I became good friend with also long time DonationCoder member Ken many years ago. Since then in both of us grew the wish to meet sometimes in real life. But for many reasons it never takes place since now. You can imagine how happy I was when Ken sent me an email announcing that he plans to visit me in Germany this year together with his sister Terry.
I went immediately to my teammate at work Ute. She also knows Ken from chatting. I told her about the good news. She got excited too and instantly agreed to take off some days from work, as me, while Ken's and Terry's visit. As my flat is too small for three people and hers is much bigger, she offered to give Ken and Terry shelter, bed and breakfast. Thank you Ute for your offer and help, without them the visit would’nt been possible.
There was a lot of planning to do in advance. Ken, who was never outside the USA before, need to get a passport first. Also the activities have to be planned. Where to go? What needs to be visited? And so on.
Then the day was coming! On Saturday 28th of June 2014, Ken and Terry started their trip to Germany with the first hop from Jacksonville to Charlotte international Airport. From there their next flight crosses the Atlantic Ocean directly to Frankfurt/Main, the most biggest airport in Germany. At this time Ute and I met in Stuttgart to prepare the arrival of our guests with some shopping and whatnot. In the evening we decided to have a nice pizza together to celebrate the upcoming arrival of Ken and his sister in a few hours. The funny part about this was, that I installed a flight tracker app on my smartphone (it is named FlightAware if you are interested in and its completely free). So we were able to follow Ken's and Terry's plane in nearly real time with all technical details like flight height, course, airspeed, delay and also the exact position of the plane, even in a graphical manner showing a small plane icon on a world map. But as there were still some more hours to wait, Ute and I parted and went to bed.
At the next morning (Sunday 29th July 2014) my first look goes to my smartphones display to see where the plane had gone over night. And it was already over the european shore. If my geographic knowledge was right they were over Belgium. So just a few minutes to go until touchdown in Frankfurt. When Ken and Terry had landed in Frankfurt and got their baggage, they have to switch to the train that will bring them to their final destination Stuttgart (about 200 km away from Frankfurt in the southwest of Germany). Ken was eager to ride the German high-tech train ICE, that will go up to 280 km/h on the high-speed tracks between Frankfurt and Stuttgart. The ICE passes this about 220 km in about 1h 20 min.
Ute and I met on Sunday morning to go together to the railway station. At about noon the ICE with Ken and Terry arrived just in schedule. We waited on the platform and looked around for the people we only know from chat and Skype. And then, there they are! What a hello on the platform. What a hugging and even some tears. Friends for years that never met before. It was just awesome. Then we grabbed the suitcases and walked down the platform towards the cabs.
When we arrived at my home, we raided at first my father's apartment to say hello and have a nice “welcome snack” with Swabian pretzels (with and without butter), Salami sticks and Prosecco (an italian speciality - something between wine and champagne). The funny thing here was, that my dad don't speak a single word english (only Italian and German) while Ken and Terry neither speak Italian nor German. So at first I started to be the simultan translator. But after a few minutes I was jobless, because Ken and my Dad started to communicate with gestures using their hands and feets. They learned each other some english and italian words.
And I was astonished how good it worked. I just have to jump in rarely when the topic gets too complicated. After that Ken and Terry went with Ute to her home to unpack. Two hours later they came back. In the meantime one of my best friends Ralf joined us and we all went out to have dinner in a restaurant with Swabian specialities (Rostbraten with Spätzle – Kind of roasted beef with swabian homoemade noodles). Of course Ken and Terry suffer from jet lag and so we quit the evening early to go to bed.
The following two weeks were filled with the planned activities. Sad thing about this was, that the weather was not very good at that time. So some of the planned activities had to be canceled.
For example I have planned to hire my friend who own a nice oldtimer. An old Mercedes-Benz convertible, brown with white leather interior. I thought it would be fun for Ken and Terry to drive like some VIP to the raptor flight show. But there was sadly no day with weather good enough and warm enough to drive in an open car. And with the bad and rainy weather, the birds in the show won't fly anyway.
It was the wish of Ken and Terry to visit the "Zugspitze", the highest mountain in Germany (belongs to the Alps and sits directly on the border Germany/Austria). Because it is a bit away from Stuttgart, it was a whole day trip to go back and forth. The way up was done by a big and long ropeway. What a pity it was very foggy this day, so you can’t see a long-range from the mountaintop.
But other activities went well. So we had an italian eve in my aunt, my cousin and uncles flat. My stepfather and my uncle are native italians and so we had a lot of genuine italian food (cheese, salami, lasagna) and beverages (wine, grappa) this evening. Another teammate, namely Jota, that knows Ken also from chat, is from Greece and invited us to an genuine Greek evening with "Pastizio" (a greek pasta bake). Thank you Jota for the great evening. Some other evening's were spent together with my dad with Swabian specialities like "Maultaschen" (mouth bags) and grilling with a lot of fun. Some visits in restaurants completed the evening activities.
On some other days we went to some points with lookout over the city. On another day I hired my regular cabdriver, which is a licensed city guide, to do a guided city tour with us, explaining to us some historical details about the buildings, castles and the history of Stuttgart which was long time the residence of the King of Württemberg. We also touched the prominent Mercedes-Benz Museum with it’s award winning architecture (but had no time to go in) and the original garage of Mr. Daimler, where he invented and built the world's very first automobile. The birthplace of the modern cars and anchestor of all the automobiles we use nowadays.
An extraordinary day was also the 5th of July, when we all went at first to an exhibition of my blind self helping organization. There Ken and Terry could examine and try some of the modern helping gadgets for visually impaired and blind people. Ken also tried to walk around using a white long stick that is used by blind people to fumble the ground when they are walking. In the afternoon we went to the clubhouse of my maritime club. On that day we had a day of open houses together with all the other watersports clubs at the lake. All people were invited to meet us and try the things our and all the other clubs has to offer. That includes sailing, ruddering, learning knots, rope throwing, kajaking and much more. So Ken and Terry had the chance to get a ride on our two mast sailing boat, the biggest ship at the lake. At the evening we had a nice grilling together with the club members.
There were also a few days we did nothing or just less, to rest and recover. On that days we just sat together, had nice conversations (I think we solved all the problems and diseases from all over the world, but I forgot the solution we came about - what a pity – maybe it was 42. But i can’t remember.
) or just played a nice boardgame.
Then this sad but expected Saturday 12th of July came around. The day of departure. We met in the morning to escort Ken and Terry to the railway station. We were there long time before the train parts to be sure to not miss it. So we had enough time to sit down at the platform and have some last conversations. When the time of departure came, there was still no train on the track. Huh? But also no announcement. Ute noticed, that there was an ICE train standing and waiting on the next platform though. But that could not be ours. Ute went over there anyway and asked the conductor. Then she ran back and yelled that it IS indeed our train. WTF??? They changed the track and platform without announcement to the passengers. Are they nuts? So we had to run to the train and had no more time to say a nice goodbye. Just a small handshake and a hug must be enough, because the conductor already forced us to hurry up because the train has to leave.
Then Ute and I were alone again. Ken and Terry had left. We went home, cleaned up a bit and tried to remember again the last wonderful days. While Ken and Terry where on their way to Frankfurt by train to catch their plane back to Charlotte and then to Jacksonville. Of course I traced their flight again with my smart phone app.
It was a wonderful experience and a wonderful time. I loved to have Ken with me in real life and enjoyed the days. Ken took hundreds of photos and send me some of them that he selected as the “best of”. From that selection I took a few to post it here to let you see how great this meeting of two DonationCoder members was.
I hope you enjoyed my report about the DCRLCT (DonationCoder RealLife ComeTogether) and i hope that there will be many more of these events, so that we all can learn us to know in real life.
Me (JoTo) at the maritime club while the day of open houses
Ken and Hans-Jürgen (a maritime club member) at the maritime club while the day of open houses, preparing a radio controlled model boat, getting ready to let have Ken drive a round with it
Ken and Ute
Terry and Ken