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Brunssum, The Netherlands

There is a little spur of the Netherlands that dips down into an area that one would expect to be part of Belgium or Germany. NATO has established their Allied Forces Central Command (AFCENT) peacetime headquarters there, in a town called Brunssum, near Heerlen. I was involved with the construction and establishment of a U.S. contingent there, in support of AFCENT and other US forces. Basically, I built a special computer facility with special communications circuits and special construction requirements. It required a lot of trips up there to oversee and coordinate with the NATO and local contractor representatives. It was hard work, but I really enjoyed the visits because the area was so darn nice.

October 1991

I had my first European business trip last week. On the 22nd (yup, the day after the furniture arrived) I drove up to Mons, Belgium in the afternoon to visit some folks at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) - NATO military HQ. After Mons, I drove over to Brunssum, in the Netherlands. My main focus there will be constructing a facility where there is only a shell of a building now. Before, all I worried about was the computer systems. Now I have to think about the computers, and the air conditioning, and the power, and the telephones, and the alarm system, and the heating, and all the other things. When I'm done here I'll be qualified as a general contractor!!


March 1992

I've been doing quite a lot of driving to the Netherlands; at least six trips or so this year. Usually I try to stretch it out over two or more days at a time, but some of the trips have been day-trips up to a southern Dutch city called Brunssum. It takes about four hours to drive it when I can cruise the Autobahn at 160 to 180 KPH (100-110 MPH). My favorite mode of business travel, though, is on the Inter-City Express (or ICE) train; a sleek, white, bullet train that can cruise at 250 KPH on some stretches of track. The cars are more like jetliners than trains, and I arrive relaxed and ready to go.


May-June 1993

In the May-June time frame I was travelling a lot. I spent many nights in the Netherlands in Brunssum, where the NATO Allied Forces Central Command headquarters is. I had the most amazing experience on one of the trips. As was our custom, the group of people who were gathering from all over for the construction meetings (people from the US, and England, as well as local Dutch folks and myself and a few others from Stuttgart) would stay in the regular hotel in Heerlen (the Golden Tulip), have our meetings during the day in Brunssum, then regroup in one of the many local restaurants near the hotel and town square in Heerlen for dinner. After dinner we would wander around the streets and alleys in the town square, pick a pub, and drink Dutch beer and play cards or board games for the night.

This night was no different, and we found an exceptionally friendly looking pub on one of the main walkways. We struck up a friendship with the bartender and some of the regulars, and he got used to the fact that we would order double-rounds of beers (two glasses for each person) because the Dutch serve beer in something akin to a juice-glass rather than what we were used to for beer. A few minutes after midnight, though, the bartender came over with a tray full of wonderful dark sweet beer, more like a dessert beer than a drinking beer. It was wonderful, but none of us had ordered it (we were all drinking the local brew, a golden pilsner called Orangeboom - Orange Tree). We thanked the bartender but told him that we did not order this, and he said that it was okay, it was paid for courtesy of the gentleman in the corner.

Naturally we all got up to shake his hand and thank him, and we invited him back to our table to join us. We asked what prompted him to buy beers for so many strangers (there were seven of us), and he said that, now that it was past midnight, it was the 48th anniversary of the liberation of Heerlen, and every year on the anniversary of that day he bought a beer for the first American he saw. Today, we were all the first. He had been 12 years old when the American troops had come into the city, and he had been in the front of the crowd to see the Americans, and he will forever remember that the first two soldiers that came into the city were the most amazing opposites he had ever seen; one was very short, only five-foot-two or so, and the other was a giant, at least six-foot-six. He remembered the American phrase Mutt and Jeff as being a perfect description.


November 1993

I had some excitement on my most recent visit to Brunssum (in the Netherlands) in November. On my last day there (a Wednesday), I had a delicious lunch of mussels steamed in wine and garlic in the NATO Officer's Club (they eat well in NATO), but evidently one of the mussels was bad, because I was violently ill on the train back to Stuttgart that night. It started to hit within an hour of eating, and at its worst I was heaving so hard I couldn't catch my breath. My spasms were so strong that I burst blood vessels in both eyes and all over my face. I had pooled blood in the whites of both eyes, and black and blue circles over and under both eyes. I looked a mess! I had recovered by the next day, but I was exhausted, so I slept all day; luckily it was a holiday (Thursday, Veteran's Day). By Friday every muscle in my body ached from the spasms. That was the sickest I have ever been, and the quickest I have ever recovered! Watch out for mussels!





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