Thursday, October 23, 2008

Back to Germany

Two days from now, and a day after my birthday, I will fly to Gummersbach, Germany. I will attend a week-long seminar on "Local Government and Civil Society" to be sponsored by the International Academy for Leadership (IAF) of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty. My route will be Manila-Amsterdam-Cologne (KLM air). From Cologne airport, a car will fetch me and bring me to the venue in Gummersbach, 56 kms. away.

This will be my 2nd visit to Germany. My first visit was 5 years ago, in October 2003. I came from Sweden for a 7-weeks international training on "Sustainable Agriculture". After the end of that seminar, I took Eurolines and travelled to visit a friend in The Hague, Netherlands, passing by Denmark and northern Germany. It was a tiring 17 hours road trip, but nonetheless lots of sight-seeing. After 2 days, I took Eurolines again and took a 13 hours trip from The Hague (left there close to midnight) to Munich, Germany, to visit another friend. We were very few passengers in that trip.

When the bus reached Stuttgart, there were only 4 of us. The bus driver made a phone call and several minutes later, we were transferred to a van and it will take us 4 remaining passengers to Munich. I sat at the back of the driver. I immediately noticed the speed of the van. While buses and trucks have speed limit of 100 kph maximum, cars don't have speed limit in many of Germany's "autobahn" or expressways, except in some congested intersections. The van was running at 125 kph on average, and I saw several cars whizzing by at probably 150 to 200 kph! I exclaimed to myself, "so this is the autobahn!"

My friend, Christian Beil, is a German lawyer. His wife, Astrid, is a Filipina. At Munich central station, the couple and their son were waiting for me. They immediately toured me around some interesting areas in Munich: the BMW plant, the Olympics stadium (about 1972 Munich Olympics), the city hall, other interesting places.

Christian lives in Miesbach, about an hour by car south of Munich. It's a tiny but cool city. It's near the ski resorts of Bavaria too. Christian brought me to a ski resort high up in the mountains. I enjoyed posing for pictures in the snow. It was good that there was a thick snowfall in late September or early October of that year in the mountains of Bavaria. From the mountains, we went to Tegernsee Lake, then another resort with sauna, a swimming pool, etc.

From below zero Celsius at the mountains, up to probably 70 or 80 celsius sauna in a matter of an hour or so, it was really weird! I was glad I didn't get sick then. In the evening, Christian would always have a few bottles of locally-brewed beer ready as we chat on many things.

At the end of our seminar in Gummersbach, I will visit again Christian and his family in early November. This time, they have 2 kids already. And this time, I will take the train, from Cologne to Munich. They will meet me again in Munich.

I am excited to see that city again, also Miesbach, the lakes and the ski resorts in the mountains!

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