If I thought the welcome I'd received in Erlangen was atypical and couldn't be bettered, I was wrong. I was greeted at the railway station by Prof. Klose, who drove me to my hotel (via another hotel that he mistakenly thought I was at... my actual one was rather closer to the railway station). He left me to unpack and then collected me later for a (rather excellent) meal in a village outside Marburg (pronounced Mar-Borg, presumably because it assimilates everyone who comes here - much like Hull) in the company of his wife and two research students who would be looking after me. I'd tell you where the restaurant is, but the wine was rather too good. As was the view from my hotel window...

St Catherine's Church & the Castle

I was collected the next morning by Li Zhang and transported out of Marburg to Lahnberg, where one part of the hospital (including Radiology) is. I was pleased to note that a lack of adequate car parking isn't a uniquely British problem. Not even when your hospital is in the middle of a forest. The hospital is a sprawling, rabbit warren of a building. I don't often get lost, but I'll admit to taking a few wrong turnings - the corridors all look the same, and the signs are in German (which is fine when you get near to Radiologie, but not before). It doesn't help when you come in on level 0 (ground) and the office you're aiming for is on level -2 (also ground - this is a serious hill they've built on).

The Hospital

The Prof. (who is clearly proud of his department) gave me a whistlestop tour and introduced me to many members of staff, who I may or may not be meeting again later, depending on my interests. Apparently all were on standby to explain their work to me, should I so desire. Some (as I later discovered) even wrote their PowerPoint presentations that day once it was known I'd be seeing them. Talk about feeling valued...

Old Marburg

Which is one thing that the staff here appear to do. Prof. Klose claims it's because he's equipped a decent staff room (including TV and dishwasher) and pays for the coffee himself. Surely staff contentment can't be that simple? Although there is a fair body of evidence that suggests that happier workforces work harder.

St Catherine's

The department is based in a very busy hospital, so has a large routine caseload on top of the research activities youíd normally expect from a University hospital. Or maybe itís a case of the research being on top of the routine caseload. Certainly, some staff proved unable to see me due to unforeseen clinical commitments.

Even older Marburg

What I did see, though, was excellent (although I doubt that theyíd have shown me anything they considered to be poor - after all, I donít brag about such work). They donít write any software themselves, but are in collaboration with various people who do - meaning that I got a good overview of the type of work being undertaken, even if I couldnít explore it in the depth (methodologies, tools etc.) that I would have liked. Still, it leaves room for further research (if the Study Leave budget will stand it). One Internet project had employed a graphic designer to produce hand-drawn pictures in pastel colours which they used as the screens on which the icons and activities took place. It certainly beats the "blue on white" of many Internet sites and made me think (not for the first time) about the importance of interface design.

Up is the only way to go

Two projects in particular made me wish I had more time in order to visit the collaborating Universities: Prometheus (a virtual teaching hospital) and VICORA (a component-based image visualisation and analysis tool). Maybe next year...

VICORA in use

After 2-and-a-half days with Radiology, I moved on to the Medical Informatics Institute. After an overview briefing by Prof. Khun (a man who not only knew where Hull was but had actually been there), I attended (and followed a surprising amount of - it was in German) the fortnightly project team meeting. I was then taken out for a very pleasant evening by Dr. Opitz and Mr. Steinblock. We walked up to the Castle, which gives magnificent views of Marburg. Try it when itís not raining. If it is, just stop at lots of cafes (like we did).

More Marburg

The Institute is primarily concerned with the IT infrastructure and the implementation of clinical computing (especially HIS, RIS & PACS). It has done some excellent theoretical work in terms of modelling processes in preparation for software, some of the ideas from which I intend to implement as soon as possible (maybe even via a collaboration).

Marburg from only half-way up the hill

Marburg is old. Very old. And very proud of the fact. It doesnít like change very much, either. Itís also a long walk up to the Castle. On the last day I found a multi-story car park with a lift up to the top floor, which has a walkway onto the road up to the Castle. Marburg is full of such little surprises.

It seemed very odd to be leaving Marburg - very odd to be leaving Germany at all, let alone Europe (I'd never been outside Europe - Prague was the first place they've ever stamped my passport - and that's still Europe). I was up at 7 and made the short walk to the station, rushed across Frankfurt station (one day I must see more of this city than the railway station and the airport. Mind you, I suspect I'm not alone in this - just like all those who've only ever driven through Hull as they embark/disembark the ferry) and finally flew out of Europe for the first time. The check-in was as long as I'd been warned. I had two and a half hours between my train arriving and my flight leaving, yet I wasn't sitting around waiting for longer than 15 minutes. Standing around, yes. The queues seemed horribly long. I say seemed, because that was before I got to Washington...

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