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this year we visitsed the german nordseeküste (north sea coast). on our first day, we were greeted by a kite convention held in schillig and a heavy storm. the kites were taken in before the storm blasted off, and on the next day we could admire them again.

one nice thing about the coast is that it isn’t that hot there. it’s usually a few degrees less than more inland, and there’s more wind, making the hot temperatures this summer way more bearable.

we visited norderney, did a mudflat hike from the coast to baltrum (walking on the ocean ground – how cool is that?), enjoying the wattenmeer in general, and also visited the harbor seal breeding station in norddeich. and, of course, just enjoyed the scenery, like walking at the beach during day and night.

definitely a place where we will return to!

last weekend we visited freiburg in germany, to attend a concert by reinhard mey. the concert took part in a huge exhibition hall. seating around 4140 persons according to the hall’s homepage, it was one of the hugest concerts i’ve been at (excluding concerts in stadiums where everyone was standing). since reinhard mey plays all by himself – only he, his guitar and his voice –, there wasn’t that much to see from where we were seated (and that was still far from the back of the hall). but then, the music counts. and the music was great!

on the next day, we explored freiburg. freiburg is quite beautiful and mostly pedestrian friendly, even though it’s currently crowded with construction sites. (most important consequence is that the trams cannot go to the old city center anymore.) later, we travelled to the schauinslandbahn, a gondola tramway going up a mountain called schauinsland by over 700 meters to a total elevation of 1284 meters. we had a quite beautiful view from there! too bad i didn’t bring any good camera with me… (the fairphone‘s camera isn’t precisely good… even a bit worse than an iphone4 camera. but well, i didn’t buy it for its camera :) )

today i was in bad säckingen to give a talk at the kinderuni (children university) hochrhein, a eu-funded joint project between the two cities bad säckingen in germany and stein (ag) in switzerland. in the talk, i tried to explain kids, age 8 to 12, a bit about cryptography.

starting with caesar-type ciphers and more general substitution ciphers, i then continued to explained how to crack such ciphers using frequency analysis. this included a live demonstration, which was quite fun thanks to all the contributions from the audience. after shortly giving hints on how to improve on ciphers, i quickly presented the advanced encryption standard before continuing with the second part of the presentation: public key cryptography.

i began by explaining the situation: two cats want to communicate / exchange something (like cat food :-) ), while a third cat is watching / able to intercept (eat). after mentioning diffie and hellman, i continued with a more practical example: a simple massey-omura three-pass protocol type exchange using a box and two padlocks. this was another great thing, asking the kids how they think this could work after presenting the box and the padlocks. and the sudden murmur of understanding when the second lock got added to the box and the box was sent back.
afterwards i asked the kids how they think this system could be attacked, and they both came up with the bruteforce (crack the box open) and the more tricky (man-in-the-middle attack) variant. great!

the last slides on factoring-based crypto and elliptic curves were quite hard to comprehend, as i knew beforehand, but at least they now know that there’s more out there for which they have to learn more about mathematics :-)

if you’re interested, you can download the slides here.

some time ago, we visited oldenburg to visit some friends who build a house. after quite some time of bad weather, we all were quite happy to have a sunny weekend. we first explored the city by bike, visiting the place where i used to live as well as both campuses of the university, before returning downtown and doing some shopping. here are some impressions:

on the weekend before easter we were in kaiserslautern. the main reason for our visit was to attend a team meeting for matheraum, but then we also visited rebekka and m. i haven’t seen rebekka for … i don’t know how many years now. (ignoring a “train incident” where she saw me, but i didn’t saw her while changing trains in mannhein or so.) definitely longer as this blog exists, i.e. before 2007. anyway. even though the weather wasn’t too great most of the weekend, we were lucky to get a glimpse of kaiserslautern with sun on both friday and sunday (on sunday we met rebekka and m.).

on saturday, we went to the japanese garden. while inside at least it didn’t snow (it waited until we left), but the weather wasn’t very great and also the cherry blossom didn’t bloom yet. still, it was a nice experience:

next time i’ll go there, there should better be sun and cherry blossoms :-)

last weekend we travelled to dresden. with perfect weather, we (re-)explored the city and parts of the sächsische schweiz. we first started with a hop-on/hop-off sightseeing tour which led us among other things to the blue wonder, schwebebahn dresden, the funicular railway, the “balcony of dresden” (luisenhof), the dresden-neustadt station’s entrance hall and the “toilet cinema”. some impressions from these places can be seen below:

here are also some shots from during the night, mainly showing dresden downtown:

finally, we did an excursion to the sächsische schweiz, namely to the bastei and the adjacent neurathen castle. from there, we descended down to rathen and took a paddle wheeler from there back to dresden. here are some impressions. (you can see “our” paddle wheeler in the photos above, it was the “pillnitz”.)

as you can see, we had a great time with perfect weather. most of the time during the excursion, there wasn’t a single cloud on the sky!

after being in seppenrade/lüdinghausen a few weeks ago, we continued first to münster and then to bielefeld, the non-existing city. the weather in bielefeld wasn’t as great as on the days before. in fact, on the only day we spend there in full, it mostly rained. anyway, we had a nice stay there. here are some impressions from bielefeld:

two years ago, i already was in bielefeld, and we had much better weather back then. that trip resulted in quite some nice photos, which so far i haven’t uploaded in this blog. i was somewhat surprised when i wanted to link to them and didn’t find them, so i went through them again and made a selection to add to this post. here are the impressions:

the museum is the historical museum; in 2010, it was also hosting a firefighters exhibition. the castle is the sparrenberg castle.

last week, we were in seppenrade. luckily for us, the weather was much better than expected. it was sunny, with few clouds, and warm. our first trip was to reckelsum, a bauernschaft near seppenrade. here are some impressions:

our second trip was to lüdinghausen, in particular to the burg vischering:

almost over. decending, soon, vanishing beneath the horizon. a last glimpse of its beauty, before it is gone.
goodbye sun, see you tomorrow.

today i flew back to zürich, via frankfurt. on the second leg, i was sitting at a window, and after some time, a beautiful cloudy sunset scenery presented itself to me, which i have to share with you:

after diving through the clouds, it wasn’t that beautiful anymore, instead it was grey, cool and looking rainy… but well, vacation’s over, isn’t it?