I know how much it chafes when DB leaves you in the lurch, but this weekend, they met our expectations easily.
I was just singing the DB praises yesterday, and now look what happened.
It’s 19:30 and I’m stuck in Nürnberg Hbf OTW home from my meeting with my boss. My train was supposed to depart at 18:31. It got to the station 30 minutes late and won’t depart for who knows how long while they make room for us on a detour route around the tracks connecting Nürnberg and Regensburg directly because they dug up a (presumably old) bomb at a construction site near the tracks somewhere between here and Neumarkt. They’re re-routing us via Ingolstadt, but that’s taking forever.. I’m not taking any calls on my cell phone so my beautiful American English won’t give me away, in case it’s one of ours. I don’t think even a Canadian or British accent would help me out here much. Maybe Irish though. They were neutral in WW2, right?
When we learned of the Mauerfall Spezial for 20€ tickets to anywhere in Germany, we jumped on it. We weren’t sure where we wanted to go, so when TQE graciously suggested we stay with him, we thought “Why not? He’s the one who told us about the special price, after all!”
So on Friday after getting my 40 hours in for the week I bolted out of work and Sarah and I headed “up North” (man, that term just feels wrong when it’s not applied to Michigan) to visit TQE and check out Erfurt. I’d been there once before, but Sarah didn’t get to explore it with me as she was departing for a shopping in London with pal Monet at the time. Erfurt is a neat-looking place with an intact medieval town center and a swell modern tram system. I’m glad to have seen it again and pleased as punch to squeeze in a visit with TQE.
We managed to take nine trains over the course of this weekend, and every single one of them was on time. I know how much it chafes when DB leaves you in the lurch, but this weekend, they met our expectations easily. Except, maybe in the translation department. Anyone know what the heck is going on here? It’s a small placard on a compartment in an ICE we took from Saalfeld to Nürnberg this afternoon:
Is that a (mis)translation from “Hahn” to “cooks”? Or just a misspelling (perhaps one ‘o’ too many and one ‘c’ too few)?
In other news, if you’re going to ask someone to send you barbecue sauce from back home in the states (because it’s just that good in your home area), make sure you have them package it as well as my mother-in-law did. This jar/bottle (not sure, haven’t opened it yet) of Rosedale sauce would have been a disaster if not for her clever use of an air-tight plastic bag. The other bottles and jars managed to not get seasick in transit, and had better seals to begin with. Only Rosedale’s crummy (non-existant?) seal was suspect and Susie’s instinct was straight as an arrow on this one (but not on the Bull’s Eye, thankyouverymuch).
We walked around a bit today taking in probably one of the last “nice weather” days of the season. There were some nice leaf scenes over the past few weeks, but I always managed to miss the sunlight, being trapped in the office, or not happen to have my camera with me when the sun was actually out. You can click any of these to embiggen ’em if you like.
In geeky news, I finally got fed up with the crummy Xandros Linux OS and ongoing lack of updates to the software repository on our Asus Eee PC 701 (the 4GB SSD model), so I downloaded the Jaunty Jackalope version of Ubuntu, remixed for netbooks. I was impressed that it was so easy to install using a USB flash drive (or USB-attached HDD, or an SD card, which is what I did). Perhaps the days of burning ISO images to CD (or DVD) are over for anyone with a 1GB or more flash memory device (or external HDD). Stuff seems to work pretty well, right after the install (including improved WLAN connectivity to hotspots and stuff — so far, so good), but here’s one thing that (surprisingly) didn’t: Skype.
The video didn’t work because the onboard webcam was disabled in the BIOS (bwah? But then how did it work under Xandros?). I read about that online somewhere. The secret is to press Esc during the boot sequence to go into the BIOS and turn on the onboard camera. The onboard microphone is not working at all — neither with the included Sound Recorder-esque app in Ubuntu, nor with Skype. So that may be a project to make it work. I have yet to try it with a headset or external mic, so maybe there’s still hope. Sort of annoying though, since it worked just fine under crappy the Xandros distribution. One suggestion I saw on a Skype discussion forum post was to buy an external (USB) sound card for a few Euros and make it work that way, which bodes ill for my theory of simply using an external mic instead of the onboard one. But I’m surprised there not some army of cheap geeks out there who reverse-engineered the drivers for that hardware from the Xandros distribution for use with Ubuntu.
If this proves a viable alternative to the Xandros stuff that came with it, then we might have prolonged the life of this netbook by quite a bit. It was getting kind of frustrating not being able to (easily) run Firefox ≥v.3.
I got this email after purchasing some WiFi bandwidth on our downtime at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport today and it reminds me that we need to explore some low countries some more, if only to take in the neato language.
If you can read German and English, you can read Dutch. Right? I’m struggling to find a word here that I can’t derive from German or English.
Dank voor uw aankoop en welkom bij HotSpots van KPN. Uw transactie is succesvol verwerkt. De factuur voor deze transactie is in deze e-mail bijgesloten. De factuur kunt u ook downloaden, indien u op de inlogpagina van KPN HotSpots met uw account inlogt. (www.kpn.com/hotspots)
Meer informatie over de diensten van KPN HotSpots kunt u vinden op www.kpn.com/hotspots. Voor technische ondersteuning bij het inloggen kunt u contact opnemen met 0900-HOTSPOTS, ofwel 0900-46877687 (0,45 euro per gesprek). De helpdesk is dagelijks geopend van 8.00 uur tot 22.00 uur. Vragen kunnen ook gesteld worden via het vragenformulier op www.kpn.com/hotspots, onder ‘vragen.’
Actually, these are from the air after having departed Edinburg on our way to our connecting flight in Amsterdam. I’m posting them from a hotspot at B24, waiting for our flight to Munich.
(Parenthetical paragraph: Thanks Adam, for the Schengen-non-Schengen explanation of Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and the concourse / security queue layouts. I told a ticket agent at Edinburgh what a pain Amsterdam can be for that very reason. Fortunately, it was pretty painless today, too.)
Edinburgh has an impressive bus system – at least based on outward appearances. 3GBP for an adult day pass is a pretty good deal, if you need it. Turns out we didn’t, based on where we were staying and what/how much we wanted to accomplish each day. We only used the bus twice – one trip out to Cramond and one back. You see busses, hundreds of them even, out on the street at all times of day. But if you don’t know exactly which bus you need or where it stops, good luck. The signage is awful — self-defeating actually, since often we couldn’t read the bus numbers at the stops until having reached the bus shelter, as OTHER bus signs were obscuring the ones we needed to see. Why bother with signs at all then? And it didn’t do us much good to try to figure out on the bus system’s website where the stops are on a real map (not just a schematic). I’ve seen that Google Maps has started marking U-Bahn stops and routes for Munich (and presumably other metropoles) on the maps for that area. That’s “brill” and a long time coming. Now every city needs that, for all their lines.
How about that Starbucks Gingerbread Latte? Pretty freakin’ tasty. Finally a reason other than Frappucinos to head into a Starbucks. I think I had three of them this trip. Seems like there was a Starbucks on every other corner around the bigger streets in New Town.
Shepherd’s Pie eluded me on this trip, but not for lack of trying. We did manage to snag some fantastic Indian (“curry”) take-out on our last evening. An original West Cornwall pasty at the airport on the way home and the fish-and-chips towards the beginning of the trip meant that we got enough native British stuff to eat. Especially considering the amount we brought home from Marks & Spencer to prepare/consume at the apartment.
When boarding planes, why don’t they get a PROPER boarding order down to a science? Sure, Extra-Special Lesser Deity Gold, Silver and Silver Plus can get on the plane first, for all I care. But why not implement a Window, Middle, Aisle seating order? We’ve all got boarding passes denoting the seat. Wouldn’t that make more sense? Over and over and over again passengers seated in the middle or aisle have to get up and let the window-seat passengers get to their window, just because they boarded out of this order. Seems like a simple solution to getting the sheeple onto the plane and seadted more quickly doesn’t it?
I don’t banter well (anymore). I think I used to; I must have lost this skill somewhere over the last five years. I wonder if the UK, or maybe English-speaking countries in general have banter-prone cultures. It’s not that I mind making small talk about practically nothing among those I know or want to know better — but the cashier selling me a hat and a shirt at Marks & Spencer doesn’t seem worthy of getting my life story, or even the circumstances which brought my American accent to his cash register. When forced, my answers are usually clipped and humorless. Clearly this also presents its own distinct disadvantage: potentially missed opportunity. We dined at a restaurant with a perfectly lovely and chatty waitress here in Edinburgh. She inquired as to our accents, wanted to know where in the U.S. we’re from, how long we’d be staying in Scotland, and even divulged that she too is a native North American (from P.E.I. to be exact). Sarah played along much better than I. Good thing too, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have gotten her tip to visit Cramond Island or at least the shore at Cramond, a town on the coast of the Firth of Forth (love saying that). We had a nice walk from the #41 bus route down into the village at out to the shore, where lots of people and their furry fetching friends were also out for a stroll along the seashore.
I wondered if this was evidence of the supposed superficiality Germans sometimes claim Americans exhibit. I mean, if that’s originally a British cultural artifact, then it makes sense that we as Americans have absorbed it. But the Germans don’t claim that the Scots/Welsh/Irish/English are superficial, do they? That’s an honest question, since I don’t know enough people from the British Isles to ask whether Germans accuse them of being superficial in their interpersonal activities.
I think Sarah nailed it when she said it’s simply a more frequent readiness to smile, shoot the breeze, etc. When we asked for extra help around here (with catching a bus, directions inside the airport, etc.), we got more smiles and chuckles than we bargained for every time. Even passers-by on our stroll along the shore at Cramond made pleasant, cheerful comments of encouragement. It was actually quite…warm. I think I can see how others might classify Germans as culturally cold if they were coming from a place where random pleasantries* are frequent and above suspicion.
Here are the best shots from our last full day, Sunday, in the Edinburgh area. It was a great trip for the city and it did well to convince us that we’d like to see more of rural Scotland, perhaps by flying into a big city and renting a car for a BnB-hopping adventure next year.
*And I can see that the term in itself is subjective. What is an objective term for those things?
I was dumb today and forgot to pack my camera as we left the rental apartment. Or was I? These shots from our little Samsung ES55 and they seem pretty good to me at first glimpse. But I’m looking at them on our netbook too, so maybe my opinion will change when we get home.
Today was our shopping day. Not sure why, but we like to acquire kitchen implements when traveling. A cheese grater in Erfurt, a glove for slicing only our food and not yourself in Kansas City — this tradition is growing. Our garlic press will now forever remind of of our trip to Edinburgh.
We explored the Princes Street Gardens and strolled up around the west side of hill upon which Edinburgh Castle sits and had a look. We decided not cough up the £11 (£14 if you want the audio guide) as we were beginning to get cold and tired. So we headed back down the Royal Mile and into some good shopping.
The weather was not as cooperative today. It was really windy all day, inverting all kinds of umbrellas (but not ours, ha!) and when the rain came down the hardest after we made our way back to Princes Street, we ducked into some department stores. I snagged some new duds; maybe some pictures of them will appear here soon.
Another lucky day, weatherwise. Even better than yesterday, actually, because there was a lot of sun.
We got up much later than expected, probably because the shutters in the bedroom block out all the light. When we got rolling, I was pretty hungry (like I am, in the morning, especially on vacation), so we stopped in at the Urban Angel because it was on the way and looked cute. Good choice. We each had the French Toast and bacon. I was surprised to see the bacon had also been dusted with powdered sugar. I thought that was a little weird, but it tasted OK.
From there we decided we needed to take advantage of the weather to stroll the Royal Mile. Looks like that was well-played, too — tomorrow’s forecast is very rainy. When we got to the end of it, we noticed we’d happened upon Holyrood House, and since its owners weren’t home, we decided to take a tour. I scoffed at the £10 admission but I have to admit it was well worth it. For an extra £4 a piece we also got admission to the Queen’s Gallery, currently showing chilling photographs from two disastrous British expeditions to the South pole. Also well worth it.
After that, we were I was beginning to get hungry again, so we stopped in at the World’s End for a chippy. Needless to say, that left us feeling pretty full, which was the best time to go grocery shopping. Apparently, clementine season is already in full swing here. Are they on sale already in Germany, too? Hope so.
After that, we were tired from pounding the pavement and hauling the groceries around, and it was already well and truly dark (we’re pretty far North), so we just decided to stay and watch local TV to soak up some more of that accent. Here are the rest of the pictures from today, in slideshow format for your viewing pleasure: