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May 24-31, 2009

        We decided to make this trip a little longer by extending our stay in the EU to join our close friends, Larry and Diana Castleman, at the end of our trip on a cruise around the Mediterranean in late September right after the European Cataract meeting (ESCRS) in Barcelona.  I was asked to give some lectures at the Swiss Eye Surgeons meeting on June 6th in Lucerne so that sort of set the timing for the beginning of the trip.  I decided to repeat the train trip from LA to Boston because I had enough Amtrak points so that I could get a 1st Class Deluxe bedroom roundtrip for FREE.  It also saves money and time making it only a 7 hour flight instead of 12 hours.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

        The great timing of my first grandson (3rd grandchild) deciding to enter the world just 50 hours before I left Union Station was very much appreciated (he was a week past his due date.)  It was just wonderful getting to hold him in my arms and give him a kiss before I left.  To the left is a very blurry photo but the only one I caught with his eyes open.  Look carefully.

        He was born at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank on May 24th at 3:54 PM.




        He weighed 9 lbs 12 oz (4.42 Kg) and was 21.5 in long (54.6 cm.)  They named him Wesley Michel after Marcia's Dad, Dr. Wesley Wasgatt of Rockland, ME and for Gisele's Dad, Michel .  Mommy's first day with her first child and two very happy and relieved grandmothers (Jeanette left, Marcia right.)


        His new Dad is really getting into this.  Kevin looks a little concerned as he starts howling when the nurse picked him up to show him to the family.


        Uncle Jeff (below left) and Auntie Kristin (below right) seem quite happy with him.  I think Jeff is hoping his 3rd baby (to be born in November) will also be a boy so they can play sports together.


        Its amazing, "W" has the same nose as my oldest granddaughter Kaylin (below left.)  Both girls (Kaylin and Anabella) were very excited to see their brand new cousin.


        What an exciting day.  He will be 4 months old when I see him again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

        The experience of the train trip to Boston can be seen on the Germany Diario labeled Pre-Trip.  This time it was very neat because my son Jeffrey drove the girls to Union Station to say good-bye to Bapa (the name they call me.)  Here they are sitting in my compartment (Kaylin [9] left and Anabella [6] right.)  They enjoyed touring the train's dining car, lounge (below R,) snack bar and coach seating.  It was there first time on a train.


        Of course they decided they wanted to come with me but at 6:35 they had to get off and it certainly was hard saying good-bye to these little "monkeys."  I am really going to miss them.  Amtrak pulled out of Union Station exactly on time at 6:45 PM.  I thought I was in Switzerland already.  Dinner at 8 PM and then to bed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

        The next day I arrive in Albuquerque at 11:25 AM (45 minutes early!!) with plenty of time to do my run.  The sun was warm but the air was cool and refreshing.



        This is a scheduled 1 hour service stop so they can refuel the train and replenish everything.  The Indians are always there at the station selling there jewelry.  They have been there since my first train trip in November 1974.


        The engine is only 8 years old and weighs over 250 tons.


        The train sequence is the engine followed by the baggage car, two sleeper cars, the observation lounge car with snack bar below,...


        ...then the dining car, 2-3 coach seat cars and the crew sleeper at the end.


        Again we left right on time at 12:55 PM and we pulled into Raton, NM again on time at 5:35.  When we leave there we go through a 1/4 mile tunnel and climb to the highest point in the mountains heading to Colorado (Trinidad, La Junta and Lamar.)  I had dinner at 6 PM which is early for me and had a half roast chicken as I did last night.  It was very good.


        Then its on to Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City at 7:26 AM.  I spent the evening working on Diarios and then hit the sack and watched a movie on the Archos unit until 2:30 AM.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

        I woke at 4:40, 7:00 and 11:00 AM and finally got up at 1 PM to pack everything up for the arrival in Chicago Union Station (below) which occurred 25 minutes early at 2:55 PM.  I rolled my bags to the 1st Class Amtrak lounge and then went up in the streets and did my run in the streets.  I found a great place to have a cappuccino called Caribou Coffee [222 S Riverside, 312-207-0853] which is really right along the river (below left.)  The cap was good and free WiFi let me do email, download Rush and review a paper for JCRS and send it off.  Not bad.


        Then at 6:30 I went back (went there in '05) to Boston Blackie's (below) for the "Best Hamburger in Chicago."  I had 2 pints of Guinness to wash down an excellent plain cheeseburger.  Good thing I did, because I later learned they were not serving dinner on the train to Albany because it leaves at 9 PM.  Dima called me from Milano to congratulate me on Wesley and let me know they are waiting for us.

        I got back to the lounge at 7:45 and they made us board the Lake Shore Lmtd at 8 PM.  Once I got settled in my room they tell me there is wine and cheese tasting in the dining care.  Hard to pass that up so I relaxed and worked on diarios trying both white and red along with grapes, 4 cheeses and crackers.  We left Chicago on time at exactly 9:00 PM and then Marcia called me from Melrose to tell me she had arrived OK and has the rental car.  I worked on the computer and then watched another movie while falling asleep.

Friday, May 29, 2009

        Since I know this train splits up in Albany; half going to New York and the rest to Boston, I kept getting nightmares that I was on a NYC sleeper and they wouldn't wake me until I was on my way to NYC.  Below left is the Boston half (left side) and the NYC half on the right.  Ordinarily you have to haul your bags down to the elevator up to the crosswalk (right,) cross over and then back down the other side.


        Below left is the Albany station and on the right is the Lake Shore Lmtd's engines.


        Well, dreams sometimes almost come true.  I woke at 8:30, 11:30 and then the car attendant woke me at 2:15 PM because we were waiting in Albany while they were breaking the train in two.  I WAS in a NY sleeper and he told me I had to scramble and get packed to move over to the Boston half.  I was booked for coach seating for this last leg but the conductor helped me with my bags crossing the tracks instead of taking the elevator across.  He put me in a sleeper car and a Deluxe bedroom as I had before.  Jana was very nice getting me into my room.

        I took a leisurely shower and then walked to the lounge car to work on the computer and there the attendant told me they were serving packaged dinners of beef or lime chicken and a dessert of strawberry tiramisu in plastic.  This is the first time I have seen this.


        It was cold and unappetizing.  Obama will fix this.  Here is a view out the back of the train (below left.)  For those not familiar with the luxury of American passenger trains compared to those vaunted ones in Europe, here is the Deluxe bedroom on this train.  The blue seat rolls out into a full bed and above it there is another one.  There is a full sink and mirror with ice water faucet.


        And behind that sink is a room housing a toilet and shower which works just beautifully most of the time.

        We chugged along through Massachusetts (Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, and Framingham) and arrived in  Boston's South Station at 8:45 PM, 25 minutes early again.  I rolled my bags into the station and bought 2 Auntie Anne's pretzels, nice and warm.  Marcia and her brother Charlie were waiting for me outside and we drove to his house (left) and got unloaded.  After dinner, I watched an Archos movie and went to sleep.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

        I woke at 11:50 AM, drowsed and got up at 2:10 PM and by 4 PM I was on my run to downtown Melrose.  I stopped and got a vase of roses for Marcia for our wedding anniversary which is today.  Below is Melrose's memorial to the war dead of WW II and Korea.  Across Main Street is a park in front of the city lake.


        An unusually dominant building in town is that of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial.  On my way back to the house I had to take this shot of this very patriotically decorated house nearby (below right.)  The big bald eagle in the front near the flag is carved out of wood.  You wouldn't see this in Santa Monica.


        After my run we headed out to dinner to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary.  In 1970 Memorial Day was always on May 30th; now it was almost a week ago.  At 9 PM, we arrived at our favorite place; anyone of the 12 or so Legal Seafood [210 Andover St., 978-532-4500] restaurants in the Boston area.  The best seafood you will ever eat.


        After we sat down we met the manager, Odile, from Trinidad, who introduced us to a Belgian raspberry beer called Framboise Lambic.  I can't believe it but Marcia actually drank it and liked it.  Normally she won't even take a sip of a beer.

        I had a Stella Artois and then we shared a bottle of prosecco and a Loire Valley white wine.  Obviously we are here to celebrate with a lobster dinner.  I had Maine steamed calms as an appetizer.  Then we each had a Maine lobster; mine was 2 1/2 pounds.  It was all fabulous.


        After dinner, Charlie drove us back to the house and we had a bottle of champaign.  Then Charlie and I spent several hours solving the banking crisis while finishing a 6-pack of Bass Ale.  Before he retired, he worked for AIG Insurance for 17 years.  I finally gave up at 4 AM and started to watch an Archos movie but conked out very quickly.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

        I woke up at 9 AM and drove to downtown Melrose and remembered where St. Mary's of the Annunciation church was.  I was only 5 minutes late for the 9:30 Mass, my last in English for a long time.  It was very nice.


        I drove around a little and then went to Starbucks for a cappuccino.  Marcia had discovered a large seam tear in my right shoe and I thought it best to go back to the North Shore Mall where we had eaten and go to the Nordstrom's for a new pair.  I prevented having bones cut out of my toes two years ago by buying extra wide Bruno Mali shoes that are very comfortable.  They had the right size and I bought a new pair and then shopped in the bookstore for some travel books I had forgotten to buy before leaving home.  On the way back, I stopped at KFC for 3 extra crispy wings but they were terrible.  I then changed and did my run into Melrose and back, packed and loaded the car.  At 5:30 Marcia drove us to the airport and we turned in the car and caught the shuttle bus to Logan Airport Terminal E.

            Of course like last time it was overcast and threatening rain.  We checked our bags at 6:00 and then went through security.  This time I lost a wine opener I forgot to put in the checked baggage.  By 6:30 we were in the Lufthansa lounge and I tried calling the kids to tell them we were off.  I took my Klonopin and by 7:45 we boarded the plane on Flight LH425 which was an Airbus A330 (below left.)  I took another Klonopin and 8 Melatonin.  It took off exactly on time at 8:01 and by 8:30 I was sound asleep and did not wake until 10 PM.  I woke at 12:20 AM, 1:45 AM and finally at 2:45 AM when it was ready to land.  It landed (below right) in Munich at 3:15 AM exactly on time but now it is 9:15 AM in Germany.  It was a nice sunny day with some clouds in the sky.


        By 9:45 we were breezing through customs with no questions.  You know you are in BMW territory when you see this large replica of a BMW front end covering a whole wall in the airport.



        We caught a Mercedes (they all are) taxi to the hotel at 9:50 which cost �62.70 this time ($88.)  We arrived at the Mercure Munich Altstadt (above) [Hotterstrasse 4, +49-89-232-590] at 10:30 and after getting to our room and unpacking I came to the lobby and see the headlines in the S�ddeutsche Zeitung (below left) showing that an Air France Airbus A330 disappeared during the night over the Atlantic flying from Rio to Paris.  In the previous 14 trans-Atlantic flights I have taken since 1997, I have never bothered to note what type of plane it was (except of course, the Concordes.)  This time I had happened to note that it was an Airbus A330.  This greatly energizing my enthusiasm for flying.


        Then  at 11:15, I walked through the breakfast area and suddenly had this great urge to have breakfast.  This is very unusual for me but it just looked so good.


        After this I decided to take a walk.  The hotel is located at the corner of Hotterstraβe and Hackenstraβe and around the corner is a cute little restaurant.


            Around the next corner was this huge demolition project.  The building being torn down was the main headquarters for the S�ddeutsche Zeitung, the region's main liberal newspaper.  I expect it will look better in the years ahead.

            I just needed to go down one small street to wind up on the main pedestrian area of Munich (Kaufingerstra�e.) 


            As you can see (photo right) the building in white (on the left) is being renovated on the exterior and it is the church of St. Michael.  It has the tallest dome in Europe, north of the Alps.  Below left is a stock photo of the way it normally looks.

   Kaufingerstrasse, Michael Church, tower of the Church of Our lady, Munich, Bavaria, Germany (1848-23800 / 220944 � imagebroker.net)   

            I walked inside and a Mass had just started so I attended.  But instead of being in German, it was in Croatian and the church was packed.  The music was beautiful.  After Mass was over, I had put the German chip from 2005 in my Nokia phone and went to look for the gas station where I could put some money on it.  As I walked there, here are some things I saw for the first time.  I found the station and bought �15 to put on the phone.  I then called Dima in Milano and to my surprise it worked - the number was still good even after two years of non-use.  This was great.  I then called Wolfgang Haigis, my friend in W�rzburg.


            I went through the Sendlinger Tor (tower) which was erected in 1518.  Amazing I had never seen it before.


            An optical shop had this plaster of an ancient optician making glasses.  Then I came across this quite beautiful building called the Asam House (below) and this beautiful church right next to it.


        It is Munich's Catholic Church of St. Johann Nepomuk, which is better known as the Asam Church.  It was built between 1733-1746 by the brothers Egid Quirin Asam and Cosmas Damian Asam as their personal private church.  Egid (1692-1750) was a German plasterer and sculptor active during the period of the Late Baroque.  Born in Tegernsee, Bavaria, he worked mainly with his brother Cosmas, the architect and painter.  He died in Mannheim.  I sent inside and it was just spectacular.  (Stock photos below center and right.)


        The ornate facade tells about the deeds of St. John of Nepomuk.  The ceiling of the church is decorated with magnificent paintings and gold trim, and the high altar shows the Chair of Mercy Group, with God the Father and the crucified Christ.   Ignaz G�nther created the two angels of the fraternity altar in 1767; they were acquired and added later.  The ornate ceiling (below) was quite incredible.

        I left the church and ambled further down the street and came across this interesting fountain.

        I got back to the hotel at 2:00 and took a short nap.  I woke at 3 and went out for my run and wound up in a new place where there was this large monument in the center of this park.


        I went a little farther and came across a large building that looked like a greenhouse.  In front was a large equestrian bronze of Otto von Wittelsee, King of Bavaria.  As can be seen in the photo below right, there was a large block memorial surrounded by two rows of green hedge.


          I walked up to it and went down the stairs into the underground.


        Inside was a memorial to the war dead of Bavaria consisting of this large stone carving of a dead young soldier.


        I finished my run at 6:40 along Leopoldstrasse as usual and stopped and had a cappuccino at CADU while sending text messages to all our friends in Europe as well as the kids.  I got a response from Kristin and Jeff.  I called Dr. Leo Amar in Nice and told him we hoped to see him there finally this trip.  At 8:15 I walked down to Tambosi again for my first German beer of the trip.  I sat by the window and the Tucher pils was very refreshing.


        As I walked back to the hotel at 8:45, I took my 100th photo of this scene.

        I got back to the hotel and changed.  After having our Accor complimentary glass of champagne, we decided to stick with tradition and go back to the Sp�tenhaus [Residenzstrasse 12, +49-89-290-7060] for dinner on this our first night and repeat our first night in the EU 12 years ago.  It wasn't far from our hotel so it was just a short walk.  At 10 PM, they seated us at a table in this circular area and we studied the menu.




        We shared a very nice bottle of Silvaner Kugelspiel white wine and Marcia had cream of weisse spargel (white asparagus) soup followed by a beautiful Wienerschnitzel with a berry sauce.


        It came with kartoffel (potatoes) and cucumber salad.


        I had an appetizer of two bratwursts with sauerkraut and mustard and then my favorite entree, roast duck with red cabbage.  This time I remembered to replace the usual big potato ball (which I do not like) with sp�tzle.  It was delicious.


        As we walked back to our room, we came across the Consulate for Kazakhstan (remember Borat?) and an interesting piece by Matisse in an art gallery window.


        We got back to our room and I really crashed and went to sleep just before midnight.


KJH                                                                                                                Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #2 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD


Munich, Germany

Sent: 12-20-2009

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