Saturday, October 11, 2008

Coburg, Germany

I had originally intended my week in Coburg, Germany, to be down-time... to do laundry (my first real load in 4 weeks of traveling)... to catch up on emails... and to just have a little home-away-from-home for a few days. I did all of that, but also managed some exploring.

Just north of Coburg is a waste-to-energy plant called Mullhelzkraftwerk. On a very rainy morning, I biked over to check it out. I didn't get past the front gate (understandably), but they did give me a very descriptive brochure with a line-drawing detailing all steps of burning trash. Now my German vocabulary is expanding from my already questionable repertoire of "front handspring" and "mud fight" to include "Verdampfer" and "Kalkmilch-Vorratsbehalter" (translation anyone?).

As I was biking away from the incineration plant, I spotted some stacked pallets, cubed paper, and piles of plastic: a materials recovery facility! It was called Schmidt & Wagner. They handle paper, plastic, metals, and miscellaneous materials in the region.

Ten kilometers east (by this point I was very muddy, wet, and cold), I knocked on the door of another materials recovery facility in Blumenrod. In between trucks toting trash, I secured a glossy brochure of this enterprise headed up by Veolia, an international waste management service.

Really, though, the best part of my time in Coburg (professionally) was the local recycling depot, which has a place for every thing and a thing for every place. The men working there were thrilled to be photographed. I particularly liked the metal frame holders for Styrofoam. Pictures of the recycling depot and the rest of my time in Coburg (including a 50-km bike trip to Bamberg) are here.

Ruth, the mother of my friend, Judith, lives in Coburg and hosted me while I was there. She walks in the woods for at least an hour every day. She bikes all around town. She runs a ballet studio. She smokes cigarettes on her balcony and drinks coffee at all hours. She is just the kind of person with whom you want to sit down at the kitchen table with figure out the meaning of life... all while eating yummy bread and cheese. Thank you, Ruth, for everything. (Thank you, Wenzel, for lending me your bike.)

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