Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Going to the Alps to Avoid the Snow

Well, I went to Konstanz, which borders a lake that is near the Alps not so much to avoid the big storm that hit Canada while I was gone, but to participate in a conference on how the militaries adapted in Afghanistan (include the Afghan National Army and the Taliban).  I learned a great deal that will inform my work.  I also learned much along the way:

  • Gluhwein is incredibly popular in Zurich and Konstanz, but I would not try it as the smell was awful.
  • There are some cultural differences between the German-speakers of Zuriich and those of Konstanz (Germany): the latter will not cross a street until the pedestrian light turns green.  Folks in Zurich are much less constrained.
  • Konstanz was not bombed during WWII because of its proximity to Switzerland (we walked back and forth across the border to get to the workshop that was in a Schloss in Switzerland).  So, the buildings have long histories, including the hotel we stayed at--Hotel Barbarossa--named after the Holy Roman Emperor of the 1100s (who was the inspiration for the name given to the German plan to invade the Soviet Union in 1941).  The building may have been that old as well.  It certainly was strange enough as the walk from the stairs or elevator to my room required five turns--two right, then one left and then two more right turns.
  • Zurich and Konstanz both had fun holiday festival markets (with heaps of the aforementioned Gluhwein), with lots of the same stuff for sale: furs, woodwork, crafts, food, etc.
  • Across the lake from Konstanz is the home of Zeppelins.  I went across the lake since I wanted to see the area, and found the Z-museum to be right on the lakefront.  It was very interesting, with parts of building embedded with replications of Zeppelin pieces.  The town itself, Friedrichshafe, was leveled during the war. 
Other stuff I learned while on this trip:
  • How CNN covers weather can be deceptive.  The story on the Canadian snow storm mentioned that the postal service had stopped delivering the mail.  This seemed to impress the folks I was with.  That's because they confuse the American system with the Canadian one.  The Canadian one does not have the same motto.  
  • CNN International seems to have a completely different set of rules for the average female tv personality--much larger than those broadcasting into the US.  Not that this is wrong, just noticeably different.

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