My Fourth Year in Germany

My title has a different look now since we moved from Munich to Düsseldorf beginning of October 2017.  It forced me to leave my comfort zone and I am now really on my own as a contractor using only one umbrella company, my German tax accountant.  Overall the move has been a great experience and I am now working for my first Japanese company Renesas.  I am working with several great new colleagues and I am learning new things all the time.  I do miss my old colleagues and friends in Munich but as contractors will say, you never know where you will end up next.

Our travels have been reduced since we now are thinking about saving money before we return to the US full time. But I do have a few travel pictures to share soon.

A background about Düsseldorf: it’s a beautiful small city near the border of the Netherlands right on the Rhine river. Yes, that Rhine river! Nadine has always loved rivers so she is getting spoiled here.  They also have the AltStadt (Old town) here and it is unlike any other place I’ve seen so far in Europe. Great restaurants scattered over criss-crossed walking paths with many stores mixed in. La Rambla in Barcelona comes to mind but it was mainly a straight path.

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We are only a 30 minute train ride to Cologne, what the locals call Köln (sounds like curln!) The O with the umlaut is difficult for english speakers. The only thing I can compare it to is the “er” sound in sister. Köln has been around for over 2000 years and is old compared to Düsseldorf which is not quite 900 years old. Köln is most famous for having The Cathedral, and it is magnificent!

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We are only a two hour train ride to Amsterdam, and the museums there are special. Rembrandt paintings are in several museums there, and I just can’t get enough of them. All the people are looking at his most famous “Nightwatch”. There is even a park with statues made from the Nightwatch painting.

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Thirty minutes farther on the train from Köln brings you to Bonn, Beethoven’s birth place. Talk about getting spoiled. I was close to Salzburg and visited several times. It is famous for being Mozart’s birth place. Now being close to Beethoven’s birth place, getting spoiled. I have had the complete set of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas for a long time and am studying them seriously now. He did things no one had done before and his Piano Sonatas are unmatched by any composer. Everyone has heard the “Moonlight Sonata”. Listen on Spotify and enjoy the masters genius. Unfortunately they do NOT allow photography inside the Beethoven museum 😦

I have to show you a few photos from my recent trip to Rome for my third time. But first time to see the Borghese Gallery. Oh my, if you go to Rome make sure you visit. You need to purchase tickets on-line and make a reservation since it is a smaller museum and they limit the amount of people inside. It is most impressive! Bernini’s David is shown below, incredible. Quite different than Michelangelo’s David in Florence.

This week I also found out I was given a 3 month extension at Renesas with hopefully another 3 months added later. This guarantees being in Düsseldorf until the end of June 2018, maybe till the end of September 2018. After that we will be moving again since this project is winding down. Once again the adventure will continue!

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Third Year in München

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here now for 3 years. Before we moved we thought we’d be here maybe a year, but three? To be honest I wasn’t even sure if I was going to write to you this year, but after thinking about all the places we’ve seen this year, here goes. I hope you enjoy this ride and maybe put one of them on your bucket list. I remember before we made the decision to move overseas, we thought this would be an adventure of a lifetime. It has been that and much more.

Before getting in the plane, let’s update my work status, since that’s the reason I’m here in the first place. This year I have really come up to speed and am contributing daily. The days go by fast and the weeks are flying by. I’m teaching and learning from my colleagues. And I recently heard this is going to be one of our best years as far as finances goes. In other words work is going sehr gute, danke schön. So buckle up and turn off all electronics bitte (please) and let’s go to where all roads lead, Rome!

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A sale popped up for a round trip ticket from Munich to Rome for $50. There sure are benefits being here. So after returning from the US after the holidays we went back to Rome in January. A good time to visit, the weather was great and not too many tourists. Above is Michelangelo’s La Pieta.  Again, I need to ask how is it possible for a human being to do this with a few tools? I’ve seen several Michelangelo’s, and every one of them is stunning. Soon I’ll share with you which one I was able to touch, but don’t tell the guard; he was looking away for a second.  I enjoyed Rome even better the second time, and I wouldn’t mind going back again to see the Vatican and have some amazing Pizza and Carbonara.

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Above is St. Peter’s Cathedral and it is so incredible you have to see it for yourself because words can’t describe it. I have trouble deciding which I like better, the Cathedral or La Sagrada in Barcelona. Also above is the Trevi Fountain in Rome.  Since the sale also had cheap Barcelona flights, we ended going back there in March.

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La Sagrada is another special place that is impossible to describe in words; you just have to see it one day. We also saw another Flamenco show in Barcelona, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And the food in Barcelona is great; Tapas and Paella and Sangria.

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Above we saw the Prague Cathedral in March, and it took my breath away. We had savory Goulash this trip. For the first time we visited the Jewish Quarter with the famous old cemetery shown below.

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In late April I was able to attend a conference in Denver and hook up with my children for some good times. I was really happy to be with several of my German colleagues for the conference to show them around our beautiful state for a few days. Before the trip I kept telling my colleagues in Munich how blue the skies are in Colorado. Sometimes Colorado weather can surprise you, no blue skies the entire week. Below is my good friend and colleague, Thomas. I showed him one of my favorite places in the Springs, the Trading Post. The Native American section is such a special place to look around. The Spirit is strong there.

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In June I was able to go with Thomas to the Lausitzring DTM car race; what a blast! I spent the night in Dresden for the first time. Thomas shared with me what it was like living in the former GDR, where he grew up. This was communist eastern Germany which was gobbled up by Russia after WWII. In 1961 the Berlin Wall was built separating the city. Thomas told me everyone living behind the Iron Curtain at the time would NEVER have thought the wall would ever come down. History can also surprise you at times.

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In July I was invited by Thomas to go to the Grossglockner highway in Austria. This famous road is similar to Trail Ridge road in RMNP. The difference is some German drivers like to drive fast (Thomas) and I was the passenger basically hanging on for dear life. I survived and what a beautiful drive it was.

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In August we spent a few nights in our back yard across the Austrian border in the beautiful lake town Walchsee. Nadine kept asking me why is it so beautiful and green here? When it started raining and didn’t stop, she got her answer. But Austria is another special place. The photo below shows a parade that went right in front of our hotel room, what a special treat.

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The above photo shows the Königsee lake. I would like to see this lake again, once is just not enough. The lake is close to Berchtesgaden, which was close to where we were staying.

Also in August I went back to Stuttgart to hook up with my brother from San Diego to visit the Mercedes Museum for the first time and re-visit the Porsche Museum. Thanks for making my trip so special Paul, you’re the best!

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In September we went back to Paris to spend some time with the relatives there. For the first time we spent a few nights in a hotel in the suburbs and saw several new places. But as usual our favorites St. Chapelle (below), Notre Dame, and Sacre Coeur were all special. I also went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe with an incredible view of Champs Elysees (below). We went to the church La Madeleine for the first time with amazing sculptures (below). We also visited the Eiffel Tower again.

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The photo above in the Louvre shows one of Michelangelo’s two Slaves.  Keep this a secret… I touched one of them. I am now connected to Michelangelo and feel better about that.

And last but not least I’ve saved the best 2 places for last. We met our girls in Athens in October and had an amazing time there. I felt like I was in heaven on the taxi drive from the airport since the driver was listening to Greek music, one of my favorite genres. I need to buy a bouzouki one day. Nadine and I ate our first dinner on the roof of one of the restaurants next to the Acropolis. The photo below is the view from the restaurant showing the Acropolis at night and another photo shows the Parthenon which we visited the next day.

Here is an excerpt from my journal on our first day out in Athens to give you a taste of Greek life: Our hotel in Athens was a 15 minute walk to the train station. On our first walk there, we passed an Orthodox Church and entered since a Sunday morning service had just begun. This was a special treat for us since we are Orthodox. After leaving the Church we continued to the station. We entered a bakery on the way. The workers were so friendly and after a while they gave us some free bakery items. We have never had this happen to us anywhere. Then we just had to share a baklava, yummy. But we paid for it so we didn’t feel guilty 🙂  Continuing on to the train station we passed several Gyros shops, which we went to in the coming days. Cheap and tasty with fries stuffed in the Gyros. Later this day we visited a different bakery in a different part of town and rubbed shoulders with some of the locals while eating outside. These elderly men couldn’t really understand English, and it’s all Greek to me. But nevertheless we did communicate just enough and enjoyed our time with them. After our first day in Athens, it seems to me the Greek people are some of the friendliest in the world.

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Now get ready for your perfect getaway escape to relax and recharge your batteries. After Athens we took a short flight to Santorini. Yes, you heard right, Santorini! If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. And before I begin, I want to go back NOW! Just too many superlatives, I need to stop because I could go on for hours about this special island. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. But put Santorini on your bucket list if you have never been there. From what I hear, it’s hot and crowded during peak season. We were there mid October and things were winding down. The weather was perfect and the sunsets, oh my. I want to go back NOW!  Below is the view from our hotel. The next 2 are at the Santos Winery, with perhaps the best place to see the sunset. The last 3 pics are Oia. What a special place. We had an amazing view for dinner at Kastros Greek Restaurant. What a trip!   Poso S’ Agapo Greece!  I hope to see you again one day!

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I hope you enjoyed our travels for 2016; it sure set a record for most places visited in one year. I wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year in 2017. Auf wiedersehen!

Second year in Munich 2015

My second year in Munich was an amazing time of traveling to new places and re-visiting a few others. Shortly into the new year 4 of us from our group at Infineon were informed our contracts would not be renewed. So a different kind of adventure began finding a new job. I was fortunate to land in the Chip Card group at Infineon. And what a coincidence, our new bank cards from the US recently arrived with new chips in them. When a colleague tested the cards, he informed me the chips were manufactured by Infineon. Sehr gute! So far, I really like the new group and learning new stuff all the time. I am a lot more comfortable living in Munich after the first year, but the language isn’t getting any easier, sheesh. Are you kidding me, they have like 7 different ways to say “The”. But we are very fortunate to be here, most people under 40 speak fluent english. I know more German than last year, but the problem is when I do say something I get myself into trouble because they speak German back to me, very quickly and I just feel helpless. In time, just be patient. One of my favorite parts of living in Europe is experiencing so many different cultures, it’s so amazing. So let’s begin speaking some French, shall we?

In April we went back to France and enjoyed being with the relatives again. We were truly blessed again to be at Notre Dame on Easter Sunday to venerate THE Crown of Thorns! What an experience.

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This is Strasbourg, France, on the German western border. We also visited in May Stuttgart and the Schwarzwald (Black Forest). I was able to visit the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart not once, but twice. More on that later…

We must have really liked the Schwarzwald, because we went back in June. If you have the opportunity to go there, do it. It’s so peaceful and the rolling hills are magical. We also visited Switzerland for the first time, and I think we’ll return again. We went to Grindelwald and  Kleine Scheidegg.

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Above is where I was fortunate enough to see the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway in Europe, at 11,332 ft. Not impressive as far as Colorado is concerned. But at the top there is a new meaning to snow, and I mean lots of the white stuff. Check out above the thickness of the crevasses that could swallow up that copter. I thought I was at the top of Mt. Everest, it was such a different world up there. And the Aletsch Glacier below is a kilometer thick at the top where it begins, incredible.

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Also in June we went back to Salzburg after seeing this fine town of Mozart a year ago. Salzburg is just a 2 hour bus trip so it’s basically in our back yard. A year ago for some reason I just didn’t connect there maybe because of the weather, who knows. But this time things were different. I saw the main tourist stuff and really connected to the town and Mozart and look forward to many other trips to Salzburg. Below is the view from the Fortress which stands over Salzburg and can be seen everywhere from the city. And yes, the hills are alive with the sound of music. I’ve heard that from some lady singing a long time ago in a movie!

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In July I saw the BMW Welt (World) in Munich. It was free and well worth the visit. They really spoil the customers who purchase a new BWM.

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In August for my 60th birthday I decided to really have an adventure to a different culture, Istanbul. I could talk a long time about it there, and I really enjoyed the experience. But beware of the rug salesmen! They are all over the place. But I will say the locals are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Below is our Bosphorus cruise and the Grand Bazaar. Edmund from “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and I have something in common, I love Turkish delight now!

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In September my good friend and colleague Thomas and I  rented a Porsche 911 from the Porsche Museum and drove it on the Autobahn and through parts of the Schwarzwald, what an experience. We got it up to 152 mph at one point, and I’m glad I was in the passenger seat, I guess.

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And to cap off the year the girls visited us in October and we went to Barcelona, and fell in love with the place. What a city. I almost forgot to tell you about when the girls came to Munich and surprised Nadine for Mother’s Day. Now that’s quite a surprise. We took them to Vienna and they really liked The Haus Der Musik. That place is special. Back to Barcelona. Go there if you have the opportunity, it’s got amazing food and fantastic Sangria. Incredible architecture and fantastic Flamenco. My favorite place was La Sagrada Familia. So different on the inside compared to the outside. Gaudi built it mimicking nature, notice the picture below looks like trees. What an amazing place, and they won’t finish it till 2026!

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I wish I could end by saying this was a great year but my wonderful Mom left us for good in October after 87 years and 16 days here. Mom, I’ll be seeing you and Dad on the other side someday. Come to think of it, the picture above from La Sagrada kind of looks like heaven, doesn’t it!

I’ll close out my second year with a picture of my 3 favorite ladies enjoying Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Ciao, until next year in Munich!

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My first year in Munich, Germany

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It’s hard to believe I have been in Munich for nearly a year. And now it’s hard to believe I feel like a local. I am starting to kind of understand some of the language eine sehr bisschen (a very little). I plan next year to get serious about learning some Deutsche. I love asking a local German person “Sprechen sie English?”. always they hesitate slightly, and they say eine bisschen, and then we are talking normal English. They say “a little” because if they are not perfect in their English, then they will say “a little”. I am fortunate here since most Germans under 40 speak fluent English, and most of them enjoy doing it.

Here is a quick re-cap of what I have seen and experienced.  We have traveled a lot and have seen Munich of course and still am seeing new stuff here all the time. One of my favorite places in all of Munich is the Deutsches Museum. It’s the German version of the Air & Space museum, but about 10 times bigger.  I experienced my first Oktoberfest, and I can’t wait to ride the ferris wheel next year. All the huge ginger bread cookies were quite a sight, everywhere you looked, there they were! We have seen Salzburg (Salt Castle) and really enjoyed the Mozart House museum. We then visited Innsbruck (bridge over the river Inn) and stayed at a bed and breakfast nearby that was surrounded by the Alps. We have seen Vienna and watched an opera from a huge outside screen at the world famous Vienna Opera House. I took a tour of the famous St. Stephans church there. The impressive Haus Der Musik in Vienna is a must see for Classical music lovers. We saw the Blue Danube river at the edge of Vienna, and it’s not blue. We have visited our French relatives. When in Paris we heard the most heavenly singing at Notre Dame for Good Friday, and venerated THE Crown of Thorns. And of course I visited my favorite place in all of Paris, St. Chapelle. We visited Prague in the Czech Republic and really can’t wait to visit again. The Charles Bridge at the right time of day when there are not a zillion tourists is a very special place to be. The Czech specialty Goulash was eaten several times, it’s great.

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Then we went on The Italy Trip. Our rental car was a Mercedes, what a treat. The big three. Venice, Florence and Rome. Yes, we did the Gondola ride in Venice and that was special.  But I really fell in love with Tuscany and Florence and can’t wait to return. We went on a wine tour in the famous Chianti region of Italy close to Florence. And how can I forget that view of Tuscany from the outskirts of Siena at Villa Veronica Hotel? But perhaps most amazing to me is how a human being (Michelangelo), with his hands and some tools created the magnificent statue of David? It does not seem possible to me, but I saw it with my own eyes. Of course all roads lead to Rome they say. Just walking around the ruins is amazing. And being inside the Colosseum is incredible, to think about what happened there back in the day. Now watching “Gladiator” has special meaning. The Sistine Chapel is also incredible. And I was not prepared for the sights in massive St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pieta made by a young Michelangelo is stunning.

When I first arrived in Germany I felt like I was on another planet. The first few months of adjusting to a difficult and challenging job went well. And now I am very comfortable in my role and I feel like I am back on planet Earth. Right now I Integrate complex test programs for testing the Tri-Core Microprocessor. It is used by all the major automobile manufacturers. That means Mercedes, BMW, Audi, VW, etc. And the way cars are using more and more electronics these days, this means the future is bright for my company Infineon for this market. I really have enjoyed making new friendships with colleagues, which actually work in Munich, Austria, Italy and Singapore.

Of course I need to mention what I have learned about Munich’s dark past as the birthplace of Nazism. When living in the US  I wondered what it would be like in Germany since WW2. Since I am now living here, I see the German people dealing with their past and not sweeping it under the rug. The German school children are required by law to visit 2 former concentration camps and are encouraged to study on their own to come to terms. I have attended several “Third Reich” walking tours in town and have learned much about how and why Hitler came to power. Personally, what I have learned is it is dangerous to be prejudiced against a group of “undesirables” no matter how different they are. This can lead to blaming said group for all your problems, which can lead to destruction of the group. Looking back, this thinking caused the death of millions and 80% destruction of Munich. The city has since been mostly rebuilt. What is most interesting, the city has not erased signs of their past. There are still remnants, but you need to dig to decipher the past. I have been told this has been done on purpose so the people can learn from their past mistakes. On a more positive note I have learned about the Weise Rose Society (White Rose), and Sophie Scholl and a hand full of followers. They stood up to Hitler and disagreed with the lies coming from the Nazis and paid the ultimate price. Sophie is now a National hero and also one of mine.

The hardest part of the move was of course being away from my precious children and being away from my wonderful wife Nadine for the first 10 weeks after I arrived. She had a major hip injury right before I came out and was required by her insurance to rehabilitate before she could go to Germany. We even thought she might need surgery. But the Doctor finally gave permission for her to fly to Germany. I remember right after her arrival taking her straight to the Augustiner Beer Hall for a proper introduction to Bavaria. This is a special place to eat, near the heart of Munich, Marienplatz. Shortly after her arrival she too felt she was on another planet.

I can now say without a doubt this was the most interesting and difficult at times year in my whole life. But I can also say I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had to. And I look forward to living the dream in Europe for I hope several more years. Keep watching for more trip updates through 2015.

Auf Wiedersehen