Sunday, September 11, 2011

short study tour galore!

The past three days I have been on a short study tour to Glucksburg (in Germany) and Ribe (in Western Denmark) with my core Sustainability in Europe class.  We traveled by bus with a group of 22 students, our teacher, and our class coordinator. The following is a brief account of all the exciting points of the trip.

Day 1 (Glucksburg, Germany)

We started our trip with a 4 hour bus ride to Glucksburg, Germany where we visited Artefact: The Centre for Appropriate Technology and International Development, where we met our awesome tour guide Verne. The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the application of economically viable, ecologically and socially appropriate technologies for sustainable development. We actually stayed at the guest house on site, which was completely run on renewable energy sources (mainly solar, wind, and biogas). The site was very educational and attracts visitors to Germany's first "Energy Park," where visitors can view and participate in hands-on demonstrations of the energy technologies.

Artefact guest house

wind turbine at Artefact

After exploring the facilities at Artefact, we headed off for a guided tour of Glucksburg Castle. The castle was named after the motto of the Duke Johann the Younger, which states "Gott gebe Gluck mit frieden" (God grant happiness with freedom). The castle is also Germany's largest "water" castle and one of the most significant family houses in Northern Europe, housing at one time a future Danish King (Christian IX) and members of the Norwegian and Greek royal houses.

Glucksburg Castle

We once again returned to Artefact for a bonfire with friends and more time for exploring the energy park. This allowed the chance to bond as a class and visit with the two pigs also housed there.

Day 2 (Glucksburg, Germany and Ribe, Denmark)

farm showing solar, wind, and biogas resources
We started off the day with trips to various renewable energy installations in the area. The first stop was to a farm that employed solar, wind, and biogas energy sources. The excrement from the 110 cows housed on the property is mixed with corn and burn to power a turbine, which then produces electricity. This electricity is then used on the farm to power everything, sold back to the grid, or used by neighbors to heat their farms. The farm also produced electric cars and motorcycles, as well as pedal bicycles with back-up engines for a "little help pedaling uphill."
electric car

We next stopped at a solar farm, which consisted of hundreds of solar panels spread out in a large field. The solar panels rotate with the sun to capture the largest amount of sunlight possible, no matter what time of day. Having the panels rotate actually produces 70% more energy than stationary panels, producing a total of 800 kW of energy!

Kai, Katie, me, and Marissa with solar panels

turbine installation

The next stop was very cool, and something that not everyone gets to see in the lifetime. We went to an installation of a wind turbine. When we were there, only the support tower and motor was in place, while the blades lay on the ground in all their 60 meter long splendor. The amazing part of the process is that local families (about 150 total) paid for the turbine to be installed, which will produce 2.5 MW of energy.

After we had our fill of energy installations, we headed off to Ribe for a guided tour of the Ribe Cathedral. The building itself had a splendid exterior and houses the most glorious pipe organ I have ever seen. I only wish I could have heard it played. The decorations in the cathedral ranged from very traditional to very modern. The modern art works were done by Carl Henning Pederson from 1983 to 1987 and are in stark contrast with the historic nature of the cathedral. The paintings still to this day are a source of controversy among locals.

controversial modern art
impressive pipe organ at cathedral

We then had time to explore the little town of Ribe in small groups. We stopped at historic places like the Tower Fortress, Viking marketplace, and the old City Hall. We also got a chance to stroll the tiny, romantic streets of the town and take in the picturesque houses along the way. And if there is one thing I can say about DIS, it is that they treat their students well. After walking around Ribe we went to a very expensive restaurant for dinner. We were served salmon appetizers, a main course of veal with vegetables, and a dessert of Crème brûlée. We then had a complementary cider tasting in the restaurant's bar.

a romantic street in Ribe
Day 3 (Ribe, Denmark)

On our final day of the study tour we spent time at the Wadden Sea Center. The area is famous for its rich flora and fauna and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the Sea's importance for migratory birds. All different types of birds visit the low tidal marshes of the Wadden Sea to rest and eat up for their coming migrations. One of the bird species that we saw there was getting ready to fly for West Africa for the winter season. We also got a chance to wade in the water and use nets to catch small shrimp, fish, crabs, and mussels. All of these organisms are vital to the ecology of the area and the migratory birds resting there. 

me in my fishing gear
the Wadden Sea
Besides the interesting and educational visits, my favorite part of the study tour was getting to know my fellow classmates. The bonding that occurred during 10+ hours of bus time and late nights chatting at our hostels was unbelievable. I felt that before the study tour, no one in our class really knew each other and were hesitant to socialize. But after this experience, I am eager to get back to class tomorrow and catch up with all my new friends.

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