Leoneda Inge – Berlin to Brussels 2014

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Embracing Culture, Embracing Futbol!

The washing machine is splashing, the dryer is humming, my cell phone is charging while I type and catch up on tennis from Wimbledon and make a grocery list. You guessed it, I’m back in the United States. I’m back home in Durham, North Carolina!

My son, Teemer, really likes his gift from Germany, "Original Berlin 1989" bag!

My son, Teemer, really likes his gift from Germany, “Original Berlin 1989” bag!


Berlin, Germany seems so far away – because it is! I think I spent almost a dozen hours in the air traveling home. But the adventure was worth the new friendships, professional contacts and history lesson. This morning, my youngest son, Teemer, began looking through my luggage and through the dirty clothes bags and gift bags dumped on the living room sofa. “Is there anything for me?” Teemer asked in a very soft, cordial voice. He’s a “pack rat” like me and loves to carry his stuff with him, so when I saw this satchel with “Original Berlin 1989” plastered on the sides, I had to buy it for him. I asked, “Teemer, why do you think they chose to put 1989 on that bag?” “Is that when the Berlin Wall fell?” he asked. “GOAL!” Teemer has been reading my blog!

One of my favorite World Cup Soccer billboards in Berlin is just outside Potsdamer Platz.

One of my favorite World Cup Soccer billboards in Berlin is just outside Potsdamer Platz.


While waiting for clean clothes, Teemer and I grabbed for the remote to watch the World Cup! The US played Germany at noon! What a game! Remember, I am not a soccer follower, but there was no way NOT to catch “World Cup Fever” while traveling across Germany, and then to Prague, Brussels and airport pit stops in The Netherlands. I’m not mad – the US played their asses off and the final score reveals that, US – 0, Germany – 1!

I will always remember my time in Berlin and its people and culture – and now soccer! I remember a city official telling my group of RIAS Berlin Kommission German/American Exchange Journalists that one-third of Berlin’s population is new, and growing. Richard Meng, Undersecretary and Speaker of the Senate of Berlin told us, “The managers of the big companies may not come here, but their children are coming.” That’s what keeps a city vibrant and relevant.

This Berlin Wall exhibit is on display at Potsdamer Platz.  I am still trying to figure out why people decorated it with chewed, chewing gum.

This Berlin Wall exhibit is on display at Potsdamer Platz. I am still trying to figure out why people decorated it with chewed, chewing gum.


I was told, at one time, there was an effort to tear down the Berlin Wall and get rid of its remnants and negativity. Then, someone hit the pause button. Many people realized “the wall” was history and if you erase or forget history, it could be repeated. I am a great grand-child of slaves in America and I have spent a lot of time in recent years learning about the last standing slave dwellings across the US, and efforts to preserve that history. Across Berlin, pieces of “the wall” are on display for all to see. One of the big subway stops, Potsdamer Platz, displays a piece of the history that has been decorated with a very diffent kind of graffiti – chewing gum!

I became an adult when the Berlin Wall and communism began to crumble all over the world. A few months after the fall of the wall, Nelson Mandela walked out of a South African prison, after 27 years. Shortly after that, I remember getting my first BIG media State Department credentials to cover his visit to Detroit! I have had the opportunity to visit South Africa, but not Germany, until now. I can’t imagine the celebration that is being planned for later this year marking the 25th Anniversary since the Berlin Wall fell. It’s a party I wouldn’t want to miss!


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NC Teachers in Berlin!

It almost felt like home when I walked through the glass revolving doors of the Berlin Intercontinental Hotel Monday. I did not want to make assumptions as my eyes traveled the wide open lobby. Actually, I was listening more than I was looking – listening for English-speakers – listening for a heart-felt Southern drawl! It only took me a public radio 30 seconds to find them!

Amanda Pierce, a Math teacher in Johnston County, gets off the bus, headed to tour the Siemens educational training center in Berlin.

Amanda Pierce, a Math teacher in Johnston County, gets off the bus, headed to tour the Siemens educational training center in Berlin.


I was greeted by Darren Segool, lead teacher on this special trip to Germany. Segool and 30 other North Carolina K-12 “Global Teachers” are here thanks to UNC – “The Center for International Understanding.” Their itinerary looks amazing – an introduction to the German education model, site visit to the Mercedes Benz Museum and a guided tour of a small energy-efficient village in the black forest region. I joined them Tuesday, on the first leg of their adventure, to the “Siemens Technik Academie” in Berlin where hundreds of students are trained a year.

An instructor, and former student, gives NC Global Teachers a tour of Siemens Smart Grid Showroom.

An instructor, and former student, gives NC Global Teachers a tour of Siemens Smart Grid Showroom.


There are more than 1,300 students at this Siemens educational training center in Berlin, its largest training center in the world. Martin Stockmann is responsible for Education and Training in this part of Germany. He says about 40,000 students a year apply for their on-site Associates program. Only 2,500 are selected! After two years at Siemens, the students move on to complete the last two years at a university. Stockmann says about 85% of them end up working for Siemens.

Teacher Kelly Denny of Wake County talks with Student Tiago Vitoriano of Portugal.

Teacher Kelly Denny of Wake County talks with Student Tiago Vitoriano of Portugal.


Kelly Denny is a teacher at Fox Road IB Magnet Elementary School in Wake County. She had plenty of questions for Siemens guides and students. Denny says she was impressed by how much students focused on teamwork. “They were efficient, effective, communicated, and no doubt about it, that is what they were expected to do,” said Denny.

One stop on our Siemens visit was to the Smart Grid Showroom. Marjorie Light teaches at the Early College High School at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). “This is so incredible,” said Light. She also was impressed at how seriously team work is encouraged and demanded. “If one person fails, it causes failure down the line,” said Light. “It’s about team work and not individuality.”

"Girls Day" poster in the hallway of the 5th Floor Classrooms at Siemens Technik Academie in Berlin.

“Girls Day” poster in the hallway of the 5th Floor Classrooms at Siemens Technik Academie in Berlin.


North Carolina is grapling with ways to lower the unemployment rate of young people. And there is an emphasis on training students, earlier, for careers in advanced manufacturing. Siemens – a world leader in Energy Sector innovation and other integrated technologies – was recognized by President Barack Obama as a role model for its vocational training. There is a training program at the Siemens Energy Hub in Charlotte. But can the German model really be replicated in the US? How much does “culture” play a role?

I hope to answer some of the many questions raised about teaching and training our future workforce. Germans have a term they use to describe the flexible, integration of skills developed and ability to help the young perform – “Handlungskompetenz.” Say it real fast! Time to pack and head home!


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Rules of The Street!

Despite all of Sunday’s rain, I had to get out of The Relexa! I needed toiletries, water, COKE, and food. So here are a few things to remember when you visit Berlin – I can’t speak for ALL of Europe or ALL of Berlin!

We've had some fickle weather in Berlin - very hot, chilly and lots of on-and-off rain!

We’ve had some fickle weather in Berlin – very hot, chilly and lots of on-and-off rain!


When you ride the subway, you don’t necessarily need a ticket. But if you get caught without a ticket, you will be fined 60 Euros – about $80.

Don’t be too hungry on a Sunday unless you plan on just eating in your hotel. (My hotel does not have nuts and crackers in the room or a gift shop downstairs!) Many restaurants and shops (and drug stores) are closed on Sundays – like Christmas!

I cannot reiterate, hold your loved one’s hand while walking on the sidewalk. You may notice a double side walk. That is not a second sidewalk, it’s a bike lane and cyclists, of all ages, mostly WITHOUT helmets, ride pretty fast!

This is a much-needed traffic sign all across Berlin!

This is a much-needed traffic sign all across Berlin!


The nice front desk folks at my hotel helped me figure out how to take the subway to a part of town where a grocery store was open – Friedrichstr. – on the S-Bahn (as opposed to the U-Bahn). The name of the store is Edeka.

I learned a few things on my shopping experience. I tried to get a shopping cart but they were locked together. It seems you have to insert a coin to release a cart, just like in many airports. Pay to play! So I got a “free” hand basket. When it was time to check out, I noticed the women working the cash registers were all sitting down. And after a woman rang up my items, she did not bag them. That’s my job! Oh, and if I didn’t want to carry the items out in my arms, I had to purchase a plastic bag for 15 cents or bring my own. A good environmental lesson for the states.

If you need to use a grocery cart at Edeka Grocery Store, you need to pay for usage, and pay for the plastic bags to carry the food home!

If you need to use a grocery cart at Edeka Grocery Store, you need to pay for usage, and pay for the plastic bags to carry the food home!


If you are from the US – watch the World Cup in your room, especially if you curse and scream as much as I do! I really did not want to stay up into the wee hours of the morning watching the US vs Portugal. But the US has a problem getting a GOAL and it’s making me sick! Thank goodness for the US Goalkeeper or America wouldn’t have a chance! Here we go – 2 – 2! I think it’s US vs Germany later this week! I will be in the US for that one!!

And while I’m watching/listening to soccer, I am glad I brought a small container of liquid detergent with me from home. I’ve had to tub-wash almost everything I have, at least once. With my fellowship busy schedule, I would have never been able to keep up and enjoy this adventure if I had to shop for such things. My dresses are drying in less than 24 hours. My girl Yang, from Bloomberg TV, was really mad when she dropped off some things at a nearby cleaners, and when it was time for us to travel to another country, her clothes were not ready!

As I start to re-pack, I am thinking and planning for my next trip to Germany. Next time, I want my siblings to travel with me. There are still so many places I did not get a chance to visit!


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Berlin to Brussels to Berlin!

I guess my BLOG should be called – “Berlin to Brussels back to Berlin!” That’s where I am – in the same room at the Relexa Hotel Stuttgarter Hof. The rain continues to come down in mini buckets this Sunday morning. So, I am sure I will be spending the entire weekend in my room, with a beautiful view of the mural across from my balcony – a reflection of my balcony! Nice.

This is what I see outside my balcony window at Relexa Hotel in Berlin!

This is what I see outside my balcony window at Relexa Hotel in Berlin!


The train trip yesterday from Brussels was very long, but very comfortable. Amtrak has GOT to step it up! I will admit, our fellowship director, Rainer Hasters, made sure we traveled in First Class, where I am sure the seats were bigger, and the train attendant brought you whatever you wanted – hot soup, chocolate cake, beer, coffee, and small, cute packets of those HARIBO “gummie” candies, every hour!

Graham Ulkins took this "selfie" of the gang while on a day trip to Bruges!

Graham Ulkins took this “selfie” of the gang while on a day trip to Bruges!


Saturday was a day of good-byes for my fellow RIAS German/American Exchange Journalists. A few journalists had to get back to the states for work. One person in my group left Brussels for Paris, another went to meet her sister in Geneva. My buddy Graham, from Baton Rouge, traveled to a small West German town to see his host family! He lived with them 10 years ago, study abroad. Four of us are back at the Relexa Hotel in Berlin, a pit stop before other travels or working on news stories. Our adventure has been amazing! We spent enough time together, learning and laughing, we should get three college credits!

It was definitely a festive time to return to Berlin! The soccor crazies were everywhere, dressed in all kind of ways! Red, Black and Gold! The big screen TV was set up in my hotel lobby when I arrived, but I decided to take my World Cup snacks to my room. I didn’t want to be around when Ghana whooped that German ass! Yeah, I said it! I am shocked the US beat Ghana – but it was close! After my meal, I ended up watching re-runs of “The Tonight Show” w/Jimmy Fallon rather than watching the entire soccor match. I just wanted to see the end – 2 to 2! Wow! I hope my ass is on the plane when Germany and the US play!

The main reason I’m not writing at my kitchen table in North Carolina and instead clicking away in Berlin, is because I am supposed to be meeting a group of school teachers from North Carolina this week! They’re traveling to Germany with UNC’s Center for International Understanding. This summer, they are being exposed to a teaching model developed by advanced manufacturers like German-based Siemens. It’s about jobs.


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Mussels in Brussels

My once-in-a-lifetime travels from “Berlin to Brussels” are coming to an end. Too bad, my body is starting to give out! In order to be ready for the flight from Prague to Brussels, I didn’t make our visit to the German Embassy in Prague. The site is historic. Almost 25 years ago, more than 4,000 East Germans camped out on the embassy grounds until they were finally taken by train to West Germany! It marked the end of the “East German regime.”

The “Berlin Wall” fell November 9, 1989, later that month, a peaceful demonstration commemorating International Students Day, grew and grew. By December 1989, the Czech’s non-violence, up against riot police, rolled in the “Velvet Revolution” – ending communism in that country.

Getting some exercise while charging your mobile phone at the airport in Brussels.

Getting some exercise while charging your mobile phone at the airport in Brussels.


Wednesday, when we arrived in Brussels, I could feel a different kind of energy. The airy, beautiful airport was modern and packed. My head was turning left and right and left! I managed to snap a photo of a man pedaling a stationary bike, at a long desk. He was from Denmark. There was a row of people pedaling. That’s how they were charging their cell phones! Cool!

Yummy Mussels at Chez Leon in Brussels!

Yummy Mussels at Chez Leon in Brussels!


A bus took this group of RIAS German/American Exchange Journalists to our hotel. It’s right off “Grand Place,” a cobbled courtyard and downtown full of small hotels, restaurants, and chocolate shops! The day was getting long and we were hungry, so our leader – Rainer Hasters – took us quickly to one of his favorite places – “Chez Leon” – 1893. The popular meal of the day, and everyday – Mussels in white wine sauce (and other stuff), and french fries on the side. My daddy told me when you travel a lot, stick to meat (well-done steak) and potatoes, not seafood. I tried to play it safe. I ordered “fried” Mussels, because I’m from the “south” and I wanted to make sure the heat killed anything growing in them Mussels! But then I ate my friend Graham’s Mussels in the wine sauce! Delicious!

Couldn't take a picture of the waving flags outside NATO.  But in World Cup season, country soccer shirts are flying everywhere!

Couldn’t take a picture of the waving flags outside NATO. But in World Cup season, country soccer shirts are flying everywhere!


The stress on my body, again, is too much to handle Thursday morning. I am unable to attend the EC, all day meeting, at the European Union. I wanted to rest, to make sure I was able to make Friday’s visit to NATO. I actually never left the hotel, barely making it downstairs for breakfast. Our hotel – “Ibis Brussels off Grand Place” is one of those new “sleep-only-type” hotels. There is a small bathroom, half a tub, no pretty soaps and lotions, an open cube to hang two shirts, tiny desk and a big, comfortable bed! No frills, no pictures, no frig! (And no complimentary bottle of water!) There is nice, big open space for breakfast. There are breads, fruit, yogurt and hot water – so you can boil your own egg! I sorta feel like I’m living in an IKEA catalogue! That can be good and bad! SMILE! “Ibis” is mostly in Europe, they’re supposedly cheap and in city centers.

Friday morning, I was moving slow, but I managed to put on my least favorite outfit on this trip – my old grey suit – and make the trip to NATO. When you pull up to NATO, you see the flags from 28 member countries flying high. When you look across the street, you see the new NATO building, that’s still not complete yet. I would have taken a picture, but they confiscated our camers and cell phones at security in the parking lot!

I also can’t really tell you what anybody said, or else I would have to kill you! That’s not totally true! Allison Hart, Special Advisor – Public Diplomacy Division – was our host. She made it very clear, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is a political, military organization, founded in 1949. And its purpose is to “safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.” The 28 NATO countires are of course, the US and Canada, and Europe. Russia was hoping for entry, but that doesn’t look like it will happen this generation! There was talk that maybe NATO should go away after the fall of the “Berlin Wall.” But then came September 11, 2001. That was the only time NATO invoked “Article 5 of the Washington Treaty” – which means, NATO members will always assist each other against attack.

But in case something happens in Europe, are the troops “here” to get the job done? At the end of the Cold War, the US had 300,000 troops in Europe, now it’s about 30,000. NATO makes it clear, they are NOT the UN, they are NOT the EU and they’re NOT the AU. Interesting.

Lovely couple in Chocolate shop in downtown Brussels.

Lovely couple in Chocolate shop in downtown Brussels.


It’s time to leave Brussels and all this good Belgian Chocolate! Too much to see and do, too little time. I like its cosmopolitan feel, the good food and art. I also like its diversity. Unlike the other cities I have visited, I have bumped into many people of color – from business-types in the airport to the African-European woman working at the from desk at “Ibis.” And I have seen several people who look African-American having fun, eating in restaurants, enjoying Brussels. A black Brazillian woman and her French husband helped me choose some chocolate to take home to North Carolina. We hugged! It was special. They say people spend as much time selecting the “right” piece of chocolate as they do choosing an engagement ring!

Spent a lot of time looking in "Leonidas" - Fresh Belgian Chocolates.  I had to stretch the budget!

Spent a lot of time looking in “Leonidas” – Fresh Belgian Chocolates. I had to stretch the budget!


Oh! And I found my name-sake chocolate store – “Leonidas” Belgian Chocolate! Must sleep – leave by train Saturday morning, headed back to Berlin!


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Radio Free Leoneda!

When I was accepted as a fellow in this German/American Journalist Exchange, there are three parts of my itinerary I most looked forward to – Visiting The Berlin Wall, Visiting NATO and Visiting Radio Free Europe, based in the Czech Republic!

Here is VOA's Vivian Chakarian waiting to catch the right subway train in Prague - headed to Radio Free Europe.

Here is VOA’s Vivian Chakarian waiting to catch the right subway train in Prague – headed to Radio Free Europe.


We packed up our things early Tuesday morning, preparing for the bus trip to Prague! I heard a lot about Prague before arriving, like how nearly 25 years ago more than 4,000 East German refugees camped on the grounds of the German Embassy in Prague, demanding entry into West Germany. And I also heard a lot about the crystal! Too bad this is not that kind of trip!

Here I am outside the new Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty offices in Prague.

Here I am outside the new Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty offices in Prague.


Our bus was nice and BIG, but too big for the quaint, cobbled streets of downtown Prague. So it was out of the bus, grab your suitcase and begin walking! Oh, and we were told many times to watch your wallets! After getting settled in K+K Hotel Central, we had a few minutes to ourselves before heading to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. A nearby market was welcoming, several people making food and clothes by hand, and raw silk scarves! Then this burger caught my eye! The vendor called it the “Farmer Burger,” with a beer on the side. I had to taste it – well seasoned beef, bacon, eggs, cheese, everything! I shared it with two other people, of course!

Here is the famous "Farmer Burger" I was telling you about.  Hope this is not the reason why I'm a bit sick!  It was so good going down!

Here is the famous “Farmer Burger” I was telling you about. Hope this is not the reason why I’m a bit sick! It was so good going down!


When we arrived at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty offices, my jaw dropped. It was a beautiful complex, modern, not as grungy as I expected! And security was tight. If you didn’t have a Passport and if it did not match the name already on their list, you would not get in. In fact, there were two levels of security and metal detectors. We would soon find out this is in fact a new Radio Free Europe (RFE) building.

I could only take a photo of the RFE newsroom from the top down, not to show any faces, for security reasons.

I could only take a photo of the RFE newsroom from the top down, not to show any faces, for security reasons.


RFE is overseen by a Broadcasting Board of Governors, which includes Secretary of State John Kerry. It’s an independent, private, nonprofit corporation that receives federal funding from the US Congress – just like VOA (Voice of America). (The CIA also helped fund RFE back in the day.) RFE was founded around 1950, the beginning of the Cold War, to provide “uncensored news and information to audiences behind the Iron Curtain,” or places where the government would not allow free-flowing information. RFE and Radio Liberty (RL) are given a lot of credit for helping to end communism and spread democracy over much of Eastern Europe. So, after the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks and what followed, newer, more secure offices were built for RFE. About 500 people work in this building. The approximately 250 journalists all speak English, Russian and Czech.

Just like in the VW Phaeton plant, we were not allowed to take many pictures. But at RFE, releasing a photo of a journalist or other staffer could result in a life or death situation. And RFE journalists have been killed in the line of duty. Today, RFE/RL broadcasts to 21 countries in 28 languages. Its audience is 17.9 million/week. We sat down and met with Irina Lagunina, Director of the RFE Russian Service. She says everyday brings a combination of events that make it difficult to broadcast in Ukraine and Russia. She says RFE had 36 affiliate stations in Russia when Vladimir Putin took office. Lagunina says now they have one, for 2.5 hours a day. “They got squeezed out.”

Didn't get anything "pretty" while in Prague!  But saw this in the airport, and dreamed!

Didn’t get anything “pretty” while in Prague! But saw this in the airport, and dreamed!


Our time in Prague was short – too short. But I must say, it was memorable. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was amazing, with historic photographs of President John F. Kennedy on the hallway wall, and a photograph of Hillary Rodham Clinton during her early years in politics. Our hotel, “K+K Hotel Central” – beautiful, with perfect, non-stop, free WiFi and classy breakfast. And thank God for the convenience store next door – I was able to pile up on toiletries I’ve needed for days. Good Bye, Prague!


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Not Your Old VW Beetle

Our first full day in Dresden was “transparent,” clear, concise, clean, odorless and an example of the future of manufacturing. I have visited a Ford manufacturing plant in my career, but this is my first foreign automobile plant visit (in a foreign country). The VW “Transparent Factory” in Dresden is so popular it has become a busy tourist attraction (there’s even a 5 Star restaurant). There’s even lighting and perfect acoustics so the symphony can perform! From the street, you see this round, glass tower. The closer you walk to the tower, you notice shiny, new cars stacked high like in a BIG candy vending machine!

VW "Phaeton" Offices and Manufacturing plant in Dresden.  Look Closer!

VW “Phaeton” Offices and Manufacturing plant in Dresden. Look Closer!


Christian Haacke was our guide. I can tell he loves his job! He says everything is the way it is to “draw the customer into the building.” Many Phaeton customers personally come to the plant (not to a dealership) to personally choose colors, leather, etc. Haacke says they arrange sightseeing trips for their customers and in 3-4 days, their car is ready to drive off the shiney showroom floor!

This is the only place in the world where the luxury VW Phaeton is made. A “cheap” Phaeton sill cost about 70,000 Euros – that’s $95,000! The manufacturing plant and offices are open, with transparent offices and a slow-revolving manufacturing floor. The workers wear all white and I even saw some of them wearing white gloves. My RIAS group of American journalists watched in awe (we also had to wear white jackets) as the “wedding” took place – when the engine snuggly fit into the shell of the Phaeton.

The VW "XL1" outside the Phaeton Plant!  No rear-view mirrors!

The VW “XL1” outside the Phaeton Plant! No rear-view mirrors!


Haacke says 70% of VW’s Phaetons are sold to customers in China, followed by Russia and then the UK. They tried the US back in the mid-2000s but Haacke says the economic timing was wrong. In this clean, clear plant, workers build 21 Phaetons a day and 3 Bentleys a day – yes Bentleys! We were not allowed to take pictures inside the “transparent plant,” but we could take a picture of the cool, new VW hybrid on display out front. The two-seater “XL1” is so new it doesn’t have rearview mirrors, just cameras. And you can see how the wings open up. VW only plans to sell about 250 of these limited edition cars.

Me with the XL1 - real small.  I'd rather be in a "Phaeton" - but VW wouldn't allow photos.  The "lipstick" mirror in the "Phaeton" also has magnify-mode, for tweezing!

Me with the XL1 – real small. I’d rather be in a “Phaeton” – but VW wouldn’t allow photos. The “lipstick” mirror in the “Phaeton” also has magnify-mode, for tweezing!


The weather was beautiful as we walked from the VW plant back to the city center. We had a candid conversation with Dr. Ralf Lunau, Deputy Mayor of Cultural Affairs. Again, I was reminded of how similar the Dresden area is to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill. The “Triangle” is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of the South because of all the technology-based and innovative companies that call it home. With an unemployment rate of around 5%, Dresden often calls itself “The Silicon Saxony.” Remember, Saxony is the state where Dresden is located. And like the Triangle, Dresden is growing (unlike some other parts of Germany). Its IT and semi-conductor sector is tops in Europe, I hear, with a well-trained workforce. The population is up to 525,000. Yeah, you would think it had a “Sister City” in the Triangle. Nope – its Sister City is in Columbus, Ohio – in a state that seems to compete with North Carolina for everything!

Felt like I was in the movie "The Wiz" when I saw these lions at the "Free State of Saxony" government offices!

Felt like I was in the movie “The Wiz” when I saw these lions at the “Free State of Saxony” government offices!


To wrap up the day, we spent time with the big guy – The Chancellery Minister of the “Free State of Saxony” – Dr. Johannes Beerman. Our day was long by the time we made it to this historic building with gothic lions and other sculptures in the foyer. Even the front door looked like something out of “The Game of Thrones!” I can’t tell you everything Beerman said because my fellow journalists and I were paying a lot of attention to the spread on the large conference room table! Cakes, fruit, coffee, tea, water, fine juices, Coca Cola (for me, of course), and more cake!

It looked like a table set by "Willy Wonka" when we arrived at our meeting at "Free State of Saxony!"

It looked like a table set by “Willy Wonka” when we arrived at our meeting at “Free State of Saxony!”


The people of Dresden and “The Free State of Saxony” are especially proud of how they’ve progressed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. BMW, Porsche and VW make vehicles here, the place where European porcelain was created and the only place where semi-conductors are built in Europe. The economy is bustling with jobs, culture and tourists like us.