Germany diary, day 4

Monday, 1 October, 2018

I was awake before the alarm and got up a bit before 07:00. After quickly getting dressed and ready, I left to walk to the Hauptbahnhof to catch a train to Horrem. I needed to work out how to get a ticket for the journey, and where to catch the train from, so I wanted to be there nice and early. The sun was only just beginning to brighten the sky before rising as I walked north in the cold morning air. I decided to walk along the river bank, and it was a very pleasant walk, watching the pre-dawn light on the river and the various boats.

Cologne Cathedral, early morning
Cologne Cathedral in dawn light

At the station I went first to the information desk as it was right there as I entered. I said to the man that I wanted to catch a train to Horrem, but I was obviously pronouncing it wrong as he didn’t understand the name until I’d repeated it with slightly different inflections several times. He told me to go to the ticket office and they would help me.

Walking into the ticket office, I saw signs for long distance and local trains. I figured Horrem was close enough to be local, so went there. Again I had pronunciation problems, because when I told the lady I wanted a ticket to Horrem, she said, “Rome?! You want the long distance counter!” I only managed to make her understand after a few more attempts, at which point she said, “Oh! Horrem!” – saying it in what I thought was exactly the same way I’d been saying it all along.

It turns out there’s no such thing as a return ticket here. You buy single fares, or an all-day ticket which is about three times as much, so no good for a single return trip. But there is a ticket which is four single fares, and you can use each fare whenever you want by stamping the ticket in the validation machines four times on separate occasions. So I got one of those, plus two single fare tickets, to cover travel for three days. It cost just over 30€ in total.

The next train to leave for Horrem was a regional express at 07:47. I went up to the platform and the train was waiting there. I got on and took a seat on the upper deck. It pulled out and whisked me thought the suburbs of Cologne, stopping at Erhenfeld, then into the countryside and on to the town of Horrem.

At Horrem station, I looked for somewhere to get some breakfast. The north side, where the Image Engineering building was, looked bare, but there were shops on the southern side. So I walked there first and bought a bread roll with gouda from a shop in the station ticket office. After mangling the German the woman who served me gave me a lesson in how to pronounce “gouda” – “GOW-da”. I ate the roll while walking through the chilly country air to Image Engineering.

The office is a brand new building, three storeys tall in an irregularly stepped back fashion. There was a printed sign stuck to the door in English saying to come up to the first floor, where I found the meeting room and many of the Japanese attendees already arrived. The room has a view across the rail line to a small hill covered in trees, which are just starting to turn yellow with the autumn.

View from Image Engineering
View from Image Engineering office towards Horrem station

The meeting went well, getting through the standards business for several proposed and revised standards. We broke a bit before lunch and Dietmar gave us a guided tour of the office, focusing on the image measurements labs on the ground floor, plus the test chart printing room and test equipment construction workshop. He said about fifty people work here. The labs were impressive, with a lot of fancy equipment and specialised lighting gear designed for testing various aspects of cameras. He showed us a robotic test bed for moving camera phones around, aiming them at various calibration and test charts. And there was a new piece of gear designed for testing automotive cameras, with test targets having flashing lights, and moving objects to occlude the targets, to test cameras for temporal artefacts, motion blur, and also at very wide angles. He also showed us the disabled bathroom, which they had to build into the building for legal requirements, but which they used as a room with a glass tank for testing cameras underwater, as well as a pressure tank for simulating underwater operation to depths up to 30 metres. Dietmar said when cameras failed the water pressure test it was often spectacular.

Image lab
Camera testing lab

After the tour we had lunch, which was catered for us. There was a large chafing dish of spaghetti bolognese, and another of grilled vegetables, mainly potato, zucchini, red capsicum. We also had coffee and tea supplied, plus a seemingly endless supply of German butter biscuits, some covered in chocolate.

Pasta lunch
Lunch at Image Engineering

During a break in the meeting I went outside to get some fresh air, as the meeting room was very warm and I could use some cooler air. I found Urabe-san outside smoking with another Japanese delegate. We chatted a bit and again he talked about the jacaranda trees in Sydney and how he loved the flowers. The temperature really was cold outside, but for a brief period a pleasant change from the warm office inside.

The afternoon session went a bit late, ending about 17:10. I’d arranged to meet M. from 17:30 at the tourist information office opposite the Cologne Cathedral, so I had to leave quickly so as to not be even later, given the train trip took about 20 minutes. I was packed and left before anyone else, and walked quickly to the station, arriving just a minute or so before an S-bahn arrived to take me back into Cologne.

Monkey riding the S-Bahn
Monkey riding the S-bahn

On the trip back I took a seat on this smaller single deck train. A few stops later an old couple got on and sat on the seats facing mine. The woman started talking to me, and I had to say I didn’t speak German. I said I was from Australia and she tried asking me questions but it was hard to understand what she was saying.

After we arrived back at the Hauptbahnhof, I went out to the square in front of the cathedral and found M. sheltering inside the tourist information office out of the cold. It had been raining a bit during the day, as I could see out of the meeting room windows, and M. said she had to shelter from the rain a bit during the day too.

Oma's Küche
Oma’s Küche

We were hungry so decided to go straight to Oma’s Küche for dinner, hoping we could get a table in the small restaurant that had been full on Saturday night. It was emptier, and we grabbed one of the rustic wooden tables. The menu was very traditional German home style cooking. Unfortunately, the “potato pancakes with apple sauce” that I’d spotted on the menu last night turned out to be just “apple pancake”, which we discovered was a different thing when it arrived – a flour pancake with thin slices of aplle embedded in the batter. To go with this order M. chose a side of “diverses gemüses” (various vegetables), which turned out to be just steamed broccoli. I had the sauerbraten with kartofellklossen. After deciding on her choice, M. dashed out to a nearby bakery to get some bread rolls to take back to the hotel for breakfast tomorrow. I ordered for her while she was out, but she came back within a few minutes.

Sauerbraten mit kartoffelkloße
Sauerbraten with kartofellklossen

I don’t think I’ve ever had sauerbraten before; it was slices of roast meat with a very dark sauce flavoured with vinegar and dried grapes. It was an interesting flavour. M. had a glass of Spätburgunder wine (Pinot noir), while I had a small glass of Gaffel Kölsch, getting a refill later on, in the local tradition of getting several small glasses rather than large glasses. M.’s pancake had thin slices of red apple in it, and came with a bowl of apple sauce and a small sugar bowl full of cinnamon. The serving size was not huge, so I had room for dessert, and decided to try the Pflaumenstreuselkuchen, plum crumble cake. The lady asked me if I wanted whipped cream, and I said sure, why not? It was served hot, and was very good.

Apfel pfannekuchen
Apple pancake

After dinner we walked south back to our hotel. It was before 20:00 so the shops were still open. We stopped in the LEGO shop to look around. I grabbed a couple of small packs of useful pieces, and then we spent quite a while building six custom minifigures from the bins of heads, hair pieces, torso, legs, and accessories that they had there for the purpose.

Then we walked back to the hotel to get an early night after a shower and brushing teeth.

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