Monthly Archives: May 2019

A Week in Sweden, a Night in the Netherlands

In the Stockholm Archipelago, a group of 30,000 mostly small islands

Was home for nine days, still with “itchy feet,” so on Sunday, May 19, I headed back to Europe.  But slowly.  It was routine from Washington to New York Kennedy.  Hopped on the AirTrain at JFK and rode two stops to Terminal 5 and the “new” TWA Hotel, built around the 1962 modern terminal building by the Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (same fellow who did the soaring Washington Dulles main terminal and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis).  It was all way cool, like a museum.

Above, a restored Lockheed Constellation, and the classic 1970s departure and arrival board (from the Italian company Solari, the flipping letters and numbers were a marvel in their time). Below, an interior view, and just a few of the artifacts and memories on display.

While wandering around the hotel, a text popped up with news of a two-hour delay in my 7:25 flight to London Heathrow.  That would still give me time to make a 10:35 flight to Stockholm, and on to Umeå, my 25th visit to the university up in the forest of northern Sweden.  The 9:25 departure time rolled to 10:20, then 10:50, 11:20, 11:53.  We pushed back about midnight, then nearby thunderstorms closed departures.  We were finally aloft after 1:00.

Sprinted through Heathrow Terminal 3, bus to Terminal 2, security, hoops, then the SAS agent informed me that because the university bought me a cheap fare, I’d need to buy a new ticket, “Full Y”, about $600.  I was sure the school would reimburse me, but I had a better idea: I told the agent that I was an airline employee, and asked her if there were seats on the 6:15 flight; she replied, “More than 20.”  So in 10 minutes I not only had a $100 standby ticket (great to be an airline retiree!), but boarding passes for that flight, as well as the 300-mile hop to Umeå the next morning.  Hotels are expensive in Stockholm, but I remembered that there was a retired Singapore Airlines 747-200 converted to a “hotel.”  Better yet, it was now a youth hostel, and I’m a lifetime member of Hostelling International, so booked a tiny single for $100 – would be my second consecutive night on an airplane, which in 53 years of flight was a record.  Trips, like life, can get messed up, but the key is speedy recovery.  I was recovered!

At 5:00, it was time for a pint, so headed to the Heathrow Terminal 2 outpost of Fuller, Smith, and Turner, family brewers since 1829.  Brought this update current, sipped a cold one, then bought a sandwich and chips for the flight to Stockholm, and hopped on a SAS A320 for Stockholm.  Proof that I’m well familiar with parts of Sweden: on approach to Arlanda Airport, we flew right over a friend’s house near Uppsala, and I recognized the neighborhood from a mile above the earth.  Zipped through immigration and customs, out the door to the stop for the shuttle bus to the 747 “hotel.”  Was in my room in no time, compact but so cool – still with the overhead bins (mine had a placard for Row 33).  Slept hard.

Heathrow still life, May 20, 2019

Enroute to Stockholm

Up before six Tuesday morning, shower down the hall (it was a youth hostel!), nice breakfast in the nose of the plane, out the door, and onto a one-hour flight north to Umeå.  When I landed, I was really only about 12 hours behind schedule, not bad!   It took awhile to sort out which taxi had been booked for me, but we found it.  The driver was friendly, and not Swedish – he had emigrated from Afghanistan a decade ago, first to Greece, then up north.  I asked if he came with family.  “My father was murdered, and my mother disappeared . . .”  How does one respond?  I reached over and held his arm, expressing sympathy.  So sad.  “Life goes on,” he said, adding that he’s happy now: “I have a Swedish girlfriend, and a nice dog.”  We showed each other phone-pics of our dogs.  He owned the taxi, and had another small business.  Working hard, doing fine.  But still.

Above, my “room,” fittingly number 727; at right, you can sleep in one of the four engines. Singapore flew the jet for 8 years, then Pan Am flew it until they failed in 1991; it flew for several other carriers, finally in Sweden in 2007.  The hostel opened in 2009.

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“Sprawling Birch,” sculpture in the bag claim at Umeå airport

Checked into the hotel (Kristina at the front desk recognized me instantly, and vice-versa), dropped my luggage, and hopped onto the rental bike that the HHUS, the student business association had rented for me (as they do every year).  I was only two hours late for the first day of meetings of the school’s International Advisory Board.  Soon it was lunchtime, and we ambled across campus to IKSU, the university’s huge sports complex, for a simple salad buffet.  Umeå University is known across Sweden as a place for sports and the outdoors, and the facility was way cool.  Walked back to afternoon meetings, then rode down the hill a couple of miles to the hotel.

Kayaks for sale at IKSU

It was a glorious spring day, sunny and warm, so I changed into shorts and zoomed off on the bike, across to an island in the river, Bölesholmarna, a favorite place (it’s been at the top of my blog home page for a number of years).  Four circuits around the island, then back to the hotel.  Showered, and at 6:15 met Mika from the school, and we rode back up the hill to the home of the current B-school dean, Sofia Lundberg.  It’s always a special treat to be invited into someone’s home overseas, and fellow members of the advisory board and I had a splendid evening of conversation and wonderful food.  But I was plumb wore out, so we coasted back down the hill and I was fast asleep.

Above, dinner at Sofia’s house; below, my usual hotel breakfast (always with herring and fish-roe paste), and free waffles every afternoon

Up at six on Wednesday, out the door for 12 miles on the bike before breakfast, then suited up and rode back to the university.  Delivered a morning lecture to undergrads, then back down the hill for day two of board meetings.  Managed a short ride before dinner, which was at Köksbaren, one of the city’s fancier restaurants, simple décor but elegant food, that evening my favorite Scandinavian fish, Arctic Char (röding in Swedish).  A fabulous dinner, and fine conversation with fellow longtime board members Marian Geldner from Poland, Guy Pfeffermann from the U.S., and two Swedes.  Funny moment: we were discussing animal welfare, and one of the Swedes noted that a woman in Umeå builds little shelters for homeless porcupines.  The welfare state for prickly friends, why not?!

When we left the restaurant, the temperature was dropping, and we knew spring would not last.  Indeed.  Thursday morning, rainy, cold, windy.  Tried the bike, but it was too unpleasant, even in long pants and a raincoat, so cranked out some miles on the hotel’s fitness bike.  After breakfast, rode back up the hill to the university, worked the morning.  At lunch, I had a short T-t-S with the cafeteria cashier, a young woman from Venezuela: a story not quite as grim as the taxi driver’s, but hard.  Her mom, who she described as “a survivor,” was still there.

Rode “home” in mid-afternoon, took a needed nap, watched a Netflix movie on my iPhone, rode another ten miles on the fitness bike.  At 5:30, I ventured back into the wet, on the bike a few miles to the Gröna Älgen, the Green Moose, a neighborhood bar I spotted on my last visit, September 2018.  I sat down at the bar, and Baland, the owner, said “Hi, Professor.”  I replied with his name.  Nice!  In between him drawing beer and mixing drinks, we covered several topics: his growing business, the shitmess in the Middle East (his Kurdish family emigrated to Sweden in 1990).  Toward the end of my visit, he reminded me that he worked briefly as a journalist in Stockholm after finishing high school.  “Sort of like Mikael Blomkvist,” I said (Blomkvist was a character in Steig Larsson’s trilogy about the “girl” Swedish hacker and activist Lisbeth Salander).  He said, “Yes, exactly, he was fictional, but an inspiration.”  So cool.  Rode back to the hotel, ate a nice dinner (one of the hotel’s many comforts is a free dinner each evening, simple but fresh), and was asleep early.

Above left, the view from my room, and right, a rainy main street; below, Baland at his bar, and a patron with baby on his chest; the tot started to cry, so the fellow drank quickly.

Up at six Friday morning, breakfast, and rode a few blocks to the Folkets Hus, a city-owned meeting space.  From eight to nine delivered a talk to about 100 people from the Umeå Marketing Association.  My long local friend Nils Paulson invited me for a third time (previous visits in 2011 and ’14).  After the talk, had a nice chat with Nils’ wife Carolina, who is studying to become a Lutheran priest, and son Johan, now 15, who is a bright kid and talented violinist.  I wish I had time to visit their home to see their other two kids, Petter and Olle.  The Paulsons are a wonderful window on Sweden.

Like a yo-yo, back up the hill to the university, and my “corner office” in the business school.  Worked the morning, brought this journal up to date, and ate a quick salad lunch.  At 2:45, I met Johan from HHUS, and set up in their student-run pub, the E-Pub, for the seventh annual “Drink and Learn.”  The club likes the event because they fill the place (and sell a lot of beer); by 3:15 about 100 kids were packed in.  All that blonde hair reminded me of being in a tavern in northern Minnesota.  I delivered a talk on crisis management.  Not everyone in the pub was listening by the end (a hazard, I suppose, of selling beer on Friday afternoon!), so we ended abruptly.  Students came forward to ask questions, one bought me a shot of tequila, and I soon rode back down the hill.

Soon-to-graduate USBE students

Changed into a suit and tie, and at seven we walked a block to a dinner marking the 30th anniversary of the business school (as a marker of my long connection, I was also at the 10th and 20th).  The dinner was long but fun, an opportunity to say hello to many Umeå friends, especially “old timers.”  I sat next to the former vice-chancellor of the university, Ulla Blomkvist, who I had not seen in years, and hugged lots of others.  A nice evening.

Six hours of sleep (not enough), up Saturday morning at 5:30.  I could have snoozed a bit longer, but it had stopped raining, and I wanted one more circuit around that special island, Bölesholmarna.  Back to the hotel, shower, breakfast, and onto an 8:00 flight back to Stockholm.  I was excited, because I was bound for two days at the summer cabin of former AA colleague (and fellow Minnesotan) Don Langford and his wife Sooz.  They built the cabin (called a stuga in Swedish), on Aspö, a small island in the Stockholm Archipelago, a decade earlier; for years we talked about a visit, and it was finally going to happen.  Woo hoo!

Above, scenes from a last ride around Bölesholmarna (the beaver’s work happened while I was in town!); below left, the first traditional Swedish house I ever saw, back in 1994, still looks the same.

Hopped on the airport bus into town, then walked across a bridge into the Gamla Stan, the old town.  Took some photos and as I got to the end of Stora Nygatan (“Big New Street”) I was reminded of why it’s good to be an active observer when you travel: I was admiring – as I always do – architectural ornamentation in Stockholm, and spotted a plaque.  It was in Swedish, but I got the gist: the French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes spent the last months of his life in the building.  Cogito ergo suum!

Above and below, government and royal buildings in central Stockholm, and some nice detail at bottom.

Walked across another bridge and into the Slussen district, in the throes of a massive re-do of streets and buildings.  Found the big Slussen bus stop, bought a ticket, and hopped on the 434 bus, motoring east for 45 minutes, through affluent, low-density suburbs, past small lakes and sea bays, to the small burg of Stavsnäs.  I had an hour before the 1:15 ferry to Aspö, so ambled into a little bakery for a sandwich and a pastry.  Had a lovely T-t-S that started when an older woman spoke to me in Swedish (I think she was commenting on the tasty free samples the bakery was offering); her 40-ish daughter jumped in, and we had a nice conversation.  She had been an exchange student in a small town in Wisconsin, her brother was home visiting from Vermont.  Always fun to talk to strangers.  About 12:45, lots of folks began to arrive for the boat, many carting supplies to the dock, including lots of garden stuff: bags of topsoil (in most of Sweden, rock is always near the surface), flowers, even small trees, all to be hefted onto the vessel.

Above, the dock and ferry; below, enroute to see Don and Sooz, who are waiting near the dock at right. At bottom, the main path running along the spine of Aspö.

The ferry stopped a couple of times, but it still only took 31 minutes to reach Aspö.  Don and Sooz were waiting at the dock.  Hugs all around, and introductions to island neighbors who were also on the ferry.  We walked about a half-mile to the cabin (the island has no roads).  My digs were in an adjacent guest house.  Dropped my stuff, relaxed for a bit, then Don and I took a good walk around the northern part of the island (it’s about a mile long and about one-third mile wide).  The sun came out, and we sat on their deck and yakked and yakked.  Had a drink, then tucked into baked salmon, rice, and salad, a lovely dinner.  By nine I was plumb wore out.  Slept hard, almost ten hours.

Above, the cabin, built largely on rock; below, wild flowers, and at bottom cultivated blossoms

I generated this map of the island on my iPhone, from the website of the Swedish Land Registration Authority; ya gotta love handy IT!

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We had a leisurely start Sunday morning, coffee, cereal, flatbread, very Swedish simple breakfast.  Don showed pictures (on his wide-screen TV) of the whole building process from 2008-09.  Some people just write a check for a summer home, but Don, Sooz, and their son Grant (a teenager at the time) were part of the construction.  That was way cool.  They worked hard, really hard.  If you want to see more, go to Don’s blog.

Above, Don showing images from cabin construction, and tending to a small modification. Below, scenes from our island walkabout: snails are everywhere, and the uprooted tree was from a big winter storm in January — trees spread roots, but the thin topsoil sits on solid igneous rock (reddish brown).

Don and I then went on a long walk to explore the rest of the island, up a hill to the top, across the rocky spine, stopped to chat with neighbors I met the day before.  Back to the cabin for a bowl of soup.  Took a nice nap.  The day alternated between rain and sun; it cleared again about five, and the wind calmed, so I talked Don into a ride around the island in his small boat, about 12 minutes.  Back to the cabin for some spirited rounds of the card game Uno, drinks, and a colossal dinner of steak and potatoes.  So good.  This was a good life, one that Don and Sooz earned through decades of slogging in the airline business, mostly for American (but the last three years with Virgin Atlantic in London).

Above, Sunday dinnertime scenes; below, the Langford’s way cool incinerating toilet — it works the way it sounds, with no water

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Slept a long time Sunday night, too, up at seven, slow pace, repeat of the day before.  At 9:30, we walked to the dock for the 9:55 ferry back to Stavsnäs.  A few islanders were there, and we had a nice yak with an older couple, Lennart and Marie.  Hugs and goodbyes and many thanks, and off I sailed. Lennart invited me to sit with them, and we chatted the whole ride.  After I told him I was, like Don, an airline guy, the man, semi-retired, peppered me with questions about safety and accidents: the 737 MAX, of course, and many more.  He jointly owned a machine-tool business in Cologne, Germany, and kept busy with other stuff.  Another nice small window on Sweden.  The Swedes live well, that was one of the main conclusions of the weekend!

At the ferry dock: wheelbarrows for transporting stuff across the island, and the island library inside the shelter at the ferry stop.

A helpful MTR ticket agent (the MTR is Hong Kong’s public transit, and they now operate systems in other cities) sold me a senior stored value card, a good purchase for what I hope are many returns to Stockholm.  It was already lunch time, so I zipped into the Coop supermarket in the main railway station, and was delighted to see a salad bar.  I’m a huge vegetable eater at home, but when traveling I don’t get enough, so I loaded up, plus a hearty wholemeal baguette and, yes, a real Coca-Cola.  Ambled out the door and onto a park bench for a picnic, something I’ve been doing in Europe for almost 50 years.

Prized possessions: senior fare cards to Stockholm and Washington transit

Refueled, I set off for a walk through a familiar part of the city.  First stop was a hotel washroom (see above from three weeks earlier).  My slight guilt about free-riding at the Radisson Blu Hotel was assuaged: for more than 30 years, my salesman father pumped a lot of money into the Radisson Hotel in Minneapolis.  Two or three times a year, he would rent what was called a “sample room” in the hotel, to show his lines of gloves and slippers; store buyers from across the Upper Midwest would come to him, reversing the usual travel.

Paused at Adolf Fredriks Church for daily prayers, up the hill past the Stockholm School of Economics (I’d be back there in September), then south through Vasa Park (Vasaparken) to the airport bus stop at St. Eriksplan.  Small setback: as the bus pulled away, I was still standing in the aisle, getting settled, and we lurched hard, bending (but not breaking) my wire eyeglass frames.  Happily, I travel with a spare pair.

Above, Adolf Fredriks Church; below, a candidate for the European Parliament employs another “make great” expression — “Lagom” is a distinctly Swedish word that roughly means “just right” or “in moderation.”

You can learn a lot about a society’s values by paying attention to their parks; I’ve long enjoyed ambling through Vasaparken

Flew to Amsterdam, arriving at 6:20.  The plan was to sleep in a cool Airbnb on the Amstel River, halfway between the airport and the center.  The host, Marga, emailed me Sunday that there would be a transport strike all day Tuesday, shutting rail, trams, buses, Metro.  Yow!  So Plan B was effected: get back to the airport before the strike began (estimated to be 3:00 AM), which required me to cancel the Airbnb.  Being thrifty, I thought “Who needs a $200 hotel for six hours?”  So I hopped on the train into the city, then Tram 14 to the Brouwerij t’Ij visited seven weeks earlier.  Got there at 7:50, and the friendly barmaids informed me they were closing in 10 minutes.  I smiled and said “Okay, I won’t stop you from clocking out.”  One of them said, “You’re so nice,” and proceeded to draw me a second beer for free.  “That’s why I love the Dutch,” said your scribe.  They let me stay a bit past eight, but I ambled out, suitcase in tow, and onto Tram 7, then the Metro, and a short walk to another microbrewery, Troost.  The place was relatively empty, and had fast wi-fi, so I found a stool in the corner of the place, facing a big courtyard garden, and did some work, with beer and dinner.

Below the windmill, my second visit in two months; right, my “corner office” at Troost

At 10:45, I ambled to the Metro, then the train back to the airport, and went searching for a nice bench.  Alas, Schiphol is not equipped for bench surfing – way different from my last airport-bench overnights at Frankfurt and Chicago O’Hare.  But a coffee shop was closed, and fellow surfers were claiming booths for their beds.  I grabbed a bench, alas too short for legs to be flat, but workable; I slept really hard, most of it sitting up with my head on the table and a sweater as pillow.  The police rousted us at 5:20, because the coffee shop was opening.  That was fine, because the Business Class lounge opened at 6:00.  Zipped in, cleaned up, changed clothes, worked a bit, and at 10:55 flew to Philadelphia, then on to Washington.  It took awhile to go the last 120 miles, because of spring thunderstorms, but I got home safe and sound.  And that was the end of the “spring semester” abroad.

 

More cool public art in Philadelphia Airport: “Plastic Archipelago,” by Amy Orr; the airport is marking 20 years of art in the terminals.

 

 

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Germany for a Workweek, and Always Glad to Be There

One of Germany’s biggest infrastructure projects, a re-do of the Stuttgart main railway station and surrounding district. The work has been underway for years, and on twice-yearly visits I didn’t sense much progress. I finally took time to study the explanatory signboards and, slap my forehead, now I get it: they are rotating the tracks 90 degrees, building new tunnels, and more. We Americans talk about fixing transport infrastructure; Germans get it done.

I was home for the whole of April, after returning from Europe.  By May, I had what my mother called “Itchy Feet,” so on Sunday the 5th I flew to Germany via Charlotte for a week of teaching.  Landed Frankfurt Monday morning, an hour late, stressing a bit about making my connection to the train south to Stuttgart and Tübingen.  Thanks to German efficiency – a new, faster shuttle bus from terminal to airport train station – I actually caught an earlier train.  Enroute to Mannheim, had a brilliant Talking-to-Strangers time with a Dutchman, CEO of a midsize software company, working mostly in Germany but still living in his hometown of Breda, south of Rotterdam.  We covered a lot of topics, notably the astonishing pace of IT change in the last decades.

Left, yellow fields of canola east of Frankfurt; right, the high-rise downtown and Main River. Below, my Dutch seatmate on the ICE to Mannheim.

Had an hour between trains in Stuttgart, and needed to pee, so I followed my dad’s direction – developed over years of driving across the Midwest – and looked for a nice hotel near the station.  And there it was, right across the street: the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin (yep, named for the blimp). Posh, clean men’s room, and a warm lobby. As Cliff Britton taught me decades ago, you walk in the front door, make it look like you belong, and no one bothers you!   Refreshed and warmed up (it was 42° F, chilly, and the station was unheated), I ambled back across, through the station, and onto the local train to Tübingen.

Apartments in Plochingen, east of Stuttgart, designed by the Austrian artist and (whimsical) architect Hundertwasser.

Walked a few blocks to my Airbnb, met Vera, the owner, and in no time I was living like a local, in a large one-bedroom apartment.  Dropped my stuff and walked a few more blocks south, through a neighborhood where I stayed (in another Airbnb) on my first trip to Tübingen in 2015, to Gastätte Loretto, a restaurant operated entirely by people with varied disabilities; I found it quite by accident while looking on Google Maps for the location of my digs.  As it says on their website, “People with disabilities can find workplaces suited to their abilities in all areas of gastronomy – kitchen, service, and housekeeping. Many gain confidence in meeting guests and discover new abilities.”  Hooray for that!  And lunch was superb – a huge bowl of tortellini Alfredo and salad.  It reminded me of Day by Day Café in St. Paul, where recovering addicts have run a successful eatery for almost 40 years.  You feel good when you support places like that.

Above, pleasant, solid houses in my Tübingen neighborhood; below, the Gasthaus Loretto and a cool BMW with sidecar; at bottom, the old town at dusk.

Ambled back to the apartment, took a needed nap, went out for breakfast fixings, and worked a bit.  At 6:30, I walked across the Neckar River and into Tübingen’s old town, the Altstadt, for dinner at Forelle, a nice restaurant.  Spring is asparagus season, Spargelzeit, in Germany, so I tucked into some fresh white spears, simply prepared with butter, with a German-style savory pancake.   Just after the server brought me a glass of wine, the owner asked if a solo diner could join my table, common practice in Europe.  “Of course,” I replied, and a friendly fellow of about my age sat down, to begin the second great T-t-S of the day. Ulrich Deiters, known as Ulli, was back visiting the university where he studied to become a teacher four decades earlier.  We covered lots of topics, laughed a lot, and I learned a bunch. Just one small-world tidbit: in the middle of the 19th Century, his great-great-grandfather owned a clothing store on in Münster (a city where I also teach, and know quite well), number 48 on the premier shopping street called the Prinzipalmarkt.  It was the only building that survived multiple Allied bombings during World War II.  I would have stayed longer at table, but I had a 9:00 PM client call.

Inside the cozy Forelle restaurant, and my agreeable tablemate Ulli

The view from my Airbnb apartment

Up early Tuesday morning, brewed a pot of coffee (nice to be in a homey place), ate breakfast, and hopped on the train and bus to the European School of Business, ESB, at nearby Reutlingen University.  Worked the morning in the Mensa (student cafeteria), ate lunch, and at 1:00 joined a group of faculty and fellow part-time teachers for a meeting with a review team from the AACSB, the (once American but now global) accreditation body for business schools.  ESB had applied to be certified, and we were trying to help secure approval.  Meeting was easy and positive.  From 3:30 to 5:00 I spoke to three combined classes, a good talk.  My longtime host Oliver Götz and I then drove into downtown Reutlingen for beer and dinner.  It was a sunny spring afternoon, and we sat in the biergarten of Barfüsser, an agreeable brewpub, and had a nice chat.  Oliver dropped me at the station, hopped the train back to Tübingen (11 minutes, quick), and headed home.  Lights out early.

The view of Reutlingen University from my familiar “corner office” in the Mensa

Wednesday morning, time to move on.  Took the local train back to Stuttgart and the fast (ICE) train north through Frankfurt to the second school, University of Kassel.  Met long friend and young host Patrick Rath at the station at 12:20, and we drove downtown for lunch, then a nice walk in a big park, past an Orangerie built by one of the German kaisers.  Back up the hill to pick up daughter Lotte, already seven (she’s the up-and-coming ice hockey player described in a previous update).  It was fun to walk through a German elementary school; it was still the lunch hour and it was as actually a bit wilder than a U.S. school: kids pushing and shoving, playing ball, running through the halls, zipping around the playground.  We drove back to the Raths’ apartment.  I worked a bit, spoke to Patrick’s partner Elli when she returned from work, and at 5:45 walked a couple of blocks to meet a handful of business students from CTK, a student-run consulting firm (I’ve known the group for many years).  Did an informal Q&A for an hour, then we all hopped on the streetcar a mile or so to Lohmann, Kassel’s oldest pub.  It was raining hard, so we couldn’t sit in the biergarten, but had beer and dinner inside.  Patrick joined the group at 8:45.  Jumped in
Patrick’s car, drove home, and slept hard.

In the huge, leafy central park in Kassel; below, scenes of the Orangerie

Spring flowers in the Raths’ kitchen

Elli and I walked Lotte to school, then we hopped on the #1 tram out to the railway station and onto a fast train 30 miles north to Göttingen, an historic university town (Elli works for the school).  You immediately knew from the people on the street that this was an academic, intellectual place.  We walked a few blocks from station into town.  Elli peeled off, and I set out exploring the compact old town within ancient walls.  Very cool old town hall, churches, academic buildings.  Stopped for a coffee and bread roll.  Fortified, I climbed the spire of the St. Jacobi (Lutheran) Church.  I love church towers and have been up many in Germany, but this one (built almost 600 years ago, 1427-33) was both really high and sort-of-challenging, because more than half of the 200 feet of climb was on ladders.  It was not dangerous, but slightly rickety – some of the railings wobbled, and you needed to duck in places, because centuries ago people were shorter!  The views from the top were superb, once I figured out how to open the wooden shutters.

Above left, the “Ganseliesel,” Göttingen’s most famous sculpture, a girl bringing her goose to market; at right, the old town hall, 15th Century. Below, ceiling and wall frescoes in the old town hall.

Above, shop windows in town; below, the 18th Century university Aula (auditorium)

Above and below, the town has lots of wonderful half-timbered buildings, many ornately decorated; below at right, a turret in the corner of the old town hall and a nearby church.

Above, St. Jakobi Church and the entrance to the rectory; below, one of the tower ladders.

Above, views from the tower; below, my man Martin Luther and distinct columns (they create a distorting optical effect) inside St. Jakobi.

Above, Michaelishaus; below, facades on the main shopping street; at bottom, architectural detail in a very old place.

Climbed down, ambled back to the station (passing an academic building, the Michaelishaus, where, according to a plaque, Benjamin Franklin visited for two days in 1766), south to Kassel, onto the tram to the university.  At 1:30, I met doctoral students Sven and Florian for lunch at the Mensa, second such lunch in three days, big plate of gnocchi with side vegetables.  Had a good chat about their research.  At 3:30, I met their boss, Andreas Mann, the Marketing Chair, for a short chat, then walked to class in a huge lecture hall, 175 students.  Technical problems: only the lectern microphone worked, and I hate to stand at a podium, so I mostly hollered for an hour as I moved across the stage, but it all went well.  Chatted briefly with the team, then hopped back on the tram to the station.

Herr Scheidemann lived in the same buildings as the Raths; he was a Social Democratic politician and one of the founders of the Weimar Republic; he fled Germany after the Nazis took power.

I was returning home the next morning, Frankfurt-Charlotte, and the scheduled departure is 9:20, so I couldn’t stay in Kassel.  I hate airport hotels, so I booked a room in Wiesbaden, a pleasant city 40 minutes from the airport.  The ICE (fast train) left Kassel on time, and we were zipping along, then stalled in Fulda, an hour from Frankfurt, for 20 minutes.  We rolled on, slowly, then 10 minutes later stalled in the burg called Schlüchtern.  I could only pick out a few words from the German PA announcement, but people were grabbing their stuff and racing for the doors, so I followed the crowd, across to an adjacent track and onto a regional train to Frankfurt.  That one was late, too.  By that point, dinner in Wiesbaden was out, so I grabbed a pickled herring sandwich and a beer in the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, then onto a suburban train, munching happily.  The hotel was less than five minutes from the Wiesbaden Hauptbahnhof, so was asleep quickly.

Up at six, to the airport by 7:20, zip, zip, zip.  Then another stall: the Charlotte flight was late, but I passed some of the time in a happy T-t-S with a native Californian who had served in the Army for 30 years, all of it in Germany, his German wife, and seriously cute five-year-old daughter (who was wearing a T-shirt that read “Straight Outta Time Out”).  We talked about the Cold War, all the changes since, and more.  When we parted, I thanked him for keeping us (and Western Europe) free during the Cold War.  Really nice people.

I sped through Charlotte airport, from arrival gate through Customs to departure gate in under 20 minutes, and onto a flight to Dulles.  A thunderstorm right over that field closed operations, so we sat in North Carolina for an hour, but was home by 6:45, Henry and MacKenzie on leashes.

American Airlines’ gate agent at Charlotte, one of the millions of airline people who keep us moving every day; at right, the muddy Potomac River near Washington Dulles Airport.

 

 

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