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Upstaging the Kaiser Read about August Giesen's infamous train ride!


It takes a lot to upstage a German Emperor, but fledgling entrepreneur and good-natured chancer August (Aw-goost) Giesen did just that the day he missed his train to a dinner engagement where he was due to work. Always one to push an adventure to the limit, on this occasion August outdid himself.

As a German restaurateur, August had scored the plum job as head waiter at a banquet. Specifically, a banquet at Cologne’s Grand Dom Hotel, for Wilhelm II – the last German Emperor and King of Prussia.

But instead of doing the sensible thing and having an early bedtime the night before, August (who loved a good time) hit the town. A big night out meant he overslept, missing the train to work in Cologne.

At this point most would have thrown in the towel, but August Giesen was determined. He was damned if he was going to let something as simple as a missed train stop him from carrying out his biggest job ever!

August had a plan.

Using his savings, he persuaded the Station Master to let him charter a whole train – locomotive and all – to get him to Cologne. This audacious scheme allowed August to arrive on time and wait on the Emperor and his entourage with his usual aplomb.

Between tips for his outstanding banquet service and donations from his co-workers, August made enough cash to cover the cost of the train – no mean feat given he was a head waiter and the trip cost the equivalent of around $10,000 in today’s money.

So it should come as no surprise that the following morning it wasn’t the Grand Banquet of the court of Wilhelm II on the front page of the paper. It was August Giesen and his audacious train ride!

Read about August’s Adventures in New York City Read more about the Giesen family legacy

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Upstaging the Kaiser image

Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor and King of Prussia

Upstaging the Kaiser image

August Giesen with his two sisters