Thursday, June 28, 2007

USA-DE-AT - Dulles --> Munich --> Vienna

So on June 28 I departed from Dulles Intl Airport.  There’s not much story to it other than expressing my thanks to my roommate, Steve, for driving me there during the infamous DC evening rush hour(s).  I basically walked right in and up to the counter, checked my backpack, made my way through security within minutes, and was sitting at my terminal gate within perhaps 30 minutes.  The Potbelly Deli was located right across from my gate and sold some tasty sandwiches for about the normal Potbelly price, which is dirt cheap as far as airports go.

Now to jump ahead a bit, a story from mid-flight:

En route, a young girl in the row in front of me did not take too well to the meal and... eh... lets just say that I was not quick enough at getting my seat's baggie to the poor mother whom took the brunt of it.  Fortunately, I was sheltered from the stream and had plenty of gum to jam up my nose so I didn’t follow suit due to the resulting smell.  After about 30 min, the crew had everything clean and smelling spiffy again, but the knowledge was always there of the next row's stigma.  I can't believe that mother and daughter went back and sat there... eww.  Granted, with a full flight and several hours remaining in the voyage, I suppose they didn’t have much other choice.  The rest of the trip was uneventful and I had a nice chat with the aged Berlin man beside me, whom helped me practice my non-existent German skills.

Now going back to the start of the flight, our flight was delayed more than an hour due to storms over New York City, though our German-speaking Motocross aficionado of a pilot managed to get us into München only half an hour late.  Now assuming we were to make it on time, I would have had about a 40 minute layover, if I recall.  So do the math and you find that I now had a 10 minute layover.  In airport-speak, that is not very much time.

...It's even less time if you do something stupid.  Now when one thinks of how many times I have flown in my life, both domestic and internationally, this is really really embarrassing.  The gate I wanted to go to was the gate directly adjacent to where I arrived.  Seriously, it was next door.  I could have walked there in about 30 seconds. Now how often does that happen, where the gate you want is right there where you are?  I naturally figured it would be on the other side of the airport, and lo and behold that's where I went.  Why?  Because I was following my seat number (seat F) instead of my gate number (gate G).  Oops.  Yeah so I missed my plane to Vienna.

So at this point it is about lunchtime on June 29 and I am oblivious to the goings on in Britain (actually I didn’t even hear about the attempted car bombings until about a week later).  I get myself booked on the next flight to Vienna and find that I have 3 hrs to burn, so I get my comp'ed lunch and take a nap in the unbelievably comfy café furniture within the terminal.  Seriously, I am not being sarcastic -- it was indeed comfortable.  That means I now have a comfy hideout in two of the three major trans-Atlantic hubs within Europe (my couches in an out-of-the-way nook at Heathrow being my other hideout).

Would you know it, my rebooked Vienna flight gets cancelled 20 minutes before boarding.  Why?  "Technical reason" is all the staff is aware.  That, of course, means "we don’t know" or "we aren’t going to tell you".  I now suspect it has something to do with the events in Britain, but as of last Friday all I knew was that I really wanted to enjoy Vienna seeing as I had so little time to see the supposed cultural capital of the world in the first place.  I now get booked on a flight to Hamburg which has a connecting flight to Vienna... the flight to Hamburg leaves in 20 minutes and I have a layover of about 30 minutes ... and it is pouring rain in Hamburg... lovely... guess how that is going to turn out?  By the time I was now scheduled to arrive in Vienna, I could have traveled into München, hopped on a train for Vienna, and arrived sooner.  Fortunately, the flight path worked out flawlessly and after an aerial tour of Germany, I found myself disembarking into the dimming daylight of Ősterreich.

To Lufthansa's credit, my backpack was the second on the baggage claim belt.  That just took my breath away... During my flight into Vienna, I had dog-eared the page in my phrasebook relating to lost luggage.  All in all I was quite pleased with Lufthansa's service, despite the issues faced along the way.

However, as a strike against EU customs enforcement: despite the global security issues of that day, I completely bypassed customs by walking through the "nothing to declare" line.  In my past experience, the "nothing to declare" line just placed you in queue for a chat with a customs officer, a search if you look suspicious, and a stamp to send you on your way.  Not much, but at least something.  Arriving in Vienna, I opened the door, walked through, and was in Austria.  Interesting security glitch if you get bumped out of the international terminal and into a domestic terminal whilst in Germany...

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