Europe 2014 (Part 6 of 6) | Germany – Castles

Wednesday morning started early. Turns out, if you want to actually see the inside of the Neuschwanstein Castle you need tickets. In order to get tickets you need to reserve them. In order to reserve them you should do so no later than 3 days prior. That didn’t work for us. Your other option is to show up early and stand in line. We heard and read about long lines. We had a back up plan though and that was to hook up with the free tour from the same folks that handled the Munich tour. They start their tour from Munich and the bulk of the cost is the train tickets to the castle, and when you get there you still have to buy the tickets but tour guides have an in and can get them. So that was our goal to drive down and meet the group at the train station.

We left Munich about 9am, it’s roughly a 2 hour drive, but we wandered through some small German villages on the way and pulled into the town beneath the castle just prior to noon. We made the call to just stand in line. The line was about 30 minutes long and our tours for the castles were at good times. 12:50 for Hohenschwangau the castle the crazy king lived in, and 3:20pm for the fancy castle.

Words cannot describe the beauty there.



You have lots of options to get up the mountain to the castle. Busses, or horse drawn carriages. But you still have a good 15-20 minute hilly walk in front of you.

The views are amazing though. So, the short version of the story is, this King, King Ludwig II was kind of a nut. He never married, lived alone and like to decorate and build ‘fancy’ castles. You can draw your own conclusions. He started on this castle well after the home we live in was built, so in the scheme of castles it isn’t very old. It is cool though, and it was a good idea to finish it even after he died. It would have been a shame to let that go to waste.

They don’t let you photograph anything inside either of the castles, primarily to keep the tours moving and motivate you to buy a book.


After touring the castles, we beat feat south, through the Alps. There’s no point in taking photos in the Alps. You cannot do them justice with a point and click camera. The shear beauty of the



We have some pretty impressive vistas here in the states, out in the Rockies, but they still don’t compare. After rolling through the Alps we stopped in Innsbruck, Austria for dinner. We found a quaint Italian restaurant in town and dinned there. It was late and again just about everything was closed so once again we ended up with Italian.

IMG_3220_thumb Claudine was beat, I think it was the yarn shopping on the prior day that did it. 😉

On Thursday we stayed in town. I walked Freising with her, and we stopped in at the local cathedral. It was simply amazing.


After spending the morning in Freising, we headed north to Landshut where both Martin and Rob live. Trausnitz Castle is there at the top of the hill, and it dates back to the 1200’s. We didn’t have time to take the tour, so we walked the grounds and all the public places. It was amazing.





The park and surrounding grounds of this castle were amazing. We saw deer in the forest on the way back to the car. We then headed back to Freising to have dinner at the Weihenstaphan Brewery Beer garden. The oldest continuously operating brewery in the world. The food was great and the beer was great what more could you ask?

After dinner we drove Mark to his hotel and returned to ours to pack for the flight home in the morning. We got up early for the long day, only made longer because both of our flights home were delayed.

So there you have it, 2 countries, and a whole bunch of stuff visited in about 4 and a half active days of vacationing.

Now I need a vacation from my vacation.

Europe 2014 (Part 5 of 6) | Germany – Munich

Monday morning started off well, we got up early and got to the airport and through security with plenty of time to spare.  We had breakfast at the airport and it was surprisingly good.   Our last shot at English breakfast, but again, scrambled eggs on smoked salmon hit the spot for me.

Shopping there was pretty much a bust, given the exchange rates it just doesn’t make sense, and I’m not paying £30 for a T-Shirt (almost $50 us).  I’m just not going to do it.

We arrived at the Munich airport on time, made it through customs without an issue and collected our bags.  Straight to the rental car facility, which had a line, but was uneventful.  Thank you Budget for not doing the same bait and switch that Alamo in the UK did.

We retrieved our car and were off, straight to the office.


Like the UK office, our Munich office isn’t in Munich, it’s technically in Hallbergmoos, near the airport about 3o minutes north of Munich.  The highlighted area in the map above shows where we spent our time in Germany.  As far north as Landshut, and as far south as Innsbruck, Austria.

Upon arrival spent the day handing out new laptops and prepping for the router swap.  Claudine just hung out in the office embracing her down time watching some flicks on the iPad. We took a break about 4pm and headed to the hotel to check in, and change. We headed back to the office to to the dirty work after hours.

Upon completion it was late, like 10pm late.  We hadn’t though through where we’d eat but I was pretty sure the hotel restaurant would be closed.  On our way to the hotel we spotted a little Italian restaurant and popped in there.


The place was about closed but they seated us, and didn’t speak a lick of English.  Only German and Italian, but from a German/Italian Menu you can pretty much figure out what you want.   My Rosetta stone was coming back to me and I could pick out a few things, we used google translate on the iPhone for a few key words.

Best Calzone I’ve ever had.

The following morning, Tuesday, I headed into the office and left Claudine to explore Freising on foot.   Of course she found a yarn store and met a new friend.

I wrapped up my work around noon, picked up Claudine and headed to Munich for a Free Guided Tour of the City.  We took the New Munich FREE Tour in English and it was worth every penny. Our guide, Colson, was in Germany playing American football with the Munich Cowboys.  His wife was completing a 3 year over-seas commitment for the company she worked for and he gave the tours for beer money.  They are free but you tip the guide after the tour.   He earned his money.

The tour started at MarienPlatz, in front of the Glockenspiel.



From there we wandered through the city seeing the sights and learning about the Bavarian kings, and a little about the 3rd Reich.  Colson also gave the 3rd Reich tour so he mixed a little of that in as well.




At the close of the tour we got to watch the Glockenspiel do it’s thing.  Our tour guide was right, I can see why it’s the #2 most over-rated tourist attraction in Europe.  After the tour we ended up at the Hofbräuhaus for dinner.


There was an oriental family seated at the table next to us.  They just assumed we were natives and were very happy to have their pictures taken with me, almost all of them.  It was hilarious.


We stood in the courtyard where Hitler painted one of his famous paintings.  Of course we bombed the hell out of the surrounding buildings but the tower remained in-tact.

We even found another Yarn store for Claudine.  I mean I knew it was there, right there and I took her to it, specifically. 🙂


After we the yarn shopping extravaganza we walked around Munich some more than drove around for a bit and headed back to the hotel to get some rest, Wednesday was going to be a big day.

Europe 2014 (Part 1 of 6)

The company I work for (Seapine Software) has offices in the United Kingdom and in Germany.   I’ve traveled over there about a half dozen times in the past for IT and Office related things.  Most trips are pretty brutal.  In fact my first 3 trips, I spent more times on planes than I did in any country.

Flying over for basically a day’s worth of work, by the time you factor in 12 hours of flight time (between connecting flights and lay overs) and the time shift (losing a half a day on the way over).  Flying in on a Wednesday and back on a Saturday nets you more time in the air than in the country.   It kind of puts a damper on the “Oooh you get to go to (insert European country here).  It wasn’t all that.

In 2010 we (a colleague and I) visited both the UK and German offices.   The goal on that trip was to upgrade some routing equipment in the UK and physically move the German office from the Munich airport into what is now our current office.   So it was a much longer trip.  Approximately 8 days.

We were able to get our work done in the UK and in an effort to keep the flights cheaper stayed over a weekend.  That gave us two days to kick around Great Britain.  After moving the German office and getting the IT infrastructure set up, we again had about a day and a half to kick around.

We did whirl-wind tours in both places.   Driving about 1000 miles in both countries in less than 48 hours rushing around to ‘see’ things.    But we still had fun.

Fast forward to 2014.   We need to visit these offices more.  They are smaller sales offices and the guys over there don’t always feel like they are part of the bigger Seapine Culture.   It pays to visit them and help them feel loved.

At the beginning of the year we sent some router hardware over there, but not the type of gear that anyone there in the office could install.   We also needed to deploy some other newer gear that we provide them from the states.

Due to changing personnel and other economic conditions we didn’t get the opportunity to actually visit and install said hardware until now (August).

That’s what the catalyst for this trip.   My wife always wanted to tag along, but the previous trips just weren’t conducive.   Like I said, very little time to actually get there, and do much outside of working.   But this time we planned it to tack on a couple extra days in each country.  Claudine is pretty self sufficient so she could run around and see things on her own while I worked in each office.    The next few blog posts will be a retrospective of that trip.    Things we saw, things we’d do again, and things we’d pass on.



My recent trip to the UK & Germany.

My employer has offices internationally, and as fate would have it, we’re moving them.  We started with the UK office via some uk affordable movers back in January.  I took a rather condensed trip over to the UK to look at office space.  I was in the air, or in airports almost as long as I was in the UK so I didn’t get to see much other than the offices we looked at.

This trip was very similar. 

The first part of the trip was to move the office and get the internet connectivity and telecommunications setup as well as wrap up some loose ends.

We left Cincinnati (CVG) Saturday May 8th, connecting in Chicago, then straight into Heathrow, in the UK.   I was fortunate to be traveling with our VP of sales, who makes this trip once a month.  As such he’s earned his rewards and status with the airlines and the benefits that come with that.  As his traveling partner I was able to better enjoy the road warrior lifestyle for a week.  Being able to visit the international clubs in the airport and getting ‘upgraded’ has it’s advantages.

This time however we did rent a car.  Figuring we’d be driving back and forth between offices and making the occasional run to the store for something we figured this would be easier than cabs.

We picked up our car at the airport and headed to the hotel.  As things usually go, they didn’t have the car we reserved so we settled on a VW Passat, and a free GPS as compensation.


Driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road is interesting.  But  not nearly as difficult as I was led to believe it would be.  We arrived without incident.

While in the UK we tend to stay at the Twickenham Marriott which wraps the Twickenham rugby statdium.  It’s new so it’s still very nice.  Twickenham is on the west side of London, and honestly there isn’t a whole lot around that area in terms of quick and dirty tourist attractions.  You can hop the tube into downtown London if you have time, but we didn’t.

The room (at least the one I stayed in) is pretty straight forward:


The View


We didn’t do much Sunday, other than recuperate from the flight(s).  We did venture out in search of another US/UK power adapter and ended up a Bentalls, a shopping center and mall about 20 minutes away.  We at lunch/dinner there, and I picked up a Tea Pot for my lovely wife.

Monday morning we met Ashley at the office, got our bearings and went to the old office to retrieve our communications gear.  Loaded it up and headed back to our new office in Kew. 



Where by we commenced to assembling furniture and getting our phones system and internet connectivity up and running.  A good part of the afternoon was spent getting our phone service re-tooled from the interfaces we had at our horrible Regus office to lines we now had control over.  To this end we use eVelocity, for Cisco voice configuration we’re not comfortable messing with.   While things never go as planned, things actually went quite well.


With day 1 complete nearly everything was working as planned.

On Tuesday, we did more of the same, mostly clean-up and tweaks.  For lunch we wandered out to the Kew Greenhouse Cafe.   Ashley claimed it was simply a tourist spot and no, UK people rarely eat at places like this.

Lunch was a Tuna Bake and a Becks Beer.


Then back to the office for more office move related stuff.   Our landlord occupies the 1st and 2nd floor of this building (2nd and 3rd floor to US folks).  I took some time with Paul and discussed their business, the building and other stuff.  When they renovated the building, they added the 3rd floor.  It has somewhat of a nautical theme, seeing as how they are in the shipping business it all made sense.  The windows are like port-holes on a ship.  The 3rd floor is an all-purpose conference room and space for entertaining.  Complete with a temporary bed, shower and other luxuries.



The whole office reminded me of Apple in Cupertino.  They are Apple users and the whole place was quite sanitary looking.



We showed off our iPad’s knowing they’d be interested and couldn’t actually get their hands on them for another couple weeks.

Later in the afternoon I took about an hour to run over to the Chiswick Honda dealership.  At this dealership they have everything Honda.  From lawnmowers and generators, to motorcycles and cars.  My goal was to sit on a new Honda VFR 1200 and check out a couple of bikes that aren’t available in the states.   Mission accomplished, but I have to say, the folks at the dealership were less than friendly.

That evening, we stopped at Tesco’s, the UK version of Walmart to get a few snacks and drinks for the room so we didn’t  have to spend 5 GBP (or about $7.50) for a pepsi at the hotel.

Just like Walmart you can get everything at Tesco, including your home loan, and car insurance right at the check out.


Kevin had to get his Walker Potato chips, “Prawn Cocktail” flavor to be exact.  I’m pretty sure these are just lays potato chips.  But they had a number of really interesting flavors. I opted for a combo pack that had ‘Steak and Onion’, ‘Smokey Bacon’ which I though was extremely ironic since these folks don’t have a clue what bacon really is.  A slice of honey baked ham, without the honey or the baking is not bacon, it’s simply a slice of poorly grilled ham, and ‘Roast Chicken’.  Much to my surprise all of these flavors were accurate, and quite delicious.

Wednesday was wrap up day.  I didn’t have a lot to do, but was hoping I’d get to get out and see some stuff.

We took a quick road trip to IKEA of all places, in an effort to find a conference room table.  Kevin was fairly certain the conference room table we had in Austria came from IKEA.   On the way we stopped for lunch at the world famous ACE cafe.   Which was really an American diner/motorcycle hang out.


Cool place, lots of history.  The Ace Cafe – London, was bombed in World War II.  History can be found here.  Ashley’s dad used to frequent the place in his younger years. 

Out trip to IKEA was uneventful.  No real office furniture to speak of, thought they did have the little lantern that Matthew was playing with at home on our front porch before I left.  Which I believe was a gift we received at Christmas.  It tickled me to see them in London.


We returned around 3pm.  It was a little late in the day for me to make a run to Stonehenge, which was on my short list of things to go see.  It’s about 80 miles from the office but knowing that I’d run into traffic and that we had to leave for the airport at 5am I wasn’t much in the mood to risk it.

I took a little walk around the Kew train stop area, around our office and took some photos.


Everything here is old, including the bridge over the train tracks that I walked over and took the above photo from.  Built in 1912.



Given the amount of pure ugly people, most of whom are only ugly because they need some dental care, I was shocked to find a dentist on the other side of the tracks.  (That’s sarcasm and humor in case you didn’t notice.)

That evening we had dinner at the Inn in Kew Gardens, a standard pub/hotel.  Very much like the Golden Lamb here in Lebanon, OH.  The food was good and on a vacation visit I would probably stay there, though I didn’t get to check out any of the rooms.

The night was uneventful, I slept well, but didn’t get my 4:15am wake up call.  Grrrrr…  (yes 4:15am, necessary to get up and out by 5am, to get to the airport, return our car, clear security and all that entails to make a 7am flight to Munich, Germany).

Still we got out of the hotel in time to return the rental car, and make our flight without too much trouble.

The flight into Germany was uneventful.  We flew Lufthansa and of all the flights so far this was the worst.  The dirtiest aircraft, and the loudest.  It had a horrible buzzing/vibration.  But hey, it’s all good if you don’t crash right?

We landed in Munich and took a cab to the Munich Marriott, which is really in Freising.   We pretty much had the day to kill since it was a Holiday.  No real estate agents were working.  I had in mind to visit either the BMW museum in Munich, or Dachau, the 1st concentration camp.   But as fate would have it, we didn’t have a car, and being a holiday we feared things may not be open.   We walked down to the hofbrauhaus with the intention of eating well and having a few beers.


But it too was closed.  To be honest the whole town was very quiet.  We walked back to the hotel and had a good meal and beer at the restaurant then just relaxed in our rooms.  I watched “The Hurt Locker”, and promptly fell a sleep.

In the morning Rob picked us up and we went office shopping.

I won’t bore you with the details of that.


The bottom line though is that you could probably take someone from West Chester, blind fold them, drop them off near the Munich airport and they wouldn’t know the difference.  The drive on the right side of the road, and it’s wide open.  Plenty of farmland.  Very Cincinnati like.

Our trip was successful, at least at this point I think it was.   We viewed 8 different offices, had lunch at a little Italian bistro, then spent a couple hours at the airport office park where our current office is.


We flew back to Heathrow at 7pm, less than 48 hours after we arrived.  We spent the night at the Heathrow Marriott, then headed back to the US at 7:30 in the morning the next day.

The flight home was equally uneventful, until we needed to board our flight from Chicago to Cincy.  The plane needed some maintenance attention but they gut us underway in less than 40 minutes of our original departure time so we were only 30 minutes late.

I can’t wait to go back, but I can certainly wait to do those flights again.

12 + hours in airports and planes just kinds sucks like that.