May 14 – 700+ Steps in Ulm

Today, I woke up thinking about the presentations and stressing a little bit. But I decided to put it out of my mind and enjoy the city of Ulm. We took the train there in about 45 minutes. It was not what I expected. I’m not sure why, but I expected Ulm to be a rural German town, kind of like Oberammergau but without the Alps. But instead, Ulm had large stores and buildings. It was almost like Augsburg but smaller. Also, there were cranes everywhere. It seemed to be very quickly developing and urbanizing. Again, I wasn’t very interested in the new and commercial part. I started to like Ulm more when we saw the Munster.

The Munster, the church in the center of Ulm, is the tallest church in the world. It has over 700 steps! But when we went inside, it wasn’t as grand as many of the other churches. The stained glass was very pretty, but there wasn’t the same grandeur in the Munster as I was expecting. There were no intricate paintings lining the walls and very few statues. But at that point, I was ready to climb the stairs.

From the Bottom of the Munster

Not gonna lie, it was harder than I thought it would be. I thought the 300 steps in Munich were a breeze and wasn’t expecting this to be much harder. But I was wrong. I made it to the first rest area, which was half way up, totally out of breath and dehydrated. (I was also running low on water, which wasn’t good.) But I kept going. I was really determined to make it to the top. The last leg was the worst. My legs really hurt, and I was out of breath. The stairwell was tighter than before, and the stairs felt never-ending. But somehow, I made it to the top. It was absolutely worth it for the view. Like Munich, Ulm looked like a sea of red roofs from all directions. It was actually sunny today, and the Danube was sparkling. The walk down was not as bad. I felt hypnotized by the stairs, but it felt like it was over a lot quicker than on the way up. I was one of the first people out. The first thing I did was walk to a grocery store to buy water.

From the top of the Munster

Of all the tour guides we’ve had over the past almost two weeks, the one at Ulm, David, stands out. He actually knew of Pittsburgh and the Steelers and asked us a lot of questions. He also gave a really great tour. He took us around the old section of Ulm, which looked a lot like a small German town. He pointed out a museum that had the oldest hand-crafted art in the world. I would have never thought that would be in Ulm, Germany. If we had more time I would have tried to see it. The old part of Ulm was beautiful. There were houses with porches right on the river (the houses weren’t on the Danube, but on a smaller river that ran through town.) There was even the most slanted hotel in the world, which was so crooked because it was built practically over the river. Not sure I would want to spend the night there. We walked up to the city border, which was between the houses and the Danube. It made me consider why Ulm and other European cities have ancient borders. The only city in America with a border like that is New Orleans because it would be under water otherwise. But Ulm is above the Danube. I wonder if the borders were used as protection, back when cities could be attacked and there was no police or army. On the side we were on, the houses were old and were of traditional German architecture. On the other side of the Danube, there were new apartment buildings with gardens on the rooftops that looked very new and modern. The contrast was stark, and I was glad to be on the older side.

Lunch was right in the old section of Ulm, at a crepe place called Pfannekuchenhaus. Honestly, it was pretty mediocre. All of the food was on top of the crepe, which made it hard to eat with the food. And it was pretty tasteless without the food. However, the pesto and mozzarella that came on top of my crepe were excellent.

After a 20-minute wait for our train followed by a 45 minute train ride, we were back in Augsburg and it was time to work on our presentation. The SGL group almost immediately headed to the University, where we quickly put together our slides. It was a stressful few hours. Because our site visit was so late, we were a little bit behind but made up for it by being efficient and refraining from getting distracted. The German students were very good at this. They have a great work ethic. But by the evening, we had a full slide show. Each of us had notes about our parts. I felt much less stressed and unprepared by the time we left the University. And by the time I went to bed, I had my full script. I was excited and nervous for tomorrow, but mostly just needed a good night’s sleep.

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