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small orange square I'm still in Mannheim - I like it here! Like Düsseldorf, this city was leveled in the war, so now it's all new (well, relatively). I was going to skip it this trip, for two reasons. My impression of the place from a night in 1984 was that it was kinda dull; and in 1996, during my one business trip to the Fatherland, I had to hang around its Bahnhof for about an hour <1> and there were weird vibes caused by a confrontation between the Polizi and some rebellious youths. But now it seems quite nice, and with just a couple days to go, I've entered the shopping/stocking-up phase of the journey.

small cyan square I did switch hotels - now I have to climb four flights of stairs instead of riding a lift the same distance, but I have access to a shower in the hallway (even better, because it's really a bathtub). Last night I could hear some guy moaning in a room down the hallway - that wasn't so bad, actually - it was the total lack of shower facilities - I rejected a place in Munich because it was that same deal. I don't mind a shared shower in the hallway (like the toilet), but I simply can't fathom that European mindset which thinks a hotel room would be acceptable with no shower access. But I'm a squeaky-clean American; and I understand "they" don't wash on a daily basis (sounds like a stereotype, sorry - but look at my evidence).

small purple square Anyway, an additional bonus: this room also has a (cable) television. So far I haven't been able to confirm what I heard about Deutsche Bahn - that they have a cable channel which simply plays the feed from a camera mounted in the nose of some locomotive traveling through Germany, 24 hours a day. I've had a few rooms with TVs this trip, some with cable, but I never found that channel - must only be available in the premium packages. What I'm enjoying are the offerings on the German video channel VIVA-2.

small yellow square Another word on radio here - a few days back I held forth on the Voice Of America - actually I've been having some trouble receiving them lately, so I've been trying to get election news via AFN instead. This organ of our overseas military was about all I heard during my first couple of visits here - although its current presence has been reduced along with our troop-strength, it still lives. Unfortunately they give some of their schedule over to the contemptible Rush Limbaugh, and they seem to play a lot of country music, but curiously they also broadcast certain NPR programs. (I caught the election day "Talk Of The Nation".) What's really nice about their news is it's a collage of many sources - one hears blurbs direct from NPR, CNN, and the Associated Press.

AFN - Armed Forces Network
Bahnhof - train station
CNN - Cable News Network
NPR - National Public Radio
Polzei - police
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<1>I was able to get away for one day of the weekend, and I visited the nearby ancient small town of Speyer.