Magellan Project

Hello! My name is Tucker Burg and I am a Junior at Washington and Jefferson College. I am studying under the 3-2 Engineering Program with a major in Chemistry to become a Chemical Engineer. Aside from academics, I play baseball for the Presidents as a right handed pitcher, and I have been involved in both the Washington Fellows program as well as the Alpha Lamba Delta honors society.

When I first approached the idea of taking on a Magellan Project, I contemplated how I could turn my passion for engineering into an independent research project to both better my education as well as indulge myself in an international culture. After weeks of research, I decided studying technology and engineering in Germany was a perfect fit. The nation is a global leader of innovation in today’s international market. This is an impressive feat considering the transition of renovation and rebuilding the country was forced into following the Second World War. My project will encompass traveling to the cities of Mönchengladbach, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Aalen, Stuttgart, and Munich to examine how Germany transitioned from a decimated, war-torn country to the leader in technology and innovation it is today. To accomplish this task, I will conduct research at various museums throughout the nation, speak with members of different cities and businesses across the nation, and explore a plethora of historical landmarks which represent the technology and culture of Germany in both the pre-war and post-war eras.

Landing in Frankfurt and Cologne (Köln)

Today is the day I start my adventure in Germany! This is my first time leaving the country, so I knew I had quite the experience ahead of me.

 The flight left at 7:35pm from Newark airport and landed in Frankfurt, Germany at 9:20am. Seeing this the first time, I figured I would have plenty of time to sleep without any problem of Jetlag. After a little math, I realized this meant I was landing in Frankfurt around 3:30am Eastern Time. It was quite a shock when I woke up after a nap on the plane to see the sun shining with 3am displayed on my phone. After a few cups of coffee I felt ready to go, and the plane landed shortly after I awoke.

Frankfurt International airport is one of the largest airports I have ever been to. It took almost 30 minutes after we got off the plane to find our luggage. This happened because from the plane we exited down a staircase onto the runway to a bus which shuttled us to one of the terminal’s main entrance where a 15 minute walk and passing through customs led us finally to baggage claim. Once we had our bags, we headed straight to the train station within Frankfurt airport. An hour train ride led us to the city of Cologne.  After exiting the train we met up with our cousin. His family was kind enough to be my host for the first week of my stay in Germany. When I spoke with him, he agreed I needed to visit Cologne not only because it would be a key component of my project, but also because of its beauty. What a beautiful city it was.

Exiting the train station leads to a flight of stairs and a large wall of windows. Through these windows is a perfect view of the Cologne Cathedral. What a breathtaking sight it was. The cathedral towers over the entire city. Construction for the building originally started in August of 1248 but continued up until the late 1400s. By 1473 every part of the cathedral was finished except for the two main towers. A period of 400 years without any construction followed until 1842 when a group was put together committed on finishing the Dom. In 1880 the Cathedral was officially declared finished. 

What makes this building even more remarkable is the fact that this was one of the only builds left standing after the bombing of the city during WWII. Nearly the entire city surrounding the cathedral was flattened by allied bombing. The bombers even used the two towers to navigate themselves to the city. Despite the war and destruction to the city, the cathedral stood tall. Yet today as I walked around the city, the only evidence of a destroyed city lies within photographs and artifacts. Once a flattened wasteland, Cologne is now home to Germany’s third largest city. This is a remarkable feat. The cathedral now stands as a reminder of the history of German as well as a symbol of its new beginning. One interesting thing I learned about most German cities is that they are laid out in sections labeled as the old city and new city. The old city mainly consists of historic buildings from various decades, the city offices, and a few notable landmarks. Most of these buildings were over 500 years old before they were destroyed. After the war most were rebuilt to their original designs so today they represent the villages and towns of 500 years ago but are actually built in the mid 1900s. Very few of the originals are still standing. The rest of the city is a modern metropolis with workers, businesses, and residential areas representing the heart and soul of Germany’s economics. This layout evinced how Germany was able to expand and grow after the war while maintaining its historical identity.

Impressions from Mönchengladbach

For the first week of my project in Germany I am staying with my relatives in the city of Mönchengladbach. Mönchengladbach is in the northwestern part of Germany. It has a long history (as most German cities do) of early settlements, regional disputes/changes in ownership, and involvement in the war. Mönchengladbach was subject to some degree of destruction during the war, but not to the degree of Cologne. The main industry of Mönchengladbach had been textile. Today, the majority of this industry has moved out of the city and into other countries where labor is cheaper. A portion of the textile industry still remains, but it mostly involves the weaving of plastics as opposed to fabric. This has had a noticeable impact on the city. It is by no means run down, but the decrease in manufacturing within the cities limits has decreased the beauty of the outer parts of Mönchengladbach. Our host-mother works outside of the city limits and my cousin travels to Dusseldorf to take classes. It seems a once thriving city is now home to residents who seek work elsewhere in Germany. This again mostly applies to the outer part of the city because this is where the people I interacted with lived.

Downtown Mönchengladbach has been impacted in a slightly different way. It is still a beautiful and popular city, but it does not expand as much as before. The main square of the town was filled with excitement, energy, and business. However it did not extend much beyond the focal point. I walked down streets with a only a few open bars and night clubs that had all the potential to be a bustling night life. My host family described to me how this had once been the place to go for a night out with friends but now it exists only as a reminder of what once was. The simple answer to why this happened is there is not as much money flowing into and out of the city as there used to be. Here is where a connection is drawn between these observations and my research.  The history of Mönchengladbach as a textile industry and declining in economic importance shows the transition of the area in innovation. The industrial textile industry has phased out to other countries with less expensive labor because the need for these occupations has become obsolete in Germany. Even the house I stayed in used to house workers of the textile industry, but is now it is home to my host mother who works with commerce and good exchanges with farmers and my host father who works as a hydro mechanic.

Despite the ups and downs of the industrial economy within the city, it maintains its identity within Germany. One of the main attractions and engineering feats of cities around the globe are their sport arenas. As part of my trip through Mönchengladbach I visited the home of their Bungesliga team at Borussia Park. The stadium was marvelous and beautifully built. The complex is under continued expansion as well. While on a tour of the stadium there was ongoing construction outside the entrance for a new fan club (I am pretty sure that is what they said. I had a hard time understanding the all “German” tour). Soccer clubs have held a long history in Europe of bringing people together as well as representing hope in harsh times. The continual expansion and presence of the German soccer clubs as well as their structures evinces the range of engineering capabilities the nation has in the industrial markets as well as the recreational. Mönchengladbach is a microcosm of the transition and constant development of Germany towards future technologies.
Journey through the Countryside

Today my host family took me to see the famous Burg Eltz. The fortress is a castle built directly atop a mountain which overlooks a major trading route in the Eltz forest. The family gained their massive wealth through forcing travelers to pay a toll for each pass. The Eltz is a major attraction and symbol of the legacy German royalty have left throughout the ages. The fortress even appeared on the 500 Deutsche mark while it was still in circulation. Seeing this castle was magnificent. Walking through the courtyards and halls of the castle felt like a time travel to the medieval era. The architectural design for the time period was extraordinary along with how well kept it was. Unfortunately, the tours would not allow photos to be taken within the houses themselves so unfortunately I cannot share the experience with my research. However, I do have plenty of photos of the outside of the area!

Lessons learned from my trip through the journey to Burg Eltz:

One of the most surprising things I observed while traveling is how quickly the landscape changes. The organization of the land and use of resources contributes to how the country has been able to grow such a large industry within its borders. Leaving the city of Mönchengladbach and traveling north towards the village of Eiffel, there were several different regions I observed. The first of which includes the area surrounding the city limits. This region was filled with manufacturing companies, power plants, shipping yards, mechanic shops, and a plethora of other industrial businesses. These industries are the heart and soul which power the cities and their people. It was astonishing to see how the buildings were oriented to cover a concise amount of land, and yet they fueled entire cities. To adapt and progress forward through the changes of technology, the cities were able to continue to hold their historical roots while maintain a level of innovation and advancement.

Further outside the cities was nothing but fields of green. These lands were used as farms to produce the foods which fed the country. Living in Pennsylvania and having to travel from the eastern side of the state (Philadelphia) all the way to the western side of the state (Pittsburgh) I seen my fair share of farm land. However, Pennsylvania is a little less than 300 miles wide and 160 miles long while Germany is 400 miles wide and 520 miles long. Pennsylvania however only harbors two major cities (sorry Harrisburg you don’t count) and is one of 50 states. Yet here on a brief trip across Germany, a highly populated area in comparison with Pennsylvania, I was experiencing a transition from city and manufacturing to nothing but farms in a mere 30 minute time change.

Within these fields lies part of the answer to how Germany is able to power their massive industrial threshold. Throughout the open land a plethora of windmills harness clean energy for the nearby cities. These could even be seen from the towers in the city churning in the horizon. (This reminds me to point out the remarkable number of solar panels atop houses and buildings in the city). However harnessing wind energy is not enough to power an entire nation so there is a reliance on coal. A little further in our journey and we came to the “the largest hole in all of Europe” as my host mother described to me. This was in fact the largest manmade crater in Europe. We were able to park our car next to the edge of the work zone and take a look for ourselves. The pictures attached do not do the scale of this operation justice. It was massive. The hole was a mining operation to collect brown coal. This coal was then used in the various energy plants scattered across the nation. Talking to my host mother a little more, I learned that we were looking at an area which had once been home to a village. The government had purchased the land and homes in order to relocate the families into an area further away from the coal. In fact, if it were not for the immense price, the town we drove through would have been part of the mining operation as well. The country is rich in natural resources which continue to fuel its industry. The organization of the open landscape, cities, and industrial parks facilitates the bridge between expansion of cities and technologies with maintaining vital natural resources.

Impact of the Rhine River on Dusseldorf and Cologne


The Rhine River region has been steadily growing and expanding from Roman times through the age of Napoleon and into the modern era. The economic growth and expansion of the area slowed down leading up to the 20th century but rapidly expanded in necessity and profit building up to, during and after World War One. This was due to the increased needs to transfer of goods from the rapid industrialization the country transitioned to in order to fuel its war machine. The port experienced even more usage leading into World War Two. During the war, almost every part of the ports and factories along the river were destroyed. Companies had nowhere to turn due to the decimation. What saved the Rhine river ports was the rise of motorboats and rebuilding process the city underwent. Ports once again were fully operational and could process goods at even higher speeds with motor engines. In the coming century the need and use of the ports declined as land transportation increased through trucking among other methods. To adapt, the country turned to recreational and business uses. Today, one of the ports which once took in and carried out goods is used as a sport boat dock where private owners store and use their water craft. Another port was transformed into a modern day business complex. The business complexes are designed as modern art and several road and walking bridges were added. The areas up and down the banks of the River are decorated with gorgeous walking paths surrounded by restaurants, art, and gardens. A TV and observation tower attracts tourists to have a drink at their café or night club alongside a magnificent view of the city and river from 50 stories above the ground. And every 30 minutes or so once can see a boat traveling the river full of passengers intently listening to a guided tour. Although the Rhine River port and docks are not what they once were, their transformation into a hybrid business and recreation-commercial usage continues to bring in wealth and uphold the importance of the area.

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