A whole different kind of traveling
04/23/2013 - 04/23/2013 60 °F
Greetings from outside Bonn, Germany! The beginning of the trip didn’t exactly get off on the right foot. I got in around 6am and Bernd was scheduled to pick me up at 7am (Its almost 2 hours to Frankfurt from Bonn, so he had to get up before 5am). My flight was a bit early, so I sat inside for a while reading to pass the time then went out to the pickup location around 6:30am to wait for Bernd. As I scanned the drivers that passed by, Bernd had actually got a parking spot and was looking for me inside the airport. I went inside two separate times to try to reach him by payphone, but to no avail. He apparently had me paged several times, but there are evidently no outdoor speakers and I never happened to be inside on the phone when he paged me. Around 8:30, an internet café in the airport had finally opened up and I sat down to try to reach Bernd by email. Bernd had given up looking for me and was about to leave and have me take the train back to Bonn when I finally reached him. As he was walking back to his car, he saw me in the internet café halfway through my email to him…disaster avoided.
Once we were finally on the road, I got the overview of the roads since I’ll have access to their spare car while I’m here…a 1989 BMW convertible. Apparently, when a car is 25 years old, it gets a special registration and the taxes are considerably lower, so they have been hanging on to it for a while. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch some nice weather and hit the autobahn with the top down. Speaking of the autobahn, while there is technically no speed limit, in practice, 160kph (100mph) is the max in most cases. It’s also pretty nice that there are standard speed limits of 50kph inside towns and 100kph outside towns. This makes it much easier than jumping from 25 to 40 to 35 to 55 on the country roads of Upstate NY. Also of note is that right on red is the exception rather than the rule (there has to be a sign that OKs it). At least they drive on the right side of the road and the driver is on the left, so hopefully confusion will be kept to a minimum.
I had forgotten that Bernd attended Michigan as a Fulbright Scholar. From his visit to Rochester around 10 years ago, I did remember that the university system in Germany is free (ahem – included in the roughly 45% taxes that they pay). It was funny to hear him talk about how Germans had found it hard to grasp when we were debating over universal health care in the States since it seems like a given to Germans. He also told me of an adventure he had before returning home from school in Michigan…Alaska down to San Franscisco and down to Costa Rica, with more stops in between than I could possibly remember…over 7 weeks!
We arrived at Bernd and Elke’s house (Elke is away at a training until tomorrow night) after going through “downtown,” which Bernd described as “a church, a pharmacy, a grocery and 2 restaurants.” After about a block, the downtown trip was over. They’re just a few minutes outside of Bonn itself (according to Google Maps, its in Windhagen, but I’ll have to double check that) and enjoy being on the countryside. After dropping off some things and unpacking in my comfy little downstairs room, we had a traditional German breakfast: coffee with rolls and cheese…and I even tried some liverwurst! Then we headed out to run a few errands. Bernd had to drop off a few things at the office, so I had a chance to meet a few of the Konzepte folks and see the incredible office space they have. While we’re building new office parks back at home, they convert centuries old mansions into offices around here. Bernd had to pick up a new pair of glasses in Bad Honnef.
Apparently any place that starts with Bad is an official recognition by the government that it is some sort of health spa. I enjoyed walking through the town and as we waited for the glasses, I got a quick lesson on pronunciations.
Danke schön but the schon is pronounced more like shen
Guten tag is more like guten tak
Tschüss! is goodbye and is more or less choice with the t almost silent
Hallo is easy enough but some young people will say hi (though its American)
The optometrist was somewhat surprised and amused when I said tschuss as we left. We then went to the grocery store. Bernd said it was brand new and quite a large store for the countryside compared to their options before it was built. He tried to recall being inside Wegmans and asked how the store compared to Wegmans in size. It would probably be the size of a perishable department in one of the smaller stores. Nevertheless, they had an extensive selection of meats, cheeses and homemade breads. We grabbed a few things then had a quick lunch with a hearty loaf of bread, some ham, and a fantastic cheese we had picked up. Bernd had some work to take care of, so I went for a walk into town to check out some of the interesting architecture and character of the small town.
It was garbage day and I was a bit embarrassed by how small German garbage cans were in comparison to American ones until I realized that they had four separate cans: paper, plastic, bio and trash…happy sorting!
I also came across an outdoor cigarette machine. At first I assumed that it was outside of a bar, but it was just a normal house. I later inquired and Bernd wasn’t sure whether the homeowner was compensated for the machine in some way.
When I returned from my walk, Bernd had dusted off the old BMW and had me give it a whirl while showing me how to get to the highway.
When we got back, we headed up some chili and I got to mix in a healthy spoonful of German hot sauce…delicious.
Can’t wait for my hot sauce of the month club to finally kick in from Kristine. The semi-finals of champions league (quite a big deal on this side of the Atlantic) was on at 8:30pm and Bernd had ordered the game pay per view and bought a few Bitburger beers.
It was a lot of fun to watch the top German team, Bayern München (Bayern=Bavaria and München=Munich) hand the top Spanish team, Barcelona their worst loss EVER 4-0. Though the tournament is for all the top two club teams from each country’s league, the other semifinal is also a German/Spanish clash, of each country’s #2 team, Borussia Dortmund of Germany and Real Madrid of Spain. They’ll play tomorrow, then there will be rematches of both games next week, this time on Spanish soil. Most total goals move on, so Munich will almost definitely be in the finals at Wembly stadium in England. During the post game show, there were attractive girls in red dresses pouring wine for the commentators and they all had little appetizer plates. They had a toast for the team and the studio audience cheeredI almost lost it thinking about something like that happening on ESPN.
After the game Bernd caught up on an email he had sent to his colleagues about my visit and one had offered to take me to a match next week in Cologne! Tomorrow I’ll be driving down the Rhine River, perhaps stopping at a winery and a few small towns along the way. Thinking of driving tomorrow without a GPS (and with signs in German) is a scary proposition, but I’ll be happy to get lost somewhere along the rolling hills as long as I find my way home eventually. If I can stay within sight of the river, I should be safe. Westen=West, Ostlich=East, Nordlich=North and Suden=South. Here goes nothing!