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Germany by Pete - 1993 April 16 - April 20

4/16

I picked up Jim & went to Fretter to buy the video camera. The salesman had promised it would be there at noon. Still was not there at 1:00. Went to lunch & came back. Camera still not there. I told him to box up the display model NOW. Took him 15 minutes to find the tools to disconnect it from the security system. We were about ready to leave with display model & truck the showed up. Fretter could not get the truck door open. Salesman starts worrying about putting the display model back. Jim tells him to get our f---ing camera before he worries about the display model. The salesman finally gets the new camera & we rushed out. We made it to the airport with time to spare. Problems with frequent flier mile cards. We were at check in for quite a while. We finally got on the plane. First class on a DC9. Two seats a side. Free drinks and nuts. We lived it up to Detroit while S. Kilgore sat in the front row in the coach section watching us. Talked to Kilgore in Detroit and he told us that Victor Lee's dad is broke. Lost money to loan sharks. Victor has been working with his dad's creditors. Great ride to Frankfort. Business class was outstanding. Lots of room. Chairs like lazy boys. We had both chairs on one side with one window seat. Champagne & music before we took off. Flower arrangement on table by movie screen, flowers in the bathrooms. Book says 747's have video games & TVs in the back of the seats. The flight attendant passed out hot washcloths with tongs for us to wash up with before the meals. On the way back I watched an old woman try to go into the coat closet. I'm pretty sure she thought it was the bathroom. We were provided with a nice travel bag that included razor, toothpaste, toothbrush, shaving cream, comb,lotion, slippers/socks, blindfold, shoehorn, and ear plugs. They were nice and I saved them for the kids. I had to steal an extra one on the flight home when we landed in Detroit so that each kid would have one. They opened up a keg of Becks beer once we were in the air. We could listen to music on the headphones. Several music stations to choose from. Path of flight was shown on the video screen with a little picture of a plane moving across the world. Flew over Montreal,Atlantic, Great Britain into Frankfort. The little plane even turned when the plane turned on the landing approach and while we taxied thru the airport. I slept thru the movie both ways. Slept four hours on the way over and only about 2 on the way back.

 

4/17

We landed, left the plane with our luggage and followed the signs right out of the airport. Customs asked no questions & did not look at our luggage at all. Peter's timing was perfect. He got to the exit door just as I walked through. He was grumbling about getting a ticket on the way to pick us up. Automatic picture taken of him driving along with his license plate so they knew where to send the ticket. He said that he would end up getting the ticket in mail in a couple of weeks. It was the second time he had been caught by the machine. To be honest, Peter’s driving made me nervous. He shifts quickly & lugs the engine constantly. Quick starts & stops, zooming around curves. Driving made me sicker than the jet lag. There are no straight roads in Germany and with Peter's driving I ended up car sick and ready for bed. We arrived at the hotel to check in and the rooms were not ready. Jim & Peter had a light breakfast - I was too sick to eat & finally checked in. Took awhile to unlock door, couple minutes to figure out light switch, couple minutes to figure out how to flush the toilet, and 10 minutes to figure out how to turn on the TV. Room was very nice, very clean, VERY small. Like a college dorm room. One sheet on mattress, comforter, pillow with the opening on the long side. I slept about 2 hours & Peter picked us up with his wife. I walked into a short pole outside the hotel & nearly lost my manhood. Peter's wife tried not to laugh. We walked into town square & had a pop while I tried to figure out how to work the video camera. The town square was very busy but shut down completely except for some restaurants and bars at 7:00. It was very quiet for being so busy. No cars allowed. We looked for an electrical converter for the video camera without success. The town square had many nice stores and the people walked and rode bikes. There was a McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and open fruit and meat markets like the ones I saw in England. We started driving to Heidleburg but Peter's driving made me sick. Peter decided to shorten our trip so we went to Frankenstein's castle. Jim, Peter, and Peter's wife ate a big lunch. (wife is a biologist working on a genetic research project, Peter told us that she had started dreaming in English after 2 days with us) I sat on the balcony & napped then walked around the castle eating an ice cream cone. I was starting to feel better. Saw a new Citroen car. Looked like junk. Took video & picture of it. I think they tried to make it look terrible. Peter showed us an East German car later. Looked even worse. Wait for car in east is 15 years, price is 20,000. Most East Germans who came to the west went back. Pace to fast according to Peter. (still way to slow for me and Jim as we will see later). Left Frankensteins & headed back to town. I had to ask Peter to find a straight road because I was getting sick again. Later we went to a nice park. There were some bare trees Peter said filled in so well in the summer that it was dry under them when it rained. We ended up seeing these trees all over the place and told Peter we would believe his story when he sent a picture. The trees were almost bare with no branches when we saw them. The people played a game like Bocce Ball with their own personal steel balls in the park under the trees. They play and drink beer after work. It seemed kind of dull but they say its relaxing. Relaxing country. The people NEVER work weekends. They need special union & government permission. On weekends everything but restaurants & bars close at 2:00. There were lots of very quiet electric street cars - Jim was nearly hit. I took a video for Paul. Peter took us to his apartment for tea & cake. It was very nice but also very small. He has a whole floor which is normally 2 apartments. He knocked down the wall and uses both. He showed us his last picture ticket. We all laughed at him. The apartment was nicely furnished with old refinished wood furniture. The building was 4 stories with 2 apartments per floor. His rent was about 1,000 per month. Housing/apartments are hard to find. Peter's wife is very friendly and speaks English well. She is 6 months pregnant. Discussed energy conservation a lot. Peter says the German people are very energy conscious. In many ways it was true. Very few automatic transmission cars (they are for old people), lights are off during the day, Large hot water heaters kept off when not in use, very few air conditioned cars. I noticed that many Mercedes-Benz cars had stick shift and no air. We went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant with Peter, his wife, Manfred his wife Helen, & Mr. Heinke. Service took forever.   It would never happen in US - could not afford 1 table to be taken up for so long. We only had a couple beers in the 3 hours, I nearly died of thirst. No water at the table. Very slow service was typical and we were never rushed for the next customer. The Germans insisted that we have an appetizer before dinner. I just wanted to save room for a big wiener schnitzel. My appetizer ended up being very good sautéed mushrooms. Wiener schnitzel was the biggest & best I have ever had. Helen was very good company. She spoke excellent English (English is now required in Germany for all students from the 5th grade on) with a London accent. She was an exchange student in England the same year I was there and visited many of the same places around the country. (Stratford, London, Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, etc) It was interesting hearing her switch from English to German. She was much different than the others with their thick German accents while speaking English. We drank beer with the city name on it. Most cities have their own brewery & the restaurants serve it along with the more famous brands. I have no idea how much this dinner cost. The Germans insist on paying for everything. Peter told us he rode with someone going about 260KM/hour the other day in a Volvo wagon. He complained that he could not read in the back and the quick slowdowns made him sick. I knew exactly what he was talking about. We went back to the hotel and I watched a little TV. Richard Pryor in "The Toy" speaking German.

4-18

Met Jim downstairs in the hotel and we walked across to the town square. Yesterday the town was jammed with people walking and riding bikes (with bells on ringing at you all the time). Most people walk or ride bikes due to the cost of car and no place to put the car. Most buildings and streets have been there longer than cars have existed so there is never a place to put the car. Sunday morning the town square was completely deserted. We went to McDonalds for breakfast. As usual in Germany extremely slow service. Nothing was already made. They had to cook it for us. After breakfast we walked around the town square for a while. Made some film of the church bells ringing. Jim said a bird nearly shit on my head while I was filming. Tried to go into the museum across the street from the hotel at 10:00 but it did not open until 11:00. Walked thru a very nice park and garden and took pictures and videos. Bike riders ringing their bells at us as we walked around. Garden and a fountain, sundials (lots in Germany), and many flowers. Very relaxing morning. Many people gathered in front of the museum before it opened. Went in for only about 15 minutes. No time to look around. Beautiful building both inside and out. Walked back to hotel and waited a couple of minutes before Peter and his wife picked us up. Told Peter we ate at McDonalds. Very funny to him. Turns out breakfast was included in the room. We were not supposed to tell anyone we ate at McDonalds. He said he should have had us to his home for breakfast rather than let us eat at McDonalds. We did not really have a choice, it was the ONLY place open. Special permission from the government. Also told Peter that I drank the orange juice in the room. He said that was bad too. Very expensive. I thought it was free since it was sitting in the fridge. We were lined up to meet Mr. Heinke & family in Wiesbaden for a tour of the city and then go for a drive along the Rhine. The weather was not nice enough for a boat trip. Peter drove very fast to Wiesbaden. Saw a very nice old train station. Met Mr. Heinke, wife, 3 year old daughter, 1 year old daughter (new fat cheek champion of the world - beat Megan by a mile) at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza. Very nice family & pretty girls. I got them on video several times. Wife spoke English very well. The kids were very well behaved especially considering all the driving around and getting in and out of cars we ended up doing. Then only time the baby cried was when she smashed her head on the dinner table. Cried VERY loud and held her breath before yelling as well as any kid I ever saw. Heinke told us the next day the 3 year old wanted to know why she could not speak English. 3 year old was never scolded all day. She had a box with many card games in it that she carried around. She played with us at dinner. I think she was frustrated with me and Jim for not following her instructions very well. It was an old maid type of game I think. It seemed strange to hear the German language from such a small child. Visited an old casino built 1808 by some Duke. Very impressive in & out. Maintained very well just like all buildings in Germany. Inside was a medical supply convention titled - Obesity in Germany. Casino not open. Walked around a little - nice gardens & video of a theater also. Drove around roads up to the top of the hill overlooking the city. Stopped at several points along the way. One stop was another Russian Orthodox chapel - very pretty. Started driving down to the Rhine river. Ate an excellent dinner at a bar at 2:00. They were about to close but Heinke talked them into staying open for us since he had just picked up American tourists at the airport and they were hungry. The last part was true anyway.

Had an excellent piece of fish. Broiled halibut I think. Peter ordered us "dry" beer which the waitress spilled on him, his camera and Jim. I told him it was lucky he had ordered dry beer. He did not get it but his wife thought it was pretty funny. Service slow again. Finished my beer too quickly and had NOTHING to drink while I ate my dinner. Peter had asparagus, it was white because they eat the root in Germany. After dinner we walked down some very narrow winding streets to the Rhine river. Started near a castle. Streets here reminded me of England. Cars anywhere they can park it. Cannot eat fish from the Rhine - too polluted. Many boats on the river. Mostly barges. Most people are not allowed to work on Sunday but owners can take their own boats out. Nearly nothing open Sunday other than restaurants & bars. Government & unions run the business. Owners & management seem to have little control. Went next to Johannesburg famous for Johannesburg Riesling wines. Huge home up on a hill. Only a Duchess lives there - Duke died several month ago. Beautiful view of the valley, vineyards, and river. There is a terrace open in the summer where people can sit and drink wine all day and just enjoy the view. Many, many vineyards along the Rhine. We drove down to the road at the bottom of the hill to take pictures and videos. There were electric train tracks that Jim & I started standing on to take pictures of the house. Peter jumped out of the car and yelled at us to get off the tracks - very dangerous and against the law. He said the trains are so fast they throw the sound backwards and you cannot hear them coming. We thought he was kidding or nuts. Our experience with trains is that you can hear them coming and get off the tracks with no problem and they honk their horns anyhow. He said they do not honk horns in Germany. Later in Rudesheim Peter was proved correct. I saw some crossing gates come down so I turned on the video to record the train for Paul. Looked back and forth for a while - nothing. Suddenly Peter yelled that it was coming. No horn and I did not even hear it. By the time I turned around it was nearly next to me. I did not even have time to start the camera. Rudesheim is very famous and is supposedly one of the busiest streets in Germany. It was very crowded. We saw many US servicemen & families. Peter said it was even a very popular place for the Germans to go. (maybe because it is about the only place in the country that is open with something to do on a Sunday). Very nice tourist town. Music, bars, shops up & down every narrow street. Main street is along the river with the train tracks in between. We walked around for a while and ended up stopping in a place for wine, cake, and pie. Germans were very insistent that I drink a glass of wine. I drank my first and likely last glass of the year. To have 1 drink & eat a piece of pie or cake took over an hour and cost over $60. No problem, Germans keep on buying. On the drive back to Darmstadt we saw a guy by the side of the road changing from his sail boarding outfit into his clothes. Bare ass naked. Stopped back at the hotel with Peter and his wife for a beer and a snack. Again over 1 hour and $60. Had to wait again for 2nd drink. I had cooked Swiss cheese in some white wine. Not very good but I ate it with a smile anyhow. We ate in the basement of the hotel. Very nice little bar. Up to the room to bed.

4-19

Woke up at 6:00 and took a shower. Bathroom had a place to turn on hot water for the room before I could even turn on the shower. Had breakfast in the hotel. No McDonalds today. Hotel breakfast - cold cuts, breads, spreads, cereal, OJ, milk, grapefruit juice, tomato juice, yogurt. Very dry but it was pretty good. Peter picked us up and I had my normal drive to work - listening to Fleetwood Mac on the radio (listened to the Pretenders on Tuesday). Peter said the music on German radio is 80-90 percent in English. Peter dressed in sportcoat and Gold thick corduroy pants & tie. He must have been hot all day. After work Peter & Heinke took us back to downtown Wiesbaden. We walked around for a couple of hours and had a beer in a beer garden, dinner in a bar. Smoked salmon with cream cheese. Absolutely the worst service I can remember having. Beer took forever, 2nd one took even longer. After we were done eating Jim & I started getting impatient. Peter & Heinke VERY calm. Finally Heinke goes & asks for the check. We finally got it 45 minutes later. Jim & I nearly lost our cool. Wasted at least an hour & a half more than we had to. Heinke tips waiter anyhow. We went into a tourist shop and shopped for gifts before dinner. Jim bought a cuckoo clock and I bought a Hummel. This made Peter & Heinke very happy. They really wanted us to get something German to take home. I had looked in a window at some silver placesettings Sunday while we were walking in a small town. Peter & Heinke noticed and Heinke had the purchasing people at work call around and have some pictures & prices of placesettings faxed to work for me. I thought that was very nice. We went into a department store - Huge 5 floors and 1/2 of a city block. Walking around downtown starting at 5:00 was very busy. Many more people than Saturday in Darmstadt. Really thinned out around 6:30-7:00. Again everything but bars and restaurants have to close. Don't know how anyone makes any money. The McDonalds seemed very out of place. Everything was very well maintained. People live above most of the businesses. Buildings are all interesting to look at. Saw a huge church that had one spire as tall as any I had ever seen and 4 more that were pretty large too. The church was beautiful and they had scaffolding on one of the spires. I felt very safe walking down the streets even though there were so many people. Peter had us back to the hotel around 10:30 & I went to bed.

4/20

Last day in Germany. Had the same breakfast as yesterday and checked out. The German computer network impressed me. The visa bill from the computer had my name on it! Uneventful drive to work. Meeting before we get started with Peter, Heinke, Willi (president of Federal-Mogul European Operations). They wanted Jim & I to give a short presentation. We did not want to. We wanted to spend more time seeing the plant. We had a presentation that we brought that we cut way down. During our last trip thru the plant Jim asked Peter where the restroom was. Peter directed him down some stairs. It turned out to be the ladies room. Jim said when he came up the ladies at the top of the stairs had a good laugh at the American. Unfortunately for Jim this was not be the only European ladies room he would visit! When he finally found the right one he hung his camera on the back of the door and when some German opened it the camera fell and parts came off. He could not find one part anywhere. I think it was the flash. It turned out that the German had picked it up and put it in his pocket. Jim was mad and could not understand what the guy was thinking. The German is very lucky Jim could not speak German because I can imagine what Jim would have told him. While we were waiting for Manfred to show us his department I went into the men's room in another building. Very large room. The sinks looked just like the urinals at Tiger Stadium and that’s what I thought they were. I was trying to decide what to do and a man came in and walked past me thru another door and I followed him. Good thing I waited. I hate to think what the man would have thought or done if he had come in and I was going in the sink! Before we left Willi gave us each a nice beer mug & picture book of Wiesbaden, and a hand full of mail for me to carry to the US and drop in a mailbox for him. After lunch Manfred would try to take us to see a machine being built for the Blacksburg plant, then to the airport. He got lost 2 or 3 times in some little town. Finally found it. We were running a little late getting to the airport and ran into construction. Manfred started getting a little worried & his driving began to scare me. He got to the parking garage and started up the circular parking ramp. He drove so fast my head was plastered to the side window. I nearly lost my lunch. I was thinking that I was finally done with European drivers. In Italy an American would be showing us around & in France we would be on trains. Little did I know that Brydon would be the worst driver in the world. German driving was so bad I was actually looking forward to the plane ride. After Manfred parks he gives us both 2 Czechoslovakian Budwiesers. Just what I needed. Suitcases already nearly bursting at the seams & now I have to worry about beer bottles breaking and having beer all over my stuff. Beer added about 2 pounds to my suitcase. I decided to drink them in Italy so I wouldn't have to carry them the rest of the trip. Thought I could cool them on ice in my room. Did not work. No ice in hotel. We got our boarding passes & Manfred mailed my postcards. He had to pay because we had changed all our money into Italian lira at the plant. He showed us where to collect our tax refund from our purchases in Wiesbaden. We did not listen or understand very well. On the FIRST trip thru passport control Jim gives the guard his birth certificate. Guard looks confused but says nothing. I asked Jim why his passport was different than mine. Jim gets out correct passport & gives to guard who gets a good laugh out of it. Somehow looking for the tax refund we ended up having to go by him again. He looks at Jim, laughs, and sends him through. Finally we got our money. Going through baggage inspection the guard makes me take out the video camera and turn it on to show it works. Made me feel good in case there were any Arabs on board. Running very late we just miss the 1st bus out to the plane and have to wait for the next one. Jim nearly got into an argument with the ticket girl by the bus because she said that normally we would not be able to take our garment bags on the plane but today it is not a problem since the plane is not full. Jim only heard the part about not taking them on. We finally get on the next bus & sat there sweating & waited about 15 minutes to be taken out to the plane. Jim had worn a sweater to save room in his suitcase. I think he was sorry. We finally got to the plane. Easy to see it was going to Italy looking at the people. It was the same with Germans on the flight over. No room on the plane for our garment bags. Jim put his in a coat closet that the stewardess told me was absolutely not for garment bags. Made me nervous. I was assigned a window seat, Jim was assigned the middle, and a man was supposed to sit by Jim. The man was standing up while the stewardess tried to figure out what to do with my bag when Jim came by and sat down in his seat. The guy just stood there looking at him. The stewardess ended up giving him and his friend two seats back in the smoking section. We used the extra seat for our luggage. The man obviously did not want to sit by us. The plane left Germany on time. Beautiful trip towards Italy. View of the Rhine out the river, passed over the black forest, and then crossed the Alps. The Alps were spectacular from the plane. Mountains were sticking up through the clouds. We saw another airplane flying over also. Made some nice videos all the way to landing. I could see we were in for a change in Italy. Poorly maintained and dirty even from the air. Business class was OK. We had cheese and fish, salmon I think. Good beer, three different kinds & the best chocolate bar I had ever had. I talked the stewardess out of two before we got off the plane.

There is no question that Jim and I would have qualified as typical ugly Americans. We both really liked Germany. Peter, Manfred, and Mr. Heinke treated us GREAT. We both vowed that the next time they came to the USA we would do our best to take care of them.

Other Journals to Read  
You are here now !Germany by Pete- 1993
Italy by Pete- 1993
France by Pete- 1993
Germany by Jim- 1993
Italy by Jim - 1993
France by Jim- 1993
England/Wales by Pete- 1998
Belgium by Pete- 1998
France by Pete- 1998

 

 

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