London, Königstein, Nüremberg, St. Gallen

The picture-postcard Europe: gable in Nuremberg’s old city

The day after house-hunting, I rode into Washington with Robin.  She dropped me a block from the White House.  I walked over to the American Airlines offices, said hello to a colleague (it was a little early for the rest of the team to be there).  Had a cup of coffee, and at ten met a colleague from the hotel business, Paul Cerula, for a yak about inbound tourism.  Headed out to the airport, flew to Chicago, then to London for the first European teaching for the fall semester.  I was actually headed to Germany and Switzerland, but stopped in the U.K. to meet a new friend, Jonathan Nicol, and attend a small air show at Cambridge Airport.

A sleek new Embraer Phenom at Cambridge Airport

High point of that day was a ride in a punt, the flat-bottom boats that ply the River Cam, mostly with tourists.  In all my visits to Cambridge, I had never gone punting.  It’s sorta pricey, but that day it was free, and Jonathan was the punter, propelling us a couple of miles with a long wooden pole.  Earlier in his life, he had worked summers as a punter, and he still had the touch, as did one of his colleagues, Olivia Scarlett, who also knew the trade – and they both still had the tourist narrative down pat, reciting details about Newton’s Mathematical Bridge, Kings College, and more.  Oh, yes, we brought along a couple of bottles of cava, Spanish sparkling wine.  It was a fun ride.

Our captain and punter extraordinaire, Jonathan Nicol

Punts in the Granta Millpond, Cambridge

Trinity College, Cambridge, from the River Cam

I was plumb wore out when we docked, so I peeled off to the train station, bought a couple of sandwiches for dinner, and rode back to London.  Hopped the Tube two stops to Old Street, and walked three blocks to my accommodation on Haberdasher Street.  It was my second experience with AirBnB, and Allan and Ben from Brisbane were both congenial hosts and had a nicer, cleaner flat than the one I visited in May in Liverpool.  It was in a Georgian row house.  My room was big, with a firm bed.  Bath spotless, kitchen well equipped.  I yakked a bit with my hosts and clocked out.

Finsbury Square, London, EC2

Late-summer blossom, Finsbury Square

Up early Wednesday morning, out the door to Jonathan’s office.  My first class was not until Friday, so it made sense just to hang in London.  Worked all day.  High point that day was dinner at Hot Stuff, a small (25 seats) Indian restaurant in Lambeth, on the south bank.  I had wanted to eat there for years, and finally an opportunity.  Bought a couple of cans of Czech Budvar beer (the real Budweiser), and headed in for a yummy dinner.  Introduced myself to proprietor Raj Dawood.  His mom founded Hot Stuff in 1988.  A decade later, she got sick, and Raj quit his job as a real-estate agent to run the restaurant.  The clientele were a perfect mirror of multicultural London, and it was a splendid experience.

Hot Stuff proprietor Raj Dawood and your scribe

Hustle and bustle on the Tube

First light on Haberdasher Street, Shoreditch; my digs were just behind the tree.

I was up at first light Thursday morning, and my iPhone bore good news: the sellers accepted our offer on the house in Virginia, subject to selling our house in Texas.  Woo hoo!  Was soon onto one of the cool rental bikes that Barclays Bank sponsors, a network of thousands of bikes across London (I’ve written about it before).  My destination was relatively close, 60 Marlborough Road in the Upper Holloway district of Islington.  In 1977, 35 years earlier, I had stayed there with long friend Mary Lee Adler while doing the last bits of research for my Ph.D. dissertation.  The place had not changed.  The ride was tonic – though the bikes are heavy, I wore bike shorts and a T-shirt, and was motivated. Only downside was the main roads already busy with morning traffic.  Cycling in London is not for the faint of heart!  Returned to Jonathan’s office and worked all day – I got a lot done.  Met him for dinner, and was asleep early.

Was up before four Friday morning, bowl of cereal, out the door to City Road and the 214 bus to King’s Cross, Tube to Paddington, and Heathrow Express to the airport.  A small kerfuffle on check in, entirely the fault of Bank of America – three weeks earlier, and a day after buying a cheap British Airways ticket on my debit card, B of A e-mailed me to say there may have been hacking on the card and they were sending a new one.  I asked if I’d have any problems with BA.  No, they assured me, the payment had already been made.  But the check-in agent at Heathrow didn’t get that message, and there were five minutes of to and fro that almost caused me to miss the flight.  Grrrrrrrr.

Arrived the next stop, Frankfurt, at 9:45 and onto bus #58 to Frankfurt Höchst, a suburban station in the lee of the huge Höchst chemical factory, then on a pleasant small branch line, the Taunusbahn, north ten miles to the pleasant hill town of Königstein, in the green Taunus hills that I had often seen on approach to Frankfurt Airport.  Patrick Rath, a Ph.D. student at the University of Kassel, picked me up at the station and we drove a mile or so to a very cool small conference center, the Siegfried Vögele Institute.

Now owned by Deutsche Post DHL, the privatized postal service and logistics provider, the series of three linked buildings were originally a psychiatric sanatorium.  In 1905, Dr. Oskar Felix Kohnstamm (1871-1917) opened the 25-bed facility targeted to artists, intellectuals, and other high achievers.  While recuperating there, several well-known German figures produced notable works; for example, Gerdt von Bassewitz wrote a much-loved children’s book called Peterchens Mondfahrt, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painted many wonderful expressionist canvases. Later, Hitler decided that Kirchner’s paintings were retrograde, and destroyed them.

Siegfried Vögele Institut, Königstein im Taunus

Interior, main building; the “paintings” are actually large photographs, the only surviving images of large works painted here by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, whose expressionist Hitler banned

We joined a dozen EMBA students for lunch.  They were all managers from Deutsche Post DHL, and the company was paying for their degrees (nice!).  From two to four I presented a Harvard Business School case on direct marketing, and offered some perspectives from American Airlines.  It was a good session.  Back to the room, a short nap, a bit of work, and I rejoined the group for dinner and afterward a short talk on my leadership experience.  They were staying for more drinks, and I wanted to join them, but the bed beckoned, and I finally got eight hours of quality sleep.  Earlier we had a great yak across a range of topics; it was interesting to get their views on the Euro crisis and the U.S. presidential elections.  Not one of the people at our long table thought the Republican nominee was capable.  And certainly not nice.

Königstein castle

Autumn ensemble, flower shop, Königstein

Saturday morning dawned clear and cool. Ate breakfast with the group, said goodbye, and walked back to the train station.  Königstein is a seriously affluent place, evident on the amble (the night before, Manfred said “here, even the au pairs drive Porsche Boxsters,” which seemed like only a slight exaggeration).  It’s less than 25 miles from downtown Frankfurt, so many wealthy businesspeople live there.

Frankfurt main station, the Hauptbahnhof

Vineyards in the Franconia region of Bavaria, from the train

Hopped back on the Taunusbahn to Frankfurt’s main station, and onto the fast ICE to Nuremberg, two hours east in Bavaria.  Arrived at 12:35 and walked about a kilometer west to the Holiday Inn City Center, which when I booked it was really good value.  Room was ready, washed face, headed out for a look, and quickly realized one possible reason it was so cheap: it was right around the corner from the red-light district, where women were hanging out in windows, rather like vending-machine wares – the last time I had seen such a sight was Amsterdam in 1971!

New building in the old town, nicely designed to blend into the ancient landscape

Bought a weekend ticket on the VGN, the local transit system, and rode a couple of stops west on the U-Bahn, to see Courtroom 600, the site of the 1945 Nuremberg trials that convicted senior Nazi leaders.  The city museum department has created a very good “Memoriam.”  It’s actually still a working courtroom, so has been modified a lot since 1945, but you could sit in the court and hear echoes of the brilliant lead prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson.  As you may know, the trial was the first time in history that leaders had been held to account for their behavior and for crimes against humanity.  The interpretive exhibits were powerful, and told the entire story, from the creation of a set of rules for the proceedings (the London Charter, May 1945) to the sentences for those to be hanged and those to be imprisoned.  Remarkable and chilling, but ultimately satisfying, especially because the precedent has enabled the contemporary tribunal in the Hague that has dealt with devils like Milosevic and Charles Taylor of Liberia.  Rule of law.  A great concept.

Courtroom 600 today

The original benches on which the defendants sat

U.S. prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, from an exhibit panel

Took the U-Bahn back to the main station, had a herring sandwich, and hopped on the #9 tram for another look back, at the Nazi Documentation Center and Rally Grounds on the east edge of the city.  Nuremburg was one of the “Fuhrer Cities” that were one expression of Hitler’s megalomania.  He and his architect Albert Speer had planned these grand expressions for Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Linz, Austria (the dictator’s home town), and Nuremberg.  The enormous, partially-built congress hall in Nuremberg houses the documentation center, essentially a set of exhibits that thoroughly interpret the rise of National Socialism.  Though I knew the broad outlines of the sad story, I learned quite a lot, especially the origins of the movement during the Weimar era of the 1920s.  Grim, but a fine expression of Germany’s willingness not to deny, but to come to grips with the sordid decade-plus.  As I wrote in the center’s visitors’ book, “for the four decades that I have traveled and worked in Germany, I have struggled to understand how the intelligent and hardworking German people could have made this disastrous wrong turn.”

The partially-build Nazi Congress Hall, site of the Documentation Center

From the Documentation Center exhibits: million-mark notes from the 1920s; the woes of hyperinflation were one of Hitler’s building blocks

Photo from the exhibits: from VE day, May 1945, Nuremberg

Hopped the tram back to my hotel, again walking past the hookers (I growled at a couple of pimps, but they paid no heed).  I needed a workout, and pounded 16 miles on the exercise bike, cooled down, and headed out for dinner.  The coolest thing on the way to the restaurant was the Straße der Menschenrechte, the Way of Human Rights, a monumental outdoor sculpture in the old town, 27 massive white concrete pillars on which each article of the UN 1948 declaration is carved in German and one other language.  I especially liked that the article in English called for the right to move freely, to travel.

Part of the wall that surrounds the old city

Around the corner, a nice Talking-to-Strangers moment, with three young skateboarders, kids much younger than the teens and young adults that were doing tricks on adjacent railings and steps.  I asked if I could take their photo, they said yes, I snapped it, then chatted with two brothers from Canada, age seven and eight, and their eight-year-old German friend.  The older boys attended an international school and could already speak four languages.  Carl, the father of the Canadians, soon arrived and I yakked with him; he was working for Siemens, a major Nuremberg employer.

The young skateboarders, two Canadians and a German

Looking back, I regret that I did not research dinner venues well enough.  Nuremberg is known for small grilled sausages, and I ended up at a touristy place called Bratwursthäusle.  To its credit, they’ve been in business for 699 years, so they certainly know how to cook a brat, but I think I could have found a place with more locals.  Still, I ate well, on potato soup, six links, potato salad, and sauerkraut, as well as a couple of Tucher wheat beers from the nearby brewery.  I was seriously full, but it was the basis for a hard sleep.

Up early Sunday, did a bit of work, then out the door for early touring, across the wonderful old city to the castle, and up the steps of the Sinwell Tower for a superb view of the city.  Here are some scenes from the old city:

Atop the tower, my camera battery, which I forgot to charge, emptied, so I walked quickly back to the hotel, then across to the middle of the old town to St. Lawrence Church, the Lorenzkirche.  In the middle of Catholic Bavaria, I was amazed to see that the largest church in the old town was Lutheran, or Evangelical as they call it in Germany.  And 700 years old, so at some point it obviously morphed to Protestantism.

So for the second in as many Sundays, I was back in church, and like the week earlier, the pastor was a woman, Claudia Voigt-Grabenstein.  Of course the service was in German, but I tracked a lot of it, themed around Mary.  And really all I needed to know were four words, Gott ist mit dir, God is with you.  Before the service began, I had a nice chat with an older lady sitting next to me, and she welcomed me warmly.  It felt so good to be there.  And as in worship a week earlier, I clearly understood and confirmed why I was Lutheran, but in the German context: the church of Luther was also the church of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other brave pastors who dared to oppose the Nazis (and they hanged him in April 1945, 23 days before they fell), and it was the church of similarly fearless pastors that quietly supported change thence revolution in the former East Germany in the 1980s.  Protestantism should always be about pushing back on established injustice.

Also as I noted the previous week, music is a big part of Lutheran worship, and that Sunday it was enormous, colossal: an all-volunteer choir performing Bach’s 1724 cantata Meine Seel erhebt den Herren (My Soul Magnifies the Lord).  Prior to the service, the choir director did a quick rehearsal with the worshippers, and it was once again clear that Lutheran liturgy was not a spectator sport: as in McLean, these were people who participate!  I think the lady next to me was surprised that I could sing the hymns, but they were familiar, for example, Bach’s “Ave Maria.”  The last cool thing about the service, which I had experienced in Germany about ten years earlier, was the way communion was organized – groups of people form a circle around the altar, hold hands, say a brief prayer, then the bread and wine is given.  It was a wonderful time.

After the service, I reckoned it would be okay to snap a photo

I headed back to the hotel, checked out, and walked briskly to the last sight of the Nuremberg visit, the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) museum.  Nuremberg was the birthplace of German railways, with importation of the first steam locomotive, the Adler (Eagle) from Newcastle, England.  This Transport Geek (it’s been awhile since I used that term, maybe too long!) really enjoyed the exhibits, which told the story of the DB, and included a great set of locomotives, from a replica of the Adler to the most modern Intercity Express (ICE).  Also notable were the honest interpretation of the DB’s responsibility for transporting Jews during the Holocaust, and the postwar partition of the railways into West and East Germany.  I only wish I had more than two hours.   Some glimpses:

The oldest remaining railway car in Germany, ca. 1838

Detail, reconstruction of the first German locomotive, the English-built Adler

Exterior detail, royal railway carriage of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a man with a taste for the ornate

A Nazi-era modern locomotive; note the covered swastika — it is illegal to display the symbol, even in a museum

A suitcase belonging to a Holocaust victim; the Deutsche Bahn has for many years acknowledged its pivotal role in the extermination of Jews.

I walked back to the hotel, grabbed my suitcase, headed to the station, and hopped on the 2:57 train to Augsburg.  It was crowded, but the ride was only 65 minutes.  From Augsburg, I got on a pleasant regional line south to Lindau on the Bodensee, the large lake between Bavaria and northeast Switzerland.  The train engineer’s “cockpit” had a glass back wall, and the T-Geek sat in the first row, for a superb view out the front and side windows.  And I could see the speedometer, and admire the fact that even on a small branch line the tracks were engineered to allow sharp curves at 75 mph.  At a moment like that I lamented that we don’t invest in public (or for that matter private rail) infrastructure to enable that kind of performance.

A village in the Allgäu region of Bavaria; note the solar panels on roofs — you saw them on houses, on barns, as freestanding “farms” by the railway tracks

Ferry arriving at Lindau on Lake Constance (Bodensee in German)

After about 30 minutes the Alps came into view, and much of the rest of the two-hour ride was through the low foothills in the region called Allgäu.  At Lindau I snapped a couple of pictures of the lake, then climbed on a very unpleasant train; it was the end of the second day of Oktoberfest in Munich, and the cars were packed with revelers.  I stood in the vestibule for the 40 minutes, glad for the quiet.  We arrived St. Gallen, my next teaching stop, at 7:41, and I was glad to get off, walk literally across the street, and check into my hotel.

Sunday dinner: this is what $10 buys in Switzerland!

Was up at dawn on Monday morning, strode a few blocks to a fitness center with which the hotel had a contract, and rode an exercise bike.  Another tonic workout.  Dressed, ate, and walked up the hill to the University of St. Gallen for my 12th visit.  Met my young host, Georg Guttmann, and delivered a lecture on airline pricing to an engaged group of 25, mainly Swiss.  A couple of the students joined Prof. Sven Reinecke, George, and I for lunch in the Mensa, the university cafeteria.  I peeled down the hill to work the afternoon.  All 11 of my previous visits had been in winter, and it was delightful to see the town and surrounding hills in late-summer green.

Window shopping provides a great view of the cost of living in Switzerland, as well as the huge quality of its manufactures: here, a top-of-the-line Bernina sewing machine offered at the equivalent of US$6100. Yow!

At 6:30 I met a really interesting young man, Gieri Hinnen, a Ph.D. student who has worked for Swiss International Air Lines for three years, and was writing a dissertation on energy and environmental issues in the airline sector.  We repaired to my favorite St. Gallen bar, Zum Goldenen Leuen (you can figure out the name!) for a couple of beers and two hours of fascinating discussion.  Gieri was very knowledgeable and articulate, and it was a pleasure – it had been a long time since I had a solid conversation on airline strategic issues.

St. Gallen traditional and modern; in foreground, the cantonal (county) emergency-response center, designed by Santiago Calatrava

St. Gallen

Tuesday morning, back to the gym, worked the morning, then up the hill to meet my other St. Gallen academic host, Winfried Ruigrok, and Georg Guttmann for a seriously caloric lunch (young venison, spaetzle, red cabbage, roast chestnuts) and a good chat at Wienerberg, a splendid old-school restaurant across from campus.  After lunch, I met Franziska Brunner, who runs St. Gallen’s masters’ program in economics.  At 3:45 I headed west to class, passing with delight a farm that abuts the campus (Switzerland’s rural ethos – well beyond Heidi – endures!), admiring the well-kept barn and the contented calves grazing in verdant grass.  From four to six I delivered the lecture on airline alliances to Prof. Ruigrok’s international management class, a very global group of 60 students.  Lots of questions.  Afterward, a group of students surrounded me, eager to learn more.  We talked for 20 or 30 minutes, and I begged leave, but they followed me down the hill and into town, Brazilians, Swiss, Germans, Chinese.  I felt like the pied piper!

The University of St. Gallen; there are, literally, no old buildings on the main campus

The farm that adjoins the campus

Braunvieh calf; this is the most common breed of cattle in Switzerland, akin to what we call Brown Swiss in the U.S.

After breakfast Wednesday morning, I headed to the magnificent Baroque abbey church (an Irish monk, St. Gall, is the town’s namesake, and the monastery has long been an important part of the town).  Wednesday-morning mass was on, but I sat quietly in the back for daily prayers, and a chance to greet the wooden angel who has welcomed me there for more than a decade.  She and I have had many conversations; that day, her arm pointed the way forward to a new adventure in a new city.  I was glad for her uplifting counsel.  Here some views of the old town:

The Baroque Abbey Church

My favorite St. Gallen haunt, The Golden Lion

Walked back up the hill to campus, worked a bit, and at one met Sven Reinecke for lunch, and a welcome late addition to my visit – two days earlier he e-mailed to ask if I could deliver a one-hour talk to an exec ed marketing program.  I was delighted to do so, and at enjoyed lunch with a handful of the students, who came from a wide range of Swiss companies (and the U.S.’ Johnson & Johnson).  The talk was short because at three I hopped on the #5 bus down the hill, for my last lecture, to full-time MBA students, another very global group.  More great questions and interaction from a bright cohort.  Then back to the hotel, retrieved my suitcase, and hopped on the 5:48 train to Zürich.  It was a very un-Swiss ride, because we arrived in the big station four minutes late, requiring a stressed dash to catch the ICE Intercity Express north to Germany.  I just made it, and even found a good seat.

Village a few kilometers from St. Gallen

After cooling down and getting my ticket punched, I headed three cars back, to the dining car, the ­Bordrestaurant, for beers and dinner.  Ah, the dining car, a place to conjure happy memories of lunch enroute to Chicago in the 1950s and ‘60s on the Twin Cities Zephyr; of a ride on the 1910-vintage diner, “Kariba,” on the way from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls in 1974; and many other meals on wheels.  The diner was quite busy, but emptied fully when we arrived at Basel.  I enjoyed a wheat beer, a hefeweizen, and a bowl of hearty pea soup with ham, finished the day’s New York Times on my iPhone, and read several chapters of a novel.

Changed trains at Mannheim, then to Frankfurt Airport and onto a suburban train, riding one stop west to Kelsterbach and a long (but familiar, from 2010) walk in light rain to the cheapie Ibis Hotel (hotels right at the airport are like $250 a night, which makes no sense).  Head hit pillow after midnight and, oh my, did I sleep hard.  Up at seven, to the airport, and onto American Airlines to DFW.  It was a great trip, but I was so happy to head for home, from the last trip of the third quarter.

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