Monday, August 08, 2005

Oberwolfach and Zurich


As I wait for my darling wife to arrive

I've spent the last week at a workshop for about fifty mathematicians (and some engineers) regarding geometry in fluid problems. It was at the Oberwolfach Institute in the Black Forest, where Hansel and Gretel came upon a witch and a gingerbread house... Well, we did go on an excursion to place like in the picture, but no witches were encountered. It was pretty cool. You can see if you can find me in the group picture. This place was an excellent environment for exchange of ideas. You live like a guest. There's no locking of doors and they serve excellent meals, all the while you try to meet new people, which is sometimes a stretch for introverted math types. Did I mention there's super cheap beer and wine (and "schnappes?") all night which Francois, Shawn, Kathrin, myself, et al partook of?

Since I had a couple of days to kill, I decided to go to Zurich, visiting Switzerland for the first time. I recall Ryan and Matt went there some years ago and said it was cool.

Zurich of course had the narrow, windy, up and downhill streets I love about old cities, making a kind of maze of people, sights, sounds, smells, and cursing Americans (present company excluded, this time). I tried to rent a bike to explore more of the lake area, but they were sold out, so I just walked around the old town and the lake area. There must be something resembling a box canyon (like in Zion National Park) that makes me love those narrow streets so much. Or maybe its just the sheer density of human life, lived three and four stories high in close quarters. It's a welcome change from the urban sprawl along a grid-like pattern that I grew up with in Orange County.

Wandering about, I came across a few unexpected things. There were teddy bears all over the city, decorated teddy bears. And now I wait for my wife to arrive in Frankfurt tomorrow.