Monthly Archives: February 2019

To Europe to Teach: England, Switzerland, Germany

Part of the Ehrenbreitsen Fortress across the Rhine from Koblenz, from my seat on Bus #8 enroute to class; I had been staring at my iPhone screen, and this splendid sight (German red sandstone makes for handsome buildings) was a reminder to pay attention to the world, not the screen!

On February 2, it was time to start teaching again, and in Europe (in 2018, 18 of 29 schools visited were across the Atlantic).  Flew to New York and on to London, landing on Sunday morning, February 3.  Hopped the train into the city, a quick ride on the Bakerloo Line (Tube), and walked a mile through Queen’s Park to the home of long friends Scott and Caroline Sage, and their two young daughters, Eva, 4, and Sadie, 1.5 (Scott and our daughter Robin were classmates from grades 3 through 12).  The Sages were just finishing breakfast.  We had a good yak, changed clothes and walked back across the park to a Farmers’ Market on Salusbury Road.  Lots of nice produce, baked goods, flowers, and more for sale.  Walked home via the playground, so Eva could ride the swings and climb around.  Tucked into homemade soup and salad for lunch, and caught a tonic 40-minute nap.

London Transport employees sometimes get creative with their info boards. Below, produce at the Queen’s Park Farmers’ Market


My young pals Eva and Sadie

Scott and Eva inspecting a vintage Austin motorcar

At 2:15 I pumped air into the tires of Caroline’s bike and headed a mile south to the towpath of the Grand Union Canal (commenced 1793), which runs 140 miles northwest to Birmingham.  It had been cold and snowy in recent days, and the towpath, often narrow, was icy in places.  Vigilance was definitely in order.  I rode relatively slowly, mindful of the slick surface and plenty of pedestrians out on a sunny Sunday.  Also needed to dodge a number of Canada geese, who are among the most assertive of birds: more than a few seemed to say, “You go around me, not the other way round.” I first rode the towpath in December 2016, but didn’t recall the litter and refuse, mostly from folks who live on the canal boats.  It was really quite disgusting, beer cans and other loose garbage everywhere.  Yuck.  Rode west to the suburb of Southall, then reversed course, riding beyond the starting point, to Little Venice, 15 miles in total.  A nice ride, trash notwithstanding.

Along the Grand Union Canal

Back on Chevening Road, dinner guests Douglas and Jessica had arrived with their three young children.  Scott, Douglas, and I had a good yak, played with the kids, and tucked into homemade mac and cheese (Caroline is an inspired cook).  Helped clean up the kitchen, read Eva Rose a bedtime story, and climbed into bed, bringing this journal up to date.  A fine first day.

Up at six, down to breakfast with the family, then out the door.  Hopped a bus and tube into central London to the venerable (but now struggling) Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street for some new dress socks (the ones I was wearing were worn out), then west to Imperial College.  Worked the rest of the morning, and at one met my long host and dear friend Omar Merlo for lunch.  I crammed a longer talk into 50 minutes from 2:00, listened to a second guest speaker, Katharine from Procter & Gamble, said goodbye, and hopped on the #52 bus, which conveniently rolls to within 200 feet of the Sages’ house.

The looming mess of Brexit manifest in varied ways!

When I got home at five, Carrie the nanny was out with the kids, and I didn’t have a key, so I headed to The Chamberlayne, the corner pub, for a pint.  Place was mostly empty, four tipplers plus a shy beagle.  Thirst slaked, I walked a half-block home.  Caroline was cooking dinner, the girls were out with their day nanny, Carrie.  Mrs. Sage and I had a good yak in the kitchen, then I was dispatched to varied tasks: fill the tub for the girls’ baths (asking Eva for advice on water temperature), install some new translucent film on the bathroom window, go to the store for a jar of spice needed for the main course.  The kids went to sleep, and the grown-ups ate dinner in front of the TV.  Neither Scott nor Caroline had seen the superb German series “Babylon Berlin,” so we watched the first two episodes – and like me, they were immediately drawn in (if you haven’t seen it, track it down on Netflix).  Then off to bed for a long, hard sleep, nine hours, tonic.

Your scribe in action at Imperial College London; below, fellow tipplers at the Chamberlayne pub

Out the door Tuesday, for what would be a busy day.  Headed to London Business School, worked an hour or so, reconnected with a young airline expert I had met years ago at a conference (he had just started a MBA), and from 11:30 to 12:30 delivered a now-annual lecture to the LBS Marketing Club.  Well attended, lots of good questions.  Peeled off, ate a quick lunch at Pret a Manger, hopped on the Tube to Euston (railway) station, met my Dutch friend, ex-KLM exec Jan Meurer, at 1:45, and hopped on the train to Milton Keynes, 50 miles away, bound for our third joint presentation in Cranfield University’s specialized program in air transport management.  We had a great T-t-S with a young Welsh woman sitting next to us; as we got off the train I asked her if she spoke the language, “Indeed,” she replied, “English was my second language.”  Gary, a university driver who had taken us in previous years, met us at the station; we had a lively discussion on the drive to school.  The presentation went well.  Jan peeled off in a car for Heathrow, and I hopped in a minivan with another driver, Kevin.  Another lively chat, mostly about our children; fun to hear that he and his wife have skied in the Canadian Rockies every year for the past 25 – and his son is on a two-month “sabbatical” over there.  Nice break!

I had passed this building many times, and never noticed this plaque; if you don’t know the remarkable story of the Norwegians who did this audacious raid, you should!

Jan holding forth at Cranfield

Hopped on the 6:03 fast train back to London, then the Overground train to Queen’s Park.  Scott and Caroline already had dinner, so I ambled to Curry Nights, an Indian place two blocks from their house.  I had eaten there last year and enjoyed it, and had a repeat experience, really good food (with extra chopped green chiles) and friendly service.  Walked home, watched another episode of “Babylon Berlin” with the Sages, yakked a bit with Scott, and clocked out.

Up at 5:30.  When I opened the door to my room, Eva was smiling at me.  “Shhhh,” she whispered, “I don’t want Dad to know that I’m up here.”  I smiled, kissed her forehead, and said goodbye – was happy she was there, because I didn’t say goodbye when I left the morning before, knowing she’d be asleep when I returned from Cranfield.

Walked to the corner, hopped on the #452 bus to the Tube, into Paddington Station.  I was way ahead of schedule, so grabbed breakfast at my fave Pret a Manger, then onto the Heathrow Express.  Flew to Zürich, landing at 11:45.  I was headed for another lecture at UZH, and it was a just-in-time gig – I was due to present at 1:15, so was a little stressed.  But, slap my forehead, this was Switzerland, and Swiss efficiency meant I went from plane to train, through immigration and a fairly long walk, in 10 minutes, hopping a train into the main station.  (And bought my day ticket for the ZVV, Zürich’s superb public transit, while waiting to get off the plane.) Had a quick T-t-S with a father and son from Queens, New York, who were headed to ski in St. Anton, Austria (a great place, I told them, even though it had been 33 years since I last skied there).  Zipped outta the main station, across the Limmat River, and onto the #6 tram, up the hill to the university.  No need for stress; I even had time to eat the sandwich and chips I bought at Heathrow.  I was feeling efficient, too!

Old and new Great Western Railway locomotives at Paddington Station

Delivered a talk to a big group of engaged (but shy) undergraduates in Martin Natter’s class, said goodbye, and walked two blocks to my hotel, same small one where I stayed three months earlier.  Changed into jeans, worked a bit, then walked 200 feet to the business school, meeting briefly with friend Jochen Menges, then back to the hotel.  Quick nap.  Had a brief chat with a young colleague who was working temporarily in Zürich, then walked across the street to dinner at Oberhof, a neighborhood restaurant where Jochen and I dined in November.  Back then it was empty, but it was hopping when I entered.  Happily, the owner found me a small table – I was in!  (One of Martin’s Ph.D. students invited me to dinner, but it was to start at nine, way too late for me.)  Tucked into a nice salad, big Swiss bratwurst, and fried potatoes.  Slept hard!

Left, the beautiful main classroom building at UZH; at right, the giant cedar tree across from my hotel, which I first admired a few months earlier

Fellow patrons at Oberhof, and my clean plate (even ate the rosemary garnish)

Up Thursday morning, an easy day.  Got a leisurely start, departing the hotel about 9:15, and headed via tram #10 to the train station in the suburb of Oerlikon.  Enroute, I spotted a cable car (seilbahn in German), and the Transport Geek had to ride it – I had time, and hopped off, then onto the little car that headed uphill.  Big fun!  Back onto the tram, snapped pictures, onto a train back to the main station.  Bought a sandwich and potato salad at a supermarket below the tracks, and hopped onto the 11:00 train north to Koblenz, Germany, and the fifth and last school in five days.  It was a pleasant ride through familiar territory, and the last hour along the Middle Rhine Valley from Mainz to Koblenz was lovely: blue sky and sun, illuminating a landscape I have long described as “storybook Europe.”

Above, the Rigiblick cable car; below, Oerlikon railway station

The most recent exercise in Swiss direct democracy: voters rejected a February 10 referendum to control urban sprawl


Along the Middle Rhine Valley; the river’s level is still well below normal, because of a 2018 drought

Koblenz is well familiar.  Walked a mile to my hotel, the Trierer Hof, and checked in.  Frau Demmer, one of the owners, actually remembered me, which was nice.  Hopped on a conference call for an hour, then headed to dinner at a longtime favorite, the Altes Brauhaus, opened 1689.  Tucked into a huge serving of cold herring in sour cream, and fried potatoes.  And beer.  So good.

Up early Friday morning, out the door, onto the #8 bus across the Rhine to WHU, the German business school I have visited regularly since 2000. Delivered a two-hour lecture on leadership, and met a new host, Steffen Löv.  During the break and after the talk I met a bunch of engaging students.  A good morning.  Steffen took me to lunch at Die Traube, a wonderful, cozy restaurant in a really old half-timbered house.  Another plate of fish, this time salmon in mustard sauce and leeks.  Yum!  And good conversation, including interesting talk about ancestors – Steffen’s grandfather had opposed the Nazis and would have been imprisoned but for his knowledge about operating a power plant.  “The electricity helped a munitions plan to keep operating,” he said with some regret, to which I replied that life is complicated.

Brother-sister students at WHU; we had a nice chat during the morning break

Above and below, scenes from Vallendar, a truly pleasant village

After lunch, I took a walk around Vallendar, a small town, then worked most of the afternoon at a table in one of the classroom buildings.  At five, it was time to stand and deliver the last talk of the week, to WHU’s student association, on crisis management.  Forty students attended, a good group.  At 6:30, we headed to a student bar in the keller, the basement of one of the very old campus buildings, for a wine tasting and good yaks with a handful of students.  My student host Jöran drove me back across the river.  Changed clothes and headed back to the Altes Brauhaus for a nice dinner of venison goulash, spaetzle, and red cabbage.  Yum.

I noticed these characters on doors in Vallendar and Koblenz, but couldn’t decode; it turns out to be an Epiphany greeting. In between the year (2019) are either initials of the names of the three Wise Men, or an abbreviation of the Latin for “May Christ bless this house.”


Asleep at ten, up at 5:40, out the door to the train station.  Track work slowed us way down, arriving Frankfurt Airport 20 minutes late.  Got through most hoops quickly, but the security screening was way slow, and I made the flight to Charlotte with only ten minutes to spare.  Cutting things a bit too close.  Had a couple of hours in CLT, so worked on this journal and photos for the blog, then flew back to Washington (during the winter, American does not fly Frankfurt-Philly).

Linda was out of town, but Robin, the girls, and the terriers were on hand to welcome me.

The view from above: St. Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized