Europe current locationThe wind was howling frantically at 6:30am. A storm had come through, and I could hear the trees whipping around outside my window. This didn’t lend to making me want to escape the warm confines of my down comforters and pillows and into the dark, chilly room. If there was any light at all coming in from outside, it would make things easier, but there wasn’t a lick. The shower was again hot and cold, only more so, and I was very glad to have shaved the day before. I gathered my things, did my dishes, and rushed down to my car. Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to park out front, I had an alternate idea. I drove closer in the garage and found the first available spot as near to the lobby staircase as possible. There were some parking spots up front but they seemed to be reserved somehow, and even though I was only there for a moment to get food, I didn’t want to come out to a missing car.

There wasn’t any dried fruits muesli this morning, and that was a little on the sad side. I assumed they’d have more tomorrow, though. The crunchy muesli was still good, but one step below the dried fruits one. The special juice of the morning was kiwi, which apparently is common here! They have it in the ‘canteen’ at the plant at lunch. I rushed through my food, as time was a little tight today. Even my cappuccino was downed in haste, as I knew I could get another at the cantin. The car was still there when I arrived back.

The walk from the car to the front door was *excruciating*. The wind was still whipping around, and the temperature, according to the car’s blinking thermometer, was 0 (celcius). I had considered putting on my sweatshirt before I left, but didn’t actually follow through, and right at that moment, I was kicking myself. Interestingly enough, even though I was moving as fast as I could short of an actual run, people were *still* passing me on the sidewalk. My legs are short, but comparison. Michel and I went immediately to our session downstairs, and returned upstairs just after 10am.

When we got back, Janice said she was headed to get coffee, and I joined her. We walked to the cafeteria, and she bought me coffee while gaving me financial advice about retirement accounts. Janice is loaded with various bits of useful information. She’s a fascinating woman, having traveled extensively, speaks multiple languages, and is very straightforward with her opinions. I enjoy her company quite a bit. She’s been extremely helpful while I’ve been here as well, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Rene sent around an email about dinner. He was going to make reservations and wanted to get a head count. This would be fun, although I realized that it would be difficult to try and go back to the hotel before going out to meet everyone, especially if I wanted to follow the group there. I decided I needed to work late anyway. Lunch rolled around, and it was back to the new Cantin as always. Everyone opted for the breaded redfish filet, which was actually pretty good. The other option, split pea soup, wasn’t very appetizing. Afterwards, they started getting ready to go out for the post-lunch walk, and I was hesitant. “If it’s as cold out there right now as it was this morning, there’s no way I’m going out.” Somehow, my arm was twisted, and I put on my jacket. “Gloves!” I exclaimed when I put my hands in my pockets. “I have gloves!” I had put the Christmas gift from my grandparents in my pocket all the way back in Berlin and happened to have them with me. My hat, unfortunately, was back in the hotel. We walked briskly around the parking lot as usual, and this time, I wasn’t dragging my feet. The chilly air was turning my cheeks to ice, and not even halfway around the campus they were completely numb. “How the heck did you guys manage to get me out here??” I barked, freezing my tush off. When we arrived back at the building, Janice said she was going around once more.

“It’s a good idea,” I stated, “if you’re INSANE.” The fact that had been eluding me again suddenly appeared back in my brain. “If I’m this cold here, I’m terrified about Finland.” Of course, I’d be wearing more layers, and thermal underwear to boot.

The two hours before the next session passed quickly, and I managed to finally post the second half of the Berlin log. A large weight lifted off my chest as I was now only three days behind. Of course, I was also halfway through another day, but nothing had happened. Yet. Rene had some trouble contacting the restaurant; the phone number appeared to be disconnected. He finally decided to change locales, and the plans were finally set.

The second test session was successful, but we were kicked out at 5PM by another reservation I hadn’t expected. This was unfortunate since I had the extra time to actually work, but had to instead return to the room to await dinner. We passed Anthony in the stairway, who asked if we were going to dinner. I think he wanted to carpool, since he was asking if I was going back to the hotel, but I wasn’t planning on it.

In the conference room. we set up Janice’s Skype, and afterwards she discovered my log files and began to read the Europe log from the beginning. Every few minutes she would crack up into fits of laughter, and I wondered if she had been reading the same thing. Everyone was wondering what was making her do this, and they asked.

“You know how I always complain about driving in Dresden, and how it’s really some of the worst in the world? Well, now I’m reading a virgin opinion of it,” she said. Rene asked whose opinion it was, and she pointed at me. Rene asked for the location of my website, and I emailed it to him. He said he would check it out later that evening. It was finally time to make our 7PM reservation, and after some discussion of how to get to the restaurant, we all headed to our cars.

Rene led the caravan, with Dirk, Michael, and myself in tow. We headed down a road between the plant and A4, which I realized after a few kilometers was the one I’d gone down incorrectly when I’d first arrived in Dresden. This avenue led straight into downtown Dresden, and we turned right, eventually going over the bridge where I’d taken pictures of the Opera House and Frauenkirche (Women’s Church). At least I knew where I was. We took an exit up to an overpass, and turned right. I think we’d lost Rene at this point, and Dirk and Michael pulled over for a brief conversation in front of me. We were seriously blocking traffic, however, and they quickly sped off, turning right a few blocks later. I was wishing I’d turned on my GPS, but it was in the trunk now and wasn’t accessible.

I no longer saw Dirk, but Michael quickly parallel parked on the next cross street. I pulled up behind him and did the same, pulling my camera bag out of the trunk. Dirk approached us out of the dark, as did Rene, and we walked back to the major street. Rene said the restaurant was right in front of us, a big brick building which appeared new, but with more classic architecture. We walked around front then inside the building. I attached my lens and readied the camera for pictures. The interior of the restaurant looked much like any brew pub I’d ever been to, with a large copper kettle as a theme. Janice and Doug were coming separately since they had to go back to their hotel for a moment, but Anthony was already waiting at the table, sipping on a dark beer.

We took seats at the table, and I dropped the camera bag behind it before snapping a picture or two. Rene was camera shy and waved me away. I decided to lay off the camera for the moment with regard to people. We sat and waited for Doug and Janice, meanwhile ordering different beers. I ordered something from Bavaria, and it showed up in a big 500ml glass. It was a tasty wheat beer, and I was pleased to see that the line of actual beer in fluid came up to the 500ml line. The head was beyond this point, so you really got 500ml of beer.

Janice and Doug arrived a moment later, and ordered drinks of their own. The waitress had given us English menus, and I’d picked out a few choices I had to decide between. The menu was organized by beer; the food items underneath the particular beer choice matched the flavor of the drink well, so they were suggested. Janice suggested to me that I should try one of the ones I’d listed earlier – the roast suckling pig. Sounds mean, sure, but the description was better than that! The waitress came around, and I ordered a potato soup for an appetizer, then the pork dish, pointing at the English version of the menu item. She looked a little confused, and then nodded and wrote it down.

The appetizers arrived a few minutes and periods of mirthful conversation later; my soup was smaller than I’d expected for 3 Euros. I took a picture of it (I’d already taken a picture of my beer) and everyone gave me flak for this. I explained that my family is very much into food, and they were certainly waiting with bells on for descriptions of what I’d been eating. I relayed the story of how my sister had volunteered to pay for a trip to La Rochelle in Tokyo; she’d always wanted to go, but probably wouldn’t be able to anytime soon, being a mother of two toddlers and no reason to go to Japan. My lovely sister sent me in her stead, and I enjoyed one of the best meals of my life, funded fully by her. (For a detailed account, please see my fifth Japan log on this parent website) They were amazed. Janice and Michael (pronounced “mik-heye-ehl”) had gotten some bread, meats and cheeses on a wooden board, and these were beautiful, and certainly tasty. Janice supported my food photography, and assisted me in shooting hers with a good layout.

The soup was just okay; Rene said he wasn’t a fan of this type of potato soup. We chatted some more, and after a while Michael seemed to be done with his platter. He’d left one piece of Swiss cheese on it for some time, and so I bugged him about it. He offered it to me. :) Doug, meanwhile, was eyeing Janice’s plate.

“You’re welcome to some of this if you want it,” she told him.

“I’m just looking one of your loaves of bread,” he told her, motioning at the three hunks of dark brown bread she still had on her plate.

“Well, here! Take one!” She gave one to him, and he accepted it thankfully. It was nice looking bread. I was craving some too! Michael offered him his butter, and he must have taken it, although I didn’t notice it was missing until later.

The waitress took away our appetizer platters, and another woman brought the first array of plates. She had one that she walked around asking, “Fish? Fish?” Everyone looked at one another. Nobody, as far as we could tell ordered fish.

“Uh oh. Someone’s not getting their food,” I said. The remainder of the plates arrived, some with a little confusion and menu comparison, others as expected. Little did I know, I was the one who wouldn’t be getting their food. The waitress brought a menu, and pointed at some fish entrée that I most certainly didn’t order. I shook my head, flipped back through to the beginning, and pointed at the same thing I’d pointed at when I’d ordered. So I’ve learned, use the English menu, but order in the native tongue if at all possible. Benkyoo ni naru naa.

Rene asked me jokingly, “So, Marc, do you want to take picture of my food?”

“Of course, that would be great!” I told him.

“Oh, I thought this was a joke,” he said, dejectedly. “I did not think you’d really want a picture!” We pushed the candelabra aside and got a better picture of his food: one of my other choices, the Sauerbraten. Michael’s food looked interesting as well. Anthony to my left got the venison with potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Doug had a skillet item that apparently contained just different kinds of potatoes. I asked him what he’d gotten.

“I dunno,” he said, then picked up a German menu, flipped through it, then pointed at something. “There, that’s what I got.” He really didn’t know what exactly he’d ordered, but it was on the same page as his beer. By now, everyone else had gotten their food outside of Janice, who hadn’t ordered anything besides the meat and cheese plate.

“Well, you *saw* how big it was!” she said, when I asked why she’d not ordered anything else. I couldn’t disagree. People were feeling a little bad about me not having food I think, at this point, but I wasn’t starving or anything.

“You can have all of these Brussels sprouts if you want them,” Anthony told me.

“Um, that’s OOOOKAY,” I replied. “Ah, Brussels sprouts. My old nemesis.” Janice was amazed that we didn’t like them; I think they were some of her favorite vegetables. People began to eat, and I asked Michael what he’d gotten. Turns out he’d ordered the same dish as me, and it threw me off. I was expecting big hunks of sizzling meat, but instead, this was some loaf of bread type item. Not at all what I’d expected.

About the time everyone else had finished their food, mine finally arrived. It was very interesting looking, so I poured the ladle of gravy over it and began to cut into it. The standard slightly-serrated table knife was not the tool to slice this item, however, so it was very difficult to try and extract bite-size chunks. The flavor was okay, but it was way, way too much bread for me. It was effectively a loaf of rye bread with bits of pork and sauerkraut baked into it. It wasn’t bad, really. Overall, I think I would have preferred Rene’s dish. The conversation got a little cooky, and somehow we got to the topic of how a lot of the Internet was funded by pornography. Anthony speculated you could keep most of the world happy through alcohol, pornography, and religion.

“Now if you could combine the three, you’d really have something,” he laughed.

“I don’t even want to GO there,” exclaimed Janice.

“Too late,” we said, as ideas were already flying. Janice also discovered the Anthony had *started* smoking this year.

“Young man… YOUNG MAN… what are you thinking?!?” she cried.

“Yes,” Rene chimed in, “everyone else is trying to quit the smoking, and he is here starting to smoke, ja!” Anthony then let us in on his plan to decrease his intake of cigarettes slowly, so that he’d be clean in about a month. Janice hoped so.

Nobody had room for dessert, and Michael asked for the check. Oddly, she brought him specifically *his* check, dropped it off, then wandered off. Everyone sat there, confused, for about second, then half the table began motioning to her that we’d mean *everyone’s* check! She came around asking what each of us had, then dashed off and returned with separate checks for everyone. There was some confusion about my bill, as there was an extra 30 Euro cent charge I didn’t care about but wasn’t sure what it is. Apparently the pork was 9.20 Euros, and the bread around it was 30 Euro cents. Weird.

I was considering using a card, although I had enough cash for this event. Anthony only had a card, and we were trying to figure out if they even accepted them as a form of payment. When the waitress returned, Anthony waved her card at her, trying to signify his query about if it was valid to use. She noticed him and walked up beside him. She took the card, looked at it, looked at his tab, then walked off, card in hand. She’d left the check, and we all decided she’d either a) just taken off to buy a tropical vacation with it, or b) he’s just bought *her*.

“Dinner… drinks… a little dancing,” said Michael.

“Ja, she is off Xeroxing your card for later use,” Rene informed him. The waitress may have done so, but she returned a moment later with a receipt, and Anthony was trying to figure out how to leave a tip. He hovered his pen over the lines that looked to me just like normal tip and new total designation areas. The waitress pointed her finger at the signature line, and Anthony nodded, still trying to calculate a tip. She pointed again, this time more forcefully.

“Um, oh-kayy… I get it… I’m trying to leave a tip here,” he said, perplexed as to why she wasn’t letting him figure that out.

“It’s too late,” Janice told him. “You can’t add anything on now.”

“Oh… Well it would have been nice to know that!” Anthony said. I had a different problem. After watching Anthony’s card disappear, I’d gone with the cash option. I was under the impression that service was included in the bill, and I thought the 16% charge at the end was for that.

“No, that’s the tax,” Janice said. “Service is included in the price of the food. The servers here get a good salary, so it’s not really necessary. But if you *want* to leave a tip, you know, if they’ve done really well, then you’re allowed to.”

“Okay, so… I should leave what…?”

“A euro is probably fine,” she said. “It’s actually called ‘drink money’ since it’s just a little extra bit on top, to buy them a drink.” Naru hodo. I dropped a coin onto the table, and we all pulled our coats off the rack. Everyone stepped out of the restaurant, and for a moment, we all thought it was snowing.

“It is snow!” remarked Michael. It looked like snow. It moved like snow. In reality, though, it was just really light rain that was swirling around in the wind and bright lights of the restaurant. It was certainly very cold, though, so it wasn’t surprising that we’d think so. Janice and Doug are staying at the same hotel, and she’s gotten rid of her car, so they left together. Dirk, Michael, and I walked back to our cars. Dirk asked if I knew where I was going, and I said I wasn’t really sure. Anthony had used a GPS to get here from the Steigenberger, but he was nowhere to be seen to follow. I said if I could just get back to the bridge by the opera house, I could easily get home. It was suggested that Michael was going to lead me, but he suddenly said, “Well, okay, have a good night,” and started to get in his car. Dirk noticed this oddity as well.

“Are you going to lead him?” he asked.

“Oh, yes, I *can*, if you need me to,” Michael said.

“Yes, that would be helpful,” I said. “Once I’m on the bridge, I’m fine from there.” He nodded and we all got in our cars. I followed him in a u-turn, then down a roundabout onto the street we’d come up. I actually knew at that point where I was; the only thing I wasn’t sure about was whether I could get from the restaurant to that road. It was pretty easy. Michael almost made a wrong turn, but recognized his mistake and got out of the turn lane. If he had actually made the turn, I’m not sure if I would have followed him! Right after we crossed the bridge, Michael made a shift to the right an drove off, flashing his brake lights. I flashed my headlights back in thanks, then curved left.

Meissner came faster than I thought, and I almost missed it. I whipped left and knew I was on the right road home. The Burger King was on the left, and I lost all sense of worry. Suddenly, my phone began to ring. I looked at the caller ID, and it was Meredeth, the girl for whom I’d brokered the sale of a pug puppy from my friend Alexis. I debated answering, since it was probably just a status update on the puppy, and I didn’t want to spend a dollar a minute on that. A few minutes later, it rang again, and was her once more. I almost picked up again; maybe it was urgent. Was something wrong with the puppy? I decided to try and use Skype to call her in the lobby of the hotel, so I pulled into the driveway and found a spot up front. As I was pulling my laptop out of the trunk, she called again, and I didn’t hesitate to answer this time.

She simply had not received the paperwork from Alexis about the puppy, so I told her I would write Alexis for her. I told her I was in Germany (boy, was she surprised!) and that I also had the rest of the shot records at home, but didn’t have her address. I told her to send me an email with it, and I’d ship them when I got back home in two weeks.

Since I was already outside of the hotel lobby, I went in anyway, despite my major business being already complete. I ended up emailing Alexis, and answering a couple of others. My Internet access account was down to less than a Euro now, so I got off as fast as possible. I didn’t want to buy another card with so little time left here. As I was finishing up, Anthony appeared, and was talking to another guy sitting in the same area. He was telling him about the restaurant and that it was just a couple of miles away.

“It’s that close?” I asked, and he turned around, not realizing I was there. He said by GPS it was just a few miles, even on the route it had taken. I guess things seem closer here. I quickly relayed what I was trying to do just now, and then headed back to the car. As I stepped out from under the covered loading area, a familiar rattling noise hit my ears. It was sleeting. The little balls of frozen rain were bouncing off my coat. I knew this was not good, since tomorrow it would be icy. I quickly drove back into the parking garage, parked, and then went up to the room. I was very tired, and it was already past 11pm. I ate one of my yogurt cups for dessert, then put on an episode of 24 in bed. I’m past the halfway point now… man, ripping through these episodes!

--Hik