Adventure 21 – Murree, Pakistan

I’m home in Murree.

But I call many places home and yet have no real home. That’s the life of a third culture kid (TCK). It’s a blessing and a curse.

Home status: it’s complicated.

But I am back and it is really good. Good not in the awesome or sweet sense, but in the true good sense. It is good to be home.

I’m in Pakistan as my brother is graduating from high school next week and my parents will be going back to Germany only days later. It’s a big move after 18 years in the country.

It’s also a big goodbye for me as my home here dissolves with their departure.

Understandably I could write a lot more than a blog post about the place I grew up. Yet today I’m just going to tell the story of my visit.

Side note: if you are interested in more of the back story, stay tuned for the coming episode of Breadcrumbs. Sean and I will be musing about the good old days of growing up together here in Pakistan.

On Monday I went into downtown Murree with my friend Joshua, who was brave enough to come along to Pakistan. We hitched a ride with the nearest Suzuki heading that way. As all the seats inside were taken, we rode on the side as the locals do (picture below)

We walked up through the Murree bazaar and bought some dried apricots and a three dollar watch at one of the garage-sized stores. For lunch we ate at the Al Maida restaurant. A classic Sunday lunch destination and a family favorite.

This sight is commonplace here. Roads are tight and correct parking is enforced by forklift.

Murree is at over 2000 m altitude. The view can be magnificent. After walking to Kashmir Point and the Governor’s house we took the steep road down to Jhika Gali (pictured below).

From there we caught a ride back home. For me it was just a normal day out. For Joshua it was quite the novel adventure.

Stay tuned for more of Pakistan next week.

Adventure 20 – The MUBA

A cool thing about studying my Masters in Basel is the mix of people I get to study with: architects, scenographers, industrial designers, and fashion designers.

Sophie is one of said fashion designers and currently has an exhibition at the Mustermesse Basel (MUBA), a consumer fair. It was a good destination this week as I was curious about her work and the fair in general.

Her pieces play with the beauty of electronic components, using them as ornaments rather than hiding them as we see more commonly in consumer tech. Above I am listening to the recordings that play from the pieces upon pulling a cord.

It’s odd interacting with a “painting” like this – but that’s the point. To challenge our perceptions of tech, fashion, and art. Technology doesn’t have to be invisible. It doesn’t have to be pragmatic.

The rest of the fair was also good. Two highlights were seeing the Tesla Model X for the first time and chatting with an Uber rep for a while. Especially after the most recent episode of Breadcrumbs.

Adventure 19 – Zell im Wiesental

This is the view from one of my favorite spots near where I live.

It’s not the best view I’ve ever seen, but there’s something about sitting on bench there in front of an old chapel (not in view) up on the side of a hill that makes it special in a different way. It’s a great place to sit and think.

That is exactly what I needed.

I’ve been under the weather the past week. Which I wouldn’t mind so much if it wouldn’t affect my disposition and generally inhibit my ability to think straight.

The wooziness of a cold can make mountains out of molehills. All the more reason to get out to a spot like this. I took a packed lunch and spent the afternoon there. It was well worth it.

Hope this passes and the weather picks up so I can do more outside adventures around here.

Adventure 18 – Rome

Yes, I flew to Rome. And it was awesome. What’s more, only one weekend before, I had no idea I’d be doing this. Europe is great for that.

I love big cities and their horizon-altering architecture. Rome was no different.

It started with me coming home late on Tuesday, thinking of the coming weekend and all I’ve got on my plate right now. “I need to get out, to get away from this all” was the stinging urge inside me. Not 30 minutes later I had booked my flights.

Why Rome? It snowed here last Wednesday! Rome was 10°C warmer. And come on, it’s Rome!

The Colosseum was as impressive as they say and then some. And I couldn’t pass up the Photo opportunity, as cliche as it is.

The Rome trip was also marked by great food. What impressed me most was the quality of the bread, and I’m German. I didn’t have a bad piece of bread while I was there, and that included a side-of-the-road-truck sandwich and airport pizza.

Espresso was also great. Not across the board, but Italian espresso has spoilt espresso for me. Top food experience was spagetti at Da Francesco. This was something else entirely. Got the tip from an Italian friend.

And of course some really cool ancient stuff. Perhaps even more interesting than the Colosseum is the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. Next time I’d get more of a tour here, as there isn’t so much information on site and the rubble doesn’t speak for itself.

This has to be my favorite spot in all of Rome, view-wise. It’s a corner of the Palatine Hill.

Best part of the trip though was meeting Drew and Zeynep form Istanbul and then spending an evening with a group of Italian friends who had found and returned Drew’s lost wallet. We met at an out of the way Pizza place.

It goes without saying that the food was superb. But what I appreciated much more is the welcoming nature of a group of friends and the very unlikely get-together of three travel groups of four nationalities all because someone did the right thing and returned a wallet to its owner.

PS: I talked about this trip on the latest episode of Breadcrumbs (to be released this Friday 5.5.2017). You can find that here.

Adventure 17 – Hello Robot

This week my sister came by for a visit. We went to the Hello Robot exhibition at the Vitra museum in Weil am Rhein. It’s a great collection of robots and modern automated gadgets and poses the question of what robots mean for the future of humanity.

This here is the robot that will annihilate us humans if it ever gets AI.

This is the BlabDroid, an innocent cute robot that goes around asking personal questions and films people’s answers. It successfully demonstrates how willing we are to open up to a cute machine about things we’d seldom share even with friends. This baseless trust we display is telling. I can see this leading to the evaporation of privacy because it’s only things watching us not people. Is that a good thing?

And here’s a selfie from under the Elytra Filament Pavilion. It’s a robot assembled Pavilion that is only a start at what is to come of intelligent robot assembled architecture and design.

And remember: friends don’t unfriend friends. On that note, when did friend become a verb? And why does friend becoming a verb coincide with it losing so much of its meaning?

Adventure 16 – A Surprise Visit

After Úll I dropped by my brother in Belfast for a surprise visit.

A mutual friend of ours colluded with me to set up the reveal. He picked me up and I stayed at his place after arriving at midnight. He had innocently invited my brother and a couple unassuming friends for breakfast – pancakes of course.

The surprise was a success and I enjoyed the two days I had there before heading back.

Adventure 15 – Úll

Úll 2017 was great. Not just good but really good.

Úll is an Apple/Tech/Design conference in Ireland. It was a couple weeks ago as I’m writing this but is still a fresh memory. I met many great people and had a lot of good conversations. In truth that’s the true value in conferences and get togethers: meeting like-spirited people1 to be inspired, encouraged and challenged by.

Úll is great for that because it’s built up a reputation as a quality conference and so attracts a wide range of people you wouldn’t see at your normal tech conference. I mean, I’m a mechanical engineer! What was I doing there? Learning about cool stuff with awesome people. And that’s always worth it.

And it’s beautiful too. Loved it at the Europe. Was the last time there. Excited to see what the Úll team have in store for us next year.

  1. I say like-spirited because it’s not the like minded people that can help us most. They may be the most comfortable to be around but will never challenge our status quo.

Adventure 14 – Oberweisbach

This week I cheated. Sort of. My trip to Oberweisbach was partly work related. I went there to learn more about origami for my Master thesis. I had fun and met great people.

But a trip isn't all work, even if time spent at the destination is. And even if it's work, I can still appreciate some good views and getting to travel.

First surprise was this odd thing.

It's a cable railway and probably the oldest piece of transportation I've used. The Oberweisbacher Bergbahn is almost 95 years old.

There are two carriages on either end of a cable, one at the bottom of the hill and one at the top. Like a pulley system, as one lowers the other rises. Clever system really.

A view from the top. The maximum incline is 25%.

This here is a castle nearby. Believe me, it's massive. The left building is also huge, but only the armory. Upon reopening later this year it is to house the largest collection of historic armor and weapons in the world. That and a nearby cycling route may make it worth a second visit.

Adventure 13 – Gersbach and Wind Turbines

Yes! This Sunday I went on a solid 3h bike ride with a friend. We cycled up almost 600 meters to Gersbach which made for a fast and fun decent on the way home.

Here's a view from about half way up.

Only a couple months ago wind turbines were installed by Gersbach.

We decided to take a closer look.

These things are truly impressive. They had a 115m rotor diameter and were over 200 meters high in total. They look so innocent from afar, but the speed of the rotor tip is over 30m/s.

Overall it was remarkably easy cycling uphill with the racing bike. But greater than the ease was the pleasure. It's a totally different feel. Am sure this won't be my last trip if this kind.

Adventure 12 – the Dreiländereck

This week I took my new set of wheels out for a spin. It was already late Saturday afternoon, not even an hour before sunset, but I knew it would do me good. I was tired too, but the kind of tired that sitting at home won't fix.

I loved it. My racing bike weighs less than half of the old one and is so much fun to ride. I was flying at first. But I don't (yet?) have the endurance to keep up that pace.

Rivers are beautiful too. I had never been at the point where the Wiese runs into the Rhein. It was great, especially with the red evening skies.

Just north is the Dreiländereck. That is where France, Switzerland, and Germany meet. It's also a nice spot with a landmark and bridge to France just north.

I'm sure this is only only the first trip with many still to come.