Tuesday, September 29, 2015
We were there in the peak of tourist season, and the last five miles of the road the Castle were bumper to bumper, the last 5 miles took about half an hour to drive. The parking was somewhat distant and not the best organized. The signs directed us to the ticket office and an abrupt realization, we were there in the peak of tourist season, tickets for tours of the inside were sold out until early evening, and it was just before noon when we arrived. Opps! I should have gone online and bought tickets. But you can still see the outside. We walked farther up the road and waited in line for the horse drawn wagons, then when we realized that wait was over an hour. We went in search of the line of for the bus and found it just as long. At this point I had been on my feet for over an hour, much of it going up and down hills. I looked at the restaurants, looked at Jay, he looked at me, and we went to lunch. We talked about it and decided we had good pictures of the outside and neither of really wanted to climb the mountain, and I was not up to the long wait for the bus. We baled and headed for the car. When I came out of the car park, I turned in the opposite direction of most of the traffic and found a delightful tree lined country road, with the most spectacular views of the Castle and nearly no traffic. I turned Ms Garmin on and she started to sort out a route, a route without all of the tourist traffic.
So Neuschwanstein, been there, took the pictures, bought the souvenirs and survived.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Sweet Hotel Suite
But I travel enough to get an upgrade once in awhile. How do you snag an upgrade? Join the hotel chain frequent traveler programs and try to concentrate as many nights as possible in as few chains as possible. I focus on Hilton, and IHG - better known as Holiday Inn brands here in the USA. I am also a member of Hyatt, Marriott and several others. Joining the frequent traveler program will usually bring some extras, free internet access or a newspaper delivered to your door.
On the recent trip we scored a couple of upgrades from IHG - Salzburg and Munich. I will write about Salzburg later. The pictures above are of the two room suite at the Holiday Inn Munich -Unterhatching just outside of Munich. We were there for two nights and as an IHG gold member, they upgraded us to a small suite. The room had a separate living room and bedroom. It was very comfortable, and for the price of a standard room a great value. The extra space, especially after two weeks of sometimes very small European hotel rooms was really nice, giving us space to spread out, repack bags and relax. The bedroom part of the room was a little tight on space, and the view was of another part of the building, but there was not much to see in the immediate neighborhood. The hotel is about a mile from an S-Baun train that runs into the city center. The first day we walked to the train station, the second day we drove over and parked at the train station (free parking.) Parking at the hotel was in an underground garage at I think 10-Euros per day. The first night we parked in one of a couple of handicap spaces off the street out front (free.) The area is suburban, with a strip shopping center and a couple of restaurants within easy walking distance. Nice room, comfy hotel.
Handicapped parking: when I came home from the hospitals in May, I was using a walker and very limited in walking, I asked and they issued me a handicap parking tag - good for six months. When the placard arrived, I read the paperwork with it, and it said, the symbol is universal and most places in the world will honor this permit, take it with you when you travel. So when we went to Europe I took it along. It certainly worked in Germany. Several times it helped us get parking that saved me long walks. I will miss the parking permit when it expires - the neurosurgeon said he would sign for it to be renewed if I think I still need it. How much do I need it, how much do I want it?
Sunday, September 27, 2015
I finally edited the 6 or 7 video clips from the Zeppelin ride. Come along for the ride.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
|Bones of a Saint in Munich|
I like old European churches, and these churches are where you find first class relics. Frequently bones, sometimes hair, or blood, or bits of tanned skin; on rare occasion the entire saint - in a glass box for eternity.
|A Saint in a Box, in Greece|
Friday, September 25, 2015
Near the lighthouse point at the south end of Reykjavik
A volcano in the distance, on the way to the airport (the road the airport has street lights all 29 miles.)
The view from lunch in Keflavik, a small harbor town, about 3 miles from the international airport.
A view of the coast line between Reykjavik and Keflavick
Iceland is an active volcanic island, in the north Atlantic. A rare volcanic landscape in the tundra. The population of the country is about 323,000, with 300,000 of those in the greater Reykjavik area. The sea dominates life in Iceland, for centuries they have fished and served as a stopping point in the north Atlantic. The island looks small on the map, it is fact a little over 39,000 square miles. Largely because of narrow and unpaved roads, the estimated time to drive around the circumference of the island is four - five days.
The international airport is not in Reykjavik, but in Keflavik, about 30 miles east of Reykjavik. There is an express bus that runs from the airport into the city. I rented a car. The car rental was about $65 for 24 hours, gas is somewhat expensive, we drove about 100 miles and topping off the rental car with gas cost me a little over $20.
We stayed at a hotel in Hafnarfjordur, about 3/4 of the way from the airport into Reykjavik.
I booked ahead, we were still in the high season and the room cost about $155 and included breakfast. The room was large, clean, comfortable and had a small kitchenette. Downtown hotels, and recognized international brands were twice the price.
The majority of the island's energy needs are met with geothermal from the volcanoes. They use geothermal to generate electricity, heat homes and business and to heat greenhouse. Other than fish, and produce grown on the island everything has to be imported, and things are a little expensive. A nice dinner for the two of us, was about $120 (not beyond the pale of DC prices.) Lunch the next day in Keflavik with carrot cake for dessert was $55 for the two of us. Again you can pay that in a big world city - but not a bargain in a small harbor town along the coast.
Was it worth it? You bet. It was an amazing landscape. My only regret is that I didn't schedule two nights - there is a lot of sightseeing within a day's drive of Reykjavik that we simply didn't have time for.
A word of caution, the airport has a very-very busy afternoon hub time. The wait at security at 3:00 was 45 minutes. The airport is being remodeled and expanded and is a bit of a mess. It is also poorly signed and the staff not at all helpful with directions. There is no seating in the departure areas, you stand in line to board, lines that form 30-45 minutes before boarding time (not a good system.) There is no pre-boarding for anyone, first class or persons with disabilities stand in line with everyone else. Sounds good, unless you have difficulty standing for 40 minutes, by the time we boarded I could barely climb the stairs (most gates do not have jetways.) (The guy in the wheelchair who came in our flight and was leaving on another flight was having a very difficult time navigating the airport.)
Thursday, September 24, 2015
10 things that I fear
- Jumping out of perfectly sound airplanes
- Singing in public
- Dancing in public
- Living to long - being one of the living dead in a nursing home
- 300 pounds
- Not being able to travel
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
20 Reasons Why I am Thankful
We are so lucky, We have so many reasons to be thankful, here are 20 of mine
- Having been able to travel to nearly all of the USA and 15 other countries
- Having the ability to learn nearly anything I commit to learning
- Having a college degree, only 6.7% of the worlds population has a college degree
- Having a JD, I worked for it, I paid for it, I am glad I was able to, and that it has opened exciting doors for me
- Having asked for medical care last May,
- Having access to extremely well qualified medical providers
- Being in love with someone special
- Having had grandparents and a great grandmother around when I was growing up (even if my blog posting about her failed to draw any comments.)
- Having work I find rewarding and working for people who allow me freedom to do good work
- For having developed a healthy level of self understanding, and self acceptance
- Having friends
- Living in an era of relative world peace, open boarders, good health care, reasonable safety standards
- Having moved several times during high school, it exposed me to possibilities beyond my backyard.
- For growing up riding bikes
- For the opportunity to live in a world capital
- Having few fears,
- Only having a couple of people in my life that I have been unable to forgive
- Loving to read
- Understanding the risks and burdens of debt
- Being able to blog
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
20 Things That Make Me Happy
1: My Sweet Soon To Be Husband
4: Boats in quiet water
6: Taking photographs
7: Jimmy Buffet songs
8: Riding a bike
9: Blog Comments
10: Sharp Cheddar Cheese
12: Accelerating down a runway and taking flight
13: Crossing the Potomac
16: Fresh sheets on a big bed
17: Planes and Trains that leave on time
18: Steam trains
19: A high desert landscape
Monday, September 21, 2015
Now boarding Concord and Tupolev Tu-144
Back in the early 1990's I missed the opportunity to ride on a Concord. A trans-Atlantic trip was always out of my price range, but BA was running short one-hour trips out of Heathrow for like $200. They went out south over the Atlantic, broke the sound barrier, served you a glass of champagne, and landed back in London. I looked at it when I was in Paris in January of 1991, and said next year when I am in London. Then my midlife crisis intervened and by the time I was traveling again in 2000, the Concord was on it's last flights and the super deals to go faster than sound were a memory and history.
I have seen the Concord on the wing, two of them landed in Orlando for the opening of EPCOT. I have seen one close up in the Smithsonian collection at Dulles. But I had never been in one until recently. There is a Technology museum at Sinsheim Germany that has one on the roof, right behind a Tupolev Tu-144. And they are open for boarding if you are up to the climb.
Here they are on the roof of the Museum, see the spiral stairs near the tail? That is how you get in and out.
The museum removed about half of the seats, boxed the ones that remain in plastic cases and installed some grab rails to haul yourself up the isle and try to keep from tumbling down. This is the interior of the Concord as Air France flew it. Not big, 2 and 2 seating, but 2-hours from New York to London. From London to New York you arrived three hours before you left.
This is the interior of the Tu-144. Not as plush, about the same dimensions.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Portland is an interesting city. It is wild west meets hipsters, meets high end shopping. It has a nice airport connected to the city by light rail. This was the second time I have been there. I would go back.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
On a plane
On my most recent flight, the middle seat was occupied by a youngish man, about 5'6" and about 140 pounds. The perfect middle seat passenger, small enough to fit. Shortly after he was seated, he swallowed two pills, texted his girlfriend that the Xanax were kicking in and he would meet her at the airport in 5 hours. He slept most of the way across country. Needless to say - not a lot of conversation with him.
On the way out to Portland a young engineer from India via New York was in the middle seat. He was headed to Portland on a moments notice to do a presentation - try to close the sale on a multi-million dollar job. His field was electronic document management. Interesting conversation, his company labels electronic files with an expiration or deletion date. When the date is approaching, the staff receives a message asking if they need to keep the file, if not it disappears on the end date. We are reaching a point with electronic documents where we need this. The last time I looked, I had created over 25,000 electronic documents in the past 7 years. Do I really need all of the documents? Time to clean out the electronic file cabinets.
Let me think, I sat next to a US Senator one morning, I talked with him for about half an hour before it dawned on me who he was (I lived in the state he represented.) He was not nearly as daft in person, as he was in the media. I sat next to a guy one time who specialized in firing executives. He seemed to really like his work. He said, I am doing the employee and the company a favor by helping them end a relationship that is not working for either of them - he did say, "you never want to see me waiting in your office when you arrive in the morning." I was sitting next to a car flipper when the plane backed into another airplane, and pulled forward and backed into it again. He was headed to Ohio to buy a 65 Mustang. I spent one flight talking about on-demand book printing, the technology exists - adaptation is slow. I spent an hour talking with the head of children's programing for PBS one afternoon.
Over the years I have set next to a lot of interesting people on airline flights. I can think of more interesting one's than I can one's I couldn't wait to get away from. Then there are the small, quiet ones, I can sleep next to them.
Friday, September 18, 2015
I have now been to 48 states and 15 countries. I will work over the next couple of years to finish the list of states, and there are a few more countries I want to add to the list before my adventure days close. There are also a ton of fill in adventures to go back and do, and a decade of past adventures that have not been talked about. Life is a great adventure - I do enjoy talking about it.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
BMW Road Testing
The other two were BMWs, one passed us on the Autobahn, I was driving and Jay snapped a picture, and the second one was on a back road near the Deutsches Museum Aircraft museum near Munich. This one was labeled as a test for a hybrid drive system, but also dazzle painted. On closer look, the body shape seems larger then most of what is sold in North America (though BMW sells larger cars in other markets.) The wheel centers are removed, but from the front the grill is distinctively BMW. I was driving when we encountered this one. I passed it, it pulled in behind me. I was able to pull off the road so it would pass me, allowing a couple of quick pictures.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
The Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, the "pod" in the background is one of the elevators
I lit my first candle in a Catholic Church in Paris in January 1991
Robert Schuman House Hotel in Trier Germany - subject of a blog post to come
In the panoramic window in the back of the Zeppelin
Front of the passenger cabin on the Zeppelin
Well! in Switzerland
The Munich Airport
Me, taking a picture of Jay taking a picture, on the way to the airport in Iceland
Yes, sometimes I use the stick, if I am walking a lot, or walking on uneven or sloped surfaces it helps. The physical therapy is working, I noticed on my recent trip to Portland (that I have not talked about on here yet) that going up and down stairs is much easier.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Humming Bird, near the restaurant I had lunch at on Monday
The last time I had X-rays done, it took 90 minutes - they were having computer trouble. Monday it took 15 minutes. As a result I was over an hour early for the MRI. They had me scheduled for the "large aperture machine" but a standard machine was free with no waiting, slip off your pants and we are ready to go. They wedged me into the drain pipe and beat on it for about 40 minutes. (If you have ever had an MRI you know what I am talking about.) I thought they were going to have to grease me up, to get me out, I unfolded like an artificial christmas tree coming out of the box when she slid me out of the tube (the operator said, ask for Mag-1 the next time, you will be more comfortable.)
Then I had a couple of hour break before seeing the neuro-oncologist. I went shopping and went to lunch. I needed a new pair of fat man jeans, my appetite came back faster then my ability to exercise, I may have reached a new high. Across from me at lunch was a teenage SOD, son of a doctor. Easy to spot, looking disinterested in the world, sitting there wearing $1,000 in clothes.
So the update part of this. My spine is were it should be and the alignment remains good. The tumor is not growing, but will still needs to be watched. I am making progress on rebuilding strength and control, there continues to be improvement in the sensation in my legs and feet. The odd bulging at the bottom of the ribs on my right side, is normal. The "intercostal muscles" (I actually knew what they were back in my gym bunny days) no longer have nerves going to them, and the ribs will move and things will bulge that didn't bulge before. Nothing wrong, the new normal. I need to lose weight, the Doctor is more concerned about rebuilding cardiovascular strength and endurance then he is about a number. I was off my game for a couple of years, I need to work on that. For the first time in over year year, when I walk down stairs it does not feel like my right knee is going to buckle out from under me. The fact that I continue to make progress, is a good sign. Someday I will plateau - the Doctor reminded me that there will be some permanent nerve damage.
Where from here, back in the drain pipe in 90 days, X-rays of my spine in 90 days, and another follow up visit. If that goes well maybe six-month intervals after that.
Monday, September 14, 2015
108 miles per hour
The German's claim to build the best cars in the world. The cars are masterworks of engineering, design, quality and construction. Now know why they feel compelled to build the finest cars in the world, they have the finest expressways in the world, the Autobahn system. Oh My!
For a start, the Autobahn is not one road, it is an extensive network of expressways. I didn't know that.
There are several factors that make the Autobahn experience amazing. The roads are very well engineered, meticulously maintained, and the drivers are well trained and disciplined. The result is a system that is safe, fast and fun to drive. The right lane is the slow lane and the left lane is for passing. There is stiff fine for driving in the left lane when you are not passing. There is a stiff fine for passing on the right. On sections with two lanes (like the one above) there are speed limits. Some vehicles, such as travel trailers and trucks carrying dangerous cargo have a special speed limit of 100-kps (about 62-mph.) These vehicles always travel in the right lane. The speed limit will drop in areas with heavy traffic, unusual road conditions, or merging traffic. If there is a speed limit in the left lane, it will be higher, usually 20-kph higher than the slow lane. The speed limits are posted electronically, and adjusted for road, weather and traffic conditions and drivers seem to obey them.
In sections with three lanes, the right lane is the slow lane, the next lane is fast and the left lane is the passing lane. In some areas there is no posted speed limit, the speed limit is as reasonably safe. I don't recall any unlimited sections with just two lanes, but there might me. If traffic is light, you can really open it up on the sections without a speed limit. The first time I nudged just over 100-mph, I had only once in my life driven over 100-mph before - if I had been caught way back in 1990 - I'd still be paying that fine. The second time, I was able to play with the Audies and registered 108 mph before I ran out of road and pulled over into the middle.
You pull into the passing lane and pass. I was warned that when I pulled into fast lane the little gray dot on the horizon in the rearview mirror would be the Audi, Mercedes or Porsche 20 feet off my trunk in about 20 seconds unless I was the fastest thing on the road. You pull out, floor it, pass and pull back over. If faster traffic comes up behind you, you pull over. The drivers are immensely disciplined. In two weeks of driving we only once got stuck behind a truck trying and failing to pass another truck going up hill (he must have been trained to drive by Walmart.) We saw a lot of RVs on the road, and never once got trapped behind one trying to pass in the fast lane. The discipline of the drivers is a big part of what makes this system safe.
So is it perfect, no. Many of the entrance and exits ramps are very tight turns requiring you to slow to 25 mph. The construction or work zones have impossibly narrow lanes. There is the occasional driver in an underpowered car who tries unsuccessfully to play in the fast lane, and there are drivers who are "not from around here." The Autobahn system is many-many roads. They don't always connect well to one another, it was not uncommon to have to get off of the Autobahn and drive for 2-5 miles on back roads, to get onto the next Autobahn. Why? I don't know.
I can attest to two things, the Mercedes CLA-250 will go over 100 miles-per-hour, and it has very-very good brakes - thankfully - but that is another story!
Sunday, September 13, 2015
There are no Kangaroos Austria
Another country to check off the list, we went to Austria, not Australia, Austria. When I was planning the trip, I would tell people we were making a side trip to Austria and the reaction was "that is a long way - but there are Kangaroos and boomerangs." Austria is a 90 minute drive from Munich. The first gift shop I went in to in Salzburg had T-Shirts that says "No Kangaroos in Austria" - I bought one.
The old quarter is a wondrous maze of narrow streets filled with shops, bars, restaurants, Mozart and churches. Lots and lots of churches. Directly behind the old quarter is a tall hill, 2-300 feet up a cliff with a fortress and more churches on top. Admission was about 11-euros and included a ride up and back down on a funicular. I wouldn't have made it to the top and back without it.
The fortress is fun to explore and the cliff top offers amazing views of the landscape. I liked Salzburg. We stayed at the Crown Plaza - The Pitter on frequent traveler points. It is an old hotel - nicely updated. As an IHG frequent traveler they upgraded us to a small suite, about twice the size of a typical hotel room. The room was over the top in style and very comfortable. The parking for the hotel is a block away, you have to pull into the hotel waiting (drop off) zone, go inside and ask for directions on how to find it. The hotel was about a mile from the old quarter. We took a city bus going to the quarter and walked back. The following morning we checked out of the hotel and found a parking lot in the edge of the old quarter (follow the blue "P" signs.)
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Those living above, know that someone is living below?
Do they care?
Did the guy living below pick that spot for the neighborhood?
Does SUV "limo" drive know that he is 25 feet above a homeless person?
Who is more miserable with where and how they live?
I took this from my hotel room window at a very nice hotel in Chicago. The apartment building above is expensive and nice. Car services were there several times an hour picking people up and dropping them off. This is in the downtown area where the "street level" is elevated above ground level and streets and service structures are below at ground level. The last I knew there were still some railroad freight lines below the city. I was quite struck by the contrast of $2,000 a month rentals being directly above people sleeping on the sidewalk below street level.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Check another one off the list.
I love flying! I grew up around little airplanes and little airports and I have long enjoyed flying. I have flown on about everything imaginable, a Piper J-3 Cub, modern single engine fixed wing, about every airliner in the air, a helicopter, and a couple of float planes. I am missing a hot air balloon, and I missed the opportunity to go faster then the speed of sound. The other missing check on the aircraft list, was an airship. It is nearly impossible to get a ride on a Goodyear Blimp, rides are limited to major customers, dealers, suppliers, people with political or business connections. I have tried, and never been able to snag that ride. Zeppelin is now building new airships for Goodyear, the first one is already in service in North America and the second one is being shipped - the passenger cabin was sitting in a huge crate at the airport in Friedrichshafen.
When we started planing the trip to Germany, Jay sent me a link for exotic aircraft rides, he thought I would be enthralled with a ride in a Junkers Tri-Motor, but I was instantly smitten with the idea of a Zeppelin Ride. This is one of only a handful of places in the world (it may be the only one currently in operation) where you can make a reservation, pay the fare and away you go. I made reservations as soon as I had the schedule to the point that I knew I could work around the ride.
You arrive an hour before flight time and check in. About 30 minutes before flight time you go to a safety briefing, they did a special briefing for we English speakers. Then board a van for a short ride out to the landing/loading zone. The airship blows in the wind, you are warned to stay alert and asked to not take any pictures while boarding to avoid being bumped over by a blimp.
Inside there are 12 comfortable seats, six on each side with a comfortable aisle up the middle, every seat is a window seat. When they release the craft from it's mooring it starts to float up, the engines and propellers start to control the direction of flight and you are off. It is kind of magic. Once you are 500 feet in the air, they encourage you to take off your seatbelt and walk around the cabin. It is a very gentle ride. Two windows open to make taking pictures easier, you are cautioned to please not drop you camera out the window.
|Leaning out the window|
What an adventure!
Thursday, September 10, 2015
I am not a practitioner of any organized religion. I struggle with the logical leaps of faith that most religions have and don't understand the desire or concern for eternal life. I was born, I will die, I will cease to exist, why should I expect or desire more? I try to make the most of what I can while I can, to be good to others, and to enjoy life. Many suffer hell on earth, in an effort to be worthy of avoiding hell after death. If I treat others well, don't allow others to mistreat me, and have a little fun along the way, I have found heaven on earth. Who knows what lies beyond, if I am good and do good I will enjoy here and be okay with there.
I do enjoy visiting churches, especially when I travel. Churches are frequently the most elaborate works of art and architecture in town. They are public places, built to send a message, and some really do. They are quiet and contemplative places.
Wednesday, September 09, 2015
We went to Switzerland for lunch one day. We were in Friedricksaven Germany for the Zeppelin Ride, I have told you about that haven't I? We took a ferry across Lake Konstance to Romanshorn Switzerland. It is a pleasant 40 minute ride each way, it was $17.10 per person round trip. We left the car in Germany, the registration staff at Mercedes really discouraged driving in Switzerland. We had a nice wander around, it was a Sunday, so most of the shops were closed. We went into a couple of nice churches and had lunch at this wonderful place with this spectacular view.
It was fun, add another country to the list of places visited. A couple more to add on this trip, Austria and Iceland.
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
DTW to FRA
Nice Holiday Inn Express in Frankfurt, Germany. Nice firm bed, big room (wasted space) and a shower - a shower that I want to take home with me and introduce to my mother. Lots of water flow and water pressure - a rarity in hotels this year. I hate hotel showers that barely spit out a sprinkle of water. You could pressure wash a 747 with this one. Oh, and air conditioning that really works, it was 93 and humid when I arrived.
The Frankfurt airport apparently hired the designer who did Gatewick, it is a rats maze of long barely ventilated corridors. Hot - humid with dysfunctional signage. I took the tram from terminal one to terminal two, succeeded at buying a ticket from the vending machine (a first) and took the light rail line into the city - I even got on the right train. I know about 5 words of German - I did surprisingly well.
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