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24 September 2012 @ 02:19 pm
Engineering Multi-Agent Systems (mostly a visit to Bernkastel-Kues)  
Over the summer I attended another Dagstuhl Workshop on Engineering Multi-Agent Systems.

Cheap alcohol and chocolate were as abundant as ever.

The workshop organisers were, it seems, regularly berated for our failure to arrive for meals on time, and sit in our appointed places. It is possible we also lingered too long over afternoon coffee and cakes. They had a slightly hunted looks by the end of the week.

The schloss was over-booked and so in the run-up to the worksohp we were all asked to nominate room-mates. One pair of researchers, who have been partners for as long as I've known them, at least a decade, were told they could not share (though we suspect, since one of them was getting the room for free, this had more to do with the rigidity of the accounting process than a concern for the morality of the situation). I ended up sharing with a colleague from Liverpool, and two researchers from Bologna also ended up sharing.

For some reason, having met up at Frankfurt airport, we delegated communicating with the Taxi to the men from Bologna rather than my colleague (who actually spoke some German). This was perhaps particularly foolish since they had already accidentally taken a train from the airport to Frankfurt-Main - and then back again. The results were not optimal and involved a good deal of waiting at a small train station in the middle of nowhere. On the way back we had an incident where it appeared that German train ticket machines would not sell tickets to Italians, but eventually we discovered this was because Italians do not, apparently, feel the necessity to state a destination when purchasing train tickets.

My talk went better than it did last time when it took me nearly an hour to get through 7 slides while engaged in "fruitful discussion" with the audience. This time the talk was really a mixture of random points, but several were picked up and raised again by other people later in the workshop, so I felt that was a success.

I'd been going to share my talk with my colleague, since there wasn't space in the schedule for her to give a presentation. However we abandoned the idea when the organisers had to shorten all the talks on Wednesday morning in order to squeeze in the talks originally planned for Wednesday afternoon. It transpired that having talks on a Wednesday afternoon was unthinkable and coaches were ordered to take us all to Bernkastel-Kues, an infeasibly pretty town whose sole raison d'etre would appear to be selling wine to tourists.

The ruined castle on the hill above the town.

Across the river is an old people's home which, our guide proudly told us, had stood there since before Columbus's discovery of America. In Columbus's day the residents were allowed two jugs of wine per day. Nowadays they are only allowed a single glass.

This little locked box was where the key for winding the night watchman's clock was kept. The idea appears to have been that the nigh watchman had to walk from lock box to lock box, continually winding his clock so that the town officials knew he had done his rounds and not merely sat around drinking the excellent Riesling produced by the many local vineyards. We felt there was a flaw in this plan since said nightwatchman could just sit by the first box, drinking to his heart's content and winding his clock up every so often. However, a little googling reveals that there were special night watchman clocks which came with a set of keys and would record the time each key was used, so as long as there is a different key in each location the man would have to visit them all.

All of Bernkastel's streets are decorated with vines.

All the vines are someone's responsibility and are allocated by little plaques on the wall next to the vine. This one is looked after by Margaret.

Not every site in Bernkastel-Kues has something to do with wine. The marks on this building show the level of the Moselle floods and their dates.

A wall painting commemorating the notable incident where the Archbishop of Trier was healed from a serious illness by drinking wine from one of the vineyards surrounding the town. This wine became known as the Doctor wine...

... which can be sampled at the associated Doctor Wine tavern where this happy (and presumably healthy) bucket sits in the boughs of an ancient Wisteria.

The wibbly-wobbly building in the background is the oldest building in Bernkastel-Kues. It was built to minimize ground floor area, for tax reasons. It was also, conveniently, a bar...

... with a "tasting menu". From left to right we have a dry Riesling from the Weisentstein winery, 2004 vintage, a fruity dry Riesling from the Kardinalsberg winery, 2007 vintage, a dry, bitter Riesling from the Weisenstein winery, 2008 vintage, and a dry racy Riesling from the Kardinalsberg winery, 2009 vintage.

This is us, plus the men from Bologna and a bonus Frenchman and Brasilian.

This is the official workshop photo, wisely taken just before they shipped us all off to the town where tourists go to drink wine.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/77145.html.
lukadreaminglukadreaming on September 24th, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
Splendid write-up! You get to go to the best workshops/conferences in intriguing places ...!
louisedennislouisedennis on September 24th, 2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
It's useful to remember that all the travel is, in fact, a perk and not, as it sometimes seems, a chore.
fredbassettfredbassett on September 24th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I've been to Bernkastel!

I stayed in the youth hostel that is considerably further up the hill than the castle. When we arrived in the town we remarked naively that we'd walk 'up' to teh castle after leaving our stuff in the younth hostel. In reality, we walked down to it the following day when our exhaustion had worn off!
louisedennislouisedennis on September 26th, 2012 08:09 am (UTC)
We had a difficult choice between walking up the castle and sampling the wine. The wine won!