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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen…. Mr. Stephen Aki

Stephen is still good ol’ Stephen. He is our friend from college that Ryan met on his freshman floor and lived with for the following three years as well. He has a shnazzy new job as a salesman for selling a piece that goes on the inside of a window frame that serves the purpose of keeping the cold air out and hot air in or vice versa. You can only see this piece if you horizontally cut a window in half. The company makes something else too, but Stephen sells this one piece. At first I had no idea what he was talking about, but after spending a few days with him I have a better grasp on it now.
Anyway, since he is still technically training they flew him to Kassel, Germany because they are a German company based there. Kassel is only 5.25 hours from Garmisch, so we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see a friend in the same country as us. We got doubly lucky because with the hotel being so slow we had a random 3 day weekend on our schedule when we got back from Spain that we hasn’t bee expecting.
We left after work on Tuesday and arrived in Kassel around 8 I think. We knew Stephen would probably be at dinner with co-workers and when we knocked on his hotel room door he didn’t anwer so we wandered down the street for some dinner ourselves because we’d spotted a döner kebab shop as we drove into town. They had great döners and we left with very satisfied tummies.
Back at the hotel we thought we’d just sit and read on the couch in the lobby of the 3rd floor where Stephen was staying. Although we were hoping he’d be back soonish since we’d given him an idea when we’d get there. I find books when I clean dueout rooms sometimes and I keep the ones I am interested in. I had just read a Carol Higgins Clark book in 3 days. It wowed Ryan because I don’t think he has ever witnessed my love for reading like that especially when it comes to mysteries. The book honestly wasn’t awesome, but it was a quick read and I just love to read sometimes no matter how good the writing is. I also had a Mary Higgins Clark book that I barely started the day before we left (Mary is Carol’s mom and I’ve been a fan of Mary’s books for years). In the car we were getting antsy and I was going to read and Ryan asked if I’d read out loud. He had started this book when we went camping one time but never finished it So for several hours I read out loud as we drove. And when we sat on the 3rd floor lobby in the hotel I continued to read out loud. It was fun to share the book with Ryan in that way. One of my favorite childhood memories is that my parent’s read from a chapter book to my sister and I ever night before we went to bed. I’m sure that has a great deal to do with my love of reading.
Well I read until about 11 and then we thought maybe we’d go downstairs and see if he happened to be in the hotels restaurant. As we stood at the door trying to see the straggling guests as the wait staff cleaned things up Stephen started walking towards the door. It was good to see our smiling Hawaiian boy. ☺ He said we should have come in earlier when we said we’d been there for hours. Well Stephen how were we to know once you got back from dinner you would go have a drink with your coworkers.
Stephen was very nice to let us crash on the floor of his hotel room. It was a very nice hotel. We laid out our sleeping bags as we caught up on the most recent happenings in each other’s lives. It was great to see him.
The next morning of course Steve had to go to work and he did his best not to wake us as he got ready. When we finally did get up off our camping mats we got ready and wandered down the street to find breakfast. We ended up at a natural grocery store with a bakery/coffee shop. Ryan got a couple pastries and I had a piece of vegetable cake. It was so delicious. I don’t know how they did it. It wasn’t like quiche at all. It was just a tone of veggies packed into a square piece of cake. I’d love to try and recreate it sometime. We also shared a liter of juice we got in the grocery part.
We sat outside on a park bench to eat our breakfast that was right outside a middle eastern/ African shop. I was of course drawn in and Ryan followed. I bet he is glad he did though because he found a package of Moroccan Mint tea to purchase. And although I haven’t blogged about Morocco yet Ryan and I but probably especially Ryan fell in love with the mint tea in Morocco. Mmmmmmm
Then we walked up the street a long way, back by the hotel, and up a hill to a palace. We sat at the palace regaining our strength and cooling our bodies from that little hike. And then headed up what turned out to be a true workout to get to the very top of the hill where there was a statue of Hercules. I don’t know how many stairs we climbed but it had to have been hundreds. Right below Hercules is a massive water feature that is shut off at this time of year, but must be truly mesmerizing when it is running. Then once you reach the top you pay 2 euros to walk up more stairs to get to the viewing platform directly at the base of Mr. Hercules. It was really cloudy while we were there, but I can imagine on a brilliant day you’d have as stunning view of the city and beyond.
We wanted to get a beer to reward ourselves for all the climbing but the restaurant up there wasn’t open and looked like it was either closed for good or just undergoing some reconstruction. But since I wasn’t about to walk anymore we waited for the bus to take us back into town. And then we took a tram only a couple blocks from the hotel. And we read some more while we waited for Stephen to get back from work.
When the man of the hour arrived we hung out in the room a little longer and then drove into town to an Irish Pub he’d been to a few nights before. We each enjoyed a delicious Irish beer, well I actually had a cider, but it was still Irish and still good. And we enjoyed each others conversation and company. But after while Stephen had to get back to the hotel to meet some co-workers for dinner.
Parked back at the hotel Stephen insisted Ryan and I go to dinner just down the street where he’d previously been, a restaurant named Duck Dich. He personally escorted us to the building and up the stairs into the restaurant. And then bid adieu until later in the evening.
It was a good recommendation. Ryan had soup and salad because that is what he said sounded good to him. I think he enjoyed them pretty well. But I ordered an entrée which is what makes this restaurant unique. The bring you a plate in the shape of a half moon. On one side are several sauces. Directly in front of you is the “meat” you chose (I had salmon) and some veggies. And to the right side is some baby boiled potatoes with a dipping sauce. On the rounded edge of the plate at the back is a rectangular thick stone that is sizzling hot. They told me to sprinkle salt on it and then place my fish and veggies on it to cook. The fish in my case came raw. It was awesome. I like my fish rare so I didn’t cook it long, but it was so fun. I don’t know if there is anything like this in the United States, but there should be. Ryan commented though that he doesn’t know what the US Health Department would say.
Back at the hotel we were so tired, probably from so much walking, that we got ready for bed and by the time Stephen got back I was particularly out of it and Ryan was on his way.
The next morning we got up about the time Stephen was leaving for work. But we decided to try the buffet the hotel had in the restaurant for breakfast. It was so good. We were glad we did it. They had cereal, fresh fruit, assorted pastries, bread, jams, honey, chocolate spread, juices, tea and coffee, and many meats, cheeses, and fish. Delicious I tell you.
Then we went back to the room and finished the book. We just couldn’t help it. Although Ryan didn’t actually read it himself he got into it enough with me reading that he was excited to read every chance we got.
And then we went to check out the pool and hot tub. Both were disappointing because neither were very warm. Even the hot tub wasn’t even warm enough that I would want to take a bath in it.
So as the afternoon drew on we decided to leave the hotel and check out the downtown area. It was very new compared to what most of the city centers of Europe look like. Kassel was pretty much demolished during the war and thus things look a lot more modern.
It was a nice town though. We did some window shopping and wandered in stores that interested us. But best of all we found an Asian grocery store. Although we could go to them in Munich we just have never gotten around to it. We love sweet chili sauce and Ryan makes a simple but delicious meal one of his roommates had taught him to make that they call King Pao. All it consists of is tofu, peanuts, and sweet chili sauce sautéed and then over rice. We’ve had it twice already now that we have the sauce. And we picked up a couple other things as well.
We wandered around until it was near time for Stephen to get back from work and then headed back to the hotel. And when we returned Stephen was there. We had decided to ask him if his dinner that night was actually some type of work meeting or just people going out to a meal from work. We thought it would be nice to spend our last evening there with him. He was a little hesitant saying that it wasn’t a meeting but he wasn’t sure if we could come or not because it was people from the company taking him out to dinner. But he was nice and said he’d ask if we could come along. So when it was time for him to be picked up we went down to the lobby with him and when the man from the company came to pick him up and Stephen asked if we could come and pay for ourselves he kindly said that was fine and even drove us too.
The place we ate was pretty good. If it had been daylight I think it would have had a wonderful view. There were three people from the company there who were all very nice. And they’ve all been with the company for an extended period ,which shows I think that it is a good place to work. I enjoyed hearing about the business. Stephen impressed me with the knowledge he has already. I hope he stays happy there because I think it seems like a stand up company and a great place to work.
At the end of the meal the man who drove us, who is some type of a boss level guy, paid for our bill too. Very unexpected and also very generous no matter if it is on the company card or not.
When he dropped us off at the hotel Stephen and Ryan decided they wanted to go to the sauna. Stephen hadn’t been to the pool yet at all. I was tired but they dragged me down with them. I can’t stay in saunas very long especially when I’m not in the mood so it didn’t last long for me and Ryan and then Stephen followed me out. The boys splashed in the pool a bit while I lay on a chair falling asleep. Finally they were done and I got to go upstairs and go to sleep. ☺
The next morning we got up with Stephen to go down and have the breakfast buffet again. It was so good. I don’t think I can recall another breakfast I liked more and that included the great breakfast at the LA hotel we stay at with the track team on spring break. Michelle knows what I’m talking about. But this place has even better breakfast, for my taste anyway. But when we were through eating we did have to say farewell to Stephen. Goodbyes are never our favorite part, but since we didn’t expect to see Stephen the whole time we were over here it was still very exciting just to spend a few days with him.
We hit the road to head home around 11 I think. We stopped in Wurzburg for lunch at a Crepe Bistro. It was delicious. And I had roobius tea, which is my favorite, but his particular mixture was called Emily, so I knew I was meant to have it. I think it should be needless to say I loved it, how could I not with a name like that? ☺
From Wurzburg we drove along the Romantic Road for several hours (it was our anniversary and all). The hill sides are beautiful in Bavaria and it was nice to get off the autobahn. The Romantic Road is basically country roads that follow some medieval path I think that starts or end in Wurzburg with the other end being Neuschwanstein Castel. We didn’t drive the whole thing though. The country roads don’t let you go all that fast and after awhile we just wanted to be home not to mention is was dusk and soon we wouldn’t be able to see anything.
So that was our trip to Kassel, Germany. Somewhere I never would have gone if it wasn’t for Stephen being there, but I’m glad we did both so we could see our friend and so we could see a new part of the country that is our home for this year.

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