All my 2009 Germany pictures can be seen at:
http://www4.rdstokes.com/Resources/2009%20Germany

Berlin and it's now defunct Wall

This was a MUCH better day! Serena and I signed up for one of those "around the town" bus tours so we got a quick idea about how the city was laid out. We saw the Berlin wall, their parament building, their new trainstation, etc. You can't tell the difference between East and West Berlin now-a-days.

We ended the day at the Berlin Wall Museum. It mostly focused on people who escaped from East Berlin. It showed some of the events before the wall like the Soviet blockade, polical events between 1961 and 1989, and about Stallin's famine of 1933. There was a complete gap of information between 1958 and 1961 which led to the building of the wall as well as how people were integrated during reunification after the fall of the wall; these were the things I was most interested in. I guess I got to go online to read about these time periods...

For dinner, we got another recommendation of some restaurant on the edge of Alexanderplatz. This restaurant wasn't all that good AND the service wasn't either. In fact, the waitress got Serena's food order wrong (because I heard Serena say "no sour cream" and she asked the waitress, "is there milk" which the waitress replied "no,") and tried to put the blame on Serena for "not telling her." This is the third time Germans in the service business have tried to assign blame. I could understand if there was a language barrier but I don't think that is the case here. Also, you don't have to assign blame, just fix the problem!

Another BIG issue was back on Thursday at the Jewish cemetry. The posted prices on the window above the ticket counter said "200 Euros for adults," "150 Euros for children," and "children under 6 free." Okay, we have 4 adults, 1 child, and one under 6; that's 200 * 4 + 150 = 950 Euros, but the bill came to 1350 Euros! When we tried to figure out why the difference, it took a ridiculous amount of coaxing to get the woman at the ticket counter to tell us. Instead, she just said "This is EASY! Don't you know how to count! This is so simple! What's your problem?" I pointed out that 3 adults couldn't understand her math, which got more rants from her. Come to find out, there's this 5x7 handwritten card taped to the counter saying "300 Euros for adults," "150 Euros for children." So this is when I made the rude comment, "Oh, so you are scamming 100 Euros person off the top from people who want to attend this memorial." That comment didn't go over well with Ashley...

Back to Tuesday night. At dinner, I asked for "water without gas" and I got a shot glass with less than 2 ounces full. I drank my glass, Serena's glass, and had to ask for two more glasses throughout dinner. In Europe (or at least Germany,) just because a glass is empty doesn't seem to be a reason to fill it. Of course I cauld have easily drank 24 ounces that evening because we had been walking all over the city. I looked around at other tables and EVERYONE of them had at least a 24 ounce beer or a glass of wine. So I posed the question to Serena... What does an alcholoc do when in Europe? They only serve ridiculous large amounts of beer and server ridicously small amounts of water or coffee!

So that leads me to my next story that really doesn't affect me... but everytime Serena and Kenny ordered coffee or cappincino, they would ask for a large and get an 8 ounce cup with 2 ounces of liquid! What's up with this? In the States, Starbucks serves too much coffee (so I think) but here they serve too little! How does anyone get their thirst quenched? It was also funny listening to Kenny asking the person behind the counter to "fill up the cup" and the look on the person face... Of course, to fill a person's cup is a quadruple so 8 ounces of coffee was about $15 USD!

After dinner, we took off toward Frankfurt to catch our plane which leaves at 10:55 in the morning. Serena started driving and I tried to sleep in the back seat. But all I could hear was the engine chugging along at maximum RPMs. Every once in a while, I'd look over her should to check the speed. The GPS would say 100 or 101 mph. Okay, so I did this too when on the open road. (Note: We were not the fastest people on the road. About every 30 minutes a car would pass doing +130 mph and blow the van around in the lane.) I tried to calm my fears and sleep. Again, I looked up as she was going down a mountain at 108! Earlier, she said:
Serena: How long does the GPS say it will take us?
Rob: 4 hours and 35 minutes.
Serena: Oh, I can beat that!
Rob: This is not a race with the GPS...

A wasted day looking for an Internet connection

Got up at 8:30, left Christian's place to look for an Internet connection so I could do some work for AHA before they came into the office today. Christian said to go to the Internet Cafe but Internet Cafes in Germany requires you to use their computer connected to their Ethernet network. We bring our own computer and just want a WiFi connection. So I drove around Munich for 1 1/2 hours looking for a WiFi connection. What a bust! I got lost. I put the wrong destination into the GPS and ended up at Christian's office instead of his apartment. I put another wrong destination in and it was trying to take me the hotel from Thursday night! Finally back to the apartment and found an Internet connection right there in the parking lot! Now I don't have time to do what I need AND go to the museum with Kenny & Serena.

I wrote some emails and now I'm chosing to go to the Munich Science and Technology Museum. The museum features nautical tools, ships, airplanes, and some space satelites. There is A LOT there. More than 4 hours worth, but that's all we were staying there for. We also went up to their "Internet Cafe" to have lunch and get on the Internet. After climbing all those stairs, they tell is "The Internet is kaput!"

Then on to shopping. Kenny got himself some new shoes. I looked at some of those Germany outfits, I think their called lederhosen. They would have been fun for Oktoberfest parties but at $300, it just wasn't worth it for once a year. So I passed.

I finally figure out why we're in Germany; it is because Kenny has a conference to attend in Munich. Christian was Kenny's college roommate and he now lives here in Munich. Therefore, Kenny and his family could stay with Christian at his Munich apartment and see the German Countryside. Serena and I are just exended "the family" and we also brought along the big bus for everyone to ride in. I feel so dense at taking so long to connect the dots!

Now it is time for Kenny to go to his conference to get his registration papers. This is where we are parting for the week but first, I we have to get money and a bottle of wine to Christian via Kenny. Christian covered for Serena with cash on her purchase of boots the other day because the store didn't accept foreign cards. We haven't paid him back yet so I go find an ATM. You would think a conference center would have an ATM. NOooo... I have to go all the way to a nearby mall to find an ATM. I end up running the whole way there and back for about 25 minutes. When I do get back, Kenny has left and now we've got the wine and all this Euro cash to get rid of in 1 day! Another failure for the day.

The only success was when we hopped on the conference WiFi Internet setup to get our Internet "daily fix." I also downloaded a lot of podcasts to Serena's iPhone because my Bluetooth headset and speaker, both, died on this trip so I have no way of listening to the podcasts on my phone. Listening to podcasts while driving keeps me awake. I also realized that today was Labor Day in the States. I could complete my work for AHA and they still think I was on schedule and paying attention to them.

About three hours later, we leave the convention center and head toward Berlin. For dinner, we tried to let the GPS choose a restaurant. Other than the restaurant was way out of the way and the restaurant was permantly closed, I guess it made a good choice! We ended up at some Itialian Resturant recommended by a local. Service was good; food was bad.

I made it driving all the way to Berlin and arrived around 3:30 am. I found a parking spot in a residential community, jumped into the backseat, and went to sleep.

Dachau Concentration Camp north of Munich

Ashley and the kids hoped a plane home. Serena and I decided to stay another day... Maybe two. So we went to Dachau, a concentration camp just outside of Munich. I really don't know how to describe what I felt as I walked through the bunk houses, courtyard, camp fencing, gas chambers, crematorium, graves, etc. I only took these two pictures or the whole camp.

Christian decided to liven us up so he took us to the city of Starnberg at the north end of Starnberger See near his parents house. We bought some baked fish, prezels, and ate them overlooking the sailboats going by on the lake.

For dinner, he took us to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner and drinks. There was a band but people were singing their own songs. Pounding on the tables. And generally just acting up. This is Sunday night; the place wasn't packed, so I assume that this wasn't a rowdy night.

I have noticed that the majority of German women are very pretty. However, their body has no definition. They don't have the hour-glass shape. Instead, they are more like a guy in that their chest is the some size as their waist is the same size as their hips. Maybe it's all the big beers they drink...

Tomorrow, we're going to try to find an Internet connection early. Get some work done, go to the Museam, and head toward Berlin.

Climing the hill to the Neuschwanstein Castle

We had to make a decision. Go with the family to the Neuschwanstein Castle which Disney's Sleeping Beauty's Castle is modeled from or go run with people that Serena has met online. Since I couldn't figure out where they were meeting nor where they were ending (plus, I did want to see this castle,) we chose to go with the family.

But first! Christian took us to a German breakfast restaurant where their speciality is white sausage and beer. Nothing on the menu sounded like it would wake me up. Then they provided us with large pretelzes; you know, like the ones you purchase from street venders. So I took a prezel, cleaned off the salt, split it open, and then poured sugar in it. The prezel was now pretty good. Unfortunately, it didn't wake me up. As for the white sausage, it is definately an aquired taste. And the beer, my mind kept thinking I was having milk so most every sip was a shock to my system! Christian also order some Liver and Ham, which doesn't have any liver or ham in it; it kind of feels and tastes like spam. Fortunately for me, Serena ordered some eggs with dumplings. It tasted almost exactly like a breakfast served by other people who go camping with us! So, I was able to at least eat this and not starve for the day.

After breakfast, we had one of those unexpected stops for... shoe shopping! But this is a kids shoe store. The kids got a pair of shoes... but so did Serena to add to her wall of shoes! The guy helping her kind of laughed at her purchase but was more than happy to sell her these expensive shoes.

I've been out of Euro cash for about 12 hours now. Christian has been covering for me until I get logged into my bank account, transfer funds, and then get to the ATM. Problem with me paying is that so few people here take credit cards! Most restaurants don't. Not all grocery stores. Definately not bakeries. However, every filling station has yet to refuse my American Express but then none of them have "pay at the pump."

Finally on the road to Neuschwanstein Castle! From the city, we walk up about a mile to the base of the castle. Christian walks us on about another half mile up to a bridge which traverses about a 150 foot ravine. Very pretty, very windy, very cold, very creaky as you walk across the bouncy boards.

As for the castle, I was a bit perplexed as it is well maintained. I was kind of expecting an old worn down castle like we saw in Heidelberg. Here the paintings are maintained, the place is air contidioned, light switches/outlets are everywhere, etc. There was even a callbox on the castle door with names; I guess people live here.

Down the castle mountain, to the bus, and now we're going to Christian's parents house for dinner. Of course they were very polite. They kept the conversation going. They said that they usually have Cubans over so English speaking people is a treat for them. During dinner, I noticed how they were very proper in their utensile arrangement. Kenny, Serena, and I just plopped our forks and knifes down anywhere. When they were done between courses, they would put the fork on the leftside of the plate upside down with the handle resting on the table and their knife would be on the right side of the plate again with the handle resting on the table. Each course was scheduled so that the only the main meal would dirty the plate. So our first course came on a saucer which they placed in the middle of our plate. On the second course we were to put a bowl on our plate and then fill it with salad. Last, we would put our main pasta meal on our plate. They had about a 10 minute intermission between each course to collect the dirty dish and then sitdown to engage us in deliberate conversation. I felt really bad when I had to interrupt the flow to ask for their Internet WiFi password and then begin to focus on the computer. Just like my dinner with the French family back in 1993, this was the most interesting/educative family dinner meal I've had in a long time. I'm glad I got to do it!

Parking is still an issue

We get our first parking ticket today... while parked in the hotel parking lot! or so it looks like. No body at the Tulip Inn bothered to tell us that the parking lot 20 feet from their door is city owned. Plus, I never saw a meter anywhere for the two days we've parked there.

Germany has a lot of cameras on the Autobahn. I swear, it has taken our picture at least 2 times and I don't know why; we weren't speeding nor even going an unreasonable speed by their measure.

Oh well... I'll just cancel my credit card when I get back so they can't transfer the costs from Avis to me. If the Germans want to come get me from the States, I'll justify it as another trip on their dime! Anyone want to come with me?

Today was suppose to be a 1 1/2 hour trip to Munich to pick up Christian. Instead, we got lost. Then we ran into construction. All of which pushed us an added 1 1/2 hours behind schedule. I'm not sure but I think the GPS was the biggest offender here as it routed us to some highway other than E50.

With Christian in the car, we headed out of town and up the mountains for a pretty uneventful trip to the Walchensee Lake Gondola. This mountain is a winter time ski resort and a summer time look out station. It was a short hike from the Gondla to the mountain top restaurant where we snacked before heading back down.

Christian was nice enough to take us to a restaurant/bar that had WiFi so that Serena could get her messages. Unfortunately, this is the first WiFi hot spot that I've ever seen that was restricted to only ports to 23 and 80. Thus, I wasn't able to access my computers nor check on an problem at AHA, Serena wasn't able to use Skype to call the States, so all I did was read Facebook and a couple of blogs. To add to the frustration, we got another ticket! sitting in an unclear parking zone outside the restaurant. A parking ticket here is only like $8 USD.

The evening was spent at Christian's house just talking. Ashley coined the term "Responsible Authority" as the Germany government uses it to describe themselves. Let's see if I can remember the sentence I saw, "Smoking is not allowed as is identified by the Responsible Authority." Responsible Authority jokes consumed over an hours worth of our conversation...

The advancements in the city of Prague

I slept while Serena drove and Ashley navigated our way into Prague. At the boarder there are some old guard booths but for the most part, you can continue traveling without even a blink much less a passport stamp. Their Autobahn was good as Germany’s and only had one minor strech with a little construction. We did pull off to get the vignette sticker which is suppose to cost 220 crowns; I think we got ripped off as Serena paid with Euros for a total of 12. No matter, they did a great job and took us right to the square where... there was no parking! But then, this is what we expected as my research said. We found a parking spot about 2 miles away, up a very steep hill, from the city square but didn't have crowns to pay. So, we went drove on and lucked out at another parking lot with a money changer across the street. So now we're set for the afternoon and down the hill we went walked to the Charles Bridge. This bridge was a traffic jam of people as it took us 20 minutes to cross.

Once on the other side, we found a great meal for about $65 USD and an Internet connection where everyone got caught up on their emails/social networks.

Across the street was the building where Jews were held for deportation before being sent off to concentration camps. There is also a synagogue where they had all the deported people's names written on the walls, a room of children's drawings from the time period, and out back a cemetary with hundreds of headstones piled on top of each other as the Jewish were not allowed to bury their dead anywhere else for centries.

During our walks, Ashley tells us about being here just after the Berlin wall fell. She said that every building was dark or dirty gray from the air polution. The city was pretty much abandoned nor did anyone travel to the side of town we're now parked; the buildings were just boarded up. Tourists were no where to be found as well as no one owned a car. She was amazed at the changes that occurred since obtaining it's freedom.

We moved on to Old Town Hall (what I would call a square) where we sat in view of the Astronomical Clock Tower, Ashley checked out the apartment that she once stayed in, we sat around until the clock chimed and the animated characters danced around.

By now it was 7:30 pm and we were heading toward our 8 pm reservation that a friend, Dee Hill who use to live in Prague, suggested. We walked the completely wrong way, got lost, saw all the other restaurants in the city, before coming upon Palffy Palace Club. It was a REALLY SWANKY restaurant! It is one of those out of the way restaurants that you really had to know about in order to find/patron. It also reminded me of the restaurant in "The Cook, The Thief, and His Wife" as it had all the same atmosphere and snobby, but attentive, waiters. Oh, this place had green drapes where as the movie had red drapes. Since Dee and I saw the show together, I think that's why she sent us there...

Of course, the food was excellent! The service was really good! And the evening was nice sitting on the patio. Serena and I shared Poached Cod Fish and an appetizer of Lamb on Gingerbread. Emma's meal, an appetizer of Ravioli looked and sounded the best (I didn't get to try it,) and Ashley's Chicken was definately the runner up for second best. Mmmm.... The whole meal cost us 3300 crowns.

Now back to our bus and out of Prague at 11 pm with a destination of the same hotel as from last night. Instead of finding E50 which goes back to Munich (our destination on Friday,) we find some other highway... E48. Here in Czech, the GPS doesn't work; it doesn't even tell you which way your going! So we don't know if left or right is north, south, west, or we hope not east. And the map we have has so little detail that we can't be sure where we're at. Instead of taking the easy way and driving back to Prague to find the right highway, we head down this little road that goes through some small mountain pass. After about 1 1/2 hours of driving around, making lots of wrong turns as well as u-turns, we find E50! (Unfortunately, getting lost in Czech was not as big of a deal as we all would have hoped for.)

Up the mountain in Heidelberg

First thing to do today is get money from an ATM... again. This time the ATM qualified the currency being selected. However, it still did not provide a receipt. I withdrew 100 Euros and it looks like $143.21 was pulled from my account. These numbers match up within reason.

On to the Heidelburg castle! It's a castle... It use to have a moat, some towers, a metal spike door lowered from the enterance way, etc. Everything that you would think a castle would have.

Next was up the mountain via a cable-car trolly. Kenny took the kids and they climb the 7k path to the top. After sitting at the top for about 45 minutes, we were getting pretty mad that they would waste 2+ hours climbing the mountain AND that the kids were going to be too tired to handle the rest of the day! Just about that time, they showed up! They weren't tired. They weren't even wishing they had ridden the trolley! They got there MUCH faster than we had expected!

So after lunch when it was time to go down the mountain, Kenny and Havah took off walking down the mountain this time. The rest of us took the trolley. We had just gotten on the trolley when we received a text message that they were waiting for us at the bottom. Wow! 30 minutes to go all the way down! I'm kind of wishing that I had gone with them.

The last thing for the day was shopping.

While they shopped, I followed along looking for an unsecure WiFi Internet connection so I could check my mail or servers. Sometimes I got a connection; most of the times not but it was a good way to pass the time while Serena "wasted hers."

For dinner, we ordered out from a bar across the street from Mrs. Rosemary's. When we went to pick it up, they told us that they didn't have anything to carry out the soup in. So they offerred us a nice big bowl & saucer and asked us to return it when finished! Of course, we did.

All day long we've been discussing driving to Prague, Czech Republic. Problem is, we were hearing stories that it take 12 hours to get there. The roads are typically out or under construction. The line at the border requires a long wait. And, we don't have any crowns. So I began researching travel times/events. The best I got was this article:
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080408125723AAbVdbI

To sum up, the highway may have construction, we have to purchase a highway pass for 220 crowns (~$12 USD,) you have to drive with your lights on, traffic and parking in Prague is horrible, parking in the wrong place will get your car booted or towed, and everyone in the car has to have their seatbelt on. So we decided to try for Prague.

Around 9:15 pm, we headed out of Heidelberg and toward Prague. Ashley was really worried about arriving in Prague at 3am; trying to find a hotel, get cash, etc. I didn't think it was a big deal but instead just part of the adventure. But, we gave in and stopped a Amberg for the night. We went through 3 motels who didn't want to rent us a room. One of them said they had rooms for us but rejected us on some stupid statement about "children." As we were about to give up and leave town, I saw a big high-rise hotel called the Tulip Inn Hotel. They were more than happy to provide two rooms for us at about 200 Euros.

A German amusement park - Legoland

This morning, everyone jumped up (late,) got in the car and headed to Heidelberg. On the way, we decided to stop at Legoland. This was a choice made by Havah (Serena's neice) as the kids had an assignment to pick a place to visit while in Germany. We all thought that Lego land would be a short 1 hour stop. It ended up being a full blown amusement park which sucked 4 hours out of our day! I did enjoy it. The lines were short and the rides were even shorter but we still had fun.

As we're leaving Legoland, Ashley, Serena's Sister-in-law, is wresling with the notion that this tour of Germany will be done from behind the wheel! All of us have done the backpacking through Europe thing and "kind-of" expected to tour Germany to be more in-tune with the "natives." Unfortunately, that is not the case on this trip. It's a quick German-wind tour of the cities we can get to in a week.

As 5 pm rolled around, we headed on to Heidelberg. Ashley had secured a place to stay for the night with an old friend of hers that we called Mrs. Rosemary. Mrs. Rosemary lives right off the river so it was an easy walk to the restaurants, bars, shopping, and the city's big attraction, "the castle."

Mrs. Rosemary's apartment, Christian's apartment, the house S&M lives in, and quite a few buildings we've been in have all look brand spank'n new. The outsides aren't so great but the insides have new floors, painted walls, new baseboards, etc. And these heavy plastic front doors seem to be all the rage. I'm curious if this country recently went through some kind of manditory apartment upgrade?

Around 10 pm, we left the kids with Mrs. Rosemary and headed downtown to see what was going on. Everything was mostly closed so the trip ended up being a scouting trip for tomorrow's adventures.

Getting to Munich to catch up with Serena's Brother's family

We were suppose to get up at 6:30 and drive to the Munich airport to pick up Serena's brother & family by 11 am; but of course, we didn't... We got up, packed, and left S&M's place around 10:30 am. And drove pretty much most of the day for what was suppose to be only 4 hours! First, we got lost in little towns looking for breakfast. Then, got sleepy and pulled over for naps. 3 of them. Each lasting 20 minutes before I drove another 20 miles and falling a sleep again. The last time, I woke Serena up and told her to drive! So, by this time in the trip, Serena has done 90% of the driving in Germany and I'm coming to the realization that this will be a tour of Germany from behind the wheel...

When we got to Munich, we found the place we were staying the night, Christian's apartment. We rang the bell. We sent texts to Kenny, Serena's brother. Nothing seemed to ever happen. We figured that they were out looking at the city so we went to a local restaurant to eat and wait on them. Once Christian got home, we found that Kenny and them were just dead asleep so they didn't respond to the phone or the door bell!

With Serena watching the kids, I went out with them for a "second" dinner at a Tapas place. I'm not a big fan of Tapas but this place was pretty neat. It's kind of like a buffet. You browse your choices, select them by number, and the waitress brings you a serving for 6.95 Euros. Easy to know what you are getting.

In the restaurant bathrooms, I've noticed that urinals have been installed on wall where men once would urinate. When I was in Europe before, I remember going on the walls of the bathroom with a canal on the floor to the drain. Everyonce in a while water would wash the wall down. As I said, they now have urinals on the wall but the canal and drain is still in the bathroom. Sometimes, they don't even put the urinal pipes behind the wall!

EVERYONE here rides their bike as the major form of transportation. Bikes are EVERYWHERE. Every street has a bike lane. It's kind of like how Serena described Amsterdam to me. On Christian's street alone, there is probably 200 bikes; most are barely locked to anything. I think that if we rode our trike around any of these cities, we'd still be called "Wasteful American" as we'd take up so much of their bike path.

Also, most everyone's bike is set to the incorrect height for pedalling. You'd think that people who live on their bike daily would set the seat appropriately to be efficient. Nope... Not here!

First day navigating the Germans

Once we got to Frankford, we made our way to the area where the rental cars were. I had a booking for "Holiday Autos"; it was a 9 passenger van to carry us and Serena's Brother's family. As went when through the list of rental companies, it became apparent that Holiday Autos was not a car company. No Holiday "anything" was mentioned anywhere. As I asked the different car companies about Holiday Autos, they ran my name through the system to see if I was on their list. Hertz, Budget, Thrifty, Eurocar, Sitx, none of them had a resurvation for me! By this time, I am DOG TIRED as it is the equalivent of 4 am in the morning with only a couple of hours of sleep on the plane.

To make matters worse, I got Euros out of a Deutschland Bank ATM machine. It asked me how much did I want but it didn't specify the currency, so I chose 100. I got 70 Euros from the ATM and no receipt was provided. That's about right for exchange so I guess it meant 100 USD. Later, when I logged into my bank account, it says that I withdrew $143.57! First of all, my account should not have allowed for the withdrawl of that much money; second, I'm upset that I don't have proof of my withdrawal in the form of a receipt; third, I'm in another country where I can't make phone calls to complain about this easily! Grrr!!!

Fortunately, I did make a backup reservation with Avis. Avis is the only car company that allows me to reserve a car without giving my credit card. Easy! Done! and covers for unknown issues! So we couldn't find "Holiday Autos," we signed up with Avis. The Avis representative was great! He understood that we were running on little sleep and he put up with me not understanding his instructions as well as Serena asking to use his computer for Internet access (to check her Facebook account... so I joked) to find our first destination, Badem. Unfortunately, that name was all we knew of our destination. It took the Avis guy a while but found our destination, 2 hours away. I think he pulled some deals for us because the car (really a big van) was originally priced at $1250 for a week and a GPS was $8 per day. The costs is coming out to be less than a $1000, including $4 per day for GPS and the addition of extra drivers! He gave us some energy bars and sent us on our way.

As I mentioned, we got a BIG van because we planned to carry Serena's family around with us too. It's a 9 seater! All white! And covered with Avis advertisements! I call it a moving billboard but if that's what it takes to reduce the weekly cost, so be it! Later on, everyone will refer to it as the Griswalds Family Bus!

Serena specifically asked the Avis rep if we had to worry about speed limits in this thing. (Sometimes, rental cars have a GPS that track the speed and then issue their own tickets for excessive speed.) The guy said, "This is a van not a little sports car!" We all laughed... and Serena took that to be a "No, we won't ticket you." So she started out the trip by driving on the Autobahn. Serena was very disappointed that she couldn't get this thing going more than 100 mph on flat ground and 107 on a downhill! We will definately get to our destination quickly!

Around 1 pm, we are getting hungry so we pull of the Autobahn and into a sleepy little town looking for food. Ordering food is going to be our first German interaction barrier so we are a bit apprehensive. As if we don’t now any German, we make it harder by not having studied any German, choosing a little out of the way city to eat in, AND choosing a chinese food restaurant. Of course they didn’t understand us and we didn’t understand them but we did get some delicious food!

We were meeting some people with the running group we hang with. We missed the actual run but hung around for circle, then burgers, and then we ended up staying with the host for the day, S&M and M. He was military and all his running friends and personal friends were too. It was interesting to see how they survived in a foreign land. How they watched only the US military TV channnel and how it only had military commercials! Of course, everyone was drinking so they all crashed at his house because the blood alchole limit here in Germany is .04 and on base it's .02! Even after one beer these guys don't drive!

Getting on the plane is never easy for me

As normal, before any trip... A server went down. As is typically what I do in this situation, I performed maintenance on a server thinking it would make it more stable. Of course I found problems; of course I tried to fix them; of course everything just cratered! I was up all Friday night trying to initialize the bad hard in the server. When that didn't work, I decided that I'd go to CoLo during the 4 hour wait we had between signing in for the flight and getting on the plane. It took 2 1/2 hours to replace the hardware and start a restore. I got back to the gate with 45 minutes to spare. I got on the plane not knowing whether the restore completed/worked or not.

The server is now more unstable than before. I should have just restarted it and got on the plane last night.

One of our friends, Stephanie who works for American Airlines, offerred us a Standby Flight ticket. It was 1/3 the cost of the original retail ticket! She said that there would be little chance we'd be bumped on this particular flight. We were getting kind of scared when everyone had already boarded and we still hadn't been called. Since we're in Germany as of this writing, I guess it's needless to say... We got on the plane!