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The Bio-Gurke and the SuperPretzel

The Bio-Gurke and the SuperPretzel

Old May 20, 07, 5:12 pm
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The Bio-Gurke and the SuperPretzel

Day 1

The first thing they teach you when you join Flyertalk (other than the secret handshake and how to find Freddy Jr.) is that no trip is a bad trip, even if it is to you in-laws. It just so happens that the in-laws live in Germany, and I live in the Bay Area, and that means only one thing. Status Miles. MQMs. How sweet the sound of those words.

I’m sorry, I don’t do coach. I’m too old. I’m over 5. We booked discount business class tickets on Air France, SFO-Hanover, returning Hamburg-SFO, via the glorious nexus of airport construction, Charles DeGaulle Airport. At $3000 apiece, quite a bargain, don’t you think? No problem with the minimum stay requirement of 7 days (we would be staying 16).

We couldn’t do web check-in, since I wanted to credit my miles to Delta, and the web site can’t figure that out. My wife, the Wondrous Wendolene (that’s her FT handle, she has about 7 posts in 7 years) decided she wanted to open a new Flying Blue account and credit miles there – she hasn’t been a Delta elite in years, since she decided to quit the rat race and become a hobo. With the C tickets, we would each net about 18,000 status miles for the trip (she gets slightly more due to French Math, invented by Descartes and used by Air France).

The flight, on a 747-400, had the new Air France business class seats. These seats have the ability to go flat, but they are not parallel to the floor of the plane. There is a slight angle, like you were sleeping at the end of a long see-saw. This is why it is advantageous to wear somewhat sticky clothes. If you dress head-to-toe in silk, you would likely slither right out of your seat and into the aisle. If the plane had to climb, you face the mortal danger of sliding all the way into economy, where the underfed passengers would feed upon your tasty morsels, and chase it with a fine wine – this is Air France, after all.

Speaking of food – I always like to contrast Air France with Delta. Delta has a fancy menu, gives you a ton of silverware (and a plastic knife), does not serve from a tray, and then presents you with food that, on land, would cause a prison riot, even if it weren’t being served in a prison. Air France comes around with a cart, pours wine into a normal drinking glass, and gives you food that is actually edible, and, for the most part, tasty. And you get a real knife, which is rare in these security conscious days. Fortunately, the knife is nowhere near as deadly as a seat-belt extender, which is not provided with the meal. On the eastbound trip, I always choose the beef dish (on Delta, the beef dish is called “Choose Me and Die”). You can get a little jar of French Mustard to go with it, and anyone who has ever watched a TV commercial knows, that is just plain classy.

When the mustard came around, I’m sure the AV system, on some channel, was playing Vivaldi. However, I was using my Treo as a MP3 player. When I fly, I listen to time-shifted XM radio. Last year, the last time XM played it’s “”IT” program, which is a chronological playing of every single Top 40 hit record from 1930-2006, I recorded a whole bunch of it to listen to on long trips (listening to the whole thing live is a problem, since it plays 24 hours a day for about 7 weeks straight). This trip concentrated on 1971 and 1972. Unlike an IPOD, where you just pick your favorite songs, you get the good with the bad (and the very bad) this way. The period of time included just about the entire Osmonds oeuvre, (the group, Donny, Marie, Donny & Marie, and the immortal Little Jimmy). I also got to hear two versions of “The Americans”, several Dickie Goodman type records (googe this!), Amazing Grace on bagpipes, some Andy Williams, and, of course, Sister Jane Meade.
We arrived in Paris – luckily we switched to 2C from 2E (more on 2E later), and were able to catch our toy plane to Hanover. This was a regional jet in a 1-2 configuration. I managed to hit my head only 3 times, and suffered only one minor concussion, and several days of drooling.

Due to brilliant planning on our part, our stay in Hannover (the Germans, who have no fear of extra letters, spell it this way) coincided with the Hannover Fair, making hotel rooms hard to find and expensive. We booked at the Holiday Inn at the airport, which is close to where my father-in-law lives. The last 3 nights (the expensive ones) were on IC Priority points, which was quite an optimum use of those points (the cash rate for the rooms on those nights was about 300 Euro).

Day 5

On Tuesday, I needed to go to Berlin for a business trip – some of my people were in the city. I used the ICE train from Hanover to Berlin (first class!); the trip, nonstop, was only about 1.2 hours.

The most memorable thing about Berlin – I never got into the city, I was going to an even at the Messe, which is outside the center – was the concession stand selling the “SuperPretzel”, a pretzel the size of a Chevy Aveo, for 2 Euros. A small bottle of Evian water was 3.5 Euros. I assume the consumption of one SuperPretzel would require the purchase of several cases of water.

We did have a car that we rented for the trip, but I opted for the train. Our car, a Mercedes A140, looked like a cross between an SUV and a Smart Car. It was a strange little car, but it did fit four people and some luggage. Of course, it was an automatic; long-time fans of my trip reports know my thoughts on stick shifts and other technologies of the 1930s.

The car was equipped with a navigation system. Wendolene calls all navigation systems “Lisa”, since she thinks they sound like Lisa Simpson. This one was more Brunhilda, since it barked commands in German. We switched it to English, but since it spoke with a faux British accent, we called it Penelope.

Trip report to be continued….
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Old May 20, 07, 8:46 pm
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Day 6

Penelope guided us from Hanover to Lubeck. This involved most autobahn travel, which mainly consisted of being passed at a 100 km/hour differential by Audis and BMWs. We barreled along in the right lane with the little Mercedes, and never went over 120 km/hr.

We got to the in-laws at around 3PM. My mother-in-law prepared a nice dinner, including one of my favorites, cucumber salad. I saw the cuke in the kitchen, it was labeled “Bio-Gurke”, which I guess meant organic cucumber. I, however, found it to be a great German word (ever more fun than “hack-fleich), and because its my nature, I picked up the word and repeated as often as possible (pronouncing it BAYH-O-GUR-KEN, which is only tangentially related to its actual German pronunciation). Unknown to me, every time I said the word, my MIL would go shopping, prepare and serve a cucumber salad. This would happen for any food I would happen to mention, and pretty much all the German I know are words found on a menu. So that was fun.

Day 7.
We had tickets to a Max Raabe concert in Shwerin that night, so we took a road trip into this former East German state capital. We toured the obligatory castle and church (this is part of the German constitution, I believe), and then stopped for coffee (or, in my case, hot chocolate, since I’m not a coffee drinker).

The concert was in a dreary hall, no doubt used at one time for Communist party meetings, gymnastics and tractor seminars. The hall’s lights did not have any dimmers, so when the concert started, the lights went instantly from full on to full off.

Max Raabe specializes in music of the 1920’s, or music in that style. Most of it was in German. I’m not sure why there would be much nostalgia for that time period in German history, all things considered, but this guy has been touring for 20 years, although I was not aware of his existence until the night I saw him. The in-laws and my wife liked it, although I kept thinking all this stuff could have been on one of Hitler’s mixtapes.

Day 8.
Cucumber salad.

Day 9.
More East Germany – this time, Wismar. This is another fairly poorly maintained city – probably very nice in its time. We stopped in a restaurant and I had plaice, which is a local fish made of bones flavored lightly with meat. Being Germany, the salad, potatoes, fish and desert all featured little pieces of bacon.

Day 13
My wife wanted a pair of shoes from a company called “Sioux” (don’t even ask why this is a German name, or how they pronounce it). Of course, that was too straightforward, so I was told I needed shoes, we would buy them, and by the way as long as we were there, my wife might as well pick up a pair.

As long as we were in downtown Lubeck, we stopped at the Niederegger-Café, which is home of local delicacy Marzipan. Niederegger sells marzipan shaped in all sorts of shapes -- hot dogs, loaves of bread, Poland… I had hot chocolate and some obscenely rich pastry.

Day 15
We scheduled a two-day return flight, so we didn’t have to make any sort of connection in Paris. We drove to Hamburg, and we had to dodge two marathons, the Lubeck and the Hamburg ones. We didn’t quite dodge the latter, but we were very early and still got to the airport in plenty of time to catch our mainline Air France flight – in business class, of course. We checked 3 of our bags through to San Francisco, and one for Paris.

Day 16
We left the Sheraton Airport hotel two hours before the flight, which was good, because we were leaving from the 2E satellite, which is located close to Frankfurt. Checking our one remaining bag was a much bigger production than I thought. Afterward, we did the 2E dance: You line up to go through immigration, than go through security (where everyone is frisked, whether you set off an alarm or not), then go though the maze where you need to board the bus for the satellite. They then put a sack on you head and ride you to the top-secret location of the most obscure duty-free shops in Europe. Luckily, there is a lounge there, where we stayed until boarding time. At the gate, you has a choice of 5 randomly created lines waiting to board the plane. There was no jetbridge, so small groups were let to a stairway leading to the 747.

We had front-row seats this time. It was a good flight. The seat-belt sign never went on until we landed, but I think the pilot forgot that there was a seat-belt light, since we did hit a few rough patches. Once again, the food was great, and I had a chocolate dessert that was probably the best dessert I ever had in a plane.
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Old May 20, 07, 9:49 pm
Join Date: Apr 2007
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Now that I have got my breath back after laughing so hard...

MORE PLEASE!!!!! ^ ^
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Old May 20, 07, 10:36 pm
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The American guide to German fluency in 16 days.

1). Take any English noun and put “Das” in front of it. My wife kept carrying on that German has 3 genders and plurals, but I wasn’t buying any of that PhD level stuff. Just stick that “das” in front, and change the accentuation of the noun. Google “Shmirnese”.
2). Any verb can be improved by sticking “fer”, “ger” or “ker” in front of it, randomly.
3). Any word that has “s”, pronounce “sh”. Just don’t talk much about sitting, say “kein schtanding”
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