I have done enough in the last week and a half to write about ten blog entries, but that's not going to happen, so I'll try to squish things into just this one measly (but VERY LONG) entry. First, here's a summary of my "state of being" right now:
I am ELATED because I successfully submitted my Russian visa application this morning and will be issued a visa on June 7th and can fly to Moscow on June 8th. There was only one minor glitch - the consulate official made me fill out an additional application in German (exactly the same as my application in English, but with German questions, hmmm...) and submit both applications. I was happy to do it. In fact, I was so desperate to get the visa that I probably would have licked his shoes if he had asked me to.
I am EXHAUSTED from all the traveling. I was in 4 different new places over the course of ~8 days and am wiped out from all the movement. I was beginning to feel like I'm too old for this kind of travel (yuck, I hate pulling the age card), but I think the real reason for the excessive exhaustion is that the travel was mostly "work"-related and not my usual touristing.
I am SICK, which is no surprise because of all the travel and sleep deprivation (and perhaps some alcohol-drinking :). What pushed me over the edge was that on my first day back in Leipzig (Tuesday) I couldn't resist an invitation to pub quiz night at McCormack's, which got me drunk and kept me out late. But I won a Guinness t-shirt, so it was definitely worth it. For the next three days you will find me in bed in said t-shirt.
But most of all, I am OVERWHELMED by all of the things I've done and seen in the last week and a half, the new places I've been, but mostly by the new people I've met and the new information they've given me, especially regarding future research/career directions. I'll be processing this information for some time to come.
Now for pictures from my travels. Each place really deserves its own blog write-up, but I can only muster up mini-blurbs for now.
First, Italia. You can find Bologna in the center of Italy, in the northern part of the country.
Bologna is a bustling Italian city with lots to see, but I spent most of my time in a monastery on a mountaintop perched above Bologna. This is because the course on culture and genomics was held in a building that is part of a former monastery.
Here's a view from atop the mountain:
And a fresco in the monastery church:
And here's proof that I was in the center of Bologna for a bit. The main piazza during the day...
and at night:
While I got to indulge in scrumptious pasta, gelato, and wine, it was mostly a "work" trip. Lots of networking and thinking about solving interdisciplinary problems in genetics and linguistics.
From Bologna I flew to the Netherlands to visit the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen. Besides meeting cool people with whom I conjured up new research ideas, I don't have much to report and even less to show (that is, no pictures -- sorry). But I can at least show you where Nijmegen is on a map (it's in the east, close to the German border).
On Friday afternoon I took a train from Nijmegen to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is full of bikes, tourists, and canals. I was only there for about 12 hours, but I tried to make the most of it by renting a bike at the train station and biking around the city, stopping briefly near the Red Light District for this photo:
There was no time for scandalous activities during my 12 hours in Amsterdam. Not that I'd blog about it, if there were :)
Finally, I ended up in Mainz and the surrounding areas of Rhineland for the weekend (via train from Amsterdam to Mainz Saturday morning). You can find Mainz on the map near the little airplane by Frankfurt, in the southwestern corner of the country.
In Mainz, I visited my friend Verena, who I met traveling in 2008. Verena, her fiancé and her parents were absolutely amazing hosts. They took me to local wineries in Rhineland (Germany's wine country), on a tour of Mainz (which is one of the oldest cities in Germany, settled initially by the Romans!), and on a hike + boat ride in the Rhine gorge area.
At the Gröhl winery:
Excursion around the Rhine Gorge near Rüdesheim:
OK, am I allowed to rest for a few days now?