Friday, August 24, 2007

Day 4: Hamburg

After spending a really fun filled night with the Hamburg team watching the soccer match, I didn't think I'd get to experience much more fun while on this trip. I was mistaken.

I awoke to a foggy morning, cool and crisp and decided it would be time well spent on a run around the Alster, the lake in the city center that I found out really isn't a lake at all. The run was nice, 7K at a mild pace giving me enough time to enjoy the surrounding landscape. It's also a great head clearer and gives me focus.

Topping the morning off with a good breakfast, I made my way into the office via taxi. The cab driver didn't speak a lick of English, my first communication challenge of the trip. Surprisingly though, we were able to communicate completely in English and had an enjoyable ride. It's nice to have a slight background in the language from elementary school to base some pronunciation and simple terms that allow for rudimentary forms of communication. It also helps to use broad hand motions and facial expressions. Probably more of that than the actual words being spoken.

Work improved as tensions in the design with the BUE team dissolved, or rather resolved. The day was well spent in design, feedback and resolution of plans. Unfortunately the Hamburg team is stalled for 48 hrs until tasks are completed by the BUE team.

As the work was a little lighter on this day, I was accompanied by one of the team mates at about 6pm to head down and do some shopping near the city center and the center rail station. We found some futbol jerseys for the boys and myself. Unfortunately, while shopping for dolls for the girls the sticker shock nearly caused me to go into coronary arrest. With collector dolls starting at 200 EU I about wet myself. I did find some lesser dolls for 25 - 55 EU, which after searching for other dolls is probably the way I'll go, but they don't have real hair but are painted on. I also found a store in an expensive mall (hopefully the items aren't too expensive) that sells handcrafted wood Christmas items. I can pick up a travel ornament there and maybe something for my wife. We'll see.

We left the shopping district and went down to the "harbor" where we saw the Queen Mary II (QM2) , the world's former largest cruise ship (it was surpassed in 2006 by Royal Cruise line's Voyager of the Seas). All of Hamburg came out to watch the QM2 depart from port and they made quite a show of it with fireworks and promenades by local vessels. The port riverside (Elba) was lined by Hamburgers (the term for the people of Hamburg) and cheers and shouts went out to the QM2 as it passed on by. Fun way to spend an evening.

We left the event and made our way back to the Alster and participated in the Alsterfarnugen, a local celebration around the inner Alster. The lake was lined with vendors from the city and local cover bands. We found some pizza and Berliners (local donut-like pastries that are filled with jelly and covered in icing but the breading is much better). I had to laugh at the observation of the vendors. The pattern followed: pub, pub, wurst, pub, pub, berliner, pub, pub, something else, pub, pub, etc. The whole fair was about beer and the taps were flowing.

Had a good time but it was late, arriving at home by about 12:30 am. I spent some time talking with the family on their way to meet the parents at our elementary school and then on later to the Rangers' game where they were accompanied by two friends from Argentina.

Spoke to my mom last night which was kind of fun being able to talk to her from Germany, dialing from a soft phone from Dallas on a company calling card. She was delighted to hear from me and I her.

Made it to sleep about 2am (nothing new for me on these trips) and had a great day.
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