On the Road Again
(May 12 - June 4, 1998)

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Hi everyone.  After spending a year back at a desk job, I decided that it wasn't for me.  So I contacted my ex-manager to see if I could get back into Audit for another tour.  It took a while, but I'm glad to say that Diane and I are ON THE ROAD AGAIN! 

I decided this time around in my travels to write travelogues to send to family and friends.  I'm sure if Diane and I actually pull off the motorhome idea, that we'll create a web site for folks to track us if they want to follow our travels.  That's how I find those RV sites on the web.  They almost always start out as sites intended for family and friends and then other RVers find them.  I needed a break and I figured this will be a good way to spend evenings in the hotel.  So here goes with the first of I hope will be many travelogues documenting our international travels for as long as I continue to have this opportunity to do a lot of travel.

We arrived in Stuttgart, Germany on Tuesday morning, May 12, after an all night flight from Atlanta and drove to a Ramada Hotel in Sindelfingen, which used to be an IBM town before all the downsizing.  Mercedes and Porsche build their cars in Sindelfingen.  You may be interested to know that a $100,000 Mercedes only costs about half that price here and there are LOTS of them on the road.  We dropped off our luggage at the hotel and I hooked up with the team of colleagues I'll be working with for this audit: Merle Stuchell, Tom McGonegal, and Peggy Baker.  While Diane got settled in, the four of us drove to Ehningen to work for a few hours. 

It is spargel (pronounced schpargel) season here.  I learned about spargel when I was here for a month in 1995.  It is white asparagus and they make DELICIOUS meals from it and serve it lots of different ways.  Part of traveling is eating all the great different ethnic foods.  For those of you that are fussy eaters, you don't know what you are missing.  ;-)

There are four auditors here so we split up into two teams to head north to where the sites were located that we would audit.  Merle and Peggy went up to Oberhausen (near Dusseldorf) and Tom, Diane, and I headed up to Salzgitter (near Hannover).  We took two days to make the trip (about a 6 hr drive).  We headed over to the Black Forest and drove up through that area.  We stayed off of the autobahns (like our interstates) and took the 'red' and 'yellow' roads on the map so we could go through the towns.  After a while we headed over and up to Heidelberg, a university town.  We spent about four hours touring the town, mostly taking the funicular up to the castle ruins and having lunch.  Great views.  Great bratwurst.  Great beer.  :-)

Then we headed up the Rhine and through lots of beautiful towns.  They grow grapes for the Rhine wine on every conceivable hill.  They tie ropes around themselves to harvest the grapes as the hills are that steep.  We drove up to Koblenz, where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet.  Diane and I also stayed there for a night back in 1995 as we were driving from Dusseldorf to Bavaria.  On Sunday morning, we drove an hour up to Koln (Cologne) and went to mass in the cathedral.  After mass, we wanted 'lunch' so we found an outdoor cafe right near the cathedral.  It turned out that Tom, Diane, and I all had a yearning for apfelstruedel mit vanille eiscreme (I'm sure you can translate that) and a cup of cappucino (tea for Diane).  YUMMY!

We then started our final trip over to the Salzgitter area, actually to Braunschweig (Brunswick) which is where we were to stay for the next two weeks.  We took only red and yellow roads and had hoped to travel along the Fairy Tale Road described in the Fodor's travel book for Germany.  It has towns along it where the Brothers Grimm lived, and the Sleeping Beauty castle, and the Pied Piper of Hameln (Hamlin).  But we were running late so we jumped on the autobahn to finish the trip, arriving in Braunschweig around 8pm.  Tom did most of the driving, but I took over on the autobahn.  We cruised for long stretches at about 100mph as cars were PASSING ME LIKE I WAS STOPPED.  I took it up to 115mph a couple of times, but then slowed it down.  I feel ok at 100, but even that is fast and you really have to trust that no one moves into your lane.  One thing about European drivers.  They do NOT sit in the fast lane just because they are doing the speed limit, which is non-existent in lots of areas.  They move over.  It is a bit scary to be doing 100mph passing someone and seeing someone coming up on you in the rear view mirror like he is going to go right over the top of your car.

We stayed at a place called the Deutsches Haus for two nights, but moved to a Ramada Hotel which had just become a Courtyard by Marriott.  The Deutsches Haus was nice and very European (check your key at the desk when you leave and get it when you return).  That was ok, but having only a tub and no shower except a shower head on the end of a hose wouldn't cut it for us for two weeks.  You know, wet down, lather up, rinse off.  You try reaching for the damn hose in the tub with soap in your eyes.  Got the picture?  ;-)  Pretty funny, huh?

We ate out every night.  The food and the BEER were GREAT.  They have a chain here, Swiss chain, called Movenpick (there is one in Toronto).  Good food, but GREAT ice cream.  Not that I need a darn cone of the stracciatella (chocolate chip)
almost every night.  It is SOOOOO creamy and delicious.  I'm well on my way to regaining the 17 pounds I lost last year.

This past weekend we stayed in town on Saturday to walk around and video the highlights.  It was a nice old town with trams and big plazas and old buildings and churches.  One of the main plazas was full of people on Saturday because it was full of booths selling veggies and fruit and meat and bread and etc etc.  We went and got Diane's friend t-shirts from the local Harley Davidson dealer.  They asked Diane to buy them the shirts from every place we go that has a Harley dealer if the shirt has the city/country on it.

Tom and Merle were scheduled to work at a site in Hamburg next week, so they headed out on Saturday to visit Berlin before getting to Hamburg.  On Sunday, Diane and I drove a couple of hours north to Hamburg to check it out.  We thought we would bump into Tom and Merle, but we didn't see them as our schedules were different.  We got lost in the city so I decided to just find 'home away from home', the local Marriott, and ask for help.  We found it and then got a map of the city.  It took 3 hrs to drive back because we got caught in the locals drive home to end a 4-day holiday weekend for them (it was Ascension Thursday and that was a holiday in Germany and folks took Friday off, too).  It was pretty nice on Saturday, but it got cold, wet, and nasty on Sunday.

Peggy heads home to Tampa on Thursday because she is on vacation next week.  Tom and Merle plan to drive down to Bavaria for the weekend (Diane and I did that in 1995).  We will start back to Ehningen on Saturday and will work there next week.  We plan to do some of the Fairy Tale Road on the way down and also visit the old walled city of Rothenberg (or something like that) on the Tauber.  We have been told it is a great place to visit.  We'll find a B&B to stay in on Saturday night.

Then we head back to Atlanta next Friday.

We liked Germany when we were here last time and are glad to be able to do it again.  The country is beautiful and the people are very nice (except for one bus driver in Braunschweig who probably had a fight with his wife that morning).  :-) 


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