Friday, October 5, 2012

Leipzig

You may remember my having referenced an upcoming game review trip just after my return from the San Francisco trip - well, I've been, and I'm back. Settle in for awhile because I have quite a story to tell.

Getting There

I'm a worrier by nature, to a degree. There are assuredly things that I should worry about but don't, and there are certainly things I probably worry about more than is healthy. In the latter group falls my dire concern that I will someday miss a flight. It doesn't take much these days - traffic problems, TSA delays, etc. can easily find you arriving at an empty gate. So it was that I thought it a good idea to get to the airport a good two hours before the first leg of my trip. As is the norm with my luck, being over-prepared is a recipe for my diligent preparation having been for naught. I had guessed Friday mid-day to be a heavy travel time and I would spend at least forty-five minutes waiting for my government-mandated man date (which is what I now call the gloved-hand groping session that is de rigueur for modern air travel) but upon arrival at the checkpoint found there to be no line. Not just a short line, mind you, no line at all! I was the only "customer."

This does not always bode well. Perhaps you've noticed this too: if you ever come into a fast food restaurant and you're the only customer, it takes twice as long to get your food than it would if they were busy. My theory is that the employees enter kind of an idle state after a big customer rush and it's hard to get them back in high-performance mode. That wasn't really the case with the TSA agents; they were friendly and professional, and not bored enough to want to spend a great deal of time on my examination. They did still send me through the Peek-A-Tron, though. I'm still not 100% comfortable with those things, but it's mostly because of the hands up supplicant posture that you have to assume. On the plus side, I guess gaining some level of comfort with having people stare at me in the buff has opened a new career path for me - I figure I could now do some nude modeling should I ever fall victim to our New Normal Economy. 

But dancing is still right out. In the immortal words of a young Co-pilot Egg, "There are two things my daddy won't do: dance and turn left."  Still true, after all these years.

The flight to lovely Newark (KEWR) loaded on time. It was a full, but small, boat. I believe it was a 50 seat Enbraer. In any event, the seats were basically envelopes in width, and hard-wood chair in comfort. I was seated next to an attractive Russian woman who works and lives in New Jersey but does three-week stints in Columbus four times a year. She asked me if there were any interesting things to do in Columbus because she gets very bored. I answered her forthrightly and honestly.

"No."

She countered by asking about the Franklin County Conservatory which is one of our better attractions. And she was right to ask because it really is quite nice. I quickly amended my answer and told her that yes, she should go there, and probably ought to go there. And the Columbus Zoo as well, as it too is one of the best in the country. The conversation went from there to comparing notes about the challenges of IT work (she codes in the C language, a venerable old war horse that I moved away from twenty years ago) and the highs and lows of managing an eighteen year old. The trip flew by (heh!) and it seemed like no time until we were on the ground in Newark.

Newark is an aging airport and that was apparent in a number of ways, the worst of which is that you can't move from one terminal to another without going through TSA again. They make up for that inconvenience by staffing their checkpoints with rude, ill-tempered employees. The couple in front of me in line was an older German couple with limited English skills. The woman was redressed by a TSA agent that is in dire need of some additional training. I was somewhat taken aback by his gruff "Hey lady, is dat yur bag? Youse gotta get it on da belt - it ain't gonna move dere by itself." The poor woman looked like she was afraid she was going to be packed off to a detention cell.

After a couple of hours parked at the gate, we were invited to board the Airbus A340 that would be carrying us across the Atlantic. It was a Lufthansa jet and I have always heard good things about their service, and all were proven to be true. It was exemplary! Free wine and booze, constant attention with hot towels and the like, but a below average meal well served. I did find it ironic that after having passed though two TSA checkpoints to ensure that I wasn't carrying anything as deadly lethal as a pair of nail clippers I, and four hundred other people, was given a sharp metal knife with which to slice my rubbery chicken.  What an odd world we live in these days. Interesting times, indeed. 

I did have a minute of language-induced confusion. Early in the flight they had come around with drinks and I asked for a glass of water. As dinner came around, they again asked what I want to drink. They had wine, soft drinks, etc., but again I asked for water. The flight attendant looked at me and said, "Still water?"

"Well, yeah, what's wrong with having water?" I thought. Sensing my confusion, she proffered up two bottles. Oh, I see... she meant regular water or sparkling water. Duh.

The flight itself was absolutely miserable. I thought maybe my experience with the SLK was an isolated incident, but I am now convinced that Germans do not have lumbars in their backs. I say this because they have no concept of providing lumbar support in their seats. I sat down in my assigned seat in the Airbus and within 30 seconds my back was screaming, "You gotta be kidding!! Eight hours in this????" Not long thereafter my stomach began to remind me that I had been a little tense in the days/hours leading up to the trip. Long, painful story short, I spent the next eight hours alternating between nagging back pain and bend-me-over stomach cramps. Sleep, always difficult for me on an airplane, was out of the question. Dusseldorf could not come soon enough!

We landed in Dusseldorf at roughly 6:00 am local time, long before anything was open. That precluded the purchase of an Euros. I wouldn't have had time anyway as the crush to get through immigration control was quite lengthy. As it was I ended up letting a dozen or so people go in front of me since their flights were already boarding and they were at risk of missing them. This caused a little rumbling from people behind me in line, but if there is one thing I can truly empathize with, it is the fear of missing a flight.

Sitting at the gate waiting to board a the little CRJ jet that would hop us down to Leipzig, I couldn't help overhearing a neighbor sharing his travel status with someone at home over his cell phone. I hoped that he might be another American, but I caught sight of his passport; it was brown, whereas ours are blue. I stole a glance at the boarding gate and saw that his passport was Canadian. Ah, good! I ran into him again on the bus (not accidentally - the germ of a plan was hatching in my mind) that they used to take us out to the airplane. Knowing that at least he spoke English, I made a little comment about something innocuous, then in a bit of a fishing expedition asked if he was going to Leipzig for business or pleasure. He replied that he was a journalist and was on his way to Leipzig to see a new game. 

"Oh, really? So am I!" I replied.

Perfect!

We gathered up our luggage in Leipzig and took off in the hopes of finding the train station for the ride we would need into town. Once we got to the platform, we ran into a couple of other guys also heading into town, and for the same reason. Getting tickets for the train was a bit of a hassle; none of us had a clue how to do it. It was a self-service kiosk, though, and these millennials have grown up with this kind of thing. We had been told that the ticket would cost 6EU, but we couldn't find that option. We opted for the lower cost 4,80 EU option, figuring that we would at least get on the train and pay whatever difference was required when we got to Leipzig. When it came my turn to procure a ticket, I realized that I had a problem: I had been unable to buy Euros! There was an ATM "Geldomat" or something like that, but it wouldn't take my Visa card. I was well and truly stuck. Fortunately one of my new colleagues had enough to loan me a few. That was a close call!


The train ride was only fifteen minutes, and I was so happy to be out of an airline seat that I never bothered to try to find a seat on the train. A conductor came around checking tickets. It was the moment of truth!

He punched the ticket without even looking at it. I could have handed him a napkin.

The train pulled into the station.

I stood waiting for the door to open, a crowd forming behind me. Nothing happened. Finally a German woman pushed to the front and said "you must push the button!"

Oh.

Duh.

And then we were there!! I'm the one on the left. My new buddy Stephen is on the right.


To make up for my faux pas in not bringing any money (which there was no excuse for. When I traveled Europe with my high school friend Rajive in the summer of 1979 as a 17 year old, we learned to never change countries on a weekend because the banks are closed. We ended up sleeping the night in a Rome train station because we couldn't buy Lire) I had planned ahead and printed a Google map showing walking directions from the train station to the hotel. That was good, because no one else had any idea where it was.

The hotel provided by our hosts is the number one rated in all of Leipzig, and it was apparent from the moment that we walked in that this was a high class establishment.


Surprisingly, even though it was only about 9:00 local, we were able to get our rooms. That was a good thing because after sixteen hours of travel, I was tired and smelly.  Probably more smelly than tired, if I'm honest about it. I desperately wanted to shed my heavy luggage and grab a shower. Stephen and I were both hungry, though, so we agreed to meet back downstairs in half an hour to go get a bite to eat.

First, however, I had to find room 479. To understand why this ended up being an ordeal, look at the directions in this picture:


So, yeah, it took some looking. I finally found it, but soon realized that the puzzles were just beginning. I couldn't find the slot for the key card.


I couldn't find it because there wasn't one. After trying waving the card at the machined metal knob and at the keyhole, I finally waved it at the number board on the wall. That did the trick; I was in!


I was greeted with a bottle of much-needed water!  At room temperature. Direly in need of ice. Which, as I soon remembered, is not readily available in Germany, The Land That Lost Its Recipe For Ice.


The room was hot, so I went looking for the AC control. This looked like it, but it was non-functional. As we will see, that was the least of my worries. I couldn't get any of the lights to go on either. Nor could I figure out how to open the blinds. It was as if I was lucky enough to get assigned to the only room in the hotel with no power. But.... the mini-bar fridge was cold. Something was amiss...


I stuck the Do Not Disturb sign on the outside of the door thinking that at this time of day it is not unusual for staff to just pop in and I wanted to take a shower. Even with my increased comfort in having my nude body inspected by total strangers, I thought it might be uncomfortable to get caught by a live maid. Another puzzle, though. What is this sign used for???


As I continued my quest for the elusive power source, I came across a panel with a card slot. It had a speaker port and a couple of pictograms that looked like maid service, etc., so I thought it was something like an in-room OnStar system. A way to call for room service, like.  After fifteen frustrating minutes of hunting for a way to turn on the power, I decided to try putting the card in the slot. If it resulted in a visit from a staff member, so be it.


Voila!  On came the lights!!

And so, a duly shortened shower later and it was back to the streets. Leipzig was having a week long market fest, so the streets were crowded with vendors and walkers.


It appeared that finding food would be easy enough, but I was in the mood for something that had been de-identified a little more than this little guy:


Ahhh, that's more like it! German bratwurst!  A perfect opportunity to use a line that a former co-worker of my father's used to use: "Give me two of your wurst!"  Too bad my language skills weren't up to the task, and I doubt if puns translate well anyway.


Oh boy! A brat on a brotchen with mittelscharfer senf: how I have missed you!


The weather was stupendous, Octoberfest quality, and a lot of people were out enjoying it.






We walked around for quite awhile and worked up another appetite. Dinner was arranged for the original gang of four, plus a new guy. We strolled across the street to the Pepper House Restaurant, where we had beer as an appetizer. I love the late season Weizen beers, so that was my starter.


I had sauerbraten as my main course.


I was back up in my room when I heard familiar music from the street. It sounded hauntingly like Hang On Sloopy, the state song of Ohio and very popular with THE Ohio $tate University crowd. The music was good, but it seemed as if they didn't truly understand the lyrics. That's fair, though, because I don't either.


I didn't get there in time for Sloopy, but here is a sample:

video



Back at the room again, the 'turn down' service had been and gone. I'm not sure what the significance of the welcome mat is. There was another little hint that I chose to ignore: there was a brush by the toilet. Nicht, danke, you clean that!


I kept the little mints to use as wee-gifties when I got back to work. The weather forecast was a nice touch since I found both the TV and celcius reports entirely beyond comprehension.


Unfortunately, I was unable to sleep. This was a problem that would plague me for the entire time I was there. In fact, I averaged less than three hours sleep a day for the duration. This problem would eventually cause a moderately uncomfortable incident, but for the first night it meant that I yet again found myself wandering the streets.  One of my more important finds was the Curry Cult, a permanent food vendor where I would be able to sate an appetite twenty-five years in the making: I would be able to get curry wurst!


And dessert, should I so desire.


Co-pilot Egg is a big fan of giraffes, so I bought one of these little wooden models for her. I would have bought the tall one, but he wouldn't fit in my luggage.


I ran across this little guy. Apparently the German wildlife has learned a valuable lesson about passivity.


A rare aviation motif in a dress shop display!


There are a lot of churches, steeples, and towers here.


And good ole Budweiser, although I suspect that this is completely different than the tinted water we call beer.


Back to the room exhausted, but still unable to sleep.


Porsche!

Nearly fifty of us met in the hotel lobby for a bus ride over to the Porsche Werks. Despite our bus driver being in a surly mood (or, quite possibly, just a jackass all the time), it was an enjoyable ride on the autobahn. At one point he actually turned around and shushed us. It reminded me of a time at a Columbus Clippers baseball game (and you have to know that these games are LOUD with the sound of ringing cowbells) when a guy sitting in front of us turned around and shushed us. Really? Where did he think he was, an opera??

The distinctively shaped building was easily seen from the very edges of the employee parking lot.



As part of the group briefing, we were each given one of the coolest flash drives ever. This would be used to record video of what they called our "taxi ride," scheduled for later in the day.


We were divided into two groups. Group 1 would start out by driving the sports cars on the paved track, while group 2 would go drive the SUVs on the off-road track. I was in group 2.


We would be led around the track by a professional instructor. It was apparent very early on that shepherding around a gaggle of amateurs was not the favorite part of his job. He would use a radio to communicate with us through the in-dash radios in each truck.


I grabbed one of the sportier models with a V-8 and a turbo. I also had a co-driver with me. We would change seats halfway through the course. 

Once we drove out of the lot on the way to the off-road track, I let a gap build up between me and the next truck in front so I could test the acceleration of the turbo-enable truck.  It was stunning!  I really ought not call it a truck; it truly has the heart of a Porsche.



One of the first stops was the hill climb. We were told to ease slowly onto the hill, then hold a steady 2,000 rpm up the hill. About a third of the way up, I got a little concerned that all I could see was sky - there was no visible road over the crest of the hill. My foot got the message and lifted off enough that the truck stopped. Over the radio, "You must not stop! You must keep 2,000 rpm!!"

Oh, okay. So I started feeding in a little more gas, and a little more, and a little more... and finally the truck leapt forward. Too fast!

"You must not go so fast!!"

So I lifted my foot again. And we stopped.  Again.

"YOU MUST NOT PLAY WITH THE ACCELERATOR!!!"

Damn, I couldn't win at this game!


The next hill was made of sharp, rough stones. We were told NOT to go slowly up this hill as we might get a tire puncture. Go fast? Yes, I can do that!


At the bottom of the hill we changed drivers.  Fine by me.



Then it was back to what I really wanted to do: Carerras!  This would work similarly to the off-road driving: I would have the same co-driver. We would follow in a line, no passing allowed. After each lap, we would pit and switch positions. After another lap, we would pit again and change cars.

Our first car was a Carerra S4, which is a powerful turbo model. I was along for the ride for the first lap since I had gone first in the Cayenne. This would eventually lead to bitter disappointment.





I wish I had a clock this cool in my Mercedes, but my sour-grapes outlook is that it's too hard to read with its two-hand display.


For the first couple of laps, we drove pretty slowly so people could get used to the track. Even so, my co-driver struggled to keep up. He was young and not very experienced with driving a powerful car. It takes some getting used to.

Here's how I would have done it:







Then it was my turn. We were still doing slow laps, but I again was able to let a big enough gap build up to allow me to really get a feel for the power of the car. It was amazing! And the auditory experience is also quite different from my quiet and relaxing Mercedes. I found that downshifting it like I didn't own it (which, of course....) made the most tremendous throaty burble, kind of like a phlegmey dragon coughing.


The next couple of cars were lower end models and not nearly as powerful. As I like to say, Porsche's live in an automotive niche that I call "trackable road cars." In other words, they're more or less suitable as daily road cars, but they still perform quite well on a track. Over the next two sessions, the leader got us going faster and faster. And as we got into cars closer to the front of the pack, some of the slower drivers that had been holding us up rotated to the back of the field. It all was working out perfectly: I would get into the fastest car on the track at just the time when the leader was really letting us get some good speed.

The car in question is a Carerra GTS. This car moves from "trackable road car" to "roadable track car."  It is far less refined, and far more powerful. To own one of these, you either need to be crazy or have access to a good track.






As we were on the last part of my co-drivers turn, I was basically salivating at the prospect of hoofing this thing around the track. I had a good feel for all of the turns and where to hit the apexes; I was more than ready.

It was not to be.

On the exit of the chicane before the short straight, my co-driver inexplicably failed to hit the brakes at the entry of the turn. As a result, we went bounding over the curb and were heading straight at the wall. Oddly enough, even though we were in the dirt I was still hearing an awful lot of engine noise. I took the only corrective action available to me:

"GET OFF THE %$*#@& GAS!!!"

He slammed on the brakes and yanked the wheel to the left, thereby putting us broadside to the wall. My side, mind you, was the one with an appointment with the imminent collision. I could only think two things: "This is gonna hurt, and I hope he has the $2,500EU liability because I sure as hell ain't paying it!"

We ground to a halt three feet from the wall amidst a cloud of dust.

Immediately over the radio: "What is going ON?? I told you to remain between the two white lines!!"

I don't know what the German word for "conniption" is, but I sure know what one sounds/looks like!

We got back on the track at nearly the end of the line and putted around the remainder of the lap. We pulled into the pits and awaited the inevitable. Sure enough, here came the leader storming down the pit lane with a face that spelled one thing: TROUBLE.  I just sat there pointing at the other guy.

So, I got into the driver's seat and hoped that we would still get to drive. Nope. We were to be punished as a group. Over the radio, petulantly: "Now we must all go slow."  Bad news, that. Injury to insult? Yeah, we got that: even at time-out speed the guy in front of me couldn't keep up.

As we finished the lap, the leader came on the radio one last time: 

"We are done. You all did a great job."


Me: "Here it comes...."

Leader: "Except for the one driver who could not stay between the white lines!"

So, not the optimal experience, but still nice to have driven such a stellar machine.  Maybe there is a next step after the SLK on my someday list.


Lunch was served on the third floor of the building and the track was clearly visible. If you look, you can see the marks in the dirt from our off road excursion.


The food was good, and as it turned out I had gained a bit of notoriety for having been in the car that spun. Everyone wanted to know what happened, but I really couldn't provide much of an explanation. We really weren't going all that fast. I think my co-driver just kind of got caught up in the moment and it got away from him. It's not like he was horsing around or anything. Ah, well.




They had a collection of older, race heritage Porsches upstairs, so I escaped the attention of the curious to go take a look.






After lunch it was time for the taxi rides. As a pilot that has flown people out to lunch and back, I kind of questioned the order in which they did this, but it turned out to not be a super uncomfortable ride, even with a full stomach. The police-motif on the car is part of the gaming event, and not something I can talk about just yet.

The car itself was a Porsche GT3, and that is about as close as you can get to an actual race car. I expected to be surprised at the level of acceleration, but actually it wasn't so superior to the SLK that I was all that shocked by it. What amazed me was the braking power! These things stop on a dime!  Or ten euro cent coin, if you must.




After the rides, it was time to pay the piper. We would spend the next two hours in a cacophonous garage playing a video game.  It was pretty cool, though, to have a nice chair, PC, and a pair of headsets sitting there reserved for me.  By name. Cool!



And then it was time to leave.



Dinner that night was a group event at restaurant that has been around since the 15th century, and even then can only claim to be the 2nd oldest in Leipzig.  And again I started (and stayed with, as it turns out) a Weizen.






The highlight of the dinner was the conversation. I was sitting with one of the lead developers of the game, a young German that is working as an intern at Porsche, and another German that I believe was there in the same capacity as me. All three were very interesting to talk to and much of the conversation ran to cars, which was just fine to me. I eventually got on the topic of Formula 1 racing with the German guy to my right. After a few minutes, he said, "I cannot believe this. I cannot believe that I am having an intelligent conversation about F1 with an American!!"

I took it as a compliment. I'll leave it to the other 299,999,999 Americans to be offended.

The next days saw us back at Porsche for another day of game playing and a quick tour of the factory. There's not much to say about that; it paled in comparison to the previous day's activities.

I was able to get my beloved curry wurst for dinner, though. So I guess I ultimately had two of Germany's wurst.


I again found myself struggling to get to sleep and at about 11:30 I threw in the towel. I came across the idea of going to the restaurant across the street for a beer or two, thinking that might drowsy me up a bit. They were closing, so I went a little further down the street to a small bar. I grabbed a stool at the bar and ordered a half liter of Weizen. It wasn't until I was starting on my beer that I noticed the life size picture of five oiled up men wearing nothing but leather suspenders plastered across the far wall of the bar. Further inspection of the decor led me to believe that had there been a jukebox, it would have had only one song in it: YMCA, by The Village People. 

I assume you see where I'm headed here. I had unthinkingly walked into the other team's locker room, so to speak.

So, I figured I'd just quietly finish my beer, casually and politely brush off any advances (I know, I flatter myself) and head back to the room. But...

There was an older, rather inebriated German gentleman holding forth in somewhat labored and broken English on the state of the US presidential election. As you can imagine, I was completely engrossed, albeit desperately avoiding diving in to share the opinion of one who actually lives on the battlefield. I'm not sure how it all finished, having finished my beer and being concerned that ordering another might make me look, well, I don't know.... desperate, so I got up and started to leave just as the German pundit was describing what an honorable man Herr Obama is.

I made no comment on that.

As I walked by the same bar in the light of day, I could see that there had ben, in fact, clues to be had.

Oh well.



On the elevator up from the lobby, it stopped on floor 1 which is where the restaurant is. Two guys got on. One was the American that makes me dress like a German when I'm here. Gym shorts and a torn t-shirt. You gotta know that this is a very fancy hotel. Best in Leipzig. People dress, even for breakfast.

The other guy is in the middle of telling him that he could save some money on flight changes and bag fees by flying Southwest. Mr. Gym Shorts scoffs and says he won't fly like a member of a herd of cows. He gets off at 3, while the other guy is going to 5. As I'm getting off at 4 I say to the guy "Between you and me, I love Southwest." The guy laughed and said, "Yeah, he's a bit of an ass, but he's my boss."

So it wasn't a completely uninteresting day.

My Free Day

When I was first contacted by the agency that was planning the trip, I asked if I could have the return leg of my airline reservations pushed back one day and I would pick up the cost of the extra night in the hotel so I could have a full day to myself just to see some of Leipzig. The reply was that she "would check with the team." I wasn't sure why it mattered, but I found out when I checked with the desk: the agency had picked up the cost of the additional night. Sweet!

I fired up the iPad and hunted around for something to do. TripAdvisor.com suggested that the #1 best place to go was the Leipzig Zoo. Google maps showed it to be only a fifteen to twenty minute walk, so off I went. I did some screen captures of the route first knowing that the iPad probably wouldn't be able to pull up a map once I was out of the WiFi coverage of the hotel. It's good that I did. I actually managed to miss a turn and didn't realize it until I was on the very edge of my captured image. I was able to recover with aplomb, though.



I didn't have high expectations for the zoo since I am somewhat spoiled by our local zoo, which is consistently ranked as one of the best in the country. I have to say that I was impressed with the anatomically-correct statue known as "Man Discovering Pitfalls of Sitting Behind Elephant" even if the rest of the first half of the zoo seemed kind of lame.



It's always surprising to see buckeyes sitting on the ground uncollected, but that's because they quickly get picked up in Columbus to be fashioned into necklaces and jewelry to wear to the Ohio $tate Buckeyes football games.


The weird thing about overseas zoos is seeing animals imported from home. Well, not precisely home since we don't have much of an alligator problem in Ohio, but you get what I mean.



The zoo became much more impressive in the back. I walked through a tunnel without any idea where it led and had my gaster flabbered when I emerged into this giant dome containing a live rain forest, fortunately sans rain.


I saw a line forming and got in on it with any idea why. These signs clarified the situation a wee bit, but not enough.



It turned out to be a live monkey exhibit, with nothing between me and the monkey's but a few years of evolution.




There was a boat ride to be had, but I was preserving my dwindling supply of euros.


I saw this intriguing path off in the distance and decided to follow it.


It ended up way up high in the down with a shaky, swinging bridge to cross.




I was at the top of the world!



Back on the ground and out of the dome, I went elephant hunting. I thought I was on the right track when I found this example:


Then there was a welcome sign. Here was a pointer to areal elephant; I had already found afake elephant.


And sure enough....


The gorilla enclosure was beautiful! All it was lacking was..... some gorillas.


Oh, here's one.


I wondered if they have personal injury lawyers in Germany after seeing this nasty guy in the Children's Petting Zoo.


I mentioned Co-pilot Egg's love of giraffes - she would be been amazed at this enclosure!







And some orangutans too!



On the way back I found a little pizza place. They were advertising a special on pepperoni pizza, so I grabbed a table.


Ah, the language barrier again. This is a pepperoni pizza in Germany. They don't even slice it; a sharp knife is provided.


As is a completely useless translation table.


Nearly back to the hotel, stopped at this fountain.



I took a short cut through a mall. German designers don't think much a New York style, as shown by this mocking display.


And yet another old church.


And a statue of some guy named Mendelsson


I was on my own for dinner, but after walking around a bit I stumbled on this pub.


I started with another Weizen.



I was sitting alone at a table in a cobble-stoned alley chock full of restaurants when a guy comes over to my table spewing rapid fire German. He was obviously the late-arriving fifth wheel at the table next to mine which was already populated with four other German guys, so it was equally obvious that he asking me if he could take one of my extra chairs. I stopped him with "Ich spreche kein Deutsch, but ya ya, go ahead."

He replied with something I didn't understand, but I think it was a compliment on how well I told him that I didn't know the language because his entire table broke out in a small round of appreciative applause. That called for a celebratory beer. I went with an Irish Red for variety.


And a strange chicken pot pie for dinner. It had carrots, scallions, and the same pepperoni as my pizza in it, along with the chicken.


The next day was the return trip. I was much better at figuring out how to buy the train ticket and was even able to get the correct 6eu ticket. Naturally no one ever looked at it.



It was an even longer flight back, but it was easier by virtue of a bottle of acetaminophen,  a more comfortable seat courtesy of United Airlines and the Boeing Corporation, and a collection of good movies in the onboard entertainment system.

So, while the travel was difficult at time, it was an absolutely amazing trip. Even more amazing is that all I have to do to earn it is spend two or three hours writing a game review that I would happily done gratis.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very good David. You're a lucky guy to get a trip like that.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome trip! Thanks for sharing your stories with us!

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