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Tomorrow and Monday are Cadence Global Holidays. Of course, May 1 is a holiday anyway, in much of the world (China takes the whole week, and it is a holiday in India and Indonesia too—so that gets you a lot of the way there). I am actually taking the whole of the following week off too and Breakfast Bytes will not appear again until May 10. As always on the day before a break, I go off-topic.
At one point when I lived in France, VLSI Technology had an agreement with Philips Semiconductors (now NXP, of course) around IP for digital television. Philips' group developing the libraries was based in Hamburg, in the North of Germany. If you look at a map, you will see that the city is built around water. The Elbe river flows through the city. I don't know which of the various waterways are natural and which are man-made. A few times I had to go to Hamburg for things like program reviews. We also had an engineer based there for a time.
Recently, my boss told me about spending a whole day at a place called Miniatur Wunderland (even if you don't speak German, I think you can guess what this means). It is a model railway and miniature airport attraction in Hamburg, Germany, the largest of its kind in the world. To give you an idea of the scale, it has 360 employees and cost €36M to construct (about $43M at the current exchange rate). That number must be changing all the time, since there are new areas currently under construction.
I found it surprising that I had never heard of it before, and nobody had suggested a visit on one of my trips to Hamburg. Especially as it is the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Germany. But it turns out that it didn't exist around 1990 when I was making visits. Construction didn't begin until 2000, and it first opened in 2001. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, it is currently closed and it is uncertain when it will be able to reopen. There is actually an upside though, since the construction and maintenance teams are able to do things quickly that they would never have been able to do working only at night, which is normally how they need to operate since the attraction is open every day (normally, I mean).
Here are the current statistics from their website.
To call it a model railway understates the scale completely. For a start, there are over 1,000 trains and over 15 kilometers of track.
There are cars, nearly 10,000 of them. The cars are autonomous and when they sense their batteries are low they take themselves to charging stations automatically. There are also fire departments that regularly are dispatched to extinguish "fires".
I think the most amazing is the fact that there is an airport, with planes landing and taking off all the time.
And Scandinavia has real fjords with real water and cruise ships floating in it. And Venice has floating gondolas.
Here's the official video (in English) that gives you an overview of the entire layout in about 5 minutes:
In a nice coincidence (or should I say Nice coincidence), the latest video on their YouTube channel is of building the new Provence and Monaco section. Where did I live in France? On the Cote d'Azur, which is arguably part of Provence, and it was about a 30-minute drive from our house to Monaco. When people visited us, they always wanted to visit Monaco, despite my telling them it would be an anticlimax. Unless you really, really wanted to see the Casino at Monte-Carlo (and perhaps gamble there), or drive on the same streets that are used for the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix, then I was usually right. The biggest yachts are not in Monaco but Antibes (and, at least when I lived there, anyone could wander into Antibes harbor and gawk at them). The nicest old buildings are in Nice, not Monaco. There are some famous restaurants, but very pricey, and it is actually more fun to go to out-of-the-way restaurants off the tourist trail and have sublime food for very little money. So if you are in the South of France, my advice is to visit Nice, Antibes, Cannes, but skip Monaco.
Here is that video. The villages built into the rock cliffs look like some near where I lived, up the Gorge du Loup. The word "loup" means wolf, by the way (like lobo in Spanish), and the word for sea-bass in French is "loup de mer", wolf of the sea. Between my undergraduate degree and my postgraduate degree, I worked in the Ardèche for a British adventure holiday company, and we were surrounded by fields of lavender just like have been recreated in Hamburg.
One day I hope to visit, and then I can write a full report. But in the meantime, here are a couple of my picks of greatest hits videos. Most (all?) of the videos are in German but they have English subtitles.
Their YouTube channel.
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