Monday, September 25, 2006

Back in the Everlasting city

Germany, oh Germany... Happy to be back in Madrid! It was like going back home but with all the little things I dislike there, for instance, everything had to be organized sharply to the last second and if you don't follow the rules, you're in trouble (yeah, for me it's like looking in the mirror, right, Steph?). But how can you follow the rules when you have all the wonderful people around? I am so happy I met the European "trafficking community". They made the meeting so great. We were drinking like crazy, going to sleep everyday early in the morning, yet ready for the talks after just four hours of sleep.
We flew there with the Chilean company called LAN, they fly from Santiago de Chile through Madrid to Frankfurt/Main. So we boarded the plane for the last 1/10th of the flight. Surprisingly, we got real metal cutlery and glass cups! There was a woman in front of me who accidentally broke the glass, so there were sharp pieces of glass everywhere, how weird. We got to Frankfurt safely, but the place where the meeting was taking place was another 200 km away! So we had to take a bus to a former US military base, now an international airport in Frankfurt-Hahn and a cab from there to Zell/Mosel. How confusing to have two places called Frankfurt, don't you think? Well, we knew about it, but the Ian Moore's group didn't and they took a cab from the other one and at the end they paid like 200€. The meeting was in a former monastery on the top of the hill, so it was pretty challenging to get there after our visits in the pubs downhill in the village.
The last day we left the place around 10am and our flight was in the night, so we had the whole day to explore Frankfurt. We decided to test the reliability of Deutsche Bahn and we bought a ticket for a small regional train from that small village to Koblenz, where we changed to an Eurocity high-tech train to Mainz and then an Intercity (ICE) high-speed train to Frankfurt/Main. It was like going through a century in 2 hours. Those ICE trains are so cute! In Frankfurt, we did some shopping for Enrique's kids and ate real Frankfurter sausages. The flight back was delayed for two hours, apparently the plane from the day before didn't leave due to some technical difficulties and we were not told anything and the LAN people were not helping too much, well... originally I was impressed how good the service was on the way to Germany and I had to change my mind after the round trip.
Yesterday, it was a special night here, La noche en blanco, synchronized with four other European capitals. The museums were open till 2am and there were other activities around the city till 6am. Unfortunately, everywhere we went (I joined the Ecuadorians again), there were long lines and we didn't see anything but the half of Madrid in the streets. At least we had a wonderful dinner.
Today, I went to Museo del Prado, I wanted to see the "Pinturas negras", the Black paintings by Goya. It's an amazing experience. Next time, I will buy a comprehensive guide, the museum is so big, you can see it in little pieces only. Then I saw there was an exhibition of modern architecture in Spain in Real Jardin Botanico, so I spent some time there as well. As soon as I have some ID for the institute, this place should be free for me as an employee of CSIC.

Monday, September 18, 2006

El Viajero

My first real week here just passed. Getting to the lab is a piece of cake. My apartment is close to a train station called Recoletos from which there are three different lines going in the campus direction, lucky me. I am just waiting at the platform and basically whatever comes, I can board. The trains are packed at the rush hours but very clean and nice. BTW, those are the trains that were bombed an they go underground in tunnels through the city. Many people leave the trains at the Nuevos Ministerios station and then at the Chamartín station, so when we approach Cantoblanco-Universidad station, the trains are not so full anymore. Enrique told me that they had built the campus so far away from the city, because Franco was afraid of student protests and that place was surrounded by military camps. No matter what was the reason, it takes me about 40 minutes by train and additional 20 minutes by walk to get from my house to my new lab. Welcome in Europe! The institute is cool, Mien knows what I am talking about. The lab next door (No. 317) is full of great people, it's a truly international lab: Bruce is from Scotland, Sandra is from Portugal and Govi from Ecuador. In my lab, which is No. 316, we have an Italian PhD student called Marco. I went out with Marco and Govi and her friends (three Ecuadorian boys, one girl from Basque country and one girl from Madrid) on Friday. First, we went to a "poetry" place, where they served basically only sangria and the walls were decorated by verses from different poets. Kind of a cool place, too much smoke though, because the pub is in a deep basement. Surprisingly for me, that was the only place so far that was really smoky, the other places usually have a good ventilation so I don't stink like a smoked salmon after, even though people still smoke like crazy here. Then we went to a place called Alhambra, where they played rock en español. Then something to eat - unfortunately, we were a large group and we couldn't find a place that would accommodate us all, so we ended up in a kebab place. These cheap kebab restaurants are like everywhere here! Then one more bar, where we danced like crazy but after that it's kind of blurry, LOL, we got really drunk. Fortunately, it's easy for me to get back to my place safely, because I really live downtown!
On Saturday, I had to do some laundry and I had to take my stuff like 15 minutes walking from my place because the laundromat in my complex is open only during the weekdays and only from 10-19 when I am in the lab or on the way home, that sucks. But the public laundromat I discovered is pretty clean and straightforward and the machines and dryers are way better that in my place and it's on the border of Chueca so the customers are cute, I cannot complain. Just it takes some time to get there, LOL. Then Ruben, a friend of Antonio, called me and we went out with his roommate and that was nice, too. We had a long conversation (in English, of course) about Spain and democracy and all the changes that this country is going through right now and also about the mysterious royal family. Also, Ruben's roommate told me that all the places I went on Friday are stupid places for tourists, it was funny, well, I guess I am a tourist here then. Well, it was past 1 am when we left the dinner place and me and Ruben were going for a drink to another dark and filthy place.
I slept till the afternoon today, I guess that I am getting used to the late lunch, the ultra late dinner and the hyper late going-to-sleep time.
I am going to Germany for a conference with Enrique tomorrow, it's a workshop about protein trafficking in Zell am Mosel that is in a Riesling wine country. We have a wine tasting scheduled for one of the evenings.