Activated Glass and two new countries

After my solar research visit in Halle, I took an overnight bus to the other side of Germany. To the city of Cologne. I had planned to meet my friend Marlene, whom I met in Mexico four years ago. Since we met at a hostel in Cancun, and ended up travelling together a month in Central-America, we have travelled together once a year. It´s crazy how close you get when you experience so much together. Everytime we meet, it´s like it was yesterday we got lost in the Tikal Jungle together, hitchhiked with the locals in Honduras and jumped into the great Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. The friendship jumps back to where we left it the year before, everytime.

Me and my friend Marlene from Germany, in Cologne.
We met just in time to see the #fridaysforfuture Climatestrike Greta Thunberg started. The school children striking for a better future! The strike was so large, with so many people, I´ve never seen anything like it before. My favourite sign was ”Daddy, where is the Netherlands?”
The second tallest Cathedral in Europe. It was so large it was hard to get it all into one photo.
We spent the weekend exploring Cologne, drinking champagne in the park, and catching up on last year´s events.
Me and Marlene exploring Cologne

Spending a weekend in Cologne with my friend was exactly what I needed after travelling alone for a month. It can get rather lonely here in Europe, as I´m travelling so fast I don´t get time to make new friends like I normally to when I´m backpacking. But after an amazing weekend, I felt recharged and was ready to start travelling alone again. Fresh energy, and two fresh new countries to explore! Ready for Luxembourg and Belgium!

I took another long distance bus and spent a full day exploring Luxembourg, followed by two more train rides to get to Bruges in Belgium. 

Beautiful Luxembourg

The beauty of Bruges completely blew me away. What a place! Narrow streets surrounding  the many canals, bridges and colorful houses. And oh, the many, massive churches. The tiny cafees and restaurants in the narrow streets, with outside seating in the sun. Most likely the pretties city in Europe. 

Bruges, Belgium
The whole city filled with beautiful canals like this.
Colourful buildings in Bruges
Wish I could stay longer in this city! Definitely one of the prettiest in the world!
So pretty after sunset!

I also visited Gent and Brussels, which obviously also was extremely beautiful. As I didn’t do a lot of research on Belgium before I went, the cities in this country completely blew me away! After some sightseeing days, I finally got to the goal! A small place outside of Liege, where the BIPV specialist Issol has their hearquarter. 

Could not exactly complain about the beauty of Gent either. Castles and churches, canals and beautiful buildings there as well!
Oh my, the WAFFLES in Belgium were insane! This one I got in Brussels.
Brussels. Enjoyed my massive waffle with this view

Issol is a solar glass manufacturer and a project developer of what they call “Active Glazing Solutions”. Which means they make glass that’s not just glass. It´s glass with the ability to produce energy, and their job is to make pieces that can replace normal building materials.

They picked me up at the train station in the morning, their HQ was only 30 min outside of Liege. After a few minutes in the car, we arrived at their office and factory building. A large building, covered with solar, which they obviously had made themselves. They manufacture all their modules right here at their own factory in Belgium. All the pieces to all their projects. They took me through their factory, and I could see the workers all doing different pieces.

Me and Xavier, the market developer of Issol. All happy faces!
The solar roof over their own building

One can say Issol has specialized in specializing. Their idea is to always be able to make exactly what the architect or costumer wants. That requires a lot of creativity I would assume. Obviously, they make the standards too, but most of their pieces are specially made to fit the costumer’s exact needs and wishes in every single project. That´s their market position, and that’s where they are able to stand out in the crowd.

I asked what they do to sell this, if they don’t rely on the standards like most manufacturers do. They told me costumers usually contact them. They rarely have the need to go out and sell. I guess their reputation and reference projects speak for themselves.

This building is covered in Issol´s activated glass. Its in Liege, the city I was staying in when I visited them.
Me in Liege in front of the Issol building

When I was travelling through France earlier this spring, I went to Perpignan in south of France with the sole goal to visit the train station. I took the train to Perpignan, just to spend an hour checking out the train station, only to take the next train back again. The reason being that Issol had made a massive waveformed see-through BIPV roof on it, which I really wanted to see. 

The Train Station in Perpignan in France

During my visit, the whole Issol team came to say hello, and I got a good presentation of the company, as well as a tour of their entire factory. Thank you so much Issol, for showing me a new part of the solar world!

Stay tuned for the next part of the Solar Journey – Eurotrip!

– Christina

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