Austria and Italy 
Tuesday, September 22, 2015, 07:40 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
I took a work trip over to Europe to re-energize a collaborative DER interoperability research program. Luckily, I got a little time away from conference rooms and labs to explore, drink a few beers, and get my fill of doner kebaps.

In Vienna, I climbed the St. Stephen's Cathedral on my first day in town, did a few days of work, and then toured the Belvedere and Schloss Schonbrunn - palaces from the Austro-Hungarian Empire era. The palaces were incredible structures and were surrounded by immaculate, immense grounds. Interestingly, the power from the Habsburg House was primarily gained through marriage as opposed to war (e.g., Emperor Francis II of Austria married of his first daughter, Marie Louise, to Napoleon); but I got to hand it to Franz Joseph I, he makes a nice home for himself!


St. Stephen's Cathedral Platz


Belvedere - Side A

Belvedere - Side B

Schloss Schonbrunn maze

One of the highlights of the trip was being hosted by the Governor of Vienna to a stunning dinner at city hall. They led us up 3 flights of stairs with a red carpet stretching up the middle into a large room with 4 massive chandeliers, handed everyone a glass of champagne, and wined and dined us all evening - and then the entertainment showed up: a couple who performed a few ballroom dances for the audience.


Wien City Hall



Researchers celebrating the completion of a good project

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After Vienna I flew to Milan and caught a late train to Lecco. My tight 45 min layover in Munich was shortened to 20 minutes and I had to sprint to make the door. "Mr. Johnson, please come to Gate 27, we are closing the doors." Needless to say, my bag didn't make it, and I didn't have any luggage for the next 48 hours.

Nevertheless, I made do with my free, very rainy Sunday to tour Lake Como by boat. As luck would have it, my Japanese colleagues had the same idea and we shared the day together. The boat hopped from town to town, but we only stopped off at Bellagio and Como. Bellagio was particularly spectacular - perched on the tip of the peninsula on steep cliffs. The rain made all the cobblestone streets glisten and there was something very charming about all the people working together to adjust their umbrella heights to squeeze past one another on the narrow walkways.








After the smart grid communications workshop, I had a free day. Originally I was going to do one or two Via Ferratas (Gamma 1 probably), but it was pouring rain, so I headed down to Milan. At least there, I could play tourist and check out the Duomo and EXPO. The Cathedral was the most impressive I've ever seen in Europe (Take that Paris and Cologne), perhaps because you could walk up onto the roof and see the architectural marvels up close.





The EXPO is a modern day version of the World's Fair and Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life Theme was particularly tasty. I got some Bangladeshi curry and momos for dinner and washed it down with a BeerLao. The exhibits (and queues) ranged wildly for each host country. The US wasn't stunning but the high-ropes course for Brazil was wildly popular. The Middle Eastern countries with money, created elaborate facilities, but the poorer countries in Africa, and South and Central America didn't do much more than put up a few museum exhibits. I did learn a lot about food around the world, but I think the most interesting thing I saw goes to Estonia for their national sport of Kiiking; basically standing on a rigid swing and flipping over the hinged point!



The following day, I visited the RSE lab to discuss the experiments we're running in collaboration with them. Maurizio was kind enough to go out to dinner with me and show me the Navigli District - where the Leonardo da Vinci-designed canals transported stone to the cathedral for centuries.



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