Well, I'm back from Europe, and spending the grey, rainy, windy Sunday reacting to the remaining shifts in my bioclock. Why is it that, regardless of where I am, I feel this need to crash at 4 PM?
The flight back was only mildly hellish, as Heathrow lived down to its already-established reputation, and British Airways planes, I am convinced, see a mechanic the way typical Brits see a dentist. Here's a note to BA - it is considered poor customer service when the cabin electronics keep going out - it makes them wonder about the electronics that are keeping the plane aloft are functioning OK - a small thing that one thinks about when one is over Baffin Island.
The work in Germany, disregarding the bad fortune with the computer, went very well. I have to really say nice things about the place they put me up - the Astor in Dusseldorf. Nice rooms, great breakfast, quiet location, great staff. The hotel is done in what they refer to as "Scottish-African" design, which means tartan rugs, red walls and omnipresent photos of zebras. It sounds strange, but it was a very effective - If I had to spend a week-plus in an American hotel, I would have been tossing TVs out the window. But the Astor was such a nice place (along with a staff that was English-friendly) that it made it very survivable.
And yes, my encounters in Germany were generally with people that were smarter than I was - in that they could speak two languages and I was confined to English. To make matters more strange, my genetic makeup makes me look "typically German", with the exception that almost every German I met was in better shape than I was. As a result of this, other German tourists asked me for directions, with whacky results.
As for general Germanic stereotypes, I can say that the natives of Dusseldorf, at least, are in better shape than I am, dress better (the town is a fashion center), walk or bike everywhere (the roads are good, but there is no place to park), smoke (but I think the European brands are milder than American ciggies - they are much more tolerable), are dog-friendly, and wear scarves better than either Americans or Brits. Oh yeah, the whole Leiderhose-wearing, ompah-band beerfests? They blame the Bavarians for that impression, sort of the way Yanks blame Texans for that whole Yah-hoo Cowboy thing. They do, however, have good beer in North-Rhine Westphalia.
On the other hand, I am delighted to be back in the States, with my wife, my cats, my hot tub, my waterbed and plumbing that I don't have to guess about.
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