A few more days in Germany…
Goodbye Italy. Hello 11 Hour drive back thru beautiful Brenner Pass. Gas stations are closed on saturdays. Car driving on fumes. Sister freaks, nephew screams. McDonalds in Garmisch. Taste of fatty foods and america. They must have some weird standardization in the cooking of their fries at Mcdonalds because they taste the exact same worldwide. These were pretty good I remember. Finally we arrive back at my sister’s home in sleepy Seubersdorf. Face plant into pillow. Commence stillness for nine hours.
It was definitely a shell shock being back in a real bed, in germany and without a camera always in my hand. This was the first of many shell shocks on my way back to St. Louis. The next day I ventured out to Regensburg with 3 of the camp counselors who had come from Germany. It was the championship game between Germany and Spain and I did just happen to be in Germany for that one day — awesome. Regensburg was electric and dead all at the same time. The streets were completely empty untill you passed a bar where 150 people would be sitting outside watching the game with a projector shooting on a sheet. It was a great experience, everytime there was a goal or a good play, the crowd would erupt in cheers and start to chant like they were at the game. We hit up a few of these bars before ending at a bar with a small tv on the roof and about a hundred people staring skywards. And then… Germany lost. But you really couldn’t tell. We walked to the city square where people were celebrating regardless of the loss and happy to be drunk and German. There was the occasional spanish crowd that was taunting and cheering but instead of acts of hooliganism and violence breaking out, the Germans just kind of smiled and congratulated the Spaniards. Very civil. You’d get beat up in St. Louis for sure if the Cardinals had just lost to the Cubs and a bunch of Chicagoans went parading around downtown.
After this fun spectacle, we ended up in and Irish pub where we met three irish friends who bought us endless beers all night. Pretty soon, one of them whipped out a harmonica and we were all singing irish folk songs with big, splashing beers in hand. I felt like I was having multiple cultural disorder.
Two more quiet restful days in Germany before the madness of traveling would become altogether real for me, for maybe the first time ever.
How it took me 3 days to get home ~or~ Why United Airlines Sucks More Ass Than Enemas…
The day started off peacefully. Peacefully packing. Afternoon flight. No rush. La-de-da-dee, who want’s to pahdee? Quick wonderful flight to Frankfurt from Nuremburg via Lufthansa (the best airline ever). Casual stroll to the next gate about half a mile way. No worries, no stress. I had finally made it through the 2 or 3 security checkpoints and was walking the final leg to my gate when I heard over the loudspeakers “Flight 933 to Washington D.C. has been canceled, There are no more flights to the United States today”. I don’t know if it was my sublime, blissful feeling or the mimosa from the previous flight but something didn’t click inside my head when I heard this and I thought nothing of it besides “Man, that’s gotta suck for those people”. The reality became clear when I walked to my gate and from the faces of the first few people I saw it seemed as if their children had been kidnapped by United Airlines. People were freaking the hell out.
I walked in and looked around before finding a little nook up by one of the information desks and just started to listen. People would all come up with the same story, “No, you don’t understand I like realllly have to get back to the states”, and “I DEMAND to talk to your MANAGER and GET ME A FLIGHT OUT OF HERE NOW”! If not for the amazing patience of the people working the tables it would’ve been insanity bordering on hilarious. I learned from perching in my nook that there was in fact no way to leave Frankfurt and I would be here for the night. This was rather annoying as I had my own reasons for returning, mainly Black River Lodge.
We were shuttled like sheep to the hotels. I overheard someone telling their friend to wait and not get on the first bus for it was headed to the airport hotel whereas the second bus was headed for the nicer Downtown Hotel. This is really not a fair comparison but I always think of Schindler’s list and those types of movies where families are being split up by trains and which one will be better than the other. Luckily, I chose right. We ended up at the 5 Star Reichenberg Hotel (I Think?) in a fairly nice room with huge ceilings. There was no plan to any of this, we learned everything from speculation and overhearing things from other travelers. I mean, there was a rather large squad of us, two Tour Busses full in the downtown hotel alone. Dinner was served shortly later and here’s where I met my friends for the night.
Walking into the dinner room, you kind of eye everyone at each table and quickly, mentally decide – “Who will be the most fun/interesting/worth sitting next to while I eat” in a devious Seinfeldian manner. I chose the table with 3 young multicultural travelers that looked like they had done this before. They were Van from Laos, a grad student that has probably been to over 1/2 of the countries in the world, Jonathan, an american of Indian heritage who had been living in Turkey for the past 5 months, and some girl who I can’t remember her name who was turning 21 at midnight and was annoying as hell. She was a mix of a bunch of cultures that she kept reminding us about all night along and now I can’t remember what it was. We ate dinner with a funny family from Boston and then headed out to find some adventure in the evening.
Just, except, it didn’t really happen. I mean, we found a great rowing club and had a few beers while watching the sun set on the river and it was beautiful and magical and everything that meeting new people should be and then… we got lost in the residential areas for probably 90 minutes. The annoying girls hopes for getting fabulously drunk in germany on her 21st birthday began to fade as her back, and then her feet, and then everything started hurting. We rounded back up to the hotel and happily unloaded her before heading back into the Frankfurt night. Still no news had arrived from United. We came upon this awesome looking corner bar that seemed as if the door would shut at any moments, blinds noisily clattering over the windows and the 4 locals inside would stab, kick, and beat the shit out of us if we said anything negative about Germany at all. We didn’t care. We were having good conversation and people-watching out of the corner of our eyes and it was fun all around. Finally we head back to the hotel around 2 a.m. Stilll, no news from United.
By now, my clothes were starting to gain a little funk. I mean, theorhetically, I should have almost been back in St. Louis by now. And here I was, in a hotel room in Germany, by myself. I stripped down to my birthday and through on the terry cloth robe and laid down – feeling fairly alone for the first time in a month. Normally I like being alone quite a bit but this was unsettling for some reason. I slept for 3 hours. Woke up, showered, through on my slightly less stank clothes and headed to breakfast. Still, no news from United.
After a 40 Euro (free) breakfast and tons of coffee, I was ready to get the hell out of dodge. Finally there was a sign in the lobby ‘PASSENGERS OF FLIGHT 933 – MEET HERE AT 10 AM’. Finally. Some proof of life. An hour later, we were back on the busses headed not to the airport. Wait. WTF!? We were being shuttled to the airport hotel! No! This can’t be true! The Horror! I talked to my friend Van and the lucky dog said that he had called United and booked a flight out to Chicago. That was all I needed. I checked in to the hotel, just to be safe, and booked it right back out the door to the shuttle that was headed for the airport. Van and I scurried up to the Lufthansa desk and were treated like we were the victims of genocide, in a good way. They asked us “OH, your the passengers from flight 933?? Where have you been, we’ve been waiting for you??” Van and I looked at each other and laughed. The desk clerk, who looked like Ali G, was awesome and booked me on a flight to London, DC, then STL racing around behind his desk like he was in an action movie. Van and I hugged and were on our own separate ways. I still to this day think that some of the 933 passengers are still stuck in Frankfurt.
Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there (just like this entry which is rivaling the Talmud in length).
To be continued…