First off, some housekeeping. Thanks to everyone who is reading and enjoying this blog – please contine to comment!, and i’ll try to respond to all the comments. Also, I may make some changes to how the blog is set up in the next couple days, so you may find a completely new layout or format when you come here next time – don’t worry, all the content will be the same! I’m using blogger.com for the blog management right now because they are fast and easy to set up, and very popular. But now that I’m using it, i’m not very happy with its flexibility or robustness or the comments setup, and it’s slow and unreliable. So I’m looking at some more servies, like WordPress, b2evolution, MoveableType and LiveJournal to see how they work. If anyone has any experience with those, or other services, please let me know what you think. Not that any of you care about any of that, so now back to the fun stuff!

So, it so happens that the first Thursday I got here was a department “Team Event”. Actually, it was originally scheduled for the Thursday before I arrived, but lucky for me, it had to be postponed to this week because of rain. But before I get into the ride, I have a thought I’d like to share. Last summer, the Infineon office in Cary did a team event of going to Busch Gardens (an amusement park in Virginia) for 2 days. My department in Munich went bike riding in the Bavarian countryside for a whole day, and another department went hiking in the mountains the day before. Can you imagine what the response would have been if a manager in Cary had said, “for our team event this year, we’re going to ride 50 miles on our bikes around Raleigh in the middle of July!” HA – he would have been laughed out of the building, then the rest of the office would have gone to Six Flags for the day. It’s strange – I don’t know if the people here are more healthy or fit (they eat less fast food, but they eat a lot of fatty meat and drink lots of bier, and many of them smoke like crazy), but the mindset certainly is different. Even people who are not athletic at all are still up for biking or hiking for a full day.

OK – I’m gonna stall on the actual bike ride again (hehe), and give everyone a geography lesson (it’s a lesson for me too), so the ride will be in some context and to give you an idea of where exactly I am. So you all know I’m in Munich, Germany (or M√∫nchen, Deutschland, if you prefer). Munich is in the State of Bavaria, in the southeastern corner of the country (also, of what used to be West Germany). As you can see from the picture below, it is basically right in the middle of Europe; most of the big cities – Paris, Rome, London – are within a days drive or an overnight train, and cities like Zurich, Venice, Prague, and Vienna are within mere hours.

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Bavaria is the largest state in Germany, and, as the name sugests, includes the Bavarian Alps along the border or Austria. Munich is at about 500m elevation (1650ft, a little lower than Asheville, NC) and on the same latitude with the very northern tip of Maine (you may be surprised to know that Raleigh is more on latitude with northern Africa and Bahgdad, Iraq, than anywhere in mainland Europe, which would explain the friggin’ heat. Or maybe you’re better educated than me and already knew that!). The city and surrounding areas are quite flat, and I have not run across any formidable hills on my bike. When you get south of the city, though, there are several big lakes formed by the runoff of the Alps. Just ~40km (25 miles) south of downtown Munich, though, you hit the foot-hills of the alps, around the village of Bad Tolz. The foot hills don’t last long, though, and you go straight up into the Alps soon after. The elevation is well over a mile high by 35 miles south of town, and the Austrian border (g’day, mate! 😉 is close thereafter.

Then you head over the Alps and back down into Italy, and you’re at the Mediterrainian in Venice within few hours! Apparently the Bavarian Alps aren’t as high as the Alps we all think of, which are further west into Switzerland and France. The Bavarian Alps are bigger then the Appalachains, but much smaller than the Rockys. Here’s a digital picture of a map I bought today showing the terrain into the alps – I couldn’t find a suitable online map (oh yeah, the cities in the map of Europe above may be a bit off because I made that map too – starting with a blank Google Map of Europe, then editing it myself). Munich is the large reddish area at the bottom of the picture, then there’s a series of lakes, then it goes up into the snow-capped Alps.

[picture lost from server move]

well as usual, this post has gone longer than I expected, and I still haven’t gotten to my bike ride or anything else I’ve done, but I hope we all learned something! I’ll try to make another post tonight – well, maybe not. Look for at least one other one tomorrow, Sunday.