the long road home

4:00 PM Laguardia Airport

I have never wanted to be home so badly in all my life.  The group of 16 is sitting here in the American Eagle concourse of Laguardia.  We are at the airport very early for several reasons.  Number one, they are remodeling the lobby of the Seafarers and it sounded like the entire building was going to fall down.  Number two, the “seafarers” watching TV on the Mezzanine were on their second bottle of alcohol (gin for breakfast and whiskey for lunch) and were starting to creep everyone out.  Number three we though that this mornings snow might have traffic all backed up and we didn’t want to be fretting our way through security, but as it turned out we got over here in no time at all.  Number five, we feared that there would be long lines at checkin and security due to flight changes and cancellations, which also proved to be a non-issue.  So, here we sit, two hours before boarding, the flight is on time so far…

The morning started out early, I was wide awake at 4AM, my mind on the trip home today.  We had to be out the door at 7AM to catch our train to Stamford Connecticut, where we visited NBC.  We had two great speakers today John Fritsche, and Bucky Gunt (Google him, he’s won a ton of Emmys).  Unfortunately as we were on the train to Stamford some lovely white flakes of snow began to come out of the sky.  Sadly in New York even a few white flakes raise havoc with the schedules at Laguardia, Newark, and JFK.  On top of that tomorrow there is a winter storm watch out for our area.

Backing up to this morning again.  We got to the Union Square station where we were going to take any of the uptown bound trains to grand central station.  We told everyone, if the cars are crowded meet up on the platform  The cars were indeed crowded but after our london experience you would not believe how proficient our students have become at jamming themselves onto a subway.  So we all made it onto the train.  But not 30 seconds after we got off both Craig and I came up one student short.  I knew that student was on the train because I saw him and talked to him on the way to grand central.  But just like that he was gone!  Where did he go?  Did he fail to “mind the gap?”  Was he abducted by a band of roving gypsies?  Did a crazed herd of subway rats drag him away?  We had to move to the platform to catch our train to Stamford and unfortunately this student did not have his cell phone along.  So one stayed behind until the last possible minute to see if he returned, and the rest of us went on to catch our Stamford train.  Sadly, we had lost him.  Well, I knew that other than missing the NBC presentations he would be fine.  He could always go back to the hotel and meet us there later.

As we were standing in the snow in Stamford he finally called.  He was at a pay-phone and was safe and sound.  He had gone up the stairs following someone in a coat that looked suspiciously like Craig’s.  After following not-craig for a while he finally realized that he was following the wrong guy.  By then he didn’t know how to get back to us and we were probably gone by then anyway.  We are all hopeful that this will be the final mass transit mishap of the trip!  – A short update craig just surmised that our inbound plane is 20 minutes ahead of schedule.  So, the good news is that we have an inbound plane, it is in the air, and it is ahead of schedule.  Yea!!

5:30  Well, scratch that… Our plane is actually now going to arrive about 16 minutes late.  It took off late from Charlotte, so is behind schedule.

9:23 CST:  Finally off the plane, after landing only about a minute late we were informed by the captain that an AA 737 landed just 10 seconds ahead of us.  Unfortunately they only have one ground crew so we wait on the tarmac unable to pull into our gate.  Finally we pull into the gate but we wait another 10 minutes before someone finally moves the jet bridge into place.  I’m pretty sure that was Cat having her final revenge on me for publicly calling her out in an earlier post.

But, all is well that ends well.  Even though we waited a long time (25 minutes) to get off the plane, our luggage was waiting for us at baggage claim, so there was no additional wait there.  By 10PM Craig and I were in my car, yes my car, freedom, no reliance on public transportation, no waiting for cranky gate agents, we could just get in my car and drive the last 2:20 minutes to get home to Decorah.  We arrived just after midnight.  Sweet.  It was a great trip, but there’s no place like home.






30 rock

So today Craig and I had an afternoon to do some site seeing.  Despite the cold cold temperatures here in new york we decided to start with some Dim Sum.  So, we headed to Chinatown.  I took out the trusty Urbanspoon app on my phone and we were soon headed to Ping’s.  Good Dim Sum at a great price.  Great shrimp and pork dumplings, Great potstickers and fried spring rolls.  The beef short ribs were OK, but not my favorite.  We finished up with some fried bacon wrapped shrimp.  A great way to close out the meal.  We were stuffed and only a few bucks poorer.

After lunch we headed up to 30 rock to do the studio tour and visit Top of Rock.  The studio tour was fun.  We saw Dr. Oz’s studio (who??) and the Jimmy Fallon set, also home to Johnny Carson’s show when he was in New York.  Finally we saw the SNL set.  Lots of great memorabilia and great memories in looking at that set.  Unfortunately there is a no picture policy on the tour so nothing to share there.

What I can share is this video clip. Partway through the tour, our guides asked for a couple of volunteers to ‘do some reading’ Craig and I both volunteered, and it turned out they were going to show us how a mini news broadcast goes together. So, Craig is the anchorman, and I am the weather guy. Its not as easy as it looks standing in front of the green screen, reading the teleprompter, and moving pointing at something nonexistent behind you.

Sadly Flickr uses flash to do these embedded videos, Here’s a link to the mov non flash file I uploaded…

After the tour we went up to the Top of Rock experience.  This is a great view of the city on a nice mostly clear day.  Here’s a few photos for you to enjoy the view from up there as well.  We had hoped to close out the afternoon with a happy hour cocktail at the Rainbow Room, but it was closed.





jet lag recovery mode

I’m sitting in Starbucks off Union Square, its 6:30 here in Manhattan and I’m wide awake.  I made it until about 9:30 last night but then fell soundly asleep until 2:30AM, 8:30AM London time of course.  The relative quiet of my room at Seafarers International house was awesome.

The flight home was a Godsend as well.  I went up to the desk to ask if I could change from a center to an aisle seat.  The lady said no problem, she moved me to row 31 and said that it was likely nobody else would be beside me.  So yes, I had a whole row to myself for the flight home.  As it turned out we all could have had our own rows as the back third of the plane was pretty much empty.

Following all instructions we arrived at Heathrow three hours in advance of our flight, the Picadilly line was much more crowded that we expected it to be for 7:30 on a sunday morning.  But when we got to heathrow, there was no waiting at the continental desk to check in for our flight, and there was virtually no waiting in the security line either.  So, we had plenty of time to sit around the gate area and wait for our flight.  I think we all spent more time waiting to get through passport control at Newark than we did in the security line at Heathrow.

We just missed the 3:15 train to New York Penn Station, so we ended up having to wait there for the 4:04.  Every other hour of the day has an xx:28 train to Penn station except for 3pm.  Once we got into the city we had to get subway passes for everyone.  Unlike London, it is impossible in New York to use a credit card to by 26 unlimited passes.  So, we had to trudge to the Herald Square station and have everyone line up to use their own cards to get their subway passes for the two days here in New York.

Finally, about 4 hours after landing we made it to Seafarers.  It is midnight London time, but everyone was excited to eat some american food, and catch the end of the Packers, Bears game.  More american football was to come with the Steelers and the Jets.  Craig and I went to watch the end of the Packers game at TGI Fridays, and then headed out to Pete’s Tavern.  It was great to have an American hamburger, with blue cheese!  I loved the fish and chips at all of the london pubs, but it was really nice to be back home.  Although we are still a 3 hour flight from Minneapolis I feel like we are close enough to home to reach out and touch it.

Today we have a group  meeting at 9, then a speaker from NBC Olympics at 10.  Everyone is on their own for the day after our speaker, until we have our final group dinner tonight.  Tomorrow will be a busy day as we have a meeting in Connecticut, and then by mid afternoon the group will begin to disperse for the various flights back home.

premier league


I can’t think of a better way to end a trip to London that with a Premier League Football match.  We were very fortunate to get group tickets to the Fulham versus Stoke City match this afternoon.  Fulham plays in a venue known as Craven Cottage.  Its a smaller, more intimate stadium, but we ended up with great seats.  We were in about the 24th row behind and to the keepers left of the goal.  A high hard kick over the crossbar would land right in my lap.


Fulham won the game handily 2 nil with Clint Dempsey scoring both goals for Fulham.  We thought, briefly, about a USA USA chant for Dempsey, but decided that might not be appreciated by all of the other football fans around us, so we just cheered loudly.

Going to an English Premier League match is a fun experience. We sat in the neutral zone of the stadium so we were not right in with the Fulham or the Stokes City fans.  So our section was a bit quieter than all the others.  We were the closest to the Stokes City visitors section and it was really a riot to listen to them sing, and chant, and carry on throughout the game.  They only quieted down about midway through the second half when it became very clear that there was no way they were going to win the game.

There were a couple of Dads right behind me that had brought their two young boys to the game, so it was interesting to listen to them explain football to the boys, who already knew as much about the game as many of us.  It was a great experience and one that I will remember fondly for a long time.

The last few days are really a blur.  We have had more great meetings and class discussions, and finally some time to explore the city on our own.  Quite honestly I’m ‘museumed out’ at the moment.  I’ve been to The British Museum, The London Transportation Museum, the Tate Modern, The London Docklands, The Imperial War Museum, and the British Library.  All were interesting in their own way, but you get museum, and information overload at some point.

A couple of the highlights for me were the Transportation Museum, seeing the development of the London Underground, beginning in the 1830s and moving forward is a pretty interesting study in engineering, and city planning.   The development of tunneling technologies, and the escalator were really interesting.

Another highlight was seeing a letter from Ada Lovelace to Charles Babbage at the British Library.  The library has labelled this letter as the first computer program, as she is explaining how to program the difference engine to solve a mathematical problem that had never been solved by hand before.  Also at the Library was Handel’s original score for the Messiah!  You could see his notes as well as the names of the soloists that were performing the different parts.  They also have one of four copies of the Magna Carta on display.  This is a document written in 1215 or so, and is widely considered to be a model for our own constitution.

Last night we had our final group dinner in London, and the Imperial China restaurant.  We had our own room, with a Karaoke machine and a special menu.  Tons of food, and great fun was had singing karaoke by all.    Here you can see Paul, Joe, and Carl treating us to a country song.  We also had Rap, Glen Campbell, and even a couple of Disco numbers.  It is really strange to think that all of these students know the lyrics to every Backstreet boys song ever written.


Tomorrow is an early morning as we have to be on the Tube going to heathrow by 7:30.  We leave London at around 11:15am and arrive in New York at about 3:00pm.  We’ve all enjoyed our time in Europe, but we are also ready to be back in the states again.  I know that even after a proper football game this afternoon, a number of the students are hoping to make it


we will rock you

Yesterday was another great day in London.  We started out at 8:00 with our daily discussion of the assigned reading.  24 of the 26 members of the class were a little unhappy about the 8:00 starting time, but the other two (Craig and I) wanted to get them up and out of bed so they would have the middle part of the day for seeing the sites of London.  This would really be the first extended time they would have since we arrived for doing some touring on their own.

We met up again at 4:00 at a place called the View Tube.  This is an educational facility that overlooks the Olympic stadium and Village area.  We met with an architect who is the project manager for the Olympic Village.  It was an absolutely fascinating meeting.  How do you design a village to house 10,000 athletes that will be turned into market housing as well as affordable housing once the games are over?  Furthermore how do you build all of this to the latest green standards?  How do you design a new city neighborhood, with safety and security as primary design constraints?  How do you move millions of people in and out of this neighborhood on a daily basis?  These are just some of the design goals for the Olympic Village and park area.  Here are a couple of pictures of the stadium and the aquatic center in construction:



The apartments that house the athletes during the games are all built without kitchens and other ‘extra’ rooms to provide extra bedroom space.  After the games the kitchens are added before they go on sale.  We also learned that all of these apartments are designed and built so that they do not need heating during the winter!  This is amazing to me, but we were further told that they didn’t think they could sell them without heat, so in floor heating is added throughout.  The water for the in-floor heat comes from a central facility, so should it ever be needed it is extremely efficient!

This project really is amazing, the amount of social and civic engineering that has gone into the design of the village really boggles my mind.  Not only that but consider that much of this was designed, and even some construction was started before the economic crash in 2008.  The crash led to a full time out to re-evaluate and re-finance much of the operation.  Its just amazing that they are going to pull this off.

After our meeting at the View Tube, we all scattered for dinner on our own and then met up again at the Dominion Theater for We Will Rock You.  This is a musical where the plot and characters are loosely based around the Bohemian Rhapsody .  Lots of great Queen songs that we all wanted to sing along with.  Craig and I had our dinner at the Tottenham Pub, and I decided that I really needed to try a meat pie during my stay in London, so I had a chicken and mushroom pie for supper.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.



After the rain and dreary weather of the past many days it was delightful to get up this morning and head outside to see the sun.  The early part of the morning is free, so my plan was to go pick up our tickets to We Will Rock You, but the box office did not open until noon.  It was a productive walk anyway as I found a free WiFi connection that was 10 times faster than the Royal National and that allowed me to finish downloading the London2Go app for my iTouch.  Its a nice app that works off line and has all of the london highlights, plus tube information, and a map.  All of this works great even without WiFi so its very handy to have in your pocket when you are walking around or on the train.

At 10:30 we gathered for a trip down to Wimbledon.  First on the agenda for the day was a walking tour of the stadium.  It was fantastic.  Everything you would expect from Wimbledon.  Of course at this time of year the place is pretty quiet except for the workers who are already at work preparing the stadium for the Championship at the end of June.  Much of this enormous complex is only used for a couple of weeks during the year.  There are courts that the members are allowed to use, but not the competition courts.


Our guide told us the story of how the week after the tournament, the process begins to prepare the courts for the next year.

  1. Dig up the current turf.
  2. Put weed killer on the remaining bits of grass.
  3. Remove the top six inches of dirt to get rid of the weed killer and any remaining grass or (gasp) weeds.
  4. Replace with fresh dirt.
  5. Seed with rye grass
  6. The grass is then watered, mowed, and generally allowed to grow naturally until about April. Mostly naturally anyway, we saw that the had little heat lamps that moved slowly back and forth over the grass during the course of a week. You can see the lamps in the picture below.  In April the grounds keepers begin mowing the grass shorter and shorter.  By competition time the grass is down to just 6 millimeters in length.  The cutting must be done very gradually or the grass will go into shock, and you know thats not good.


IMG_2285.jpgFinally, testing begins.  A person comes in and literally counts the blades of grass per square meter to make sure the turf is the right density, and that the tennis ball will bounce to the correct height. when dropped from a test machine.

We also got to go in the press room, and sit in the chairs where the players come every day to give their interviews.  It was fun to sit in the same chair as Nadal, Federer, and MacEnroe.

We were allowed to sit in the stands on court 1 as well as Centre Court, so we got a good idea of how intimate the Wimbledon stadiums are and what it would be like to actually attend a match.  After the stadium tour we had a marketing presentation and learned a little about the way they market the stadium and the museum during the other 50 weeks of the year.  All in all it was an impressive experience.


training for the olympics

The first stop on our tour of London was a walking tour around the Olympic venues.  To get there was easy.  Take the Picadilly line from Russel Square up to Kings Cross St. Pancras and transfer to the Hammersmith and City line which would take us East directly to Bromley by Bow where we would meet our guide.  Nothing could be easier right?  Except that when we got to Kings Cross, the train to Bromley by Bow was pretty full.  But we jammed ourselves on like true Londoners.  At the last second I noticed that some of our students had not jammed themselves on the train and a voice in the back of my head said ‘jump off.’  I ignored the little voice because we had given them clear instructions that if they didn’t make it on this train just jump on the next on and we would meet up on the platform at our destination.

When we arrived at Bromley by Bow, we did a quick count and realized we had a little more than half of our group.  When the next train pulled in we looked for the rest of the group, but not a single student got off the train.  Soon another train pulled in and I noticed that this was a district line train so I didn’t expect any students to get off.  Well, train after train came into the station but they were all district line trains.  That voice in the back of my head told me ‘somethings not right’  so I went up to the ticket office to inquire when the next Hammersmith and City train was expected.  ”Service is suspended.” he told me.

“Till when?”  I asked.

“indefinitely.” I was told.

Crap!  Why didn’t I listen to that voice that told me to jump off the train?  Time to regroup.  Craig and I decided that he would take the students that were here on the tour and I would wait at the station.  We knew that within the group there was the intelligence to figure out a way to get down to the district line and out here eventually.  I would meet them and call craig and we would figure out how to catch up.

So, Craig and the guide and the group took off in the rain on the tour and I hung out in the station.  Pretty soon I noticed that there were not any district line trains coming in any more.  So, back to the information desk.  Yep, District line service is also suspended due to signaling problems at Bow Road station.  Well, that does it, I had already waited around the station for 40 minutes so there was no way they were going to make it now and even if they did the tour would be finishing up.  So I hopped on the next train heading back in.  As I passed each station, I scanned the faces on the platform on the other side.  If I saw the group I could hop off and catch up with them.  But they were no where to be seen.

It took me about an hour to get back to Russell square and our hotel and when I walked in a group of the cheerfully greeted me in the lobby.  ”We tried to catch up with you but all the lines were suspended.”  They had their own odyssey of planes and busses and walking in the rain that you can read about on the class blog.  (  They had tried their best using all of their ingenuity to catch up with us, but it just was not to be.  They were all safe, and sound and much the better for having to learn how to navigate the London Tube system on their own.

Now, if you have been following this blog you may be wondering how on earth I came to be allowed to lead students abroad.  Torn ligaments, separated shoulders, leaving students behind on busses and trains.  Is there any defense for all that?  Nope, these are ingenious  Luther students, in every case they knew where they had to be and how to get there.  In my mind this is part of the experience of learning how to navigate your way around a foreign country.  We’re having a blast and we’ll make sure we get everyone home in one piece.

Today we are off to Wimbledon, and looking forward to our meetings and tour there.  But, if I do hear that voice telling me to jump off the train to stay with the group, I think I’ll listen to it today.

day 1 in torino

A few years ago, I finished a round of Golf at Oneota Country Club and came up to the patio area.  A  bunch of guys I knew were sitting around a table with some other men I did not know.  It turned out that the strangers were visiting Decorah on a Rotary International exchange program from Torino Italy.  One of the men I met that night was Stefano.  Little did I know that he would play and integral role in the course on the olympic games I’m teaching right now.

When craig proposed the course, and we talked about Torino, we  both thought of Stefano.  I contacted him via email, and he immediately responded that he would be happy to help.  Stefano organized a very nice morning for us.  He stopped at our hotel to walk with us to the Foundacion Alberto Collonetti, where some of his friends were gathered.  The friends had all been involved in the Olympics in some way as volunteers, and they told told us a bit about what they had done, and what the Olympics had meant to Torino.  Although some of the venues have very quickly decayed and are going unused, everyone agreed that the Olympics had a big economic and cultural impact on the city.  Before the olympics Torino was probably only known as the home of the shroud, and was not really a tourist destination, but since the olympics Torino has become a tourist destination for people from throughout the world.  In addition the olympics had a big impact on the character of the people, according to many that we spoke with, prior to the olympics people in Torino were not very welcoming of strangers, but since then the city has learned to be more friendly and open.  We saw this to some degree, but in general we found it was difficult to find someone that could speak english.  This was such a different experience than I have had traveling in other cities in Italy.  After the presentations were over they answered the students questions for quite a while.  We were happy to use some of our honoraria money to make a small donation to the Foundacion.

Stefano and his friend Fabrizio helped us the rest of the day by accompanying us to the Olympic Village, to lunch, and even to our second meeting of the day with Delatre.  For lunch we walked through the abandoned village and over to a rehabilitated Fiat factory.  The factory has been turned into a mall, and office building.  Across the street from the end of the mall is a place called Eataly, which is a very nice high end grocery store (more on this later) that also has a cafeteria.  We bought Stefano and Fabrizio lunch, and it was nice to have Stefano translate the menu for us. We had a very nice glass of Prosecco naturale, not the champagne version but the still version.  Craig and I each had a plate of pasta with meat sauce (veal) while the others had pasta and mussels.

A couple of bus rides later and we were at Delatre.  This is a technology company that does a lot of web work for NBC, the BBC, and CTV.  Their big thing is tying together the video stream with all the meta data about the players and the scores.  For broadcasters they basically provide everything you would need to know to do color commentary on a game.  They license some cool technology that tracks each football player on the pitch, as well as the ball and the referees.  The software can detect when one player passes to another, and provides real time statistics.  You can access this on the website, like,  or they have a special product just for broadcasters to use.  It was a very interesting presentation, especially for the 3 computer scientists in the group.

After the presentation they allowed craig to stay behind to print out our boarding passes.  I took the rest of the group down the road to the grocery store.  The original idea was to wait for craig, but we soon gave up on that and began walking back to the hotel on our own.

We knew that to get back to the hotel we just had to walk east until we found Corso Re Umberto.  At that point we would go north to our hotel.  I knew it was a long way, so once we reached Re Umberto I said I would run across the road and see if the bus went all the way up to our hotel.  Unfortunately as I was asking the bus driver this question, he just started driving away.  I tried to wave to the confused looking students on the other side of the road, who were staring at the place the bus used to be as if I had somehow vanished into thin air.  I did manage to make eye contact with one or two so they knew I was on the bus and they soon followed.  Meanwhile back at the hotel we waited and waited for craig.  Finally I decided not to wait any longer and just go ahead with our group discussion.  When craig finally returned we had our first glimpse of what flying Ryanair was going to be like.  To print out our online boarding passes he had to enter, name, birthday, passport number, expiration date, flight information for every member of our group before he could print out the passes!  Of course this took forever, especially since on the first try he entered all of the information only to be told that the session had time out.  This meant he had to enter it all over again, but in smaller batches.

After the group discussion we walked down the block to ottoe tre quarte (8 ¾) where we had a glass of wine and some Calzone.  After dinner we were both exhausted so we just went back to the hotel to get some sleep.  Lest you think I was in bed by 7, you should know that supper time in this part of italy doesn’t start until 8:00pm.



my name is brad, i'll be your sommelier this evening

Sometimes a Swiss Army Knife can make you the most popular guy in your hotel corridor!  Some of the students have discovered that when you are in italy, and close to France, wine is much cheaper than beer.  What do you do if you are not a wine drinker?  Choose an inexpensive wine at random from a store and bring it back to the hotel.  Step 2, after realizing that wine bottles have these things called corks, and corks require a special tool to remove them from your bottle, you wander around the corridor wondering how you are going to find a cork screw.  This is where I came in.

“Do you know where we can find a corkscrew?”  I was asked.  Being a leader makes me the font of all knowledge of course, so I must know.  ”Well…” I said, “I have a corkscrew on my swiss army knife.”  ”Great!  can you open this for me?”  Why not, I thought… Somehow the idea of me opening a bottle of wine for a student wasn’t anywhere on my list of duties as a faculty member, and I’m not sure its one that the administration would want to cultivate, but here we are in Italy, I might as well be helpful.  So, I cut the foil and pop one cork.  Its as if the sound of that cork sliding out of the bottle was like some kind of whistle.  The next thing I know I’m surrounded by students holding bottles of wine.  One or two of them decided it would be a great idea to take a picture of me opening wine bottles.  I think the picture below really captures the moment.  You can see Craig laughing in the background as if to say,  ”ha ha, there goes Brad’s career.”


Thus began our first night in Torino.  It was another long train trip from Lausanne to Torino, made a bit more exciting by the fact that just after we crossed the border into Italy the train got behind schedule.  What had been a 40 minute layover in Milano Centrale turned into a 10 minute dash from one train to the next.

Once we got to Torino, we had lunch, our first at McDonalds since the trip began, because we knew we were too early to check into our hotel.  I had a McBacon and fries.  It tasted quite good.  The Hotel Artua Solferino is a nice old European hotel.  Each room is very different.  My room is up the stairs at the end of the hall, and has the smallest bathroom in Italy.  Right over my shower is a skylight that leaks cold air like crazy.  This morning as I tried to take a shower, I could not get hot water and so the combination of the cool breeze and the luke warm shower water (with approximately zero pressure) was pretty pathetic.

After orienting the students to the area, we turned them loose to see what they could find for dinner.  Craig and I waited a while and then took off for the city centro.  We walked around and investigated a lot of restaurants.  We looked for some that might be able to accommodate our entire group, and some that looked like they might be nice for us.  We ended up finding a great little neighborhood restaurante.  Not a tourist place at all, and not pretentious.  They had a three course chefs menu that looked great.  I had awesome risotto, a green salad, and delicious veal arrosto.  The meal came with 3 dl of wine which was perfecto.

With dinner done, we made our way back to the hotel.  Its amazing how tired I get each day, worrying about the 24 welfare of 24 students traveling in a foreign country where none of us really speak the language well is very tiring.  This seems to be especially true here in Torino.  Although we have heard that the city has made great strides in welcoming tourists, we find that there are not all that many people that really speak English.  Despite that , it is a good beginning to Torino.


craig's death march to the invisible tower

Its that depressing, cloudy, cool kind of weather here in Lausanne.  Low clouds and mist that block any hope you have of seeing across the lake, much less Mont Blanc.  The result is that the city does not seem warm or friendly.  When we walked by the lake area on our way to the tourist museum it was deserted and quiet.  Of course this is their off season but it was still strange, and it makes me wish I was home where even when things are cloudy and bleak you have the warmth of loved one’s around you.

The visit to the Olympic museum was good.  They have some cool interactive exhibits where you can test your reflexes, train at altitude, and have a look at all of the new technologies that athletes and their coaches are using.  My favorite was the basketball tracker.  A camera on each corner of the court records the movements of players, a computer is then able to use that information to triangulate the exact position of each player on the court at all times.  Coaches are now using this to do a statistical analysis of how players are likely to respond to different offensive or defensive strategies.  Very cool.

When we finished our tour, the mist had lifted a bit so we could actually see the mountains peeking up over the low clouds.  I think that is Mont Blanc on the right of the picture below.  It may be a little hard to tell, but there is actually a layer of low clouds right at the top of the flag poles in the picture.



After the museum tour, everyone was on their own for lunch.  Craig and I checked out the Manora, which is a nice, reasonably priced buffet near St. Francis.    After lunch I walked around a bit, and bought a new converter to replace the one I left in the outlet in Interlaken.  We had a hike planned to a tower on the highest point in town for 3:00 in the afternoon.

Unfortunately it was raining a bit at 3, and the clouds had returned but we decided to give it a try anyway.  After a very long walk up hill we found this spot.


which wasn’t a tower, but there was a flag pole we could climb.  As you can see there is not much scenery behind the students as we were up into the clouds. and it was hard to see the lake much less any of the mountains from where we were.  Nonetheless Craig was determined to find the tower that we set off for, and so while the rest of us were fooling around and looking at the small plastic bag with the odd botanical stencil on it he was trying to find the tower.  And, after another half mile of walking up hill here it was:


You could not even see the top of the tower when you were standing right in front of it.  However, we had come this far and were determined to reach the peak.  So we climbed the 151 stairs to the top of the tower.  And we were barely treated to a view of each other.



You can see we were definitely in the clouds!

The walk back to the hostel was all downhill and definitely an easier walk.  We found a nice french bistro to stop for a happy hour drink, and enjoyed the rest.  After we got back to the Hostel and caught up with the rest of the students, Craig and I found a very nice Asian restaurant (Asian Garden) for our supper.  Back to the room and to bed.

Its a great group of students and its fun to see them come together as they get to know each other better.  They rely less on us and more on each other with each passing day of the trip, and thats a good thing.


how lindsey vonn spoiled my day in interlaken

The morning started out like any other morning, up at 7:00, a light breakfast, then hop on the bus to the ski slopes.  OK, maybe not like every other morning, but a pretty desirable thing to aspire to anyway.

To get to the ski slopes from Interlaken requires a bus ride, to Winderwil, followed by a train ride to Lauterbrunn, followed by a different train ride to Wengen, followed by a trip up the Mannlichen Gondola.  Unfortunately after all that trouble the quality of the snow was pretty bad.  The weather here in Interlaken the past couple of days has been unseasonably warm, so the snow is really icy in the morning, turning to slush by mid-day.  Most of the students that followed me out the door of our Hostel (Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof) were beginners.  By the end of the day they were calling themselves the Blue Crew because they were only taking the blue runs.  Note to U.S. skiiers, in the Alps blue is easy, red is intermediate, while black is for experts.  Somehow I got separated from the group right away and ended up doing the first run by myself.  It turned out that they had all skiied a ways ahead of mebut had stopped to contemplate their options in terms of which run to take.  Even after that contemplation they ended up taking a red run, which was not what they wanted to do.  It was during this first run that Aaron took a spill, and tore the ACL, and MCL ligaments in his knee.

Even though I waited at the bottom and top of the lift hoping to find the group again I was unsuccessful for several runs.  Maybe an hours worth of skiing.  Finally I did see the group coming off the blue run and the first thing I heard was “have you seen Aaron?”

No I said, why?

He fell and hurt himself on the run.  He told us to go on to the bottom but now we’re too scared to ski back down to him.

So, I took my board down the run and found him sitting all by himself by the side of a snow making machine.  Only one person had stopped to see if he needed help, and due to the language barrier apparently determined he was fine.  Meanwhile, I had talked to a couple of ski instructors and managed to locate a ski patrol on a snowmobile.  He joined us on the slope and made the assessment that Aaron was going to need to go to Wengen for some X-Rays.  As we were waiting we decided that we needed a better cover story than falling during the first run of the day.  Hence the Lindsey Vonn reference.  Our story is that she was on the slopes practicing for the world cup race next week and decided to flirt with Aaron, this distracted him momentarily and caused him to crash.  Sadly she did not stop to help or he would probably feel just fine.

After wrapping Aaron up like a Papoose on the sled behind the snowmobile the patrol took off for the Gondola, and I was supposed to ski down and take the lift back up and meet them there.  By the time I arrived the Gondola had already taken Aaron down, so I had to wait for the next one.  Down in Wengen Aaron got a ride in a taxi to the doctor’s office and was awaiting an X-ray by the time I arrived.  It only took about an hour and a half at the doctors office to get the X-Ray with the preliminary diagnosis of a torn crucial ligament.  They scheduled a followup appointment the next day so the other doctor could read the X-ray and weigh in.  They outfitted Aaron with a pair of crutches that included flip down spikes for the bottom to aid in navigating through the snow, and we were off.  Aaron with one ski boot on and his crutches, me carrying the other ski boot, his poles, helmet, skiis, and my own board, it was kind of a sad sight to see us slowly trudging through the narrow streets of Wengen back to the Bahnhoff.  Remember all the train and bus stops it took to get to Wengen?  Well we had to do the whole process in reverse loading and offloading skis, boards, etc. at each change.

Aaron and I made it back to the Hostel, where we began the process of calling our travel insurance company, Luther Study Abroad folks, and Aaron’s parents.  As I write this we are in “insurance-limbo” waiting to hear from our company whether they will cover an MRI in Laussane.  The MRI is critical because it appears that in addition to the torn ligaments there is also a small bone chip.  If the chip is too large or in the wrong place then He’ll have to go home and get ready for surgery.


day 2, or is it 3?

I can’t believe that I actually slept until 8:00AM.  After waking up at 3 AM I was afraid I was done for, but I dropped back to sleep and slept hard until 8.  After a quick breakfast at the Hostel it was time for some Munich touring on our own.   A few of us were going to go to the Deutches Museum, but most of the group was headed to Dachau.  I really enjoyed the museum, I went straight to the Math, Computer Science, and Astronomy exhibit, where I discovered that they had an actual Enigma machine, in the cryptography area.

There were many other great exhibits, the aeronautical area had a cross section of an Airbus A320 and several other interesting aircraft, there was a really amazing mining exhibit as well.  The nautical area was equally amazing with replicas of ships both large and small.  You could easily spend a whole day at the museum, but my mind was pretty overloaded by 11:30.  The plan was to head back to the Viktalien Markt for a street lunch of sausage and bread, unfortunately everything was closed, it turns out that Epiphany is a national holiday in Germany, so we really had to work to find a street vendor that was open.  I had to try the Currywurst, which was a sausage in a sweet sauce with curry powder sprinkled over the top.  It was a delicious German meets Indian fusion street food kind of thing.

With lunch behind us we met up with the rest of the group to head back to the airport to meet with Sebastian, a marketing guy, from Lufthansa.  He gave us a great presentation on Lufthansa and their support of the Munich 2018 bid.  The Lufthansa folks had very generously provided us all with Munich 2018 stocking hats and scarves.  After the meeting we took a group photo with everyone wearing their new gifts.

Group 2.jpgAfter the Lufthansa meeting we returned to the Hostel for some group discussion and to get ready for our dinner at the Hofbrauhaus!  We were not in the main hall, but were upstairs in their groupdining area.  I had a fantastic dinner of veal ragout with Spaetzel, and a good size dark beer.

Dinner was pretty calm until a huge group of Canadiens came it.  It was a group of ninth grade hockey players and their parents.  Things really started to heat up when the parents started singing Canadian drinking songs and chugging their beers.  This brought on a resounding L-U, L-U, L-U-T-H, T-H, T-H, T-H-E-R from the Luther crowd and soon we were all friends.

Back at my room, sleep was hard to come by in this second night.  I mostly drifted in and out of sleep until my alarm went off at 6AM, we needed to be out of the hostel and headed for the train station by 6:45.  As I write this I am on the train to Mannheim and then Interlaken.