So, my department at work recently confirmed and verified its commitment to a long-standing guideline by the Betriebsrat (“works council”, if that means anything to you)* to not pay out any accumulated overtime in monetary form. The only way to balance out a positive hourly balance in my overtime “bank” is to take time off.
I currently have 190½ hours sitting around waiting for me do something productive, fun, responsible or goofy with them. What would you do, and why? I am interested in your feedback. Please post it here. I am kind of at a loss. Here’s what I’m kicking around in my head:
cleaning up around the house (goodness knows we can always do more of that)
day-tripping to Munich or Nuremberg to do things like
shopping for a new (used) computer
shopping for a digital SLR
hitting those museums we otherwise only go to when someone from out-of-town visits
Part of the downer is that when you have some time off, you often want to spend it globetrotting, shopping, taking in a matinée, or otherwise spending money. This is the motivation behind the fact that I actually get paid more when I take vacation time off.
Note well: I am by no means complaining that I have all this overtime available. When I worked for the same company in the U.S., there was no such thing as overtime. I routinely worked more than my promised 40 hours per week and usually donated it to the shareholders (of which I am one, don’t get me wrong). Overtime was converted to comp time only by special arrangement with the Boss.
*I don’t know of an American equivalent to the German concept of the Betriebsrat. It’s an organization built into the company’s structure made up of a council that is supposed to limit the power of the executives and board of directors. Typically members of the council take up certain topics relevant to the company’s employees’ everyday activities and well-being, such as transportation, dress code, or in my case, overtime regulations. The bad news: they add to the red tape (Germany has vast, untapped red tape resources). The good news: it’s an elected council.
Had a great evening tonight with our pals the Lees and our new pals Jutta and Jan (first picture). Natasha and Tommy provided a virtual smorgasbord (second picture) of barbecue and grilled meats and vegetables and three wonderful salads (Sarah wants the recipe for the goat cheese one, please!). There were three or four digital cameras in play all throughout the evening (third picture), which means those posing were often unsure where to look (fourth picture). Michael was showing support for the German World Cup team; his hair is normally a bit more traditional.
Big thanks to Jutta in advance for jotting down the recipe to her Strawberry Tiramisu…that was lovely.
Today is the holiday of another World Cup victory for GermanyFronleichnam (sometimes jokingly called “Happy Cadaver” by many Germans, known by the Latin name “Corpus Christi” to English- and Latin-speaking Catholics). The victory last night over Poland must have been a coincidence. Either way, the fans’ jubilation and the general up-whoopings that occur the night before a state holiday led to a pretty loud night.
To add insult to injury, it’s getting mighty warm around here and we absolutely needed the windows open. Oh well. We pampered ourselves by sleeping in, and taking a stroll over to one of our favorite Biergärten for lunch. It’s on an island in the middle of the river and offers a great view of the old city.
Tomorrow’s going to be a very quiet day (with any luck) in the office for me, since just about everyone will have taken that Friday as a Brückentag (“bridge day”) leading them over the unpleasantries of a real work week directly from the religious holiday endorsed by the state into weekend bliss.
That’s link to the travel ideas we’ve been growing with Carolyn and Max for their trip in November. If you click on the link, you’ll see some firm stuff and some experimental stuff, provided you know the password (it’s Carolyn’s street name). If you don’t know it, just ask me in an email and I’ll tell you.
Here’s the best part: 1 € flights from Vienna to Nuremberg on Air Berlin!
So yeah, we’ve just got back from a great trip to see family and friends in KC/Puerto Vallarta, had a swell time driving around several regions of France, and are now planning a trip to Austria with Carolyn and Max.
I don’t know if this is kosher, but now that we’ve got a fire escape out through the window in our shower, and the sister apartment on the other side of the building does too, I noticed today that they’re using it as planter shelf. I’d consider that, if only I were sure it wouldn’t incur the wrath of the fire department who required it in the first place.
In other news, check out the progress on the old snuff tobacco factory across the way from us. The pic on the left was taken on August 27, 2005 and the one on the right was taken today. It’s looking a lot nicer! However, I was saddened to see that the pretty new coat of yellow paint has already been marred with graffiti. I **hate** that! What freaking idiots are compelled to do that to a brand new renovation of an ancient building?! Beyond that, my aggravation at their senseless vandalism makes me feel old, and I chalk that up to them, too.
So on the CBYX mailing list recently, alumni were reminiscing about German food that they missed from their CBYX experiences. Inevitably, döners came up, and the poster even linked to this site as a reference. On that page, I found a recipe for a garlic sauce, which sounded to me like the spread of garlicky goodness my pal the Malge introduced me to back in the day at the Pita House at Maple and Rochester (it has since been renamed to the Grand Chateau and I don’t know if/how its menu has changed).
Anyhoo, this almost-waxy garlic spread had the kind of flavor that let you know immediately that you were going to be best buds for the next few days at least. And heaven help those in proximity to you. I was really hoping the garlic sauce recipe there would be exactly what I remembered from the Pita House.
Alas, it is not so. I just got done following the recipe they suggest, and my tongue feels like I just had two scoops of porcupine gelato. The sauce was not creamy and white with roughly the texture of mayonnaise. It was glowingly green and oily like a Bernini salesman. I had to flood my whole mouth with milk to get the burn to subside.
I think I finally hit my too-much-garlic threshold. This boundary has existed, theoretically, since I started making my own hummous, but I had no idea it existed in nature.
Part of the reason France hasn’t been high on my list of places to visit since we moved to Europe two years ago was its reputation for rudeness to foreigners (I admit it — I prejudged…sorry France). We certainly haven’t seen any of that this trip. Sarah explained to me that I was confusing Paris with the rest of the country (we haven’t seen any of Paris this trip, either). Here’s where we’ve been (note that these route depictions are not necessarily the actual routes we took):
Leg 1 – Regensburg, Germany to Evian-les-Bains, France. The navigation system in our rental car misled us a bit, until we figured out that it was trying to save us some tolls by routing us through Stuttgart. We came to the conclusion that navigation systems are great for getting to exact addresses when you’re already pretty close and just want to zero in, but for general city-to-city or inter-regional navigation, you’re probably better off just looking at the map. Driving through Switzerland was really anti-climactic. That just shows how little we know about the country’s geography. We’d expected glorious alpine splendor on the route between Bern and Zürich and found the drive to be pleasant, but not exciting. Not at all like what was in store for us as we approached Geneva. We stayed a delightful place called Hotel Les Cygnes — click that link to see our review of it. Sarah scored a real find here. Charming, elegant, and cheap.
Leg 2 – Evian-les-Bains to Chamonix. Lots of narrow mountain passes and switchbacks galore. Previous experience with the BMW 3-series made us thankful that we never got high enough to encounter any snow (Hi, Mom). But our ears popped more times that we could count, going up, down and around towns like Annemasse and Bonneville. Chamonix turned out to be a cute little ski resort town. According to Frommer’s, it’s not recommended for beginners or timid intermediate skiers, so it may be a while before we return (by contrast, Les Houches right nearby should be great). Still, it was cute. Check out especially the pic with the flowers.
Leg 3 – Chamonix to Avignon. Have you been to the seat of the papacy? We have, sort of. Avignon was the HQ of the Roman Catholic church for about seventy years in the 1300s. After the papacy returned to Rome, the grounds were even used at times as military barracks! The night we arrived, we strolled around the old walled city, thankful to get away from our horrid hotel and happy to stretch our legs a bit. We happened upon a great restaurant and had a fantastic North African meal (spot the trend of Good Eats *á France*?). Note for future reference: trying to park here made us *irrité*. We had a great audio tour of the grounds before heading further south.
Leg 4 – Avignon to Marseilles. You can really tell when you’ve left the French Alps and have entered another region; in this case the Riviera. The greenery changes and the breezes are warmer. We popped down from Avignon to Marseilles just for lunch because we could. It was a nice day, we had a nice car and a tank of gas at our disposal, so we said, “why not?” — and we are sure glad we did. Frommer’s led us to a fabulous restaurant in the *Port Vieux* of Marseilles where Sarah had the best beef ever and we both really enjoyed our *sorbets maison* for dessert.
Leg 5 – Marseilles to Lyon. The next leg took us back up North a ways to France’s second largest city. We stayed in a somewhat fancier hotel one night, found dinner by strolling around and left the next morning. We weren’t quite sure if we were all travelled out, or could stand another night on the road. In the end, we decided to do a drive through the *Schwarzwald* and stayed one night in Villingen.
Leg 6 – Lyon, France to Villingen, Germany. Villingen? Cute town, but with no night life whatsoever we could detect. Seriously, this place was **dead** last Saturday night. We managed to find a couple of open restaurants. At the one we chose, we sat inside a giant beer barrel turned on its side and had a couple of Schnitzels (I had a *Zigeuner*, Sarah went with the traditional). Our hotel was just fine (nice and cheap), but I was annoyed that the WLAN connection advertised on the web wasn’t functional. That was the major reason we decided to go with that place. Still, the room was clean and the price was low, and best of all, the shower was nice and powerful.
Leg 7 – Villingen to Regensburg. Had a pretty nice drive home this morning from Villingen. There were a couple of traffic accidents (caused most likely by Bavarians returning home from a long weekend) which caused some delays, but once we got back into Bavaria, it was smooth sailing.
All in all — great trip. Great planning by Sarah, great luck on the parts we didn’t plan, and great fun being on a road trip again. A parting gem: