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European Delivery
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  #1  
Old 11-29-2006, 04:10 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
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Posts: 127
Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
11/06 ED Report: 1 Bimmer, 2 People, 16 Days!

Introduction

What follows is the accumulated experience of our first European Delivery. I have tried to include as many practical suggestions as possible. Therefore, this article will likely be of great interest to other first time EDers. Additionally, I have included as much location specific information as possible, so long time EDers may also find something of interest, perhaps for their next trip.

At the end of the article is a small collection of tips and suggestions. Please feel free to contribute any additional information or comments as you see fit.

Enjoy!
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335i Coupe — ED 11.06
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  #2  
Old 11-29-2006, 04:12 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 127
Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
Background

My wife and I have been interested in BMWs for quite some time. Our current car, a 2003 Infiniti G35 sedan, has been plagued with reliability and quality problems. We first looked at the 530i and were very impressed. It blew away our G35 in handling and build quality and had plenty of room for our 4 1/2 year old daughter. We walked away from the test drive thinking that would be our next car.

However, on the recommendation of our wonderful Client Advisor, Dennis Harmon at Garlyn Shelton BMW in Temple, Texas, we test drove the 335i Coupe. Both of us were amazed at the huge power difference between the two cars and quickly abandoned the idea of having four doors. Besides, our almost 5 year old daughter has been buckling herself into her car seat for several months now. Or at least that is how rationalized it at the time

We ordered the car toward the end of September. Dennis was able to secure a November 3 European Delivery for us and we signed the contract the first week of October. We were a little nervous about European Delivery, especially considering that neither of us had ever been to Europe. We therefore decided to spend the next month researching all the details.

Let me say upfront that no one should do a European Delivery without the BMW Navigation System. We debated the cost of the system when ordering the car, but I can tell you that it was absolutely the right decision to get it! Although you could also rely on a portable navigation device, I simply cannot believe that it would match the excellent level of integration and efficiency of the BMW factory system.

Over the next few weeks, we kept revising our itinerary looking for the perfect route. The planning is really the most strenuous part of the trip. After becoming frustrated at the sheer number of things to see and places to go, we decided on a plan: secure reservations for at least four days and then wing it.

We believed this to be the best system because during the first portion of the trip we would probably be stressed out and nervous. Rather than worry about where we would be staying, we figured it would be comforting to have a place secured. After becoming acclimated to the environment, the car and the system, we would just find a bed and breakfast along the road.

Although this strategy is definitely not suited for those with type A personalities, I will tell you in advance that it resulted in a magnificent trip. After a few days of secured reservations, it is surprisingly liberating to just head for the sunset. Additionally, this plan of attack will likely take you off the well traveled tourist routes and into the heart of everyday Germany.
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Old 11-29-2006, 04:13 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 127
Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
November 1, 2006

Austin

We left Austin at 7:00 am. It was a beautiful morning and we were dressed in standard issue Austin travel gear: shorts and t-shirts. We had jeans and two fleece parkas waiting for arrival in Germany. We checked two mid-sized roller bags and brought two backpacks as carry-ons, one of which contained my wife's photo gear.

In retrospect, I think this was far too much luggage. We should limited ourselves to one of the mid-sized rollers and two backpacks. Many of the bed and breakfasts do not have elevators and we wound up leaving everything but the backpacks in the car. Also, the vast majority of places have radiators, which are wonderful as both heaters and dryers for clothes! Tip: pack lightly and wash things in the room.

We flew Delta, which at $900 round-trip for two was $300 less than the Lufthansa "2-for-1" deal. What Lufthansa does not advertise is that the special is only applicable to published "Q" fares, which are not the fares you see on their website. Additionally, the "free" ticket holder will pay around $250 in taxes and surcharges on their ticket.

Atlanta

We began our international flight after a four hour stop in Atlanta. The international gate area was excellent. There were plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and comfortable seating. There was even live piano in the middle of the main atrium! If you stop in Atlanta, head directly to the international gate to wait for your flight!

Unfortunately, you get what you pay for with regard to airlines. The coach seats on our plane, a Boeing 767 were cramped and dimly lit, most likely because the plane was one of the first to roll of the assembly line in 1982. Although we checked Delta's website beforehand, there were no EmPower plugs in our seats.

As a result, the laptops were useless after about 4 hours, putting an end to my good intentions of getting some work done during the flight. Surprisingly, there were no plugs in first class either, a section that did not look half as spacious as one would think for the additional premium. On the bight side, I was able to fully charge my iPod in Atlanta Additionally, there were two movies: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and Rudy, both apparently chosen for their ability to induce sleep.

The ride was very smooth, except for a rough patch just after takeoff. The food, albeit true to airline tradition and devoid of any spice whatsoever, was surprisingly good and we never felt the need to break into the granola bars and other snacks we brought. Likewise, the crew was attentive and courteous.
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Old 11-29-2006, 04:14 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
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Posts: 127
Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
November 2, 2006

Munich

We arrived in Munich at 8:00 am. In stark contrast to the upbeat weather forecast of 50-60 degrees, we arrived to early winter in Bavaria! You can imagine our reaction when the flight crew announced, "Welcome to Munich. It's snowing and 28 degrees."

After the obligatory twenty minute wait to exit the plane, we found our way through the beautifully modern Munich airport. We breezed through customs with no trouble at all. After picking up our luggage, we found Rolf waiting for us with a luggage cart and a huge BMW logo. We then hopped in a beautiful Monaco Blue 730ld and headed for the Platzl Hotel.

A few words about Rolf are definitely in order. He is, quite simply, the coolest guy you will meet on your trip. He is kind and cheerful and chock full of great advice and tips. Along the way to the hotel, we discussed our itinerary and Rolf was quick to point out places that could either be sped through more quickly or that deserved more attention.

At the Platzl, Rolf sat with us for a bit while arranging the trip to the Delivery Center the next morning and the ride from Harms on November 16. Afterwards, we went to our room, delved back into our travel plans, then crashed hard for a couple of hours.

Around 5:00 pm, we stumbled out into the streets of Munich, dazed from the nap and somewhat confused that the sun was setting behind overcast clouds. We made our way to the town square and sank into the culture of Munich. We watched the Glockenspiel, browsed the crowded shops and wandered snaking alleyways between beautifully crafted buildings.

The streets were packed with locals and tourists. It was shoulder to shoulder in the town square, despite the bitterly cold winds blowing in around the buildings. Personal space is so different here, perhaps because the warmth of the crowd is preferable to the freezing wind cutting you in half.

Needing a break from the cold, we headed to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner and, of course, beer! The food was, in a word, outstanding and the beer was beyond belief. I have never known my wife to truly enjoy anything other than wine, but she finished off a liter almost ahead of me!

Our waiter spoke no English, so requesting the check was a bit of a challenge. So much so, in fact, that I received a second liter of beer instead! Rather than be rude, I chugged through it, relieved that the Platzl Hotel was only a few steps away.

While soldiering through the second liter, we were joined by a lovely Italian couple and their children. They spoke a bit of English and we learned they were in Munich for a school related function for their daughter. We shared a pretzel, then headed to our room for a much needed rest.

Photos

1) Bavarian food and beer at the Hofbrauhaus.
2) Early winter in Munich.
3) Traditional Bavarian band at the Hofbrauhaus.
4) This guy kinda reminds me of Elvis
5) The Clock®
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335i Coupe — ED 11.06

Last edited by zengravy; 11-29-2006 at 04:34 PM.
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  #5  
Old 11-29-2006, 04:28 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 127
Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
November 3, 2006

Munich

We awoke to snow on the ground. It rarely snows in Austin, so seeing the white tufts covering the sidewalks and rooftops was quite a surprise. My wife snapped a few shots and we were off to our first European breakfast!

If this were the American vs. European Breakfast Playoffs, Europe would take it in a heartbeat. This is a pretty nice spread, folks: cold cuts of ham, salami and other types of meats, cheeses, juices, boiled eggs (or scrambled on request), a variety of rolls, pastries, pretzels and preserves.

Whether you're into preserves or not, you should really try these. Pretty much every where you go in Germany makes their own preserves and they are very tasty! Pair them with a fresh baked Kaiser roll and some of the best coffee you've ever had in your life (because they're not afraid of brewing it too strong) and you're in for a treat!

Did I mention that everything is fresh? There are no preservatives, boxed goods or stale, spongy breads in sight! We ate light, since we would be having a snack at the Delivery Center with Rolf. And, to be honest, we were still quite full from the huge Bavarian dinner the night before! After breakfast, we met Rolf out front for the drive to the Delivery Center.

The wait, anticipation and planning of the trip almost made us forget that we would, in fact, be driving our car! The angst and drama of deciding where and when to go and what to do had consumed us for the past three weeks. All of that faded into the background, however, when Rolf drove us through the Delivery Center gate.

We walked inside, checked in at the desk and headed upstairs to grab a bite with Rolf. We had some weisswurst, pretzels with sweet mustard, juice and coffee. Rolf schooled us on the weisswurst and showed us the easy way to eat them We also spoke a bit more about our travel plans.

Afterwards, Rolf took off for another pickup and we waited patiently until we heard our name called over the loudspeaker. The air became still, space contracted and, somewhere in the distance, bells lingered on the horizon. My wife's face took on a faint glow and there was pure contentment.

It was time.

We rushed downstairs and were greeted by Judith, who took us through the paperwork. It was very straightforward, with a brief explanation of the insurance documents, the registration, the pickup receipt and the keys. Judith also helped us book a reservation for the King's Hotel with the BMW discount, as we decided to stay in Munich one more night.

Note: keep both green documents with you at all times. DO NOT leave them in the car. Those two little green documents are all that is needed to legally sell the car, so their presence to a thief makes it a much more lucrative deal.

After the paperwork, we were escorted to the sliding glass doors leading to the garage. I don't know if it was the circumstances or real engineering genius, but I swear they were the most marvelous sliding glass doors I have ever seen!

We walked out in to the echo filled chamber. The garage was filled with cars and people aflutter with excitement. And, across the cavernous distance from this wall to that, there it was. Ours. It belonged to us and we to it. It seemed to note our presence with a glow of appreciation.

And I went to it.

In the bright glow of the fluorescent lights, it was both darker and lighter than I expected, not exactly gray, but not exactly graphite. It was glorious!

And I touched it.

I ran my fingers along its silken shell as a song swelled up in the background:

It was the heat of the moment
Telling me what my heart meant
The heat of the moment
Shone in your eyes

My wife smacked me on the back of the head to snap me back to reality. She looked at me with a slight grin and said, "Stop fondling the car." She squeezed in front of me, filled with the confidence of her newfound sense of European personal space, and opened the door.

The immediate area was quickly filled with the erotic scent of leather and new car. My nostrils flared, my senses heightened and-

My wife once again interjected:

"Stop it. No car porn yet!"

Yes... she is right. We've got drivin' to do!

Judith took us through the features of the car, including iDrive. Honestly, I do not know why iDrive receives so much criticism. Sure, it takes some time to learn, but no more than, say, a new mobile phone. Like everything else electronic, once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.

Judith also introduced us to the navigation system, which is truly second only to air conditioning as mankind's greatest invention, and preprogrammed Harms and the King's Hotel for us. Afterwards, she left us alone with the car. We put our luggage in the trunk (I am amazed at how much stuff it actually holds) and crawled inside.

This was the first time we were able to truly examine the gray poplar wood trim up close and in person. I have to say that I am very happy with our choice. We decided to go with the gray wood rather than aluminum because we had aluminum in our old car and it was looking, well, a bit youthful and frivolous. We wanted a little more refinement, without going full on-brown wood.

No photos I have ever seen do this wood trim justice! It may be one of those things that simply will not reproduce well in a photograph. My wife is going to try and get a shot of it without a flash under controlled lighting after redelivery.

It is definitely gray, not brown. There is a ever so slight tint of perhaps bronze or caramel in the highlighted portions of the grain of the wood in direct sunlight, but it complements the darkness in a much unexpected way. If you have been on the fence about the gray poplar wood trim, go for it. If you do not want a brown wood, it is an excellent alternative to aluminum!

The black leather interior is amazing. My wife and I like the Teutonic coal bins, so we were both duly impressed. Being my first BMW, I cannot comment on the quality of the interior to previous iterations of the car. However, coming from an Infiniti G35, I can say without hesitation that this is the best quality interior I have ever seen.

Panels are tightly fitted, there are no visible seems and, most importantly to me, there are no squeaks or rattles. Everything feels rock solid and well designed. The rocker switches for the windows, although admittedly a bit forward on the armrests, are solid and firmly seated.

The steering wheel falls gently into your hands, with its accompanying levers a mere finger flick away. The face of the dashboard, although appearing perfectly flat in photographs, actually has a very slight push toward the driver. It is very slight, however, so I can imagine those coming from the e46 not appreciating the design.

The rearview mirror, unlike that in my G35, has a very anchored feel and it turns only with a bit of effort. I hate loosely fitted mirrors, especially on rougher roads where they tend to vibrate and bounce around. The 335i mirror is rock solid and remains still no matter where you go or what you do!

After getting acquainted with one another, it was time to start her up. The Start button is recessed in the dash and responds with solid tension so that mere act of pressing it exudes pure machismo decision making. A good analogy would be Captain Picard standing defiantly on the deck of the Enterprise proclaiming in a stern yet calm voice to "make it so."

The engine jumps to life crisply with an exhaust note that is throaty yet refined. In a few seconds, the engine settles from its abrupt awakening and rests lazily at idle with an easy hum that calls out to the driver like the songs of the ancient Greek Sirens. Blip the throttle and the engine responds with a sounding retort of "*******!" or, translated for an American audience, "Yippee kayay, motherf%@*er!"

I inched the car forward, the squeal of the tires a testament to the obsessive cleanliness of the Delivery Center. As I approached the exit, the quickest retracting aluminum door known to mankind flung itself upwards and the light of the crisp Bavarian morning met my eyes.

I was looking at the world through the windshield of my first Bimmer. Contentment and confusion rushed over me. What had taken so long to get here? Why had I not made this decision before now?! And, sitting there in the tranquility of automotive perfection, I realized that this was my first true car. I had been reborn. I gazed lovingly at the amber instrument panel before me and then, ever so slightly, I wept.

My wife sensed my moment of rapture while waiting to take a photo of the car exiting the garage. She looked at me with Chick Expression #342, a look known to every man with a passion for anything other than shopping for shoes. The expression, for those unacquainted few, means simply, "Are you done yet?"

Shaking off the moment, I gripped the wheel and moved slowly forward, hesitant as I watched the smooth lines of the car escape by what seemed mere inches through the industrial looking edifice. I vaguely recall picking up my wife after she snapped a few photos and headed for the gate.

From that point, things are a bit hazy. I was semi-conscious, wrapped in the sweet sexy bliss of the first drive. One thing I do remember, however, is stopping at E.H. Harms to complete the dropoff paperwork in advance, the result of a very good tip from Rolf. The dropoff point is not very far from the Delivery Center, so it saves a bit of time and chaos on the last day of your trip. Still, it was crushing to take that first break from behind the wheel.

Thomas at Harms was very helpful, explaining everything we needed to know about redelivery. He also suggested some things to see and do. The paperwork was, once again, very straightforward. Afterwards, we decided to find the King's Hotel and get the room taken care of for the evening.

The King's Hotel is very nice, although the BMW rate appeared a bit high for the room we received. Parking is practically non-existant, so you should make a note of that if you stay here, especially during peak tourist season. We were lucky enough to pull in just as someone with a corner space was leaving

Against my better judgment, we left the car wedged into the tiny space luck provided us and spent the rest of the day walking around Munich. We took several photographs and explored the city, getting lost twice while trying to find a particular store that my wife wanted to visit from the hotel's map of the city. The benefit, however, is that we wound up taking a break from the cold in a grocery store where we were able to see everyday German living.

After leaving the grocery store, we found a small Italian joint and had some pizza. The place was pure magic. Smoke was everywhere, no one spoke English, and some of the regulars were debating each other over half-liters of beer. The pizza was excellent and we left marveling at the fact that the best pizza we ever had was in Germany.

Later that evening, we returned to the hotel, kicked up the radiators and washed some clothes. The radiators, while functioning as an amazing, and in some cases almost suffocating, source of heat, also happen to make great dryers Afterwards, I read the Owner's Manual cover to cover, marveling at how damn good the thing smelled.

Photos

1) The green documents a thief needs to sell your car
2) She waits for me...
3) Teutonic coal bin.
4) The Clock®
5) I love this angle for some reason.
6) Must debadge...
7) Don't hurt me, baby
8) 2 miles!
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335i Coupe — ED 11.06

Last edited by zengravy; 11-29-2006 at 04:32 PM.
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Old 11-29-2006, 04:30 PM
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Thanks for the writeup and pics.
Your car is gorgeous!
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Old 11-29-2006, 04:43 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 127
Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
November 4, 2006

Munich

We awoke early that morning to snow and bone chilling gusts of wind. After breakfast and checkout, we headed to the car. She was waiting on us, a slight dusting of snow covering the roof. The brightness of the snow made the car appear lighter than it was yesterday. Space Gray is a very dynamic color!

I had been idle long enough. We therefore proceeded directly to the Autobahn! Having never experienced the Autobahn before, I can tell you that the first time entails the same degree of uneasy tension with which I assume one greets an out-of-body experience.

It's tense because you have entered a system in which both speed and safety derive from, and depend upon, a certain level of skill and aptitude. And the drivers in Germany are good. Really good. So good, in fact, that traffic meshes together in an almost artistic expression of machine and man. There is no room, nor any need, for anything other than driving. As a result, the Autobahn functions very efficiently yet with extremely tight tolerances. There is simply no room for distractions.

This precision is unsettling for most American drivers. Think of all the 7000 lb. SUVs slugging their way to work in the morning while their drivers talk on the phone, eat their Cinnabuns and abruptly switch lanes. In fact, the only coping mechanism is to develop a psychic awareness of escape routes for when the Escalade slams into the Tercel

The unfortunate result is that it is damn near impossible to predict what will actually happen on an American highway under any given circumstances. German traffic is quite the opposite. It's not a bunch of psychotic speed freaks on a personal mission to set new land speed records.

Rather, it's a group of highly sophisticated drivers, completely familiar with the capabilities of their cars, who know exactly what the cars around them will do because everyone actually follows the rules. There is no reason to figure out what to do if someone isn't following the rules because everyone always does.

There are plenty of posts containing information about the rules of the Autobahn. We thoroughly familiarized ourselves with them before the trip. However, if you remember only one thing, make it this: drive on the right and pass on the left. You'll quickly get called out if you're cruising along in the left lane.

As we approached Garmisch, there were some pretty twisty roads. The principal focus of my love for this car is the handling. I have never driven a car that feels so vitally connected to the road. It's as if there is a special, uber-secret BMW road magnet system that holds this thing in place. Seriously, throughout our entire trip, there was NOTHING this car couldn't handle!

Garmisch

Garmisch is a charming little town at the foot of the Alps. The views are spectacular! We stayed at the Gasthof Fraundorfer, a family run bed and breakfast that has some of the best views in town and very nice private parking in the back. During dinner in the evening, there is traditional Bavarian dancing, singing and, of course, beer!

We took the Kreuzeckbahn, a cable car ride, up to the top of the mountain. We hiked along the ridge and took in the amazing view of the Alps. The trails wind up the edge of the mountain, so you can see the snow covered valleys below. It's a breathtaking experience! We didn't continue on to the Zugspitz, though, since we didn't have the proper gear to be hiking in the first place

At dinner, we met an American couple from Mississippi who were staying in Grainau, which is really close to Garmisch. They come to Germany every year (!) and gave us some great travel advice. Afterwards, we walked along the winding cobblestone streets, admiring the beautiful scenes painted on the buildings.

We stopped at a small cafe that makes its own chocolate. We had hot chocolate and purchased a huge bag of dark chocolate that deserves its own writeup While there, we met a California native who now lives in Zurich. We spent the evening talking about all things European and how very different it is from America.

Photos

1) On the way to Garmisch.
2) The Alps rising up in the distance.
3) Snow capped peaks.
4) The view from the Gasthof Fraundorfer.
5) Snow covered trees along the Kreuzeckbahn cable car ride.
6) Close up of the snow on the trees.
7) An Alpine trail.
8) The cobblestone streets of Garmisch.
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335i Coupe — ED 11.06
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Old 11-29-2006, 04:55 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
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Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
November 5, 2006

Garmisch

The Gasthof Fraundorfer had the best breakfast of our trip. They make their own preserves, which were all quite delicious. We met a very cool American couple that live in Stuttgart, then met the Mississippi couple for coffee before walking along a trail at the base of the Zugspitz in Grainau, a very small village on the outskirts of Garmisch.

The trees were densely packed with snow and a small burbling creek of crystal clear Alpine water followed the trail. It was cold but the temperature fit the atmosphere perfectly. Needing to warm up, we hopped in the car and continued on our journey.

Mittwenwald

Mittenwald was practically deserted for two reasons: a) the tourist season is over and b) it was Sunday! This place looked like a ghost town. Almost every place in Germany closes on Sunday, so note that in your travel plans. Since we pretty much had free reign of the town, we focused on taking some photos of the beautiful architecture.

Afterwards, we headed for the Alpen Strasse for some serious driving! Once again, this car amazed me. It feels custom made, like the thing was literally built just for you. It's almost as if it can predict what you're going to do and prepares in advance.

Taking a corner in this machine is the closet thing to perfection I have ever experienced. There is, quite simply, nothing like it and I'm not really sure how I'm going to cope once we get home until redelivery!

Schwangau

Jager Haus, part of Schloss Hotel Lisl, is an incalculably romantic hotel beneath the twin castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. This was probably the best value of the trip, with 160 Euros netting us a huge suite at the corner of Jager Haus.

From one window, you could see Hohenschwangau, the summer residence of Ludwig II's parents and, from the other, you could see Neuschwanstein, the uber-castle Ludwig devoted to the works of Richard Wagner. If you're traveling with a woman and want to have an unforgettable evening, call Jager Haus and ask for room 24

We spent the evening photographing the sunset behind the Alps and exploring the exterior of Hohenschwangau. The castle is beautifully lit in the evening and it's a great walk, especially if you're accompanied by your spouse or significant other.
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335i Coupe — ED 11.06

Last edited by zengravy; 11-29-2006 at 05:46 PM.
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Old 11-29-2006, 05:01 PM
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November 5, 2006 (Continued)

Photos

9) A moss covered rock along an Alpine trail in Grainau.
10) An old wooden door in Mittenwald.
11) A church tower in Mittenwald.
12) Jagehaus in Schwangau
13) The village below the castles in Schwangau.
14) Hohenschwangau at dusk.
15) The best room at Jagerhaus, with a view of Hohenschwangau from one window and Neuschwanstein from the other!
16) Sunset in Schwangau.
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Old 11-29-2006, 05:03 PM
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More to follow after dinner!
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Old 11-29-2006, 05:15 PM
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Old 11-29-2006, 05:18 PM
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Yo!! Hurry up!!! Still eating??!! WTF??!!
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Old 11-29-2006, 05:35 PM
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btw, what's the story behind the clock???
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Old 11-29-2006, 05:55 PM
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November 6, 2006

Schwangau

We woke up early to catch the horse and carriage ride up to Neuschwanstein. You shouldn't consider walking unless you like pain. It's a pretty long walk and, in the winter at least, not at all inviting. The horse and carriage set us back 10 Euros for two people and was well worth it

Neuschwanstein is simply amazing. It is something that has to be seen to be believed. The castle ultimately led, in one way or another, to Kudwig's untimely demise and the history of how it all unfolded is very interesting. The interior is pretty amazing, although the lonely throne room and the huge expanse of unfinished nothingness brings an element of sadness to the experience.

We had a quick lunch at a Bavarian restaurant in the village beneath the castles. It will remain one of the mysteries of Germany, but the pizza there is really most impressive. It's pretty much the best pizza I've ever had in my entire life! After pondering this for an hour or so, we hopped in the car and started toward Lake Constance.

This particular drive was really beautiful. The Alpen Strasse really highlights the capabilities of the car and the small towns along the way are full of wonderful architecture. Along the way, we stopped for our first gas fill-up and were amazed to discover that there are no credit card machines on the pumps!

I described American pumps to the attendant and he looked very puzzled. I explained that it resulted partially to facilitate prepayment to avoid people filling up and driving off. This caused a really perplexed look and the following comment in broken English: "You pump the gas, then you pay. I do not understand."

I have reflected on this a great deal, especially after hearing so many innkeepers say that we can walk without fear at night because there is no crime. Wouldn't it be refreshing to live in a place where you don't look over your shoulder on the downtown streets or where someone simply cannot fathom why someone would steal gas?

Lindau

We arrived at the Lindauer Hof Hotel a little before dark. Lindau is a little island on Lake Constance that simply must be seen if you're in the area. The streets are bustling with activity and there is a certain vibrancy and freshness that is lacking in the more touristy spots.

A word of caution is in order, however. The island is a vehicle restricted area and the streets are quite small. If you drive here, have a hotel reservation waiting for you, go directly there and find out where their parking garage is located. Everything is within walking distance and you really don't want to drive on the narrow streets with your new Bimmer

The Lindauer Hof has an excellent underground garage with elevated platforms to facilitate two layers of parking per floor. The system is both genius and terrifying, especially once you arrive the next morning to see a car above yours! You also need to take care in making sure your bumper adequately clears the edge of the platform, since the whole thing moves as needed.

Lindau has a citywide local market on the first weekend every November. We walked around the town square, browsing the tents and booths. We bought some nuts and chocolate and had a bratwurst and some pommes frites, followed by some Gluhwein. We then took a stroll along the harbor, admiring the lighthouse and enjoying the silence and tranquility of the evening.

Photos

1) The tiny village beneath Neuschwanstein.
2) The view of Hohenschwangau from the huge marble bathtub in room 42 at Jagerhaus.
3) The carriage ride to Neuschwanstein.
4) One of the many castle spires.
5) The main courtyard.
6) Yet another spire.
7) The view from the front terrace.
8) A pretty spooky little area underneath the main entrance.
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Old 11-29-2006, 06:05 PM
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November 6, 2006 (Continued)

Photos

9) The Clock® - Live at Neuschwanstein, 2007
10) Hohenschwangau in daylight.
11) The island of Lindau on Lake Constance as seen from our room at the Lindauer Hof.
12) Lindau at dusk.
13) The lighthouse at the edge of Lindau harbor.
14) Sunset on Lake Constance with the majestic Alps in the background.
15) The lighthouse and harbor just after dark.
16) Elevated parking system at the parking garage down the street from the Lindauer Hof.
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Old 11-29-2006, 06:18 PM
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November 7, 2006

Lindau

We once again browsed the local market in the town square, purchasing a few gifts for friends and family. We strolled along the now familiar cobblestone streets, listening to the tower bells in the distance. Everyone greeted us on the street as if we had lived there for ages. It was as if we had truly found home for the first time.

We managed to escape unscathed from the parking garage, even though our car had apparently been elevated at least once during the evening. I wouldn't necessarily want to see it happening, but it appears to be a relatively painless process

We left Lindau relaxed and invigorated. The frustrations of the flight and the first few days of jet lag were behind us. The city had embraced us as two of its own and we will always remember our first visit here. I say first because we will most definitely be back.

The drive to Meersburg was, quite possibly the best of the entire trip. Lake Constance is enormous, and along its shoreline are miles of fruit farms and, toward the fringes of the Black Forest, vineyards. The weather was perfect for driving, the road was free and clear and the wind was at our back. It was magnificent and highly recommended!

It was on this route that we learned the magic of the traffic circle, a beautiful little system with which we were totally unfamiliar. Other states may have them, but Texas does not, its sheer size not requiring them. Simply, you drive into the circle and various roads branch off as exits. It is here that the navigation shined, and had it not ben there for us, I'm sure we would have been endlessly frustrated.

Incidentally, it was during our traffic circle time that we became most acquainted with the navigation system. It is quite remarkable and I really don't think anyone should attempt a European Delivery without it. While we could have used maps, it was nice to completely disconnect and let Frau, as we came to call her, do all the work

Meersburg

We arrived in Meersburg in time for lunch. We parked in a small parking lot and tried to figure out how to pay for it. If you get into a situation like this, try and watch the person before you and simply do what they do. In our case, watching someone first resulted in our discovering that the lot was free that day. Ultimately, we became able to read the hours of operation on these meters for ourselves. It's very liberating

After parking, we walked to the town square, stopping to use the restroom (wife break) in a tunnel underneath the main road. Even though it was, by far, the worst of the toilets we experienced in Germany, it was still an order of magnitude cleaner than most US public toilets.

We stopped by Meersburg Castle, although we elected not to pay for access to the interior. We were far too captivated by the view of Lake Constance with its shroud of autumn fog than the castle. There is always next time! We then had lunch at a GREAT restaurant, once again experiencing the mystery of the delicious pizza available in Germany.

Meersburg is a beautiful city, but one can see the sights here in a few hours. If you're solely doing a tour of Lake Constance, by all means spend an evening here. If not, I suggest stopping in Lindau and exploring the smaller cities, such as Meersburg, during a day stop. The drive along the shore of Lake Constance, with its fruit trees and orchards is the real gem.

After leaving the Lake Constance area, we started noticing packets of densely packed trees, signaling our entry into the rim of the Black Forest. We were heading toward Freiburg along what I would consider the second best drive of the trip. After a small section of mostly flatlands, you dip into huge, cavernous valleys cut into a seemingly never ending swath of trees.

There is one particular stretch of road, just before reaching Freiburg, that begins with a tight, hairpin turn before running along a wall of stone. The drive has a very distinct quality to it, and anyone familiar with the deciduous trees of the eastern US will love it!

Freiburg

Old Freiburg is vehicle restricted and you will need a hotel reservation to park on the street for any length of time without paying a huge fee. We stayed at the Zum Roten Baren, the oldest inn in Germany. After wedging our new car into a very small space along the main road, the Hotel attendant gave us a parking tag that allowed 30 minutes free.

We toted our bags up the cobblestone streets to the hotel and thus formed the basis of my objective of taking less luggage on our second ED We then received instructions to a parking garage and were told get a ticket would be validated at checkout for a special, overnight rate.

The parking garage was impossible cramped, but very clean. Like the Autobahn, driving in small spaces is a skill that is exercised by German drivers on a daily basis. They are much better at it than you are, so you will feel frustrated at first. This will pass, and soon you will be zooming along the spiral tower to the top floor of the garage at 50 mph just like the Germans!

After parking and getting settled, we walked the streets to get a feel for the city. Freiburg has a very old feel to it, with everything looking slightly dusted and ancient. It is a university town, so the presence of young people on their bicycles with their iPods is a very interesting contrast.

The Munster Cathedral at the town square is enormous and should not be missed. Like the rest of Freiburg, it feel impossible old. Construction began around 1200 and finished around 1320. It was originally very light colored sandstone, but now is very dark, almost black. The interior could consume an entire day.

We followed the Bachle, the small waterways that run throughout the city. Although they appear to be some sort of gutter or sewer system of the Middle Ages, they were originally designed to provide fresh water for merchants and livestock. Local tradition states that if you step in one, you must marry a Freiburg native. As far as I know, there are no exceptions for those already married. You have been warned

After walking the city, including the uber-modern portion just outside the older city square, we retired to our room for a much needed rest. My wife, beginning to tire of Schnitzel and pizza, requested Italian food. Being the gallant that I am, I offered to fetch takeout, and found an excellent Italian restaurant, the Sum Storchen, just beyond the end of the street towards the city gate from the hotel.

At the restaurant I met a fellow from Albania that was working his way toward visiting the US. We spoke for a bit about Germany and the US and I got his email address. I left him a nice tip, although it should be noted that tipping in Germany is the exception not the rule. We were told before we left that it is customary to round up the bill rather than tip a particular amount. Let you conscience be your guide.

Photos

1) The winding streets of Meersburg on Lake Constance.
2) A beautiful little fruit market near the town square.
3) The city next to Meersburg castle.
4) Meersburg castle spire.
5) The best restaurant in Meersburg!
6) The drive to Freiburg from Lake Constance!
7) A view of the cobblestone streets of Freiburg from our room at the Zum Roten Baren.
8) The preferred means of transportation in Freiburg.
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Old 11-29-2006, 06:31 PM
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November 7, 2006 (Continued)

Photos

9) The gabled buildings of Freiburg.
10) The terrace plants at our room at the Zum Roten Baren.
11) One of the bachle, small waterways that supply Freiburg with fresh water. This is a small one!
12) Another view of the bachle.
13) An ornately designed window of the Munster Cathedral that dominates Freiburg's town square.
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Old 11-29-2006, 06:37 PM
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November 8, 2006

Freiburg

The next morning, we once again explored the city, this time strolling through the local market in the town square, which is dominated by the massive Munster Cathedral. The city's proximity to France gives a distinctly different feeling than other places in Germany and no other place highlights this more than the local market.

After exploring the market, I found a wonderful little wine shop. The owner was very helpful and I left with two bottles of Spatburgender (pinot noir). The prices for wine is this region (and in the Mosel region discussed later) are amazing. The wines I bought in Freiburg are amazing, yet cost less than 12 Euros for both!

We decided to press forward and packed up the car. The parking garage was a bit difficult to figure out and we wound up getting stuck at the exit gate. In larger parking garages, you take a ticket on entry. However, unlike in the United States, there is no attendant waiting at a booth at the exit.

The ticket you receive at the entry is merely a marker of the time you entered. There is a separate cashier and you must pay to receive a "paid" ticket, which is what you insert into the machine to exit. Without a "paid" ticket you can't get out!

After successfully navigating the intricacies of the Freiburg parking system, we were off to Baden-Baden. This was a relatively unplanned stop that we decided on in the room in Freiburg. We were both exhausted and needed a chance to recharge.

Baden-Baden

We arrived in Baden-Baden to discover that the city was nearly sold out. Literally, the only room available was a suite at the Steigenberger, the only hotel with thermal water available in the hotel. As a result of this rather exclusive feature, the room cost a mint. My wife was getting tired and it was late, so I whipped out the plastic and let it ride. I was determined to make up for it with low cost bed and breakfasts later.

After arriving at the hotel and nearly breaking down emotionally when the valet drove away with our car, we went up to the room. I was very relieved and much more comfortable with the price once I saw the room and checked out the spa area. The thermal springs are available inside the hotel and outside, via two pools that are connected via a little door.

The atmosphere was very swank. I set aside the debate about which relative doesn't get a Christmas present this year and tried to relax. My wife got a massage, which was actually very reasonably priced, while I soaked in the hot springs, then we both soaked for about two hours. Afterwards, we turned in for the evening refreshed and relaxed.

Photos

1) The cobblestone streets of Freiburg.
2) The Zum Storchen, an excellent Italian restaurant within walking distance to the Zum Roten Baren.
3) The market at the town square.
4) More of the market.
5) The massive Munster Cathedral.
6) Handmade wreath at the town market.
7) Wurst!
8) Another open-air market.
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Old 11-29-2006, 06:44 PM
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November 8, 2006 (Continued)

Photos

9) A bicycle in front of the wrought iron window bars.
10) Wein!
11) A small flower cart.
12) A wonderful little wine shop in Freiburg.
13) The only vehicle for which parking is plentiful in Freiburg.
14) An old door just beyond the entrance into the old portion of Freiburg.
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Old 11-29-2006, 06:52 PM
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November 9, 2006

Baden-Baden

The next morning we hit the the thermal springs again, wanting to ensure that we extracted maximum value from the place. We soaked from just after breakfast until checkout at noon. The entire experience was one of pure relaxation. There's just no way you can be tense in this town.

It was afternoon and our travel plans were open. We could either go to Heidelberg and then proceed to Wurzburg for a trip down the Romantic Road or go north to Trier or the German Wine Route. We opted for Trier after tossing the proverbial coin. Although the lack of a plan would usually drive us both nuts, something about this trip was guiding us, so we decided to take a few risks.

We had a pretzel during at a gas station along the way. The gas stations all standup tables or some type of place for you to quickly eat a snack or drink a beverage. It really is true that German drivers do not eat or drink in their cars. And that is as it should be

By the way, Coca-Cola here is amazing. It contains real sugar rather than corn syrup, so the taste is less sweet and syrupy. It makes for less carbohydrates as well! Here's a tip for the gas stations, by the way, make sure to use the restroom before paying for your gas because it's .50 Euros afterwards.

Trier

We stayed at the Park Plaza Trier. I probably spent an hour marveling at the value of the room and size of the parking garage. We paid 99 Euros for a huge double room that was very nicely appointed in a very modern style. The bathroom was one of the nicest we had during the trip.

We walked around the city and were lured into a local shop by the incredible aroma off their fish and chips. The fish here was incredible! Afterwards, we visited St. Peter's Cathedral and had some Gelato at a nearby shop. Then we walked through the town square and took some photographs of the Porta Nigra at dusk.

Just after dark, we stopped by the tourist information center. After speaking with a very helpful young woman there, we decided to drive up the Mosel River and check out the local wineries along way. It was a last minute decision, but it turned out to be the right one!

Later that evening, we headed back to the hotel and had an amazingly priced dinner of Chateaubriand. I simply cannot overstate how impressed I was with the value of the Park Plaza Trier hotel. If you're in Trier, there really is no other place to stay if you want to get the best bang for your, uh, Euro

Photos

1) The drive to Trier from Baden-Baden.
2) The Dom in Trier.
3) The exterior of the Porta Nigra (Black Gate) in Trier.
4) The interior of the Porta Nigra.
5) Trier at dusk.
6) The Porta Nigra at dusk.
7) The interior of the Porta Nigra at dusk.
8) The clock tower in Trier's town square at dusk.
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335i Coupe — ED 11.06
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  #21  
Old 11-29-2006, 06:59 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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November 10, 2006

Trier

We decided to ditch breakfast at the hotel and had rolls and coffee at a local cafe for 2 Euros. Afterwards, we visited the Karl Marx house, which was fascinating. If you're in Trier, you should really see it. The house is remarkably well preserved, albeit renovated, and has a lot of really informative displays.

We were ready for an early lunch before heading up the Mosel, so we stopped by what seemed to be a local hangout in the town square and stood in line for some wurst and fleischwurst. Then we went to the Coliseum, which was amazing! There is an underground section accessible via stairs that is kind of spooky and dungeon-like.

After my wife snapped nearly a hundred photographs of the Coliseum, we took off up the Mosel on B-53. We had no idea of where we were going or where we were going to stay that evening. We had no final destination or endpoint other than knowing that we had to be in Munich on November 16. It was an adventure that was unfolding right beneath us with every mile!

Just outside of Trier, we entered wine country. Vineyards are everywhere along the Mosel! Every single square inch of land is used for growing grapes. We actually drove down into one and took some photos of the car in front of the grapes.

A tractor came along and we had to move for a moment, but no one freaked out that we were there. Everyone just smiled and waved. That's the spirit of Germany! We, uh, commandeered some spatburgender grapes, but only a small handful. They were delicious! We then had a lovely drive admiring the rolling hills and rows of vines.

Bernkastel-Kues

We drove into Bernkastel-Kues, a dual city with Bernkastel on one side of the river and Kues on the other, and decided to stay at a weinhaus, the Weingut Leo Schwab. The lady there spoke no English, but we managed to get through it. We spent a good deal of time in the amazingly stocked wine cellar and chose three bottles for later in the evening.

The weinhaus was amazing. It was an old house that had been converted into a winery at some point. There were bottles, machines and presses everywhere. We were the only ones in the house and our enormous room was only 50 Euros for the BOTH of us, including breakfast! The wine was also a wonderful bargain at only 5-9 Euros per bottle!

Later in the evening, we walked toward the town square looking for a restaurant. We came across what we later learned to be the St. Martin parade. It is a festival for children, who parade through the city with small, glowing lanterns in celebration of St. Martin.

Afterwards, we found an Italian restaurant and had some of the best Italian food we've ever had. We went back to our room and, of course, drank some of the wine we bought earlier. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable evening!

Photos

1) The Karl Marx House in Trier.
2) The unfinished writings of Karl Marx.
3) The courtyard of the Karl Marx House.
4) The Clock® & Karl - The Number Morning Show in America!
5) The exterior of the Karl Marx House.
6) The German equivalent of Monty Python.
7) Resistance is futile in Trier's town square.
8) The current main entrance to the Coliseum in Trier.
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  #22  
Old 11-29-2006, 07:06 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
November 10, 2006 (Continued)

Photos

9) The interior of the Coliseum as seen from the nosebleed section.
10) Trees and a lawn have replaced the original stone seats.
11) A small forest lies just beyond walls of the Coliseum.
12) The dungeon underneath the floor of the Coliseum.
13) Closeup of the stone wall in the main area.
14) The view from the top of the stone wall.
15) The steps down from the nosebleed section.
16) The old main entrance.
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  #23  
Old 11-29-2006, 07:19 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 127
Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
November 10, 2006 (Continued)

Photos

17) The view from the the dungeon.
18) Closeup of a smooth rock wall in the dungeon.
19) One of many tunnels in the stone wall.
20) A ladder/stairway just inside the main entrance.
21) The encircling stone wall of the main area.
22) The car outside the Coliseum.
23) Vineyard just outside of Trier on the way to Bernkastel-Kues.
24) Grapes in the vineyard.
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  #24  
Old 11-29-2006, 07:25 PM
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zengravy zengravy is offline
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Location: Austin, Texas
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
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Mein Auto: 2007 335i Coupe
November 10, 2006 (Continued)

Photos

25) The car alongside grapes in a huge vineyard just outside Trier.
26) Along the Mosel River, every ounce of land is used for grapes.
27) Roundel, with grapes to the horizon.
28) Roundels and grapes are the key to a healthy lifestyle.
29) Shark fin, plowing through the acres of grapes.
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Old 11-29-2006, 07:27 PM
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