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The Adventure Begins

July 1989

We're here! The flight was fine – the stewardesses loved the cat.

[We weren't sure how well Crumpet, our 18-year-old cat, would survive the trip, but she did fine. A later story chronicles some of her experiences as a globetrotting feline. Of course she had to be in a carrier – and the ones that will fit under an airline seat are really small. At the time we went pets could only fly in Business Class, and there was a maximum of how many could be taken on a given flight. Fortunately, in those days Business Class cost only $100 more than full-fare coach (which MITRE paid), so we paid the extra.

Initially, we had to change our flight date because our first choice already had its pet quota. I say initially, because we unexpectedly had to change it again when the movers arrived and realized that it would take them three days to pack, not one. It seems the estimator somehow only thought to include the items that we selected for shipment to Germany (5,000 pounds maximum) and not also the 15,000 pounds that were going into storage! The second day the moving van backed up too far and its bumper scraped over the hood of my newly-painted Mustang, revealing a wide swath of bare metal.

We were sternly told several times before boarding that "The cat must remain in the carrier!" (You may have surmised that this was Lufthansa.) Once we were at cruising altitude we opened the lid, attached a leash and brought her out, and when a stewardess saw how cute Crumpet was, she remained out. The drone of the engines soon lulled her and she curled up on the carpet and slept through the rest of the flight.]

Now that we're in a hotel our previous luck has returned – they're excavating the adjacent courtyard (jackhammers at 7 A.M.), the elevator was broken when we needed to carry our 7 bags up 6 flights and we're in the middle of a heat wave – it was 90 on Friday! Of course there is no air conditioning and when you open the windows for ventilation the mosquitoes come to feast!

On the other hand, the food and drink is great and reasonably priced, the sidewalk cafes remind me of Paris and the hotel is just around the corner from the office.

We just started looking for a place to live and the first one we saw looks great. It's in the prestigious, we learned, Westend, about ten minutes walk from the Alte Oper, Old Opera. Originally constructed in 1880, it was mostly destroyed by bombing, as was most of Frankfurt, during World War II, and was only rebuilt in 1981. The significance of the travel time is that my office is just across the square.

The apartment has huge rooms (although not as many as we'd hoped for – it looks like visitors will have to settle for a fold-out sofa), 13' ceilings (it survived the war--one can walk down the street and notice that although roof heights may be the same, the prewar apartment buildings have three stories compared to newer ones with four), marble floors, a fireplace, and a sizable garden in the back. I think I've seen some rooms like this in Versailles! It also includes a kitchen, a huge closet and several "Schranks" (armoires), light fixtures and drapes for the 10' windows – all things not normally included here. The only problem is the cost! The housing market has really heated up here lately – the supply has always been tight but the costs have recently really escalated. Unfortunately we have nothing to compare it against and we have to decide fast or it'll be gone!

People in the office are great and we even managed to arrive just in time for a party they were having for someone who was leaving after ten years so we got to meet all the spouses. In fact, Friday was the site leader's birthday, so he brought in wine to celebrate – just like back home, eh?

[We later found out that it's German custom for people to arrange their own parties – at the end of our stay we gave ourselves a going-away party.]

© Copyright 2000 Jack Ludwick - All Rights Reserved

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