may seem a little unsafe, but I saw it as a projection of Ulm’s quirky personality. Clearly, this wasn’t an average city with typical architecture, it stood out in everything it did.

After visiting our last location (depicted above), which was also the residential place of Einstein when he was in Germany, our tour guide was kind enough to walk us to our restaurant: a cute, little pancake/crepe place with the biggest pancake/crepes you’ve ever seen. We had difficulty picking what we wanted, in part because the menus were in German, and in part because all the options were so good! Even me, with just 4 vegetarian options, was in quite a dilemma. I’m happy to say, however, that I made the right choice with the tastiest meal ever.

I noticed two really interesting things while I was at the restaurant. First, was when I went to the bathroom and used the paper towels, there were ads printed on them! In blue ink! I was rather surprised because I didn’t realize there was any economic benefit from doing so; I would imagine it being an unproductive waste of an advertising budget. I couldn’t read any of it since it was in German, but even if I could, I thought it was a really interesting idea and something I would explore more in the future if given the opportunity. The other thing I noticed, was the bottle water had an expiration. For a country that’s a lot more socialist than our capital America, I would continue to be amazed by some extremely flagship German things that screamed Capitalism, such as charging to use restrooms. After a little bit of consideration, however, I realized it might not be capitalism: everyone’s just paying their fair share and chipping in a little extra for better services (the bathrooms were much better maintained and the water was guaranteed to be clean). Nevertheless, I didn’t appreciate having to pay extra for bathrooms or water, being used to those free services in the States.

We capped off our trip to Ulm with a little birthday celebration for Eamonn! We didn’t have a chance yesterday, but it was the cutest thing ever – he had no idea Arielle had this planned for him! I got his reaction on video, it’s the sweetest!:

As we were peacefully eating our cake, we got a little notification from Dr. Feick that we were leaving within 10 minutes, but not to rush! We didn’t take that warning seriously enough and soon we found ourselves running to the train station! We may have illegally crossed like ten lanes because we were not in the mood to walk all the way. around to the station, nor did we have the time. Luckily, we all made it onto the train heading back to Augsburg, and were back home in no time.

As much as I love to nap, I wasn’t able to rest today since we had all of our slides to do. All of us were growing a little nervous, but I was able to convince my group to use beautiful.ai, a software a TA had recommended to me last semester that makes collaboration on presentations really clean and simple. After all the content was tossed into the software, we went to a new and better Doner place with Maxi.

I was able to spend all night beautifying the presentation (there’s just something so satisfying about formatting) and practicing my slides before I was happy with what we had. I know all my group members were putting in a long night, since I was getting speedy replies past midnight. I was excited for tomorrow, and that’s where I’ll see you next! 🙂

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