November 21, 2010

Cologne Germany - How cool is that?

First off a shout out to cousin Nancy from Iowa, she has let me know that she's moved more toward full retirement and next up is more travel.  Make sure you keep me informed as to where you go, what you do and who you see and I'll forward/post what you send, well, within reason anyway.  ;-)

As for my recent trip to Germany.  I traveled to Cologne to see the International Office Furniture Exposition, called Orgatec.  The "reason" for the trip is that much of our office design styles come from the European Designers, so I considered this a research trip.  The furniture show was about what you'd expect, lots of product displays, some new technology and lots of people networking.

Well, one of the office spaces wasn't what you'd expect, it was a workstation that held 10 people and they all faced out, pretty cool set up.  I sat directly next to the salesperson and as I faced out, I couldn't see them in my peripheral vision, because they were slightly behind me.  Also, since you're sitting on the inside of the circle, your work surface gets larger as it goes away from you, so while it's pretty tight, it feels bigger.  I would love to have this for our Customer Relations area, very easy to stay connected and yet, it felt big.  It's hard to explain and the photo really doesn't do it justice.  It looks like a spaceship, but more functional.  Both my boss and I really want to figure out a way that we could implement this at our office.

So, since I recently vented about my air travel, here's how it went with the same airline, Delta, when traveling overseas.  I boarded the plane Wednesday afternoon at Grand Rapids, flew to Detroit, we had short layover there and then on to Amsterdam and from there to Cologne.  The long flight was to Amsterdam and I had opted for coach to keep the costs down.  As we were settling in for the long flight the lady in the next seat popped a couple of Ambiens, announced that while she'd not slept on a flight before, she was going to this time.  She tossed and turned a couple of times and then was out like a light.  It was pretty disheartening to see this smallish person curl up in a coach seat, lay her pillow on the tray and then lay her head on the pillow.  Out like a light I tell you!  I looked at her and then at my own tray and tried to lay my head down on the tray.  Nope, too tall, too heavy, too stiff, too whatever.  I glared at the girl as she peacefully slept and I thought and I thought.  Half way across the Atlantic Ocean I had a brainstorm!  I got up, took out my briefcase from the overhead bin, sat back down, put down the tray, put the briefcase on the tray and then the blanket they give you and then then pillow.  I laid my forehead down on the pillow and after adjusting my hands/arms (they ended up folded in my lap) I was out to the world and I successfully slept on a plane with no Ambien and while seated in coach to boot.  When I awoke, it was time for the morning snack.  After a quick freshening up in the bathroom I was good to go.

From the Cologne airport I went straight to Orgatec.  It was pretty cool to figure out the train system and end up where I needed to when I needed to.  Once at the show I connected with my counterpart from Mexico and we spent the afternoon walking among the five large buildings.  That's when we came upon the round stations mentioned above. 

Around 5 o'clock we headed to the hotels, since we'd signed up late we all ended up in different hotels.  Jorge helped me get to my hotel, remember, I'd only had a nap in the long flight so my ability to figure out how to get around was limited.  After I got cleaned up we all met up for dinner.  We met at the Cologne Cathedral, the most famous and obvious landmark in the city.  Below are a couple of shots, I never did get far enough back to get the entire structure in a single shot.  But it was a very cool building with a very heavy Gothic influence, more about that in a later post.

After meeting near the Dom, as it's called in Cologne, we went out to eat.  This would be my first major meal in Germany.  I was really excited, did you know that I am part German?  Well I am.  So I was really excited.  Then I heard we'd be going to a Japanese Steakhouse.  What!?  This couldn't be happening!  But it was.  We went and I had a great Japanese Beer called Kirin, but, but I wanted German Beer!  Anyway, I'd heard that the menu was bilingual and so I thought I'd be all set.  Sure enough, it was bilingual, the menu was in German (obviously) and in Japanese (I guess this should have been obvious too!)  With the help of a very nice Japanese waitress I managed to order a nice duck dinner.  This is teppanyaki style of cooking.  I'm pretty experienced with this style of cooking, I've had it in Grand Rapids, out on the East Coast, in Dallas, in Chicago, in LA, in Mexico, in Taiwan and in Hong Kong and now in Germany.  I must say though, that this was, by far, the best I'd ever expericed.  The Chef did an awesome job with my duck and he did a reduction sauce, on that flat habachi grill, that was really, really good.  How could I have doubted Dan?  He was right, this was a great dining experience.

After dinner we wandered around town, had a few beers at a local dive that had a band that played, wait for it, wait for it, Dixieland Jazz!  Yes, you heard it.  Here I am in Germany and first we have Japanese food and now we're listening to Dixieland jazz.  Pretty weird and had I not been there, I'd have been sure that someone was just pulling my leg.  The beer though was a great light lager, golden colored, fresh tasting and a clean finish. Aah, my first true German Bier! The bar was Papa Joe's, follow the link if you'd like to see more.  After a few beers I begged off due to exhaustion and slipped off to my hotel.  It had been a great start to my European trip!

That's enough for now. 

Have a great day!