I recently spent 4 glorious days in Deutschland, mostly for company business but with a lot of spare time to eat, drink, and see some of the area. The trip there, however, was absolutely horrid and United Airlines can suck it from now on. Two of their planes had mechanical problems, we were rerouted twice and then, because the would not call ahead to our connecting flight in Dulles, had to spend the night there and consequently lost a free day in Germany. I won't go into more detail because I still get pissed off. Oh, did I mention that they lost my luggage? Out of 6 of us that traveled together I was the only one.
There was a bit of disturbing news to be reported in that I made it through 4 security checkpoints in 3 different airports in the United States with my 3 inch knife in my backpack. I forgot all about it when I was at the airport digging through my mesh pocket in the front of the backpack- in plain view. On the other side of the security checkpoint. But I decided to tempt fate again after we had to leave our first plane for electrical problems and go back to ticketing. I made it all the way to Brussels before I threw it away in the bathroom garbage. I didn't need any more trouble overseas. So yeah, TSA can suck it too. I thought about taking pictures of myself with the knife out and then sending it to TSA but then I remembered that it is usually a bad idea to take incriminating photos.
At first I was pretty pissed about the lost luggage thing but the Director of Finance for my company was with us. I went shopping for new clothes and they were all expensed from the company card so I can't complain too much. We stayed at a really nice hotel which was also a quick taxi ride to the company. I was bummed for our day delay in getting to Germany because I had a whole day of training with one of my German colleagues. In fact, I had my return trip changed to come back on Wednesday so that I could attend a 2 day training on Monday and Tuesday but then my Department head thought he remembered that my direct supervisor was going on vacation the day that I would be staying. That would normally be no big deal but we have 3 days of training so I had my trip changed again for me to leave on Monday. Funny story- when I landed in the States I finally got an email from my boss telling me to stay in Germany for the training.....
There was a Christmas festival next to our hotel and we met with some German colleagues to enjoy the local food and drink. Gluwien is a seasonal drink made of spiced wine served piping hot. It was really good and warmed me up very quickly. Unfortunately, I had nothing to eat before I drank 2 cups of it and I started feeling the wine. I had lots of brauts, chocolate covered fruit skewers, and various other foods at the festival throughout my stay. We did eat at a few restaurants but they were Italian and Mexican. Because of our large size we had problems finding places to seat us all.
We did make it to the company grounds on Friday (the day after our arrival) for the tour of the facilities. It is unbelievably big and the process involved in making the inverters is overwhelming. After the tour I met with the person I was supposed to be getting the training from. We had a big lunch in his building's eating facility that included pizza, breaded sardines, and lots of wine. In fact, I found it very difficult to drink anything but wine and beer. Restaurants do not automatically pour glasses of water and if you do ask for it they bring the common water that is carbonated.
The main reason we all made the trip was to attend the Christmas party. It was a huge event with about 2500 employees gathered to eat, drink, and watch a variety of presentations and skits. As a new employee, I was trotted around the dining room and then led over to the front to sing the company song, in German of course. It was a 5 verse song and we sang it in a round fashion, kind of like Row Row Row Your Boat. After that, all the subsidiaries were led to a back room and handed the words to We Are The World. We all had our separate parts but sang together on the chorus. We absolutely hacked our verse that ended with "as long as we stand together as one" We received a standing ovation for our efforts and I was really touched. The Chief Financial Officer came up after we sang but I did not bring the translator headset so I did not understand what he said. In short, he gave us all props and thanked us for our contribution to the company.
With that contribution came an extremely large bonus for 2008. We more than doubled our 2008 goal and made, as a whole, over $650M euro. We were also told that the profit sharing bonus for the year would be equal to 4 months of pay. I about shit myself. Needless to say the rest of the night was even more merry. I danced, visited, and finally made my way back to the hotel about 4:30 a.m. We were told that leaving before midnight was bad form so our group went above and beyond to make a good showing.
On Saturday I took a tour of the area which included the Brother's Grimm route. It was very interesting to hear about the history of the town and to learn about the two brothers who wrote so many fairy tales. We visited a museum and I was 2 feet away from an original Rembrandt painting. It was very moving and I'm sure my Humanities professor would be proud. We also visited a castle built in the 1600's complete with a room full of armor from the era. I was in awe at the whole experience and would have given my left testicle for just a piece of the most dilapidated armor hanging in that room. Hell, I would have liked to have taken a few pictures but we were not allowed.
All too soon it was time to come home. I flew on Lufthansa airlines directly from Frankfurt. It was a 10 hour flight but it was incredibly relaxed. I was upgraded to economy plus so I had plenty of leg room and complimentary drinks. They fed us several times and handed out hot towels, snacks, and drinks the whole time. The first class accommodations were even sweeter but I don't think my company would fork out $16,000 for a first class ticket. It is good to be back home with my family and I took the day off to recuperate. My two year old has not left my side since I got home. I have posted some pictures of my trip but they do not do the justice of an actual visit, as is with most journeys. Enjoy and Frohe Weinachten!