|Germany trip recap
||[Nov. 16th, 2010|11:28 pm]
Full recap behind the cut:
Monday 11-8 11:40 AM (local) Frankfurt
I'm officially 2/3 of the way to Hamburg! Flight from Austin to Charlotte was unventful other than it being on a tiny cramped plane. The Charlotte airport was a nice surprise (since I had 4.5 hours to spend there). I walked the whole thing (no small feat), enjoyed a fresh yogurt parfait, read for a long time, then had dinner at a Cuban place where I saw the NY Giants (my weekly football pick) were dominating. Ordered a steak sandwich, which was heavy on the steak and gave me some stomach issues...
The plane to Frankfurt was a little disappointing. The video entertainment options were pretty good, but you needed a $5 headset or your own pair of the two-pronged headphones (where I swear are designed to be incompatible with every other headphones). Since it was getting late anyway, I just read for a while and tried to sleep, mostly unsuccessfully due to the ridiculously small legroom (after I put my backpack there) and the aforementioned stomach issues. By the time we landed I had already gotten through 2.75 books "today" which is pretty good!
I knew I had a tightish connection (1 hr 20 mins on paper), so I rushed through the airport as best I could. In Austin, the checkin agent said my bag was checked all the way to Hamburg, so I skipped it, stopped to get gouged at a currency exchange booth (Google said 1 USD was around .7 EUR and I got .57...) and went through Immigration. The guy asked a total of zero questions (I guess I don't look suspicious!) and I had nothing to declare so that all went pretty fast.
Then I realized I was out in the main airport and would have to go back through security. Also, I didn't yet have a boarding pass. So I walked all the way to my terminal, cursing my hurriedness and uncomfortableness at taking picture in a foreign airport (giant railroad-style display with >100 flights! A checkin booth for Iran Air!), found a kiosk and got a boarding pass. Then I wondered whether I did need to recheck my luggage to Hamburg or what, but I asked a Lufthansa checkin person and she assuaged my fears.
Made it to the gate with time to spare, although not much. Frankfurt is a huge airport!
I feel a little bad for not brushing up on German more than the very basics. Totally wasn't a problem so far (even the inflight magazine is in German & English!) but I do feel a bit the ugly American, so at least I try to act ashamed!
Although, later when the guy with the food cart comes by:
Me: Water Him: <something that sounds a lot like German>
Me: <Gesture helplessly> I don't speak German (in halting German) Him: OK, what language do you speak?
Me: ...English <confused> Him: <acting offended> We are an international airline
Me: <feeling bad, making excuses that it's hard to hear> Water Him: Ice or no ice?
Me: No ice.
And then, with God as my witness he pours me a Coke. I'm not sure what lesson to take away from this...
Part of what I like about traveling is the unfamiliarity and disorientation of being somewhere new. However, when I've had three flights already and am pretty jet lagged, these become more intimidating than fun. Managed to make it to the hotel, though, so that's something.
soo tired, write tomorrow
Tuesday 9:00 AM
Yesterday I managed to find the NI folks at the hotel. Not having cellphone access is very debilitating! I had hoped to stay up and then go bed early (to beat jet lag), but I found out we had dinner reservations at 8. So I had some time instead to roam around Hamburg while it was still light.
The hotel has WiFi, but you have to sign in and for some reason I couldn't get my phone to work with it. So I decided to go on a mission - find tea, find WiFi so I could check email/let David know I had arrived, and some Rolaids.
I'll spare you the gory details, but this mission was a miserable failure. WiFi was everywhere but it was all protected, and I didn't see any coffee shops that said "Internet" on them. At one point I could see nine different protected networks! After a long time I gave up and did at least get some hot tea and sat inside to warm up - it's in the 40s after the sun goes down.
Stumbled back to the hotel after getting a little lost, and lugged my laptop downstairs (no WiFi in the room :-( ). Thankfully I was able to chat with David and check email. When I went back to the room I noticed that the voltage converter I bought only has two prongs so I can't plug my laptop into it. Not quite sure what to do about this since I have very little free time until Friday. Hopefully the next hotel's WiFi will work on my phone.
Dinner was nice - everyone was very friendly and we chatted a lot. Also, everyone's English is very good, which reinforces the "ugly American" feeling. Oh well. For Tuesday-Thursday the plan is to check out of the hotel, give the presentation (which is roughly 9-4 - my part is 11-11:20), then pack up and go to the airport - hence the lack of free time. Hamburg does seem like a nice city - wish I had more time!
Afterwards we walked back and went up to the hotel bar, which was very nice but I was dead tired by this point. Collapsed in my room at midnight for 7 hours of sleep, which is still a big upgrade!
This morning I dragged myself out of bed, checked out and went up to the presentation room, which is very nice:
I do get three nice LabVIEW shirts out of this. The theme of LabVIEW 2010 is "It's about time", so right now they're having an audience quiz and rewarding correct answers with LabVIEW-branded alarm clocks! Unfortunately it's all in German, so not only do I not understand but it makes me feel more awkward about my English presentation. Hopefuly it goes well!
I just got introduced (with everyone else). I hope he said nice things!
My presentation went pretty well. That was the most relaxed I've ever been giving it in front of people. I got a lot of good questions which is usually a good sign. Apparently I need to talk slower, though.
Knocking on table=applause!
Whoa, this plane has a row 13! I'm surprised we didn't crash.
Wednesday 9:00 AM
We arrived in Düsseldorf (the most German of the cities I'll be in because it has an umlaut! München doesn't count because it's Munich in English) and got a minivan taxi to the hotel which managed to fit all 8 of us with luggage. Arrived at the hotel at 7:30 and started setting up, which unfortunately took until 9 or so, not that I was able to help much. By that point I was hungry, and we went to dinner at the hotel. I had been doing well sleepwise up to that point, but I started to crash hard during dinner, and even got a bit of dizziness which I hope is just a jet lag thing (it happened Monday night as well). I bugged out around 10:30 and went up to the room, was able to connect to the internet and chat with David and check email. I then wanted to charge my phone (used it to work some crossword puzzles yesterday!) but had misplaced part of my voltage converter which took me twenty minutes to find since I was so tired. Went to bed watching the same UEFA Champion's League highlights (soccer) I had watched Monday night.
I did not sleep well - the room was too hot (the thermostat was...confusing) and the pillows too soft and the bed too hard. I guess I'm kind of a picky sleeper. But I felt decent when I woke up, made myself a cup of tea and headed downstairs.
The breakfast buffet was amazing - I took pictures!
Meats, cheeses, yogurts, mueslis, pastries, and (most importantly) tea! I held myself to two bowls of yogurt with various mueslis and fruit on top. Sooo good.
- I had a dream last night that someone walked into my room, smoked a cigarette, and left. About half of the NI folks here smoke, and at least one used to but quit.
- Voltage converter has been working great, except the American side of the plug has no ground, and my laptop has a grounded plug. Today I'm going to borrow a plug to charge it, but it would be nice to have a more permanent solution.
- My allergies have been quite bad - tea in the morning helps (I quickly learned the German for "tea" is << tee >>), but today I have a headache. Also, I'm tired again...
- Getting through security 10 minutes before boarding = "just enough time for a beer!" Excellent.
- Speaking of which, Lufthansa has free beer and wine!
Thursday 9:00 AM
Another late night - after setting up and dinner we walked to a local Berlin biergarten and had three pitchers of a local beer (Berliner Kindl = very good!)
It was nice to at least see a little of the city, as opposed to Düsseldorf of which I only saw the airport and hotel.
Looking forward to arriving in Munich tonight - already have at least one meeting set up on Friday to talk about work stuff.
Hopefully the jet lag is done - yesterday I crashed in the early afternoon. Probably getting more sleep would have helped, but when am I going to be in Berline again?
Apparently 21 years after the Berlin wall fell, you can still tell the difference between East and West Berlin.
Yesterday's presentation went well - I tried to speak slower and pause more, which took concentration, but hopefully people understand better. People seem to feel comfortable asking questions/talking to me during breaks, which is good.
It's kind of intimidating when everyone else's introduction is a name and position, and then they get to me and I get a minute of quickly spoken German, during which the audience smiles knowingly at me. Still don't really know what was being said...
Friday 7:30 AM
Boy, I finally get to sleep in and I'm unable to sleep past 6. My jet lag seems to bounce around randomly...not sure if this will make it easier or harder to adjust back.
Session went well yesterday - people seemed to understand my part better and I got a lot of good questions. Funny story: someone set one of the alarm clocks we gave away to go off at 11:11, which apparently is the official start of Carnival, it being Nov. 11 (which lasts until Ash Wednesday...weird). They had discussed doing this to all the alarm clocks when we were at the biergarten, so I was surprised it actually happened!
At the Berlin airport I had a currywurst for dinner, which is a sausage covered in curry powder served in a tomato-y sauce. It was delicious! And now I've had beer and sausage here, so I feel like I've "done" Germany :-)
After breakfast I'm going to head into the office - I was going to walk there but it's a bit far so they recommended I take a taxi. But it looks like it's close to an S-Bahn station, and so is the hotel, so I think I'll try that.
I'm in Munich now, which I guess I didn't mention. Very glad to be done traveling for a day or two.
Saturday 10:00 AM
Yay I slept in today! Feeling much better with the timezone, just in time to leave.
Yesterday I did take the S-Bahn in to the NI office, which is very nice. Spent most of the day working and being surprisingly productive. At lunchtime I gave my presentation again for a group of ~15 AEs, which seemed to go well. I also threw in some stuff about how we test LabVIEW at Andreas's request - apparently some of them grumble we don't test at all, which is so not true. Not sure how this part went over exactly...
Came back to the hotel and hung around all evening - was feeling pretty tired and blah. Had Thai food at the restaurant next door to the hotel which turned out to be connected to the hotel, but it was still pretty good.
Today I'm going to hit the Deutches Museum which is very large and and takes two days to go through, so I'll just pick the neat stuff. Then maybe the city center or something.
Kind of a weird day.
I took the S-Bahn to the Deutches Museum and when I got out there were a lot of police just standing around. Nothing was going on as far as I could tell, and I first thought maybe this was normal, but I could see at least 50 officers stationed on corners, etc. Anyway, I couldn't figure it out (and was unsure about taking a picture), so I walked to the museum.
As soon as I got in (after I had bought a ticket) I realized that I had been here before when my family visited Europe right after college. Dang it! So I walked around to the stuff I wanted to see, but fairly quickly, especially since only 25% of the displays were translated into English. Oh well...
So I left the museum much earlier than planned, and when I walked back towards the S-Bahn suddenly there were a lot of police cars blocking the road, and even more police.
There was a group of people between the cars, and police in front of them. But the street was empty, except for more police down the street. At first I thought they were blocking off the street, but someone asked if he could cross and they let him. So I hung around and eventually some people walked down the street heavily flanked by police, and the crowd around me started whistling and chanting "Nazis out!" (or maybe "Nazis auf!") So I think it was a Neo-Nazi rally or something - crazy! I left pretty quickly since it seemed things might get ugly.
Then I decided to visit the Allianz Arena which is where Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 München play soccer. They have some shops that are open even when there are no games, although it turns out there weren't that many, but I got some nice Bayern Munich memorabilia. :-) It also led me to think about an interesting math problem...details to follow. (update: here's the problem with solution)
After that I decided to randomly explore the city - I've had mixed success with this in the past, but being well-rested and having some idea of where stuff is seems like a recipe for success, which today was. I went to the main train station, sat down for a bit and had a snack and read (the Kindle was awesome for this - very light in the backpack and easy to hold food in one hand (far away!) and "turn pages" with the other). After walking around the stores there some more I decided to head back to the hotel for a break before supper.
For supper I headed to the central bus stations, which had some shops but nothing particularly appealing, so I found a local place, which is where I am now. The all-day pass on the S-Bahn really paid off!
Well, I'm finally on my way home. Between the jet lag and lack of sleep and constant plane flights, it feels a little surreal to be headed home. Just finished Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die which was good but creepy and not helping with the surreal feeling.
Pretty impressed with this plane - this time there's only one headphone jack so I can actually use the entertainment system. Watched a Simpsons episode during lunch, and they also have a music section so I'm listening to some Glee and some Gaga which are good reading music. Plus you can see where the plane is/how long until arrival which is very convenient since I don't have a watch.
Right now is supposed to be a "rest period" which confuses me since we left at 11:55 AM Munich time and are arriving at 3:25 PM Philadelphia time. Think I'm going to stay up when I can and sleep if I get tired. Switching time zones confuses me.
The woman sitting next to me said I was in her husband's seat - apparently his passport was stolen and the embassy doesn't have an appointment until Thursday. One of the flight attendants has been sneaking her free headphones, etc. I feel a little justified in being paranoid about my passport all week - I carried it around with me because I wasn't sure if I needed it if stopped by the police, but I've had bad luck with losing things from my pockets (see: San Francisco trip)
The plane to Charlotte also has a row #13 - what happened to the proper respect for dangerous numbers?? The flight attendant announced the flight time as "1 hour, 19 minutes and 32 seconds", and no one else giggled. Pretty sure that's 3 significant digits too many.
Wow, that was more words than I thought.