Friday, May 24, 2013

Major Milestone Achieved!! Second Sonderparkberechtigung Obtained

May 22, 2013, 9:00 AM Central Europe Time
Nürnberg, Germany

A second neighborhood parking permit has been obtained!!!

What you say?  Why is this such a big News Flash?

Normally there is only one Neighborhood Parking Permit (Sonderparkberechtigung) issued per household.  Without the permit you need to look for somewhere to park that is not a permit area.  These are sometimes pretty difficult to find.  Park in a permit area and you'll get a Knöllchen - Parking Ticket - and then be allowed to contribute to the economy of Nürnberg.

Judith's Sonderparkberechtigung needed to be renewed, so we made a trip the the Stadtamt this morning to do so.  Just for the hell of of it we asked for two permits.  The nice lady said sure, why not.  I could hardly contain myself I was so happy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Meter of Bratwurst and a Night in a Castle

May 1st was a Holiday (Labor Day in Germany).  We decided to take a long weekend and go for a three day Motorbike Tour, leaving on Thursday.

Forecasts for heavy rain to the East literally put the damper on our planned three day Motorbike Tour to Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic.  Too bad too since Ceske Budejovice is the home of the original Budweiser Beer, which is not at all like "Bud" in America.

The rained out route to Ceske Budejovice

We decided to head towards sunny surrounds instead and see where we would end up.  Our friends Wieland and Christian joined Judith and I and we headed North West from Nürnberg towards Würzburg.  I forgot my camera, so pictures are stolen from the Web.

Our alternative route away from the rain

  • Day one is the lighter green route
  • Day two is the purple route.
  • The last day is dark green.
  • A total of about 725 kilometers.

Sulzfeld am Main (Picture stolen from the Web)
Christian was very familiar with this area, having spent a lot of time in Würzburg when younger.  Along the way we stopped in Sulzfeld am Main for lunch.  This is a nice large village on the Main River (pronounced Mine)

Bratwurst is traditionally sold by the meter in this region, so we naturally had to have Bratwurst for lunch - but only a half meter.

Traditional meter of Bratwurst (Picture stolen from the Web)
Like the name already says the sausage is one meter (40inches) long. In 1953 Lawrence Stark a butcher in Sulzfeld, Bavaria invented this meter long sausage on the suggestion of a guest who proclaimed : "I can Wurscht The meter setting ess" meaning he could eat a whole meter of sausage in one sitting. Lawrence rose to the occasion and came out with a meter long sausage sizzling in a pan, that started the tradition and is still a fun thing to do.

There are contests to see how much meter bratwurst you can eat. The current record set in 1982 is 5.15 meters or 16.9 feet! 

Michels Keller (Picture stolen from the Web)
Herr Stark's restaurant was not open when we arrived (it was a little late for lunch), but we founds a very suitable choice at Michels Keller right up the street. 

Bratwurst at Michels Keller (Picture stolen from the Web)
The Bratwurst was served in a sizzling iron plate shaped like a steer (weird, since this is pork sausage), with a delicious wine sauce, sides of sauerkraut and potato salad.

After lunch we continued on West for awhile and the turned to the North.  Very wonderful roads, with little traffic and good weather.  Since I forgot my camera there are no pictures.

Around 5:30 or 6:00 we decided to start looking for a place to stay and came across a nice small hotel, but sorry to say I have forgotten the name.  Reasonably priced and good food, but nothing else remarkable to mention.

Breakfast coffee was good, as were the other items.  After filling up we packed up and headed further North, and then South, and then North.  Just winding around the roads through the forests all day.  As the day wore on the weather started to turn a little colder and gray.   We finally figured it was time to find somewhere to stay for the night. 

We pulled into Bischofsheim an der Rhön around 6:00.  This is a pretty small town/village.  Christian found an information kiosk with a list of local Gasthauses.  There was one listed about six kilometers out of the village we decided to try, with really no idea what it would be like.  So I set the GPS for Holzberg 1, Bischofsheim an der Rhön Germany and headed out.  For almost six kilometers we wound up a small winding road and then the GPS pointed us down an even smaller, very narrow winding road.  It had started to rain about 15 minutes earlier, so the half kilometer was a slow go.

Coming around the last corner we found the Gasthause -- the Jagdschloss Holzberghaus -- a  Hunter's Castle in the High Rhön.  We got the last two rooms.  There are no amenities here and the Bad (bathroom) is shared.  But this is to be expected at a hotel & restaurant that was built in 1614.  While the rooms were clean and adequate and sparse, the restaurant was super.  Dinner was excellent, beer great and a proper wine list.

Jagdschloss Holzberghaus

The main courses served here are hunted daily in a local game preserve, ensuring fresh, local meat. The secluded location of the castle and the fact that there are no electric lights in the dining room make for a nice, relaxing experience. Because of it's location near several hiking trails, the restaurant is open all day, although on off-hours they mainly serve bread and wurst. The evening meals can be a bit expensive, but the day meals for the hikers average about 4 euro in price. 

The next morning we woke to a light rain.  After slowly managing to get coffee, wake up and eat breakfast - also great - we packed up to head back towards home.  We decided to stay off of the small back roads because of the rain and jumped on larger roads (not the Autobahn).  After about one and a half hours the rain let up and the sky became slowly sunny.  We stopped in Bamburg a little after Noon for lunch and then took the back roads into Nürnberg.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Antique Motorcycle Club of America - Europe Chapter Meet

So after attending several Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) meets in America, where I had the 1968 Triumph Bonneville that I restored Judged, I decided to attend my first European AMCA Meet. 

The meet was in Geldrop, the Netherlands, which is just across the border from Germany - about 550 kilometers from Nürnberg.

I took my two Triumphs (’68 Bonneville and ’68 TR6C). These were the first British bikes ever entered in the AMCA Europe meet.  The Bonneville was judged and received 99-3/4 points out of 100 possible (it was judged at 99 points at Jefferson, PA AMCA meet last Oct.), which is pretty fabulous (thanks to a lot of help from David Schostkewitz of Classic Cycles Ltd.). 

Classic Cycles Ltd.

The TR6C was not judged, but did take home a 1st place trophy for Period Modified, which is a local Chapter award. So at the end of the day I was a happy guy.

A total of 24 bikes were judged. The age range was 1912 to 1968. The European Chapter is very heavily into American bikes, mostly Harley-Davidson. There were a couple of Excelsior's as well. The quality of the bikes was just excellent. Not a dog in the bunch, plus several original and unmolested bikes that were super. Amazing to see so many fabulous vintage Harley-Davidson's in Europe.

The vendor scene was pretty small unfortunately, but this is really a very small meet with a narrow focus, so I guess this is to be expected. I think England, Germany and Holland were the countries with biggest representation, along with 2 or 3 folks from France and Italy.

There was a modest spectator turnout, and several of the spectators rode in on some great bikes. The venue itself was a real nice park - outside of Geldrop in some farm & horse country. Very pretty in deed. 

The Attic Find Trio
The highlight for me was a trio of "Attic Find" bikes brought in by a gentleman from the Netherlands. If I understood the story correctly, he was given a hint that there were some old motorcycles in the attic of a Dutch farmhouse. He went to the farmhouse to find out what was going on and what he found was pretty amazing - four motorcycles had been hidden in 1939 behind a brick wall to keep the Nazi's from confiscating them. They had been behind the brick wall up until just a few months ago when Garret (do not recall his last name) retrieved them. There were two Harley-Davidsons (a circa 1920 V-Twin 20 J (?) and a circa 1919 Model W Sport 584 cc Flat Twin Engine), a 1926 MB1 Motobecane and a very rare Eysink (manufactured in the Netherlands). The Eysink went to a museum, but the other three were at the meet.

I have attached a link to photos of an overview of the meet. Double click the thumbnails and you’ll get a larger picture with captions.

AMCA Europe 2013 Pictures

Hope you enjoy...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

1st of Mai Tankstelle Motorradtreffen in Nuernberg

An ARAL Tankstelle (gas station) on Münchener Straße in Nürnberg is an unlikely focal point for a motorcycle event that draws several thousand motorcycles and even more people.

Every May 1st is Labor Day in Germany and a holiday.  A number years ago (legend says it started in the '70's) a small group of motorcyclists, like motorcyclists will tend to do, decided to meet at the ARAL Gas Station on Münchener Straße on Labor Day and then go on a ride to some place.

Each year a few more friends and friends of friends showed up.  There was no organizer, and the gathering still has no organizer.  Matter of fact it is never advertised, there is no Web Site - nothing.  But now several thousand motorcycles show up and many more people than that.  Some come to just watch, like we did.  So many people come by car to just watch that we parked about a Kilometer away and walked into the meeting area.

Because this event has no organizer no one can be held responsible for any problems, but it seems that there are not any problems.  The Polizei are present, even Polizei from outside of Nürnberg, but only as a "gesture" and they might do a little traffic control.  It's a stretch of about two Kilometers along Münchener Straße that is full of motorcycles, as well as any where else you can park a bike.  One lane stays sort of open for people to ride through, make a U-Turn at some point and do it again, or park.

There was a potpourri of motorcycles to see.  You can my pictures at: Nürnberg Motorradtreffen

Plus a video on You Tube (not mine).  Nürnberg Motorradtreffen on You Tube

The video is pretty long, but if you watch the first few minutes you'll get the idea.

Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Visa Saga

Germany allows you to stay in the country for 90 days without the need for a Visa.  The U.S. State Department web site sort of suggests that even though you can start the Visa application process before you leave the U.S. it's just as easy to start it once you arrive in Germany.  Hmmmm!  Not necessarily so.

About two weeks after arriving I started the process.  Filled out lots of guess what?  Paperwork.  Submitted everything to the Ausländeramt and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Nothing!

The application is for both a Visa and a Work Permit, and since I have a pending work contract to do consulting for a company in Nürnberg I started getting a bit anxious.  Not to mention that 90 days was rapidly approaching.

My friend Christian, who owns the company I have the pending work contract with, and I went to the Ausländeramt in our nice business suits to see what we could find out. Christian, being the sweet tonged devil that he is manged to get us in to see the nice lady who had my file.

Now since the original application was made Judith and I were married in Reno in February (that's another installment).  After explaining this fact it seemed to make a significant difference in my status.  Being married to a German citizen negates the need for a Work Permit - you only need a Visa.  Ah Hah - good news.  Well sort of...

All we needed to do was get a certified copy of the marriage license from Washoe County and an Apostille from the State of Nevada's Secretary of State.  What is an Apostille you may wonder?  It's simple - an Apostille is a certified document that says the other certified document is certified - a certification of a certification.  This is actually a very simple process and was accomplished with no fuss or muss.

But... there's one more tank trap to get across as well.

I must pass the German Language A1 test.  Not so easy!  This all has to do with integration of aliens into the German society.  So OK, I've been taking German lessons for awhile now.  But, I can tell you, passing the German Language A1 test was not going to happen before my 90 days in Germany was up.  Fortunately, the nice lady understood this dilemma and gave me a six month temporary Visa.

In addition to the private lessons I've been taking I have enrolled at the Buildungszentrum (Education Center) for intensive German lessons.  Oh Boy!! 

So far, all of this must sound pretty daunting.  Well yes, it is, but I have a wonderful wife and friends who are helping and supporting the effort.  It's a matter of chipping away at each hurdle a bit at a time.  There's been a fair share of upside things going as well, and I'll get to those.

In the mean time the Container arrived in late January - that was a relief!!


Arrival - Your Papers Please

Like most countries, Germany doesn't just let you waltz in and take up residency.  I thought it would be smart to be a good alien resident and get my papers in order once arriving in Deutschland.

I had read pages of U.S. State Department info on what is necessary to take up residency in Germany, so I had a pretty good idea what the paper work drill would be like.  Also, having worked for Siemens I had a feeling for the level of process and procedure in a German organization.  Good thing too... German government bureaucracy is a well oiled machine.  That is if you consider well oiled to mean very, very slooooow.

Here's a few of the highlights...

"Your papers please?" "I don't think I have them on me." "In that case you will have to come with me."

Your Papers Please...

Right off the bat you need;

German residence permit: Aufenthaltserlaubnis

Confirmation of Address Registration: Anmeldebestätigung

Visa and Work Permit: Aufenthaltstitel (the Visa and Work Permit get real interesting)

Navigating Through The Land of Amt and Behörde (Offices and Authorities)…

Einwohnermeldeamt (located at city hall or Bürgeramt): This is where you register your living address with the authorities and fill out either the Anmelden (Moving in document) or the Abmelden (Moving out document)

Ausländeramt or Ausländerbehörde: Immigration Office or Aliens Authority office (this is one of my favorite Amts)

Führerscheinstelle im Ordnungamt: Drivers License Office (another of my favorite Amts)

ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e.V.): The German Auto Club (yes in deed, the Auto Club is a type of official authority)

…one must be persevering

Many States in the U.S. have a reciprocal agreement with Germany and other EU countries that will honor your U.S. Drivers License.  Just get a 7.00 € eye test and passport photos taken, then go to the Führerscheinstelle im Ordnungamt to fill out some papers, and pay a fee.  Presto - a Germany Drivers License

Hold on - no way is it that easy you say.  Well it is IF you only need a Drivers License to drive a car.  Whole different story if you also need the Motorcycle Endorsement.  No reciprocal for that!  Got to take the written and riding test that is administered by TÜV.  But, before you can take the tests you need to go sign up at a driving school.  They in turn assess when you are ready to take the tests.  Yep, drivers licenses are a hybrid process; go to the local government agency and then go to the private driving school and then go to the private testing agency and then the local government agency issues you a license.

It takes multiple trips to the Führerscheinstelle im Ordnungamt to finally get the information and process correct because each person you meet with seems to have a different interpretation of the rules.  Plus it always seems like "something is missing", when in reality nothing is missing.  But if you ask nice to please check again the missing item is usually there.

So, no drivers license yet.  I am studing for the written test and then can take the riding test after passing the written.

More perseverance - setting up a Bank Account

I opened a checking account a few days after arriving.  This was not too difficult, but certainly different than what I was used to doing.  I needed to wait to receive paperwork and bank card (sort of an ATM card, but not exactly) in the mail before I could actually do any banking.  The paperwork needed to be signed and returned to bank in order to enable on line banking.  I received the paperwork, but no bank card.  Turns out bank card making people didn’t know how to deal with the apostrophe in O’Dell.  So instead of dropping the apostrophe just like the airlines and credit cards they did nothing with the bank card.  After a few phone calls this got sorted out and the card arrived with no apostrophe – just like the airlines and credit cards.

Now I needed to set up on line banking on the web site.  After several tries and a request for a new password, because I screwed up too many times, I got it to work. 

Blue Dinksta
To do on line bill paying, etc you log in to the bank site just like you'd expect.  Then it gets different.  After filling in the bill pay info you need to complete any transaction by using this card reader (the Blue Dinksta).  After you insert the bank card you then hold the card reader up to the computer screen.  The two talk to each other for a few seconds and then you get a TAN (Pin Number) to enter.  Then your done.  Only thing is you need to do this for each individual transaction.

And then there's the Visa (no, not the credit card)

This will have to wait for the next installment - stay tuned 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Moving - Don't ya jes love it?

Now that I  decided to move I only needed to do it.  Easier said than done.  I had not put a stake in the ground for a move date, but wanted to get the processes started having no idea how long they would take.

I had a house to sell, furniture to sell, two motorcycle to sell and two cars to sell, not to mention figuring out how I will get two other motorcycles, tools, motorcycle lift, parts, clothing and some household goods to Nuernberg.

The house was easy - more or less.  I got back in touch with the realtor I worked with back in December 2004 and she took care of everything.  The house was on the market in mid October and within a reasonably short time (6 weeks) excepted an offer with the closing on December 19th.

I put the BMW 650i on eBay with some trepidation.  This was a great car and I hated to part with it, but there was absolutly no sense to ship it to Nuernberg.  I had the usual number of silly email inquires asking questions about the car that were already answered in the ad.  Finally I got a call from a serious person and we struck a deal - no fuss - no muss.

The two BMW motorcycles went on eBay as well. 

One (BMW G650GS) sold pretty fast, with a minimum number of stupid email inquires.  


The second one went to a colleague at Siemens who just happened to be in the market for a BMW R1200GS. 

An other friend committed to buying the 1999 Subaru Forester for a fair price and said I could hang on to it until I was ready to hop on the plane.

So, the house and the vehicles went pretty OK.

In parallel to selling the house and vehicles I was working on selling a lot of furniture that Judith and I decided did not need to make the trip across the Atlantic.  Once again, eBay paid off for a few items.

But the big piece of luck was the wife of one of my motorcycle buddies said she'd ask around her work if there was anyone looking for good furniture.  Two days later I got a call from a young lady who was getting ready to move into her first apartment on her own.  She had no furniture at all and wanted to stop by to take a look at what I had for sale.  She and her mother came by a few days later and between them they committed to buy nearly everything.

There was one catch from my side.  At this point the house had not sold and I wanted to keep it furnished while on the market.  I was really thinking this would be a deal killer, but no.  They had no problem waiting a month or two if necessary.  Really good luck.

When the time came for them to pick up everything they needed to make two trips with two different trucks.
Looked like a modern version of the Beverly Hillbillies

While all of this craziness was going on I was also making arrangements to ship motorcycle, tools and blah, blah, blah to Nuernberg.  I called Allied International who came up with a door to door shipping plan.  All I needed to do was set a date for the packing so they could secure a 20 foot container.  Getting one of these containers isn't as simple as you'd think.  They are in demand, so you need to be somewhat flexible with your dates.  This was a little tricky since I would need to have the house sold and a closing date.  This ended up being a waiting game, but in the end the dates all came together.

The container came on November 28th and everything got packed up a hauled away.

Loading the Container
Off it goes

Over the next few days the folks who bought the furniture came to pick up everything.  I had all the donations picked up, the left over junk hauled away and cleaned up the house.

I spent the last couple of days at my neighbors and December 14th hopped on a plane to Nuernberg.

Geeze - It's been a very long time since I've posted anything!!

Since my "retirement", move to Nuernberg and getting married, I'm having a few new adventures. I thought I'd go back and resurrect the Blog to keep track of all the new stuff.


So late in June last year (2012), I think it was, I got a call from my boss at Siemens.  As soon as he said hello I could tell what was coming.  "Due to fiscal restraints the group in Malvern will need to be reduced... ... ... and your position, along with nine others, has been eliminated... ... ... severance package... ... ... last day is September 14... ... ... unless you are able to find a new position within Siemens... ... ..."

 Well I could hardly contain myself.  I was already planing to retire at the end of 2013, so this news just accelerated the deal, which was just fine by me.

The next several weeks after "The Phone Call" were spent figuring out how to go about not working and moving to Nuernberg Germany.

Now you may be asking yourself, "why in the hell is he moving to Nuernberg?"

Pretty simple really.  I traveled back and forth from Malvern, PA to Erlangen, Germany for work.  Over the few years of doing this I met a lovely women at Siemens in Erlangen - Judith Regn.  Over time the relationship became serious and you can figure out the rest.

What with "The Phone Call" Judith and I decided it was time for me to make the move to Nuernberg.

Over the next few weeks I will start to post some updates on what's been happening, so please stay tuned.