Saturday, September 21, 2013

DRT in Leuven: when the past comes to meet me

The DRT (Deformation mechanisms, Rheology and Tectonics) meeting is a conference organized every second year in a different city in Europe. This has been my first conference ever, when I was at the beginning of my PhD school, in 2005, in Zurich. Then I had to skip the following meeting, in Milan, because of the organ diploma. I went to Liverpool, in 2009. There was one in 2011 in Oviedo, but I was already in the meteorite impact research. After having sent tens of applications for a post-doc in geology and at the end being relocated to Brussels working on a complete different topic, I was sure to have definitively said "farewell" to structural geology and micro structural analysis. I was wrong! The DRT this year is in Leuven, 20 minutes by train: even for fun, I couldn't miss it!

A surprise waited for me. Although I asked a poster presentation, I had a talk. I've presented a side-project I was working on in Vienna, but my speech wasn't good. Amen! I was freezing in that room and I bit distracted by the feeling of being again among structural geologists, some known, some new. Many elders were not there, I don't know if because of contemporaneous fieldwork or teaching. I was the only italian, though my current affiliation is belgian. This was a bit sad. A professor that I met in 2006 remembered that I play organ. Well, this means that I didn't change much in these years, I'm still equally divided between my two great passions: geology and music.

The conference was, anyway, quite interesting. Not only for the state of art in the field, but also for the opportunity of talking of possible collaborations on what I'm working on now. Surprisingly, other geologists are interested in shock metamorphism! The conference has given me also the opportunity to visit Leuven, which was recommended as candidate for moving out of Brussels. The town is really beautiful, with gothic buildings, pedestrians areas, historical squares, and an old catholic university. But I cannot live there: as I was afraid of, the city is sized for students. It would be like living in Oxford. It's not for me, I'm too old for that. Anyway, it was nice to jump back in the past, enjoying travels by train and a conference in a nice, quiet and clean place. Hopefully this was also a glimpse of future.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wien bleibt Wien

I've recently discovered an Austrian author, Alfred Polgar, famous for his aphorisms. The title of this post is part of one of them: "Wien bleibt Wien - und das ist wohl das schlimmste, was man über diese Stadt sagen kann" that means: "Vienna remains Vienna and this is really the worst thing one can say about this city." Another one tells "Die Österreicher sind ein Volk, das mit Zuversicht in die Vergangenheit blickt“ that means "Austrians are people that look with confidence to the past". These two sentences summarize my feeling towards Vienna, while I was living there and now, after a short visit. Vienna is perfect, as always, even too much, as I've been complained before leaving, stuck in a happy past, ignoring the recent history, but this makes the city... a dream. That's the novel of my short dream a few weeks ago.

Saturday: departure.
Don't cry! This is what I've been repeating to myself since I booked the flight. I usually begin planning my journeys days in advance, but not this time. Whenever I tried to look at the subway map of Vienna I began crying again. Again! Like on the way back from Japan. This has to stop! This is why I've prepared my baggage one hour before leaving and I was at the airport 3.5 hrs earlier than the departure time! I was hungry, despite the crazy prices (€3,50 for a L 0.5 bottle of water?!) I looked for something to eat but I could take only sweets for I-don't-know-which-law that forbids selling sandwiches after a certain time. Cold air conditioning, noisy gate area,... STOP complaining on Brussels! I'm going to Vienna, I'll enjoy some days vacation in the place where I lived for 3 yrs and 1 month, I'll meet my dear friends, I'll hear again that sweet rural dialect (Wienerish)... Well, why am I so nervous then? Because I feel as Jasmine in the recent Woody Allen's blockbuster "Blue Jasmine" (if you don't understand what I mean, watch the movie!), but just because of me. Going again to Vienna will be like meeting again an ex-boyfriend, although I've never had one. I can't wait but, at the same time, I would escape the meeting.

Anyway, everything went smooth, the flight landed earlier than scheduled, my baggage was delivered sooner than in any other airport, the train was on time and, after a delicious Italian dinner with some dear friends, I've ended up riding a bike through the city and passing in front of my old flat. What a wonderful life I've had here and I didn't realize!

Sunday: soul and stomach
Early rise for the mass in my "old" church. The priest smiled when he recognized me again, at least this seemed to me. He didn't know, anyway, that mine was only a short visit. Lunch with friends with homemade "sugo alla puttanesca" and grilled vegetables. E.B. is a great cook indeed and a perfect host! The weather was... Belgian, probably I've brought it with me. We therefore stayed at home chatting and drinking coffee until dinner time, when we went to Grinzing for a glorious meal in a "Heuriger". Nice place! But it took a while to understand that "gebackene Fledermaus", literally baked bat, had nothing to do with the flying mammals, but rather a part of the beef. Then we went home on foot, enjoying the quiet Viennese night (more than 8 km). What a dreamy place for vacation (life is different, this is why I complained also when I lived here)!

Monday: papers
As I've been repeated so many times in this blog, bureaucracy was invented in Austria. I was really afraid to have to fight against that, but this didn't happen. Despite the mass of paperwork, still handwritten. In fact, in 10-15 minutes I was done in my former bank. For lunch I've met some of my former colleagues that are still in town. The humor and the long list of complains about the situation and Vienna didn't change. The whole afternoon flew on chatting and in the evening I had to run to catch the D tram, as in the old days, to reach other friends (from ItaliansOnLine) in Rathausplatz. Finally my stomach enjoyed again the so long dreamed Käsespätzle and the local beer. Last view of the shining viennese monuments in the clean Austrian night. Stop, or I'll start crying again!

Tuesday: again "adieu"?
Very last visit at the university for giving back the office key and then last brunch-lunch with my girlfriends, under the shadow of the U6 arches. Last shopping in a local store, last "farewell" to Vienna, last journey by S7 to the airport. It's time to wake up and cope the current life.

The Belgian welcome was a bit tough as always. The flight was about 20 minutes late, after walking for 15 minutes across the airport I had to wait further 15 minutes for the delivery of luggages. I've missed a train for a few seconds, luckily there was another one after only a quarter of hour. I took a bus and I walked to my place rather than crossing alone at 10 p.m. the South Station. The night view of Brussels is beautiful (you don't see the ugly buildings, only the nicest ones are illuminated), but why there is this unpleasant smell around? Please, don't tell me again that I should'n complain because Italy is worse! I'll do my best to forget the recent Austrian dream but I hardly believe I'll miss this place when I'll have to leave it. Anyway, who knows? Never say never.


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