A Travellerspoint blog

Adventures on the Autobahn

Setting 3 consecutive personal speed records to and from Cologne

semi-overcast 55 °F

I woke up this morning with a bone to pick. German doors do not close flush into the door jam. This may sound trivial, but I constantly think that they are ajar and can't seem to get used to it.

Also, I forgot to mention an exciting development from yesterday during my run. Some tourists asked me for directions! Clearly I at least look like I know where I'm going, which was cool. It's always kind of my goal to blend in with the local fabric. It probably didn't hurt that I was wearing an adidas soccer warmup jacket. Anyways this guy was with his girlfriend and asked me in broken english (they looked/sounded Eastern European) where the nearest grocery store was. Unfortunately it was near the beginning of my run and I hadn't passed by one yet.

This morning I was responsible to make an American breakfast for my hosts. I sort of failed, as I made them Greek omelettes, but they loved them anyways. During breakfast, I talked with Bernd for a while about what it was like growing up in West Berlin. Apparently, travel to the rest of Western Germany wasn't as difficult as I had assumed it would be, other than the fact that you had to cross two borders (West Berlin to East Germany, then East Germany to West Germany) to get there, and if you caught traffic on the wrong days/times, it could take over 4 hours instead of 45 minutes. He was also there when the wall came down. He said that before it came down, West Berlin had 2.2 million inhabitants and when it came down, they got an influx of 800,000 neighbors visiting in the first couple of days.

Just as an addendum to some of the cool German products I was talking about the other day, this was a fantastic idea. Elke offered to throw my laundry in with theirs and she used this to dry my sweater. Do these exist in the states or am I just an idiot?

Also, Bernd and Elke have automatic blinds that go down when it gets dark and come back up in the morning. It kind of scares you at first, but its pretty wild.

After breakfast, Bernd and Elke had work to do so I set off for Cologne. I've been meaning to mention the Wirigen factory in Windhagen (Veendhaugen, haha) just a few km from Bernd and Elke's house. Apparently they make the machines that scrape off the asphalt on the highway before a new layer is put on. Bernd said that when they have visited the states, they have seen Wirigen machines in highway construction zones. Pretty neat. It used to be the same way for Kodak disposable cameras that said "Made in Rochester, NY." Umm yea, about that...


The prescribed route took me along the "3," one of the autobahn routes. Now normally I despise US street signs that say "END XX SPEED LIMIT." If I just got on that road or don't remember the previous speed limit, this is completely useless to me. Why not just put a sign up that says what the speed limit is instead of what it isn't? It would obviously cost the same amount (still just one sign), but would include more valuable information. I do not understand what purpose these signs serve and it's one of my pet peeves. Seeing this sign on the autobahn is an entirely different story. In certain places, mostly close to towns, speed limits on the autobahn are either 100kph (about 62mph) or 120kph (about 75mph). When you're on the autobahn and you see a 120 speed limit sign with a triple strikethrough, it is the sweetest sight you could hope to see. You aren't in the US bumbling around wondering what the speed limit is. You know that means there is no limit. All the Audis and BMWs that surround you zoom ahead like they just pressed the nitrous button. I want a picture of one of these signs. But this was no time to take pictures, I was far too giddy. Maybe I'll just get myself a real sign instead. Anyways, my previous personal speed record was set with 4 people in my tiny car on the way to Andy Spencer's cottage with Nico and Paul Spatola. It was the summer between high school graduation and college. We got to the top of a huge hill on a country road. I could see the next few miles of the road with not a house (or a cop) in sight. And with some encouragement, I gunned it. We hit 105 before I could start to see a house up ahead and decided to slow down. In the years since, I'm not sure I've even topped 80. So when I saw that sign, I put the pedal of my 1991 BMW to the floor to see what it had left. The needle gently creeped upwards, ever more reluctantly as the acceleration slowed as I started to top out. I had hoped to hit 200 as Bernd had done so easily in his brand new Audi, but alas I had to settle for 185kph. Those last 5kph took forever until finally the road started to climb a hill and all hope was lost. I knew that 100kph was roughly 60mph so I was pretty sure I set a new personal record, but once I got to Cologne (about 45 minutes away) I whipped out my phone and saw that it was 115mph. Not too shabby.

Anyways, I found a borderline illegal parking spot to avoid paying for parking (like father like son). Don't worry, that SOB mercedes behind me had a TON of room behind him to get out.
Then I set off for the day's adventures.

The main attraction in Cologne is the Kolner Dom (little dot guys over the o), aka Cologne Cathedral. On my way there, however, I passed by Great St. Martin Church, which wasn't too shabby.

I had basically written down all of the places that I wanted to see, but with no map (my road map doesn't have enough detail in the city itself) I was flying by the seat of my pants. Luckily I had seen the tip of the Cathedral when I drove in, so I knew that I was headed in the general direction. Then those helpful German signs kicked in that would point me in the direction of any tourist attraction I cared to see.
I had read that you could climb to the top of the cathedral, but I didn't immediately see where to do this and what I really wanted to make sure to see was the National Socialism Documentation Center, so I headed there next. This museum documents the rise and fall of the Nazis in Cologne, but also in Germany overall.

This museum was fascinating and everything I hoped it would be. It talked about the 121 local nazi groups that sprung up after the establishment of the Social Democratic Communist party to kept tabs on EVERYTHING about EVERYONE. Are they talking to jews? Are they taking part in the nazi rallys? Are they having the minimalist "Sunday Stew" that symbolized Nazi values instead of the more traditional (and extravagant) roast? People that weren't complying with the new policies or were political opponents were tried at the courthouse that was across the street where the museum is now (the museum was the police station at the time). Of course, the courts gave sentences that would please the party and sentenced to death over 1,000 local political opponents to the Nazis. All it took was a public denunciation from someone in town to launch an investigation. Many of the people that ran the courts never faced any consequences after the war. Even the ones that did were out before many of the people who they had put in jail. (It was a long and arduous process after the war to prove that you had been unlawfully jailed by the Nazis and should be freed.) Here's an artists rendering of how the Nazis infiltrated all levels of society...business, government, etc.

There was an erie recording of a 1933 speech by Josef Goebbels, the minister of propaganda, in which he said something to the effect of "The age of individualism has ended, the invisible hand replaced by the community of the people." This "community of the people" and promise of a classless system ended up being a pretty attractive offer for many of the poor people in Germany. They also showed how some of those marches of the army through the streets created a false sense of unity and helped gain build their following.
When I walked into the room on education, the audio guide said that Hilter's stated intention of education was that "They'll never be free again as long as they live." He gradually replaced young peoples organizations (i.e. camps, church groups) with the Hitler Youth, of which 90% of young people ended up joining, and those that didn't were threatened, isolated and ostracized. Activities like group hiking that recalled some of these older organizations could lead to persecution. For hiking. He eliminated christian values and pictures, even replacing crosses with his own picture and proclaiming that the "New German Religious Faith" was based on the principle that "I am in you and you are in me."

You weren't able to marry an aryan without both parties having a "certificate of racial purity" and had significant tax benefits and other incentives for "racially healthy" marriages. The head of the court for the "Protection of German Blood and Honor" that instituted compulsory sterilization of gays, alcoholics, people with poor eyesight, gypsies, and others, later became the President of the Magistrates Court after the war. In fact, there were many scary examples of the lack of consequences for some of the things these people did. A professor that was the Head of the "Institute for Genetic Biology and Racial Hygiene" and taught a course on Racial Hygiene continued to teach a similar course after the war, but under the title of "Anthropology." The names alone of some of these organizations was enough to make your stomach turn.

There were 270 airstrikes in Cologne during the war. As they shipped Jews and Gypsies to ghettos and concentration camps and therefore stripped them of their possessions, they would auction off their personal items to the bombed out residents of Cologne. I had noticed that there were far fewer centuries-old buildings as I walked through the streets, and now I knew why. Near the end of the war, as the Nazis became ever more desperate, there was actually a program to ship young boys and girls out to the country side, partly because they couldn't afford to lose any more boys in the bombings of cities. They promised that they would go to nice places for leisure activities, but the real reason they were shipped away from their homes was to train them in military drills away from the watchful eyes of their parents.

Here's a picture of soldiers in the plaza in front of the Dom. Having just come from the Dom and stood in that plaza, this picture froze me in place.
Also, here's what voting looked like during that time. Notice the lack of choices on the ballot.

When Cologne was being liberated by the Allies, they posted these signs around the city and elsewhere that quoted Hitler saying "Give me 5 years and you will not recognize Germany." We'll he was right, but probably not in the way that he had intended.
In a last ditch effort, the Nazis in Cologne destroyed the Hohenzollern Bridge (which was iconic to the people of Cologne and has since been rebuilt), which succeeded in slowing down the liberation of Cologne, but only delayed the inevitable.

At the end of the museum tour, you could go down into the basement where many of these political prisoners and unfortunate groups seen as inferior were held while awaiting trial.
The cells were designed to hold 2 people, but near the end of the war when the Nazi's were desperately trying to hold on to their power there were 8-10 people per cell at any given time and they had to take the beds out to make room for them. Their breakfasts consisted of coffee/bread, lunch was a soup of old bread blended with water and dinner was more bread. I clearly would not have made it. After that slightly downer but extremely interesting museum, I headed back to the Dom to climb the steps. Out in the plaza, Mickey picked up my spirits.
Mickey mouse in Germany? Yea that makes sense.

Anyways, I found the entrance to the top
and started ascending the 533 steps.


Boy were those steps worn out. Climbing a tight spiral staircase on these uneven steps was quite an experience.


I got up to the bell-tower level, which was pretty awesome. There were some great views
And the bell itself was enormous. It's so old that they only ring it once a month.

I thought that I was at the top, but realized that there was yet more stairs to climb to reach the true top of the Dom.
At the top, the views were great, but I was kind of disappointed in all of the fencing that made picture taking impossible. I can understand having a fence, but then they had netting on top of it.
At the top, I met a few young guys from Toronto that were near the end of a 3 month Eurotrip.
There were yet more stairs to climb, but you couldn't pay me enough...

When I got back down to the bottom, I fiddled with the iPhone panorama that I'm so obsessed with, but turned it on its side...

By then it was starting to get late and Bernd and I had set up a meeting for 5pm so that he could give me a rundown of the org structure of Konzepte as well as the projects he was going to have me work on. So I set out in search of my car. You know that feeling when you leave Wegmans and you can't remember where you parked your car? Yea, that was me...except in a city. I thought that I had made mental note of enough things to get back, but in all honesty I didn't have a clue where I was going. Somehow, by combining gut reactions and pure luck, I found my way back to my car barely making any wrong turns along the way. During the walk, I passed a few museums that I wished I had had time for. There was the Köln Stiftung Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum in (German Sports and Olympics Museum of Cologne), and anybody knows me knows that I'm obsessed with the olympics. I've been to Olympic museums in Athens and Olympia, and would have liked to do this one too. It hadn't even made it on to the website of top attractions in Cologne though, so I'm going to choose to believe that I didn't miss too much.
Trophy from the Cologne futbol team.

I also am sad to say that I missed the Schokoladenmuseum Köln (Cologne Chocolate Museum...I love how they spell Chocolate haha). Again, this one somehow wasn't on the top attractions list, but I tried to stop in the gift shop to get something for Kristine anyways. The line was at least 30 people long and I didn't have time. Sorry!

Also, on the block that my car was parked, there was an interesting sign I had somehow missed earlier in the morning.
Handelsgesellschaft was literally the name of the street. No translation necessary.

Despite the fact that Bernd had warned that getting out of Cologne was confusion, I miraculously made it back home without a hitch. I'm going to stop calling myself directionally challenged and instead say that American sign makers are incompetent. My mind continues to be blown every time I don't get lost. The subheading of this post says that I set 3 consecutive personal speed records, and I'm sure that you've been waiting with bated breath to hear the full story. So on the way home, I was determined to hit 200kph. When I hit a downward slope, I gunned it and got up to 190 before the hill started going back up. A few minutes later, I found the perfect opportunity and gunned it to just barely touch 200kph, about 125 mph. I felt reckless and irresponsible until looked up from my odometer to see a BMW tailgating me, anxious to get by. I moved over, and he rocketed to probably 250kph. Clearly I'm an amateur.

When I got home, Bernd and I had a great discussion about Konzepte. It was extremely helpful to learn about how the company is organized in case I'm ever in a position to expand somewhere down the line. I also got a better idea of the kinds of work that they do, from training to coaching to consulting and what their focus areas are. Tomorrow morning I'll be presenting Conscious Capitalism to the management team. While we talked, Elke made spaghetti bolognese for dinner...another weekly tradition that they have. After dinner we sat and talked for a while in their living room and Bernd was the DJ with all of their vinyl records. Then I had to turn in to catch up on my blog and finish up my presentation for tomorrow. Now that the adventure part of the trip is mostly over, I'm sure you'll all be happy to know that the next few posts will probably be significantly shorter once I start working. Nevertheless, I'm anxious to get started and looking forward to the experience.

Posted by atbrady 15:42 Archived in Germany Tagged st. bridge cathedral national great center martin cologne dom kölner documentation socialism hohenzollern Comments (0)

Finally made it to Bonn

overcast 45 °F

Well, so much for that. I completely slept through my alarm, which hasn't happened in quite a while. I had planned on getting up early to go for a run before we left for breakfast in Bonn, but instead I woke up to Elke knocking on my door at 9am. I got ready in about a minute and a half and hopped in the car, because Elke had an appointment at the BMW dealership. It only took a few minutes, then we headed to their favorite restaurant for breakfast. It's essentially a little diner, but they go there almost every Saturday because its the only place they have found that can cook a soft boiled egg the way Elke likes. Is it just me, or is a soft boiled egg pretty much the ONLY way American's don't eat eggs? Also, I don't realize just how much and how often I eat until I come to Europe. Elke had one soft boiled egg for breakfast. One. And Bernd had a tiny little plate with one piece of rolled up ham and one piece of rolled up salami with a tomato wedge. And rolls of course. I got a couple scrambled eggs with ham, plus a double plate of what Bernd got and still could have kept going.

After breakfast, we split up. Elke had to do a bit of shopping, and Bernd showed me around the city. He had to pick up a pair of shoes, and I bought a map of the region. We passed by Old City Hall, IMG_0815.jpg
...and an entrepreneur who turned a tree into a climbing wall.

The huge plaza outside Old City Hall had a farmer's market,
...and of course the requisite authentic german band.

Apparently, local asparagus is huge here and the season is just starting up. They have white and green asparagus, but the white seems to be preferred and is as thick as a half dollar. Here's the "asparagus queen" who is literally elected every year by asparagus growers or something to promote their products. 90_IMG_0820.jpg
Bernd said, and I quote "That's the asparagus queen, and she looks it." I'm not sure if it it's just Bernd or if its typical German bluntness, but when describing someone, adjectives almost always include either "beautiful" or "really quite ugly." Later on in the day, the conversation turned to Obama's recent gaffe of introducing "the best looking attorney general." Bernd said that Germans did not understand why this was such a big deal and said that a German woman would be happy to be called beautiful. He did note, however, that over the last decade or so, Germany is becoming more like the US in terms of political correctness. On politics, Germany's two major parties, the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic Union seemed to have been quite similar to the Republicans and Democrats. Bernd described the Social Democrats as the more liberal and concerned with helping the poor while the Christian Democrats were on the side of the invisible hand and family values. Interestingly, he said that both parties have moved toward the center in recent years to meet the general population, to the point where you sometimes can't tell the difference between competing candidates from each party. Certainly quite different from the trend in the US.

The plan was to meet back up at the record store, so that's where we headed next. Bernd and Elke have a pretty extensive record collection with a high end record player, and have a favorite store they like to go to in Bonn.
"Analogue" was like the Starbucks of music. They had a system set up and couches scattered around, and we would put records on and just talk with the owner.
The owner's passion for records was quite infectious. You truly can tell the added depth of the music compared to a mp3, which has been compressed. He says that with a record, the "music is happening TO you." Quite honestly, I was surprised to hear that records were still being made, but he said that even today's popular music can be bought on a record. I got to put on my very first record, previously unreleased recordings from Jimi Hendrix, although I let him put the needle on, since the needle cartridge was worth 3000 Euros (About $4k). Yeow.

On the way home, we stopped at the Grocery store. It's fairly small, but they do a pretty nice job. Theres an extra large sausage/cured meat selection for the germans of course...IMG_0830.jpgIMG_0831.jpg90_IMG_0832.jpgIMG_0833.jpg90_IMG_0835.jpg
On a typical sunday morning, Bernd makes a big breakfast, but tomorrow, I'll be making them eggs. We decided on Greek omelettes, so we got everything we needed for that and they they asked me whether there was anything else I would like. When I asked for peanut butter, Elke was noticeably surprised. Peanut butter is apparently pretty exotic for Germans. They didn't even know where it was and had to ask an employee. We got back home and started fixing lunch. Since I got here, I've been eating bread with just about every meal but for lunch I just grabbed an apple and peanut butter. Elke asked if I wanted bread and I said no thanks and she seemed perplexed haha. A slice of bread or a roll is truly part of every meal here. She was also interested in the apple with peanut butter and thought it was a strange combination. I told her about how every American kid has had countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and suggested she try one or try a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Bernd and Elke are headed to a friends house for dinner so I'm on my own to explore tonight. So after lunch I read for a little while then looked up a few sights to see in Bonn. I also planned out a running route along one of the main streets in Bonn and packed my running shoes. There is a museum of post-war German history that I would really love to go to, but Bernd and Elke actually said they would like to come along on that one, so we'll have to find time later. I would also like to go to the Arithmeum, a museum that explores the intersection of mathematics, technology and art (kind of sounds like TED, doesn't it?) In Bonn, I found a parking spot near the beginning of the route I had mapped out beginning on the river in the Northern outskirts of town. Then I headed South. I brought my phone, which was lucky because I passed a number of things on the way. One of which was Villa Hammerschmidt, which was the German "White House" when Bonn was the capital. Apparently it is still the secondary residence of the president.

I also passed this unhappy looking fella, Konrad Adenaur, the first postwar chancellor of Germany (the plaque was in German, so thanks wikipedia!)

This was also funny. When I was in London, there weren't too many of the iconic red telephone booths left. Apparently, they sold a few of them to Germany...

My route also took me through an arch under The University of Bonn...

...and passed this museum that is apparently famous as it was on all the sites about top things to see in Bonn...

When I got to the southern edge of town along the river, I turned back. It ended up being around 15k (10 miles)...Google maps automatically gives me km when I'm over here.

I had brought along a banana for after my run, but by then it was about 8pm and I was pretty hungry, so I changed my clothes in the car and drove closer into the center of town in search of food. I was pretty surprised how dead things were in town. EVERYTHING was closed at 8 and it was still light out. Nevertheless, I wandered around and saw some of the things I had seen early in the day, but now illuminated in the twilight.90_IMG_0867.jpg
This gate is the last remnant of medieval Bonn.
It is the perfect time to be in Germany, because most trees are in full blossom. I wish I had seen this in the daytime, because this tree's blossoms were quite nice. 90_IMG_0876.jpg

There are quite a bit of high end shopping throughout Bonn. Bernd had explained that they didn't have many shopping malls (although they were starting to become more prevalent by building just outside cities and therefore paying much lower rent and driving the inner city shops out of business). Let me tell you, Nantucket Red is HUGE in germany right now. Literally every mannequin was wearing something in Nantucket Red. I'm afraid that now that I know Nantucket Red blazers and scarves exist, I wont be able to live without them.
(Just kidding on the scarf. I'm not THAT european yet)
I also passed a TJ Maxx, ahem TK Maxx. I wonder why they would make that change. Is TK a more European name than TJ? Seem's like a lot of extra hassle for nothing.

Anyways, it was close to 10pm by now, and I was starving and hadn't seen anything but bars open. Finally I found a subway. Now usually, I don't give subway salads much credit, but this was a welcome bit of home, and probably the most veggies I've had in a day since I got here. IMG_0883.jpg

Miraculously, I not only found my car, but also got home in the dark without a hitch. Clearly German street signs make a lot more sense to me than American ones. I get lost in Rochester more often in a week than I have so far in a week in Germany. I got home late and took a shower and finally discovered why my towel rack was so strange looking. Pretty ingenious!

I caught up on a few emails and planned a day in Cologne tomorrow. Bernd and Elke got home around midnight, then we all turned in.

Posted by atbrady 13:05 Archived in Germany Tagged of germany city university villa old hall bonn running eggs analogue records scrambled konrad adenaur hammerschmidt asparagas Comments (2)

Some things change, others stay the same

Day 4 in Germany...from Frankfurt back to Bonn

rain 50 °F

When I'm traveling, I'm conditioned to look for differences. Its fun to spot the ways in which German culture is different than back home. Thats part of the fun of traveling. And while there have been several cultural differences, I've also been struck by a few things that seem to be universal.

For starters, boys will be boys, although I appreciate the German pragmatism here.

Corporate Branding/Propoganda looks pretty much the same and is plastered everywhere...
Here's Nestle's Leadership Framework (unfortunately it's in German, because I would love to see what it includes).

There are, of course, differences as well:

First, their elevators are long and thin. This wasn't the case at the hotel, so it's hard to say if this is a German thing or just unique to Nestle, but it creates a strange arrangement where people have their backs to the walls on either side and face each other.
As a side note, you can see the unique placement of the buttons on the left wall. Not a great idea when people tend to stand right in front of there, blocking people from pressing buttons and also being at the perfect height for someone to lean back and butt press a few extra floors (this happened twice...but it wasn't me!)

Also, the Sheraton showers were intentionally created without curtains. Privacy wasn't the issue, but as you might expect, it was impossible to keep the bathroom floor from getting wet, especially when the shower head was one of those that you hold in your hand.

Then again, it turns out the Chase Corporate Challenge is universal...
(Look out for the Corporate Challenge on Mars in 2050)

This one really surprised me. In talking with Bernd about German vs. American politics, I really didn't expect to see this. I wonder if you need a background check or mental health evaluation for one of these bad boys...

Anyways, I woke up this morning and noticed a pretty nice decent view of Frankfurt as the sun came up. I'm assuming that this was their football stadium in the distance.
Despite having looked forward to the prospect of running along the Main, I decided to go to the hotel gym instead. There would be plenty of opportunities for running on this trip, but probably not very many chances to use weights and gym equipment. After a disastrous, curtain-less shower, I headed down the block to the training facility. I neglected to mention yesterday that when I picked up a guest security badge, I was first given a copy of the building safety information...gotta love all those German rules!

Day 2 of Training went well. Everyone continued discussions during breaks about adjusting to German business culture. For example, several people commented on the no-nonsense German approach. Whereas in Brazil, Barcelona and several other places, they had been expected to make extensive small talk before getting to business or asking for updates on projects. Clearly more efficient, but also lacking a human touch. Some liked the efficiency, others thought that it was taken much too far and that it was difficult to get over the abruptness that would be considered quite rude in their home countries.

At lunch, Luthar talked about the "hippie" work of his youth when he was involved with an organization called Action Reconciliation. It was started by young Germans who believed that they weren't being educated enough or doing enough to repay for the atrocities of the Holocaust and WWII. Luthar helped recruit students to go to places like Auschwitz to help preserve and maintain these historical sights. It was based upon the notion that covering up and erasing this history was a dangerous invitation for it to happen again. Coincidentally, I had been looking into Auschwitz last night to see if I might visit, but it was much farther than I expected. Luthar went on to explain how when he was going to school in Germany, their history textbooks stopped at Napoleon, then picked back up at the end of WWII, without making any mention of the time in between. He said that young people were a huge part of the movement in the late 60s and early 70s to start asking their parents and grandparents tough questions and bringing this history to light. Maryna from Ukraine talked about how she grew up under similar circumstances, where it was an unwritten rule to never mention the wars. She also talked about the current divisions in Ukraine, where some are trying to be independent and others speak Russian are still fiercely loyal to the former Soviet Union. In regards to Russia, she also talked about how isolated it was, and that outside of Moscow being an international city where many speak English, the rest of the country is largely shut to outside influence. Isabella from Brazil talked about the strange adjustment of learning about war history. While she grew up hearing about gun and gang violence, Brazil has been largely isolated from any such wars.

After lunch, Luthar talked a bit about how the main difference between Germans and Anglo-Saxons is the Germans' low tolerance for uncertainty. Because of this, they take the time to cover every possible situation so that they have a plan for everything and there are no surprises. Coincidentally, just yesterday one of the newsletters I subscribe to had a link to a Gallup article titled "Germany Has a Serious Management Problem."

The main point that they make is as follows:

"A key problem is that German management education pays little attention to actually managing people. The 'master of business administration' degree reflects that the educational emphasis is on managing finances and administrating processes. But good management also requires a focus on people, something that German companies currently lack. In far too many businesses, employees with the longest tenure or who have the greatest subject matter expertise are moved into management, regardless of whether they have an aptitude for managing people."

(While I'm quoting things, I would like to note that when Germans quote things, the opening quotation mark is down low, sort of like the upside-down question mark in Spanish.)

Between this conversation and the morning's conversation on differing small talk standards, I couldn't help but think of how clearly many of these cultural norms fit into different DISC styles. I would love to take a look at some of TTI's research on how D, I, S and C are distributed across populations of different countries.

When we got to the body language portion of the facilitation training, Luthar interpreted the body language of a few of the people in the room. One of the Indian men had crossed arms, which in the Western world translates to "closed body, closed mind." It opened up to a discussion about how even body language varies by culture, since he said that in India, it is a very common to cross your arms when you are concentrating or deep in thought. Obviously, there are also different cultural norms for hand gestures and physical space kept between one another. Luthar explained research by Paul Ekman that while facial expressions are culturally based, there are 5 expressions that represent "primary emotions" and are universal. They are anger, disgust, content, joy and surprise.

When I was telling folks about my wanderings the previous night and the open plaza I had found, I thought about how my favorite single thing about Europe is the communal spaces. Every town has at least one (but often more) large plazas lined with restaurants where people congregate at night (and often at lunch as well). There are several parks as well, such as the hoards of people that were out by the river enjoying the sunset last night. The sense of community that it fosters is incredible. At home, we lack these communal spaces and even when we have them, most people prefer the privacy of their homes and back yards.

After the training was over, I hitched a ride with Luthar to the train station. It had been pouring since lunch, but I had an hour to kill, and the only sight I had failed to see last night was Geothe House, where Johann Wolfgang van Goethe grew up. I have to admit that while there was name recognition, I couldn't tell you a thing about the guy, but Frankfurters seemed to be quite proud of it. Unfortunately, the walk took longer than expected didn't have time to go inside. The outside itself was nothing special...

On the way back, I saw a Wall Street school of English which I thought was some amusing branding...

I had been considering flying out of Frankfurt to go somewhere for the weekend, but after looking at flights out of Cologne for next weekend, they weren't that much more expensive. Plus I had spoken with Bernd and I was going to get a chance to tag along for their weekend rituals of dinner with friends in Bad Honnef on Friday nights and breakfasts and shopping around Bonn on Saturday mornings. I couldn't pass up the chance to see the city from the eyes of locals. The train back to Bonn went in excess of 225kph (about 130mph) and Bernd had recommended walking to the front of the train to watch the tracks coming at you. The picture is awful and doesn't do it justice, but it was pretty surreal to watch.

Bernd picked me up in Bonn and we went right to Bad Honneff to meet up with Elke and their friends, two brothers, Gunthar and (oops!). Bernd and Elke don't see each other much during the week because their traveling all over Germany to give trainings, but they rarely miss a Friday night with their friends at this cute little Italian restaurant (or a Saturday morning breakfast in Bonn). The restaurant was really cute, but I didn't realize that the picture I took didn't come out well. The bar was made to look like it was under a pergola, which I of course loved. It was still pouring and I was amused by the umbrella rack? receptacle? at the door.
The food was incredible too. I had salmon with capers and sun-dried tomatoes. Not exactly authentic German food, but it was spectacular.


Tomorrow we'll be driving separately into Bonn because Bernd and Elke are coming back in the afternoon, then going to dinner with friends about an hour away. They offered to let me take one of their cars so that I could have GPS and explore Bonn and hopefully Cologne tomorrow. I just spent some time on the internet looking up the must see attractions and I'm excited to see the Old City Hall in Bonn (it was the capital of Germany from 1949-1999, its ok, I didn't know either until about two weeks ago). It's got to be a strange dynamic being an ex-capital. Bernd told me a little bit about the negotiations that Bonn went through to get some concessions from the government when the capital moved to Berlin. For example, all the German UN offices moved into the old federal buildings. Bernd said that overall, Bonn came out pretty well from the deal, but Bad Honnef lost a bit of its flair, because it used to be the small nearby city where many politicians lived, and when the politicians left, so did many of the high-end restaurants and boutiques. I'm going to wake up early and test my luck with a run as well. Squeezed every ounce out of the day...time for bed!

Posted by atbrady 15:45 Archived in Germany Tagged germany capital frankfurt auschwitz cultural bonn compare action contrast comparison reconciliation act berlin/bonn Comments (0)

Business as usual?

Business and culture collide in Frankfurt

sunny 70 °F

This morning I woke up around 5:30am to leave for the train station in Bonn.
Bernd dropped me off in time to catch the 6:30am train, arriving in Frankfurt around 7:40 (going over 200km/hr!). I dodged another bullet this morning as I got off at the Frankfurt station, but few people got off which was strange since I thought that Bernd had said that it was the end of the line. I looked at my watch at it said 7:30. My ticket said we would arrive in Frankfurt at 7:40 and the train had left a few minutes late so I thought that it was odd to have made such good time. I jumped back on the train just before the doors closed. For the second time in two days, my gut feeling came through, as that had been the Frankfurt airport stop (which is quite a ways outside the city itself). The Frankfurt airport is called Frankfurt Au Main and my ticket said it was from Bonn to “Frankfurt (Main).” Clearly more than a bit confusing.
I hadn’t had time to eat breakfast in the morning, so after arriving at the real Frankfurt stop, I walked around for a while mulling over different sandwiches. As luck would have it, the last stand in the row, Mr. Clou had pretty decent salads.
It was no omelet, but it’d fill me up better than a sandwich with one sliced tomato, and one slice of cheese. Bernd had recommended I get a taxi to the training facility, but I had about an hour to kill so I decided to walk. Most of the walk was along the River Main and was pretty scenic and quiet early in the morning. I had to start hoofing it pretty fast to get to the training on time, but it was well worth it.

The training was on facilitation with one of Bernd’s colleagues, Lothar Gurjahr, at Nestle’s IT department. As a company, Nestle speaks in English, which is why I was able to attend the training. Lothar lived in NYC for a year and a half and in Englad for 3 years as well, so his English is nearly native. He lives in Hamburg and several years ago had a friend who ran a marathon. He was overweight and when his friend suggested he run with him the following year, he agreed. Since his daughters heard him agree, he was compelled to follow through. Ever since, he has run a marathon every year and lost a ton of weight. He started training for an Olympic triathlon this year, but a knee injury has him sidelined at the moment.

For introductions, we had to pair up and then introduce our partner to the group. My partner was Pavan, from Hyderabad, India and we became fast friends. He had been working at Nestle in Germany for 2 years and is married to an Indian woman he met here. Back when he lived in India, he used to travel spontaneously with his friends, heading to the train station not knowing where they were going and taking the cheapest ticket they could find. However, due to India’s size, he didn’t travel to other countries much. Now that he is in Germany, he has enjoyed traveling throughout Europe. He couldn’t find many good Indian restaurants in town, so he started learning to cook when he moved here. He took classes in German for a while, but then got too busy. He hopes to restart soon. He loves cricket and found a group of Indian guys to play with last summer and is looking forward to starting up again this spring. (Apparently, they had a long winter this year and there was still snow on the ground as recently as two weeks ago.) When I complemented him on his English and asked if he had begun learning it at a young age, he actually told me that he didn’t know any English until after he graduated from school, but that he had been quite enthusiastic about learning once he started and picked it up quickly. He does most of his work on SAP at Nestle and was taking the class because he frequently facilitates phone conferences between the sales and marketing folks and the IT developers.

Overall, I was blown away by how international the group was. Of the 10 people in the training (including me), 9 countries were represented (2 were from India, 0 from Germany). Isabella had moved from Brazil just 6 months ago, there was a Ukrainian woman who moved to the Nestle offices in Sweden, a Russian guy and a woman from Barcelona. The facilitation training itself was pretty helpful, but talking with everyone about cultural differences was unbelievable. Isabella thought it was funny how young adults in America were so eager to move out of the house. In Brazil, you live with your parents until you get married (even if you have the money to move out). She had lived for short periods of time in both Vail and West Virginia, and admired how young Americans move around the country “on a whim,” just to be independent. Her favorite place she’s been was Croatia and she highly recommended it. She also forwarded me a list of things to see in Frankfurt that someone had given her when she moved here.

The woman who had moved from Barcelona 5 months ago had a few funny quips on adjusting to the business world in Germany. Germans come to meetings with all of the information read beforehand, their opinions mostly made and actions decided upon. They tend to love precision and detail (hello C’s!). She and others were more used to coming to a meeting to discuss the information and action steps. A meeting seems unnecessary when the decision has already been made. She also loves to travel and her favorites so far are South Africa (for the wildlife) and New Zealand (for the laid back attitude, even among business people). She was giving Pavan and I tips on what cities to visit in Spain and Portugal as well.
We went to the Nestle cafeteria for lunch and saw several dozen young children. The Nestle folks weren’t aware of any special event going on, but Lothar talked about “girls day” in Germany where young girls go to work with their fathers to learn more about male dominated fields. Only recently have they started to expand the program to boys as well. Lunch wasn't bad. Nice cafeteria-style type selection...

When Lothar heard us sharing travel stories during a break, he told us about the two required “holidays” to help you be a more effective facilitator. First, go to the Arab world to a bazaar to learn to negotiate and be flexible. Then, go to Thailand to learn how to say no with a smile. He also proclaimed his love for English because of its pragmatism. When people use English consistently use words incorrectly, they find their way into the dictionary and become correct! Apparently, Germans had convened a government committee a few years ago to look at what updates the language might need, but they got nowhere. Everyone had questions for me on proper uses of a few words. Apparently, it is common to call a projector a “beamer.” They got a kick out of it when I told them that people in the states would think they were talking about a BMW.

Another interesting cultural point Lothar brought up was how often times facilitators set ground rules, one of which is that “only one person can speak at a time.” He described this as disadvantaging certain people (such as southern Europeans and South Americans) whose cultures thrive on this kind of dialogue. He is a trained negotiator and has to be especially careful when dealing with cross-cultural negotiations, because setting that as a ground rule can give one group the upper hand and damage his standing as an impartial party.

I couldn’t have asked any more from the day. While traveling is certainly fun, you learn about a country on a whole different level when you are immersed in the business culture there.

After the training, I had to rush to check in at the hotel and get an internet connection quickly so that I could get to the Conscious Capitalism open space. It would have been nice to have more participants from other chapters and from the Conscious Capitalism LinkedIn group, but the discussions and engagement among those that did participate exceeded my expectations. Near the end of the forum, my internet was giving me trouble and I couldn’t hear the discussions. I tried to fiddle with it for 15 minutes or so, but then with only the closing left to go, I gave up.

There was still a bit of sunshine left in the city, so I printed out the map from Isabella and hopped on the 12 train that they had told me would go right into the old town. I got off at Brandt-Platz, which is the heart of the Frankfurt’s banking district, the biggest financial center in Europe after London. They had told me I had to get my picture in front of the giant Euro symbol, which was hard to miss.
The sun was setting and my goal was to see as many of the historic places on the map then head up to the top of Main Tower to watch the sunset and get a bird’s eye view of the city. I ended up getting carried away with all of the stops and was too far from the tower to get there in time, but walking down the river as the sun set was a nice consolation.
The river was absolutely packed with what looked like mostly locals, out enjoying the warm weather and the scenery at dusk. I found a plaza that was lined with restaurants and made me miss having Kristine with me.
IMG_0768.jpgCity Hall (Since the 1400s)

City Hall (Since the 1400s)

These were normally our favorite places to find in a city, where I would finally let us sit still long enough for dinner and wine and people watching.
It wouldn’t have been quite the same doing it alone, so I grabbed a Frankfurter (When in Frankfurt!) at this cool little stand among the restaurants.
I got it with sauerkraut and a “green herb sauce” that everyone seemed to be getting. Sure felt authentic!
Here was a cute little wine bar on the plaza.IMG_0777.jpg

Old Nicholas Church

Old Nicholas Church

Cathedral of St. Bartholomew

Cathedral of St. Bartholomew

I found my way back to the banking district
and headed home on the 12 tram (again, I surprised myself by getting on the tram going in the right direction and getting off at the right stop, despite having no idea what the name of my stop was and not being able to find any of the streets we were passing on my map). The hotel lobby had WSJ magazine with Carmelo Anthony on the front!


Helped me feel a bit at home. P.S. Melo has a vision board!
I’m supposed to go to the training tomorrow then I have a ticket to catch the train back to Bonn, but since I’m in Frankfurt where the nearest airport is anyways, I’m contemplating flying somewhere for the weekend. Prague? Vienna? Budapest? Can’t decide what I should do. I haven’t been sleeping much since I’m sightseeing well into the night and then journaling before bed, plus waking up before dawn 2/3 days and it might be nice to have a relaxing weekend in Bonn, but this might be my only chance for more sightseeing.

The training doesn’t start until 9am tomorrow, so I’m going to try to wake up early and go for a run. Maybe I’ll be better able to decide in the morning. Another amazing day!

Posted by atbrady 18:10 Archived in Germany Tagged st. church of cathedral old frankfurt business paul's main romans nicholas bartholomew hauptwache Comments (0)

A journey, not a destination

Joy ride down the Rhine River

sunny 80 °F

This is a whole different kind of traveling. Not only do I have a room and reliable access to internet, but it has been quite nice to have Bernd to show me around and answer questions. Its much easier to pick up on cultural nuances and really get a feel for life in Germany. For example, Bernd pointed out the German flag his neighbor was flying and explained that it is rare and somewhat strange to do so.
On top of it all, I have a cell phone and a car!

I started the day the American way, with scrambled eggs with tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and of course hot sauce.
When you buy cheese here, they cut a few slices at a time and wrap them in these little packages.
I had slept in a bit later than I would have liked and was eager to get on the road.

My first stop was in Bad Honnef, where I parked and walked through town and saw a few neat shops. One had large glass jars of everything from gourmet flavors of olive oil to homemade lemoncello. Theyre were several smaller glass containers that you could buy and fill up from the larger dispensers. I also found a bank to exchange some dollars for euros. In town, there was this tiny old little dog that Kristine would have loved.
I didn’t get a very good picture on my phone (the pictures I am uploading are from my phone) but I got a better one with my camera. He was old and sort of waddled along behind his owner, who was older herself. Every dozen steps or so, she would pause and wait for him to shuffle and catch up. He wasn’t on a leash or anything, which seems to be pretty common here. Another thing I have noticed are parks with jungle gyms all over the place. There must be one every few blocks.

Once I was in Bad Honnef, my plan was to drive southeast along the Rhine. I had written out directions for myself, which turned out to be pretty useless. Street signs are hard to find and looking up NSEW directions didn’t help either because no highways are labeled in those directions. Instead, I would have been much better off just writing out the names of the towns I wanted to visit. There are plenty of signs along the highway and at every exit that tell you which towns/cities are in that direction, making fairly easy to navigate.
My new plan was to simply write down the names of the towns that I passed through so that I would have a trail of bread crumbs to follow on the way back. First, I stopped in Konigswinter until I figured out that I had been disoriented in Bad Honnef and had headed north instead of south. I stopped in Unkel, and walked for a while down the Rhine. The water was surprisingly fairly warm.
I was surprised to see how undeveloped this section of the Rhine was. I regretted not bringing shorts and running shoes because there is a path that runs along the river and the sun was shining on an exceptionally warm spring day. I’ve been nervous to run, because there aren’t too many long stretches of road here other than highways and I would be making more turns that I could remember and would inevitably get lost. On my way back to the car, I saw a sign with a crude map (basically with just town names along the Rhine on route 42) and took a picture as an insurance policy.

Throughout the town, there are these funny little green spaces that jut out into the roads. I can’t tell whether their primary purpose is to create parking spots or to act as a speed limiter. Either way, they have me zig zagging all over the place.
Another thing that amused me was the Ausfart signs. Ausfart or No Ausfart? At least they don't beat around the bush and set clear groundrules...


No Ausfart

No Ausfart

PS I'm pretty sure Ausfart means exit.

After Unkel was Erpel. Another tiny town that looked like it hadn’t changed in hundreds of years. I half expected people to walk down the street in renaissance era clothing. The architecture was pretty amazing. Every town has a church with lots of unique character.

After Erpel, I passed through Linz, which Bernd had told me was where he and Elke were married. It is a slightly larger town, and its section of the river is more developed, lined with a river walk and countless boat launches. After passing through Linz, I entered wine country. There were some beautiful landscapes with vines climbing up mountains that butted up to the Rhine.

The street signs I had been following were taking me to Koblenz and so I figured that I would get there and then turn back. Since it was one of the big destinations on the signs, I should have figured it would be a big city. Nothing too exciting. I was hungry and stopped at Aldi for some kind of meat (I thought it was turkey when I bought it but now I’m not so sure) and what I guessed was cottage cheese. Then I headed back north.

I stopped a few times for pictures along the way. There were several wineries that I stopped at and tried to poke around but they didn’t seem to welcome guests or do tastings or anything.

I passed this incredible castle that I had seen on the way down but it was not easy to find from the highway. I eventually stumbled upon it, and it was worth it for the pictures…

As I pulled into Bad Honnef, I was a bit worried about how exactly to get home from there. I couldn’t remember the name of Bernd and Elke’s town for the life of me (Windhagen). I passed through a familiar street where I had stopped at the bank earlier in the afternoon but couldn’t figure it out. I had been wandering around for 5 or 10 minutes and was about to call Bernd when he called me . He told me to look for signs to the Autobahn since I had to cross over it. Almost immediately after getting off the phone, I found a sign. It took me through the road I had been looking for, a long road that wound though the woods (reminded me of Durand). I still wasn’t positive I knew how to get home from there and the Razr Bernd had given me started beeping with a low battery so I got a bit nervous, but somehow I trusted my gut and for maybe the first time ever, the directions my gut gave me were right and I got back without a hitch. Overall, I was blown away that that had been the extent of me getting lost in a foreign country without a map. Setting out in the morning, I had expected and prepared for much worse.

When I got home, Bernd was just finishing up dinner and I grabbed a quick snack, (having eaten relatively recently) and we sat down for the game. Elke got home from her training in Hamburg around half time and we watched another dominant German performance. Chances are pretty good that it will be an all-German final. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have wine during the post game show…just sparkling water tonight.

Overall a great day! My only regret was that Elke had not been home to show me how to take the top down in the BMW (it’s not automatic). It was a perfect top-down day. Tomorrow I’m waking up at the crack of dawn and Bernd is taking me to the train station to catch the train to Frankfurt to sit in on one of their trainings on facilitation. Should be fun!

Posted by atbrady 15:09 Archived in Germany Tagged country wine bad winery koblenz linz rhineland unkel erpel honnef Comments (2)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 400) Previous « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 9 10 .. » Next