Gutentag! I've arrived in Stuttgart, Germany, the medium sized, bustling capital of Baden-Wurttemburg state, and the unassuming Headquarters of United States Africa Command at Kelley Barracks. The town, which dates to medieval times, is not exactly a quaint European tourist attraction-- apparently over two thirds of the city was obliterated by Allied carpet bombing in the Second World War. Today the town seems to be known more for the sleek Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums and the ubiquitous Dinkel Acker, the local beer that tastes rather better than Natty Ice. People here are friendly and very, very efficient. The Stuttgart subway, which seems amazingly extensive for the size of the city, runs on a precise schedule like Amtrak would if Amtrak ever showed up on time; food is served almost immediately; and in contrast to the long lines at Dulles and Amsterdam Airports I haven't seen anybody have to wait for anything here for more than a minute. The police appear to walk in orderly, predetermined routes that are strikingly reminiscent of the Nazi guards in The Great Escape.
Stuttgart is sort of the budget leg of my trip; accordingly I'm staying in a very, uh, economical guesthouse/hostel type place near the North Stuttgart neighborhood of Bad-Cannstat, which somebody at the cafe I dined at tonight proudly informed me is the oldest area of Stuttgart. The neighborhood is also about 80% non-German. Indeed, I've used more Turkish than German while here (thanks to Alpha Delta Pizza and its famous Wenzel I can confidently order a buffalo chicken sandwich in polite, friendly Turkish), and dusky Greeks and North Africans far outnumber the tall, blond Germans. The girls who operate my hostel are certainly tall and blonde, however, and help relieve the eerie feeling I get from the place, which looks something like this:
OK I'm completely exaggerating-- the guesthouse is well lit, spotlessly clean, and comfortably furnished. I have a single to myself with a skylight, and what they lack in amenities they make up for in cheerfulness and eagerness to help me plot out bus routes. Haven't really met anyone else at the guesthouse yet who shprikkens ze Englische besides one or two on the staff but I'm sure if I hang out in the biergarten outside I'll make some friends-- although by the looks of it they will most likely belong to the Euro version of a biker gang (a moto-scooter gang?).
I am scheduled to meet with various USAFRICOM officials at Kelley Barracks all day Friday, but I may try to go in for some more meetings tomorrow (Thursday). If I do end up having some free time I will probably head downtown to see the sights, if there are any sights. I have a feeling there isn't much of note in town when its not the annual August BierFest, although the suburban hillside vineyards visible from my fourth story hostel room look beautiful.
A note for Henry and Will-- I met two girls my age on the plane who were on their way to Israel and had both gone to Hebrew Academy in Rockville. I did a basketball scouting report and my preliminary conclusions show that Los Suns have nothing to worry about for that game.
I'm running out of time at this Internet Cafe, and my patience with this absurd German keyboard is running thin anyway. Everytime I want to type a comma it gives me "ö"