Sunday, January 25, 2015

Heidelberg und Tour de Müll

View from the trash mountain 
One of the incinerated heaps waiting to be sifted through 
Temporary dumping ground for residual waste waiting to be incinerated

My first trip outside of Mannheim was to the nearby city of Heidelberg, known as one of Germany's most beautiful places. We took the twenty-minute train journey in the mid-afternoon and had nearly two hours to wander around before we met back up with our group. Cara Beth and I and some of our new friends opted to wander across the bridge and walk along the Neckar River. It was absolutely freezing by the water but the view was beautiful. After a while we met back up with our group and took the night tour through the historical parts of the city.

I went on the tour version that was given in German, but aside from some of the names and purposes of the buildings I couldn't pay attention to what our tour guide was saying because I was so cold. After the tour the group split back up and some of us went to a little German restaurant along the main street. I don't remember the name of it, but I do remember that it had central heating and hot coffee (the only things that truly matter). We took a combination of public transportation to return to Mannheim and met up with several other Winter Academy friends on the way. There isn't much to do in the city but I know I will go back multiple times throughout the semester to enjoy the beautiful views and the wonderful food.

Two days later, I went on a Tour de Müll -- a tour of Mannheim's trash center. I often geek out over recycling so naturally I was excited about the trip. One of the plant's managers took us around one of the recycling sorting areas and showed us the laboratory where they test chemicals to determine what they are and how to safely dispose of them. Although we weren't able to watch it in action, he also told us about the plant's incinerator where waste that cannot be recycled is burned and the gasses created are cleaned and the steam released is sent to nearby power plants to use for energy (German efficiency at its finest). We also walked up the massive hill made from the leftover ash from the incineration process, though you wouldn't know it is just from looking at it as it's entirely covered in grass and plants. The hill also has solar panels installed on the side, and the energy generated from these panels is enough to power 350 houses. 

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