August 10, 2011

Berlin Tour and Founder's Reception

The following morning (Friday) I had signed up for the guided tour of Berlin. Since the rest of the weekend is packed with puzzling, this was the only day I really got to see the city. Lots of other folks were on the tour as well, including Dick Hess, Brian Young, and Trevor Wood.

It was great seeing the sights of Berlin, particularly in the company of other puzzle people, since I do enjoy talking about puzzles. We started out on a bus tour that took us by a number of sights including the Berlin Cathedral (right) and some remains of the Berlin wall.

I was surprised by how thin the wall was! Not much more than six inches, I'd say. However it is extremely strong, according to the tour guide. I think it was due to the amount of reinforcing rod used, as you can see a bit in the photo. He said it could stop a tank!

After a while on the bus looking at a number of sights, we finally stopped at one: Charlottenburg Palace. This is the largest palace in Berlin and dates back to the end of the 17th century. Unfortunately, we couldn't take photos inside without buying a permit, but here's a photo of the outside.

After that, we headed over for a riverboat tour, which took us down the river Spree. By this point we were all really hungry, but unfortunately there wasn't any time in the schedule for lunch! Luckily for me, my roommate Stephen had snagged some food from the breakfast buffet which he shared. Thanks again, Stephen! Jeff got a nice photo of me and Stephen below.

After the boat tour, we headed over to the Reichstag building, where the German parliament meets. This was a really beautiful building! It had a magnificent glass dome on the top that we got to walk up into, and there was a great view of the city. Unfortunately it was a bit rainy at this point so my photos didn't turn out very good. Instead, here's a photo of this really cool mirror array in the dome that brings natural light down to the parliament.

That was the end of the tour, so we made our way back to the hotel. At this point it was around 5:30, so I had a few hours to kill before the 7:00 founder's reception. Of course, I decided to head over to the design competition room to get in a bit of puzzling before the reception.

The reception itself was good, I had a chance to chat with a number of puzzlers, though I spent a good bit of time chasing down food. It was only hor devours rather than dinner, so folks were pretty hungry and ended up staking out the location where the waiters were exiting the kitchen. When each one came out, puzzlers descended upon them quite quickly. After getting my fill, I was happy to see that they had brought the design competition puzzles into the room, so I could spend a bit more time working on them. You can see me hunkered down on the window-sill in this nice photo Jeff took.

After the reception, they moved the puzzles back to the competition room, where I of course followed them. After another hour or so they closed up the room and I headed back down to the lobby.

In the lobby I ran into the prolific and brilliant puzzle designer Oskar van Deventer, who was showing around some of his newest inventions. The one he is holding looks a bit dull: just two cubes connected by a rod, right? No, this was probably one of the coolest twisty inventions I have seen in a while: The two cubes are connected so if you rotate one face, the other correspondingly colored face rotates! It is called the Dumbbell Cube and you can check out a video demonstration from Oskar here. There is an interesting gear system that drives the whole thing, very cool idea!

Another interesting one is called the Oh Cube (video). It looks more or less like a regular cube with the cuts proportioned somewhat differently, but in fact you twist the corners rather than the faces, as you can see in the photo. The stickers were peeling a bit and getting jammed in the mechanism, so I didn't play around with this one.

Well that's it for now! Next up, the puzzle exchange and banquet.


  1. I do love reading your IPP write-ups Brian! Keep up the awesome work! And the Dumbbell Cube is incredible! I followed the link to see the mechanism and it really is so simple and yet incredibly clever.

  2. Thanks Oli! Glad you're enjoying them!

  3. Keep 'em coming Brian, great stuff!

  4. Re: I was happy to see that they had brought the design competition puzzles into the room
    Thanks for this good article!
    I've seen one of my entries in the 7th photo.
    The main frame is ready-made glass.
    Mechanical puzzle addict


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