Route 66: 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 15

Day 15 is September 21

I know, you're surprised but today was another great day.  Momma and I got to spend the morning with Frank and Heike.  The day started off a bit cool, but then turned out great.

After we get the kids off to school, the four of us head to a great area along the coast. It was very nice and relaxing out there.  There's a nice little walkway that runs quite a good distance along the shore, well, OK, so it's actually raised over the river area.  There's a cool section where the flags of the ships' country are raised and also a "welcome" recording.  It was pretty interesting to see and while we were out there we got to see several boats and ships go by.  We even got to see the "Heike" and the "Jana".  I'm a firm believer in the idea that everyone should have "something" named after them.  Oh yeah, and while we were walking along I saw topless critters enjoying time on the beach.  It was fun to see them enjoying themselves.

After our time at the beach, we drove around Hamburg.  We saw the really great old buildings and the warehouse areas along the river.  It was cool to see the OLD buildings and the new ones pretty much right next one another, or at least across the channel.  You could almost visualize the old sailing ships pulling into the warehouse area and using the old school block and tackle and pulley systems to unload all the freight.

After our drive around the city, we head back home for a nice lunch with everyone.  Today was salmon and spinach.  Very good!  Later on, Marc, Jana, Momma & I head to the Pinneberg train station to head "downtown".  At the station we met Nina and Teo, Marc's friends.  The young ladies are Great!  We had a wonderful time hanging out.

While we were in Hamburg, we got a chance to see more cool stuff.  One of our first stops was our trip to St. Michaels.  St. Michaels is a really great old church in the heart of Hamburg.  The views from the top of this church are absolutely amazing.  The 4 kids have been Absolutely amazing and has been wonderful about showing great things around the city and have been very cool when we need to stop and take a break.  You know, at this age, we get tired.  :)

Besides the views from St. Michaels we also visited Hamburg Parliment.  It's pretty amazing how cool the "offices" are here in Germany.  The architecture is beautiful.  Out in front of Parliment was a "map" of the city.  That was very interesting as it was a 3D map that has Got to be a Pain to fold up and put in the glove box of the car.

We continue our walk around Hamburg and end up at a great cafe right on the shore of Alster Lake.  Between us, we had a cappuccino or two, macchiato, ice cream and even a banana shake.  It was a bit chilly, but this cafe does some really cool stuff.  They have blankets in all the outside chairs.  What a Great idea!  Seems like they had some heaters as well, but I'm not quite sure.  I'm not quite sure that ice cream & a banana shake made a whole lot of sense, but then again, I'm FAR removed from being a teenager.

Of course, as we were walking around, we  got lots more pictures.  I'm having a Blast taken pictures everyday.  I must say that even I'm impressed with some of the shots I've been able to take during this trip.  We take a little side trip past a square that Heiner told us about where they purchased several redwood trees from the USA.  Beautiful  area and now we're on our way back "home".  Bless Heike for being our chauffeur, expecially since she dropped us off and picked us up, too.  Danke Heike!

Just one more day and we're our way again.  It's hard to believe that our time in Germany is almost over.  Hard to believe how fast this has been going.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 14

Day 14 is September 20

Today is another great day to be alive, in Germany and with family.  It is, however a bit cloudy & overcast - it makes me think of some of the time I've spent in San Francisco

Since today is Monday, Jana and Marc "get" to go to school today and Frank & Heike took the day off, so Momma and I got to hang out and see more sites. We get to have a nice breakfast - have I mentioned how much I really enjoy fresh baked bread and rolls along with a nice cup of coffee in the morning?  No, well, Danke Frank!  It was always a great start to the day.  As we're finishing up the "wake up" coffee and fresh bread, we get the game plan ready to go.

Today our first stop is Hamburg Nord Harley Davidson shop.  Yay!  I always find it interesting to take in the sites at Harley shops when I get to travel somewhere else.  I still wish I coulda gotten myself a Swiss Harley shirt, but I guess I can either look online OR I could go back to Switzerland, hmmm...I think I Like That idea!  While we were looking around the shop, Frank said he may be considering selling his existing scooter for either a bigger one or a motorcycle.  Of course, That got me thinking... Now we're talking a bit about some "Euro" rides.  I'd Love to get out on the road in Europe.  I think that might be an upcoming trip.

Our next stop was Graff a huge wine and beer shop with loads of "stuff" all over.  It really reminded me of home, but in a good way.  I know I could have spent a fortune there.  I really like shopping for wine and even beer, too.  Pretty much everything I saw here was cheaper - it must be the proximity to the supply.  I should have gotten some of the cool single beers, but I was afraid they would end up getting broken before I got home.  I mean after all, you've seen how those folks handle luggage, right??  I did however, pick up a bottle of French red that was bottled in Hamburg.  We'll see if I can leave it alone until I get a chance to share it with Frank & Heike.

After our trip to the wine shop we then stopped at a nice little market for dinner fixings and had an "early" typical German meal after the kids got home from school.  Sorry, I forgot to mention that Frank and I dropped Marc off at school and while we are out, we take a drive past Jana's school, too. Just like most things, if you didn't know & forgot about the smaller flats, the neighborhoods here are just like the US.  I think that's one of the coolest things about being here.  Once you get out of the "city", it's very similar everywhere.  That just means that we are all much more alike than our governments might like to think sometimes.

After dinner and a rest, we went into Hamburg city to meet Frank's Uncle Heiner. What a great guy!  We met and then went to a nice little tea house.  Earlier, I had asked the real definition of Lufthansa and while Frank & Marc started to explain what it meant and no doubt, would have done a good job at it, Heiner, however, explained it perfectly.  It doesn't hurt that he used to be one of the big wigs there.  Heiner would be the teacher I would have loved to learn from when I was in high school or college.  Heck, maybe one day, as I continue my schooling to become a teacher, I might even be like him at least a little bit, in a cool way, I hope.

So, back to the definition.  Luft is air and Hansa is/was an loose association of trading partners back in the 15th or so century.  Hamburg and other coastal cities and areas in Denmark, Sweden and even into the Russian areas were a part of this association.  Of course, there were other cities as well.  This association later became somewhat of a self protecting association against pirates and other riffraff.  So in the 1920's LuftHansa air was born using the same general idea of servicing areas for flights and whatnot.  Heiner is a font of great information and he has so much knowledge, but it really was like chatting with a favorite uncle.

After the great conversation, we took a drive to Alster Lake.  We walked around a bit, but it was unfortunately raining a touch so we didn't get a great look at everything. What we did see, however was really cool. We did see the water taxis, boats, the skyline and what every lake should have, a bar right on the shore.  I think one of my favorite parts was the dog park or what I decided to call a poochplatz.  That park made me really miss my girls and I realized that I need to get the girls out and socialize.  I think they would love hanging out with other dogs, I mean after-all, they had foster brothers and sisters before they became part of the Paisano clan.

On our way home, we passed through a construction area that had, without a doubt, one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  When you speed, they turn on the "frowny face" sign and then a "happy face" sign for non speeders.  Classic!  We SO need that here in the US.  Of course, I would likely speed just to get the frowny face.

As we get ready to call it a day, and a very busy one at that, we had snacks and watched the movie 2012.  It was during this time that we realized that we are already down to our last two days in Germany.  It has gone way too fast.

We are now calling it a day so that we can get our and experience even more tomorrow.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 13

Day 13 is September 19

Today was a day trip to Hamburg!  Very cool day ahead of us.  I woke up early again and tried to be quiet while everyone else slept.  Luckily, I've had practice "creeping around", so I try to be stealthy.  Of course, usually at my house I don't have to be too quite because when I've got the boys here, they sleep like rocks and my girls are awake at the crack of dawn.

I must say I really enjoy that first cup of coffee in the morning, especially in a sleeping house.  This morning was Beautiful!  The sun & the horses out the back door were a very nice touch.  While we were waiting for Jana's return from church, we got some laundry done and relaxed.  Unfortunately, Marc is still feeling poorly.  I guess I should explain that.  Marc went on a class trip to Poland and as a souvenir, he brought back a cold.  That will be important later on.

We head into Hamburg and our first stop is Heike's office.  She's got an Amazing view of the harbor and clock tower.  This building is named "Stella House", but I think based on my personal opinion, we should rename this "Heike House"  It just has a better ring to it.

After our tour of "Heike House", we decided to take a walk along the river.  It was very windy out along the shore & pier, but still very a cool parade of boats and ships.  Near the river there was much traffic due to futbol game St Pauli vs Hamburg.  I'd like to say I remember who won, but if you know me, then you know that there's So Much  crap/stuff in my head that details like that just seem to fall out.  I'm just hoping that one day something Really important doesn't fall out of there, you know, like how to ride a motorcycle or open a bottle of wine.

We spent a good amount of the day driving around Hamburg, well, OK,  we were riding as Frank was our chauffeur.  The Elbe River flows in and around Hamburg and allows for some great sightseeing.  One of the most interesting aspects of this trip was that at one point, we drove over the Elbe and then at another point actually drove under it.  I knew it was possible, of course, with things like the Chunnel, but I hadn't ever experienced it.  Pretty cool stuff.  The whole idea of driving under the water can be pretty freaky, but since I shut my brain off, not so much.

Our next stop was the simply amazing Süllberg Hotel.  This is a special location for our guides and rightfully so.  The cappucino & other "hot beverages" and tortes were perfect.  The prices seemed to be a touch on the expensive side, but if the decor and the views were an indication, it was more than well worth it.  The expansive view from the "elevated beach" was very cool and as someone said, the picture from that vantage point looked like something out of a story book.

We had the pleasure this evening of attending an EF informational meeting in Hamburg and got to watch Marc "at work".  Marc is doing great stuff with EF and the German office seems to be rather pleased with they should be.  Other than not understanding most of what was going on, it was a good, interesting meeting.  I even had a couple questions come my way as well.   I found it interesting that even Momma noticed that some of the girls in the meeting were much more likely to be successful than others, simply based on their interactions.

  As we call it a day, we finish up with a great chicken, rice & broccoli dish, all finished off with a very nice Rioja.  Yum!  Tomorrow, Marc & Jana "get" to go to school, but Frank & Heike get to play hooky and take the day off.

What a great day!  Time to get some rest and get ready for another fun day tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 12

 Day 12 is September 18

This morning we got up early. had a great "Euro" breakfast with great coffee and wonderful fresh bread, Yum!  Soon there after we are on our way. The we in this case is Frank & Heike, Marc, Jana & Jana's friend Nathalie, Momma & I.  Frank was nice enough to rent an Opel van and did all the driving.  We hit the door and the road around 8:30am.  It generally takes about 2 1/2 hrs or so to drive to Berlin, even on the autobahn.  Of course, with the Opel, things seem a bit longer.  No offense, of course, there Was plenty of room in there for all of us.

The first thing we noticed as we arrived in Berlin was the huge amount of people and of course the history staring you right in the face.  We parked and then walked the rest of the day.  I Do love being able to walk around and not worrying about finding more parking spaces and such.  As we were walking around, we went past museums, state buildings from before WWII that were so blackened & you could almost smell the smoke, as well as great street vendors and amazing architecture, both new and old.

We started our tour by walking around, looking in and around shops and street vendors and taking in the scene.  Since we were doing a walking tour, we made our way down to Check Point Charlie.  On the way towards the "landmark" there are billboards and signage that explains how the Berlin Wall came into being and we were able to read the countdown to the division of Germany, which leads right up to the Check Point Charlie area.

The sense of history here is amazing.  I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but I know So little about Germany and the Berlin Wall and all of that.  What little I know comes from history books and American High Schools, so you know what that means, yep, I didn't really have a clue what it was all about or what it would feel like.  We saw the brick lines in the road that indicate where the Berlin Wall used to be.  One can only imagine what the Germans in the area went through.  The area definitely has a militaristic feel, even after all these years. 

Even though the border and crossing were there since the end of World War II, the "wall" wasn't constructed until 1961.  As history tells us, there was such an outpouring of mostly young and educated people from East German at this time - approximately 20% of the population, the former Soviet Union decided that a permanent wall would be built.  There is such a stark contrast between the two sides of Berlin, especially right in this area.  I realized the total change that residents underwent when the line was drawn.  People who were neighbors, friends & family were suddenly not allowed contact one another.  Simply amazing. 

Our next stop on our Berlin Day trip was the Berlin Topography of Terror Museum.  This museum is located on the site of the former SS & Gestapo headquarters.  As I understand it, there is both an inside and outside of this museum.  Today we decided to stay outside and take in the time-line portion of the rise of Adolf Hitler.

To say this was an emotional portion of our trip is a huge understatement  This was so amazingly powerful I felt like the souls of the victims were reaching out from the past.  Our time here was very surreal.  In fact, even the weather was acting on it.  The time-line here worked through the grim reality of that period of human history in which Hitler moved his way up the ladder of German government until his death. 

As I continued to read the history, the clouds started rolling in until finally it started to rain.  This was not the type of rain that comes in a downpour to cleanse the earth.  This rain was so much more.  The rain was soft and gentle and much more a gentle weeping than anything else.  This rain brought with it a profound sadness and the spirit of those who perished simply because of a perceived "difference".  When I looked up at the sky I saw two very different things.  At first, the sky was dark and gloomy and perfectly matched the overwhelming sense of despair.  

Later on, as we were finishing up the trip down the time line, I looked up again and was impressed to see a sky that had turned from dark and gray to one that was now half filled with beautiful blue.  To me, this shouted out that even though there has been sadness, heartache and pain, there is still hope and a new day will come when things like this will no longer happen.  It took quite sometime for me to shake the feeling that there was someone else there with me while I read the history along the foundation of the SS building, in fact, as I tell the story of that day & even now as I write this, I still get 'goosebumps" on my arms.  That is an extremely powerful place, when one leaves their heart and soul open to experiencing it.

I find the power of cruelty in humans, especially to other humans to be utterly UnfreakinBeleivable.  We cannot forget that one of the reasons Hitler came to power was because of his rhetoric, passion & ability to be charismatic, theatrical and had the ability to convince people that what he was saying & doing was a good thing.  My biggest kudos go out to the German people for admitting the mistakes of a madman and for attempting to make amends.  Perhaps more importantly for trying and succeeding in learning from mistakes.

We learned a tremendous amount about the history of Berlin and Germany today and we also had the opportunity to really connect a lot of dots along the way, while we were.  Again coming from someone who really knew so little about German history other than the bad things, it was an eye opening experience.    We got family pictures in front of the Brandenburg gate; which is impressive, to say the least and after having a Starbucks we were right across from the Potsdam station and then on to the Sony Center.

Later in the day we also saw the holocaust memorial.  This was another amazing place in Berlin.  It is another area of the city that shows Germany's willingness to learn from the past.  After we left this area, we walked around more and then went to see the Bundestag.  There was even a demonstration at the Bundestag while we were there.  A very full day and we're still exploring.

As we were winding our way throughout the city, we all decided that it was time to take a break and grab something to eat.  We had a great dinner in a cool little place across from one of the many museums in the city.  This was really great because we were just a few people in the pub and the food was great.

Finally, we started heading back to the Opel and and got ready to let Frank do the driving on our way back to Pinneberg.  This was a hugely educational day and one simply filled with history, amazing architecture and great family.  Oh yes, and we can't forget the German chocolate either.

Danke for a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 11

Day 11 is September 17

Today we hop the train from Bern to Zurich.  Luckily, this trip was uneventful which was rather nice.  I still can't get over how much nicer 1st class is.  It is Such the way to go.

While we were talking with Miki at the EF office in Bern, we decided that we would try to rub elbows with the "higher ups" at EF, but that didn't quite work out like I would have liked.  I KNOW you're surprised by that.  Ha!  I just couldn't figure out how to "conveniently" get out of the airport, visit and then get back for our flight to Germany, so we decided to put that on the list for next time.

We did, however, spend our day wondering around the Zurich airport and bought our first bunch of Swiss chocolate.  Naturally, we didn't bring All of it back.  We had to taste it and make sure it was OK, you know.  Thankfully, airports, especially international type airports have come along way and the food there isn't so bad.  Decent places to sit and relax as well.

Dank der Schweiz und aller erstaunlich wundervollen Leute, die wir und die schönen Aufstellungsorte uns trafen, wir sahen. Es war eine Wahrscheinlichkeit einer Lebenszeitreise. Michael und Eva, sind Sie immer in Kolorado willkommen

Because Momma & I are on a bit of a budget, before we left "home" we booked our flights from Zurich to Hamburg, Hamburg to Trondheim and Trondheim to Zurich.  When we did that, we looked mostly at cost and you know what happens when you only look at cost, right?  Something usually happens.  Our Air Berlin flight was delayed about 1hour.  I figured that if we would have flown Lufthansa it would have been fine because we would have just told them we know THE Frank Wilkens ;)   Things would have been Perfect.  Oh yeah, my suitcase showed up with a broken wheel.  Oh well, that's OK, it was there with us when we got off the plane.

It was So Great to see Marc, Heike, Jana & Frank.  I sure have missed my German Sohn.  I am very sorry that we made them stay out so late for us.  It's a bit of a quirk of mine.  I always prefer to make my way to and from the airport.  Not that I don't appreciate someone there for me, I just hate making someone wait on me, because it seems more often than not, my flight is late.

After the drive from the airport in the big - by European standards - rental van, we got settled in and chatted a bit and then turned in. It was so nice to be "home".

By the way, as you can see, it was a rather slow picture taking day, sorry.

Tomorrow is our day trip to Berlin.

Good Night All!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 10

Day 10 is September 16

Momma and I got up, got ready and went up to our rooftop garden breakfast spot.  We left Hotel Crystal without issue, which was expected because this was a great hotel.  We drag our bags, (again ;) to the Metro.  Again, the innkeeper was a great help, so we knew exactly where to go.  The Metro got us to the Bahnhoff in time to catch our train to Bern from Lausanne.

Our trip from Lausanne to Bern was actually really nice.  I can safely say that going first class is THE best way to go. While we were traveling I sent a sms/text message to Michael & Eva.  Michael and Eva are Mom & Dad to Mona.  Mona is an outstanding EF student who is living in Lakewood/Denver, Colorado.  I was actually quite surprised at how quickly we got to Bern.

When we arrived in Bern at the bahnhof we were met by our "hosts" in this great city.  Mike & Eva are Wonderful!  They were so nice and got us to the tourist station so that we could book our hotel, then Michael drove Momma to the hotel Jardin while Eva & I rode the metro.  We got rid of our luggage, yay no need to pull around the suitcases! After getting checked in & dropping off the stuff, we then joined Mike & Eva at the Rosengarten for lunch.  The food was great, the service was very good & the company was outstanding! All was great, but I have to admit it was a touch loud, so I had to strain a bit to hear everything, but it was a wonderful lunch with outstanding conversation.

After our lunch, we got a chance to look out over the city and to get a few photos.  We got a really great one with Mike & Eva, too.  Unfortunately, they had other commitments, so after a brief drive around near
BärenPark and Old Bärengraben (Pit) next to the Aare River, we said our good-byes.
Momma and I walked around & saw some cool architecture, great old buildings & even walked past Parliament.  Michael had said that Bern was a small city but we really had no idea until we suddenly ended up at the rail station.

Momma and I stopped for a bit of a rest & an espresso at a nice little spot on the street in Bern.  While we were talking, I looked over Momma's shoulder and saw what appeared to be an EF flag.  I say  "appeared" because my eyes are getting old and it was backwards for me.  I know what you are thinking...why would that matter, Joey is "backwards most of the time anyway.  Yeah, well, Ha Ha...  So, we finished up and checked it out as it was on the way to the metro.  Turns out, I was right it Was an EF flag.  Anyway, we went up, rang the bell and hung out with Miki for a bit.  She was very nice & we had a great conversation.  It's always a pleasure to meet folks from our other offices, all over the world.

After we took our leave from the EF Office, we walked the two blocks or so back to the metro and hoped on the right train..well I Thought it was the correct one, until I didn't recognize a single thing.  As you might remember, I get a bit directionally challenged sometimes, so I was not so much lost, but "temporarily unaware of my physical surroundings as the related to our destination.  Of course, we figured out that it was just the opposite end of the same line and when it came back to the station and then went the other way, viola!  We got to where we wanted.

After a brief  "freshen-up", Momma and I walked back to Ticino Restaurant/pizzeria for one of the best meals we've had on the trip, especially in relation to the amount of money we spent, (not much)& mostly cheap.  I love the feel of this area because they've got great food within walking distance of the flats, businesses and hotels, great mass transit, until my hometown and great people as well.  lastly, we went back to our hotel and ended our adventure with a caffe and ice cream.

Today was our last day exploring Switzerland and we had another great day.  Thanks, certainly in part to Michael & Eva.

Have a Great Night!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 9

Day 9 is September 15

Today we were able to sleep in a touch and relax.  This is our first day since we arrived in Zurich that we are spending more than one night in the same place.  That was pretty nice.

Did you know that Lausanne is the home of the International Olympic Committee & Museum?  Lausanne, Switzerland - Olympic Museum,  Me either.  Pretty cool stuff, especially since the US Olympic Training Center is in my town of Colorado Springs, Colorado.            

  Once we were up and (nearly) ready for the day, we had a pretty good breakfast upstairs on/in the roof garden.  As you can see, Momma was enjoying herself and laffing at her son.  That's OK we are here for Her 80th birthday!

  While up there, we got some pictures from the garden.  What a great view & the weather was wonderful.  As we were finishing our caffe, we spent some time with a nice young lady and took a tourism survey.  That was a kind of fun way to start and we learned a few things as well.

Our hotel is just off the square that is right in front of the University.  On the other side and my point of reference as I found myself geographically challenged through our stay, was the cathedral.  Just amazing buildings and scenery everywhere we turned.  We spent the day relaxing and walking around the city. 

We did a pretty fair amount of window shopping as well.  Momma did buy a little bit, but I decided to hold off.  So far, I just haven't really found anything that I just couldn't live without, except, of course, the awesome pictures I've been taking . 

As we were walking around, we found the Giraffe Bar.  I guess even the animals need to have an adult beverage from time to time.  Of course, this bar is strategically situated midway between the University and the Cathedral.  Coincidence??  Maybe...but then again.  Anyway, it was still early at this point, so we didn't check it our, but I'm guessing there were some really High table, you know, for the Gi Rafs.

As I'm sure you all have guessed, I, of course, got us lost,'s a rare talent I have, I guess.  I should look into the GPS, EPS or whatever you call that stuff.  The one redeeming thing throughout all the "getting lost" stuff was that I did, nearly always, have the opportunity to take more cool pictures. 
   This time out,  I found a really cool outdoor music venue.  You see, I seldom do just one thing at a time, so pretty much the entire time we've been in Europe, I've been looking for good possible venues for our musically talented friends in the bands In The Machine and Channel 27.  I think I found at least one possible place.  I SO need to spend more time around these parts.

 After our outing, we decided to head back to our room for a bit to let Momma relax a bit.  She's always so awesome about walking around everywhere and even better about dragging luggage around.  After a little rest up, it was time to head back out again.  Our first stop was the Bahnhoff so that we had our train tickets ready for us so that we could head out in the morning.

We got some good news, it turns out that the pass I bought did have a benefit.  Our trip from Lausanne to Bern was pretty inexpensive and it seems like our trip from Bern back to Zurich should be free.  Free is nearly Always good, even in another country.

Dinner tonight was pretty good.  We ate at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant.  The food was pretty good, but I think my brain is just on overload.  I'm really struggling with trying to think & speak in French while we're here.  By the end of the day, I'm exhausted.  I have Absolutely Loved our time in Switzerland, but so far, I've tried my hand at Swiss German, German, Italian and French.  I SO wish I would have taken a (several) languages when I was in school.  Oh well, it's all part of the adventure.  I do also have to say, that most people we interacted with were very great about speaking English to us.  Thanks for that, but I'm still a bit embarrassed that I can't speak other languages better.

As I said, we were out and near the university, so I was able to shoot some pretty cool "twilight" pictures.  Oh yes, these were Not the Twilight vampire type pictures.  These were much more fun & well, realistic.

We're just about to turn in because we need to be rested and ready to head to the banhoff around 9am.  Tomorrow, we are on our way to Bern.  It will be another Great day because we get to meet Mona's parents; Eva & Michael.

Another wonderful day has come to an end.
bonne nuit