Saturday, January 25, 2014

Zeiss In Germany


After a fantastic surprise birthday party Saturday evening, I woke and tidied the house Sunday morning and did miscellaneous chores like banking before getting down to stress-packing, which was made much easier by Amanda selecting nearly my entire wardrobe.

Tragically, the magic-jack busted that same day, so rather than going on a nice walk with Amanda and Pilot pre-flight, I spent two hours on support chat with magic-jack before being issued a replacement device.

I forgot that the first leg of my trip wasn't international, so I arrived at the airport with tons of time to spare. Matt Samuel from Entrust was waiting for the same flight connecting to Paris for a four week vacation.

We were late departing because of a lineup at the deicing station and it looked like we would miss the connection, but we arrived with plenty of time to board, although no time to eat. The Lufthansa flight wasn't full and was quite comfortable and did eventually feed us a late dinner.

I tried watching "Fahrenheit 451" but gave up and watched "Now You See Me" which wasn't much better, then went to sleep. They woke us and fed us prior to landing and I had a beautiful view of the mountains as the landscape was covered in a sea of cloud.


After landing, I changed into business clothes in the airport washroom and we picked up some sandwiches and a rental car and Dave drove us straight to the Oberkochen office. We met Marlene and worked all day.

That evening, on the way back to the hotel, the GPS failed and lost us in Aalen. Eventually we discovered the route under the highway to our hotel (the Ramada), which was high up a hill just outside town. We had dinner at the hotel's buffet which was okay. I took a bit of everything, some of which was a traditional German pasta called Spätzle.

After dinner I bought a WiFi plan because you needed to receive an SMS to use the free account from the hotel which was only available in the lobby anyway. I sent some emails home for the first time in two days and went to sleep exhausted. I woke feeling rested at 5am and woke again by alarm feeling exhausted at 8am.


The buffet breakfast at the hotel was quite good, including bacon and eggs and a bun and yogurt on muesli and grapefruit juice.

We had another full day on the microscopes with Marlene. We had a late lunch of leftovers from a stand-up lunch in Marlene's office area. That evening we went back to the hotel can changed and had a few minutes for email before hiking into town to meet Marlene and Sabine for dinner at 8pm.

Aalen has a very nice walking village downtown with cobble stone streets and traditional buildings and many nice shops. We ate at the Roter Ochsen (red oxen). I had beer and a traditional game goulash. Marlene gave us a ride home and we went straight to sleep.


Next morning we met for breakfast and worked another long day with Marlene. This day we had lunch in the cafeteria which had a great selection. I had lamb and Spätzle and ate way too much. Everyone eats in a big hall that at lunchtime is very full. Marlene said they used to sometimes host public concerts in that hall.

Later that day Dave and I joined Mike for Zeiss meetings to decide on the bounds of our near term deliverable. This was my first official introduction to the team. I wasn't very eloquent, but the meeting went well. Everyone at Zeiss was very friendly, polite and professional, and and far as I can tell they all have a PhD in something.

We had dinner together at the hotel. Buffet again, but lots of fun conversation about philosophy. I think I had adjusted to the six hour jet lag by this point.


Next day, I wore a tie. We had hotel buffet breakfast and spent most of the day in meetings. At one point I saw got a demo of a prototype machine that was really spectacular and represents a revolution in the field.

That night we went out to dinner and drinks in downtown Aalen with Michael, Martin and Marlene. We stayed out until midnight and met at 8am for breakfast.


After breakfast, I spent most of the day in meetings again. Once we all quit for the day we went downtown together and ate at a Greek restaurant and talked about the future. We went back to the and got drunk at the bar and batted around ideas for all the software we might build. It was lots of fun.


We all met for a late breakfast and drove more than an hour to Neuschwanstein Castle which is the one after which the Sleeping Beauty Castle of Disneyland was modeled. The hike up to the castle was on a paved road and was quite crowded.

The hiking trails were gated shut but many people were skirting the gate so we did too. We hiked on a snow-covered and fairly icy gravel road to a bridge and got some good shots. Even here it was quite crowded. Then hiked around in the bush on a very narrow dirt path, and sometimes off-path, in very steep terrain.

Afterwards we drove to a nearby town and walked around the shops and bought giant round cookies. Then we had lunch and drove home. After a short break we went to Michael's house for dinner with his family and Fabian. We stayed past midnight and had a really nice time. They had the first dark beer I'd seen in Germany and were lots of fun to hang out with.


We all met for a late breakfast then decided to do separate things. I went back to sleep for two hours then hiked up the nearby hill until shortly before we met at 5pm for an early dinner at the hotel.

There had just been a fresh snowfall, so it was quite scenic. There are many near-road quality trails in the forest, but also some very steep footpaths. I used mostly the latter. I also climbed atop some rocky outcrops and partially scaled a small cliff.

Mike had a 7pm meeting with Fabian but Dave and Ken and I hung around for a while. I packed and face-timed with amanda and went to bed early.


Dave and I met for breakfast then checked out of the hotel and drove to Zeiss for some meetings. After lunch we went to the demo centre. We didn't finish until 6pm and then drove to Munich. This time both GPS worked and we arrived and checked into Hotel Achat without incident. We walked to Taverne Kyano, a nearby Greek resturant. At first we were a bit lost because they gave us German menus. But when they came to take our order the gave us English menus and all went well. The food and beer was delicious. We got back to the hotel around 11pm and I tried to face-time Amanda but the internet was too slow so we just barely managed a google talk chat instead.


We met Marlene and Sabine for breakfast in the hotel then walked over to the Zeiss demo centre about ten minutes away. We prepared for the conference and had big lunch in the cafeteria.

That evening we walked back to the hotel and took the U-Bahn downtown to the big arch at the edge of the old city. We walked around for a long time and saw a wide area including city hall and Residenz. We ended up eating at a traditional beer hall where I was again able to get dark beer. I ordered a pork roast dish that was a traditional Sunday dinner but it was huge and I had a hard time eating it all. We got to bed around midnight.


We met for breakfast early and Marlene drove us to the Zeiss building. We ensured the lab was set up and the conference began. In the evening cabs took us to a building from the 1700s that was like a restaurant but like an ancient wealthy home. We had another presentation and some great conversation and great food. This night I went to bed as soon as we got back to the hotel, around 10pm.


We met for breakfast at the hotel and walked to the demo center for the second full conference day. That night Dave and Marlene and Sabine and I had dinner together at an Italian restaurant, and we had some vigorous philosophical debate.

Back at the hotel I packed for the flight home and face-timed Amanda.


We met for breakfast at the hotel and checked out and finished up at the Zeiss building. We left for the airport around noon and arrived in plenty of time. We had sushi at the airport while we waited for our flight.

One of the ticket checkers was being really bossy and mean and wouldn't let a couple on the plane in that they were traveling to the US through Canada and had a US visa but not a Canadian visa. I'm pretty sure he was wrong about the rules there. I hope they got on the flight okay.

I stayed awake for the entire flight and watched three movies back to back. We went through customs in Montreal and had to pickup and re-check our luggage and go through security again. By the time we arrive in Ottawa, I was exhausted. Amanda was waiting at the airport and took me straight home. She's the best.

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