Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Trippin' in Deutschland

It's been a long, long time since I've traveled in Germany; back in the post-College days tripping around Europe with my good friend Rob Schumacher courtesy of our cool parents. ;-)

This time around I was visiting the European offices of Nik Software - I say offices because the "HQ" of Europe is in Hamburg whilst the engineering folks call Luebeck home. Both have their charms. As I missed my Lufthansa flight out of Heathrow due to my trust in an errant Concierge, I arrived late to Hamburg. The weather was pleasant, much like it never ever rains in Seattle when I visit! A short taxi ride to my hotel.

The next morning, I think I surprised Katrin the receptionist who only had a vague notion of my visit. Hey, I like to be surprising - what can I say? The offices at Nik-Hamburg are in an older building alongside a canal, next to Levi Strauss. Wooden floors, glass doors, clean, efficient. Loved the office and the kitchen which had a drop-dead simple Cappuccino maker - yeah!

Had several chats with the Sales folks, as well as Mike Slater who was also out from San Diego, and then the good fortune to finally meet Meikel Steiding, the official Nik Software UI designer of whom Josh speaks so highly. Meikel's done a superb job crafting the new look of Nik's tools, and I can tell he cares deeply and passionately about design. After a good day at the offices, finally connected to email (which I wasn't in London - long story!), Meikel suggested that I visit the SpeicherStadt (warehouse district) area of Hamburg that evening for it's photo possibilities. It was either that or the Red Light district, so I walked the road less traveled - ahem. The area was really deserted and really cool, sporting some awesome graffiti and ad hoc art exhibits along the canals. Later in the night, desperate for something to eat, I happened upon a cool Thai restaurant near the Rathaus (City Hall).

The next day was my chance to meet the engineering team(s) in Luebeck, and also see Ed Sanchez (my boss) for the first time in a week. I traveled via autobahn at about 180 kmh in Dirk's BMW X5 SUV. Very nice! Of course, the AMG CL55 that passed us like we were standing still was somewhat nicer. ;-)

The offices in Luebeck were in a nondescript office park outside of the small city, but - on 3 separate wings of the building - were very cool. I met the web team, the Capture NX team, QA folks and members of the various plug-in teams. It was very cool to finally put names to faces and I really wished I'd packed a camera along! Meeting Daniella, the engineer behind our latest rock star application Viveza, was a special treat...

Meikel and I rode a very comfortable train back to Hamburg and he offered to show me some of the sites I hadn't seen yet by car. We visited the Port district which was extremely modern and clearly high capacity, and he also showed me a very interesting and almost indescribable building shaped like the prow of a ship. Weird, but cool. The tunnel underneath the harbor was also very eerie (we weren't the only ones taking pictures either - there was a photoshoot featuring a pretty hot model underway as well - Meikel knows his spots!).

I enjoyed the city runabout, but Meikel had a couple of special treats in store for me: (a) a trip to a revered walk-in, stand-up bratwurst "bar" which has served "currywurst" since 1961 and (b) a weissbier at a hip lounge where the city's designers hang. Everyone knows that Germans make great wurst, or sausages. But what exactly is currywurst? Currywurst is a grilled bratwurst drenched in a delectable curry ketchup sauce, and topped with a dusting of curry powder. Truly a great way to finish off the night, and a looooong way from trippin' around with a 40 lb backpack over 20 years ago.

For more pictures of the German leg of my recent travels, visit my Flickr gallery.

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