Business Traveling: Germany
Frankfurt: grey skies and tall buildings
Someone took my suitcase by accident at the airport. That is the
second luggage mishap I've had in Germany, the country of extreme
efficiency. Six months before, I lost my bag altogether in Munich.
(Lesson learned: always tie a distinguishing cord or ribbon around your
suitcase.) To be fair to Germany, the lesson from Munich is not to try
and save money by taking a dozen connecting flights. Happy endings in
Frankfurt--the woman who took my suitcase quickly realized her mistake
and we swapped our luggage.
In spite of my exciting luggage adventure, my friend David and I were
completely jet lagged. We walked around the city which was still
slightly grey from earlier rainfall and began our consumption of pork
products at a small, out of the way pub. Delicious. I do recommend
trying appleweine which is like a nice unsweetened flat cider. It's
more refreshing than it sounds.
We got a little bit lost in our jet-lag haze, which was nice because we
ran into a river walkway with a beautiful view of old churches and the
financial district skyline. Returning to our hotel heavy with food and
alcohol, we wondered if this was the feeling that we were going to be
stuck with for the rest of the trip.
Hannover: heavy machinery and metal, Bavarian feasts, and Grosch - the lop-eared rabbit.
We took a train into Hannover the next day to attend a metal
fabricating trade show--our reason for German travel. To commemorate
our arrival, I managed to trip on the staircase at the train station
leaving two large bruises as souvenirs on my knees. Nice.
All of the hotels in town were booked so our client company rented
rooms for us in people's homes within the city. It's kind of like
staying at a B&B but not. True to our American selves, David and I
felt like we were a constant imposition on the families we were staying
with even though home stays are a common form of overnight stay for any
Hannover trade show attendee. I stayed with a nice German family who
did not speak a word of English and David's household consisted of a
gay couple whom, he discovered, had a subtle flair for decorating.
Checked in, ran out and began our work.
Evening. We were taken to a traditional Bavarian restaurant. Pretzels
and beer. Mauro, the company head, ordered for all of us. A huge
trough of pig fixed in every which kind of way landed in front of
us--pork knuckle (one for each person), 4 types of sausages, ham, ribs,
potatoes and sauerkraut. I got through maybe 4 of the items in the
trough and called it a day. The others did better than me. Again, did
I really want to carry on feeling like a middle-aged German man
throughout the trip?
"Home." I got into the family's home as quietly as I could and
detected a faint smell of animal--must be a dog or a cat--quickly shut
my door so that the beast and I would not have an encounter. The next
morning I tried to get rid of any evidence of my presence in the
bathroom which was not easy with the Euro-styled bathtubs with no
shower curtains. You have to be careful not to spray water
everywhere. Hung out in my room until meeting David then received a
knock on the door--breakfast is served. I came out to find a full
spread on the living room table with juice, coffee, cold cuts, cheeses,
butters and jam. I overate to show my appreciation for their
hospitality. While eating, I heard a crunching sound and turned around
to find a large cage with a huge lop-eared bunny sitting on a pile of
hay. "Das is Grosch." said my host. "Grosch is das nammen?" I replied
in my lame attempt in German. "Ya." So it was.
Bragged to David about my breakfast spread only to find out that he had
experienced the same but his hosts provided him with yogurt and muesli
in addition to what I had. They even had a glass of wine waiting for
him when he got home and spoke perfect English. I was needless to say,
jealous. As we continued our work, we were provided with invites from
the company to attend a mini Oktoberfest at the conference grounds. I
felt I had enough of Bavaria and we began making up excuses to cut out
early. They proved to be unnecessary because we ended up staying at
the party that was like no other: petite women carrying large steins of
beer to large banquet tables, more underwhelming German food and
sausages, a cover band that played songs in 4 or 5 different languages,
and a large group of drunk international metal fabricators. Need I say
David came home to find that his hosts had extended their hospitality
by leaving a magazine filled with amateur porn at the foot of his bed.
I told him that this was their way of showing him that they knew he
needed to be entertained. We were both entertained. Well, I was
vicariously through his tales. It turns out that his hosts had a deep
appreciation for the male form as evidenced by the faux frescoes of
mail nudes in their bathroom along with the anatomically shaped spout
of the pitcher in their kitchen.
Home at last
Back to Frankfurt. A pretty uneventful trip since it was later in the
evening and we were both exhausted. It was nice to get back to a hotel
room where you could come and go as you please and not feel like you're
imposing on anyone. More appleweine and I smoked the last of the
cigarettes that I could handle and decided to drop the nasty habit
before returning to the States.
A quiet but content subway ride to the airport. We were excited about
the prospect of freely speaking English again. Eleven hours later and
we were home.
-Van An Tranchi