Sunday, 29 April 2012

Back "Home" in Germany Again

This blogging really takes commitment. Life rolls along and then you realize you haven't posted anything  for a few days. I'm correcting that right now. It's not as if nothing has happened! So here are a few facts:
  • I was in Northern Italy (on business) from Wednesday afternoon until Friday evening. I  stayed in Central Milan and made a day trip to Bergamo on Thursday
  • The day I left Milan it was 27C and sunny. The following day back here in Nuremberg it was 31(!). Summer arrived in this part of Europe with the flip of a switch.
  • The TV cable in my apartment had to be updated. Germany switched over to digital TV last Tuesday.
  • Outdoor pools in Nuremberg opened this weekend. There's one not too far from me that looks really nice. I need to find out what the hours are
  • My blog now has over 1000 page views. Thanks everyone. I'm not sure what the number is if you eliminate my views and my mother's.
And some observations:
  • I now have more German TV stations to watch than I did previously. The number of other than German language stations remains the same (0)
    It would be unfair to only include
    this photo of the Duomo in Milan
    Milano is admittedly one of the most important commercial and industrial cities in Italy. It's not particularly appealing. Once you see the Duomo (under renovation), the Galleria (truly spectacular apart from the McDonald's in the centre) and the Teatro alla Scala (refreshing because people still dress up to go see a performance there), it's really not that nice at all.

    • On the other hand, on a clear day you can see the Alps from Milano. And Bergamo itself is right at the foot of the Alps. They are beautiful.
    • There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Germany. I have yet to see a German restaurant in Italy.
    • Flying time from Munich to Nuremberg is 20 minutes. Time spent checking in, going through security and boarding is considerably longer. Lufthansa still feels obligated to do a beverage service (?!). I was in row 19. The drinks only made it to row 17. Somewhere out there is a beer with my name on it that I will never get to know.
    • The sun and the hot weather absolutely transform the city of Nuremberg. All kinds of people are out and about and the outdoor restaurants and cafes are packed. It's a great atmosphere.
      • I actually have other things to write about. Sometimes I just feel like I need to save something up for a rainy day. It's Sunday night here in Nuremberg and on Friday morning I'll be flying back home (Winnipeg, where my family is!). One of my friends described this as "time off for good behaviour" and another described it as a "conjugal visit". Clearly I need new friends.
          Thanks for reading,

      Tuesday, 24 April 2012

      And Now for Something Completely Different

      No, not Monty Python.

      I just have to give a big shout out to former Winnipeger, MNTC alumna and our #2 son Mark's former teammate, Sarah-Anne Brault. We can now say that we know someone who has stood on a World Cup podium! This past weekend Sarah finished third at the race in Ishigaki, Japan. I would have to say I was surprised to hear the news. Not because Sarah doesn't work hard or doesn't deserve it. She does both. In spades. But she's only 22 years old and hasn't been racing the distance that long, let alone at World Cup level. I hope this is indicative of further success to come.

      I took this picture of Sarah-Anne at Kelowna in 2011 when she won the National Championship
      I think our family has known Sarah-Anne for as long as she's been in triathlon and I can say without a doubt that you will not meet a finer young woman anywhere. Smart, friendly, modest, organized and driven. She was and continues to be a role model for all Manitoba triathletes. The last time Kate and I spoke to her was last August in Kelowna, just after she had just won her first National Championship. She had all the time in the world for us and seemed as interested in Kate's race earlier that day and in my upcoming Ironman as she was in the fact she had just defeated the #1 ranked woman in the world a few minutes earlier. Just a super person all around.

      Oh yes. The race was actually won by Canada's Kathy Tremblay, her first WC win and much deserved after many years on the National Team. Elles sont vite ces Qébecoises là! I can't claim any personal connection to Kathy but I know Mark has met her at a couple of camps and swam with her at least once.

      Here is a link to a race video re-cap:

      All the best to Sarah-Anne.
      And thanks for reading.

      Sunday, 22 April 2012

      My Biggest Germany Disappointment To Date

      I'm being treated OK!
      First things first. Here's a photo.Please don't be alarmed, I'm not being held against my will and there have been no demands made. It's just that my friend Ryan doesn't believe I'm in Germany. So the photo is of me with today's paper. Yes Ryan, I could have Photoshopped it but frankly, who has the time?

      Now the next item of business is a food photo. Kate is  really good at these. If you've ever seen a Picasa album of one of our vacations you can't help but to have noticed at least one photo of every meal she has eaten. I on the other hand feel really self conscious about taking a picture of my meal, especially when I'm by myself. But yesterday I was having lunch at a weird time when it wasn't very busy at a place in the Altstadt (old city) called Zum Spiessgesellen. It's in the Rathaus (City Hall). So when the staff wasn't looking I pulled out my cell phone, turned off the flash and snapped this. They called it Kalbsrahm Gulasch. Now with my Hungarian heritage I was only slightly offended but the Spaetzle (dumplings) were so good that I forgave them. The accompanying Kellerbier needed no apologies.

      So, to the subject at hand. I am not disappointed by the weather, my work situation, my exercise opportunities or my ability to communicate. I'm happy with my accommodations, my transportation and the cost of living. My only disappointment to date is this:

      This is all purpose cleaner that I bought on my boss's recommendation. Today was cleaning day at Dr. Koenig's flat. The place that needed it the most is the bathtub, the place where I shower once per day, maximum twice. Now if you look closely at the label you will see a happy frog. The implication is that the frog is happy because the cleaner is made with orange peel and  therefore environmentally friendly. Well the frog can be very happy because he neither bathes nor showers and I presume that if he does he's not bothered by a little dirt in the body of water he uses. This human on the other hand would like to see his labours rewarded by a bathtub that is cleaner when he finishes than it was when he started. No such reward was obtained. I started with the cleaner in a pail of water and gradually increased the concentration until I was using it full strength on the schmutz in question. Despite applying all of the elbow grease that my uninjured shoulder was capable of laying down there is now no evidence whatsoever that any cleaning has taken place.

      Tomorrow I will be back to the supermarket in search of a more effective bathroom specific cleanser. True, it may be somewhat less "green" but I swear as God is my witness I will get my bathtub clean if I have to wipe the smile off that frog to do it!

      Update: In a previous post I said that my love of beer did not necessarily mean that I drink a lot of it. Well on Friday I met up with an old friend for dinner. One thing led to another. And another. And ...who's counting anyway?! It was the weekend and I'm in Bavaria.

      Thanks for reading,

      Thursday, 19 April 2012

      Rules of Engagement in Beer Drinkers' Paradise

      Zu den zwei goldenen Hirschen
      Tonight's Dinner Spot. Not my
       photo, the snow is long gone. Fine
      beer can be found inside. Trust me.
      Let me start by saying just how much I'm enjoying the blogging. I can honestly say I'd be doing it even if I knew there was zero chance that someone would be reading. It's the first time in my life I've ever kept any kind of a journal and I can see the attraction. It makes you think critically about your actual thoughts if that makes any sense. That having been said a friend from back home posted a positive comment on one of my recent entries and it just made me feel fantastic. So please, if you are reading and you have any feedback, positive or negative, it would mean a great deal to me if you'd take a few seconds to post it as comments or in an email.

      So to the subject at hand. I made a deal with myself. I've decided that I won't be keeping any alcoholic beverages in the apartment. In Bavaria that's primarily beer. If you know me you know that I love beer. That's not to say I drink a lot of it, I just really, really like it. It is one of my two favourite beverages. A post on the second one is inevitable and on the way but I digress. All that to say that this policy requires some sacrifice on my part. I have at least two reasons for this self inflicted prohibition. First off the extra calories are something I definitely don't need. For that reason I have no cookies or desserts other than fruit and yoghurt at home either. But that's the least interesting motive that I have.

      Six 1/2 liter bottles for
      €1.49. Yup.
      If I am going to enjoy one of my favourite beverages I'm going to have to leave my apartment and go out to a restaurant, a pub a Bierhalle, Biergarten or a Gasthaus to do it. I'll have to interact with at least one person, probably more, and I'll almost certainly have to speak at least a few words of German. Maintaining and increasing my human contact is going to make the difference between merely existing over here or really living and getting the maximum benefit and enjoyment from the experience. Now don't get me wrong. I have not embraced this approach with quasi-religious zeal. I reserve the right to rescind this policy. If it's mid-July, hot as heck and I'm planning to watch an F1 race or the Olympics on TV by myself then maybe only a beer will do. If that happens you can expect to see me at the grocery store lining up to buy a six pack of the local specialty. And by the way, it actually is cheaper than bottled water. True story.

      Thanks for reading,

      Wednesday, 18 April 2012

      Bits of This and That

      Nothing profound from Germany in this installment but here are a few observations and insights into what I’ve been thinking and doing over the past few days.

      It's easy. Just read the instructions
      Indiana Jones and the Temple of Laundry
      I rediscovered Laundromats last night. Certainly not glamorous but an essential part of life. If you think about it the whole “one family per washer/dryer” concept is incredibly wasteful. But the ability to stick your laundry in a machine in your own dwelling, go off and do something fun or productive then come back to finish the job on one’s own schedule is a luxury I won’t be taking for granted anytime soon.
      I may be kicking my TV addiction while I’m over here. Initially I thought all the channels I got were German. That wasn’t fair. One is Austrian. Fortunately I had no difficulty with the accent. I get 22 channels total. Of those approximately 22 are German language. At home when I come into an empty house I almost always immediately flip on the TV. Over here I’ve started to put on music or internet news radio instead. What has not changed is my need to have some form of background noise. In fact it’s probably more important over here. The loneliness can start to get at you and I’m starting to understand Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway. Perhaps I should buy a volleyball.
      I may be becoming more German than I know. This morning my bus was nearly two minutes late. I was almost freaking out. How could this be?
      When commuting by bus (especially in Germany) you tend to see the same people every day.  There’s a father with a young son 3-4 years old. The man must work near my office as he drops his boy at the day care here in the office park. The little boy is normally very cute. This morning he was just in a foul mood, crying from the second he set foot (actually today he had to be carried) in the bus. Now I have no formal training in psychology but I do consider myself a keen observer of the human condition. This young man had no projects running behind schedule and no impending cost overruns. There were no customers making unreasonable demands of him. He hadn’t had any disagreements with a spouse, likely had no personal financial concerns and almost certainly had not had any traffic encounters with poor drivers. Maybe he was in a foul mood just because he was. And maybe that happens to all of us. We get into a funk just because. On the other hand maybe everything happens for a reason and he didn’t get a prize in his cereal or he hated the outfit his mother made him wear. Who knows?
      On the factual side I’m keeping myself fed and I’m running every day with no particular program or goal. Most days I get plenty of sleep but with last night being laundry night my bedtime was later than I prefer. I’m able to stay in touch with my family using various tools of modern technology but I still miss them.
      More later, thanks for reading.

      Sunday, 15 April 2012

      Just Like Starting Over

      Again with the John Lennon thing? What's up with that? Well it seems that at least some of what JL thought and wrote has meaning to me in my current situation. Let's dispense with the factual stuff first:
      • I'm settling in well at the office
      • Nuremberg has a very good public transportation system (with a few amusing glitches) that I'm figuring out
      • Since I've mastered Germany I flew to Italy on Friday just for the day. My first business trip since the posting to Europe. I was in Parma. The Parma of the ham and the cheese. Maxed out on the ham, the cheese will have to wait till a later visit
      • My boss for the duration of my stay in Europe invited me to join him and his girlfriend for dinner at his place here in town. Great people, beautiful apartment and way too much insanely delicious food. The wine and beer did not disappoint either.
      • I finally started running. Yay. About 1:40 Saturday and 1:55 on Sunday. I think I'm over my jet lag for real.
      So what does any of this have to do with John Lennon. Surprisingly, very little. The song just popped into my head during the first of my two trips to date to the local supermarket (more on this at a later date). It's just that I'm approaching age 55 and for the first time in 32 years I'm having to outfit an apartment from scratch. OK, so it's not as hard as it was in 1980. This place did come furnished and had things like a shower curtain which my original Montreal apartment did not. Besides, I didn't know anything back then. But think about it. On my first trip to the market I bought bread and jam and eggs and butter and milk, I thought I'd enjoy some eggs for my weekend breakfast. And I would have. But do you know what scrambled eggs taste like without herbs or Tabasco or pepper or salt? Of course you don't. I don't recommend that you try either. So my second trip was a little more organized. I haven't got it fully dialled in yet but now I have condiments, spices and even coffee, tea and sugar. Now this doesn't quite rank with Archimedes discoverng the principal of positive displacement (although there may have been some clothing optional running around the apartment the day I discovered the water heater) but it has made my life away from home that little bit more comfortable.

      And for my friend Ryan, I am slightly atoning for the lack of photos to this point. It's horribly clumsy as I am still waiting for some of my technology items to arrive (like a phone!). But here's my nemesis the water heater:
      It no longer holds any power over me. Ha!
      Again, thanks so much for reading


      Wednesday, 11 April 2012

      The Adventure Begins

      Yesterday was my first day in Europe. So much happens. Let me break it down. First the facts:
      • I had no travel issues and arrived at the office, on time, with all my luggage, and almost no sleep. (Love those crying babies!)
      • My laptop plugged straight into an existing docking station at the office and everything worked. Yay!
      • I'm all moved into my flat (apartment). It's clean, plenty of room for just me and it's nice and quiet for sleeping. If you come to visit me the name on the door is Dr. Konig.
      • Yesterday's weather was gorgeous. I actually had dinner outside. Today it's raining.
      And now the more interesting stuff.
      • Did you know that European keyboards aren't the same as North American ones? For example the y and z keys are interchanged. Zaz! All typos in this blog will henceforth be blamed on hardware incompatibility.
      • Although it was warm yesterday it quickly cooled off. My flat is centrally heated by my walking around and opening the valves on the radiators in each space that I occupy. It was centrally cooled when I closed the valves before I left.
      • My departure was delayed as I tried to understand the water heater that takes up most of the space above the bathtub. Once I figured out how to turn it on I had to wait. For a while. Quite a while.
      • Thinking shampoo could be a problem I thoughtfully bought a bottle before I left Canada and packed it in my luggage. It's conditioner.
      • "Furnished flat" means it has funiture. What I should have requested was a "Furnished flat with toilet paper". I see a shopping trip in my future. Should make for an interesting post. And maybe I can pick up some shampoo. Maybe.
      • German buses run to a schedule. To the minute. I love that. Now that the hot water thing is resolved getting to work on time should be a breeze.
      • I hate living a cliche but last night's dinner was sausages, sauerkraut, pretzels and beer. OK so they were probably the best in the world. But I need to break that cycle soon. For a couple of reasons.
      Thanks for reading,
      Dr. Konig (aka Tom)

      Tuesday, 10 April 2012

      What a Difference a Year Makes

      Well it appears to me that John Lennon was right. Life truly is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

      A year ago I was well into my preparation for Ironman Canada 2011. If you're among my handful of followers (Thanks so much!) you may recall that went very well. The athletic plan after that was to focus on the Fargo Marathon in May in the hope of obtaining a Boston qualifying time for 2013. Although Fargo was to be my first Full I was pretty confident of being able to go 3:30 based on my Ironman performance.

      Well October came and I had that little incident on my motorcycle where I fractured my scapula, clavicle and 8 ribs. I knew this was going to make my marathon plan a lot more challenging. As it turned out my recovery went very well, my running came back nicely and even my swim is getting acceptable. Perhaps I had a shot.

      A few weeks ago our CEO came to my office. He rarely does that. He told me about a situation. My counterpart in our European office is taking a 6 month parental leave and the company wants me to fill in for him while he's away.

      So I'm writing this on an airplane from Minneapolis to Paris. By the time I post it I may already be in our office in Nuremberg, Germany. It's going to be a big adventure for me. I've worked in Europe quite a bit but I've never stayed more than 2 weeks and I've certainly never lived there.

      One thing I see as an upside is the opportunity to blog more regularly and about a situation that is a bit outside my comfort zone. I hope you take a few minutes now and again to look in on me and see what I'm up to.

      I wish you all the best
      Tom O

      As a footnote I apologize for the lack of photos. I hope to rectify that in upcoming posts.