I honestly didn’t think I’d be blogging about this trip. I figured it’d be like a trip to Orlando, where there were nothing more than the usual complaints about fellow humans being human. Despite my interest in writing, I generally don’t think of myself as someone who’s good at documenting travel.
Then, the trip happened. Even though I don’t feel the need to get the angst off my chest by subjecting my dear reader(s), it was enough to motivate me to set fingers to keyboard.
Up front, I’d like to say that I’ve managed to mostly not be an asshole. So far, at least. My wife was even prompted to mention how ‘mild’ mannered I’ve been. This not to say, of course, I haven’t made my thoughts known, but I’ve managed to do so in such a way that minimizes the raised voice and cursing. But the trip is young…
We left the house at 10 AM for a flight that was set to leave at 5 PM at an airport that was 40 minutes away. I did express my… displeasure at the early liftoff, but was assured we’d spend _most_ of that time at the gathering place in Vienna. Which turned out to largely be the case. I believe it was about 2:30 when we left for the airport (after a quick cram of some Chinese food, because, of course, the decision on what type of lunch to get was left for so long there was little time to eat it) on a small charter bus barely large enough to carry the 14 of us (with two more meeting us at the airport).
Dulles hasn’t seem to change in all these years. They managed to double (or more) the size of the terminal while keeping the same look and feel. It’s a rather iconic look, though it’s hard to say if it’s really a good one. I was going to put some pictures and links in the post as I wrote it, but the wifi at the hotel we’re staying at sucks, to be most generous, and I lack the patience to do so. Perhaps in later posts conditions will be better. Anyway, we all managed to link up without any problems (with a couple of glaring exceptions, this has been the case so far). Naturally the airlines have found a way to make travel even more sucky and PITA and we have to manually check in at a kiosk, then drag our bags to actually, you know, check in. But I was only an observer, and we were indoors.
My family and one of our nieces has TSA Precheck, so we strolled through the idiotic security theater. One wrinkle, though: my wife choose to bring a small hammer for the wheelchair that occasionally locks up. The hammer was slightly longer than the allowed, so that bag got pulled aside for manual examination. When the screener pulled it out, my wife was surprised, evidently she ‘lost’ it during packing. She was going to discard it when she remembered it screwed in half (thus making it smaller) and asked if that would be OK. The guy was unsure, so called someone more experienced. Who studied the situation for a few moments before waving is through. More on the hammer later…
Honestly, I can’t remember the hours sitting around at Dulles. Which, I guess is good. But I remember the next part: sitting around on the plane at Dulles. And sitting. And more sitting. An hour and a half sitting. Funny, the _exact_ length of time we had to catch out connecting flight in Geneva. Screwed before we even left the ground.
Other than knowing the connecting flight was FUBARed, the 7.5 hour trip itself was rather uneventful. I was tired enough that I didn’t read, didn’t even open the computer or my sketch book. I have exactly three things I’m trying to accomplish on this trip (well, four, if you count not being an asshole as something to accomplish): 1) write the first draft of the feature-length script for the short I’m filming in August (Domestique), 2) get a basic budget for the same (based on a book I have) and 3) sketch out the design for my latest million-dollar idea. An idea that’s languished for months, with no explanation for why my brain is so lackadaisical about it. A couple of hundred bucks for the proof-of-concept and a grand or so for a working prototype (assuming the POC works, of course), historically I’d have done it in a week. But for no reason I can elucidate, my brain would rather invest it’s energy in silly movie ideas with statistically zero chance of making money. So, anyway, zip done on the three projects. I listened to music and kinda dozed. I watched a bit of the flick my wife was watching: Captain Marvel. It looks interesting enough I’ll get the disk. Someone else was watching Bumblebee, and I doubt what I saw was enough to lure me into getting that disk.
As predicted, we got to Geneva (Geneve, as they call it locally, assuming my memory can be trusted (it took several minutes to validate the spelling of Munich for the title, so I’m too lazy to do the same here)) and had missed our flight. They told us they were going to put us on a flight to Vienna Austria, then back to Munich. No problem.
Of course not. We had another hour and a half to make this new flight that, as far as I could tell, was mathematically the furthest point from where we entered the terminal. And had to go through immigration. And then get screened again. With 16 people, two in wheelchairs. What where they thinking?
So Eliz, Don and I elected to blaze the trail, as it were, and now we get to discuss the reality that, at least Geneva’s airport security, is at least as much theater as is the US. Maybe they’re used to people knowing what not to pack in their carry on, but there was exactly one person doing the manual screening and there was probably at least a 20 minute backup before we could get that damn, disassembled, hammer through. Once the XRay person (a rather attractive Asian-looking woman) set eyes on it, she waved it through, but we had to wait for the half dozen people in front of us first. Then we walk. And walk. Then walk more. And _finally_ get to the gate where we’re to leave.
And where the plane was set to begin boarding in some 10-15 minutes and leave the ground shortly thereafter. My wife asked if they’d wait for the troop to arrive and a woman there said absolutely not. Her male companion, though, said they would. My theory is because the next two flights were booked, and they might have to put us all up in a hotel for the night, the guy was going to get us all on the plane no matter what it was going to take.
So, some 10-15 minutes AFTER the plane was supposed to leave, and, let it be said, after I started to whine about how we should be planning to get hotels, etc. instead of fruitlessly waiting in the airport all the damn day (I was getting a bit salty, I’ll admit) and AFTER my wife decided to hunt for the lost souls, they arrive. They get their boarding passes and start to load on the plane. Wrinkle? No wheelchair-bound companions. Or wife. I and my son weren’t going anywhere without my wife, she had all our travel documents and IDs even – if we were tempted. The gate agents start to call out our names on a regular basis, still no wife. Some 45 minutes after the plane was supposed to leave and we find out that somehow our wheelchair travelers had been escorted directly to the leaving plane and had been waiting for us all this time. Sure woulda been nice to know this was going to happen earlier, eh?
Finally my wife decides to check to see what’s going on and we bundle her onto the plane where we expected them to immediately take off. But no, instead we sit around and they lazily give the pre-flight briefing (which is the same everywhere, just in French and English). Eventually we push off and trundle our way across the entire airport and take off.
A note here: the decision to have an hour and a half layover in Geneva (as opposed, for example, a direct flight) was made by the travel agent, not my wife. What where they thinking, to get 16 people (two in wheelchairs) through immigration, across the airport, and into another plane in 90 minutes? That seems absurd. For anyone else thinking of doing something like this, go with direct flights.
Thankfully, the connecting flight in Vienna (you know, it’s true: as my wife commented, all airports look the same) didn’t require the mad dash and we got there with plenty of time. I was amused by the beer kiosk in the middle of the concourse (and, of course, bier gardens) and, as expected, our wheelchair travelers arrived separately, though I guess we saw it this time. But this flight was an hour and a half late leaving. Not our fault this time, evidently something had FUBARed the schedule early in the morning and it just carried along all day. Since Munich was our final destination the delay didn’t matter (much) to us, but it screwed a lot of other people. Some were repurposed at Vienna, others were told to ride to Munich and gamble on the repurposing there. Glad I wasn’t part of that angst.
We _finally_ made it to Munich. Then we had this long delay while we waited for buses to take us from plane to the terminal (evidently, this airline doesn’t rate a direct connection), which would make a sane person think the luggage would already be there waiting for us. Well, we don’t live in a sane world, so we had another 20 minutes or so to wait for our luggage. Interestingly, they were the first off the plane, so at least that small benefit to being jerked around all day. Then we traveled through Customs. Note I didn’t say we spent any time. No, we had nothing to declare, so just walked out of customs. Weird. But, it seems, Germans expect people to behave properly. Certainly not the American Way.
Outside we me two who would be joining our party for the first couple of days: Mara and Tom. Mara is our cousin by way of my mother-in-law’s brother, one of the reasons we were in Munich in the first place. Tom is her husband. And they have a young daughter and an even younger son. I don’t miss that age. I managed to keep my composure when they had their meltdowns, even getting a mild congratulation from my wife for not engaging in a meltdown of my own, but it did require effort. Our bus to take us to the hotel, of course, was an hour away or something like that. So we sat around waiting, then finally managed to arrive at our destination, a Holiday Inn Express, right along the landing path to the airport. Really. As I type this I see plane after plane descend in my window as I look out.
The others went out that night, didn’t get back until after midnight, but my son and I needed naps, so slept instead. Surprisingly, to me, anyway, most of the celebrants were up fairly early the next day (this’d be Saturday; we left the US on Thursday). The hotel has a small breakfast, something our son turned his nose up on in favor of even more sleep (he claims he didn’t sleep that night because of my snoring, which I can understand, except, once he’s asleep nothing will wake him up, so all he had to do the night before was stop playing with his phone before I was asleep and all would have been good).
Eliz and I went for a walk, a mile one-way, according to her Fitbit. Then we all decided to head to a mall in Munich, to meet with Tito Eddy, Mama’s brother. Mara is our guide for all this, knowing the bus and train schedules and how to herd us all in the right direction. It was a long bus ride, packed to the gills with 20 of us (16 plus Mara, Tom and their two kids), a double-wide stroller and two wheelchairs. We managed to get to the train on-time and had an uneventful trip. The farms here are tiny. Like a couple of acres tiny. It makes the patchwork of 50 to several hundred acre farms on the East Coast look palatial. Tom seemed at least a little impressed when I told him about the farms in the midwest that are supposedly so large that the harvesting equipment will start at the morning at one end and have only reached the end that evening, where they turn around and return the next day.
Other than the elevators being one-person (really!), the bus/rail system seems very nice. Not sure why they treat handicap people so badly, having to make three trips up and down each elevator was rather tedious. The mall was, rather remarkably, just like every other mall I’ve ever seen. The only real comment I have is on the surprising lack of eye candy. I wasn’t too surprised to find people in the airports to be… full-bodied and Rubenesque, they were fellow travelers and could be from any country. But at the mall I expected the European reputation of walking everywhere to have the average fitness level being much higher than in the US. I’m sad to report that they all looked like Americans. As I like to say, there was very little competition for my my wife.
One thing that was interesting to me was the varied cultures. Some more obvious than others, as there were quite a few Burka-wearing women. But others less eye drawing, as there were Asians a plenty and a goodly number of (other) Middle Eastern, African and Indian people. At least what I saw, everyone was getting along well and even the Burka wearers seemed to draw no extraordinary attention. I don’t think that’d be the case in the US. No. Not at all.
After we got back from the mall, we rested a bit, then decided to a ‘Burgerfest’ literally right around the corner from the hotel. Eliz and I had walked back and forth past it that morning so once we mentioned it, along with the ease of access, it was an easy decision (so rare; so very rare). Eliz and I were relatively late, as we (I) pushed Mama’s wheelchair and she was, as usual, lagging behind. We were joined by Papa, as well as Mara, Tom and their kids. It turns out it’s slightly up hill to the ‘fest, so I was a bit winded and sweating by the time I got Mama there. The rest had already been knocking back the liter-sized beers already, so were very happy. I tasted a couple of the beers (at least I think they were different, they were all in the same sort of glass), but they all were the typical nasty bitter taste I remember from my youth, so that was the end of that. We had some of the food and observed the singing and the patrons. It was interesting and I have took a couple of pictures I hope to upload at some point.
We left relatively early. Don was happy with his 3/4 of a beer and boosted one of the big mugs. He went right to sleep, so no complaints about my snoring this morning (Sunday). The rest of the group wanted to go to Munich again, to see the monuments, etc. , since the mall was closed on Sundays (everything seems to be closed on Sundays; evidently the ‘blue laws’ never got repealed in Europe). Since I got nothing done on any of my projects, and, frankly, don’t care that much about monuments, etc., I waved them goodbye and stayed to write this, to start to read my directing book and to actually start writing my screenplay (about 5.5 pages). And jogged almost 3 miles (out of four total; assuming Eliz’ fitbit is accurate in the distance reported yesterday).
OK, half our group is back and we’re heading out for dinner, so I’ll wrap this up. I’m sure I’ll write at least one more, for bookends, but it’ll likely depend on the wifi connection, as I feel more like talking about the pictures I’ve taken than about the trip.