The plane-ride over was pretty miserable, since I was suffering the worst part of a cold that started coming on a day or two before I left. On the other hand, with the help of Sudafed, I slept more than I usually do on flights. The headphones didn't work properly, but the movies sucked anyway. I spent my time reading Agatha Christie's The Seven Dials Mystery, which was not very good, either. It has some parallels to The 39 Steps (written 14 years earlier (and also not very good, unlike the film, which is excellent)). Then again, it seems that the Teens to Thirties period was big on stolen air ministry secrets.
The flight was also distinguished by the fact that I appear to resemble a piece of sturdy furniture or something. People passing down the aisle would use my shoulder as a brace, rather than the seat. Are my manly shoulders really that broad? Also the elderly Chinese man behind me would grab the top of my seat to haul himself up. Then, as he gained his feet, his release of the seatback resulted in a sort of Mike-apult game. Either he enjoyed the game, or this worthy Asian gentlemen also had the world's smallest bladder, because he found this game to have good replay value.
On the plus side, I cadged two bottles of Sekt at 'dinner' (one of those rare cases where German is more concise than English. Sekt beats 'sparkling white wine' or 'stuff that you would call champagne if it actually came from Champagne, but can't because the French would throw a hissy-fit'.) I told the couple next to me that drinking (non)champagne was my way of convincing myself that I was enjoying a luxurious first class flight. They asked if it worked. Sadly, it doesn't.
Anyway, my boss and I arrive at Frankfurt and eventually navigate through immigration, find a taxi and get to the hotel. Frankfurt has 'only' about 650,000 people, and once you're in its outskirts (like where the hotel was) you're in forest. It's quite nice, and somewhat reminiscent of the part of Seattle where Becca's twin lives. Little walking paths through the forest.
Since we have most of an afternoon to kill on Sunday, we get hooked up with a city tour booked by the hotel. The tour is pretty small - just one guy and his Renault mini-van. He'd picked up a woman from the airport with a couple hours of layover time and an old talkative biddy from Michigan. We were his last additions and off we went. We got to see something of the layout of the city and its bridges and various locales. There were a couple stops. One at the Römerberg. It's funny that a lot of those buildings were only built in the 1980's (after their destruction in WWII). Got a chance to look at the Dom, but not enough time to explore it. Took some photos (go to the right in the photostream to stay in the Römerberg). The next stop was at the Opera House, where (if you turn around) you get a good view of the financial district (which, with the airport, is the main business of Frankfurt).
The tourguide was full of all sorts of tourguide-ese - factoids that may or may not be true... who knows? But I'll forgive him his eccentricities, since he gave us a bottle of the local Apfelwein as a parting gift. Apfelwein is basically hard cider... it's the state beverage of Hesse (which includes Frankfurt). It's also called Ebbelwei, which I think must be how your average Hessian pronounces Apfelwein after he's had five or six of them.
Another thing we noticed on the tour was that it's asparagus season in Frankfurt. There are little temporary shacks here and there, sort of like fireworks stands, where you can get your Spargel. Unlike the narrow little green things we have, Spargel is big, fat and white, making the association as an aphrodisiac perhaps a little easier to understand. I'm glad we'd been tipped off, because otherwise dinner might have been frightening.
We ate at the hotel, and in their Spargel-madness there were two additional pages of Spargel-specials for the menu (Oh, there was one lonesome Strawberry-special as well, but the other dozen dishes were all Spargel). I couldn't quite handle the German on the description of what I ordered, but the English version was something like Spargel with ham, fried into a pancake. This I had to see. As it happened, it was Spargel wrapped in ham, wrapped in a crepe. It was not the Frankenstein monster I imagined, but it was really good. And I had Bier, lovely Bier.
The convention was at the Messe Frankfurt, and what a mess it is. 117 acres of potential exhibition space. Apparently, the annual car show draws one million visitors. There were only 200,000 or so at this show. That's still plenty. The interconnected halls aren't individually very large, but each one has several levels and there's ten of them. Even with peoplemovers and shuttles, it takes forever to get from one hall to the next. Fortunately, we were only interested in the stuff being shown in a few of the halls.
But sadly, the show was something of a bust for us. Although plenty of business was going on, there was nothing very exciting for us consultant types to find out about. With Pittcon being two months ago (which I went to) and Analytica two weeks ago (which a couple other people from my company went to), we already knew what was new and exciting and the exhibitors hadn't had time to invent anything else. As a plus, many of the booths serve beer, though the times we were offered some always seemed to be at 10 AM.
Dinner Monday was at a great little Biergarten not far from the hotel. I had Wienerschnitzel and I also managed to justify my presence on the trip. My very limited German came in handy on the trip. I'm by no means fluent, but I can easily handle your usual tourist conversations: getting directions, ordering food, locating a prostitute, und so weiter. Anyway, my hearty "Ja" was apparently convincing to the seater, who gave us German menus. My boss's German is pretty much limited to Ja und Nein, so we asked the waiter for one English menu. I figured, I could either handle the German, or use his menu as a cheat-sheet as necessary. The boss was lamenting that there was no pork knuckle & sauerkraut on the menu, as it was a particular favorite of his. I scanned through the menu and found the Schweinshaxe. It wasn't in the English menu, perhaps because the Germans thought that having pig-knuckle on the menu would upset the Americans or something. So I helped the boss get the meal he wanted. I had some Apfelwein and some Hefeweizen with the Wienerschnitzel and a good meal was had by all. The Apfelwein is perhaps a bit less sweet and more sour than most ciders you can get in America, but otherwise very similar.
Tuesday there was more of the show, but with little else to see we finished early. I suggested we check out the Archeology Museum. The Museum is housed in a Carmelite cloister, making it definitely the museum with the greatest ceiling height to gallery width ratio I've ever been in. The collection, unfortunately, is somewhat mediocre, apart from a nice collection of Greek pottery (but I can only take so much Greek pottery). They did have a nice special exhibit about Ötzi, the Iceman found up in the Alps back in 1991. Ötzi himself has his own museum, but they had nice reconstructions of his clothing and items, descriptions of his medical conditions and cause of death (murder by arrow). I think my favorite part was where they had some huge, life-size 'winkies' that showed the same model wearing the reconstructed clothing who would then morph into a modern, cleanshaven model in modern clothing. There were four of these, showing different aspects, like one had old-Ötzi with his copper axe while modern-Ötzi had a tennis-racket or something. I'm not sure I learned anything, but it looked neat.
But most of the museum seemed to be old junk that had been lost and dug up in Frankfurt over the centuries, with little organization. One thing that stood out among their collection of Roman columns was a big stone block that portrayed a woman petting a giant winged phallus - they figure it adorned a bordello.
Tuesday night, we ate at Haus Wertheym, which is in one of the few buildings to survive the Allied bombing. Awesome Bürgerlich food. I had the Würstchenplatte, with five different kinds of sausage. They also had an eisbock on tap. Lovely, dark and potent. So good.
Wednesday morning, back to the Flughafen. I hit up the Duty-free and came away with some Eiswein and a liter of Bowmore 15-year. For a minute, I thought I didn't get any benefit from the duty-free, but the prices I've seen online are for 750ml bottles, so I basically got an extra third of a bottle free. I tossed away my last euros on some kirschwasser and a German edition of the Da Vinci Code. I wouldn't stoop to reading it in English, but as a self-improvement project, I can get behind it.
The flight back was all right. Being non-sick makes up for a lot. And the screaming toddlers didn't scream too much. And Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire wasn't too bad. And the so-called goulash wasn't too bad. For this flight, I made my way through King Solomon's Mines. Perfectly fine reading-on-an-airplane book. Not as racist as I feared, but it's still disappointing to read Quatermain's reaction to the death of the lovely black maiden whom they had earlier rescued and had become rather attached to Mr. Good:
I consider her removal was a fortunate occurrence, since, otherwise, complications would have been sure to ensue. The poor creature was no ordinary native girl, but a person of great, I had almost said stately, beauty, and of considerable refinement of mind. But no amount of beauty or refinement could have made an entanglement between Good and herself a desirable occurrence; for, as she herself put it, "Can the sun mate with the darkness, or the white with the black?"
Actually, honey, they can, and you would've learned that if you hadn't been hanging out with repressed shirt-lifters. And that's mighty white of you, Mr. Quatermain. It's just as well that Foulata gets stabbed to death trying to save your sorry ass, because there might be some embarrassment involved afterwards. Ah well, it was 1885.