International Friends Week
(October 5 - October 30, 1998)

You can click on "photos" to get directly to the photo page.

I was working in the Chicago area just prior to this trip to Germany and I got to visit one weekend with Charlie Vrabel, a boyhood friend from my days on Long Island and his wife Dee.  It was pretty great to see him again and reminisce.  It had been many years since we had seen each other.  He lives is Springfield, IL and I've always wanted to get to that area.  We spent that Saturday morning at a local, but large, Apple & Pork Festival.  In the afternoon, he took me to New Salem so I could see where Abe Lincoln lived before he made a name for himself.  All in all, a short, but great visit.

Last week in Germany was INTERNATIONAL FRIENDS WEEK.  We met and had dinner with Manfred and Brigitte Boffo.  Some of you may remember that I mentioned them in one of the May Germany travelogues.  We hadn't seen them since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and this year we got to visit with them twice.  We met one evening last week for dinner and had a great time chatting about various topics.  Brigitte invited Diane to go with her to a luncheon on Thursday afternoon.  There is a group of four German women and one American woman and they alternate houses every week to meet and speak only in English.  Last week the luncheon was at the American woman's house and Diane found out the woman used to live in the Atlanta area.  Diane said she had a great time and the lunch was home cooked and top notch.

Over the weekend we drove to visit our friends Peter and Yoko in Wollerau, Switzerland
(pronounced Vollerau), which is along Lake Zurich and about 45 minutes from Zurich.  It was also the first time we got to see their 6-month old daughter, Naoko.  Due to the fact that we had to go to north Germany in May, we were not able to visit with them during that visit, so this extra trip to Germany turned out to be a great opportunity for us to drive to Switzerland. 

First, a few words about how Peter and I became friends.  We met in early 1993.  I was on my first audit (in Boulder, CO), Peter on maybe his third or fourth audit.  We ended up working 3-4 audits in a row together, including one in the UK which, for me, was my first ever trip out of the USA.  It was great and I knew then I would like this worldwide travel job, although Diane hadn't yet started to travel with me.  It got even better when she started to travel with me.  Well, as 1993 went on, Peter and I worked several audits together and became close friends or, as our manager at the time used to joke with us, "male bonding".  We met up again in the fall of 1993 to do back-to-back audits in Japan, which meant EIGHT weeks in Tokyo.  It was the first trip for both of us to Japan and it was the beginning of an instant love affair that we both had with Japan.  We had a great time taking in the sights along with other team members, including many of the shrines and temples around Tokyo, a trip to Nikko, and a trip to Mount Fuji.  The sad part about not having travelogues from my first tour in Audit from 1993 to 1996 is not having stories about some of those places, especially the great Sunday afternoons we spent in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo.  As it turned out, Peter met Yoko during an audit he was working in 1995, which was the one Japan audit that we didn't work on together.  They got married in 1996 and Naoko was born in April of this year.  The last time we saw Peter and Yoko was during a 1997 vacation Diane and I took to Europe, our only trip out of the USA that year that I was working behind a desk again.  So we were very much looking forward to this weekend trip to visit with them again.

This was my sixth trip into Switzerland, having gone to Peter's house on three successive weekends when we worked on an audit in Milan in 1994.  Diane was just starting to do some traveling with me then and was there for the third of those weekend trips.  I also spent four weeks in Zurich in 1996 along with Diane who was then traveling with me 100% when I was out of the USA.  Last summer we spent about four days with Peter and Yoko during our summer vacation in Europe and now this trip.  I have to tell you that Switzerland is one country it is impossible to get tired of visiting and this trip was no different.  We arrived at their home in Wollerau on Friday evening in time for dinner.  Peter knew how much I loved learning about racelette during one of the trips to his home in 1994, so that's what they prepared for us.  This is a marvelous Swiss cheese that is melted and served with boiled potatoes, pickles, onions and, of course, some good wine.  Peter also gave me some kirsch, which he said would help digest the cheese.  Wow, if one is not used to that stuff, you would think you were drinking methyl alcohol.  Strong stuff.

About noon on Saturday we set out for a drive with no particular destination in mind other than Einsiedeln, which is a small tourist town with the Kloster Einsiedeln (a monastery) as its main attraction.  It houses a statue of the Black Madonna and has been visited by Pope John Paul II.  Peter went to high school there.  We walked around the town, then out to the lake outside the town, then along the lake for a while and back to the car.  Peter did the driving as we headed to Oberiberg to get something to eat.  Needless to say the scenery was breathtaking.  It's hard to describe the beauty of the hills and the mountains and the chalets and it was SOOO green due to the large amounts of rain Peter and Yoko said they have had this year.  The trees had their fall foliage and some of the distant mountains were snow-capped.  We stopped at the Restaurant Sager in Oberiberg for lunch and it was so pleasant that we ate outside.  It was another one of those 'I can't believe they are paying me to do this' feelings as we sat with good friends, eating rosti (I can't even begin to tell you how to pronounce that, but there are two dots, an oomlat, over the 'o') outside on a pleasant 72 degree day, in Switzerland, in October.  Wow!

After lunch, Peter continued the drive as we went over the Ibergeregg pass, a 2 lane road that is only 1 1/2 lanes wide.  ;-)  Thanks to the beautiful weather, the motorcyclists, bicyclists, walkers, and motorists were all out in force.  I have never seen so many motorcycles on one road in a continuous stream as during that drive, and they ride their bikes fast and lean them way over as they twist and turn on this narrow road.  Not for the faint of heart.  In a couple of spots we had to stop and make sure both cars could pass each other without touching.  In another spot a bus was coming up as we were going down and we had to back up the hill to a place we could pull over and let the bus pass.  In yet another spot cars would have to decide who was going through what became a 1 lane road.  Thank goodness Peter was driving.  I could never have enjoyed the scenery if I was behind the wheel, but I'm sure Peter knew that when he offered to drive.  Again, the beauty of the countryside is beyond what I could adequately put into words.

God, Diane and I do love this traveling.  I once asked a colleague early on in my travels if she ever got tired of it and her response was a simple, "the no, the more you see, the more you want to see".  She was right on and that is exactly how Diane and I feel about traveling which, I'm sure, is why we still have plans to travel full-time in an RV and travel the USA.  When you see things like we saw this past weekend, the minor inconveniences of lost luggage, delayed planes and, yes, even people who want to spritz us with mustard and rip us off, do not make us want to stop traveling.  We totally love taking in the local culture and food.  Needless to say, it helps to have someone paying all of my expenses and, for Diane, her travel expenses from home to site to home.  We only have to pay for the hotel (which usually doesn't cost more for an extra person), food and laundry.

For some of my colleagues, this is a back-to-back trip because Germany is followed by Paris.  Due to a slip in the dates for these two audits, I was not able to get on the Paris team because my nephew is getting married November 7.  See how important you are Michael?  ;-)  Just kidding.  I wouldn't miss your wedding for anything and I can hardly wait.  Well, as things would have it, we are finishing up here in Germany this week and my manager asked me if I'd like to go to Paris until I have to leave to return to the USA for the wedding.  Ha!  As if she really needed an answer.  It was like, when do we leave for Paris.  Diane and I are tickled pink at yet another opportunity to get back to Paris, which we both love. 

On a final note, Peter had his sights set on a digital camera and asked me if I could bring one over for him (saves the shipping).  So this is a first for my travelogues - PHOTOS.  He sent me a few that he took with his new toy.  His first two photos were of me and Diane.  Also included below are a photo of Naoko, the monastery in Einsiedeln, of me and Diane along the lake.  Some of you who get these notes have never met me or Diane so now you get to put a face with the note.  Probably not as good as putting a face with a voice, but it's a start.  I hope you all have what you need to view these photos with your browser or other appropriate software.  Sorry, but Peter is a bit camera shy and knew that I would include his photo if he sent it to me, so no photos of Peter and Yoko.  ;-) 

Until next time.

NOTE:  Little did Peter imagine that almost seven years later I would have a website on which I would publish these international travelogues, and that I could scan the photos that Diane took during our visit.  :-)  The photos of me and Diane in Peter's house were taken by Peter.  The photos of me and Diane along the lake and of the monastery were taken by Diane as they came out better.

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