Germany Trip Details

A bit more on my recent business trip to Germany…

Thanks to some wonderful planning on the part of one of my colleagues, we had a 6:29 AM departure out of Tucson International Airport. Living a good solid hour from the airport, that meant a 3:30 AM wakeup for me. The poor itinerary continued as it had us going through Chicago then London before ending up in Munich. Chicago has not been historically a good gateway city for me as something always seems to go wrong. During most of my European trips, I have gone through Dallas and then over Zurich before continuing to the final destination.

The plane departed Tucson on time and proceeded to Chicago. Luckily, my company allows business class travel overseas. This means the US legs are done in First Class. If you havent travelled overseas in business class, trust me, its much much nicer than First Class domestic.

There was no issues with our arrival into Chicago as we got there on time. In line with our awesome (yeah right) itinerary, we then had a five hour layover in Chicago. Yes, there were later flights out of Tucson that would have still gotten into Chicago in time for the London flight. Also, there was an additional two flights to London in less than an hour after our flight. There was five of us going to Germany and one guy made the reservations. In poor planning by the rest of us, none of us actually checked the plans until a couple of days in advance of the flights. That wont happen again for me. It helped that we spent the layover time in the more serene American Airlines Admirals Club.

The flight to London Heathrow was also uneventful. As usual on my overseas flights, I essentially got zero sleep. Since the plane was a 777 we were stuck with the in-arm video consoles. They stink, in my opinion, cause you have to watch the movies on the aircraft timetable. On 767’s and 757’s, you get portable DVD players and a book of DVDs to watch at your leisure. So, due to the timing conflicts, I only got one movie in – Click. I wasnt expecting much since I am not an Adam Sandler fan, but I really enjoyed the movie. I would recommend it to fans of comedy.

The arrival in London was uneventful, but then the fun began. The recent terrorist scare there really has them paranoid – not really a bad thing. As usual in Heathrow, our arrival terminals and departure terminals were different. This requires significant walking through halls and tunnels just to get to a bus to take you to the other terminal. It also now requires going through a couple of security checkpoints. It was laughable all the stuff they were confiscating. They had tables and tables of items they had taken from passengers like toothpaste, soap, shampoo, wine, etc. Actually, it was more funny that folks had tried to bring all that stuff through the airport given all the publicity around the new security measures. There was enough stuff to open a small drug store. It took us an hour and a half to get from our arrival gate to the new departure gate. Luckily, we had about two and half hours between flights. The layover time was spent in the British Airways First Class Lounge.

Again, the flight to Munich was uneventful – love it when that happens. There was no issues getting our cars and we proceeded to our Lindner Hotel Kaiserhof in Landshut, Germany. This was a nice midsize town. After getting settled in the hotel, three of us went for a walk in the town. We ended up at a nice biergarten on the Isar river. We enjoyed a light brat lunch with a couple of wonderful German beers. A fourth member joined us while we were there. The fifth member went to bed for the day/night.

My German friend Michael drove over to Landshut from his home to have dinner with me and one of my colleagues. He lives about 40 minutes from Landshut. It was good to see him again as it has been about 4 years since we last got together. We enjoyed a nice dinner at a local restaraunt. I truly love German food and enjoyed a Zweibelrostbraten my first night. I got to spend about 3 hours with Michael before he had to head back home.

Monday was a setup day for the conference. We spent the morning at our Germany subsidiary office about 30 km away. They were helping to coordinate the event and had done most of the arrangements. We picked up a bunch of stuff we had shipped to them for the conference. We got back to the hotel after lunch and completed setup preparations for the conference. We held an event registration and social that evening. It was fun to meet folks from Germany, Italy, Turkey, Spain and the United States at the event.

The two day conference went off without many hitches. We were able to hold to our timetable quite nicely. We had lots of nice presentations and the discussion was lively. My presentation on Wednesday morning went well. Early feedback from the conference was very positive and we are likely to do more in the future.

One of the highlights of the conference was a dinner and castle tour we hosted Tuesday night. In Landshut, there is this majestic castle that sits high atop a big hill on one edge of the town. After the conference activities during the day, we all (about 40 folks) walked to the castle. It tooks us about 20 minutes to walk there up a steep hill and a lot of steps. We were greeted at the castle with some champagne and then proceeded to one of the great rooms within the castle where we had a wonderful Bavarian dinner. After dinner, we all got a tour of the castle. Landshut was an early capital city of Bavaria. The dinner and tour were enjoyed by all.

Our flight out of Munich on Thursday was again an early one – argh – 7:00 AM. This again meant awaking early at 3:30 AM for the flight. The return trip was a bit more interesting than the one over. After we got through security, we enjoyed a small breakfast. Upon completion, I went to the restroom. It was down several flights of stairs and the airport was still pretty empty. Our flight was the first one out of Munich that day. As I approached the restroom, a guy with a walkie talkie came out. He looked at me and followed me back into the restroom. He stood at the counter while I did what needed to be done. He then followed me out of the restroom. I could tell that he was security so there wasnt really any worry on my part, just curiosity. Outside the bathroom, he started saying something to me in German that I didnt get. When he went to English, he told me there was a security incident. Evidently, someone from the night crew left a door unsecured. He escorted me back up to the main floor and security was everywhere clearing folks out. We had to leave the airport, wait for them to check it and then reenter again through security. No big deal, but it took time. We boarded our aircraft about 15 minutes late. We only had a 90 minute layover in London so things were getting close.

As the doors of the aircraft were closed, the pilot announced another 15 minute air traffic control delay. Takeoff was uneventful and the pilot said he would try to make up the time. He did. We actually got into London 10 minutes early. I dont know why, but security was much less a pain than it was for our arrival from the States. It only took about 30 minutes to get to the new departure gate. As we were waiting to board, they made an announcement that the flight crew was delayed by a bus accident. Nothing more – nothing less. We didnt know if they were in the accident or just delayed by one. Again, only 90 minutes of layover in Chicago and given their nightmarish customs arrangement, we were going to be cutting it close. The crew arrived about 20 minutes later and we proceeded on our way.

We arrived in Chicago about 45 minutes late but actually made it rhough customs and security re-entry the best I have ever done there. I have had it take 3 hours to get through customs in Chicago. We made it to the gate about 15 minutes before boarding. The flight home was again uneventful. I watched two movies, Breaking Up, which was really bad and The Lakehouse, which I found to be quite watchable but not great.

We arrived into Tucson about 10 minutes early and the trip was over. I really enjoy business trips to Germany. I am used to them being longer than this one though and wish we would have had more time to enjoy the country. Several potential, additional meetings were discussed, so future trips are again likely. I dont see a return to the 3 trips a year, but occasionally they could happen. We almost went to Bonn on Thursday for additional meetings instead of returning to the States. They just couldnt get it set up that fast.

I already miss the Germany food and beer. Monday may be painful as I see what this trip did to my NutriSystem diet. I dont expect good results. German food (and beer) definitely doesnt qualify as NutriSystem.