Home, I’ve missed you.

I’m officially an international traveler. Nick and I just got back from an 8-day adventure in Germany; we were doing usability testing for one of our clients. Usability testing is a fairly new concept in the United States and one that is practically unheard of overseas. Because of this, we were asked to visit and share our knowledge on the subject – little did we know, we would be the ones doing most of the learning.

We departed Cedar Rapids Saturday morning and arrived in Frankfurt the next day at 6 AM. Neither of us slept on the plane. We were too busy watching movies and eating whatever “meal” was put in front of us. Needless to say, we were exhausted by the time we checked into our hotel. Luckily, we were able to do early check-in.

Things I quickly learned upon arrival:

  • It would have helped to know a little German language before arriving.
  • It also would have also helped to read the instructions for the converter I brought. I fried it and blew a fuse in my hotel room the minute I tried using my hair straightener.
  • It also didn’t take long for us to realize we didn’t pack enough warm clothes. We should have known better, but were too naive to believe it would be cold in Germany when we left 60 degree weather in Iowa! We were off to a great start….

Here’s a roadmap of our trip:

As you can see, we literally traveled all over the country.

Since Nick and I are visual people, we decided to use more pictures and less words to describe our adventure. Also, Nick’s foosball team at the office is called the Flighting Sloths. We decided to turn his mascot into our travel buddy and took him along. We gave him a new wardrobe and named him Sid. Enjoy!

Sid the Sloth

We started out in Heidelberg and Walldürn. We didn’t get much time to explore, but we did get to eat some stereotypical German food and drive on a narrow, winding road in a snow storm. Walldürn is where we met with our first usability testing participant. We spent the day testing, eating lunch and chatting with the participant’s 9-year old son, who loves American football. Unfortunately, he’s a Lions fan (which I guess was good news for Nick). :)

Sausage and kraut, anyone?

If your driver admits being nervous on this road, you should also be nervous.

Next stop, Leipzig and Sonnewalde! We visited two more participants in these areas. We also had some time to do some sightseeing. We went to this mall/train station/historic building. I don’t think I ever learned the name of it, so forgive me for being so vague. Just believe me when I say it was pretty awesome. For most of December, Germany is filled with all sorts of Christmas markets. Obviously, we had to experience the markets; so we went and drank Glühwein (which we soon learned is hot mulled wine) like locals. After my first mug full, I stuck with the kid punch. Nick enjoyed it though.

Leipzig Central Station (we think).

Nick and me at a Christmas market in Leipzig. Prost! (That’s German for cheers.)

The next places we visited were Derenburg, Damme and Münster. We drove a lot these days. It was pretty tiring, but well worth it – we saw some great things. Here, we met with two more participants. We also stayed in a sketchy hotel that we will forever remember. I won’t get into details, but let’s just say that I had most of my room furniture pushed up against the door while I slept. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? Right….

There’s a pig in the cage behind Sid. Promise.

A little German decor for ya.

Here’s Hotel Sketchy. Nice fan.

The last couple of days are a blur to me, so I apologize. I do know that we visited two more participants in the Wülfrath, Nuremberg and Alteglofsheim areas… AND we ate at some amazing restaurants. That’s something. :)

Check out that fireplace!

Probably our favorite place we ate at on this trip. This building was built in the 1400’s!

This place had the best pizza in the area!

Our last day in Germany was spent in Frankfurt. Nick, Sid and I basically spent the day exploring what we could by foot. We took a handful of pictures with Sid and some pretty impressive architecture. I’m sure we looked like quite a site taking pictures with an odd-looking stuffed animal. Luckily, we don’t speak German and didn’t understand what people could potentially be saying. :)

We had such a great trip. From the looks of the pictures I’m posting, I bet it doesn’t look like we did a lot of work. Believe me, we did. Though the days were long and exhausting, we weren’t going to miss out on a little fun and sightseeing. Who knows when we’ll get the chance to go back. I hope it’s soon.

The Old Opera House in Frankfurt

Can you believe this is a 5-story mall?

Sid in Römerberg Plaza

Sid and His Moose Friend

Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew