Monday, July 18: So once again this is going to be a double post. And, because I procrastinated until 24 hours after the fact, you guys probably won’t see this post until tomorrow morning. So sorry about that.
But anyway, I’m sure you guys don’t follow us to hear me talk about how lazy I am, so let’s talk about the past couple of days. If my memory serves me correctly, the last time I wrote a post was on the way to Prague. The drive was not particularly interesting or exciting; I think I drove for a few hours, but honestly I can hardly remember a thing about it. Actually, I just remembered one thing; we got a little lost and had to do some on the spot navigating. Let me explain the circumstances. We were on a major highway heading south toward Prague. We came to a point where our road was intersected by another major road running east to west. Both our GPS and paper map showed that the road we were on continued south and we should just keep following it. But when we got to the intersection, the road was not there. And I don’t mean like it was under construction or it had been closed; there was absolutely no road. So, it took us a little while to figure it out, but eventually we found an alternate route and made the rest of the drive into town. I suppose the most notable part of the day was dinner, which Grampa and I enjoyed in the old part of the city along with Jerry, Dennis, and Tatiana.
We ate at a nice Italian restaurant on some kind of square and I think the atmosphere would have been perfect had it not been for a large group of Hare Krishnas. I’m still not really clear on what the religion is about, but apparently in involves singing very loudly in public areas for extended periods of time. Eventually, as the chanting continued for longer and longer without pause, I grew more impressed with the singer’s vocal endurance than anything else. But then that wore off and I was just annoyed. It was really loud. But eventually they packed up shop and right as we were beginning to enjoy our surroundings in peace and quiet it started to get a wee bit stormy. Luckily, it turned out to be our good fortune that we were forced to take our meals indoors because the inside
of the restaurant was much more interesting than we had thought. As we descended a flight of steps, we found ourselves in a type of cellar that, according to our waiter, dated back to the 14th century. So that was interesting and it was a good place to conclude our dining experience, but with a busy day ahead, it was soon off to bed.
Yesterday, it was pretty much the same thing on the drive. At this point, as long as nothing goes wrong, all of the drives kind of seem the same. But I suppose that’s a good thing – sort of a “no news is good news” deal. Now, before you get any ideas about this day not being exciting, stop! Because yesterday was so awesome that just writing about it makes me want to run around and break stuff. The first awesomeness to punch us in the gut was the Deutches Museum. I know I know – another museum. But this one was legit. It was a kind of combination history/transportation/technology museum, so I guess you could just call it a museum of the history of transportation technology. If you ever get a chance to go there, I highly recommend it because I learned so much. It’s just really well done and the whole thing does a great job of illustrating all the vehicles people have used over the years and showing how a lot of those vehicles worked.
But before you pass out from that profusion of thrilling description, let’s talk about the real reason we went to the museum. Of course there is the obvious link – it’s a museum about transportation; we are transporting ourselves around the world. But there was a much more important reason for us to visit the museum. Protos.
What’s the Protos you ask? How do you not know what the Protos is? I never told you, you say? Well shame on me. For those of you who haven’t done your homework on the history of the race, the Protos is one of the cars that ran the original Great Race in 1908. Specifically, it is the entrant from Germany that was the first car to reach Paris, but was awarded 2nd place as a result of a 30 day penalty incurred during the running of the race. To see this car was really something for all of us. It provided the group with another chance to look back and really think about what all the men in that race went through on their great journey. I think, with us nearing the end and understanding how difficult of an undertaking this is 103 years later, we all have the perspective and experience to comprehend the improbability of those men’s success. I may have missed out on seeing the Thomas Flyer back in the States, but it was great to see the Protos and learn a bit more about the Flyers closest competitor.
And there’s one more thing. I didn’t really appreciate what this meant until I got back to my computer and did some research. On our tour of the museum, we were accompanied by the head of Siemens (it’s a company), Baron von Siemens. That’s right. He’s a Baron. And he’s the head of the European equivalent of GE. Seriously go Google Siemens and check out who this guy is because it’s impressive. I can’t remember exactly, but I think Wikipedia quoted the revenue or profits or something (I’m not an economist) at $74. Oh wait… I forgot about nine zeros on there. That’s right, 74,000,000,000. And we shook his hand. And even more than the fame and the influence, he was just… someone who you just had to respect. When I think of CEOs and people like that, this guy was nothing like that. He was soft spoken and unassuming, and he didn’t talk like he wanted you to hear him – he talked like he knew you were already listening. So he gave us a quick rundown of Siemens’ relationship with the Protos. A few months after the race ended, Siemens purchased the Protos company.
At some point, and I’m not sure exactly when, they also got ahold of the car that ran in the Great Race. When the museum opened, our friend the Baron donated it so it could be on display and people could learn about the race. It was quite obvious that he was proud of his heritage and of the history of the Protos. I think I heard that there are only 18 known Protos vehicles remaining in the world and this guy owns at least three of them. After we got done at the museum, he gave Jack, Jeff, and Jerry a ride in his own personal Protos that he drives around town. Grampa and I didn’t really know what the plan was, so we just followed him and ended up at his house. Let me just say that there are not a lot of people that have ever made me feel like a small person, but standing next to that man was truly an experience. Little did I know it was about to take an interesting turn.
What nobody remembered to tell us was that Jeff, Jack, and Jerry were taking the subway back to the hotel and we were going to have to find our own way in the car. Naturally, with me navigating, we got there with few problems. By that time it was getting a little late and we were ready to hit the town and grab something to eat. As soon as the question was asked people on every side started say “Hofbrauhaus”. I didn’t really know what this place was, but Grampa said it was a place to say you had gone, so I was onboard with the plan. It turned out to be one of the best meals on the trip.
I don’t really remember the food as being that stunningly delicious, but they had these enormous mugs of beer. And also the Baron was still there. The dinner can pretty much be summed up as I drank beer out of 1 liter mugs while sitting across from a guy who was showing pictures of that one time the President of Germany stopped by for lunch and a ride in his antique car. I feel like pretty much one of the only people in the world who can say that .
Anyway, that dinner is the explanation as to why this post didn’t come along a little faster. I can feel myself becoming less and less enthusiastic about writing, so this seems like a good stopping point for now. Today, it’s on to Zurich and the land of chocolate, watches, and bank accounts. Not sure when I’ll get around to posting this, but hopefully it will be before Paris. Later.