Einstein and I at The Humboldt University of Berlin.

Phil Jones with Albert Einstein

“When did you meet Einstein sir?” –student (no, really, it’s true.)

On my trip to Berlin, Germany, during my sabbatical, I had a pre-written checklist of ‘things to do’. Near the top of that list was to see The Humboldt University of Berlin, one of Berlin’s oldest universities founded in 1810 (there’s your history lesson). Conveniently, it just happened to be only a 15 minute walk from my hotel. By the way, if you ever go to Berlin, check out ‘The Melia‘ hotel. I found it to have a great location, friendly staff, and great pillows (very important)!

Humboldt is a university that can boast having 40 Nobel prize winners affiliated with the university which includes alumni, professors and lecturers such as Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, and Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, publishers of the Grimms Fairy Tales book.

It was near the end of the work day by the time I arrived at the university so it was fairly quiet, with only a few faculty and students walking around. I was immediately awestruck as I approached the university and saw the sheer size and amazing architecture of the buildings along with the carving detail on the statues at the main entrance.

Phil standing in front of Humboldt University

At the front gate of The Humboldt University of Berlin.

As I wandered around, I stumbled upon a large lecture hall, so I sauntered up the aisle that led up to a large stage. I walked up the steps and just stood there behind the podium for a minute looking out into the empty hall. As I stood there alone (or so I thought) in silence, I thought how cool it was that Einstein probably stood in the same spot where I was standing. All of a sudden, I heard the rustling of papers in the top balcony seating area (the rustling was probably done on purpose now that I think about it). A student was sitting up there studying and probably was wondering “who is this guy, and why is he just standing there?” A bit startled, I looked up, nodded, and left; my imaginary lecture was over.

As I finished my self-directed tour of the campus, I thought to myself that sometime again in the future, I’d like to visit again, but next time during the academic calendar, meet some faculty, and maybe sit in on some lectures. So, if anyone from Humboldt reads this and wants to extend an open invitation to a Canadian professor who can only speak a few key words in German, I’d like to say, “Ich kaufe die Runden Bier!” (translation for everyone else: “I’ll buy the rounds of beer!”).

Statue of Wilhelm von Humboldt

Statue of Wilhelm von Humboldt…are those iPads?

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