In 2011 I performed a scientific fellowship on the role of the plasminogen system in pneumococcal meningitis at the Klinikum Grosshadern, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, in Munich, Germany which was funded by an EFNS scientific fellowship grant. My wife and 1½ year old son joined me, as my wife was able to arrange a postdoctoral fellowship herself in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, an institute for Latin language, beautifully located in the Residenz building in the centre of Munich. My son spent 4 days a week with a German babysitter, and learned quite a lot of German words, of which “Eis” (icecream) was his instant favorite.
My colleagues in Munich introduced me to the beer gardens (Biergarten), which can be found in almost any park, and make a nice location to spend the evening or weekend in the sun. Although most of my time was spent in the laboratory, we managed to get around the city and Bavarian mountains surrounding Munich quite often. Some highlights were the Neuschwanstein castle, the Herren- and Frauenchiemsee island, Linderhof Castle, Wildpark Poing and a champions league football game of Bayern München against Manchester City (final score 2-0). We were lucky to be in Munich during Oktoberfest, which I enjoyed with my German colleagues in a beer hall with 5000 people.
As I had virtually no laboratory work experience I had a steep learning curve in the first two months. I learned to perform cell cultures, the ins and outs of a pneumococcal meningitis mouse model, pathological examination and immunohistochemistry stainings of brain sections. After this period I was able to perform the mouse experiments myself, resulting in interesting data on the role of the plasminogen activator inhibitors in the developmenf cerebral hemorrhages during pneumococcal meningitis. To keep in touch with my clinical neurology background I regularly joined the rounds at the neurointensive care unit with Professor Pfister in the impressive tertiary care facility that Klinikum Grosshadern is.
It was a great experience to enjoy the German scientific community and culture, and I consider the fellowship to be a success on all fronts.
Dr. M.C. Brouwer is working at the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands