[Started this Sunday morning in Berlin; finished it Monday morning at home.]
Since we are going home to separate cities, we are of course on different flight schedules. Dan’s flight to London, then DC, then Raleigh, left at 7:05am. He left the hotel about 5am. For awhile I had planned on going with him and just hanging out in the airport lounge until it’s time for me to board mine. But mine doesn’t leave until 12:20, so that’s a serious hangout in the airport, even if it is the lounge. I still got up pretty much when he did – 4:30a – and started working on the blog. I went down to breakfast about 6:30. It’s now coming up on 9am and I’m going to finish up packing and head to the airport. Depending on security lines and all that, I’ll have about 2-2.5 hours before I board, much better than 5. The final day’s blog is taking awhile, as I knew it would. I finished the first section on the Berlin Wall, and still have 127 photos to sort through for the rest of the day.
It’s exactly 10am Berlin time and I made it to the lounge. Dan had given me a heads up that it’s before security, which is fairly unusual. He didn’t know that so he missed it; would have been too much trouble to go out and get back in the short amount of time he had. Poor thing 🙁 He really looks forward to his lounge experience. I sent him pictures instead 🙂
Getting here was easy: a 10 minute walk to a bus stop and a 15 minute ride from there with only 4 stops. I couldn’t resist a couple of last Berlin photos along the way. We really enjoyed our stay in Berlin. It’s up there with Rome and London for us, maybe even Paris. We are most definitely city boys.
Going to work on the Day 11 blog until they call the flight. The lounge attendant said she will give us enough time to get through security so I don’t have to worry about it until she calls it. My hope was that I could finish that entry and this one before I board. She’ll likely call it in about 90 minutes; don’t think it’s going to happen. One of these trips I’d like to finish the whole thing before I get home. It hasn’t happened yet.
It is now 2:24pm London time, which is one hour earlier than Berlin. Flight took off 30 minutes late but landed only about 15 minutes late. I have to say Berlin is the weirdest airport I’ve experienced. Security and passport check happened directly at each gate. Seems so inefficient. And then the gate areas themselves were tiny.
I made it through Heathrow security and to the lounge in about 20 minutes probably – record time to be sure. It’s taken me as long as 2 hours before, especially when flying by myself economy. The business class ticket I have allows me to use Fast Track, and it’s also what gets me into the lounge. The biggest challenge was finding two plugs next to each other that both worked. Luxury problems to be sure. Back to yesterday’s blog. I’ll board in about 90 minutes….still probably won’t be done….
It’s 9am Monday morning, home. The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful. The flight out of London was delayed and landed almost an hour later than scheduled. Dan was worried when I first told him I thought I only had an hour between landing from London and the Southwest connection I was taking for the final leg. He said customs at LAX can be a zoo. He was right. My original schedule provided me with 2 hours, but the delay resulted in it being one after all. And customs was ridiculously frustrating. I’m not sure why they don’t have their act together like SFO, which is very easy. It wasn’t just about the number of people. It was disorganized and there were 3 pieces to it, with long lines each time. At the second piece, another traveler graciously let me cut in line since I still had a connection to catch. Apparently familiar with LAX she said “I still don’t think you’re going to make it, but I hope it helps.” It did. I literally ran from the international terminal on the outside past terminals 3, 2 and then 1, the Southwest terminal. As I was going through security at 9:15 for a 9:30 flight, Southwest paged me. “The flight is completely boarded and ready for takeoff.” IOW: hurry your ass up if you’re here. I was the last person to board and was So Happy I didn’t have to spend an unexpected night in LA.
I Uber’ed home and got here about 11:30. I was oddly wired – considering it was 8:30am Berlin time and I hadn’t gotten much sleep in the prior 28 hours, maybe 2 hours tops. I unpacked and even went to Safeway to get a few things for breakfast so I wouldn’t have to leave the house today maybe.
Before I forget, I watched 5 movies on the way home, each very enjoyable, and each very different from the next. I would recommend all of them if you haven’t seen them: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Deadpool, Eye in the Sky, Joy, Money Monster.
As is our tradition, we finish with final thoughts.
1. One of the reasons we love to travel is the history we come across. This trip may have surpassed all others on that front. In addition to the great stuff we got on the last day, I really appreciated all of the oddly personal connections I was able to make at the beginning of the trip between Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia – those regions that showed up in the Pre-Departure entry related to my heritage. I didn’t find any long lost relatives; still, it was satisfying to get a better sense of all of that, and to learn how important those areas were in the years from 1000-1900. And to learn that by present boundaries my heritage is like 75% Czech! Dan thinks I should now describe my background exactly as written: most of my people come from Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Bavaria. Since none of those exist anymore as entities, it’s an opportunity to tell the story when people go “I’ve never heard of any of those places.”
2. The palaces on this trip were mostly “meh” although Schonbrunn in Vienna has its place. Do Versailles as some point in your life and you really never need to do any others. (At least based on the last 5 trips! We will still check them out in future trips to see if anything comes close…)
3. The cathedrals and their endless varieties continue to fascinate us. St. Vitus in the Prague Castle complex was the most impressive of this trip, and goes into our top favorites.
4. As always, language was not a barrier. And as always, Google Maps is our best tool.
5. More as always: lots of smokers and heavy cologne wearers in Europe. And on this trip, add body odor. We’ve always noticed, but somehow it seemed more predominant this time.
So beyond the history, this trip much the same as others, which is oddly reassuring. Probably because we’ve stuck to the same continent so far, things feel more and more familiar. Germany in particular this time, even different from Austria, felt like we were coming home as soon as we got off the train in Dresden. It is by far the country we’ve seen the most of, no accident since it’s the home of Bayer.
It may also be prescient that in Dresden and Berlin we got glimpses of Turkish history that we hadn’t gotten before, because since the Italy trip in January we’ve been talking about Istanbul as part of the next one. Now we’re even more sure of it, but of course will continue to monitor the political situation over there to see if that has any impact on our decision. While we won’t do anything reckless, for the most part our sense of things is “if we let terrorists keep us at home, they win.” So we’ll be going somewhere for sure again, perhaps in May sometime.
So we’re thinking either something like Istanbul, Athens and Budapest (which we realize now we should have done on this trip instead of Berlin – would have complemented the others cities we did historically so much more effectively) OR something completely different like rent a car in the UK and drive through the countryside, doing things like Bath, Cardiff, Southampton, maybe Cambridge and/or up to the Scottish Highlands. That 2nd one has been on our list for awhile, it’s just a matter of when. Dan is excited to take advantage of the drop in the British pound since Brexit before it recovers too much 🙂
And a lot may happen between now and then. If things go well, I will be living with Dan in Raleigh by the next trip. Lots of moving parts on that front so will have to wait and see how it all unfolds.
No matter what, we will continue to blog. Especially on the last day of our trip, I thought a lot about how the blog influences how we capture what we do. And I say it every time and it’s still true: we do it for us, because it helps preserve the trip in our minds in ways that wouldn’t happen if we were just going through our day without thinking about documenting it. And I really enjoy re-reading them later, and do it probably more than I should. But it’s always fun to have you come along, and we are grateful for the feedback we get when we know you’re enjoying it to.
Hope to see you next time!