Sunday I left for Frankfurt. When arriving at the Rochester airport I learned that the flight to Washington Dulles was delayed which would cause me to miss my connection. The nice United Airlines desk agent did her best to find me a new connection and still get me to Frankfurt. For a while it seemed that the only connection was through Kuwait…
I was not immediately convinced of that route and so had her look up other airports that at least would get me close to where I needed to go (Heidelberg / Walldorf). We tried Stuttgart, Brussels, Amsterdam but all no availability or the connection times didn’t work. Then all of a sudden she did find a route to Frankfurt: via Orlando, Florida. This was with Airtran. From Orlando it would be Lufthansa/United to Frankfurt. Airtran and United don’t have so-called code sharing so I got the old fashioned paper tickets and Airtran had to write the baggage tags by hand.
Arrived in Frankfurt and waited at the baggage claim. I brought Charles with me so I was looking for the big Samsonite with the bike and the roller bag with the clothing. Nothing. Between Airtran, United and Lufthansa the bags had gotten lost. Filed the report then off to Heidelberg and some shopping for clothing et al. The German sizing for trousers is entirely cryptic (how can size 26 be a wider waist and longer leg than 48!?). Successively trying on about 6 of the same type of trousers I narrow it down to a pair that fits. Shirt sizes are the same as in the US so that at least was easy. Then a bag to fit it all in and I’m done. At the end of the afternoon I was meeting up with my colleagues so the delayed arrival and then the lost luggage cut into my free time. The original plan called for a 7am landing, a quick nap in the hotel and then a little bike ride around Heidelberg before meeting up. But now, no bicycle and no time.
At around 6pm met with Andreas, Rainer, Volker and Dalibor. We went off to the Bierstube next door to the hotel well in time for the Germany – Austria match. This would be the first time I would be cheering for a German team. This was not easy 🙂
After the meetings on Wednesday I drove on to Munich. Avis had given me a nice car and so it was fun blasting down the autobahn as the traffic was very light. I made it in time to the hotel for the soccer matches. Unfortunately the hotel had ZDF which was broadcasting Italy – France and not ZDF Info which had the Oranje – Rumania game. Internet to the rescue. I tuned the tv to the Italy match, muted the sound, and listened to Radio 1, Langs de lijn, full blast on the computer. Holland won again, and again quite easily even with an entirely different line-up. Amazing.
On Thursday I met with my engineers here in Munich and at the end of the afternoon to the airport to fly to London. There to pick up the rental car to drive to Winchester for the next day meetings at Hursley Park. I also checked with Lufthansa. They had now found the bags and wanted to deliver them to the hotel in Heidelberg. Of course I was no longer there and they were supposed to know this. They asked where I was now. After a little confusion we agreed that it was best if they sent the bags straight back to Rochester. I had some time before the flight. I found one of my favorite late afternoon / early evening airport dinner options: a wine bar with a fresh fish menu. I ordered myself a glass of Pinot Grigio and a plate of smoked salmon. Yum!
Then it was time to board the plane. Found my seat, took my book, put on the headphones and switched on the iPod. The plane taxied out on to the tarmac. We sat there for quite a while then the pilot announces that there is a problem with the airconditioning – we’re going back to the gate so the maintenance crew can have a look. Sigh. An hour and a half later we are back on the tarmac and this time we do take off. I happily nod off listening to my iPod. After about 45 minutes I notice that the sun is shining straight in my face. The plane is making a wide left turn. This is odd. We should be travelling in a westward direction, it is evening and so the sun should not shine straight through my window. After the turn is complete the pilot comes on line and yes we did turn around. Now there is a problem with the hydraulic system. He assures us there are two backup systems but Lufthansa decided to have the plane go back to Munich because they don’t have maintenance facilities at Heathrow. Bigger sigh. After an initial schedules departure time of 18:20 it is now 22:30 and we’re back where we started. Queueing in line at the Lufthansa Service Center to learn what the options I find out that they have rebooked me for the next morning at 7:50 and for the night in the Best Western hotel in Hollendau. A British chap, Matt, at the next counter is in the same boat and we share a taxi to the hotel. We discover that Hollendau is half an hour away at autobahn speeds. Just before midnight I am checked in and in my room. I call Rachel but she’s not there. We spoke briefly earlier but she was dealing with water damage in her studio due to heavy rainfall so it was only a short chat. The restaurant is still open. Matt is there too. We have a beer, something to eat and share stories of the glamorous life of the international traveller.
Got up this morning at a quarter to six in time for the cab ride back to the airport. I write this sentence from the air somewhere above Belgium. So far so good, no u-turns yet.