this is my last full day in germany. the weather’s been beautiful up until yesterday when the ‘leave’ part of my trip began. figures. nice trip overall. had some good microsoft training and a technical exchange meeting, but of course the best part was touring parts of western germany in between. first we drove down the mosel river valley, where there were vineyards growing in every patch of soil, even clinging to seemingly unharvestably steep slopes. a short detour off the valley took us to burg eltz, the coolest medieval castle you’ll find. better than the prissy neuschwanstein castle further south (the one walt disney supposedly used to pattern his fairy tale castles after). unfortunately didn’t get a chance to go inside as we missed visiting hours, having gotten sidetracked by hot, cartoon women and baked aliens (what’s the deal with germans and gnomes?). as i mentioned earlier, we also stopped for a beer and brat in the quaint, riverside town of cochem. yesterday, we took the u-bahn to downtown stuttgart and just chilled in the schlossplatz, followed by a walk through the staatsgalerie (state museum). they had a pretty good collection of picasso’s there, a couple of tintorettos, a rembrandt, a few giacomettis, a modigliani, some munch, matisse and even a warhol. unfortunately, just missed a special exhibition of manet’s works by two days. that evening, took the s-bahn to ludwigsburg, a suburb of stuttgart, for dinner at an outdoor cafe in it’s big marktplatz, amid ringing church bells. it’s dubbed the “versailles of swabia”, though we didn’t arrive until late evening and didn’t get a chance to experience its full baroque glory. next stop is rothenburg, off the river tauber, a walled town dating back to the middle ages (12th century). i’m actually in an internet cafe in rothenburg now, writing this. i highly recommend everyone visit this town if anywhere near south or western germany. it’s beautiful and really is like stepping back into another age, if you take out all the american and japanese tourists.