Saturday, August 10, 2013

To Begin at the Beginning...

It’s never a good day to travel when you begin with a cancelled flight and a dead bird on your doorstep.

After a few hours on the phone rearranging my life, off I flew, Atlanta to Philadelphia, an  airport filled with rocking chairs, on my way to Frankfurt, Germany and France.  The flight was uneventful, and the next morning, I was expelled into the the labyrinthine Frankfurt airport.

Next stop: find the train station.  Armed with web information that there were two train stations in the airport, and I needed to find the one downstairs, I set off, following the signs.   

I arrived at a confusing sort of dead end, and tried the kiosk to withdraw my tickets with the code; no luck.  I headed for the information counter, something I don’t trust in Europe, and waited 10 minutes to be told that I had no train reservation, that my confirmation code was meaningless, and there were no trains to Mannheim at the appointed hour.  That can't be right, I thought, and took another look around all the signs and asked one lady who looked German if she could help.  She was as confused as I was.  

Something I've come to depend on in travel adventures like these is that still, small Voice that says "Look over here" or "Ask this person."  Light came as I studied the signs and concluded I was in the regional train station, not the long distance one.  Even though I was downstairs.  

I got back on line, and asked where the long distance train station was, and was re-directed upstairs.  Go figure.  I passed on that tip to other dazed and confused Americans in the queue, who didn’t trust me enough to abandon the queue.  After all, it was an information booth; and "...but all the signs say...” 

The upstairs labyrinth was no easier to navigate, but after an hour of walking and checking in at 3 more information booths (never take no for an answer in Europe), I found it.  

Tickets finally firmly in hand, I had three more tasks to accomplish: find a working toilet, an ATM that would accept an American card, and a cafe for coffee!  

Two hours and several miles of airport walking later, missions accomplished, with an hour to kill before my train arrived.  I sat savoring the victories, the sights and sounds, people watching, waiting for my train, sipping cappucino.  It's always a good day of travel that begins (or ends?) in such a way... 

And I alone of my compatriots have escaped to tell this tale.  Maybe they’ll be along later.


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