Hmm. Well. It's been more than six months since I last posted here, and not surprisingly, a lot has happened in that time. Since last August, I went to Las Vegas, Walt Disney World, and (back) to Denver in the span of a month, hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner, celebrated the Christmas holiday, and kicked off a new year.
And after 31 years, 5 months, and 16 days, I finally got a stamp in my passport. (Okay, so I had only had the passport since last July. Not the point.) The main reason I had gotten
the passport was because my boss told me to do so. Our parent company is located in Germany, and he kept
promising to send me there. Last December, he made good on his word, and told another engineer and I that would we be heading over there for a few weeks for some training. And so, on January 31st, I was off to Chicago-O'Hare International, where I boarded my very first 777 and flew to Frankfurt.
I must admit, I was a little 'star struck' by the plane. That sucker was big. Still, I wasn't entirely certain how much fun it would be to be on it for 8 1/2 hours. We had 'upgraded' to Economy Plus, and airplane travel is one of the few times I'm happy to be 5'2", but the quarters were still...less than luxurious. Nevertheless, I settled in with my books/crossword/Sudoku/iPod, and soon enough we were airborne.
The flight itself was actually quite uneventful. I amused myself for the first few hours, ate dinner (which was edible, if mediocre), and promptly took a sleeping pill (thanks, Dr. Savin). I managed to sleep for the middle four hours of the flight, which was a minor miracle, and woke in time for the 'light breakfast' a couple hours before landing in Germany. Oddly enough, we were not parked at a gate upon our arrival in Frankfurt. Instead, we were herded across the tarmac to several buses, which then transported us to the terminal. Perhaps we landed in France by mistake...
Customs was a breeze (although, weirdly, the customs agent asked me where I was going, and then whether I was in the military, which...HAHAHAHAHAHA), none of our luggage was lost, and we were met by a driver from the company. It was about another hour from Frankfurt to Hardheim
, the picturesque but not especially large town where we were staying. We were taken to our hotel, the Gasthaus zum Ochsen, which you can see below.
We had a few hours to get settled after arriving, and I resisted the urge to simply crawl into bed and sleep for a week. The room itself was quite large, albeit rather different than a typical American hotel room. For instance, there was no telephone...and my laptop was larger than the TV. Only half of the bed was made up, I guess since only one person was staying there. And there was a coffee table and an elliptical machine in the room. Didn't understand that at all.
Mid-afternoon, we were picked up from the hotel by the head of the mechanical engineering department, who took us over to the plant and gave us a brief tour. As it was a Sunday, there was hardly anyone there, but we were able to get the lay of the land a bit. The main machine fabrication shop was about a five-minute walk from our hotel, and we actually walked to work all but one of the days we were there. Here is the path along the river that we took each day.
After the tour, he took us to the nearby city of Buchen, which is where a two-week odyssey of food began for me. :) I have to confess, I was a bit nervous about whether I would like the food over there. I've never been the most adventurous eater (although I've gotten markedly better in the last half-dozen years or so), and my main impression of German food in America consisted of bratwurst (yum) and sauerkraut (ew). Much to my delight, I found German food (at least in that particular region) very much to my liking. I'm not sure I've ever eaten quite so much protein, as nearly every meal seemed to consist of some kind of meat in some kind of sauce with some kind of potatoes. Fortunately, despite the hearty fare, I actually lost a couple pounds thanks to the fact that we walked everywhere!
Quite honestly, the bulk of my time in Germany was spent working and eating, which really isn't a bad way to spend two weeks! All but two of the nights we were there, we were taken out by various employees of the company, and it seemed like we visited nearly every town in the area. I can't imagine that anyone wants a complete blow-by-blow of every meal, so I'll just try to hit the highlights of my daily activities.
For the first week of the trip, we spent all of our work time in the machine assembly area. Although we also build the machines here in the States, we don't generally have the luxury of sitting in the shop and simply observing the assembly process. It was incredibly beneficial, after more than four years, to really get a chance to see how the pieces fit together. We were even able to get our hands dirty, assisting with some of the simpler tasks. Hopefully the machine will still run properly. :) Regardless, I learned a lot, and I'm confident that it will enable me to better do my job here.( Collapse )
Prior to the trip, there had been quite a bit of discussion about doing some sightseeing during our free weekend there. We talked about possibly going to Paris, or down to Neuschwanstein Castle. Neither of us had ever been to Europe before, however, and while we were eager to see the sights, we were also a bit nervous about simply wandering about the countryside on our own. Much to our relief, members of the engineering department volunteered to accompany us on both Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday was probably my favorite day of the entire trip. It was our first chance to really do anything other than work or eat, and we decided to go to Stuttgart. Specifically, we visited the Porsche Museum and the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Now, having been raised right and proper by my father, I've pretty much always loved cars, particularly ones that are sleek, shiny, and possessing an overabundance of horsepower. Needless to say, spending the day in two car museums was right up my alley. I took a ton of pictures, which can be seen here
. I preferred the Porsche Museum, and these two were my favorite cars:
We also had a very nice 'tour guide' that day (an American one, at that), who I'm fairly certain only thought I was marginally crazy. :)
Sunday was also a lot of fun, as we went for a more traditional German route, and visited Heidelberg. Our 'guide' that day was a native of Portugal, and we were once again joined by our Indian colleague. My only regret is that we didn't have more time to spend there. It's a beautiful old city, and I'm sure it would be even more so in warmer weather. We had an absolutely delicious lunch...somewhere, where I ate 'schnitzel with noodles' (how very The Sound of Music
...only not in Austria...with less singing...and no Nazis). After lunch, we wandered around for a while, and I, shockingly, took pictures. Being Sunday, most of the shops were closed, but there were still lots of people strolling around. I was particularly enthralled by the bridge:
And someday I will have to go back to visit the castle, as we didn't have time on this trip:
Monday, of course, it was back to work, and we spent our week in the engineering offices, learning more about their procedures. There were also some meetings going on that week (which we were not a part of), so a second colleague from India and two from China joined our 'visitors' group. We had a whole posse for dinners that week. :)( Collapse )
Flew home on Friday the 13th, and let me just say that a) it takes longer to fly west than east, and b) staying awake for the whole flight made it seem that much longer. Plus I really didn't want to come home yet.
When can I go back?