Monthly Archives: October 2017

Montreal, Still Delightful 50 Years Later

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Splendid new condos line the formerly industrial Lachine Canal

On Sunday, October 22, by sheer luck I snagged a standby seat on an 80-minute Air Canada nonstop (several hours faster than a connection through New York) from Washington to Montreal – the flight was 45 minutes late, and they rebooked passengers that had tight connections, thus freeing up a chair for me.  As we descended toward Montreal, I looked down on a fascinating rural landscape of varied texture and color, and was reminded of a wonderful thought from Captain Mark Vonhoenacker’s 2015 book Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot:

Looking down in godlike remove from 30,000 feet on the ice sheet of Greenland or the jungles of New Guinea has since lost some of its ability to startle and become as routine as that Earthrise photograph. We now doze through the marvelous . . . flying on a commercial airliner — even while painfully folded into a seat in coach — can lift the soul and inspire an awareness of the wonderfully improbable, of the state of “in-betweenness” in which air travelers routinely hover.

The joy of flight will, for me, never lose its ability to startle, nor become routine:

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Look at all the texture: maple trees in full color, harvested and green fields, and the distinctive “long lot” method of land division that the French brought to the New World, originally to give farmers easier access to Quebec’s rivers.

Montreal Airport was empty, and in no time I was through immigration and customs and onto the local transit authority (STM) express bus, route 747, into downtown.  We detoured off the freeway and onto clogged local routes – traffic is often really, really bad in Montreal.  But I was in my customary digs, a suite on the top floor of McGill University student housing, by 2:45, and out the door – almost by formula – for lunch at a nearby Korean-family-run place, Kantapia.  I was seriously hungry and slurped a spicy noodle soup in no time, then walked across Rue Sherbrooke and onto a bike from Bixi, the city’s bikeshare network (the rental transaction is done from a smartphone app).   Many times that afternoon and over the next two days I said aloud “Montreal 50,” shorthand for the fact that my first visit there was a half-century earlier when (as I have written many times in these pages) two 15-year-old pals and I visited the big world’s fair, expo67.  I said “So lucky” almost as often as I said “Montreal 50.”

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Kimchee at Kantapia

I pedaled west on the lane-separated bikeway on busy De Maisonneuve Blvd., a familiar route, through downtown and into the old and affluent neighborhood of Westmount, then beyond to Westminster.  Enroute, a Tesla passed me; a nice way to drive, given that virtually every kilowatt of electricity produced in Quebec is made from falling water.  It was unseasonably warm, and sunny, and the maples and oaks were in full color.  Took a short nap and at six hopped on Bixi and rode a mile to the Latin Quarter for some microbrews and a light “Oktoberfest” dinner of venison sausage on red cabbage, pretzel on the side.

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The “Superhospital”: McGill University Health Centre, west of downtown

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The local economy is clearly strong, judging by new construction as well as sympathetic redevelopment of stately old houses like this one on Sherbrooke.

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Dawn from my hotel room

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McGill University continues to have budget woes, but has significantly improved public spaces on campus, including a lot of great sculpture; note the wolf behind the red swimmer

Monday morning, again by formula, breakfast at the Tim Horton’s across from my destination, McGill University.  Ambled around the campus, then up the hill to give an annual lecture at the law school’s Institute of Air and Space Law.  Some fairly heated discussion during question time, which was a lot of fun!  Walking downhill on Rue Peel I caught a familiar face out of the corner of my eye, Prof. Mary Dellar, my longtime host at McGill’s B-school.  Like a small town!  We yakked a bit (unlike many autumns, I was not teaching in any of her classes), and I peeled off to meet a newer B-school host, Bob Mackalski, for lunch.

Bob is one of the most interesting people I’ve met in recent years.  An entrepreneur turned academic (not a common sequence!), he’s got a very fertile mind.  After catching up on job and family, we turned to politics.  We lamented the lack of vision among politicians, even the better ones north of the border.  “Canada should be the land fairness AND prosperity, a place that fosters social mobility . . . to me that means the population needs access to health care, access to educational opportunities – schooling and libraries – and a place that feels safe.  But the vision needs to be coupled with a matching of capital and talent, which to me means sensible taxation to reward risk-taking and entrepreneurship.”  Whew, works for me.  He riffed a little on access to education as a vehicle for social mobility: “That means more competition among bright people – smart people of all social classes, not just the well-to-do.”  I wish I lived next door to him.

I worked a bit, then walked back uphill to the law school for an informal seminar on careers in airlines and aviation; students were from the U.S. (an Air Force major), India, Finland, France, Taiwan, and Germany.  Global.  The Institute’s new director, Brian Havel, arrived midway, and we had a brief yak afterwards.  Would have chatted more, but was due to meet Edie Austin of the Montreal Gazette at five.  Edie’s an op-ed editor for the paper, and kindly published my essay on 50 years of visits to the city.  We had a nice yak in Dominion Square, and at 5:45 I hopped on the Metro at Peel Station, riding just one stop.  A long day.

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Old and new in the 1929 Dominion Square Building

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“Circles” (1966), by Jean-Paul Mousseau, one of many wonderful pieces of art in Metro stations; I liked the piece in 1967, and a half-century and dozens of visits later it still makes me smile.

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Here’s my mandatory reminder: every single person in this photo has access to health care as a basic human right.

Changed into jeans, hopped on Bixi, back to the Quartier Latin and a favorite bar and restaurant, Saint-Houblon.  I said “Bonsoir” to one of the bartenders, Michel, who I have gotten to know from many visits. “It’s always a pleasure to have you back,” he said.  The place specializes in Quebec microbrews, and I chose well: an IPA from Mille-Îles brewery in Terrebonne, 12 miles north. “To 50 years in Montreal,” I said as I hoisted the pint.  Surrounded by people one-half and perhaps one-third my age made me smile, and remember the short film I saw at expo67 a half-century earlier: “We Are Young.”  It’s sort of a mantra.  And Montreal makes me feel young.  Saint-Houblon serves burgers and other pub fare, but they also offer some refined dishes, and I tucked into a superb Arroz Caldo, a spicy dish of clams, rice, beans, corn, and potatoes, garnished with seaweed.  It was so good.

I wasn’t speaking until noon Tuesday, so was up at first light and out the door on Bixi, down the hill to the St. Lawrence River, then upstream on a riverside bikeway.  Rain was predicted at 10, but it started a mile into the ride, and continued, lightly, until I got back.  Another breakfast at Tim Horton’s, then down Sherbrooke with suitcase to the B-school.  Worked a couple of hours and from noon to one delivered a talk to the MBA Marketing Association, familiar from my 19 visits to the university.  Ate three slices of pizza and headed to the Metro, bound for the airport.

A little giggle on Metcalfe Street caused an older fellow just in front of me to turn around, which launched a wonderful T-t-S.  Chris Green, American, has been a professor of economics at McGill for 49 years, and we had a great yak.  His Ph.D. (and his wife) were from Wisconsin.  I promised to look him up next visit.  At the Lionel-Groulx Station he headed for another train and I jumped on the 747 bus to the airport, a flight to Philadelphia, and a short ride home to Washington.

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St. Louis and Minneapolis/St. Paul

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Gothic Revival architecture on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis

Travels in the fourth quarter – likely to be as busy as the third – started Sunday, October 8, with a flight west to St. Louis.  I had not been there for 14 years.  Walking through the terminal, the Midwest was immediately evident: people smiling, making eye contact with strangers, and generally looking happier than folk in the Northeast.  Hopped on the MetroLink light rail, and rode into the city.  Got off at the Delmar Loop station, on the edge of a poor neighborhood, and although many of the people around the station looked like they had hard lives, they still nodded or smiled or said “how ya doin’.”   I walked west on Delmar into University City, U City for short, then south on Skinker to Washington University, on the north end of the huge Forest Park (second-largest urban park after New York’s Central Park).  Walked across the north end of the leafy campus and checked in at the school’s on-premises hotel.  Grabbed a quick nap, and walked the campus a bit more.

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Minoru Yamasaki’s striking design (1956) for terminal one at St. Louis Lambert International Airport; the four spherical triangles have long been a fave

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Scenes from the 1.5-mile walk from train to hotel: a redeveloped stretch of Delmar Blvd., and a glimpse of pleasant residential streets in U City.

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The General, namesake of WashU, and the soaring atrium of the Olin Business School.

At 6:30, I met Ayshwarya from India, Cathy from China, and Majed from Saudi Arabia, three students in the class I would teach the next morning, and we zipped a mile north to an awesome Barbeque joint, Salt & Smoke.  It was a fun dinner, mostly explaining the airline business, but also getting to know them a bit, all Master’s candidates at WashU, as everyone calls it.

Up early Monday morning, onto a defective fitness bike in the hotel gym, only able to crank out five miles.  Ate a free breakfast in the hotel and ambled next door to the airy atrium of the Olin Business School.  Worked for an hour, then met my host Prof. Chakravathi Narasimhan.  I had met Chak five months earlier at a conference, whence he suggested a visit.  Chak was one of those fellows that you feel like you’ve known for years even though it’s only been 10 minutes.  Just a swell guy.  He had been at WashU 28 years, moving to St. Louis after earning his Ph.D. at Northwestern.  Delivered a talk on airline sales and distribution to a largely Asian audience.  Chak invited me to lunch and more good conversation, then delivered me to a taxi – on to stop 2, overnight with friend-since-1963 Steve Schlachter, out in the western suburb of Maryland Heights.

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Lake Creve Coeur, a backwater of the Missouri River

Steve had just returned from a reunion of 1000 former employees and leaders of PeopleExpress, one of the early successes of U.S. airline deregulation.  Though the company failed, they have been widely heralded for their commitment to employee participation (and ownership, through stock), cross-utilization of people, and enlightened management.  We spent the first 90 minutes yakking about the reunion, and the airline industry.  Having lived through the death of an airline brand (Republic, my first corporate job, 1984-86), I understood the emotion generated.  It sounded like a remarkable event, held at Newark Airport, which was PE’s home base.

At three, we went for a drive, through a big park adjacent to their subdivision, then down the hill to Creve Coeur Lake.  Back home, I borrowed Steve’s bike and zipped around the lake a few times.  Tonic!  At five, we picked up Steve’s wife Cindy, who works at a garden and landscape center, then spent a pleasant 90 minutes on their back deck, with drinks and chatter.  Headed out for dinner, made a wrong turn, but still ended up in a good place: Paul Manno’s, an Italian restaurant in a strip mall.  St. Louis is full of Italians and great Italian eateries, and this one did not disappoint.  The pasta was way good, accompanied by fine conversation.

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Riding around the lake, I was sure I was going to run into Huck Finn and Jim!

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Steve and Cindy were dogsitting Sadie, a neighbor’s pet; on arrival, Steve explained that a previous owner abused her, thus she might not take to me.  By that evening I had made a friend.

Up early the next morning, did a bit of work, and at 8:45 Steve drove me back to the airport.  Flew via Chicago to the next gig, at the Carlson School of Management at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota. We descended through cloud and below was my homeland: lakes, trees, and farmland.  It was a comforting view.   Landed Minneapolis/St. Paul at 1:30.  Picked up a rental car and motored north. Stop 1 was a chocolate malt at the Dairy Queen on 42nd and Minnehaha, which included a nice chat with the owner – I told him I had not been in that DQ since September 1974, when I stopped to revive, on about mile 93 of a 100-mile bike ride.  He said his dad had bought the store the year before my last visit.  A nice bit of continuity.

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At 3:00, I walked into the MPLS. Frame Store a few blocks north and met MJ the owner, then met Pam Harris, the artist who produced the lovely pastel “City Garden” that I bought at the Minnesota State Fair seven weeks earlier.  We three had a nice chat about their work (MJ is an artist and a framer), and we talked a lot about other local artists that I had met through more than three decades of visiting the art show at the fair.  Loaded the art in the car (fretting about whether it would fit in the airplane coat closets two days hence), and drove west on the lovely parkways that are one of the many virtues of the City of Minneapolis, across to the home of friends-since-1970 Deb and Phil Ford.

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We yakked for a bit.  It was a beautiful fall day, and leaves were close to peak color, so I borrowed Phil’s slick new city bike and rolled east to Lake Harriet, joining a bike path that I’ve known for almost 60 years.  Cycled north, then across to Lake Calhoun, and around it, back to Harriet, and home.  I kept thinking back to all the times I rode around those lakes, and specific moments popped into my head, like election night in 1972; it was rainy and gloomy, and Richard Nixon had by early evening been announced as the victor.  I remember feeling unhinged, not just by the voting result, but by the uncertainty that would follow college graduation in eight months.  Of course it all worked out!

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We headed to early dinner at a new place, Mill Valley Café, not far from their house.  When I return to the Twin Cities, I’m always delighted with all the new restaurants, and this one did not disappoint.  Tucked into spicy edamame as a starter and grilled rainbow trout.  Yum.  Headed home and yakked for a long time, as only long friends can do.  Before retiring, I asked Debbie to play a song on the piano; she’s accomplished, and it was lovely to hear her.  We don’t make music ourselves much anymore, which made it even sweeter.

Was up Wednesday morning at “the usual time,” but that was 5:15, not 6:15, in the Central Time Zone.  Out the door, down 50th Street, then into the city on Park Avenue, a route I recall from my childhood (the main freeway in that part of town, I-35W, was torn up, so local routes made sense).  Parked across from the Carlson School of Management at “the U,” walked around the West Bank Campus a bit, then found a big coffee and cinnamon roll at a Starbucks in Hanson Hall.  Before delivering my first lecture, I walked over to the Geography Department (where I earned my Ph.D.) and tracked down Rod Squires, the only faculty member still there from my time in the late 1970s.  He’s north of 70 and going strong.  We lamented the decline of “real geography” in the hands of ideologues and theoreticians, a 40-year slide that was a major factor in my leaving the field.  Sad to see that not much has changed.

At 9:45, delivered my airline pricing lecture to Mark Bergen’s morning MBA class.  At 11:45, Mark and I linked up with longtime Carlson hosts Debbie and George John, a husband-and-wife faculty team (both marketing experts), and we motored across the Mississippi to lunch in the faculty club.  Back to the West Bank for a lecure to Debbie’s undergrads, then an interview with a Ph.D. student, then a third lecture to Mark’s evening pricing class.  Whew.

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Familiar territory: the West Bank Campus of the U of M; I wrote my dissertation in the library at left.

I was worn out, but hopped in the rental car and zoomed east to downtown St. Paul and a delightful dinner with Martha Sheppard, widow of my dear friend and Wharton classmate Jack (1944-1993); her youngest daughter Emily; Em’s fiancée Michael; and Pat, widow of Jack’s sister Beth.  Martha had moved to a cool condo in a part of the center called Lowertown, and it was way cool.  We tucked into a beautiful dinner, spicy Italian Wedding Soup, salad, homemade apple cake, and lively conversation.  Martha poured some fancy Bordeaux (1983 vintage) for Pat and me.  It was a poignant moment, hoisting that glass, for it was the among the last of Jack’s huge wine collection.  We still miss him, and always will.

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The Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul

Slept hard, up at first light, and out the door for seven miles on Phil’s bike, through neighborhoods where I lived as a child; past the site of Wooddale Elementary School (1926), long gone; past the Cape Cod on Arden where we lived from 1959 to 1964; then back.  I was flying home at 12:30, so there was still time to see one more friend, and at eight I hugged Tom Terry (another pal since junior high school) at Edina Grill.  We tucked into a big breakfast, a good update (I hadn’t seen him since the 40th high school reunion in 2009), and some reliving of our youth – including a hilarious story of he and a buddy sneaking out of the house as teenagers.  “Then we heard sirens” said it all!

Back at the Fords, I hugged them both, put my suitcase in the car, and drove to the airport.  The journey home, via Chicago, would have been routine, except I had the huge painting.  It just fit in the coat closet at the front of the MD-80 to Chicago, whew.  Waiting to board the 737 to DCA, a gate agent said it would not fit on board, so he tagged it for gate check, like a stroller, to retrieve on the jetbridge on arrival.  I was a little stressed, but trusted my American Airlines brothers and sisters on the ramp, and in Washington it came up unscathed.  Hooray!  Hopped the Metro home, a nice swing through the Heartland.

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September in Europe, Part 2

I arrived at Stockholm’s central station in the capital on time, and walked a mile to the Stockholm School of Economics for my 12th visit.  I arranged to meet my host Per Andersson at 11:45, so had plenty of time.  A friendly Ph.D. student let me into the offices, and in no time I was at work.  The place was familiar, so I knew the location of the (free) coffee machine and other essentials.  Per arrived early, and we peeled off for lunch at a buffet place a block away (also familiar).  As we left the building, I asked about the scaffolds on the façade, and among other things learned that the structure had historic and protected status, because the Nobel prizewinning economist Gunnar Myrdal had worked in the very corridor where Per officed.

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Doors to Stockholm’s Adolf Fredrik Church (1774), well familiar to me, were locked, so the florists left the funeral bouquets on the step

We zipped back from lunch, then into the main SSE building for a graduate-level lecture on airlines and Big Data.  Yakked with a couple of students after class, walked back to the offices, changed into jeans, and said goodbye.  Then headed (in rain, as usual) a mile south to the stop for the airport bus.  Flew on Swiss to Zurich, flight slightly late (very un-Swiss), and dashed across the airport for a connecting flight to Geneva; I was bound for a quick visit with a former student, Fabio Scappaticci, and his family.  Made the flight, and to my great delight, my luggage did, too.  Met Fabio in the bag claim, hugs.  The original plan was to stay at his house, but his parents, from Montreal, were visiting on short notice, so he dropped me at a simple motel five minutes from his place.  It was 12:45 AM, and I was totally drained.  Zzzzz.

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For the Transport Geeks: my first ride in a Made-in-Canada Bombardier CSeries

Woke up at eight, unheard of, showered, and met Fabio at nine.  Headed to the bakery in his village of Prevéssin-Moëns for breakfast breads, then home to meet parents Daniella and Angelo, wife Lisa, and sons Luca (5) and Leo (2.5).  We hit it off immediately, falling into friendly banter about families, work, kids, life.  Then we all piled into two cars and headed into the next town, Ferney-Voltaire, where the latter author and philosopher lived from 1759 until his death in 1778.  The entire center of town was closed to traffic and open to a vast weekly food market.  Visiting a place like that is clear evidence of how deeply the French care about food.  Produce, meat, cheese, and more, endless varieties, conventional and increasingly organic.  We bought fruits and vegetables, cheese, more bread, and lunch (to eat at home) from a tiny stall selling Vietnamese take-away.  Ambled to the Carrefour supermarket for sausages to barbecue for dinner, then home.  It was a glorious day, sunny and warm – so welcome after a week of gloom – and we ate lunch in the backyard, with a fine view of the low Jura Mountains to the north.  It was naptime for Luca and Leo, and I joined them for an hour.

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Ordinary Saturday life in France: at the bakery and the open-air market

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Produce, perfect (left) and not-so-much — but the French have begun to embrace the imperfect edible rather than waste it.

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City Hall (Mairie), in Ferney-Voltaire

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Leo and Luca with a bowling-ball-like watermelon

Refreshed, I fell back into conversation with Angelo and Daniella, who emigrated with their parents from south of Rome to Montreal in the 1960s.  His was a classic Canadian success story.  In the 1970s he hired on with Hydro-Quebec, the provincial power utility, that was building enormous waterpower projects at James Bay in northern Quebec.  Three months on, one week off, 60-hour workweek guaranteed, and Angelo saved enough money to open a Dunkin Donuts franchise, then two, then three.  He sold the last one in 2006, and since has worked hourly jobs at Costco and elsewhere to stay busy.  They had two sons, both university graduates.  A nice story.

Angelo and I took a long walk around the village, a very pleasant, leafy place.  We tucked into a nice meal, again outside, just as the dusk colors were at their best.  Lisa and Fabio put the kids to bed, we ate some French-style apple pie, and after hugs and kisses Fabio drove me back to the motel.

That Saturday was the kind of travel experience that I have enjoyed for decades and have recommended often: to experience life, family life, in another part of the world is extraordinary for its simplicity.  To see a kitchen; to help with chores, to hug kids and carry them around a backyard on shoulders, to walk the neighborhood.  To quote Voltaire, it was “the best of all possible worlds.”

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The agreeable view from Fabio’s and Lisa’s backyard (L), and their street

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Sunset from the backyard; the end of a splendid day.

Was up at a normal time Sunday morning, two cups of motel-room instant coffee, and out the door, walking a kilometer to the city hall in Ferney-Voltaire.  On the way, I passed the city park, where the day before, on the north end, I noticed some phrases that appeared to be from Voltaire’s pen, printed on steel and inserted into the concrete. And there were some on the south side, too:

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Top: “The mouth obeys evil when the heart whispers”

A little more about Voltaire and the town: in 1755, he was “on the run,” having angered both Frederick the Great of Prussia and King Louis XV in his native France, so he settled in Geneva and bought an estate.  But then one of his new writings angered the locals, so he hopped across the border and bought an estate in Ferney.  He was not only a writer, but helped establish pottery and watchmaking industries in his new home, as well as theatre, which was banned in Geneva.  Quite a fellow.  As I have written here before, my fave Voltaire quotation is “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Hopped on the bus for a 12-minute ride to Geneva Airport.  Time for breakfast; I remembered from a visit in 2013 that there was a Migros supermarket in the airport train station, so made fast for a store I’ve known since my first visit to Switzerland in 1972.  As I’ve written many times, visiting a grocery is another one of those simple and rewarding overseas moments.  Bought yogurt, a banana, a yeasted raisin roll, and a mango smoothie, and enjoyed a picnic breakfast on platform 2.  The train to St. Gallen and the fifth university on the trip departed in an hour, so I hopped another for the short ride into downtown Geneva.  True to my zeal for cramming as much as possible into a day, I rolled my suitcase a few blocks to the lake, Lac Leman, then back.  Hopped on the 9:42 direct to St. Gallen.

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Swiss Federal Railways’ mobile-phone charging station: you pedal, you recharge

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Glimpses of Geneva on the 10-minute walk to the lake

I was looking forward to a four-hour ride across Switzerland, and it did not disappoint.  As we headed to Lausanne, to my left were vineyards marching up gentle slopes, and to the right glimpses of the lake and the backbone of the Alps, including Mont Blanc.  Eastward, and plenty of interesting scenes: farmers harvesting maize (corn), hundreds of grazing cattle, and lots of bicyclists out on a sunny day.

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It’s hard to get a good pic from a moving train; this is as good as it gets, in mobile photography and in Swiss scenery!

After checking into the hotel in St. Gallen, changing clothes, and eating a $17 Subway footlong (welcome to Switzerland!), I joined the cyclists, climbing 900 feet, whew, out of St. Gallen to the picturesque villages of Speicher and Trogen.  The original plan was to continue on to Altstätten, but when I got to a little fork in the road called Oberegg I could see my destination, only about 5 miles away but almost 2000 feet below.  Sure, the ride there would have been fun, but I just did not see an upward slog, so I snapped some pictures of the Rhine Valley, and turned around.  It didn’t take long to get back, down that long slope back into town.  It was a perfect ride, the whole rural Swiss experience (to me, best seen on a bicycle): the melody of tinkling bells around cows, sheep, and goats; traditional architecture; a mix of broadleaf and pine forest, rushing streams.  No yodeling, but you could imagine it!  Took a short nap, and at dusk headed a few blocks east to a new restaurant in town, run by young people, for a beer and a bratwurst.  Scenes from a good day:

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Up early Monday morning, out the door, up another, smaller hill (only 300 feet of rise) to the University of St. Gallen and my 17th appearance since 2000.   From 10:30 to noon delivered a talk on airline revenue management to undergrads, then grabbed a quick lunch in the Mensa (student cafeteria) with morning host Sven Reinecke.  Rode down the hill, and from 1:45 to 3:15 spoke to Prof. Winfried Ruigrok’s full-time MBA class.  A great group: diverse, engaged, enthused.  Just a pleasure.  Rode back to the hotel, changed clothes, and did some work.  As I did the year before, at 6:30, met Paul and Hananja Brice at a fondue restaurant for a fun meal and lots of great conversation – kids, UK and U.S. politics, Swiss prices, and more.  I first met Paul when he was chaplain of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and we’ve stayed in touch.  He’s now pastor of the Anglican church in Zürich.

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Swiss Made: a bike rack and a service truck for waterless urinals; as I’ve noted, despite high labor costs, the Swiss still make lots of stuff, and they buy it — no need for tariffs when cultural values are so strong.  I’m sure Chicago-school economists scoff, but the model is to me admirable.

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The view from my classroom

Out the door Tuesday morning for a quick eight-mile bike ride (on mostly flat terrain), then suited up.  On the way up to the university, I stopped as I always do at the wildly Baroque abbey church of St. Gallen.  A good place for morning prayers, and for whispering a few words to the wonderful carved angel on the ceiling, who has been a friend and touchstone for almost 20 years.  Worked the morning in the library, and at 1:00 met Winfried and his assistant Georg Guttman, who has been my host for many years (he is also the bicycle lender; what a champ!).  Hewing to tradition, we met at Wienerberg, an old-school café adjacent to the campus.  It was a warm, sunny day, and we ate outdoors, catching up on changes since September 2016.

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The old town (Altstadt) in St. Gallen, and one of the many angels in the Baroque abbey church

Back to the library to work a few hours, then from 4:30 to 6:00 delivered a lecture to the school’s #1-in-the-world Masters in International Management and Strategy.  The kids were young (most right into the program after getting their first degrees), but motivated.  Stayed 20 minutes more outside the classroom answering questions, then walked to the bike.  It had rained briefly during the lecture, but, happily, it had stopped (my raincoat was back at the hotel).  Rode down the hill on wet streets, careful on the curves, and was home in no time.  Changed clothes, worked my email, and walked two blocks to the Coop supermarket in the train station for a salad, rolls, and a beer (after a big lunch I didn’t need much).  Was asleep by 9:15 . . .

Up at 5:15, out the door and onto the 6:00 train “down the hill” to Konstanz, on what Germans call Bodensee and we call Lake Constance.  Changed trains there, and at Singen, then Horb, then Tübingen, finally arriving in my destination, Reutlingen at 9:50.  It took nearly four hours to travel only about 140 miles, because there are no direct routes.  But the ride was pleasant.  Once the sun rose, fall colors were at their best, the landforms interesting (ridges and curious “bumps” that rose a few hundred feet out of a flat plain).  For awhile we were in the Black Forest, deep green, and it felt like Hansel and Gretel were at hand.

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The bridge to heaven?  No, a span on Highway 81 over the Neckar Valley, near Horb, Germany

At the station, I hopped on a city bus for a short ride up the hill to the ESB Business School of Reutlingen University and my fifth visit in two years (I normally walk, but I didn’t have luggage on previous visits).  Made fast for the Mensa, drank two strong coffees, and at 11:30 delivered a lecture to Oliver Götz’s undergraduate marketing class.  The talk went well.  At the start of Q&A, Oliver asked about what American Airlines did after 9/11 to rebuild.  I answered.  After class, a student approached to tell me that he thought it the tragedies were a conspiracy.  “You mean, engineered by the U.S. Government?” I asked.  “Yes,” he replied.  I wanted to slap him, but instead lit into him verbally.  I don’t think a student had ever made me as angry.

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Reutlingen University

Oliver and I headed to the Mensa for lunch and a good yak, then back to his office, and I peeled off, back on the bus to downtown.  My last night in Europe was another Airbnb, advertised as a “micro-apartment” in the old town, and it was.  Host Marcus met me right on time, handed me the key, and peeled off.  Took a quick nap, worked for a few hours, then went out for a walk on a lovely warm afternoon.  At six I ambled into a fave place, Barfüsser, a microbrewery and restaurant for a couple of beers and a totally enormous plate of roast pork, dumpling, and kraut salad.  Yum.

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In the Airbnb micro-apartment: I thought it was just a cabinet for clothes, then opened the door!

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Scenes from my neighborhood in Reutlingen

Back to the micro, a bit of work, a few pages of a gripping new novel, and lights out.  Up early again, 5:30, out the door, onto a train for Stuttgart, a connecting fast one to Frankfurt Airport, and a flight to Philadelphia then home to Washington.

It would be hard to cram more into 92 days of a quarter!

 

 

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September in Europe, Part 1

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Aachen, Germany, first stop

The “fall semester” started on Wednesday, September 15, Metro to National Airport, short hop up to Philadelphia, and a big Silver Bird across the ocean to Frankfurt.  Arrived after breakfast, waited a couple of hours, and at 10:45 hopped on the fast ICE train north.  As I always do on arrival in a country I greatly admire, I cued their national anthem, “Deutschlandleid,” then closed my mind and conjured images of the place in spring 1945: flattened, broke, hungry.  And within a decade, cities were rebuilt, there was money in the bank, and food and drink were in ample supply.  That is about will, a trait that exists in abundance in Germany.  It is that will that built the train that propelled me to Cologne at 180 mph.  The train turned west toward the border with Belgium and The Netherlands, and I hopped off in Aachen, a city best known as the seat of King Charlemagne in the 9th Century.

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Aachen Cathedral (above and below)

 

 

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Weather was poor: periodic showers and howling wind, but I stowed my suitcase and backpack contents in a locker in the train station, zipped up my Gore-Tex raincoat, and headed out, a short walk through a townscape immediately appealing, with a nice mix of contemporary and old buildings, a pleasant scale, and lots of sculpture on the street.  First stop was the spectacular cathedral, begun in the 8th Century and modified through the years.  Wandered the old town a bit, zipped into a supermarket for lunch fixings, and enjoyed the repast until another shower arrived.  Next stop was the town hall, Rathaus, begun 1330 and finished two decades later.  The public rooms were spectacular, and on the top floor a cavernous coronation hall, site of many royal banquets through the years.  It was still howling and pouring outside, so I spent a good while in the various rooms, many done in Baroque style.  Stop three was Elisenbrunnen, one of the original thermal springs.  Despite the signs that read in German “Do not drink the water,” everyone who stopped took a handful, so I did too, slightly hot and highly mineralized.

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Bakery window (gingerbread is a local specialty) and Charlemagne’s seal in the pavement

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Aachen Town Hall (Rathaus), above and below, the red and white rooms, and the banquet hall

 

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Lots of public art, mostly sculpture, in town

 

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Not everything was old in Aachen!

Ambled back to the train station and still had more than an hour, so found a place to sit and read a bit.  Hopped on the fast train back to Cologne and then a completely packed local train north to Düsseldorf, my destination.  It was like the Tokyo Metro, and I was happy to get off, then onto a subway to my hotel.  Checked in and took a tonic shower.  I knew the neighborhood, just southeast of downtown, from a visit in late 2016, so made fast for Uerige am Markt, a cozy restaurant.  The local brew, Altbier, comes in small glasses, and I enjoyed a few along with an enormous plate of pork, roasted potatoes, and green beans.  Vast.  Slept hard.

Up at 6:45 Friday morning, to the hotel gym, then breakfast.  Spent the morning doing some consulting work.  At 11:45 I walked a block to a station of the local bikeshare system, Nextbike.  Their iPhone app was balky, but I got it figured out, unlocked bike 04445, and pedaled up Kölnerstrasse, then north toward Altstadt, the old town.  Parked the bike, locked it, done.

While waiting for local friends to arrive, I sat down on a bench on Ratinger Strasse.  An octogenarian woman with a large smile wheeled her walker into the Füchschen brewery for lunch. She was a perfect vignette of social democracy: taking care of the elderly so that they might live in dignity with enough.  A few minutes later, a brief  T-t-S with dog owners.  The dog paused in front of me, so of course I nuzzled her face, then told the owners about missing our terriers when I travel.  So they turned back around to let me cuddle a bit more.

At 12:30 I met Tobias Hundhausen (who I first met in Dallas in the late 1990s), his wife Sarah (who I had not met prior), and their seven-week-old son Tillmann.  Linda had knitted a blanket for young Till, and parents were happy to have it.  We had a delightful lunch at Füchschen, one of the many small brewers that make Altbier. Tucked into a splendid lunch and great conversation about Toby’s new job, Sarah’s travails during pregnancy, and the other stuff that close friends discuss.  Lots of fun.  Rode the Nextbike home, took a nap, suited up, and set off for WHU, the private German business school I’ve visited most years since 2000.

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Till Hundhausen, seven weeks

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Central Düsseldorf, leafy and pleasant

I spotted a shortcut on the map, and in no time was walking down Kiefernstrasse, which had a very Bohemian feel: graffiti all over, old wagons like the ones Roma people use, lefty-looking people on the street.  When I arrived at WHU a few minutes later, I Googled the street name, then to Wikipedia: “Kiefernstraße is a street in the Flingern-Süd district of Düsseldorf that became notorious in the 1980s for squatting. In the mid-1980s there were connections to the Baader–Meinhof [Terrorist] Gang.”  Whoa!

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On Kiefernstrasse: bright facades and political graffiti

From 5:15 to 6:15 I delivered a career-advice talk to 30 brand-new full-time MBA students, a very international group.  Only six were from Germany; the others were from China, India, Taiwan, Colombia, Venezuela, Canada, USA, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Finland (he was impressed I knew Sisu, a distinctive Finnish word that roughly means perseverance, something Finns have needed during the many years that neighbors ran roughshod over their land).  I stayed around for 30 minutes or so, chatting one-on-one with students.  A young Chinese entrepreneur invited me to go into business with him!  I politely declined.

Walked back to the hotel, naturally via Kiefernstrasse, smiling at the young people who stared at the old man in suit and tie.  Changed clothes, hopped on the U-Bahn, and in no time was on a stool at Schumacher, another Altbier producer.  Had a nice T-t-S with a German bicycle enthusiast (we two-wheel geeks each had pictures of our bikes on our phones!).  Tucked into a plate of roast blutwurst, fried onions, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes, German soul food for sure.  The biker, whose name I did not catch, was by that time chatting with three folks at the other end of the table.  Germany could well be a land of T-t-S, especially in drinking places.  Slept hard, again.

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German elections were a week ahead, and posters were everywhere.  Mrs. Merkel’s simple message: “Successful for Germany.”

On the gym bike before seven, rode a bit further, then after breakfast went back out on a bikeshare cycle for 15 miles through town.  High point was the pleasant and very affluent Oberkassel neighborhood across the Rhine River from downtown.  Returned home via the state (North Rhine-Westphalia) parliament buildings, then a new district upstream on former port land.  Took a short nap, walked to a nearby supermarket for sandwiches, then suited up for a late-Saturday-afternoon talk on leadership at WHU.  Students were from the weekend MBA program, so nearly all of them were German.  Great group, good questions, nice round of applause.  Despite a whole day of blue skies, it was raining steadily, which made for a fast but soggy walk back to the hotel.

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Oberkassel

 

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The redeveloping inner harbor (connected to the Rhine)

Changed clothes and hopped on the U-Bahn.  I noticed a transit ad above the windows, noting the emergency phone numbers for Düsseldorf.  In another vignette of social democracy, I counted nine separate lines – of course the equivalent of 911 in the U.S., as well as for abused spouses, abused children, missing persons, victims of anti-gay violence, and more.  Got off at the edge of the old town, and walked a block west to beer at zum Schlüssel, another of the small brewery-restaurant combinations.  Saturday night and the place was hopping, but I found a standing-room-only counter strategically 10 feet from the oak kegs.  German pro soccer (Bundesliga) was on the big-screen TVs above the bar, and I got to see a nearby team Mönchengladbach tie the score with Leipzig.  Had a nice T-t-S with a German fellow, which headed quickly toward the new President of the U.S.  “We are afraid,” he said.  “So am I.” The yak turned toward the Bad Old Days of the Cold War, and he told me he grew up in Lower Saxony only six miles from the heavily armed border with East Germany.  More, he said, the Berlin Wall came down on his birthday, November 11.  “Ein schönes geschenk,” (a nice gift) I said, and he smiled.  One of the servers, Guido, greeted the elderly couple next to me like old friends.  As noted above, German drinking places are social places.

My server, Wolfgang, was efficient (he even had an old-fashioned coin dispenser around his waist), and brought fresh beer (small glasses, drained quickly).  I asked him in German if I could eat standing up, he replied yes, so I ordered another German favorite, cold herring in cream sauce, with onions and pickles (in that case from the famous picklemakers of the Spreewald south of Berlin), plus a huge mound of fried potatoes.  So good.  Headed back to the hotel and clocked out.

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Up at 6:30, back to the gym, then packed up, and headed to breakfast.  That hotel, the NH City (a Dutch chain) serves an awesome morning meal, and because I was traveling that day, I tucked into a lot of food.  Another nice, if brief, T-t-S with two guys my age, half in German and half in English.  They were from near Hamburg, and were eight longtime friends who gathered regularly to play cards.  “Ah,” I replied, “you’re on a boys’ trip.”  And they laughed, happy to learn an English idiom.

Checked out, hopped the U-Bahn to the main station, then a local train to Cologne.  I had a 20-minute connection, so ambled out the south entrance to gaze up at the enormous Dom, the cathedral begun in 1248 and not truly finished until 1880.  First seen more than four decades earlier, it always has the power to put humans in perspective.  We are small.  Took a short ride to Cologne/Bonn Airport, and flew to Stockholm, headed for five days of teaching in Sweden.   We descended through cloud, and below was the pleasant rural Swedish landscape: mixed hardwood and evergreen forest, pastures, lakes, and red barns with red tile roofs.

Changed planes and flew 300 miles north to Umeå, a place familiar from 22 previous visits to the university there. Landed about seven, hopped on a bus into town, and checked into a comfortable hotel, the Uman, where we’ve stayed for years.  The receptionist had the key to the bike that the Umeå School of Business and Economics makes available to me most years.  It was time for a quick sauna.  It was seriously hot, north of 200° F., so it only took about 25 minutes to work up a big sweat.   Showered, dressed, and grabbed a light dinner in the hotel – they serve a free evening meal, one of the things we’ve enjoyed through the years.

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Descending toward Umeå

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In the sauna

Was up at first light Monday morning, onto the bike, 15 miles, including a nice ride around Bölesholmarna, a small island in the Umeå River, and (as it says on my blog homepage) one of  my favorite places on earth.  Even on a gloomy day it was lovely, birch and pine trees, autumn color.  I looked for our terrier Henry’s cousin, Keso, who I had seen on previous rides on the island, but he wasn’t out with his keepers (Little aside: in previous dispatches from Umeå I spelled his name Queso, like the Mexican word for cheese; but the K spelling is right: Keso is a Swedish cottage cheese brand, which makes sense since both the food and West Highland terriers are white!).

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Umeå from across the river in Teg

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On Bölesholmarna

Showered, suited up, and pedaled up the hill to the university.  At 9:30, met Prof. Chris Nicol, and delivered a talk on airline alliances.  Ate a quick lunch with his teaching assistant, Angelos Kostis, a really good guy with similar views on a range of subjects.  From one to three delivered a talk to a big group, about 100, all grad students, a case study on airline strategy, first time to present it.  Whew.  Was plumb wore out.  Rode down the hill, coasting in light rain, then took a needed nap.

At six I pedaled four miles downriver for dinner with Nils and Carolina Paulsson, their kids Johan (13), Petter (11), and Olle (8), and dogs Egil and Elton (German pointer and Engish spaniel).  They are like family, so I was immediately at home.  We got caught up on things since the previous September: the weekend house near the coast that Nils and Carolina built themselves (they also built the home where we sat); the kids musical interests; and lots more.  Tucked into a delicious dinner of Icelandic haddock, along with potatoes and vegetables from their garden.  After dinner, Johan and Petter played violin for me, and we enjoyed an awesome homemade apple cake.  Hugged everyone and walked outside into steady rain.  The ride back to town was wet and dark, and even cycling slowly I left the unpaved trail a couple of times.  Oops.  Happily, the rain tapered off, then stopped as I got close to the hotel, so I opted to ride over to Lotta’s, a bar and microbrewery, for a homemade beer.  That I recognized the bartender from previous visits was pretty good indication that I feel like a local in Umeå!

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Top: fall scenes along the river, enroute to the Paulssons; above, Johann and Petter performing, and Elton helping with the pre-wash dishwasher cycle.

Up early and out on the bike again, then up the hill to the (nearly) annual meeting of the school’s International Advisory Board.   When I walked into the meeting room, called Samvetet, I thought of the many times I had been there, but I especially thought of when I entered the room about 2 PM on Friday, September 14, 2001, just three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  On these pages I wrote:

The International Advisory Board was just finishing their coffee break, and when they reconvened I was introduced.  The group applauded my persistence given the circumstances.  The new B-school dean, Anders Söderholm, asked me to say a few words of introduction, and I simply repeated my view that not to come would be to yield to the terrorists.  More applause.  I sat down.

I was the first board member to arrive, and had a nice chat with the (relatively) new dean, Sofia Lundberg.  Small talk focused on the weather: the whole summer had been cold and wet; “I didn’t even put away my winter clothes,” she complained.   Two new board members arrived, Emma, a Ph.D. from the school, now working as an economist for Amazon in Seattle; and Stewart, an English sociologist turned business prof, now in Sydney.  It was a good day, with updates on various aspects of the school’s progress.  Looking back over the nearly 20 years of board service, they’ve made a lot of advances.  Rode the bike down the hill.  At 6:45, we ambled to dinner at a Köksbaren, a “new Scandinavian cuisine” place a few blocks from the hotel.  First course was chunky, country-style bacon, oysters, and homemade potato chips, and the main course was one of my Swedish faves, Arctic char.

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Breakfast at the Uman: herring (every day!) and waffles

The weather was consistently bad, but I was determined to get some exercise, so I went out Wednesday morning in a raincoat for nine miles on the bike.  At nine, joined a joint “strategy day” with two school advisory boards and the larger board of directors.  I knew a lot of the people, which was proof of my many visits.  Candidly, was irregular in quality, and I was glad to peel off at two for a talk to students.  It was time again for another “Drink and Learn” at the E-Pub, which is run by the school’s student association, HHUS.  Drat, the back tire on the bike was flat, so I ambled a few blocks to the bus for a seven-minute ride up the hill.  Delivered a talk in the pub, good dialogue and questions, then hopped the bus back downtown for dinner with the group.  Had a nice chat with a retired PriceWaterhouseCoopers exec and a prof from the school.

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Was up seriously early Thursday morning, out the door to the bus and the airport and a 7:25 flight south to Stockholm.  Had a nice chat at the airport with Angelos, the Greek Ph.D. student I met two days earlier, and a Romanian post-doc.  Angelos was headed home to Thessaloniki for a long weekend, and the other guy was headed to a Cloud-computing conference in Silicon Valley.  I collected my suitcase and walked across the airport to the train station, where I donned a necktie and changed into dress shoes.  A couple minutes later a woman with a T-shirt that read “Keep Minnesota Green,” ambled toward me.  Naturally that started a fine T-t-S.  Kim was indeed from my native state, headed north to Dalarna for a funeral of a cousin two generations older.  Through the years she had been back to the land her grandfather left in 1905, and in fact had bought the ancestral home a few years earlier.  It was a fascinating chat, and a nice marker of the value of the jet plane: Kim owns a second home more than 4,000 miles from her first!

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Changing on the fly!

Hopped on the train, gliding 18 miles north to Uppsala, a historic town: seat of kings and of the Swedish (Lutheran) Church, and home of one of the first universities in Scandinavia, 1477.  It was my 8th visit there, and I knew my way from station to business school.  Worked my email and other stuff for an hour, and just before noon met Kim Larsson, a honcho with Ekonomerna, the student business association.  Delivered a talk on crisis management to a full house.  Said goodbye to Kim and tucked into a much-needed lunch, haddock and potatoes, in the student cafeteria.  Worked a bit more, and from four to six gave another talk.

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On the previous two visits to Uppsala I stayed with friends Hans and Mia Kjellberg, but Hans was traveling, so I booked an astonishingly cheap ($33) Airbnb room less than two blocks from school. My host was out for dinner, and hid the key.  In no time was changed into jeans and out the door, into the center for a beer and dinner.  Swedish food is swell, but I needed some spice, so found a serviceable Thai place for a green curry with tofu.  As I was tucking in, an email arrived from a client, asking for some urgent work, so I paid the bill and walked briskly back to Skolgatan 1. My Airbnb host, Dr. Olle Svenson, had returned, and we had a nice chat – he was a professor of electrical engineering, and a musician.  I would have liked to yak some more, but needed to get my homework done and sent across the Atlantic.  It was a long day, and I was asleep by 9:30.

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Uppsala Cathedral above the Fyris River, and Linneaus’ garden

Up early Friday morning, out the door, down the hill to the train station.  I passed the old house and garden of one of Uppsala’s most famous scholars, Carl Linneaus (the fellow that gave us the taxonomic system for flora and fauna), who lived there from 1743 until his death in 1788; he cultivated more than 3,000 plant species, making it one of the largest botanic gardens in Europe.  Cool!  The Swedish newsagent chain Presbyrån has complete breakfast fixings to take away, so I grabbed a cinnamon bun, yogurt, banana, and a large coffee, and ambled up to track 7.  Ate in a platform waiting room, then hopped on the 8:06 train into Stockholm, 35 miles south.  The SJ (Swedish State Railways) regional train was quite new, and really comfy – when I boarded, I asked a fellow traveler if we were in First Class.  Free wi-fi, nice seats, spotlessly clean, I wished I were travelling farther.

Continued in Part 2

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