Dear readers, in this blog I offer a brief digest of impressions, memories, and thoughts from the past few weeks, when I started on my adventure/journey for wisdom and experience in High Performance Computing in two beautiful cities Barcelona and Budapest.
Before getting there, I was a bit worried about the hot climate in Spain, especially during the heat wave that was hitting Europe in its entirety. Hopefully, it was not as bad as one might expect and I was given a very warm welcome thanks to the sea and the style of the city. It was obvious from the first glance that the builders of this city knew the climate very well and through the centuries, have learned how to deal with it.
The city of stone and palms
Barcelona is filled with plentiful shadow giving trees and other vegetation, they even have watered lawns on tram tracks. But you still should drink enough liquids, therefore I was pleased that you don’t need to carry a big bottle with you as you can get a drink water at most public places (as well as free clean public restrooms). Additionally you can spot some guys walking around in crowded public places and beaches offering beer cans for less than 1 Euro.
Except for small downtown Barcelona uses ‘New York rectangular street style’ system, however lacking numbering convention. Buildings lay mostly in about six story buildings with streets wide and green enough to feel comfortably in the ample space.
Traffic in Barcelona
I couldn’t spot traffic jams thanks to an extensive modern public transport system and the fashionable motor scooters. In fact you can often carefully cross the streets as a pedestrian without waiting very much.
Our work day starts comfortably late with a nice short walk about 10 minutes from our hotel to the BSC site, where we used to have light breakfast and start our lessons. The lessons by experts from BSC tried give a solid foundation in HPC techniques like MPI driven communication between processes and OpenMP shared memory parallelization capabilities. It is a difficult task to make a course for such a diverse group of students from different countries, fields, and education levels which will benefit everyone. Even with lots of hands-on tutorials one simply cannot absorb all the stuff instantly, but can get a taste of what is it like and know where to turn when his project will demand it. I can gladly say, that it improved my understanding of HPC nicely.
I have heard a remarkable quote that explains the idea behind PRACE partnership greatly:
Supercomputers don’t bring on progress in science by only providing computational power, but by joining a collective team of expert heads from different fields work together. That is true progress.
Just after the lessons and dinner together with a bunch of new friends from all over Europe (cca. 7 p.m.) I spent the rest of the days on tours around the city (until 2 a.m.). Barcelona has so much to offer even in the late evening, as usual sights close at 8 p.m., the evening peak in restaurants is at 9 p.m., parks and small shops are open until midnight and public transport & night life continues even after that. A week was adequately long enough to see most of sights from typical Travels Guide to Barcelona.
I spent most of late evenings on different hills surrounded by beautiful panoramal views of large city. Steep hills unsuited for buid-up remain as wild nature reservations and parks for recreation. Islands of verdure are surrounded by heavy a sea of city buildings. The highest of them is Tibidabo (512m high!) with church and luna park at its top.
Wild boar family
Going uphill after twilight gave me a surprising close meetings with wild boars. While hanging out with group of SoHPC students, we met a family with young boars on a lawn next to our way, not far from last house on a street. They just stayed there approximately 5 meters far away, looking at “tourists”. Strange happy meeting for both sides. I learned that boars can be dangerous to men if they feel endangered and never ever get in-between a mother boar and her children.
Thus walking completely alone along narrow path in the forest away from street lights and hearing boars wasn’t fun at all. Luckily for me, there was an old wire fence next to the path between me and them. They were again less then 5 meters away and later I’ve spotted a big hole in the fence! Five minutes later there was some street light and I saw and heard something unexpected. A wild boar leaning against the fence and breast feeding her babies from a distance of less than 2 meters! It seems like she wanted to show off with them. My last contact was after midnight returning back another way. A big male boar stood straight in the middle of the path. I wanted no trouble so I just made some calm noise (taking covering near a pillar just in case it would run toward me in a bad temper) and watched the boar disappearing into the dark. Kids, do not try this at home where local boars might be dangerous! 😉