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Tours and Turmoil

July 26, 2004

Dear Families and Friends,


It's been a busy month since our last guests left in June. Some touring but also a new batch of changes -- or chaos. When we last surveyed readers, most said they were more interested in tourism features and, except for direct relatives, less interested in our regular lives. Within that, we continue to maintain that our primary goal here is a "diary" ,and sometimes our tour stories are less central to us than answering (for ourselves?) the perennial question: What ARE Marianne and John doing?






Working in both Frankfurt and Erlangen, Bavaria, makes touring more and more difficult. I get my fill of autobahn driving just getting to and from work! However, once in a while, Marianne can come with me and then it's like a real vacation. This particular weekend, we managed to combine a visit with friends AND a quick (but cloudy) tour of Bamberg, an old city north of Erlangen.

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Our friends Anna and Scott live just up the road from Schloss Seehof, originally the summer home of the Bamberg bishop, that spreads over several acres. While the grounds and buildings may have seen better times, local governments are restoring it and are making it was easy to imagine how peaceful and luxurious it was in it's heyday.
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In nearby Bamberg, our required tourist visit was to the cathedral. Anna and Scott pointed out this horse and rider stature and explained that the Bamberg Reiter was a famous medieval monument to the glories of the Crusades and has represented an ideal medieval knight. It guarded over the caskets of Emperor Heinrich II and his wife, the other cathedral attraction.
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Old Bamberg is split by the Regnitz river. In addition to picturesque scenes, the river provides practice grounds for kayakers. On this gray day, it looked pretty cold!


Marianne at U.S. History Day

(Under construction)


John Back "Home"


Shortly after Marianne's business trip to Washington, John had a quick visit too. The work part in Lynchburg, VA was pretty uneventful but, on the weekend, he could see son Geoff, almost-daughter-in-law Suzanne and nephew Mike. We decided to take in a minor league baseball game since major league is too expensive and, besides, it's the fun we were after, not baseball quality.

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Suzanne, Geoff, and Mike crossing paths as Mike, home on a quick leave from the Marines, chose visits with friends over family baseball. At the stadium, Ron, Bim, Geoff, Suzanne enjoyed the box seats - definitely easier to do in Frederick than in Baltimore!
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The Frederick Key's Stadium was filled with Scouts since this was a "camp out" night. It was fun to see all the down-home pageantry, the excited kids, and the apprehensive parents. The baseball turned out OK too, as the locals won (for a change).
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Back at John's sister's garden, there were a few of the early summer blooms coloring the front yard. It's hard to pass up the colors and delicacy.



Marianne, Geneva for a Friendly Visit

(Under construction)


John's Drive to Work, The Long Way


This summer has seen some pretty dull weather in Frankfurt: clouds, rain, drizzle, and cool temperatures. Despite that, after Marianne had left on home leave, John hoped for sun and took a whole Sunday driving down to Erlangen, following the Main River

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The Saturday night thunder and lighting storm was dramatic but not encouraging for the next day's drive. Nevertheless, Sunday dawned bright and warm; this was going to be a perfect top-down trip. After a couple hours of getting lost, getting found, and generally just wandering, I found myself parked in Freudenberg am Main. Parking was required because the local church community was parading down the main street. The Catholic church has always played a central role in Bavaria, even in today's secular world.

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Above Freudenberg were the ruins of a 12th Century castle. A hike up to the top seemed like a good idea, although I have to admit that is was a bit more than I had expected. At the top, the ruin walls contained a stage and bleachers used for summer plays and concerts. Walking back down the path, the view of the Main River was postcard-perfect.
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Further up-river, I stopped in Bad Mergentheim, one of the villages on Bavaria's famous Romantic Road. Like most of the two dozen villages, towns, and cities on the Road, Bad Mergentheim had a quaint central square, lots of perfectly-restored half-timbered buildings and enough shops to satisfy any tourist. However, the best part for me was the Deutschordenmuseum (Museum of the German Order). This sprawling castle told the story of the Order, from it's inception during the Holy Land Crusades up through the current day. The German Order was an alliance of (mostly) Bavarian city-states that played a central role in the Crusades and in local military alliances, although it was nominally a religious order. They were put out of the military business by Napoleon in the early 19th Century, but survived as a political influence.
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While I could not see a connection with the Crusading Order, the Deutschordenmuseum had a darling collection of 19th and 20th Century dolls, including miniature kitchens and a child-size drug store. This was a reminder that Bavaria is also famous for toys, from model railroads to puppets. (dolls = "Puppen" in German.)
Of course, having seen a castle and a square, I had to visit a church, thus completing the standard trilogy of medieval town highlights.



Finally, that part few hang around for: What ARE Marianne and John Doing Now?


Recap: Been in Frankfurt two years. Marianne teaches at a US school for Army and Air Force brats. (Endearing term, trust me.) John works for the American part of a French company that makes nuclear power plants. He came here to work on one product, called the SWR 1000, that seemed promising for the US and, at the time, for Finland. When it lost in Finland, John had to jump to the successful in-house competitor, called the EPR. That jump involved three or four days a week away from home, at the company's office in Bavaria.

The time away from home has been a real drag so we were ecstatic when news came that the company, after six-months of client talks, had re-decided that the SWR1000 was a good design for the US market. John was excited on a professional level because, while the SWR1000 would remain an underdog on the world market, it was OUR underdog - and a GREAT product. On a personal level, this meant more time at home, regular business trips to the States, which can be expanded to include family of course, and three or four years of settled life. The future looked GOOD!

A couple of weekends ago, friends (with a truck) invited us to a Holland town filled with antique shops. It was going to be a fun but expensive Saturday, just before Marianne was to fly home to family in California.

But, Friday at about midnight, we were looking for a hospital emergency room instead. Marianne's heart rate had increased dramatically (later measured at about 160 beats-per-minute, over twice normal) It took more than half the day to get things under control and then another 48 hours of in-hospital observation and testing. The good news is that, at the end, she got a clean bill of health: "a fine heart" the doctors said. A few days later, and at twice the price, Marianne made the 16-hour Frankfurt to San Francisco trip with nary a peep from her fine heart.

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Here is patient Marianne, heart at regular speed. wondering when she'd be allowed out. At least the hospital had interesting views, including across to central Frankfurt. All in all, our first experience with German hospitals was quite positive.


Needless to say, this has given us pause about just what are we are up to. Furthermore, hours before Marianne's flight, John's job prospects did a 180, causing yet more "pause". It seems the company had decided to pursue the in-house favorite, the EPR, instead of our underdog. Effectively, John's return to working in Frankfurt as liaison for US-version of the SWR1000 was a non-starter. In fact, since he'd already started initiating the process of being replaced on the Finland EPR, ANY work was in doubt.

And, so that's where we are today. Health reminders of priorities and softening job prospects. Stay tuned.


Regards and take the long road sometimes,


John and Marianne



Other Web sites: Cousin Klara's Trip to Southern Africa (http://www.omniplan.hu/)

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While we've been looking at castles and dolls, Marianne's Cousin Klara and husband Gabor have been making us completely jealous as they send back pictures of their excursion through southern Africa. They took over 9,000 pictures and are now struggling with the job of culling the best for their web site. We can't wait to even more jealous.

Romantic Road: http://www.romanticroad.com/


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