4/18/15

Auf Wiedersehen...

This has been a week of saying our goodbyes here in Germany. We don't come back to the states until April 29th, but since we are heading out on a 10 day trip to Austria and Poland Sunday morning, the goodbyes here in Schorndorf were - for the most part - done this week.

One of our main lunch spots, the Deutsches Haus, ended on Friday with an offer of letting us choose whatever we wanted off of the menu and the owner, Luigi Greco, only charged us the lunch special price. He had also prepared a wonderful dessert for us (baked apple, frozen ice cream and covered with almonds and pistachios).

All smiles and full after a great final group meal at our restaurant here in Schorndorf...

AbschiedsfestDeutschesHaus

Luigi and his mother (she does all the cooking)...

LuigeAndMama

I had a wonderful Zwiebelrostbraten for my final meal from their Lava Grill. Yum!

We said goodbye to Herr Helmut Elsen on Thursday. He was the afternoon German grammar teacher for the students. We bought him a Simpson College hat and a nice Columbia jacket from the Simpson College bookstore that also has the school name on it.

Helmut had a gift for me of a CD as he sings and plays in a band from Stuttgart (polkas, waltzes, etc...). Here he is in the classroom saying goodbye to us...

Untitled

Opening his gifts we gave him in the classroom...

Untitled

Then we took him out for his favorite ice cream and coffee after class...

Untitled

We had a final coffee and cake meeting with the First Mayor of Schorndorf,  Edgar Hemmerich, and our host families at Cafe Mack on Friday afternoon. Evidently, according to the mayor, I am now known in Schorndorf as "Bruce, the guy with the big red bike" (my Specialized Roubaix size 64cm stands out in the crowd). I had a nice 2 hour visit with Edgar (Eddy) the First Mayor, and said goodbye to all of the host families. We took a group picture on the steps of the Rathaus...

Abschiedsfest...

The mayor gave me a history book of Schorndorf as a going away present. We also said goodbye to Beate Wolf Kohnert who was in charge of lining up the host families, and helped me organize a trip with the host families that we took back in February. We will see her again the day we leave, but due to how our 10 day trip to Vienna/Krakow/Berlin falls, we said the main goodbye to everyone this week.

There are more goodbyes, sweet tears, memories to be had today and tomorrow - as well as the evening of the 27th and 28th before some of us come home on the 29th. 7 of the students are staying in Europe for another few weeks to months traveling on their own or with family, friends, May Term trips, etc... .

I am saying goodbye to this part of Germany today and tomorrow on my bike by riding my two favorite loops. One today, and the other tomorrow morning before getting on the plane to Vienna. I am treating my hostess on the 28th to a nice meal and to thank her for letting me stay in her home for the semester. Tonight, we are going to a play/musical about Russian Nomads and Mongolians in a theater that is a converted barn. Sounds interesting....!

I am also looking forward to the visit in Vienna. Between taking the students to all of the sights in Vienna, I will be seeing a few old friends to catch up. I just got off the phone with my old singing colleague and good friend, Janusz Monarcha. We will hook up on Monday or Tuesday to catch up with each other. I am hoping to meet with Jeremy and Stephanie Pick. Wednesday I will spend the afternoon/evening with Bruce Murray. I will catch up with Morten Frank Larsen. And Alexa and I will see Thomas Hampson tomorrow night in concert.

4/13/15

Wieder im Deutschland...

A quick Spring Break trip back home to Iowa. It was great to see Tara, Zack, the dogs, the house, students at Simpson, etc... . The trip began and ended with perfect weather and conditions at Banner Pits (Summerset State Park) where I worked the Karate Monkey SS through 3 laps of singletrack goodness on Easter, and on the Saturday I departed (with a couple of laps on Tuesday thrown in for good measure).

Untitled

At the end of the much welcomed week home stay and visit, I hopped back on the plane Saturday from Des Moines to fly to Detroit. I had enough time in Detroit to grab dinner, but when the Air France flight scheduled to depart at 9:35 pm (I chose this specifically so I could sleep through the flight and minimalize jet lag) had us board about an hour early only to find out there was a 'technical fuel error' - things went a bit awry. Okay, so we were not allowed to get off the plane and all had to sit there for 3 1/2 hours sweating profusely in economy (word has it that 1st Class had the AC on and were dining while we were all melting). We couldn't believe how hot it was on the plane. And I was sandwiched in one of the middle seats of the middle section with no where to go.

Many of us ended up stripping down to our undergarments (actually I was first to take off my shirt and jeans as I had Nike Combat t-shirt and shorts underneath - so no big deal) and fanned ourselves to get through the ordeal. Oy! Air France gave us one glass of water within those 3 1/2 hours and 90+ temps on the plane. After much begging and howling by all of us, we convinced the Air France staff to pour us some cold Champagne. What the heck, if one was going to be miserable - why not sip on some bubbly? Finally, after 3 1/2 hours the engines started up and we were on our way. At least I slept soundly for 5 hours on the plane!!!

Of course that put me in Paris way too late to catch my flight to Stuttgart, but Air France got me on the next city hopper to Stuttgart and I arrived back in Schorndorf around 7:30 pm instead of my scheduled 2:50 pm. This possibly helped I was able to go to bed around 9:30 pm and sleep through the night.

OK, back in Germany for the final 18 days. Spring is beautiful here (about 3-4 weeks ahead of Iowa) and it looks like we will have mid 70's to low 80's the next couple of days.

I got news upon landing that my father took a fall at an Arby's restaurant reaching for a coin on the floor (coins are not worth bending over for, Dad!!!!). Hopefully he is okay and bouncing back from bumping his head. I can't call the US with my SIM card plan here from Vodaphone, so I have to rely on messages from my sister that all is - or is not well.

Final thoughts being back here is a constant pinch to remind myself of the beauty, charm, history and experience we are having. My hostess is the best, the people I have met are friendly and helpful, and I have to say the experience has been nothing short of great.

Today, the students recounted what they did during their 10 day Spring Break. Sweden, Holland, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Germany - it was all memory and experience building for each of them.

Speaking of memories, here is a cool picture of part of our group on our Neuschwanstein tourist trip before the break...

NeuschwansteinGroup

After today, we have 15 more days of fun as a group here in Germany (and Austria/Poland) before we disperse. My goal is to make every day count! The once in a lifetime chance is about to expire...

4/8/15

Enjoying my Spring Break respite...

I'm home from Germany for the week as it is our Spring Break/Easter Vacation this week. I head back to Germany again on Saturday. I am not here long enough to do too much, but enough to get some things done that needed to be done. Taxes, mountain bike rides, changing winter tires back to summer tires, holding several meetings, spending time with my wife and son, a little shopping, and attending recitals of some of my students.

Training: This is week 9 of the Masters 40+ MTB Cross Country Base Training Plan. It is also the first time I have been able to step on a scale since January 8th. I have been spending the past 6 months attacking some of the loss of muscle mass I went through during last year's weight loss. My on the bike performance felt pretty good last year, but I didn't feel physically strong (neck, back, upper body) and wanted to address that through a bit of body recomposition. I've been hitting the weights 2 - 3 times a week since October and managed to build up most of the muscle mass that I had lost, yet avoid overdoing too much of a bulk.

There certainly is no lack of protein in Germany with all of the meat I've been eating to help with the bulk. I just didn't know where I was weight wise until Sunday morning when I stepped on the scale after arriving home. It was no surprise to me what the scale said. It read 4-5 pounds higher from when I left home in January. Not too bad, but still a signal that I don't need to bulk any more because I have to carry the weight up the hill which alters the power to weight ratio. The strength gains, all of the walking, and the riding I have been doing resulted in some nice training results in spite of a few extra pounds. Those pounds will now start to shed as I move from the 6 month off season plan to more of a maintenance lifting plan beginning after next week.

I was pleasantly surprised last week in Germany while conducting a scheduled interval session of 4 x 8 Zone 4 intervals. Compared to doing the session in the previous year, I noticed I was hitting a bit higher numbers and holding them easily for the 8 minute duration. Following each of the 2 minute recovery gaps between the intervals, I was easily able to nail the next 8 minute interval as well. I felt good and fresh at the end even though my numbers were a bit better in that particular 4 x 8 interval session. That was exciting for me to see as last year I was cutting a lot of weight during this time and couldn't quite hold numbers like that. I had a good FTP test not long before, so I knew things were at least equal to, if not a wee bit better (notice I said wee bit) than last year which means I carried over the gains from last year quite well into this year.

Now, would that translate to on the bike performance on the singletrack? Since all my geared bikes are out of commission (need a cassette on one, a rear derailleur on another, and a new rim on the third), I had to adapt and use my SS Karate Monkey as it was all I had at my disposal this week. I found out on the singlespeed last fall that I am able to ride race laps just as fast with it as my geared bikes (much to my surprise). I feel much faster on the geared bikes, but my lap times do not confirm that.

Untitled

I rode 3 laps on the Karate Monkey singlespeed pictured above at Banner on Sunday to test my race lap speed markers and fitness. I also did some comparison laps at Ahquabi and Banner again on subsequent days. Lap times were right up there with my previous season test markers. On the third and final lap, after giving it everything I had to try and match my best lap time at Banner for a 3 lap sequence, I was 2 minutes short of my best due to that third lap. So I'm not quite where I need to be stamina wise, but I'm only in week 9 of the build phase so it is understandable. At least lap one and two were solid.

Lynda Wallenfels of LWCoaching.com had some comments on racing and training for the 40+ crowd which I listened to yesterday and felt better about it all (getting older that is) and infusing training with the reality of my age.

The legs have enjoyed this week off from all the walking, but I will be back at it come this Sunday. One more week of classes in Schorndorf before the group takes off on a 10 day trip to Austria, Poland, and northern Germany. I will see plenty of walking during that trip to make up for what I am missing this week.

I'm pretty excited from the standpoint of serving as the Director of IMBCS that all of the hard work getting the IMBCS 2015 season off the ground is about to come to fruition. Our website is now featuring some content after sitting rather dormant since launching back in November. Have a look at Spotlights as well as the upcoming race information as our 13th Annual Season starts on April 19th (a race I will unfortunately have to miss due to working over in Germany).

3/31/15

April Fools' Day...

No Fool. No knock, knock jokes. No "got ya" comments. Just a simple rolling over from the month of March to the start of April. Ho-hum.

That's a wrap for March!

It is April 1st on this side of the pond. Today starts the final month here in Deutschland. Actually I will be out of Germany for 17 of the days (Poland, Austria, the US) to get some training in before packing up and going back home. My training will be a bit more limited in April so I will have to train smarter, not harder during the month.

At least some good base building continued for the month of March to keep me focused and on track. I think I was maybe one or two rides short of what I had intended (Sunday I laid in bed all day and just couldn't face the cold, rain, and wind). Today's longer ride was out due to the Hurricane Force Wind Warnings here in Germany. It has been howling, blowing branches and limbs down all day. Walking and riding the bike outside today were not easy tasks.

This has been the day all day and the house is still shaking at one in the morning here from the strong winds....

HurricaneGustsWarning
I also walk 60 - 90 minutes per day, and hit the weights about 2 x a week. Adding those to the riding and I am pretty happy with what I was able to get in during a busy month of work, visitors, and trips.

My on the bike hours for March...

March 1 - rode 44.2 Kilometers for a duration of 2:00:46
March 3 - rode 43.8 Kilometers for a duration of 1:52:56
March 4 - rode 24.4 Kilometers for a duration of 1:28:28
March 8 - rode 63.6 Kilometers for a duration of 2:53:25
March 10 - rode 29.5 Kilometers for a duration of 1:00:00
March 16 - rode 50.7 Kilometers for a duration of 2:54:43
March 17 - rode 45.6 Kilometers for a duration of 3:00:33
March 19 - rode 34.0 Kilometers for a duration of 2:02:04
March 20 - rode 13.9 Kilometers for a duration of 0:57:26 (HIIT)
March 22 - rode 15.6 Kilometers for a duration of 0:55:58 (HIIT)
March 26 - rode 49.5 Kilometers for a duration of 2:06:27
March 28 - rode 50.1 Kilometers for a duration of 2:07:20
March 31 - rode 28.65 Kilometers for a duration of 1:00:00 (HIIT)

March Totals: 493.55 Kilometers - 24:20:06 hours

And to think that I had already done my first XC race by this time last year (Swanson). At least that is twice the number of hours, and 200 Kilometers more than I got during February.

3/29/15

Final month in Germany...

I have been busy enjoying my stay in Germany. I have not taken the time to log in more blog posts due to classes, prep work, administrative work, our travel, Tara's visit, spending a lot of time visiting with my hostess and her friend, dinner dates with the school directors, and getting a solid base of bike riding in during the month of March. I've managed to log in a little over 500 Kilometers and 25 hours on the bike in March so far with Tuesday being my final ride for the month to round out the month.

Speaking of bikes, my Roubaix has really been an enjoyable ride here with the gravel tires. They are great on pavement, gravel, in the woods, on the bike trails, in the rain, on all the cobblestone streets, and have helped make the bike a great "do it all" ride for my 4 months here.

Untitled

It's really a beautiful ride no matter which direction you go from Schorndorf. Up into the woods, to the east towards Schwäbisch Gemünd, towards the west to Waiblingen and Stuttgart, towards the south to Oberberken, towards the north to Welzheim - it's all good.

From Thursday's ride to Schwäbisch Gemünd....

Untitled

Most rides are like you are riding through pictures of post cards...

Untitled

...and the sights, sounds, and smells are all so refreshing...

Untitled

Tara and I actually rode for 3 or 4 days while she was visiting...

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Tara was enamored with the Schrebergarten allotments along the bike path. These are small plots of land that can be rented by residents who have no lawn or garden space, and will have a little plot of land to grow flowers and vegetables.  Here is one that is just outside of Schorndorf, but there are thousands of these along the bike paths and rural roads outside of the towns...

Untitled

The views never cease to engage...

Untitled

We had brunch with Giuliana Schnitzler and her husband Wolfgang in Vienna...

TaraLucyGiuliana

Lucy seemed to take a liking to all of us...

BBLucy

I took my first little spin on an eBike which was great!!!!

eBikeVienna

Spent time with our daughter and our niece in Vienna...

Untitled

I took in a Liederabend in Weimar at the Franz Liszt School of Music...

Untitled

...somberly saw the KZ Buchenwald with the students...

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

The memorial case at Buchenwald to one of Lehar's favorite librettists, Fritz Löhner...

Untitled

...and took a city tour as well as a tour of the Belvedere in this bus.

Untitled

I took the students to see a ballet in Stuttgart on March 18th. Here is the group at dinner before the ballet...

Untitled

Easter is approaching, and the fountain in the public square of Schorndorf is all decorated for Easter...

Untitled

I, along with one of my students (Trevor Halder), will be singing in a Bach concert on Good Friday with the community choir at the Stadtkirche in Schorndorf. So our final rehearsals are this week to prepare for that.

We traveled to München this past week. Pictured here are 5 of the students in one of our 6 seat cabins in the train that I reserved...

Untitled

We made a day trip to Füßen to see the two castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau..

Untitled

Untitled

We hiked around after our castle tour to take pictures, enjoy the fresh air, and work up an appetite...

Untitled

It was hazy until later in the day just before we left when the sun finally burned through the haze, but my pictures were taken before that occurred.  Tourists that we are, a stop at the Hofbräuhaus in München is always a requisite...

Untitled

We also stopped for a treat at the Viktualienmarkt which is a 200 year traditional daily farmer's market, and outdoor Biergarten...

Untitled

We also visited the KZ Dachau...

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

...went to the Stadtmuseum...

Untitled

I took a photo of where Tara's mother attended the Technical University in München to study Chemistry back in the late 40's...

Untitled

Among other things, we saw Dodger's Alley. This is where residents would walk around the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshall's Hall) which is where the confrontation between the Nazi Party, a unit of the Army and the Police took place after the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Walking around the Hall was done to avoid having to give the Hitler salute as required by law under Nazi rule in later years. The gold colored cobblestones through the back alley behind the Feldherrnhalle is to commemorate this detour people in München (who by and large were not supporters of the Nazi Regime) took to avoid giving the Hitler salute...

Untitled

I visited the new synagogue in München that was funded by the city of Munich and the state of Bavaria. It was inaugurated in 2006 on the 68th anniversary of Kristallnacht when the previous synagogue (just a few blocks from this one) was burned to the ground in 1938.

Untitled

I took a tour of the Jewish Museum right next to it at Sankt Jakobsplatz. On our final day, I was able to view all three of the Pinakotheken after lunch and really enjoyed viewing centuries and centuries of art. We hopped a morning train on Thursday back to Schorndorf after 4 nights in München and having seen a lot of history, art, culture, and all matters German.

Gobs more of things we have seen and done since my last blog post, but that's enough for a photo dump to get slightly caught up to this point. Last night the students presented their German Culture Photo Project for the host families which went well in spite of a lot of it being very last minute work which made me nervous.

DSCN6758

We have a lot more material to cover before our next trip on April 19th, and that starts with tomorrow's class.

3/4/15

Midway Point in Germany...

This week is our midway point of our time in Germany. So - yes - we had mid-term exams and projects the past week and all grading was submitted yesterday.

Today I had an appointment with the 4 students that live outside of the jurisdiction of Schorndorf proper to go to Waiblingen with their passports, supporting documents, passport pictures, and the 100 Euro fee each to get their residency permits. Our appointment was at 11 am which meant we could not hold class this morning as we needed to leave at 10:18 to make our appointment. All went well and I had lunch with the 4 students at Waiblingen after they were all finished getting finger printed. The old part of town had a highly recommended restaurant on the top floor of this building, the Altes Rathaus...

Untitled

I think I overdosed on meat and potatoes with this meal as it was delicious, but was a huge pot of meat and potatoes (enough for about 3 people to eat). I'm hankering for something besides meat and potatoes which seems to be all I get over here for hot meals.

Back in Schorndorf they were holding an open air market that they only do to this magnitude 2 x per year (arts and crafts, food, clothing, and everyone selling their wares)...





I was full from lunch, so I didn't buy any food. And most of the vendors were selling what I would classify as Ronco products, or junk. So I wandered through it all and then went home to suit up for the day's scheduled training ride.

I knocked out my Zone 4 intervals up in the mountains on the gravel fire roads, then cooled down by riding to Plüderhausen to see how quick of a ride it "could" be for two of our students who are with host families in Urbach and Plüderhausen. It took me 8 minutes to get from the school to their towns, and about 11:30 coming back due to the wind. The good news is that a turn I kept missing the past 7 weeks was due to one of the signs being turned and twisted so all of the arrows point to the wrong towns. I've been wanting to ride to Schwäbisch Gemünd along the river and train tracks - about 25 kilometers from here to the east - but following the signs would get lost and end up looping around. Today I finally figured out why due to a sign that somebody has tinkered with by twisting it.

So I have Sunday's route all ready to go with the promise of mid-50's weather.

Before that, though, is our one and only trip to the former East Germany as we are going to Weimar. Lots of historical reasons we are going to Weimar with regard to our classes, but suffice it to say that I am pretty excited to go there. Nietzsche, Liszt, Schiller, Goethe, Wagner, Bauhaus, Hitler, the Hitler Youth Movement, Otto II, Buchenwald and the list goes on. I will be taking pictures and reporting on the weekend trip...