Driving, as it turns out, is the least of my problems
|My plane actually landed an hour and ten minutes early. Since I didn't really have to be anywhere yesterday, it didn't really effect me. I actually walked right up to a passport control person with no waiting. That was definitely a first for me. He looked at my passport for about 0.025 seconds and waved me on. Apparently Germany is no longer stamping passports. Spain didn't stamp ours last year either, so maybe the EU has just decided that it no longer cares.
I lost my 70 minute gain by waiting at least that long in line for my rental car. There were a lot of really pissed off Germans in the line in front of me. This gave me time to admire German men's fashion. They were wearing manpris that gathered just below the knee with a toggle. It was sort of a turn of the century cyclist look. I finally got my turn at the desk, where the attendant spoke no English whatsoever. Luckily she had my reservation and she handed me a black plastic rectangle and dismissed me with a very loud "OK!". I was still in the airport and I had no idea where I might find my rental car, so I hid out until another renter was done and I followed him.
After surprisingly little trouble, I found my car (a huge - by European standards - Mercedes). My next issue was how to use the "key". I'm a simple girl from Detroit. And in Detroit, we make car keys that look like keys. I have never in my life driven a European made car, and I have really only known one person in my life who had one. That car is a BMW, and the BMW key is something like a switchblade in that after pushing a button, a metal key pops out of the box. So I spent a good 20 minutes attempting to rip apart my black plastic rectangle. Turns out that you just stick the rectangle into the ignition and it starts the car by some sort of German voodoo. Who knew?
I have no idea how, but I immediately found the freeway and ended up going the right way the first time around. So, after four hours of spotty-at-best sleep, no breakfast and one tiny cup of coffee, I found myself on the autobahn. Driving in Germany, at least for me, involves lots of maniacal laughter and a fair bit of shouting (I have the yellow square now buddy!). The only problem I encountered was that the cruise control stick is exactly where my turn signal is on my own car. So I would get into a passing lane and, instead of signaling, I would set my cruise control for the lower speed. Luckily, flooring it turns the cruise control off. I had no problem whatsoever navigating and I found my way to Kronach by a little after ten.
That's pretty much where things started to get bad. I drove around the tiny medieval city for a good hour and a half looking for my hotel. I think that some of the "streets" I took might really have been pedestrian walkways. And I may have gone the wrong way down some one way streets. I'm not really sure though. I tried to gauge my driving based on the facial expression of the pedestrians. No one pointed at me and screamed so that's probably a good sign. I finally ended up giving up. I parked and I decided to try to find it on foot.
As it turns out, the neighborhood that my hotel is in was closed to traffic for the weekend (thanks for the heads up on that one, hotel manager!). The town is having their Faust Festspiele . I had looked this up before leaving, and assumed this meant that there would be a performance of Faust. Instead, it involves everyone in the town dressing up in costumes ranging from the 1300's to the 1700's. There were stalls with cows and donkeys, chickens and pigs in the street. It was really quite bizarre.
I ate lunch in an Italian restaurant. I chose it because it was the first one I saw that had a visa sign out front. While I was eating, a large group of Germans dressed in what looked to be revolutionary war military garb came in. Then I heard a loud jingling and about 10 jesters joined them. Like I said, bizarre. Luckily, I had a big lunch. Because I later found out that I had eaten at the town's only restaurant that accepts visa. I tried three places for dinner and none of them accepted it. I had neglected to get any cash at the airport. And none of the banks were open (I actually spent a couple of hours in the afternoon looking for some). Conveniently, none had ATMs available after hours. So I ended up eating a package of peanuts from the minibar for dinner.
Breakfast is apparently not served at the hotel. The lack of food and the jet lag are making me feel a bit crazy. The people I've met speak about as much English as I do German. It's going to be a really long two weeks.
I arrived at the plant a little before 8. It is the most beautiful plant I have ever seen; everything is glass or concrete and all of the windows stick out at funny angles. The security guard, who speaks not a word of English, informed me that my contact here is not in the building (finally he called someone who ask me "Do you have a date with Herr Egalkraut?"). There was a lot of shrugging and pantomiming, but I think I convinced him that I am staying on the premises, contact or no contact. I mean, what else was I going to do? So I talked my way inside. The European auditors are not here yet. I can't do any actual work, as the IT Manager is not here (it's 9:15 now). I do really hope that the other auditors show up soon, because I am really hungry. I was told that there is a bank down the street, but I don't want to go now in case they don't let me back into the building.
It is also as hot as Hades in this room. As expected, there is no air conditioning in the building. I wore my most conservative outfit today, so I could gauge what other people are wearing. It looks like I can be much more casual tomorrow. Which is good, because I am already disgustingly sweaty and the heat of the day hasn't yet hit.
I do think, at this point, I have no where to go but up.