Tübingen, Germany

Neckar River, the famous boats, and an island in the middle

Tübingen is a beautiful university town in Southern Germany. Dad was there for a few days so I decided to include a visit in my whirlwind European tour. We arrived at 10 pm after our Baden Baden day. I was pretty tired and thought about going to bed. Dad suggested meeting up for a drink, which meant we walked up the hill to one of the main squares where a festival was happening! Stadfest!

We ordered beers from one of the tents, which I found confusing since I was given two tokens instead of two beers. Wait, what does that mean? Dad explained that the tokens for when we turned in the glasses after drinking and got our glass deposit back. Glass and bottle deposits were common in Germany and Switzerland- it’s a great idea to me!

We took our beers and sat down at one of the tables. It was a lot of fun because everyone was in such a good mood! There was a lot of singing along to the music and it felt very happy and carefree. Also, drunk, for sure since everyone else had probably been partying for hours rather than on a never-ending train ride.

We had two beers and left as the party was winding down about 90 minutes later. Dad and I bought the second-most delicious thing I ate on the trip, which was a bratwurst with mustard on a roll from a food tent set up on the street. It was delicious! Late night snacks after drinking, plus a little bit of jetlag-fueled hunger, are best addressed by bad-for-you, tasty-to-eat types of food!

The next day, we walked around historic Tübingen. We went to the Hölderlin Tower, where a famous poet lived for the second half of his life as a boarder renting out the second floor. Some of his translated poetry was very evocative. He really liked rivers, which is fitting since the Neckar flows by right below his window. The back garden was beautiful where there was a statue that had a plaque that said the statue was meant to reflect the emotional state the Hölderlin’s poetry creates, rather than actually looking like Hölderlin. Um, okay. I guess the likeness is pretty poor, then? I thought the statue was nice.

Tübingen, not a fan of the pigeons! This is the pigeon house where the pigeons roost and the city-workers steal the eggs to keep numbers down!

Next, we walked up the steep hill to Hohentübingen Castle, where there’s a great museum overseen by the university. We saw the UNESCO-approved Ice Age mammoth ivory tusk figurines. The most famous one is a little horse (Vogelherd horse), whose legs seem to have fallen off sometime in the last 40,000 years. It’s the first example of figurative art known in modern human existence. Very impressive, especially since 40,000 years later, my own drawing of horses look way worse and less horselike!

Eros, casually riding on a centaur

We also saw other antiquities. It was a really nice museum. The castle itself is on the high ground so once we were done, we went outside and took in the views. Next, we grabbed some lunch from a very limited menu (Sundays), which was two pieces of perfectly toasted toast with cheese. It was okay though because I was saving my appetite for a delicious dinner.

I climbed to the top of the church tower while Dad went back to the hotel. The views were pretty spectacular. Apparently, the bellringer lived up in the loft with his family in olden times. There was a rule that they couldn’t toss their waste from the top of the tower, which, as the sign says, probably means they did it and therefore necessitated the rule being made!

I took a quick nap and then it was time to go to dinner. We walked up the hill again to Restaurant Mauganeschtle. We sat on the terrace on another gorgeous evening. For a started, I had a delicious salad and Dad had a cold soup. For the main, we each ordered a pork dish- mine was with a white wine sauce and his was with a creamy mushroom sauce. Both were excellent! We each had an aperitif to start, followed by a glass of wine. Even though I normally drink reds, I had a riesling since we were in an area known for them. It was very good, very much on the dry side which is what I wanted. I’m not a big fan of sweet rieslings.

After that, we walked back to the hotel. No Stadfest tonight! The next day, I was planning on leaving for Wengen, Switzerland for a two day stay in what I think is the most beautiful place on earth!

Scandinavian Summer: Intro and Day 1

An abstract I submitted to an international conference in Uppsala, Sweden was accepted back in April and I decided to go ahead with the presentation and the trip.  Seeing as I love vacations, I added some vacation before and after the conference to enjoy Sweden (and a little bit of Denmark!).  I didn’t think SMS could go b/c his vacation days were low but since his mother’s side is from Sweden, he decided to take a few unpaid days so we could explore together.  YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!

I scheduled things rather tightly between work and my departure flight, but it ended up working out!  My initial flight was delayed so I worked with a nice United rep over the phone for a new itinerary. Relatedly, have you ever been on hold so long that you’re worried that the person has forgotten about you/assigned you to purgatory/will never come back?!  No…me neither.

The beer garden is hiding behind the plants!!

My new itinerary was longer and gave me a 4.5 hour layover in Munich. I did some on-the-fly research and quickly found out that going into Munich proper would be pretty tight, time wise. But I found a good alternative!  I decided to take a cab to Freising and have a beer break at Weihenstephan, the oldest brewery (since 1040) in the world!  The public transportation option seemed straight-forward but would take too long.

This picture makes the beer look small. It was not.

It was a beautiful day!  It was a little tricky to find the actual Biergarten on the brewery grounds but not too bad. I sat outside and tried to (discretely?) check out how things worked. It looked like there was waiter service inside, while the outside was a self-service counter. I ordered a 1L lager and a small pretzel. After I sat down, I realized most people were drinking 0.5L but had several consecutively.

Such a great day!

I read my book and drank my beer. I looked for an Uber and oops, no luck!  I didn’t have the number for a cab company. I had taken a cab there because I was unable to find the Uber I requested (5€ penalty!). I was hoping for an Uber back but I had left plenty of time to take the bus. As I started to walk, I checked again and success!  An Uber Black was nearby. I got to the airport, went through security and was still 1 hour early for my flight.

How awesome is this? A self-serve Nespresso right by the gate- yes, please!

All the flights went well. I was mistaken for German the whole way, which tends to happen when I go to Western Europe.  SMS and I together really makes people think we’re German.

I walked to my AirBnB and waited for 25 minutes to be let in. Apparently, the woman was in the kitchen where she can’t hear the buzzer. I thought that was a shitty excuse since I was there exactly when I said and wouldn’t you think a normal person would listen out for the bell. The price was right for the room but between my arrival and the next morning, I would not recommend the place.

I went out for a long run and saw a lot of sights. Unfortunately, my phone charge was low so I didn’t bring it. But I ran along the Sortedams So, Öster Anlaeg Park, my parents’ old street Stolkholmsstade, and around the Kastelett ramparts. It was about 7 miles, which I’m very happy about since I have a marathon in Sept and I have not been running distances!

Then it was time for a shower and bed. I spoke with the AirBnB woman for a bit. She was nice and a bit strange, which I think was just her rather than a communication barrier but who knows. Again, it was such a poor experience that I have no interest in keeping in touch so no big deal. Jet lag was a bit tough that night but hopefully tomorrow will be better!

Day 15: Road Trip to Stuttgart

Austrian Mountains

The next morning, we started our 6 hour road trip to Stuttgart, Germany.  We started by driving through the mountains of Slovenia.  The roads were fantastic for a zippy sports car and it was a lot of fun.  Then we hit the highway through Austria for the middle half of the trip.  We drove through a miles long tunnel that, when we looked back at it from the amazing rest stop on the other side, it was incredibly impressive to us that a tunnel had been created through such a huge mountain!

Looking back at the mountain we drove under

Yes, I said incredible rest stop.  It almost approached Japanese rest stop levels of awesomeness!  SMS got a large plate of goulash while I picked up a few things from a multi-table buffet layout.  The food was very good.  The rest stop was really clean and had nice seating with good lighting.  There was a small shop where I bought a few Mozartkugal, which are delicious candies I remember from my brief Salzburg trip in 2006 (pre-blog!).   Alas, apart from the highway and rest stop, this was not a road trip for Austria stops.  Another time!

Our drive slowed as we approached a border checkpoint.  We didn’t realize that we were listening to “Welcome to the Jungle” a little on the loud side so, combined with our nearly expired new car plates, we were waved over to the extra-scrutiny area.  Fortunately, this only involved a thorough look through our papers and some limited English/German exchanges.  Basically, once they figured out we were Americans, we were deemed not to be a threat.

Secret wrapping on a test car.  SMS told me this is placed to thwart early release photos of future model years.

From the border to Stuttgart, we had an uneventful ride except for one light traffic straightaway where SMS broke the 150 mph record.  Sagoy!  It was amazing and also, a little scary.  Although SMS is a great driver and the car is built for speed, I could almost tangibly feel the potential for catastrophe.  I can’t believe that race car drivers go over 200 mph.  That’s crazy!


We pulled into Stuttgart and stopped in a bar near our AirBnB rental.  It was speatchle time, yay!  We both had a beer and a plated special.  It hit the spot!

I love spaetzle!

After dinner, we met up with our AirBnB host.  It was definitely a shady setup where she wasn’t supposed to be subletting her apartment.  She had tape over her stuff because people had gone through it before and I just had the feeling that there was a hidden camera somewhere.  Which, I understand wanting to keep your place secure but maybe don’t rent out your primary residence as an entire apartment rental?

Cannstatter Volkfest

After we checked in, we walked over to the fairgrounds for the second night of Cannstater Volkfest, the second largest Octoberfest in Germany after Munich.  We were a little tired so we just walked around for a bit and then headed home.  We decided we’d eat and go on a ride the next night.

Cannstatter Volkfest

Day 2: Porsche Factory Tour

Rainbow after dinner in Nuremberg

Today was the day!  We were going to have the Porsche Pick-up Experience!  We started our day with a delicious breakfast buffet at our hotel.  I went for a fair bit of cheese, bread and fruit.  SMS liked the mocha/coffee shots that started our meal.  We aren’t exactly sure what it was, other than delicious.

We didn’t give ourselves a ton of time for breakfast so we ate fairly quickly and then headed to the lobby to meet our shuttle.  There were three other American pairs, all from the West Coast.  Two guys were from the Marin-area, one couple was from Oregon and another from Northern California.  The woman from Northern California was very jet-lagged and didn’t say a whole lot, but everyone else was very nice and we talked a bit throughout the day.

The factory was about 20 minutes from center Leipzig.   We arrived and met Derrick, an American who had come to Germany 12 years earlier to play American-style football and, almost from day 1, decided to stay.  After a coffee break, we were introduced to Julia, our factory tour guide.

The factory tour was amazing.  While the Porsche cars are incredible machines, I was even more impressed by the incredibly intricate coordination and precision of the assembly line.  The factory produces 650 cars a day, all of which are tested on a dedicated race track for quality assurance.  There are over 100 stations for assembly, most of which are done by human workers.  There are four robots for windshield and sunroof application.  The “marriage” step of uniting the body with the engine chassis is partially automated, with the machine securing the underside screws and humans securing the topside screws.

Although there were so many amazing things about the assembly line and factory, a few things stood out.  The logistics supply line is so finely tuned that, on site, there is only a 0.6 day inventory.  There is an on-site DHL center along with a train station and airport next door.  In order to allow workers to move within the vehicle efficiently, the vehicle doors are removed after preassembly/paint and then put back on near the end.  Each car is customized so all parts are collected and delivered specifically for each car.  Items are tracked by a pick-light supply system, QR codes and a lot of computer coordination.

The consideration for the worker is pretty amazing.  For ergonomically-challenging stations, the team works for 20 minutes and then has a break.  All other stations have a break every hour to help maintain concentration.  The assembly line also can turn the cars in order to make areas more accessible; eg, the body is turned 90 degrees to allow for undercarriage work rather than have workers strain their necks and arms upward.  Another amazing thing about the factory is how quiet it is.  Despite all the machinery, the ambient noise is so low that hearing protection isn’t required!  I would guess the noise level was about 75-80 dB.  Very impressive.

The track Cayman

After the factory tour, which was definitely the highlight for me, it was time for the track.  David was the Porsche instructor and took SMS out to drive a factory-owned Cayman.  After 1/2 hour, the three of us hopped into a Macan and went on the off-road course.  I drove part of the time and got stuck in a big divot.  I was trying to challenge the car but David merely shook his head and said it wasn’t possible to drive on three wheels because, “Physics.”

Do Porsche cows say “Moo?”

After driving, we had a really nice lunch in the Porsche dining room.  We felt very posh. I ordered the beef because Julia said the beef was from cows that roamed on the grounds of the off-road course.  Specifically, she said, “You might meet the cows you see out there later in the dining room.”  So, I don’t know if I actually ate Porsche beef but I am going to tell myself yes!

After lunch, it was time for the car pick-up!  So yes, we bought a 718 Cayman.  SMS owned a Porsche several years ago and has been thinking about it for awhile.  I have wanted to do an European car delivery trip ever since I read about it in high school (random!), so we decided to make this vacation an epic one and go all out.  SMS picked out the specs, told me about them and then purchased the car about 4 months prior.  It was a really fun experience and definitely built up more anticipation about getting the car.   I’ll write more about European Delivery in a later post.

Our first drive was not very exciting because we were caught in traffic.  Maybe it was a shift change at the factory?  We drove for a couple of hours and SMS said he was hungry.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat so I suggested Greek food (hey, it sounded light).  SMS responded, “Greek food?!?!” and even though he had said he didn’t care, I figured out, when in Germany, eat German food.

No outdoor dining today, but a great restaurant!

We stopped at Gutmann am Dutzendteich, a cute restaurant on the outskirts of Nuremberg.  It was on a little lake and the outside area would have been amazing on a nice day.  Since it was cloudy and cool, we went inside.  The waitress spoke a little bit of English.  The menu was in German but we partially interpreted it.  I picked a dish with “kraut” which I thought would be something with sauerkraut.  It was actually meat-stuff cabbage rolls and absolutely delicious.  Win! I took a picture of the menu and the actual name of the dish is Krautwickel mit Bier-Specksoße und Kartoffelpuree.  Say that four times fast!

The lake next to the restaurant

We finished our evening with the drive to Lichtenstein.  We arrived at our hotel at 10 and went straight to bed.  It was a little ambitious for our first full day with a huge time change but we made it!