Archive for the 'germany' Category

Freiburg –> Frankfurt –> Shanghai

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

I left Germany on Friday the 13th and arrived in Shanghai on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. I had a great time in Freiburg and am looking forward to spending some more time there this summer. Thanks, Imme!

I am staying in the same windowless hotel I stayed in during my reconnaissance mission, only this time they are replacing the sidewalks: both sides of the street at the same time so that workers, construction equipment, cement trucks, cars, scooters and pedestrians all compete for a lane!

Paris –> Freiburg

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I took the train today from Paris Est to Freiburg through Basel.

The Earlier You Die, the Longer You’re Dead

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

I spent Tuesday sleeping, packing, saying good-bye’s and watching the movie The Earlier You Die, the Longer You’re Dead with Imme. It’s funny, but you need German subtitles for the Bavarian dialect.

False friend

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I was mailing a letter today and two American women at the station next to me wanted to send something by overnight express. The first girl was talking in English, and extremely quickly. The poor guy behind the counter couldn’t understand her, so her friend tried to help. The friend said in slow, careful German, “She wants to spend the night.” The guy behind their window blushed and the woman behind mine laughed aloud.

In the evening we had planned to watch a Bavarian movie called The Earlier You Die, the Longer You’re Dead, but some family drama with a younger sister caught up in a Turkish/East German conspiracy meant we drove to Lörrach and back instead. We had dinner at Brennessel when we got home, maybe my last spätzle for some time.

Networking game

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

One of the reasons the party was so successful was because of the game. The people who came to the party were from several different worlds: old friends, old roommates, family, and current colleagues, and we were worried that people would only talk with people they already knew (as is typical). So I applied everything I had learned during the last two years of management training at my former firm and invented a networking game.

As they arrived, each guy would get a sheet with a number, and each girl would get a sheet with a letter. The guys (“numbers”) would then have to find out the names of all the girls (“letters”) and write them on their sheet. Same thing mutatis mutandis for the girls. There were three conversation-starter questions to ask, and because I thought I wasn’t going to be playing, I gave the girls good questions like, “Are you still single and if so why?”, and “Tell me one of your secrets”. The secrets all revolved around theft, gambling losses, illicit sex, and secret crushes on other party attendees (all hilarious), and even the shy or cerebral could have meta-discussions about the questions themselves: whether the questions were “appropriate”, what they would have asked if it had been up to them, what the best way to answer each question would be.

Lesson learned: Next time, as the game designer, I will give myself a “super-user” set of questions to ask, or perhaps multiple cards that I can rotate into the game depending on the context.

Imme’s birthday party

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

I canceled my Istanbul trip to come back to Freiburg for Imme’s birthday. I had missed it by a day last year, and it seemed a shame to miss it by just two days this year. I’ll go to Istanbul from Shanghai sometime next year.

The party was super — about 50 people came and occupied the basement of the Art Cafe until about 2:30a, after which we went dancing until around 5:30. It was a good group of people and I think I talked to almost everyone.

Seat 666

Friday, September 26th, 2008

When I was preparing for this trip, I got lots of advice from people who have clearly mentally planned all the elements of their own round-the-world trips, but just haven’t set the date yet. One colleague sent me the link to The Man in Seat 61, a site devoted to rail travel. I wish I had time to take the Trans-Siberian railway to Shanghai next week, but I will be flying instead.

On the way back to Freiburg I got a reservation for Car 6, Seat 66 at a table across from a little girl who managed to kick me in the shins every time I fell asleep and next to a guy who hadn’t bathed in several days and made up for it by gargling Listerine. At first I thought he was snoring, but his eyes were wide open along with his mouth, and he was expelling sparkling drops of mouthwash like Old Faithful. It was hard not to laugh.

A wonderful, magical animal

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Thursday was a fairly quiet day in Berlin after staying up all night on Wednesday. I dropped my stuff at the Pension Seifert and spent the day shopping, sightseeing, and eating. I had pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon at a place called Julep’s and wondered how many pigs had sustained me during the month I’ve been in Germany.

When I went to Cork a few months ago, I came from London where it was unusually warm for the season to an unseasonably cold Ireland and had to buy a new jacket. The only thing in my size was orange — a color I’m used to as a UT-Austin alumnus, but not normally my first choice. This has resulted in a snowball effect, as each new clothing purchase has to match the bright jacket, and the latest result is a pair of shiny gold shoes. The black pair I would normally have bought made me look like a jack-o-lantern. It’s a slippery slope: I wonder what kind of Ali G wardrobe I’ll be wearing after a year of matching the new color scheme.

Sleepless in Berlin

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

I prepared for my vigil by sleeping late (which for me still means until 8:00a), then spent the day sight-seeing in Mitte, including Checkpoint Charlie and the wall-related sights. Bookstores and such are open until midnight, so the evening was pretty normal until then. From midnight until 3:00 I visited pubs and bars around Orangienburgerstrasse, where more and more colorful people crept out into the streets as the hour got later. From 3:00-5:00 I walked from Mitte through Kreuzberg and Schöneberg, startling gangs of rabbits. From 5:00-6:00 I ate breakfast in a 24-hour cafe, then fetched my bags from the previous night’s hotel and did my laundry. At 8:30 I went to the airport and changed my ticket to Istanbul so I could go back to Freiburg for Imme’s birthday party. I saw a lot more in that 24-hour period than I had in the previous two days, and I think I’ll make staying up all night a regular feature of future tours, depending on how safe the streets are.

Accommodation in Berlin for the four nights I was there: €60, €399, €0, €89, which works out to a fairly high average — high enough that I’ll book my accommodation in advance the next time I visit a European capital.

This is the sort of sight that makes me think I would like to learn something about photo composition. The snapshot gives some sense of how homey and welcoming the little stand at the base of the bombed-out cathedral looked, but the stained-glass rectangles on the modern church to the right are barely visible.

I saw this statue and the word Narr (“jester” or “fool”) popped into my head, though I don’t remember ever learning the word or looking it up in a dictionary.


Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

I took the train from Munich to Germany, and was glad that it took about seven hours, as it gave my stomach a chance to settle and me some time to reflect (by which I mean “nap”). By the time I made it to the flashy new Hauptbahnhof in Berlin, I was ready for a Döner Kebap in the city that invented them.

I arrived around 11:00p on a rainy Monday and was lucky to find a room immediately at Pension Kassandra* in Uhlandstrasse. I say lucky because it turned out that I was there during a week that saw the Motor Show, several design and household fairs, the Berlin Marathon, and a number of high school Abschluss trips.

On Tuesday morning I went round to 12 different hotels and pensions looking for one with a free room. At one four-star hotel they were explaining (though I already knew from the previous seven hotels) why the week was so busy when one of the guests checking in said his colleague wasn’t coming and I could have his booking. This was a mixed blessing because the colleague’s room turned out to be a suite — I had a room, but at a price that would have paid for a week’s worth of rooms elsewhere. After booking that room I tried another four hotels before giving up — I decided I would just stay up all night on Wednesday, the one night where nobody had anything available.

* I once had dinner with some friends at a restaurant where the waitress introduced herself — “My name is Cassandra and I’ll be your server tonight”. Later, when I said I would like my main dish without mushrooms, she said, “I’ll tell the chef”, and I got to say, “But she won’t believe you.”