Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It turns out German rest stops look a lot like American rest stops.

Okay, so you know how sometimes you get on a plane and you think, 'This plane will land in the location I chose and paid for!' and so even though the plane may be delayed two hours before taking off, that's okay! You're going where you want to go!

Except for now. The gig is up, people. It turns out airlines can take you ANYWHERE THEY WANT TO. Like say you board a flight and you think it's going to Munich. That's the ticket you bought, after all. It says it right there, on the ticket! Munich! And everybody else around you is ALSO going to Munich, so you are definitely not boarding the wrong plane.

So you're feeling pretty gosh darn confident you are on your way to the city of your choosing until about ten minutes into the flight, when an announcement is made. 'Hey! We're not going to Munich. We don't really feel like it. But look, since you bought tickets to Germany, we'll at least drop you off in Cologne! Cheers!' This is like getting dropped off in LA when you need to be in San Francisco. Or Memphis when you're aiming for Tulsa. 

This is exactly what happened last night. You can only imagine the uproar. But it's okay, they say! There are arrangements on the other side to get everyone to Munich! Sure, they aren't FLIGHT arrangements, but come on! You'll still get there! Plains, trains, or automobiles, you should get there anyTIME this week!  

I know. I KNOW. 

So we all get off the plane a short while later, bleary-eyed, disoriented, and not a little upset. We're shuffling around an empty deserted airport at one a.m. in the middle of nowhere and still not sure exactly how it happened. We are then gathered round the luggage conveyor belt and given our options: take a bus now and be at Munich in five or six hours, or take a train at 3:30 and arrive in Munich by 8. They strongly encourage the bus option for anybody who wants to get to Munich early. 

In hindsight, this was a trick. They just wanted us to leave as soon as possible and quit hassling them with our thousands of interjected questions. Tricksy Germans!

So we all shamble on to the bus, like so much brain-dead zombie cattle totally confused and just wanting to be moving in the right direction. Or any direction, really. 

We wake less than an hour later to the smell of burning. SMELLS LIKE BURNING! We aren't sure what it is--plastic? rubber? our bus's soul?--but it's rank and it's bad and it's clearly not going to survive the autobahn and we have to pull over and shut it off before it turns into a giant ball of fire. It will not be coming back to life.


Our night has officially gone from bad to THIS HAS TO BE A JOKE WHERE ARE THE CAMERAS? Everyone is laughing with hysterical delirium. We are never getting to Munich. We are all becoming friends in our shared disaster. One girl is pretending we are on a desert island together and fighting for survival and every human moment becomes part of the montage in the future movie about us. 

The driver calls a second bus to come pick us up. It arrives nearly an hour later. But we aren't allowed to change buses yet. It seems the local police that have pulled over to watch the show want to make the second bus tow our bus off the highway due to some regulation that said passengers couldn't disembark on the autobahn.  Eventually they give this up as it is clear we are all thisclose to throwing ourselves into traffic, anyway, in a mad attempt to find some other route--any other route!--to Munich so they finally let us get on the second bus. It is now around 3:30 in the morning.

The second bus is more modern than our current bus--maybe 25 years old instead of 30--and significantly more compact. My knees are up around my chin to fit into the seat. But it will get us there. Albeit slowly. Our new driver is a grumpy old man who likes to take a lot of breaks. 30 minutes here, 20 there, 10 there. We see all of Germany in rest stops. Our driver also likes to yell a lot, but the direction of his ire isn't clear. His honking at other vehicles wakes me on a number of occasions but eventually it becomes a soothing background because at least it means we are not pulled over taking a break. 

We finally arrive in Munich at 10 this morning. Roughly twelve. hours. late. I nearly kissed the pavement.

On the bright side, the charming city of Munich appears to be pulling out all the stops as an apology for their airline and bus failings. Snow is falling from the heavens in great plump white swirls of plump swirly whiteness, the shops are all twinkling away, and every two feet is a stall selling sausages or sweets or gluwein or pretzels or dark baked bread. It's a lovely Christmas wonderland. 

And just in case you wondered what Santa is up to this week:

I must take a bit of a nap now--soon two friends are arriving and we'll be off to dinner and more market fun times! Word on the street (actually, word from one of my new German friends from the bus this morning) there's a tiny market in the courtyard of the old palace that's excellent, and a medieval market where they actually dress in costume and serve your drinks in goblets, and a romantic market that's all super duper twinkly at night, and also an art market, and a charity market, and a * on and on and on *!  I really can't wait. So much to do, so little time! And off to Salzburg for a day trip tomorrow! 

I hope you're all having a good week and staying away from all major airlines! 

Big hugs and lots of love, 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Now to find my mittens.

It's a big day! Notably, my last day at my computer for some time. Right now I should be packing for a night-time flight to Munich-town. This doesn't seem urgent, though. I mean, what do I need? Jeans, boots, coat? I can WEAR all that.

I'm really hoping the Christmas markets will be like that awesome one in Chicago that I went to years ago on my road trip (I still have my mug in the shape of a boot!) or the fantastic one I went to here in London a couple weeks ago, Winter Wonderland (motto: 'We look just like a German Christmas market, if you don't look too closely'). 

These are GERMAN crepes. Don't be so uptight.

They even had curry sausages. Also of German origin.

This is Anna. She is awesome. She is not German, but she totally could be with her rockin' Bavarian style.

Bratwurst. By far the best part of Winter Wonderland, other than Anna's hat.  My love, my heart, get in my belly.  

I can't wait for the shopping. I clearly need a wooden Santa that smokes when you light incense inside him and maybe an elf to sit on my shelf but one that doesn't report to Santa because he's gone rogue and also I think I'd like to try and find a snowflake ornament that's tucked inside a snow globe ornament inside a reindeer ornament all dangling from a sprig of holly in a wreath around the neck of a bigger reindeer ornament. That would be perfect.

I look forward to seeing you soon! I hope you have a very merry Christmas!

Love and hugs,