European rail trip, part 5: Amsterdam and home by ferry

Exploring AmsterdamTypical Amsterdam

On my first morning in Amsterdam, I decided after a brief walk around the centre to take a boat trip around some of the many canals. This was well worth the €15, firstly for different viewpoint afforded by the boat, but also the captain and guide was knowledgeable, pointing out and explaining things in addition to the standard multi-lingual commentary.

In addition to the canals, the city is famous for cycling. So I hired a bike for 24 hours from Black Bikes, and explored a lot of the city on it. This was definitely one of the other highlights of the trip. Cycling around Amsterdam was such a different experience to the UK.
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European rail trip, part 4: Overnight to Köln

SchlafwagenI still had an hour or so to wait once I finished my meal, but thanks to the information on Seat61, I knew I was allowed to make use of the 1st class lounge with my sleeper ticket. So I sat with my free glass of wine and nibbles, watched the world go by, and caught up on the latest news.

I have travelled several times on the Caledonian Sleeper train between Inverness and London, and I find it a comfortable and enjoyable way to travel. The motion of the train gently rocking you to sleep, then waking up in the morning in a completely different place.
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European rail trip, part 3: Vienna and the conference

I had arrived in Wein Westbahnhof at 20:30, found the subway, bought a ticket, then boarded a train. Before we departed, crowds of football fans piled into the carriage, shouting and singing. Without knowing the language, I could tell their team had won. They were jumping up and down, rocking the train somewhat. In doing so, one of the fans must have hit the emergency lever, for as no sooner had the subway train started it lurched to a halt. The third emergency stop that day. Once the driver found and reset the offending lever, we were on our way without further incident.

The conference was held in the Austria Centre Vienna, located on the northeastern bank of the Danube, locally called the Donau. The next morning, I decided rather than take the subway two stops, I would walk across the Donau to the conference centre. It is a truly massive river, and remarkably fast flowing. The main channel is about 300m wide with a secondary channel for recreation and flood relief of about half that. Wikipedia gives an average discharge of 1900m³/s at Vienna, which would fill the FloWave tank in just over a second!

Donau von der Reichsbrücke
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European rail trip, part 2: Zürich and through the Alps

Zürich

My first impression of Zürich, as I made my way from the train through the crowds, was not what I expected.

A loud explosive bang rattled the station. Travellers of all nationalities looked round to see the source, but there did not seem to be any major panic, flames, or smoke. As there was no reason for me to wait in the station, I made my way towards the main entrance, and out into the sunshine. [1]Despite searching online over the next couple of days, I was not able to find anything about the noise, so didn’t think much more of it. I have now learned that a Romanian man climbed onto the roof of a train, and was electrocuted. Despite attempts to resuscitate, he died at the scene.

Stepping out into the sunshine, I was greeted by something more like I was expecting. A picture postcard city. Extremely tidy, but lots of colour and interesting architecture. There was blossom on the trees, many flags fluttering in the breeze, enhanced by the bright spring sunshine. I walked along the banks of the Limat river, and up an immaculate cobbled street to my hotel.

Cruising on the Limmat
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Notes/References   [ + ]

1. Despite searching online over the next couple of days, I was not able to find anything about the noise, so didn’t think much more of it. I have now learned that a Romanian man climbed onto the roof of a train, and was electrocuted. Despite attempts to resuscitate, he died at the scene.

European rail trip, part 1: introduction and Paris

Once I knew that I had been accepted to present my poster at the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna, I started to think about how to travel there. I’ve never been a big fan of airports, and the associated security palaver. So my first stop was of course the excellent Seat61.com, which shows that overland travel by rail was possible and not a ridiculous idea. I began to plan the trip.

Right from the start, I knew I wanted to travel through the Alps. This meant a stop over in Zürich, plus changing trains in Paris. I thought it would be nice to spend a couple of nights in each, to give me at least a full day to explore. I decided to return by one of the alternatives suggested on Seat61, the overnight sleeper train to Köln. Originally, my plan was to return via Brussels and back through the Channel Tunnel, but then realised that the Amsterdam–Newcastle ferry was not that expensive, and gave me the opportunity to visit that city so famous for its cycling.

My eventual route involved 8 trains, 1 ferry, and 2 connecting buses, covering 4430km over 51hours. OK, so it may not be as fast as flying, but part of the joy of travel is the journey. And it meant I got to visit 5 European cities instead of just one.

Vienna Trip Map
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First research outputs

I have been working towards the first outputs from my research, which will be at a couple of academic conferences this year.

Firstly, I will be presenting a poster at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2015 in Vienna, on the work we have been doing on “Wave-current interactions at the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility”. This will be in Session NP7.3 on Wednesday 15th April, just in case you happen to be there, do drop by and say hello. I feel slightly intimidated to be presenting as part of a session on non-linear physics of wave-current interactions, as this is not my speciality by any means. But hopefully people will be interested by the potential for interesting research at FloWave, as this is more what I have concentrated on.

The other main piece of work I have been busy with is a paper for the European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (EWTEC), in Nantes this September. This is on the initial characterisation and spatial variability of the currents generated at FloWave. Again, I think the interesting and novel aspect of this topic is more focussed on the facility, rather than my analysis, but I have got a good chunk of data to present and discuss.

More details to follow once I have finished this work, and actually get to publicly present it. So far I’ve only had to present the outline of my work at an internal event, which hardly counts as a proper academic grilling!


2014 in numbers

Over the past year I have walked approximately 4.15 million steps, covering 2 600 km, and I cycled a further 2 750 km. In between, I have taken over 6 000 photos and I’m not sure how many hours of video. It is quite interesting to look back on the year past with some data, although I don’t have much from previous years to compare it to.
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Mapping the developing world

As part of the OpenStreetMap project, there is a humanitarian aspect, producing maps of the less developed parts of the world. These can be used for both disaster recovery, as was demonstrated after the Haiti earthquake, but also for preparedness in areas of flood or disease risk.

Maps are knowledge. They are required to coordinate (often scarce) resources in the event of a disaster or epidemic. And OSM is making these freely available to everyone everywhere, in the same way that Wikipedia is democratising knowledge.

Over the past few years, I have contributed to a number of the tasks organised by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), mapping various areas of Africa and Indonesia.
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2014 in photos

Rather than put together another list of top photos from the year, I though I’d do something a bit different, and remember some of the interesting trips and events by the photos I took.

I saw in the New Year in Edinburgh, although avoiding the street party. I went up to Calton Hill with my flatmate Ali and some friends, before returning to a rather good night at the Tollbooth Tavern.

2014 Fireworks

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