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Two Trips
John's First Stops in Germany

March 4-6
Updated March 17

Dear Friends and Families,

This is a travel diary with a difference.  This time, Marianne is traveling to California to see family and I planned to travel to Germany, Belgium and Netherlands to see techie things such as old mines, bridges, airplanes, steel mills, and canals.  Plus a car factory.  As these trips went, I documented what I could. Below are links to subsequent diaries, so we could keep track of all this.

Marianne will see:
-- Grandkids Ava and Sam, including Ava's fourth birthday
-- Marianne's mom and sister in Fresno
-- Her second mom Klare and Jack in Monterey
-- Brothers Chris and Tom and their familes
-- Friends

As for me, my theme is UNESCO World Heritage Sites and More. My itinerary goes like this:
  -4th- Drop Marianne off at Frankfurt Airport and visit work colleagues in Offenbach (NOT a Heritage!)
  -4th- Messel Pit Fossil Site (Germany) (This page.)
  -5th & 6th- Speyer and Sinsheim Transport and Technical Museums (Germany) (This page.)
  -7th- Volklingen Hutte Steel Mill (Germany)
  -8th- Remagen Bridge (Germany)
  -9th thru 13th - Mines and Canals in Wallonia (Belgium)
Unfortunately, due to an untimely March snowstorm, I have cancelled the following:
  -14th through 16th - Windmills and polders (Netherlands)
  -17th & 18th - Ruhr Museum and Zech Zollverein Mine (Germany)
  -20th - Fagus Factory by Gropius (Germany)
  -21st through 23rd - Autostadt and VW Factory in Wolfsburg (Germany)

d130304_01_days_trip.jpgMarch 4 - Pommersfelden to Frankfurt to Offenbach to Messel to Speyer

We left home early Monday morning after throwing away all the trash, unplugging what could be unplugged, turning down all the heaters, and even locking the barn doors.  We probably over prepared for the trips, but as retirees, we seem to have more time and a need to prepare and worry.  I think that's what seniors do.

The two-hour drive to Frankfurt Airport was nominal, just the normal morning traffic in the big city.  Marianne checked in at United airlines early and found out that her plane was oversold, but she could transfer to a Lufthansa flight leaving even earlier. Without thinking, we did the shift.  In the end, it was probably not a good deal since the Lufthansa flight was also full and Marianne was stuck in the middle of almost the last row.  She's a trouper though, so she managed it.  A friendly seat mate with her 10-month old baby helped get Marianne into her Gigi role.

d130304_05_Areva.jpgAfter the airport, I headed over to my old Offenbach office to chat with friends.  Talking with friends about everything from the future of the nuclear power business to politics in Europe and America is always fun, despite the bleak outlook everyone is painting about everything.  I readily admitted that I did not miss the work, but I did miss the conversations.

d130304_08_plentyMore.jpgAfter lunch (thanks Fritz), I headed to my first UNESCO World Heritage site: Grube Messel (Messel Pit, in English, but I like the word "Grube").  Messel is not far south from Offenbach, surrounded by other Frankfurt suburbs and industrial towns.  Historically, oil shale was mined in the pit, up though the 1960s when the mine was closed and slated for refilling with trash.  After 20 years, an early environmental movement turned the decision around, so that the Eocine-era* fossils buried in the ancient lake bed could be explored and saved for future geologists. (*For those, like me, unfamiliar with geologic history, this was 47 million years ago.)

Today, there is a small, modern exhibition highlighting the history of Grube Messel.  My favorite part was a small theater-in-the-round that simulated a borehole descent 433 meters into the ground.  The feeling was that the room was sinking deep underground.  The visitor's center was small and limited, but that's not all bad.  A good ninety-minute stop.
The Messel "Pit" (or Grube auf Deutsch), part of which is still being mined.
The borehole simulation was great!

From there it was south to Speyer.  I arrived and checked in to the simple hotel on the grounds of the Speyer half of the Speyer-Sinsheim pair of "technical" museums.  The sun was still out, so I grabbed the camera and wandered around, looking at the little airplanes landing next door, wandering outside the museum proper and then into the town of Speyer.  At the end of the day, I found I had walked 13,345 steps, several times more than my normal sluggish days back home.  This trip may be healthy for me after all.
On the outside of the Speyer Technical Museum, my favorite exhibition was a steam turbine from a nuclear power plant.  I remember these big machines!
Next, I hung around next door at the local sport airport. It brought back memories of my own lessons in a high-winged Cessna 150/152 forty years ago.
Speyer seems to be a nice German town, complete with big church and open square.  I didn't know where the castle might have been.

Speyer and Sinsheim Transport and Technical Museums
March 5 - Sinsheim

This travel is all about learning and I today learned that I have taken too many pictures - over 700!  How did that happen?  First, the Auto and Technik Museum at Sinsheim is large, with a huge variety on display, everything from two SSTs to a couple dozen tractors.  And lots of other planes, cars, military tanks, etc, etc. I felt obliged to take pictures of everything that I liked plus examples from all the rest.  And I took pictures of the shiny cars in "HDR", the technique that requires three pictures per shot.  Too much by far.

Was it fun?  Yeah, it was.  I could spend hours and hours looking at whatever seemed interesting.  For breaks I watched an IMAX film about the Grand Canyon and, of course, had a lunch, with good cake.  All that walking earned me something after all.

For now, I'll limit my diary entry to say that I did enjoy my visit and I filled the story with pictures.


Other activities: IMAX, playgrounds, and "art"

SSTs and Other Planes
The Supersonic Transports were my favorite.  The Russian Tupolov and the British-French Concorde

Of the old planes, this German Tri-Motor was a fascinating comparison to the SSTs.
Others were good too, except I did not like going in this yellow Canadair because it was pointing down!

Cars -- First the Fabulous Fifties, Fords and Chevys
Foreign specialties.
Maybachs, the most luxurious of German Cars, then and now (+ 1 "Audi")
Royal and Fancy Cars
Two Historic Autos, With Stories
Machines -- first old power machines and steam engines, then a complex Concorde engine valve area
and a few of the many farm machines on display
Other -- A very small part of the extensive military display, from destroyed planes to almost-new tanks
Finally, a squished VW Bug

March 6 - Speyer
d130306_02_Overview.jpg Another day of too much.  The Technik Museum Speyer overlaps with a part of its Sinsheim partner and that made it hard to get properly excited, having just re-looked at pictures from Sinsheim.  No matter, I did it and I was satisfied that I did.

The main display hall held a collection of cars, planes, fire trucks, farm equipment, submarines, and stuff.   An overwhelming amount of stuff.  The hall itself was even historic, starting as an airplane factory of the 1920s. Here's a sampling of pictures:
This diorama of huge photo equipment was a highlight, for me anyway.
More things, such variety!
d130306_29_MyFilm.jpgBefore moving on to other buildings, I took in a film in the IMAX dome, all by myself.  Clearly, this is not tourist season.  The film was about rescue pilots, so there was lots of zooming and swooping, and neck craning.  I don't think I need to do this every day.

The next hall was devoted to spacecraft.  The highlight was the Soviet space shuttle Buran, a mimic of the US Space Shuttle, but one that could take off and land by itself.  The program ended with the 1989 ending of the Soviet Union.
But, the biggest attractions, literally, were all outdoors. A Lufthansa Boeing 747 dominated the museum back yard.  I forced myself to climb up into this plane, and a few others as well. Good exercise.  Good views.
Climbing up to the 747 was work, but gave a new view of the Jumbo.
d130306_60_TwoBoats.jpgd130306_62_InsideSAR.jpg Mostly, I skipped the "Marine" display.  I was just worn out, although I did climb up onto the retired German search and rescue boat.  Nice diorama of the bridge.  Interesting.  But too much.  I gave up.

I left Speyer right after lunch and headed toward the small hotel I had booked for the next goal: Völklinger Hütte, a huge steel mill.  Because I had headed out early, I hit the hotel too soon and decided to take a quick look at the mill.  I enjoyed two more hours of exercise, but will hold for the next story.



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