Monday, April 30, 2012

Dusseldorf, Germany - Day 22

Woke up around 7am and ate a rather large breakfast. I could have eaten a horse, but settled on two servings of eggs, a pile of meats, various cheeses, a cup of yogurt, and bread. All which got washed down by some orange juice and a coffee. Burp...

Bob and I worked at the table until around 12. About this time, Bob asked Matt (his son) to show me his electronic drumset. I had heard about it and have been dying to try it out. These things are so cool because you can make them sound however you want (studio drumset, stage drumset, steel drums, concert drums, etc..) with the push of a button. It was a lot of fun to play and I would love to have one of these in my basement for 3rd shift stress relief. Matt and I talked about drumming theory and I showed him the beauty of learning basic rudiments (ie. paradiddle, flams, rattamacues, etc...). He was actually quite good already and doesn't even claim to be a drummer. I was impressed with his knowledge of the rudiments and I think that I showed him how "easy" it is to play drums once you understand it's nothing but synchronous rudiments.

Eventually, Bob and I walked down the street to a nearby pizza place and ate some pizza at a pub-style table off the street. I ordered an all veggie pizza and a coke. It was pretty darn good, and it was nice to stand for a while; my legs are pretty achy today from pounding them all morning yesterday. After we ate, we walked around leisurely doing some errands and so forth...

My Solitary Confinement

We got back to the house here and worked til about 5:30 or so. At this time, I decided to head down to my hotel room and continue working. Once there, I was able to turn on my music, open the windows and focus 100% on a feature that I've been working on for the last two days. I'm easily distracted and sometimes solitary confinement is the only way for me to work. Such is the life of a computer geek I guess...

I started getting hungry around 9pm or so and decided to head down to the Altstadt for a light dinner consisting of any sausage based dish. Little did I know, there was a huge party going on tonight all over Germany. Apparently May 1st is a huge day in Europe, and they use the night before as a great excuse to "dance into May". I literally had to weave my way through this huge crowd of people (shoulder to shoulder), just to get to a curb-side sausage stand 20-30 meters away; this took me about 15-20 minutes. I ordered a curry-wurst and french fries along with a nice Hamburg beer to wash it all down. While there I met 2 really cool guys by the name of Gotz and Robin. They are both local Dusseldorf residents and spoke incredible English. They were fascinated with the fact that I was from Ohio.

After the healthy dinner, I made my way back through the crowd and back to my Hotel room. Once there, I was able to speak with Jennifer and the girls. We talked for about 40 minutes and I really needed that! It was great to just watch them all be goofy and drive each other crazy in front of me. :) I can't wait to see them this weekend!

After talking with them, I worked at the desk here in my hotel room for a little while longer and then fell asleep around 2am.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dusseldorf, Germany - Day 21

Today was an amazing day! I woke up at 7am and got ready for the Dusseldorf, Marathon (race report to follow). I ran the marathon faster than I've ran any other marathon before (a PR) and then came back home and relaxed for about 5 hours on my bed... I couldn't move much more than that, so I didn't try too much. :)

Around 6:30 I headed down to Bob and Michelle's flat so that we could all go out to dinner with their friends, Bill and Peggy. As it turns out Bill and Peggy are both American as well. I also discovered that Bill works for Delphi, and was once an employee at the Kokomo, Indiana plant. What are the odds that I've been there before, years ago. My dad has a friend that used to work for Delphi in the IT department and he took me into his office when I was still very "green" with programming. What a small world we live in.

We all hopped on a train and headed to a nice restaurant named "Orgie" (yes you read that right). It was a very laid back atmosphere and the food was absolutely delicious. I ordered the white asparagus meal with shnitzel. We all drank beer and finished off a bottle of wine. It was great to just sit around and talk about nothing for 3 hours. The chef was right beside our table and there was fire and brimstone flaring in the window which lit up the entire restaurant from time to time. What a cool atmosphere this was.

After dinner, we all took a nice long stroll down the harbor to the area where the race had consumed the city streets earlier in the day. Amazingly, all of the booths, trash, and fences were gone and cleaned up. It probably took a large army to have all of this done while I was resting throughout the day. Quite impressive to know that all of this was taking place.

The stroll was very relaxing and we simply took our time. We eventually arrived at the Capella Bar and Cigar Lounge, which was very high class place. Think of what you would picture a relaxed up-scale cigar lounge would look like, and then add me. That is exactly what it was. The lounging area had a huge 10 by 20 humidor that was lined with top-dollar cigars.

Bob, Me, and Bill Picking out our Cigars

Bob, Bill, and I all entered the humidor and picked out 3 large Habana Cuban Cigars. I had no idea what to order, so I let them choose. Mostly, I know of Swisher Sweets, which are about $5 for 5 cigars. These cigars were a little bit more than that... each. Michelle and Peggy basically "tolerated" our adventure and ordered some Mojito's.

We all sat in the lounge chairs and relaxed with our drinks and cigars enjoying conversation with one another. I really enjoyed this place, but by the time I left, my eyes were very heavy and a bit burnt / dry.

Around 1 am, I made it back to the hotel and crashed on my bed. This was one long day. However, I'm still on cloud-nine with my PR this morning and I promise to write my race report soon to share the German marathon experience...

No, no no... I was in the middle of a blink! :)

2012 Dusseldorf Marathon Race Report

Well this is long overdue, and I couldn't put it off any longer. :)

On April 29th I ran the Dusseldorf Marathon in Dusseldorf, Germany. I was a bit nervous about the race for the last 3 weeks. I've not been training much lately, and actually have been eating all kinds of delicious foods with no solid training schedule. Therefore, I was really just looking to go out and enjoy the run through the beautiful city... As it turns out, being unprepared and a bit undertrained worked in my favor; I ran my fastest marathon ever.

I prepared for the run the night before, and informed Bob and Michelle that I'd probably be running about a 5hr - 5:30 race if they'd like to look for me at the finish. I woke up in the morning with a feeling that this was going to be a very tough challenge for me and that I'd have to push myself very hard. I actually, warmed up by running to the starting line and working up an early morning sweat. I think I surprised some people as I ran past them on my way.

At the starting line, there were people and porta potty's. :) I also saw something that I'd never seen before. There were all these unicyclists who were there to ride the course on one wheel. I'd never seen these types of bikes before. I've seen unicycles, but these ones had huge off road tires. They started their race a few minutes before us marathoners started our race.

A lot of things were said at the starting line, but I understood nothing. I take that back... I understood the count down from about 5, then off we went. I was about 1/2 way back into the starting crowd, so it took me about 2 or 3 minutes to make it to the starting line after the gun.

Once we got moving, I found my groove and just kept a steady 9 or 10 minute mile pace. The first part went along the Rhine River. Actually, along this stretch was a famous house that was on House Hunters International a few weeks prior to my trip.

The course was absolutely beautiful, we ran through various residential areas, as well as old German areas. We ran by the river, over the river, through the industrial areas, and down the roads of the busy Zentrum area of Dusseldorf. The crowd support was awesome. People lined the street at every corner to cheer on the runners. Many groups would have cookouts or little parties on the side of the road. Some even had full bands setup and were playing music for the runners. I loved it!

 A spectator drinking beer @ 9am

German fire fighters spraying the runners

4 Mens Restrooms + 4 Womens Restrooms

Oddly, the further into the race I got the faster I felt like I was running. After about mile 15 or so, I looked at my time and realized that I was on course to get a PR; I just had to keep up a steady pace for another 11+ miles. I really wasn't huffing and puffing and felt very strong, I knew that to keep it up I just had to keep my focus on my leg work and pay attention to my hydration management. The sun was out in full force by this point and it was pretty hot on certain stretches of road. I made sure to grab a cup of Wasser at each Wasser station. I also started to focus on all the things that make it easy and effortless to run. Things like leaning forward and letting gravity pull you. Things like shoulders back, chest out, pelvis in, arms down, chin up. Silly things, really... but things that actually work.

My splits were faster in the last few miles. However, I bonked pretty hard at mile 25. The sun was bumping by this point and it was getting the best of me. I felt dizzy a few times and really felt that if I hadn't stopped to cool down, I would have passed out. Not a good feeling with only 1 mile to go. My lower back was also starting to tighten up on me and the pavement pounding was really taking a toll on me. Of course, I wore my Minimus shoes, so there was very little cushion between my bones and the pavement.

I had pushed hard for 25 miles and this was the first time that I actually stopped and walked... The walk only lasted about 15 - 20 seconds, and then I was at it again. Around a 5 minutes later, I got the feeling of passing out again and had to stop and walk again... I had hit a low in my race, but I only had about 0.5 miles to go until I was done!

Finally I decided to suck it up and push. I gave it my all and crossed the finish line with a new PR. Granted my PR was only a few seconds faster than my last PR, it was still a PR! This race actually had an extra 3/10's of a mile to the course, so this means that my PR was even better than recorded.

I crossed the finish line at:
4 hours 27 minutes and 16 seconds


This was a great experience. It was my first international running event, and every aspect of the event was spectacular. The crowd was amazing, the weather was perfect, the city was beautiful, and the post race goody bag was (by far) the best I've ever had! Every runner got a bag of all kinds of foods, meal tickets, and we were even treated to a free TALL beer. German Style Baby!

After getting my bearings back at the finish line, I hobbled back to my hotel room and lounged around for about 5 hours before getting ready and spending the evening with Bob and Michelle and Friends (link). This race really hurt. I typically don't go out and run fast races. I typically run races to finish. This was was special for me in many regards, and I was happy I pushed myself to a new personal best time. My lower back hurt, my hips were shot, and the balls of my feet were tender. Perfect race!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dusseldorf, Germany - Day 20

Today was my day to sleep in and I did exactly that. I woke up around 10:30 am after the commotion on the street below had me wanting to get ready for the day. I opened my windows and let the noise and sunshine in. I just slowly woke up and took my time this morning; no rush. To be honest, I had a bit of a headache from last-nights events with Bob and Michelle. :)

I headed down to their flat around 11:30 am and Michelle had prepared a yummy lunch of cold cuts, cheeses, vegetables, and strawberry's. Bob and I actually worked on a few features today and just stayed busy at our laptops for a while. Around 2 pm, we hopped in the car and was destined to drive the entire marathon course so that I could see what to expect. It was a relaxing drive through the city, but there were SO MANY traffic lights, and we got off course a couple of times. About 15 miles into the drive, we decided to head back to the house and that I could just see the last 11 miles tomorrow during my run. :)

Bob and I got some snacks at a local market and then went back to work for a few more hours. Again, we were on a roll and got quite a lot accomplished in a very short amount of time. Love it! This little bit of productivity today paid off big time and we'll be able to start next week with a bang!

Around 5:30 I headed back down to my hotel and decided to take a brisk walk around the nearby park to get my blood flowing. I felt the sleepy's creeping in, so I thought it was a good way to wake up and get some fresh air at the same time. It worked and I came back rejuvenated and ready prepare for tomorrow's race and catch up on a few things here at the hotel.

During this time, I was able to talk with my Mom the girls for a while. We talked about lots of things and it was great to just hear their voices and their stories. Apparently, they had a slumber party at Grandma's and watched lots of movies. Grandma's house is the best place in the world to fulfill any bucket list Disney movie that you've always wanted to see. She literally has all of them. Many in VHS and DVD. I grew up a "Disney Kid" and have seen most Disney movies that many of my friends haven't seen. I consider myself fairly well cultured in the Dizflix. The girls looked like they were having much fun and were all just being silly for me. It was just what I needed.

Around 8pm, I walked down to the Altstadt for a quick dinner. I stopped at crowded pub and ordered some spaghetti cabonara and a tall Alt beer to prepare for tomorrows race (ie. last minute "Carbo Load"). The food was delicious and the streets were packed with runners. I assume most of them were runners anyway because I saw many running t-shirts and noticed some pretty bright running shoes here and there. I sat outside at a table that looked out onto the cobble stoned street while I ate. It was awesome! Unfortunately I left my camera at home, so I couldn't take pictures of my dish, or my prime seat facing the crowded streets.

I finished my meal and bear, then came to the hotel to prepare for an early bed time so that I could wake up and be ready for the marathon. I'm very excited to run tomorrow. It's going to feel great to just zone out and move forward for 5-6 hours. I am not trying to break any speed records, so I have no goals other than to enjoy myself and cross the finish line with a smile and a medal. I'll be honest though, the last 4 weeks have been train-free, meaning I've been on about a month long taper. :) This is going to be challenging, but I'm looking forward to it VERY MUCH!!

T minus 10 hours til the gun...

Dusseldorf, Germany - Day 19

Today was a great day consisting of work, a race expo, more work, a quick run, dinner by the river, and drinks on the town with Bob and Michelle.

I woke up around 7:00 am and got a full breakfast in me before heading down to "the office" (ie. Bob's flat). We worked at the table all morning and kept a full supply of coffee nearby. Bob and I worked at his kitchen table and there was this very awkward looking squirrel hanging out on his back patio which is 3 stories up. The patio has a large tree that hangs it's limbs over it, which allows lots of wildlife full access to his patio and porch area. The squirrel was very interesting as it had these pointy ears which made it look like a linx. I snuck out side very quietly and tried to snap some pics. Some of them turned out ok, but most of them were not so good since he moved much faster than my camera could keep up with.

Exotic German Squirrel

Around lunch time, Bob and I walked to a local restaurant and got some lunch consisting of sausage, french fries, and beer. After lunch we headed toward the river and went looking for the Dusseldorf Marathon Expo so that I could pick up my race packet for race day. There were lots of people there picking up there packets and of course there were many tables set up like any other race expo. The biggest difference was that everybody was speaking German and handing out German flyers. I got a few flyers in my race pack, but can't understand what any of them actually say. :)

Once we got the race packet, we headed back to the flat to continue working. We worked until about 5:30 and then I headed down to my flat to drop my things off and take a quick run to get my legs moving. I've been pretty stationary for the last few days (more-so than usual) and really wanted to get lots in Dusseldorf for a an hour or so. Mission accomplished!

Eventually, I stopped and asked a nice woman where I was and she was shocked at how far away I was trying to get. She was either from the UK or was German with a UK english accent. She was very nice and pointed me in the right direction. I made it back to familiar surroundings and made my way back to the hotel.

Upon arrival, I took a quick shower and headed down to Bob and Michelle's flat. We were going to take a drive around the marathon course and then eat some dinner once we finished. As it turns out, I met them outside their falt as they were beginning a walk with their dog, Gizmo (ie. Gizzy). I told them that I would join them and we began our stroll through the park.

Gizzy at a public "doggy water fountain".

Eventually, we made our way down to the river where there were lots of restaurants right on the street. Literally, the kitchens were built into a wall that was underneath the street above. The "dining area" was on the street and there were large tents lined up where everybody ate outside. This made for an amazing atmosphere. We sat right near the water and got to see some pretty impressive boats go up and down the Rhein River.

I ordered WAY too much food and was only able to eat about half of it. I was under the assumption that one of the dishes would be nothing more than an appetizer; it turned out to be a table size dish. The other dish I ordered turned out to be a stack of fried potatoes with two strips of raw fish laying over top. It might be a very desirable dish to some people, but I had a hard time swallowing it. Unfortunately, I only ate about 1/4 of the plate due to the size of my "appetizer".

After dinner, we decided to walk around and get some drinks in the Altstadt area. They took me to a very cool street that was nothing but bars. Bob informed me that it is considered to be the "longest bar in the world". I could see why! We looked one way and it was crowded with people, we looked the other way and it too was crowded with people. It resembled something that you would see at the french quarters in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. We spent about 2 hours here and just drank beer after beer and had great conversations.

They took me to a cool bar where you could order a shot of Killepitsch from a walk up window. Basically, you walk up to a window, throw down some euros and you get a large shot of a Dusseldorf liquor that is almost comparable to Jaegermeister. It was good. We visited this window 2 times. :)

After our drinkfest, we took the metro back to the train station near the city center (where Bob and Michelle live) and walked back to our respective hideouts. I literally came home and passed out. Great day!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dusseldorf, Germany - Day 18

Long, but fun day today. Woke up at 7:30 am and ate a relaxing breakfast down in the lobby. My hotel actually has an amazing breakfast selection. I get to eat breads, meats, cheeses, and eggs every morning with orange juice and coffee. The waitresses are very friendly and they are always so surprised when I bring my dishes up to them after I'm done eating. I think I'm supposed to leave everything at the table, but it makes them smile and they seem to treat me better every morning because of this. I'll continue to do it each morning. I think they appreciate it too, so... :)

I made it to Bob's around 8:30 am and we hung out for a while drinking coffee and just relaxing before opening the laptops. This pretty much defined the rest of the day though. We simply hung out and bounced ideas off of each other about features and changes in a complete no-stress environment. It was great to just speak up and bounce an idea off of Bob from time to time in between long running compiles. I don't get this luxury at home while I'm in the basement and sometimes spend too much time over thinking things. A lot of progress was made today.

Around lunch time, we headed to a really nice Pizzeria restaurant named Due Mila. Bob and I both ordered a pizza and some apple juice. About 45 minutes later, we found that we were the only ones in the restaurant talking... the owner actually came out and told us that they were closing the restaurant. We had to leave. :) While some might be proud to "close the bar", we were actually pretty proud that we got to "close the pizzeria".

From here, Bob and I drove down to pick up Michelle's car from the shop. This meant that Bob would drive her car back to the flat, and I would get to drive his car. I'll admit, I was a bit nervous, but anxious at the same time. This was the first time I've driven a car in another country (besides Canada). There were a few times that I had to rush through a traffic light because I had NO IDEA where I was and couldn't afford to let Bob out of my site. :) There was another section where we drove along a rail road track in the middle of the road, and I thought I was going to get rear ended by a train. As we got closer to Bob's flat, the roads got a little tighter and I was concerned that I would scratch his car. However, I did fine we made it back to the house safely without incident.

We worked and strategized til around 7pm. At this time, one of Bob's friends came over and we enjoyed a few beers on the back porch. His name is Heiko and I'd heard so much about him for many years. There were a few times when we almost met each other, but due to schedule conflicts, we could never quite be in the same place at the same time. It was nice to finally put a face with the name. The weather was great and we all sat out side and had a great time talking and laughing.

After Heiko left, we enjoyed a delicious spaghetti dinner. Michelle had cooked spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad for dinner. We also shared a bottle of red wine from Cologne. Michelle and I talked race strategies and shared various running stories and so forth. I'm very excited for the race this weekend, and I can tell that Michelle is too. I can really feel her excitement and nervousness when she talks about it and I love it! Tomorrow we're all planning to drive the full marathon course and pick up our race packets.

Shortly after dinner, Bob and I had to attend an online sales meeting. These meetings are really cool actually, because we get together over Skype and have video chats from all over the world. Kevin calls in from London, Patrick calls in from Paris, Bob and I called in from Dusseldorf, and Steve called in from Chicago. Technology is simply amazing.

Once the meeting was over, I headed back to my hotel room and was able to chat with Jennifer for a while before she had to go to her Volleyball game. She's been very busy with the girls and I think it helps her (and the girls) stay busy and not think about how long I've been away.

Tonight was their last game and it's unfortunate that I didn't get to see all their games. Jennifer told me that Lizzie has been doing really good and that Jazzy is able to serve overhand now!! <3 I can't wait for them to show me all they've learned when I get home. I really am missing them a lot. Especially at night when it's quiet and they're out enjoying their evenings doing fun things. Rumor has it that they are finally getting their pigs tonight! I'm anxious to hear what they name them (ie. Pork and Chop? Link and Patty?). :)

Now I'm surfing through channels deciding which news is old news and which news is new news. Basically, I have two options: MSNBC or CNN. They are the only two english speaking channels on TV in my hotel room. :) I've heard all the latest world news in English and all the stories are now re-runs of the same stories I saw earlier. Last night, I actually got caught up listening to some french news channel. It let me know how much french I've forgotten. I understood about every 23rd word or so.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dusseldorf, Germany - Day 17

Today was an amazing day. I woke up @ 7:30 am, and met Michelle (Bob's wife) for a fun run around the park near our neighborhood. We ran ~3.5 miles through Rhein Park. It was a very fun and relaxing run. Michelle is running the first leg of a relay team this weekend in the Dusseldorf Marathon. She's been training for this for a while now and is very excited (and nervous) about it. I'm excited for her and know she's gonna kick butt! It was an abolute joy to run with her this morning and I hope we will do it again before I leave.

Rhein Park in Dusseldorf, Germany

After the morning run, I came back to my hotel for a quick shower and to eat a nice breakfast before heading down to Bob and Michelle's flat to begin the work day. We got a lot accomplished today and I really enjoyed working one on one with Bob at his home office. He and I are more alike than some might think. He's an uber geek about computing and I'm an uber geek about computing; we really make a great team when we get together and... well, compute. We think alike, we talk alike, and we are both pretty laid back about most everything in life.

The amazing "Apple Cake" dish that got devoured during lunch today.

Fast forward to 4pm, we cut our day short due to some conflicting schedule issues. He had an audition to attend for an upcoming concert where he will be playing guitar in a band at a local festival. Yes, my boss is a rock star. :) I on the other hand, was planning to meet with an old classmate at a local pub.

Ok, so when I arrived in Dusseldorf, I (of course) wrote a post about my first day here in the city. The post was shared on Facebook through FriendFeed, and a blast from the past (named Nick Mockus) contacted me stating that he actually lives here!! I remember seeing this a few years ago when he and I became "Facebook friends". However, I forgot overtime about this fact, and was so excited when he contacted me with this little reminder.

Nick graduated a year after me in 1997. We never really "hung out", but we knew each other through mutual friends and of course the French Exchange program when we travelled to Paris, France together in 1996 (16 years ago)! Oh wow... this makes yet another alumni of the NHS French Exchange program that I've been able to catch up with here in Europe in the last 2 weeks. Remember, I ran into Bamma in Athens, Greece 2 weeks ago). Madam Waite, eat your heart out! :)

Nick and I met at a really cool pub / brewery by the name of Brauerei im F├╝chschen in the old Altstadt district. The bar was on an old cobble stoned street and we drank beer after beer after beer and just "caught up" with one another at a table outside on the street. My high school days were a bit different from others, and it was great to know that he and I were able to remember so many times we spent together during those years. Especially knowing how different our lives were back then; he was a HS football star (though he'd contest that statement), and I was a HS band nerd star / extreme socialite (which I simply can't contest). :)

As it turns out Nick still plays football for a National Football team here in Dusseldorf. His passion for football has not changed over the years and he's now considered a hometown hero in some of the locals eyes, I'm sure. When I asked if he's known by any of the locals, he humbly (and shyly) told me that someone did ask for his autograph on the street once. :) We talked about lots of things, and I discovered that his school / work brought him over here in 2008. He then decided to take up residence here two years ago. He loves the country and I see why; he blends in well with all the laid back locals.

It was simply awesome to meet up with Nick and talk as though it hadn't been 16+ years since we last saw each other. I caught him up on my journey, and he caught me up on his. I enjoyed every passing second tonight and hope that we stay in contact more often. We plan to get together again before I head back over to the States. We left with the promise of getting ahold of each other this weekend or early next week. I'm honestly already looking forward to it!! Thanks for an awesome evening, Dr. Nick. :) See you soon!!

Me and Nick enjoying beers and memories.

On my way back from the bar, I stumbled through the Hofgarten (a nearby public park) and just walked around the park taking some pictures and enjoying the birds chirping (in German). I'm now back in my hotel room and getting ready to catch up on some work that got cut short earlier today.

Again, today was an amazing day here in Dusseldorf, Germany!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dortmund, Germany - Day 16

No pics today! Today was quick day, which warrants a quick post. :) Woke up ON TIME! Made it Bob's by 8:30 after a great breakfast, and then he and I made it to Dortmund to get down to business...

Fast forward through meetings, lunch, coding, and more meetings... We left the office a little after 6 pm and made it back into Dusseldorf around 7:15. Bob and Michelle had invited me for dinner, and we still had about 30 minutes before it was ready. I decided to get out of their hair for a while and came back to my room here at the hotel until they were ready for me. Luckily, I was able to chat with Jen via Skype for a short while. It helped pass the time quickly.

Around 8pm, I got the call and headed down to their flat. They live about 3 blocks down from where I'm at, so it was a quick walk. When I walked in the door, the entire building smelled amazing and I was happy to know that the arouma was coming from their flat (the place I was heading towards). :) We all had a great time.

They served pork chops, green beans rolled in ham (delicious), and roasted potatoes with onions and tomatoes. It was all reeeally good. I didn't take a picture of the dish, but you'll have to take my word for it; I actually went back for seconds! After dinner, we all had apple cake for dessert. Whoa! I'd never had this before, but will be looking for the recipe when I get back home and beg Jennifer to try and make it for us. It was awesome! Typically, when I go to bakeries over here, I like the "apple" pastries. This stuff topped them all! It was still warm and was served with whipped cream on top. Oh man, I'm making myself hungry again...

We all sat around and talked for a while afterwards and I got to hear about Matt and Michaels school program. We talked about the curriculum over here and how different it is from the States. These guys are both very bright kids and I really enjoyed talking with them tonight. Their school program keeps them busy with many field trips all over Europe, and also demands a lot from them in regards to learning and testing. I couldn't believe some of the courses that Matt was telling me about. He was listing them off, but the one that stuck out for me was when he "glazed over" the fact that he studies various math topics including linear calculus along with other forms of math in the same math class (ie. geometry, algebra, other forms of calculus, etc..). I think he even through out "advanced physics" and some other course titles that made my head spin. Oh and don't forget, they also take German classes (duh). Quite impressive if you ask me...

I came home around 9pm and caught up on some emails and just relaxed in my room. After work tomorrow, I'm planning to meet with an old NHS classmate who now calls Dusseldorf his home! He found that I was in Dusseldorf from a Facebook post, and I'm so happy he did. More on this tomorrow...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dortmund, Germany - Day 15

Today was my first day back to work. I started it off with a bang, by oversleeping :) I set my alarm for 7 am so that I could wake up and be at Bob's house @ 8 am. I woke up at 7:45 am! Nothing like being late to my first day back to work. Luckily, my boss is awesome.

Immediately after waking up, I called Bob and told him I was "running late" (ie. just woke up). He made light of it by giving me a hard time. He then assured me that it was no big deal and encouraged me to take my time and get a nice breakfast. I obliged with a plate full of eggs, a turkey sandwich with cheese, a small cup of fruit, an orange juice, and a coffee. I arrived at Bob's house around 8:30 am, and we started our day off very slowly and made it to the Dortmund office around 10 am.

The morning was filled with work related stuff... Around 1 pm, we headed to a nearby restaurant named Divan Gastronomie. I had the "Chicken Kabob" which was nothing like an American "kabob". It consisted of a plate of fries and salad topped with grilled chicken flakes. It's hard to explain, but it was really good. I took a picture, but (much like the German country-side), the pictures do it no justice. :)

After lunch, we headed back to the office and did more "work stuff". A lot of progress was made and some amazing code was written today. :) We left the office around 7pm and headed to a local italian restaurant named Risorante Bei Marija. This restaurant was probably my favorite restaurant that I've been to so far. It was relaxed, authentic, simple, and everything was exquisite in every way.

An (unsuspectingly) amazing Italian Restaurant in Dortmund, Germany

When we walked in, we were literally the only people in the restaurant. The lighting was dim, and the setting was extremely warm and welcoming. We sat at a corner table and decided to order "the menu". This meant that we would be trying everything on the menu in stages. To understand this, know that the menu consisted of about 6 or 8 dishes and was literally written on a small chalkboard that the waitress carried with her to our table to take our order. I (personally) have never been to a place like this before, and loved the idea that this what they served. No more, no less.

The options consisted of various dishes of fish and pork, various pastas like tortellini and other authentic Italian pastas, tuna salads, and a few other dishes. Unfortunately I can't remember them all due to the two bottles of red wine and the few shots of (damn-near) grain alcohol shots that we had. The waitress, who I'm sure was native Italian, but spoke fluent German, arrived at the table with three shot glasses and poured shots for us at some point. She insisted they were on the house in either Italian or German (I couldn't tell by this point), and we all pounded them down and then tilted our heads to the side with a big painful look of joy on our faces. Yowzas!!

We hung out at the table for a while after dinner and enjoyed more wine and some great conversation. I got to hear how different life can be in Europe from those who know first hand the lifestyles of Americans. Patrick and Bob are both very much experienced in living life in both the States and in Europe. It was really cool to sit and hear the differences from the two countries and do my own comparisons as to what is important to me; as a parent, a husband, a son, and as a computer professional. I love the lifestyle over here, really I do, and it's nice to know that if Jennifer and I really wanted to make it work over here with our kids, we could.

For now, however, we'll just consider Europe as a really cool place to visit from time to time... :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dusseldorf, Germany - Day 14

Today was a great day. I woke up around 10 am and took a nice slow run through the forrest in Cologne for the last time. I left the camera at home and simply enjoyed the peaceful run. It was muddy and perfect. When I returned, we had a quick breakfast of breads and spreads, and I (of course) had Rita's delicious cappuccino to wash it all down with.

Around 12:30 or so, we all hopped in the car and headed toward Dusseldorf. The plan was to drop off my bags at the hotel and then go take a quick tour of the city before the Ghobads made their way back home. As I stated before, I like chilly weather when touring new cities. Well, today was no exception. It was very windy and actually thunder stormed at times. A few times we took shelter under various structures to protect ourselves from the freezing rain... Yeah, the freezing rain! :)

Around 4pm we headed to a local brewery / restaurant and we all ordered Curry Wurst for lunch. I actually chased mine down with 2 beers from the brewery and everybody else had apple juice. Since the restaurant WAS the brewery, the beer was very fresh and perfectly served. During lunch, I got to have a few more laughs with my new friend, Nouchine. I actually had her laughing pretty hard a few times it was a lot of fun! We sure had a lot of fun this week: story time @ night, morning game time on Saturday, German speech lessons throughout the week, and a loyal dinner-buddy every night. :)

Me and my buddy, Nouchine.

The Ghobads dropped me back off at my hotel around 5 pm and I got my bags unpacked and my hotel room organized for the most part. I was able to chat with Jennifer for quite a bit as well and just relaxed for a few hours. I watched some movie with Skeet Ulrich and Leslie Nielson and it was in German. I didn't understand any of it, but it looked like a pretty funny movie. Again, I was just unwinding and relaxing for a while before starting to think about dinner...

Around 7 pm Bob called me and wanted to know if I wanted to get some dinner at a nearby restaurant with him and his wife (Michelle). How could I resist?? :) They met me out front of my hotel a bit later and we all walked to a nice German restaurant that is about 200 meters from the hotel. :) Yeah, the hotel is in a great location! Anyway, I had no idea what to get, so I let them translate the menu for me and Bob ended up ordering an authentic German dish for me. It was some form of a "shnitzel" and it was "the shnitzel". :) It was a big slab of breaded pork that sat atop a mound of french fries. It also came with a side dish of a dark mushroom gravy that you could pour over everything to help it all slide down. Wow, delicious!

We all enjoyed some Altstadt beers and just sat around and talked for a while afterwards. I can tell this is going to be a fun two weeks. Bob asked if there was anything that I'd like to see while I'm here and I thought for a moment and realized that the only thing I'd like to see are more German pubs. :) Outside of that, I think I got all the tourism out of my system... I'm ready to start living like a local and enjoying some delicious German beers and dishes.

Michelle and Bob

Quick Fact: While in Cologne, the beers are typically a Kolsch beer, whereas here in Dusseldorf (~100 km north), it's mostly Altstadt beer. It's a friendly rivalry, but you should never order a Kolsch in Dusseldorf, just like you should never order an Altstadt in Cologne. :) If I had to choose between the two, I think I may be a bit more partial to the Altstadt flavor though. It's a bit more dark and has a nice full flavor for my taste buds.

As of now, I'm basically done with my vacation and I'm prepared to work for the next 2 weeks! We have some exciting things going on right now at InfoPlanIT, and we will begin working on them while I'm here in Dusseldorf. It sounds crazy, but I'm ready to get back to coding again. I've actually got an all new look to kick off the first day of "post vacation" meetings.