Travelogue Preview

17 07 2018

I forgot to mention in my previous post:

THAT.

WAS.

FREAKING.

AWESOME.

WOO HOO~!!!!

Even if it did push me (and my traveling companion) to what are these days my (and his) physical and mental limits.  I’m still in a wheelchair for the most part, and he’s north of 70 years old.  Even if we did operate many of these days on slightly less than optimal sleep and higher than normal adrenaline.  Luckily, in the case of both of us, our health cooperated, nobody got anything close to slowdown sick.

It will take me quite some time to write the full travelogue.  I’ve got a lot of handwritten notes, a heavily marked up road atlas, many computer notepad text file notes, and an indeterminate tally of mental notes to process.  This was a 42-day long epic journey, a whirlwind, a junket, traversing around 2800 miles, over the major parts of two countries and perfunctorily to another four, involving stopping to see at least one attraction in 68 different cities or towns, including multiple days in each of eight different major metropolitan regions, plus three days in a historically important non-metropolitan region, and just passing through many more towns, all with the assistance of 26 different tour guides.  We notched thirteen of the sixteen German “Federal states” (Bundesländer), missing only Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Thüringen and Saarland.

I satisfactorily solved what was until this trip an open question about my German ancestral line, which I reasonably expected to do on this trip, (Sneak peek:  Ich bin ein Rheinländer), and I also pretty much solved a long time family mystery originating on my maternal grandfather’s side, relating to my Czech line, which I was not expecting to do on this trip, and never thought would get solved in this world.  The net result is that I have narrowed down my German line to a rather specific geography, and my Czech line to a specific town.  There was the historical significance of almost all of the places I visited — They have deeply rooted histories going back many centuries, making even the oldest American places seem like infants by comparison. A big majority of the German cities we stopped in were/are powerhouses in physics, chemistry, and/or engineering, past and/or present.  So many are that way that it’s easier to count and remember the cities that aren’t.  All the architectural eye candy, so much that my brain would blue screen if you asked me to pick favorites.  Four, count ’em, FOUR, different automobile industry towns, including the city where the modern automobile was born.  June 17, the Sunday I as a Lutheran got to go to church in Luther’s own during what is still the 500th year of the 95 Theses, was the most special fulfilling single day of my life.  World Cup season in a soccer crazy country with a national team that was thought to be a championship contender and was actually the defending champions?  I’ve already told you how electric that was, in spite of this year’s German team being a bust and flaming out.  The sightseeing?  Who doesn’t like sightseeing?  Mozart, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Brahms, etc. — ‘Nuff said.  I even got over my modesty well enough to enjoy a spa day in a spa town.

Then.  There.  Were.  The.  Alps.  O.  M.  G.

The Black Forest was a very worthy follow-up act to The Alps.

Of course, there were downsides.  I alluded to those in my final post in this space while on the trip, from Darmstadt.

I’ve got more than 2200 photos, more than a hundred videos, and twenty audio files, and while all of the audio files and a big majority of the photos/videos have either myself or my travel companion in them, which means I won’t make them public, I’ve got a nice selection of photos/videos that don’t, so I’ve got some room to be choosy.  I should warn you that the pictures and videos don’t do justice to any of their subjects.

All I’m saying is just be patient for that travelogue, peanut gallery.

But I will give you this brief opening taste:

Click to enlarge any of these images.

Lufthansa was our international carrier.  In case you don’t know, the curvey path on this map is indicative of the fact that the straight direct route on the sphere of a world globe, when plotted on a flat Mercator map, will often look counter-intuitively bent.  Layover in ORD, because STL, no longer being a hub for any carrier, and serving a no longer important metropolitan area, does not have any regular direct flights to FRA, and hardly any regular direct international flights to/from anywhere.  Frankfurt instead of Berlin, because Frankfurt is the major airline hub for Germany, for various historical and currently relevant reasons, which I’ll get to in the travelogue.

Made with Google Maps Pedometer, which also easily allowed me to know how far in miles we traversed over this loop.  Clockwise starting from Frankfurt.  This is pretty close to the exact path we took.  Any slight differences?  Well, this is close enough for Bundestag work.  Making this map was a fussy enough job and took me a few tries.  If anything, the main differences between this map and the reality of our path is that this map gives the impression we used the Autobahns for intercity travel almost solely.  In reality, for several significant stretches, our tour guide took back roads and side roads instead of the Autobahn.  We took the paths less traveled by, and that made all the difference.  Also, our path around the Luther Region, and around the Black Forest foothills (Pforzheim to Offenburg) was more haphazard and itinerant than the map suggests;  in the case of the Black Forest, we actually took circuitous roads through it so we could experience some of the Black Forest’s unique wonder.

Close-up on our July 2 path, that day was the climax day of the whole voyage, and the absolute longest in both time and distance we traveled in any one day, and the most stunningly beautiful single day of the entire voyage, (remember, Alps OMG).  I got our Salzburg to Garmish-Partenkirchen to Fussen path much more precisely indicated in this map compared to the larger voyage map.

A more precise zoom-in view of our Black Forest circuitousness, on June 6, 7 and the first part of 8.  Again, this is pretty close to accurate.

JUNE

3/4: Frankfurt
5/6: Rhine-Rhur Region; Venlo, Netherlands
7: Munster; Osnabruck; Oldenburg
8: Bremen
9/10: Hamburg
11: Hannover
12: Braunschweig; Wolfsburg; Helmstedt (former BRD-DDR border checkpoint); Magdeburg; Brandenburg
13/14: Berlin (incl. Potsdam)
15: Frankfurt (Oder); Slubice, Poland; Rzepin, Poland
16: Berlin
17/18/19: Luther Region
20: Dresden
21: Usti; Prague
22: Prague
23: Ceske Budejovice; Cesky Krumlov
24: Prague
25: Pilsen
26: Nuremberg
27: Ingolstadt
28/29: Munich
30: Rosenheim

JULY

1: Salzburg, Austria
2: Garmisch-Partenkirchen; Fussen
3: Kempten; Memmingen; Ulm (passing through Vils, Austria)
4/5: Stuttgart
6: Pforzheim; Ettlingen; Rastatt
7: Baden-Baden
8: Offenburg; Kehl; Strasbourg, France
9: Strasbourg, France
10: Lauterbourg, France; Karlsruhe
11/12: Rhine-Neckar Region; Limbach
13: Darmstadt
14: Frankfurt

If you want to ask me about one or more of these places, or any other reasonable sort of question about the trip, use the comment section, and I’ll give you a brief sort of summary answer.  Though I plan on keeping most of my cards under the deck until the full travelogue.

You may also remember from one of the very few posts I wrote here during the trip, that I made an unlisted and unanticipated but very personally relevant stop in the Czech Republic.  That city remains unlisted here in both the text itinerary and on the map, and will be unmentioned in the travelogue, and as usual, I’ll tell you the wherefores and whys only if I know you and trust you.

***

If just the preview of the travelogue is this long, and the sample sized tidbits I gave you on the trip, as long as they were, is any indication, then you can see how the full official travelogue is going to be more like a dissertation.  I’m probably going to have to slice it up in chapters, write and post one or a few at a time.

***

I need a vacation from this vacation.

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Fulfillment and Transcendence

17 07 2018

Your Blogmeister’s Secret Hideout

A month and a half ago, “fulfillment” was merely a word in the dictionary to me.

Now, it is a soul-deep experience.

This epic voyage didn’t just meet my reasonable expectations, and it didn’t just equal my wildest dreams, and it was more than just the defining experience of a lifetime, more than a pilgrimage, and it was even beyond soul stirring.

It was transcendent.

And for the first time in my life, I have truly come home.  Sure, I’ve returned home countless times, but now I’ve come home.  I also now realize that I have a future because I have a past.

Not too many of you know what I mean by any of that, which is why I think this mashup of fulfillment and transcendence is something that only a small percentage of people ever experience.

May any and every one who has the requisite intellectual and emotional capability and maturity come to experience this unique combination of fulfillment and transcendence.

That’s my permanent grown up Christmas wish for the world.





Farewell to Krauts, Exclamation Point

13 07 2018

Darmstadt, Germany

Guten Abend aus Darmstadt, where it is about 5:30 PM CEDT, Friday, July 13, as I’m uploading this.

Darmstadt today was our final full day of this voyage and our final unique stop before flapping our wings out of here tomorrow, from the same place we landed six weeks ago, that being Frankfurt, and the city from which we started this epic voyage.  Not too early in the morning tomorrow, we’ll drive the few miles north to Frankfurt, have one last glance around the city, then head to the airport.  Even though Frankfurt to me is a mile wide and an inch deep, it will be the last I see of Germany maybe ever.

But my final unique stop, that being today’s in Darmstadt, while it may have seemed like it was going to be one of those mediocre “last mile” formalities, before we got here, I was promised a surprise grand finale, an exclamation point to the epic voyage.  Since this has been a trip of a lot of surprises and a whole lot of great things, I knew it had to be something out of this world for my traveling companion to hype it up like that.  (Remember that “out of this world” thing, because you’re about to find out that that was a figure of speech that I should have taken literally.)  I didn’t want to cheat and do internet research to give me a hint;  Surprises are meant to be surprised by. Just so you know, my traveling companion spent most of his real working years in mechanical engineering, and as such, he made quite a few trips to West Germany and then reunified Germany. While we have had many official tour guides over these past six weeks, he himself both knows Germany well enough and knows what interests me and obviously did the overlap in terms of choosing some of our spots. I’ll just say now that he is my uncle’s ex-wife’s brother, technically not an uncle, but he has been a might-as-well-have-been uncle to me my whole life, his wife, who is holding down the home front at the secret rehab hideout where we’ll soon return, has been a quasi-aunt to me. He is I suspect the benefactor of this massive epic voyage, and by benefactor, I mean credit card swiper and check writer. If he didn’t pay for all of it himself, I think I know who chipped in a percentage.

I got my exclamation point today, and how.

Darmstadt is where one finds the mission control operations for the European Space Agency’s unmanned missions, the European Space Operations Center (ESOC).  Meaning Darmstadt/ESOC is to the ESA what Pasadena/JPL is to NASA.  And we got to visit ESOC.  Never been to JPL, to beat all.  I’ll save the weedy details of what I saw and who I met for the official travelogue, but I’ll tease it by stating that, among the many things we took in while there, we met a few people whose English is good enough that are on the Gaia team.  A few months back, one of my favorite astronomy software programs (whose developer currently lives in Germany, see below) was able to start using Gaia’s most recent data release.

During our time in Ingolstadt, we visited Airbus’s space and defense operations headquarters.  (Note:  Airbus in general is based in The Netherlands.)  So I’ve seen both ends of this particular business in the context of Germany and Europe in general.  Early in this voyage, I arranged a meeting with the authors of one of my favorite astronomy software programs, as I already knew where he lives specifically; I won’t say which city specifically, because of the flies on the wall, and because I want to protect his privacy.  All I’ll say is that he lives somewhere in the Rhine-Rhur region. About the only thing I missed out on in terms of astronomy is the Prague Astronomical Clock, which is being repaired and renovated and won’t go back on display until about the end of the year.  But I did get to see similar albeit less grandiose clocks in Strasbourg, Munster and near Stuttgart.

So, Darmstadt, this is for you.  You earned it.

ep

***

I’ll add this anecdote:  Yesterday and the day before were our Rhine-Neckar Region days.  If you’re my age or older, then you probably remember all these TV commercials about a certain acronym corporation that proclaimed that they don’t make most of the things you buy, they make most of the things you buy better.  Even then, I as a youngster (a yoot?) had that WTF feeling about those ads.  I thought to myself:  If I don’t ever expect to buy anything directly from you, why are you buying ads destined for my eyeballs and eardrums to begin with?  Anyway, that corporation is the Ludwigshafen-based Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik, translated:  Baden Aniline and Soda Factory.  Baden being the region/state where it is based, Aniline is a precursor chemical for many things, and “soda” in this context means sodium carbonate, which of course has a lot of uses and precursor uses.  Back to the point:  Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik, better known by its gangster name: B.A.S.F.  Remember, BASF doesn’t make most of the things you buy, they make most of the things you buy better.  And it finally hit me just two days ago why German-based BASF ran ads on American TV in the several years surrounding 1990:  It wasn’t advertising, or marketing, or sales.  As I suddenly remember, the BASF ads ran largely during political talk shows.  Meaning the real purpose was back handed public relations and political lobbying aimed at the political class in the United States.  My bet is that there were political, environmental, diplomatic, or trade/tariff politics in the United States, relating to BASF’s American ambitions, and BASF’s American-based competitors, such as DuPont, or 3M, or St. Louis-founded Mallinckrodt, that BASF wanted to smooth over.  Also, 1990 was German reunification year, and I bet that played into that somehow.

Anyway, all that leads me to something I’ll do more thinking about once I get home and have some time to unwind:  Seems like most German cities and towns we either visited or passed through, (including today’s grand finale, I should add that it seems like half the elements in the periodic table were discovered in Darmstadt), even little bitty dots on the map, were verily described as past or present powerhouses in either chemistry, physics and/or engineering of some sort, so many are that way that it’s easier to remember the ones that aren’t. (*)  Angela Merkel, for all her political faults, holds a Ph.D. in molecular quantum chemistry.  That begs these questions:  Why is the country I’m about to go home to the global hegemon, and not the country I’m about to leave?  And if things were/are so good here, with all the scientific progress past and present, and the natural and artificial beauty, and delightfully easy-to-take summers on average, (highest temperature we experienced was 84), why did my Germany-line direct ancestors up and leave Germany somewhere between a century and a sesquicentury ago, for a miserable swamp on the other side of the world that’s a sauna-steam-oven for six months every year and a deep freezer for the other six, the spring conflicts between those climate patterns have the ability to wreck everything you’ve ever worked for into smithereens within a few seconds?

I had too good of a time on this trip to let my mind dwell on depressing questions, explanations and conclusions.  But now that this voyage is all but over, now I’m starting to let myself think about the other side the coin.  And if I let myself be honest with myself, then I’ll admit that the depressing answers to my depressing questions were there all along in my field of vision, hiding in plain sight, for almost every day of these six weeks in most of the places we visited.  Subtle reminders everywhere.  Always something there to remind my naked eyes.  (Gold star to the first one of you who groks that cultural reference.)  I have other reality check sort of observations as well, not the least of which are all the nonchalant insouciant devil-may-care borderline rotten borderline sour-pus countenances I get from a disturbingly high percentage of real German people, who, might I add, are of a disturbingly high median age, and those attitudes are adversely affecting Germany’s scientific and engineering prowess, including its automobile engineering, and are also fueling a disturbingly high level of public corruption.  Such a disciplined scientifically minded well organized group of people should not be having these problems and displaying these foibles, but they are.  Another thing I’ll tee off on:  Germany has no business being this expensive, and I think the reason it is is way more political than economic.

I’ll do more thinking and eventually public elaborating on these matters after I’m home and after I’ve had time to recuperate.

Speaking of home, when next we meet, that’s where I’ll be.

But, as for the rest of this late afternoon and evening, because we have nothing left to see, and we don’t have to get up that early tomorrow morning, I can finally let my hair down and have a good time.  Translated:  Knock back der steins.  The real exclamation point.

***

Our itinerary since my last update:

Ulm -> Stuttgart Region -> Pforzheim -> Ettlingen -> Rastatt -> Baden-Baden -> Offenburg -> Kehl -> Strasbourg, France -> Lauterbourg, France -> Karlsruhe -> Rhine-Neckar Region (incl. Worms) -> Limbach -> Darmstadt -> Frankfurt (tomorrow).  Which means you can combine this with my previous posts where wherein I outlined our path, to where you can plot our entire voyage.

The path between Stuttgart and Offenburg was our Black Forest meandering, with that special modesty-free day in Baden-Baden.

Limbach is just a tiny town up in the Odenwald Mountains about an hour east of Heidelberg.  Wikipedia lists five Limbachs in Germany, and the index in the obese French ghost’s road atlas lists twelve of them.  So why did I want to make this diversion to visit this particular dot-on-the-map Limbach?  The race to the gold star starts…NOW.

I knew we were truly in the home stretch of this voyage when we left the Black Forest for the last time and descended from the Black Forest hills into Offenburg, in doing so, we saw the Rhine River off in the distance.  That was the first time in more than a month we saw it, then, we left it behind to see the last few cities in the Rhine-Rhur Region then make our way north out of Dortmund.  Coming full circle.

***

Even though I wish we could have spent more time in some of the cities and towns we stopped in to take in more of them, as a tour this grand even spread out over six weeks required some give-and-take, some prioritization and some sacrifices, I’m ending this trip with zero real regrets.

***

(*) – It is tempting to think that the reason I came away with that impression is because of the selection bias of my travel companion, as I admitted in this post that he, a retired mechanical engineer, with plenty of business travel experience in Germany, helped determine our itinerary.  And while it may be the case that his influence wound up with us having an itinerary that disproportionately oversampled cities known for hard sciences and engineering, one can still use fuzzy logic to adjust for such oversampling, and still conclude that, on a per capita and per square mile basis, Germany was and is far and away more of a science and engineering powerhouse than any other country on Earth, including the United States.  I’m sure there are quantitative ways to tell, perhaps hard science Nobel Prizes per capita, peer-reviewed academic papers in hard sciences or engineering per capita, hard sciences or engineering patents per capita, to speculate.  Also, it’s not as if every city or town we stopped in was predominately a science or engineering town, and it’s not as if I didn’t pick a lot of our spots.  And it’s not as if my travel companion is a one note samba.  Along with science and engineering, I wanted to take in many points of interest relating to history, music, politics, warfare, religion, sports, and maybe one or two other things, and on top of that I was doing the whole ancestry thing.  And he was interested in some of these  other things, too, some more than others, and one or two things that I don’t much care about.  So this “selection bias” argument is a hund jagt nicht.





Blaue Donau

3 07 2018

Ulm, Germany

Guten Abend aus Ulm.

We ended today here in Ulm, after also having seen Kempten and Memmingen, and we departed this morning from Fussen. Which means that we gradually spent today departing the Alps and getting further and further away from them, which means bye bye Alps. Maybe for good. But if I ever get to do more international travel and it’s my prerogative, it will be to Italy. On such an occasion, I’ll make sure I get to see this massive epic awesome mountain range from the other side.

This day came after yesterday, in which we departed Salzburg, Austria very early and made our way mostly on back roads and back roads of back roads on the edge of the Alps from Salzburg to Fussen. While in Fussen, we visited both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. In between Salzburg and Fussen, we stopped in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics. That was only time Germany ever hosted the Winter Games, and the only time that the Summer and Winter Games were held in the same country in the same year.

Most people know about the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, the whole mythology and hagiography of Jesse Owens, supposedly single handedly (or should that be double footedly?) embarrassing Hitler. The inconvenient truth is that Hitler personally took it upon himself to congratulate Owens — Meanwhile, Owens’s own country’s President, (that would be FDR, for those of you who are eithe SJWs or are part of the low information undertow), totally blew Owens off when he returned to the United States. And it’s hard to contend that Owens ruined Hitler’s Olympics, when Germany finished with the most gold medals and the most overall medals in the 1936 Summer Games. This whole bit about “Jesse Owens embarrassed Hitler lol” is purely manufactured revisionist history as a result of the outcome of WWII. Anyway, since Germany hosted the Winter Games earlier that year, it begs this question: Where was the Jesse Owens on skis or skates to embarrass Hitler?

With our departing the Alpine Region, to where the Alps are now barely even visible on the southern horizon here in Ulm, I can attest that yesterday was the climax day of this voyage, and we are now on what would be the falling action if this voyage was literature. Yet and still, we still have ten full days to go on this voyage, which still leaves us plenty of time for plenty of predictable good things and plenty of surprises.

Our itinerary since last I posted here:

Ingolstadt -> Munich -> Rosenheim -> Salzburg, Austria -> Garmisch-Partenkirchen -> Fussen -> Kempten -> Memmingen -> Ulm

Note: Back when we got to Ingolstadt, the tour guide for that leg of the trip implored us to pay attention to the notable river in town. She noted that while it was denoted in the German language as the Donau River, in English, we call that river the Danube River. I had totally forgotten that the mighty Danube, of Vienna and Bratislava and Budapest and Belgrade and Bucharest fame, (that stream has a fetish for European capital cities that start with B), does make it into Germany, and in fact, the Danube’s two short mother rivers of different names have their sources in the Alpine foothills in far southwestern Germany, just on the other side of the Black Forest hills from the Rhine. Today, the tour guide we had for this part of the trip coincidentally did the same thing, as we crossed back across the Danube at Ulm, that is, make sure we know that this river we’re crossing is the Danube.





My Wildest Dreams

27 06 2018

Ingolstadt, Germany

We have already made our way through the Czech Republic and back into Germany.

Yes, I watched this afternoon’s World Cup game from a beer hall here in Ingolstadt.  BTW, Ingolstadt, which only looks like a dot on the map, is a real powerhouse town, considering the fact that it’s not one of those German cities that non-Germans have heard of and can readily identify and place in Germany.  But, more on that in the travelogue.

We were still in the Czech Republic when Germany played its second game back on Saturday.  Understandably, Czechs just aren’t that into German soccer, so no beer hall soccer watching.  The good part about the game is that Germany came back and won — Had they lost, they would have been eliminated from the playoffs, meaning this afternoon’s game would have been a meaningless formality.  Because they won, today’s game meant something, which made for a way more interesting few hours in the beer hall.

Unfortunately for German fans, Germany lost this afternoon’s game, South Korea scored two goals entirely in the extra time period of the second half, to add insult to injury.  Sweden won its game, so the only way Germany could have made the playoffs was to win the game versus South Korea outright.  So, no playoffs for Germany.  Deutschland Deutschland uber nobody in the division.  The only slightly good part about that for me is this:  The championship final for the whole World Cup is on July 15, and come hell or high water, we fly home on July 14.  I was worried for awhile that Germany would make it to the final game, yet we’d have to leave the day before, meaning we wouldn’t be in Germany to watch it.  Which I’m sure would have been quite the experience.  But, that won’t be a problem now.  I know nil about soccer, but even I could see that this iteration of the German national team, even if they made the playoffs, did not have it in them to win three consecutive games against other playoff teams in this tournament, which is what they would have needed to do to make the championship game.

In spite of it all, I got to watch two German World Cup soccer games while in Germany, the first game and this afternoon’s game, from Wittenberg and Ingolstadt, respectively.  And during both games, the atmosphere was so electric and so charged and so surreal, that it would make a Birmingham sports bar during an autumn Saturday afternoon or evening while ‘Bama is playing seem like the overnight at a retirement home, by comparison. I don’t like soccer, but I’ve never had so much fun doing something I don’t like. Hell, I myself got so charged up and full of the energy that I felt like personally invading Poland and the Sudetenland. (So to speak, because we have already been to both places, albeit on much friendlier terms.)

In a trip that has thus far had many great surprises and generated quite a few lifelong memories, one of which I’m about to hint around, this one is right up there with the best of them.

Beyond that, the German media will commence many months of a funeral dirge, starting in three, two, one…

***

Now, to the point of this post — At some point in our time inside the Czech Republic, something extraordinarily good happened to me, something I wasn’t expecting to happen at all when we embarked on this voyage.  Let me just put it to you this way — We made an extra surprise unplanned stop at a given Czech town, and while there, I was able to come as close as I’ll ever get in this world to solving a long standing family mystery going back four generations.

I started this voyage with reasonably high expectations, meaning I figured that, just by pure observation, I would able to trigger racial memory to figure out where in Germany and the Czech Republic I got the biggest tingling feelings.  Just for full disclosure, my Czech and German lineages are poorly documented before the immigrating generation on each line, which means I do not actually know any individuals in either country that are confirmed relatively distant cousins of mine.  Same goes for my Italian line, though I know from DNA testing that the Italian in me is heavily Po River Valley.  What do you call people from the Po Valley?  Po folks.  Rimshot.  Also, in case you’re wondering, Italy is not on the itinerary, because that would have added way more time and way more expense.  If I ever can make another international trip, that’s where I’m headed.  Since I’m Lutheran, I already knew that I was way more likely to get the tingling feeling in northern Germany than southern Germany.  My English lineage, coming from my father’s mother, is, unlike my other ethnic lines, very well documented going back a very long time, which is how I know my English is South Coast and Midlands, though in that case, the colonizing generations were much farther back than the immigrating generations in my German, Czech and Italian lines, meaning that confirmable distant cousins back in England are way more distant in terms of degrees.   In spite of that, I have no desire to visit Cuck Island/Ukistan anytime soon.  Our flight path took us over it on the way coming here and it will on the way going home, but that’s as close as I feel like coming to it.

The upshot of all that is that I’m heavily reliant on racial memory and tingling feelings, in the context of this voyage.  And, as far as that goes, I’ve had some really promising tingling feelings in Germany itself.  (Hint:  Rhine-Rhur Region except Dortmund.)  Not to mention this extra stop in the Czech Republic, where I am now 99.99% certain I was looking at third and fourth cousins in the eyes.  But this long standing family mystery I just referred to — I had zero expectation of ending this voyage being any the wiser than I was when I started it.  But, here I be, all the wiser.

Because of the personal nature of all this, I have to keep all the details, including the name of the town, under the vest.  As usual, I’ll tell you only if I know you and trust you.  I have already written out a form letter response to cut and paste that fills in all the blanks.

***

Here has been our itinerary since last we talked, leaving out the extra town in the Czech Republic:

Luther Region -> Dresden -> Usti -> Prague -> Ceske Budejovice -> Cesky Krumlov -> Prague -> Pilsen -> Nuremberg -> Ingolstadt

There is a hint in the name of one of these towns that will explain why we as St. Lousians made it our business to stop there.  It will come to you if you have paid close attention to local business news for awhile.  If you can’t figure it out, then you’ll just have to wait for the travelogue.

This voyage is succeeding beyond my reasonable expectations and on level with my wildest dreams.  Even if it ended now, it would be the defining experience of my life.  But we still have a lot of time to spare and territory to traverse — We don’t leave the continent and return home until July 14.  Which means we have a lot more time for potentially many more surprises.

Oops, did I say that I’d be on this trip for almost all of June?  I fibbed, I meant virtually all of June and half of July.  Now I know that advice I got to bring along two months of meds and get a two month Schengen Zone travel visa was spot on.





The Most Special Fulfilling Day of My Life

17 06 2018

Wittenberg, Germany

I said I wasn’t going to write any posts while on the trip.

But, today has been…well, you read the title.  A real red letter day in my life.  So I’m using some of my precious hostel WiFi time tonight, (it’s after 10:30 PM in Germany and the entire CEDT zone as I write this), to tell you all.

By pure luck, coincidence, or maybe something otherworldly at work, the itinerary got us here to Wittenberg on a Sunday.  Which means you can probably figure out where we went to church this morning, and which other church we spent some time in early this afternoon.  In contrast to last Sunday, when I was in another city on the Elbe River, downstream, that being Hamburg, when and where I thought the better of actually attending any church in that city.  Even though one of Hamburg’s church steeples was for a short time the world’s tallest man-made structure.

Of course we saw what are probably the most famous church doors in all of world history.  And you know?  Upon a very close look, I could swear I saw some half millennium old glue residue.

I became upset when I wasn’t able to return to mental functional coherence in time fully to appreciate the observed 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses, that being October 31, 2017;  As you know, it wouldn’t be for another two weeks until I got well enough for something like that.  But, this makes up for it, and then some, and then some, and then some, and then some, and then some.  It’s still the 500 years (plus some change) year, so I’ll score that as a win for myself.

Surreal…supernatural…soul-shaking…not powerful enough words to describe the impact of this day on me.

Today was the first of three whole days here in what I call the “Luther Region,” including Wittenberg, obviously, but also Dessau-Roblau, Leipzig, Halle, Eisleben, and other nearby towns important to Luther lore.  Near Leipzig, we’ll be making an ironic visit to another important but more recent German historical figure.

And because of that, we’re surely going to visit Worms once we make our way back around to the other side of the country.  Because I’m on a diet.

***

Of course, anything any churches in this town had going on late this afternoon and into the evening was canceled, because Germany’s first World Cup game was this evening, which of course we watched from a beer hall.  We happen to be in a soccer crazy country, whose national team is a favorite to win the World Cup, (in fact, Germany won it four years ago), during the time of the World Cup, which means God Himself has to take a back burner for ninety minutes of clock time.

The atmosphere in the beer hall during the game was, to say the very least, spirited and raucous.  To put it accurately, it got me so charged up that I had half a notion to invade the Sudetenland.  By comparison, a ‘Bama crowd in a Birmingham sports bar on an autumn Saturday night would seem like an overnight at a retirement home.  I hardly like soccer, but I don’t think I’ve never had so much fun doing something I don’t like.

Obviously the only downer to this late afternoon was that Germany lost the game.

I just wish Germans would quit outsourcing their patriotism to soccer.  Though I’m a fine one to talk — I come from a country whose native born white people outsource their patriotism to the football team that represents the nearest land grant university, and to Israel.  Stones, glass houses, n’est pas?

Yet and still, that was just some very nice icing on the cake to this day.

I wonder who the American media were rooting for. Did they want Germany to win, because Angela Merkel hearts immigrants and refugees, in order to spite Trump? Or did they want Mexico to win, because of immigrants, and media members’ undocumented nannies and housekeepers, in order to spite Trump?

I’m also surprised that in the Moscow stadium where this game was played, that there were way many more Mexico fans than I would have thought, maybe even a majority of the house. Moscow, not being that far from Germany, you would have thought 99% of the stadium would have been Germans. Mexico, by contrast, is not that prosperous of a country, on the other side of the world. Perhaps most of the Mexico crowd at the stadium are well to do Mexican-Americans?

***

Yesterday, which was our third and final day in Der Hauptstadt, was also very special.  Here, I’m going to have to be way more coy, because of all the flies on the wall.  Let’s just say I met important people, who hooked me up with meeting more important people, and came away with two important recent German language political books autographed by the author.  I will only fill in the blanks for those of you who I know and trust.

And yes, I’ve been paying attention to the political upheaval happening under my nose, literally under my nose, for three days, because it’s all been going down in Berlin.  While it was on the top of Drudge most of the weekend, and a big story in the world media, the German media are treating it as only the second most important story going, not quite as important as…you guessed it.

Angela Merkel is really on the ropes, and could join the ranks of Der Arbeitslose by next week. Mainly because of the instability within her own party-coalition, the CDU-CSU.

The root cause of all this is the very tenuous red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-sienna-peach-mauve-magenta-fuchsia-apricot-navy-grape-pink-teal-pine-black-lemon-brown-burgundy-aquamarine coalition that it took to return Merkel to power. Of course, all that was a function of trying to string together a string bean coalition of everyone-but-AfD. At first, it worked, kinda, even after a false start. But the constant threat to such arrangements is that they are houses of cards, and have all the stability of them. Just don’t anyone in the whole country let out a big hard sneeze. And that’s just what the new Interior Minister, who is Bavarian, and leads the CSU, did.

I’d like to claim credit for what looks to be the end of Merkel’s political career, just because I happen to be in-country and was in-city. But I don’t think I’d even eat my own dog food.

BUT…

Reality check time:

Going forward, unless the “untouchable” AfD either falls off the map, or attains an absolute majority of the vote, those two extremes seem to be unlikely in the relatively near future, or one of the “mainstream” parties works up the courage to call on the AfD, also unlikely, considering this is the country that is seriously mulling throwing out the American ambassdor, Richard Grennell, because he openly supports a neighboring country’s head of government (Sebastian Kurz in Austria) only because Kurz worked up the courage to call on Austria’s AfD-style pop-nat-right parties and factions, and the German political class interprets that as Grennell telegraphing/dog-whistling support for the AfD domestically, (which he denies in public), then German politics are going to be stuck on Groundhog Day for quite some time to come. Government falls apart, new elections, AfD gets a significant percentage, but nowhere near a majority, “mainstream” parties agree to nervous string bean rainbow color coalitions to box out the AfD, the agreement lasts about as long as a snowball in hell, government falls apart, new elections, lather rinse repeat.

Another issue is that if Merkel is ousted this week, then who?  While the CDU-CSU could pick a new leader, he or she would probably not be acceptable to the other parties in the rainbow coalition.  But the only kind of person that they would accept, because that person would be the new head of government, wouldn’t be acceptable to the CDU-CSU.  Which means, new elections, but back on the Mobius Loop.  Groundhog Day.

Long and short is that German politics are stuck with her. They can’t live with her, and they can’t live without her.

***

To give you a halftime report, and thanks to the fact that I have along with me a heavily marked up on its way to being even more marked up road atlas of Germany and surrounding countries (*) I bought off of some obese French ghost who also sold me the tires on my car that I may never get to drive again, I’ll just state here which cities and towns we’ve spent significant time in so far, not counting the ones we’ve just passed through:

Frankfurt -> Bonn -> Cologne -> Dusseldorf -> Moers -> Venlo, Netherlands -> Duisburg -> Essen -> Dortmund -> Munster -> Osnabruck -> Oldenburg -> Bremen -> Hamburg -> Hannover -> Braunschweig -> Wolfsburg -> Helmstedt (i.e. the old BRD-DDR border Charlie Checkpoint) -> Magdeburg -> Brandenburg -> Potsdam -> Berlin -> Frankfurt (Oder) -> Slubice, Poland -> Rzepin, Poland -> Berlin -> Luther Region

You won’t get a full report and travelogue until we get home.  But, make sure you check out my Minds feed, where I’ve been teasing everyone with more frequent updates.

***

(*) – Including something called “Benelux.”  I bought it back at home, to make sure I have a version where English is one of the languages, (this particular one is in six languages), and to avoid what I knew would be a much higher price for the same atlas here in Germany, where most everything is significantly more expensive, sometimes way more expensive — But that’s for the travelogue.  Back to the point:  Benelux?  Doesn’t one vacuum one’s carpets and rugs with a Benelux?  Then I looked it up, and it’s a portmanteau of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, and in fact, the three countries have a political union of the same name, very similar to the Visegrad Group, one of the countries in that group I’m making my way towards and will be in for several days.  Yet and still, would it have killed the obese French ghost to print “Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg” instead of the portmanteau which almost nobody has heard of?  Also, this atlas contains the Czech Republic, which I’m headed to, but indicates it as “Czechia.”  Which may be grammatically correct, but it’s easy to confuse it with Chechnya, which of course is not a country, even though people of a certain peaceful religion want it to be.





Lemonade From Life’s Lemons

1 06 2018

Your Blogmeister’s Secret Hideout

Tomorrow morning, I will be:

The difference here is that I have a very good idea on when I’ll be back again.

Funny the way life can be.  If a certain car misses me or stops short of me 318 days ago, I probably right now would be anticipating this just-started month as the first full one wherein one of you who may still be reading these words is my summer intern in my startup.  But, because that didn’t happen, I had to sell my startup’s concepts and IP, your summer job this summer, if you have one, is unremarkable, and, because a certain someone pities me in my condition, I got this vacation as a belated birthday present.

And you know what?  I’ll take it.  Because the only credible alternatives in my situation were dead or persistent vegetative state.  That said, I’ll take the lemonade I made out of the lemons that life threw me 318 days ago, and enjoy where I’ll be going and what I’ll be doing.

This is most likely my last post here before I lift off tomorrow, and you won’t see me ’round these parts until I get back.

Here’s hoping I find what I’m really looking for.