CommUnity weekend in Cologne: climate change won't stop us from meeting

The group of CU members (left to right): Davide, Jacopo, Giulia, Mina, Zaheer, Sergio, NIkodem, Volkan

Monday 11/03/2019. Ignoring the intense wind alert, some CommUnity members and I stuck to a plan to meet in Cologne for the weekend. Unexpected adverse weather condition made me call my boss early in the morning to let him know I was not coming to work on that morning. The reason: Climate Change. 

Back in February, when I agreed to meet with other CommUnity members in Cologne, something that started as a smooth meeting of two old friends went to a completely unexpected next level. There was no agenda and no planned activity: only a hostel reservation.

But it was enough.

On Friday afternoon I left work with a friend in the direction of Cologne, with a small detour from the original plan. We spent the first day exploring Bonn, the ex-capital of the Western Germany, where I met Giulia Torri and Lorenzo Sani, two SELECT Alumni. After a social dinner, it was time to sleep and recharge the batteries for an intense Saturday.

It was almost midday when we made it to Cologne Hbf. I hadn’t seen most of the people for months, or even years, and I was super excited about the idea of what was going to happen the next days. The mixture of expectations and desire to catch up with all the others was almost unbearable.There they were, Mina Mirzadeh, Nikodem, David, Zaheer, Volkan and Sergio Costa. The team, assembled from Belgium, the Netherlands, Hannover and Karlsruhe from within Germany and Barcelona  were all represented in a single location. Plus, Niko and Giulia joined as local guides.

Saturday was spent sightseeing. Even though it was only supposed to be a city tour, it immediately became a display of what we in Leuven commonly call  “Belgian weather”. The strong winds were pushing the clouds so rapidly that rain and sun were constantly alternating every 20 minutes. The unpredictable weather and adverse conditions awakened our entrepreneurial spirit, and made our tour of the city a little bit more fun. 

CommUnity members trying to understand how strong wind can be

It was already dinner time and we had experienced a double rainbow and how it feels to be in the eye of the storm, although at a very small scale. As pasta was cooked and the hostel kitchen started to fill with people, the social dinner allowed us to grow in numbers with the inclusion of few other tourists. The night is history, and what happens in Cologne, stays in Cologne.

Sunday morning came and it was time to pay a visit to the chocolate museum. The story of cacao’s plantations and its production inspired some very interesting talks about the sustainability of that industry, from an economical, geopolitical and social perspective. David explained to us how innovation should be tailored to the population. He went on to explain the importance of the cultural heritage of the different countries ,and how european investors and customers are usually mislead by their cultural heritage.

In front of the chocolate museum cacao tree over a chocolate fountain

Having finished  with the chocolate, it was time for the first goodbyes. Sadly. Later in the afternoon, the wind disruption intensified and the first to leave reported news of a complete shutdown of the railways, with train stopped in the middle of nowhere and few more not even moving from the station. Until the unexpected announcement arrived:

Trains are down in Germany, nothing will move for until the end of the day

When trying to find alternative ways to go home, we discovered that Belgium and the Netherlands were no better off than Germany. All the trains was down due to heavy rain and strong winds blowing at more than 50km/h.

Anticipating  a chaotic night to come, the travelling skills developed through the many events attended emerged, and the adventurous CommUnity members made it home that same night. And then there was me, relying on the customer service to get a free night in Cologne. Back at the hostel I even met new people, with a total new experience in my backpack. In the meanwhile I also contacted my colleagues to let them know the news:

Trains are down for intense weather conditions, and no one was prepared for it.

Monday morning everything restarted again, trains were up and running and it was time to get back to Belgium. 
I spent my travel back home writing this piece from the train, and I cannot stop staring outside the window: it is the 11th of March and after the storm here came the snow. It is so weird to think that only 2 weeks ago I was swimming in Barcelona while today I will have a snow fight with my colleagues. What a weird world are we getting in?



By Jacopo Sala

Published on 4th April 2019

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