Holidays are a wonderful time to share family stories and enjoy the good things in life. As Judy and I set up for a holiday meal with the family, I drew the short straw on setting the dining table for the twelve of us. It’s something I enjoy, creating an artful table from the multiple settings, finding the right glass ware, and all the various serving dishes.
Since we enjoy a good glass of wine with a meal, every adult gets a wine glass. Most of the places had a Waterford Lismore wine glass. I decided to go all out and use the “good” glasses for Judy and me. At our age, I feel a need for us to limit the number of things we set aside to look at and not enjoy. In the best case, that number should be limited to zero. If we can’t enjoy the good things now that we’re retired, when will we be able to use them? So I set the Stapelhäuschen wine glasses for us.
There’s a story behind these “good” wine glasses. There are only two of them, and they came from Germany.
In 1978 the company asked me to go on a business trip to Germany for a major product announcement. We had a US team of about a dozen people, about half technical folks: programmers and hardware engineers. The other half were marketing types. The European and German sales teams joined us for the big business show.
The show was in Cologne, Germany. We had a couple of days off before and after the show to enjoy the country. It was my first time out of the US, and one of my first business trips, so there was much to learn. Besides the normal business show setup, man the booth, and tear down, we visited the Cologne cathedral, a rural restaurant for breakfast, and thoroughly enjoyed a boat trip down the Rhine River from Koblenz to Cologne.
The business show was a great success, with plenty of press attention and visits from show attendees. We were demonstrating technology that’s still advanced. As a thank you the German sales team took all of us out for dinner at a first class restaurant. The restaurant was in the Belgisches Quarter, a well-preserved section of the old city. The dinner was one of those where there seemed to be a dozen wine and water glasses and far too many forks for this young North Dakota kid. The food was fantastic and the wine was even better. We truly enjoyed the evening. Then it got interesting.
As the dinner wound down, I got to talking with the waiter about the wine and wine glasses. The glasses were beautiful, and they had the restaurant’s name on them. Stapelhäuschen. Google has several photos of the restaurant, so it must still be in business today.
For that trip, I was on the lookout for souvenirs. The wine glasses were a perfect gift for Judy. We were just getting into wine that year and didn’t have any good wine glasses, certainly nothing this nice. So I asked the waiter if the restaurant sold glasses to tourists as souvenirs. He said yes, they’re 100 Deutsche Marks. That was about $50 each, in 1978 dollars! Even that high, the price seemed fair, if just on the outside of what I could afford, so I asked for two glasses. Agreed. I could just take these two glasses from the table.
The dinner dragged on for a long time after we made the deal, and we downed a couple more shots of Jägermeister before pushing back the chairs for the last time. As I was getting my coat on, the waiter sidled up to me and said, in a quiet voice
“Take these two glasses from the table, and put them in an inside pocket. Don’t let the cashier see them.”
It was a long walk from the table to the car.