Lake Geneva, Switzerland
I was home (from Hawai’i) exactly 24 hours and 10 minutes. Headed to Dulles Airport, flew to Charlotte, and hopped on the Silver Bird to Frankfurt. My 200th trip to Europe. But every trip is exciting and different.
Zipped over to the airport railway station. Waited a couple of hours, then onto a train north to Bonn, the capital from just after World War II until 1992. I hadn’t been there for 45 years, and was excited to be visiting. But first a pleasant ride along the Rhine Valley, north from Mainz to Koblenz – a familiar route, but I had never traversed it in perfect weather, and it was beautiful.
Arrived Bonn just before noon, stuffed my suitcase and backpack in a locker, and headed south a mile to the German History Museum, which was really history since 1945, the story of the modern federal republic. Tucked into needed lunch at the museum café, then set out to explore. Regular readers know I’m a huge admirer of the country, and the museum underscored the reasons why, principally a commitment to what translates as a “social market economy.” Capitalism, but with the rough edges mostly sanded smooth. The museum told the parallel story of East Germany from 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Block in 1989-90. It was a remarkable afternoon, four hours. And it got me back to thinking of a persistent theme in geography, pride in place. That idea has had a hard time in postwar Germany, because of the horrors of the Nazi period. But pride in place is not nationalism.
The museum is arranged chronologically, so it begins with the nation in rubble, 1945. Below, varied images of the first postwar Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, a man I have deeply admired for decades.
Above left, a re-creation of missing-persons signboards, common in the late 1940s; at right, a clever, literal interpretation of the Rosinenbomber, the Raisin Bomber, from the 1948 Berlin Airlift. Below, as Germany rebuilt, she began to export: Steiff teddy bears, Olympia typewriters, and more.
Above, barbed wire and the Berlin Wall, erected 1961. As a 10-year-old, the Wall symbolized Cold War tension at its extreme, and I found this part of the museum especially moving and in a way personal. Below, more powerful images of a divided Berlin, at right John F. Kennedy’s famous visit in June 1963.
Above, happier depictions of 1960s Germany: re-created department store display wndows, and a flower-power VW bus. Below, the museum traced the postwar history of East Germany, the GDR, very effectively.
Above, this poster, for the Marshall Plan (ERP, European Reconstruction Plan), made me smile and feel proud. The ERP may have been America’s finest hour as global citizens. Below, scenes of a prosperous Bonn.
Walked back to the train station in perfect weather, and hopped on a standing-room-only train north to my teaching destination, Düsseldorf. Rode the U-Bahn (subway) one stop to my hotel. I was seriously hungry but way tired, so instead of heading a mile into the city, to the Altstadt (old town), I tucked into salad, cold herring, and fried potatoes (a German fave) at a nearby restaurant. Asleep early. Slept hard.
Up early Monday, to the gym to crank out some miles on the fitness bike, then down to the hotel’s enormous buffet breakfast (one of the best anywhere). My gig at WHU (the German business school I’ve visited for almost 20 years) was not until late afternoon, so I zipped onto Nextbike, the multicity bikeshare. It’s easily the smartest system around: you tap the app on your smartphone, grab a QR image on the bike’s rear fender, the lock snaps open, and off you go. No fixed stations. Way cool.
Above, talk about convenient location: I took this picture of the Oberbilker Markt subway station from my hotel room. Below, the graffiti-laden counterculture street called Kiefernstrasse, and at right a facade painted as crossword puzzle (I got two of the words, even with my poor Deutsch!).
I rode into the city, then across the Rhine to the fancy Oberkassel neighborhood. It started raining lightly, so I rode back to the hotel. Worked a bit, took a needed noon nap, suited up, and walked a few blocks to a supermarket for lunch stuff, then over to WHU. The school has two campuses, and in Düsseldorf there’s a small building mainly for MBA and exec ed programs. From 5:15 to 6:00 I delivered a talk on career and life to 60 incoming full- and part-time students. There was a reception afterward, and I grabbed a beer while talking to students from Ecuador, India, China, Palestine, and a few Germans. Way interesting conversation.
Peeled off, headed back to the hotel, changed clothes, and rode the U-Bahn to the Altstadt for dinner at Füchschen, one of the many brewers of the distinctive local beer called Alt (“Old,” not Alternative!). Tucked into an enormous heavy dinner, late, and paid for it with indigestion for hours. Note to self: no more big fatty meals after nine.
The Monday-night scene at Füchschen; at right, waiters keep tab on your beer mat
Back to the gym Tuesday morning, a small breakfast (was still full), and out on Nextbike to drop off receipts at WHU. Checked out of the hotel at 11:30 and took trains to the Hamm neighborhood near the Rhine harbor. The port has moved, and the whole area was in ambitious redevelopment, commercial and residential. Picked up a Nextbike at the Hamm train station and rode five miles along the Rhine, back to the old town. Picked up my suitcase at the hotel, headed to the airport, and flew to Birmingham, England – was headed for a short visit with my long and dear friends John and Diana Crabtree (I met John nearly 40 years earlier, when we were both visiting lecturers at the University of New England in Australia).
Above, burgeoning redevelopment of the old (Rhine) river harbor in Düsseldorf. Below, a contemporary interpretation of the ancient tradition of pictograph store signs (dating to a time when few could read), and a traditional sign, in this case for the Schumacher Brewery. At bottom, the Rhine is still a significant commercial waterway.
Off one packed train and onto another at New Street station, Birmingham, and arrived Worcester at five. Diana picked me up at the station, drove to pick up their youngest, Jessica, at school, then east five miles to their little village of Crowle. Sat in the kitchen and caught up with Diana (last visit was 15 months earlier) as she prepared dinner. John arrived about seven, and we picked up where we left off! Such a joy to stay connected. John had a long and successful career as a lawyer, and a second career as a tireless volunteer for civic betterment in Birmingham and the West Midlands, indeed across the whole of the kingdom. If you look up “tireless” in the OED, you’ll find his picture! Among other roles, he’s currently the Queen’s representative, the Lord Lieutenant, in the West Midlands. Was plumb wore out, so wished everyone a good night and was asleep by 9:30.
Wednesday morning found me sitting in the kitchen with coffee, catching up with Diana (John had left early for another full day of meetings; among other civic duties, he’s become chairman of the organizing committee of the Commonwealth Games, a massive athletic event for members of the British Commonwealth, to be held in Birmingham in 2022). At 10:15, I walked a couple of blocks and hopped the #356 bus into Worcester. Ambled around for an hour, visiting the city museum, then at noon met the new dean of the Worcester Business School. Ann-Marie seemed interested in having me do some teaching; we shall see. Grabbed a sandwich and chips from a supermarket and ate in the shadow of Worcester Cathedral, burial site of King John I, the Magna Carta guy. Zipped inside for a quick look, then walked back to the station for the bus home to Crowle.
Above left, in the city museum, an 18th Century West Indian soldier from the Worcestershire Yeomanry (they interpreted the British presence in Colonial America differently than we would, which caused me to growl out loud!). At right, handiwork from the Royal Worcester porcelain works, 1893; called pierced porcelain, it was cut by hand with an oiled knife. Below, Worcester was a center of glovemaking, and, of course the very origin of Worcestershire Sauce, from local chemists John Lea and William Perrins.
Above, Queen Victoria in front of the city courthouse; at right, a sagging second story above the goldsmith. Below, Worcester Cathedral and the crypt of King John (1166-1216), who gave us the Magna Carta and the concept of rule of law.
Earlier in the day, I determined that Diana’s bike was the only one with tires that would hold air, so pumped them a bit and adjusted the seat. Changed into bike shorts and a T-shirt and set off on a now-familiar route, south on quiet country roads through small hamlets to beyond the curiously named White Ladies Aston. It was a perfect day for a bike ride, light breeze, blue skies, 68° F. I did a few zig-zags, then headed back to WLA, determined to find a local who could explain the origins of the place name. And I found her: Mrs. King, a local resident and schoolteacher for special-needs children in Worcester. 2We had a fine T-t-S that followed her simple explanation: nearby was a convent, and the nuns of the order wore white habits (though presumably not every day!). It was a fine ride, 21 miles, though interrupted twice with technical issues with the gears that, happily, I knew how to fix. The English countryside never ceases to delight, all the more when close up on a two-wheeler.
Left, local produce at the Crowle shop, and free produce sweet blackberries) along the road
Thursday morning, down to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal and coffee, just like at home – being with the Crabtrees is like being at home – then out on Diana’s bike on another sunny (but cool) morning, east and north through hamlets and villages, past sheep and cows, across a canal and railway tracks, 15 miles. One of Diana’s friends, Clare, stopped by mid-morning. It was her birthday, so we had cake and a nice visit (I had met her previously). At 11:45, John and I hopped in his big BMW and motored 40 miles northeast to Coventry, last visited in 1977. The Luftwaffe firebombed the city in November 1940, and the center was rebuilt in the 1950s and ‘60s; more recent redevelopment has attempted to correct some rather awful urban planning, and the place looked much better than four decades earlier. John had a meeting with city officials, and I peeled off to admire the modern cathedral, built just north of the one that burned and partially collapsed in 1940.
Above and below, scenes from the Thursday morning ride.
Above left, the shell of the bombed church, adjacent to the 1956 cathedral the tapestry above the altar is the largest in the world). Below, the famous altar cross made of melted nails from the firebombing, and a peace bell from the German people on the 50th anniversary of the attack. At bottom, a stained-glass wall and statue of St. Michael.
I first became aware of the cathedral in 1968; images were on the cover of the 12th Grade English Literature textbook in Mr. Jensen’s class. I thought of dear Mr. Jensen as I walked around; we had remained connected until his death in December 2017, and I really wanted to email him some photos. It was lunchtime, and Diana recommended the Rising Café in the cathedral basement. Run by a Christian charity, it offers work and restorative dignity to men and women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and other hardships. I enjoyed the lunch very much. Walked around the church a bit more, and at 2:10 met Robbie Crabtree, John and Diana’s younger son, who was just starting his first year at Coventry University. He was excited. We had a coffee back at Rising Café (on my way out, I paused at a table of three café workers to commend their new directions), then took a quick look at his dorm room. John met us at three, we yakked briefly, hugged goodbye, and motored back to Crowle.
Above, Robert and John Crabtree. Below, James Crabtree and Diana.
No time to rest, barely time to wash my face, change into nice clothes, and get back in the car, north in thick rush-hour traffic to Birmingham and their splendid performing-arts venue the Hippodrome (John was chairman for many years). We met the CEO, Fiona, for a drink and some finger food before the start of a triple-bill performance, two works by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and one by a group called Black Ballet. Some wonderful dancing, for sure (I had been to the BRB a couple of times before). Zipped home fast, no traffic on the motorway. Asleep at 11.
Up before dawn Friday, to say goodbye to John, who left at 6:30 for meetings in Birmingham (he and Diana were flying at mid-day to a wedding in Edinburgh). Diana and Jessica dropped me at the railway station at 7:30. Rolled my suitcase down the hill to the ASDA supermarket, bought a big tub of yogurt and two wholegrain rolls, then back to the station and bench for picnic breakfast. Hopped on the 8:35 train to London, one of the new Hitachi trainsets of the Great Western Railway, comfy, free wi-fi. Arrived Paddington station at 11, waved to the bear, and onto the Bakerloo tube to Marylebone and my destination, the new (and fancy) Sammy Ofer Centre of London Business School – my third visit of 2019.
Last scenes from the visit to Crowle: flowers in the Crabtree garden
At 12:15, met my long LBS host, Oded Koenigsberg, who gave me a splendid tour of the building, in the former offices of the Westminster City Council. From 12:45 to 2:00, I delivered a talk to 60 MBAs and exchange students, bowed at applause, and kept moving: onto the tube to Euston Station, then a fast train back to Birmingham Airport – the LBS gig arose late, after I had booked my flights into and out of Birmingham. Changed clothes in a capacious men’s room stall at the airport, bought dinner sandwiches and a salad, and turned attention to a major problem: my iPhone was not charging. I’m loath to buy stuff at airports, but needed a fix. A very kind fellow at Dixon’s, a UK electronics chain, did some quick diagnosis, and, alas, it was the cord. Bought a new one, hooray, and celebrated with a pint of pale ale in the airport bar, woo hoo (when our personal IT gives us trouble, it really gets us out of sorts, doesn’t it?).
My EasyJet flight to Geneva was almost an hour late, so I expected to miss the 10:09 bus a few miles into France, to Ferney-Voltaire and my overnight digs with Fabio and Lisa Scappaticci (I met Fabio, a wonderful young guy, when lecturing at Cambridge in 2011). Despite a long line at Swiss immigration, and a couple of detours, I made the bus, walked a few blocks, and was soon hugging Fabio. Lisa was returning from a business trip that night, and their two sons, Luca, 6, and Leo, 4, were fast asleep. Yakked for 30 minutes and headed to a hard, but short sleep.
Saturday weather was perfect again. We rounded up the boys and drove to the Saturday market in the center of Ferney. Because of oversight, Fabio could no longer legally drive, so I took the wheel of the VW Minivan. “Can you drive a stick?” Fabio asked earlier. “Of course,” I replied. Though I hadn’t driven one for more than 15 years, it’s one of those skills you don’t forget, like riding a bike. I was more concerned about narrow streets and buildings that abut the rode. But my first 10 minutes were flawless! We bought produce, cheese, and bread at the market, which perfectly reflected how much the French care about quality food – everything looked fabulous. When we returned, Lisa was home, and totally worn out from a week in Nigeria and a long ride home, so after an early lunch we piled the kids back in the car and headed north, into the Jura Mountains – they’re not as tall as the Alps, but they’re still big.
Above left, Luca strumming on a ukelele, and the boys at the Ferney market. Below, samples of lovely goods at market. At bottom, the view from Fabio’s and Lisa’s backyard.
Captain Britton was at the wheel again, with Fabio giving directions. Easy driving, even when we started to climb the mountain. Main concern was passing bicyclists. Arrived at a parking place about two-thirds of the way to the top, and started a leisurely stroll. Luca’s and Leo’s legs are small, so we only hiked about a mile, but it was still splendid. Most of the walk was on private land, and we passed a small herd of cattle grazing on the slopes, bells clanging. The boys wanted to play with the Hot Wheels cars Lisa brought them, so we paused in a meadow. Four flat-top stumps made perfect racetracks for the boys, and seats for the grown-ups.
Above left, hairpin turn easily negotiated; at right, Mont Blanc is just visible. Below, on the trail in the Jura.
Fabio and I yakked for an hour, across a lot of topics. He’s had an interesting life, and is only 37. Grew up in Montreal, son of Italian immigrants, earned a McGill degree in aero engineering (and played varsity soccer for the Redmen for ll four years), worked in aerospace, then spent years in volunteer service, including 18 months with Oxfam in the eastern Congo, one of the most dangerous places on earth. He now works for the IP arm of the UN. The kids wanted to stay and play more, but we headed back to the car, back down the hill, home. Fabio made pizza and salad for dinner, and we split a fabulous bottle of Brouilly that he brought back from a recent trip with his parents to Burgundy (only a couple hours away). Along the way, I bantered with the boys, especially Luca. They speak English with their father and French with their mother – Leo kindly corrected my pronunciation of parfait (“perfect”); accent on the first syllable! Fabio and I cleaned up the kitchen and clocked out, nine hours of catch-up sleep, wonderful.
Out the door Sunday morning, Fabio risking immediate incarceration by driving me three blocks to the bus stop, hugs. I hopped onto the #66 bus, then the 8:32 train across Switzerland to St. Gallen and my 20th visit to the B-school there. At Zürich, a splendid but way-too-short T-t-S: as we approached the station, I offered to help with the huge suitcases of an African-American couple about my age; they boarded the train at Lausanne and slept most of the way, clearly worn out. As I schlepped a huge bag off the train and onto the platform, the wife said they had been at their niece’s wedding the night before, and didn’t get much sleep. I asked where they were from; “Leesburg, Virginia,” she replied. “We’re neighbors, we live in McLean,” I said. They thanked me profusely. I said “God bless you.” Immediately the husband gave me his business card, a bear hug, and a blessing in return. Back on the train, I smiled: I just met Rev. Michael Mattar, Senior Pastor of Hope Fellowship Church. Just wished I had been able to chat with them on the ride.
It’s a scenic ride, too, along Lake Geneva, then great views climbing away from the lake, and into the mountains, through Fribourg, and the language turns from French to German, then into Bern, along the green Aare River, towards Zürich, big city, then east and north toward St. Gallen. All along the way were lush green pastures, and lots of cows.
Arrived St. Gallen a minute early, got some lunch fixings at the supermarket in the station, hopped on the #3 bus east 10 minutes to my new digs. For years, I had stayed downtown, mostly at one hotel. This year, the school asked me to arrange accommodation, so I booked an Airbnb. It looked goofy at first, but the corner room was large and bright, with big windows on two sides, and spotlessly clean. Bath down the hall wasn’t a problem. Ate my lunch, changed into bike shorts and a T-shirt, and set off. I wasn’t feeling strong, climb-worthy, so opted to ride west along the railway line (trains can’t go up steep hills!), with a couple of pleasant detours into some valleys and across farms. Was back at five.
Above right, the well-trained eye will recognize the flag of Texas below the Swiss banner at this farmstead near Gossau.
After a rest, I headed to dinner at my customary spot, a Swiss place run by an energetic young family, so returned to a Thai place I spotted on the bike ride. Big massaman curry (unhappily not spicy, toned down to Swiss palates), yum. Hard sleep.
Was up at 7:00 on Monday morning. The plan was to use the day off (teaching would be Tuesday and Wednesday) for a long bike ride, but it was raining and the forecast was more of the same, all day. So I headed up the hill on the bike (always a good climb), on wet streets, to campus. Grabbed two cups of coffee and was soon working away in the library, by now a very familiar place. Just for fun, I tried to find the current issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, which includes an article I co-authored, so I headed into the library stacks in the basement; alas, the fall 2019 edition had not yet arrived from Massachusetts. Ate an early lunch in the student cafeteria, the mensa, worked a bit more, and rode down the hill. Took a nap, first one in days. The rain had ended, but streets were still wet, but I needed some exercise, so set off.
Distinctly Swiss: under national law, many buildings must have fallout shelters, and the university library’s served a dual purpose as periodical stacks; at right, as I have often written, the Swiss are fervent about local manufacture — the Coke could be made more cheaply in nearby Poland, but no!
At 5:45, I cycled a mile into the center to Fondue Beizli, a familiar restaurant, and at 6:00 met Paul and Hananja Brice. Paul was chaplain of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, my longtime digs at that university, and we’ve stayed connected. We missed fondue in 2018, but were back together for a third cheese dinner, and great conversation. High point were words and pictures of their daughter’s wedding a month earlier in the huge Gothic cathedral, the York Minster. Way cool. A lovely evening.
Tuesday morning at eight, and I was in Tibits, a vegetarian restaurant, for breakfast with Thomas, a St. Gallen MBA I met two years earlier. Super-interesting guy, worldly, a lot of good conversation. Thomas peeled off for a business trip at nine, I rode back to the room, suited up, and rode up the hill to the university. Worked the morning. Met my longtime senior host, Winfried Ruigrok, and his two deputies, George and Xiaxou, for our traditional lunch at Wienerberg, a fancy place just across from campus. Great meal, great discussion. After a short post-meal bike ride, worked the afternoon back in the library, and brought this journal up to date.
At 4:15, it was finally time to stand and deliver, to about 50 students in St. Gallen’s top-rated master’s program in strategy and international management. I don’t think I’ve ever taught such an engaged group, constantly asking questions. It was fun. At six, I rode down the hill a few blocks to Xiaoxu and her husband Wei’s apartment. Months earlier, she had invited me to a Chinese dinner, and when I arrived she was at the stove. We had a good chat; Xiaoxu is a perfect exemplar of the young global citizen, having worked and studied in many places. She’s just a delightful person. Thirty minutes later, Georg arrived, and we all sat down to a seriously big meal, with lots of dishes: spicy pork ribs, dumplings, chicken, vegetables. Yum. It was dark and rainy when I continued down the hill to my Airbnb, and I rode slowly.
Up Wednesday and out the door to give a lecture to Winfried’s MBA class, done before noon. My next presentation was eight hours later, so I changed clothes and biked around town, stopping at the university mensa for lunch. Took a nap, suited up, and rode back up the hill to school. Parked and locked the bike, and sent Georg and photo of the location; I was leaving the next morning, so would be on foot for the remainder of the time in St. Gallen. Worked some hours in the library, and at 7:00 met members of the school’s aviation club, then delivered a shorter version of the talks I gave earlier, on airline alliances. Had a beer in the classroom with some students, and walked back down the hill. Packed up my suitcase for early departure.
Above, weathered roofs; below, St. Gallen at dusk, and before dawn in the old town.
Rose way early Thursday morning, because I almost forgot to visit the angel. Which angel? The enormous wooden one atop a giant arch in St. Gallen’s baroque abbey church. Hopped on the bus a few stops toward the Altstadt, ambling through the rain to the Klosterkirch. I waited 15 minutes until it opened at seven, walked in, and there she was, welcoming me, left arm pointed upward toward the skies; I remember seeing her for the second time in November 2001, two months after 9/11 and just two days after a third American Airlines tragedy. Eighteen years earlier, I beseeched the angel, and did again that morning.
Walked to the train station, found the Starbucks, and had a giant tub of coffee, equivalent of $6.55, but I needed some zip for a busy day. Hopped the train to Zürich Airport, and onto SAS north to Stockholm. The flight was late because of European ATC, so my planned lunch in the mensa of the Uppsala University business school would not happen before it closed at two. Grabbed a chicken wrap and chips at an airport newsstand, and hopped on the fast train, 19 minutes to Uppsala, then the bus up to campus. At three I met two students from the Ekonomerna, the student business association, and delivered a talk from 3:30 to 5:00. Walked back to the station, through a familiar and pleasant landscape (Uppsala is the oldest university in the Nordic countries). Hopped on the #102 bus south, out of town, to the home of Mia and Hans Kjellberg. Hans is my host at Stockholm School of Economics, and for the last several years they have hosted an overnight. When I arrived, Hans was making pizza for dinner, and Mia was visiting their son in hospital (the next day there was good news). We had a good yak and a glass of red wine. Mia returned, and we tucked into wonderful pizza. Then a long sleep with the windows open.
Above, autumn scenes: harvested fields near Berga, Sweden, and lingonberries in the Kjellberg kitchen. Below, more scenes from fall at the Kjellbergs.
Mia drove us Friday morning to Uppsala, and onto the fast train into Stockholm. A thirty-minute ride to the capital explains much of why Uppsala has grown quickly in the last decade, and the train was packed. Walked briskly to SSE, and into a meeting with Fei, one of Hans’ Ph.D. students, research U.S. airline deregulation. We had a good discussion, got her pointed in some new directions. Time to stand a deliver for the last time that trip, to 65 MBA students. Another long host, Per, and a new guy, Christopher, invited me for lunch – it was more fun to talk about Swedish pro hockey (the season had already begun) than U.S. politics. Headed back to the Marketing Department, changed clothes, and walked a mile south to the airport bus, back to Arlanda Airport, and onto SAS south to Frankfurt.
In Vasaparken, Stockholm; at right, the splendid Swedish way: fathers taking care of young kids
I found a cheap, simple hotel in Raunheim, a pleasant suburb, hopped on the S-Bahn (suburban train) two stops, then 10 minutes’ walk to a clean and modern $43 room. I do love a bargain. Weeks earlier, I did some Googling for a dinner venue, and, happily, a nice place was less than two blocks away. The online menu suggested Croatian proprietors, and that was the case. Everyone in the restaurant was friendly and welcoming. I sat at a corner of the bar, and yakked a bit with a young woman newly arrived from the Balkans. Tucked into Pljeskavica, meat loaf stuffed with sheep cheese, plus a trip to the salad bar and a couple of beers. At the end of the meal, the bartender poured me a Sliwowitz, the plum brandy popular in the region, here served warm. Life was good!
Slept hard, up early, back to Frankfurt Airport, breakfast in the Admirals Club, a flight to Charlotte, then northeast to Washington. The 200th trip to Europe; I never tire of the Old World.
And not least: a pictorial shout-out for an unheralded work group, the folks on the ramp; at left, on departure from Dulles, and at right, on arrival at Washington National. I’ve started to wave to these men and women, and will continue.