04 March 2010

Europe recap: Day 2, Stuttgart

October 26th was my arrival date in Stuttgart, to prepare to take delivery of the Mercedes-Benz the next day.  The train ride took me through flat terrain at first, but eventually through lovely, hilly terrain covered with wineries; this was the first time I was looking at European hills, as my previous trips had covered only very flat areas. After checking in at the hotel, I took a nap for the rest of the afternoon, as the jet lag was still clobbering me.

In the early evening hours, I decided to take a stroll on the long pedestrian street next to me, Königstraße ("King Street"), to get a bit of workout and get acquainted with Stuttgart.

Königstraße stretches about a kilometer, heading southwest from Hauptbahnhof. I'm about halfway down, at the corner of an open space called Schlossplatz ("Castle Place," located in front of a palace), where I am coming across a temporary ice skating rink. Due to the lighting, it looks quite pretty, and I am loving the German fashionstas' military-inspired looks as well. I didn't do any skating, however.

Continuing on. While evening shopping after work is normally an unheard-of concept in Europe, I am finding it fortunate that stores remain open until 8 in the evening on Königstraße. That is actually giving me some thing to do, as I window-shop some of the stores. In fact, store hours on Königstraße run to 8PM every day, six days a week - only Quiet Day Sunday can bring the street to a standstill. Some restaurants remain open even later - there is even a McDonald's that remains open until 5 the next morning.

Königstraße is considered the greatest pedestrian shopping street in Germany, and I believe it.

The "buchhaus" on the right is obviously a "bookhouse" - a bookstore. I have zero command of German - and at this point, I am still having trouble blurting out "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" much less count numbers or do anything else - but due to the German language's logical, building block nature, sometimes guessing at the meanings of strange words can be surprisingly easy.

Another store. And yes, if that word "schuhe" sounds like "shoe," that's correct. This is the place to pick up those equestrian leather boots that are a must-have for the German fashionista.

Prices are somewhat higher than US prices, but not by too much, and only because of the strength of the Euro. In addition, the 19% value added tax (sales tax) is built into the price. Also refreshing is that the goods I can find in Europe are as likely to be from local manufacturers as to be from some sweatshop in China; while manufacturing a given product in Europe is much more expensive due to labor costs, that can be more than made up with superior quality and durability.

An old church tower, surrounded by newer buildings. This kind of architectural mix is typical of German cities, as many ordinary buildings were destroyed during World War II by the Allied air raids, and had to be rebuilt, often hastily without regard to traditional architecture. Sturdier buildings, like churches, usually survived. Germany is normally not the European country to go to if traditional architecture is desired.

Back to Schlossplatz and a look at a gazebo, with the palace in the background. I had to take this photo - in fact, it was posted on this blog on this very day - for a reason. One of my Facebook friends, Saniye McFadden, is a Turkish-German, and back in the day, she had had a photo of herself taken at this gazebo; she has since married an American soldier and moved to Virginia. I had to take the photo just to share with Saniye and give her a pleasant surprise.

I am visiting another "buchhaus" - where some DVDs are for sale as well. And yes, I can pick up a copy of Marley & Me, starring none other than Jennifer Aniston, my favorite Greek Goddess. The packaging is in German, but the DVD can be played in German or English - though I will need a code-free DVD player with PAL capability if I am going to play this Region 2 DVD outside Europe. (I do have a cheap code-free DVD player at home.)

As it was 8 and shops started closing, I had to start heading back to the hotel. A call of nature, however, necessitated that I duck into a 30-cent self-washing toilet. It was a nice experience, however.

The jet lag meant that I got up at around 4 in the morning on Tuesday the 27th, and walked around the hotel's lower floors to pass the time, before the breakfast buffet opened around 6. I noted that the German word for breakfast was Frühstück - another handy word to remember for me. (Rührei, what I previously had at McDonald's, would simply mean "scrambled eggs.") It was imperative that I got out to Sindelfingen and its Mercedes-Benz Customer Center early, in order to avoid any lengthy waits. The cab ride to Sindelfingen (free, thanks to Mercedes-Benz provided vouchers) would allow me to get more familiar with the hilly Stuttgart cityscape. The factory and delivery photos will be my next installment.