Tuesday, April 1, 2008

30 November: SLK, We Hardly Knew Ye

The dreaded day has come at last. Not wanting to duplicate last year’s frantic journey to the smart Kundencenter – which, as you may recall, involved misplacing my car’s paperwork, getting stuck in a traffic jam, taking the wrong exit off the Autobahn, failing repeatedly to reach John, and arriving nearly half an hour late for my appointment – this time I made sure that I had all of the SLK’s paperwork in order well in advance and left myself plenty of time to get to the Mercedes Fahrzeugrückgabe (car return). Before leaving I took a few final pictures of the SLK in our driveway and then hopped in the car for my last ride. I can’t say that I will have a legitimate reason to own a convertible two-seater sportscar for a very long time, if ever, so I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced this sleek and stylish (albeit woefully underpowered) example of German automotive engineering over the past twelve months. I just couldn’t believe the time had flown by so fast.

I arrived at the car return (photo, right, with the SLK visible just to the right of the sign) about ten minutes early and waited for John to show up in the E-Class. We went inside and waited in line for about ten minutes. I let John handle the talking – he is so much better than me in these situations! We handed over our keys and paperwork and then we had to wait another fifteen or twenty minutes while they went to check out the car. (During this time you are welcome to hang out in snazzy black-and-chrome lounge chairs and get yourself a cappuccino or a bottled water while reading the days’ newspapers or watching TV.) Finally they called our name and proceeded to run through a litany of numbers that we could barely understand; it was totally déjà vu from last year. What I got out of the whole thing was that there was something wrong with the paint. (The car did have an unidentifiable substance, presumably some sort of toxic tree sap, sprayed all over it some months ago that I had never been able to remove. It turns out that the Mercedes people couldn’t remove it either and were going to have to repaint the car! Fortunately this was not our problem; it would be covered by the company’s insurance.) The bottom line was that we had not exceeded our mileage limit so we would receive some money back, just like last time. John signed the paperwork and we were done, and the SLK was gone, just like that.

I drove John back to work but just before dropping him off, I quickly snapped a picture of his building (photo, above; the funny arched thing going off to the left is a pedestrian bridge), to his great chagrin. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to going inside. John never wants me to get my camera out in the vicinity of his building for fear that armed Mercedes guards will hunt me down and confiscate my camera. I know they tend to be sensitive about such things, but surely they would permit me a souvenir picture of the building!

I drove back to Sindelfingen to pick up John this evening and then we went downtown to visit the Weihnachtsmarkt. I had been invited by my friend Judy to attend her choir’s Christmas concert in the courtyard of the Altes Schloss, which was to begin at 6:00 pm. We got there a bit late and they were already well into their set of songs, but we got to hear the second half. The choir was joined by a brass ensemble and the two groups performed several pieces together. It was simply a magical experience to listen to the traditional carols (with a few modern pieces thrown in) against the backdrop of the 600-year-old palace, its arched arcades glowing golden in the crisp evening air.

After the concert we hooked up with Judy, her husband, and a few of their friends for a round of Glühwein. (Well, actually I had Kinderpunch, a hot spiced fruit punch that was actually pretty tasty.) Judy surprised me with a very special farewell gift – she is a painter on the side and made me a darling oil painting of a traditional German pretzel! I was so touched by this very thoughtful and unique gift. After a bit of socializing, we said our farewells and then John and I wandered around the market for a bit. John got his favorite crêpe – slathered generously with Nutella, of course – from the same stand and the very same woman who served us last year, while I succumbed to temptation and ate an entire Germknödel – my favorite yeast dumpling filled with plum jam and smothered in poppyseed butter and powdered sugar – all by myself. Before heading home, we strolled out to the SchlossplatzKönigstraße lit up by a million white lights. and soaked up the dazzling sight of the From this vantage point we could see the two palaces, the Stiftskirche, the modern art gallery (a.k.a. “the Cube”), the Königsbau, and, of course, the Fernsehturm twinkling on its hill above the city. More pictures from tonight are on Flickr in the link I provided yesterday.

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