I wish I could say that this has been an easy trip. It started off badly last Friday with my flight from Nashville to Newark circling for about 1.5 hrs before diverting to Norfolk, Virginia to get more fuel. We were only supposed to land for 20 minutes, but ended up staying almost 2 hours. Once back in the air, we circled some more and finally landed about 3 hours late. For some reason, I wasn't terribly worried about missing my flight especially since the flight attendant mentioned that everything else out of Newark was running equally late. (Pictured on the right are the Deutch Bank buildings in downtown Frankfurt.)
Of course, when I landed in Newark I came to find out that only the international flights went out on time. I had no choice but to wait another 24 hours before there was another flight to Germany. So I then proceeded to spend the next 5 hours in various lines getting new flights, trying to find my luggage, not finding my luggage, waiting for a lift to the hotel, waiting in line at the hotel, etc. I was at last in bed at the Newark airport Holiday Inn at about 12:30 am. I slept in the next morning since my flight wasn't until 7:40 pm that night and spent another hour in line, upon arriving at the airport, just to ensure that my luggage was headed the same place I was. They assured me that it was. (Pictured on the left and below is the Frankfurt Opera House.)
On the flight that night, I had the pleasure of sitting next to two very rude German youths who, evidently, had not been informed of something called bathing. Peeeu! Natually, since everything else was going wrong, I didn't get any sleep on the flight. Tired and bedraggled, I also came to discover the Continental had indeed lost my luggage. Aaaaagh! I should be happy - I only wasted 1 hour waiting for my luggage and filing more reports.
The hero of the day, though, was my friend and PASS colleague Christoph Stotz. Christoph picked me up at the airport and proceded to fill my day with a ton of fun activities. He even put up with my intense, post-jetlag sleepiness. The weather was beautiful - sunny and in the low 60's - though later that day we had sprinkles and even thunderstorms.
Christoph was quite the host. We enjoyed breakfast at the Frankfurt Opera House and strolled the area. A nearby park was having a really fun little kiddie fair with some of the cutest and most imaginative little rides I'd ever seen. We also went to the observation deck of Frankfurts tallest high-rise and viewed the entire area. (Frankfurt is an odd mashup of beautiful old structures, ugly 60's and 70's concrete, and more attractive modern high-rises.) From there we went to Saalburg, an ancient fortification that's been there since Roman times. Saalburg marked one of the northernmost fortress towns of old Roman Gaul, built to protect the empire from the fierce Gothic barbarians. It was really cool to see and they had an interesting 'bread' day describing how the Romans made their bread and used it as payment for their soldiers.
After Saalburg, we stopped in at Christoph's office were he lent me a cell phone. (Thanks again, Christoph!) And enjoyed some gorgeous views of the countryside. One thing I like so much about Germany is the vibrant greenery and rolling hills that remind me so much of my beloved Tennessee. They even had quite a few of the large wind generators lazily turning in the breeze.
Finally, Christoph and I cruised over to his brother's house where we enjoyed a big meal of meat, meat, and meat plus a couple kinds of appetizers and potatos. Christoph's brother and sister-in-law, Dominic and Muriel, have the most adorable little 1.5 year old daughter named Leah. She was an active, intelligent, and very sweet girl who had me pining for my own babies. (I miss you, girls!) The only mishap of the evening happened when I tickled Leah and she bonked her head trying to escape. She cried and that was just about enough to make me cry too! But as kids do, she quickly recovered and, much to my relief, seemed to forgive me. Of course, I don't speak German. So she might've said "I never want to see him again" but her body language was much more forgiving.
Well, today starts my whirlwind of activities here in Germany. Wish me luck that I retain my sanity.