Today I learned that the Germans are pretty much the nicest people in the world. If we had been traveling through America, or maybe any other country, all six of us would be sleeping on the floor of some airport terminal in some faraway land without my luggage. Instead I’m residing in the most expensive hotel I’ve ever eaten in, having just finished possibly the most expensive meal of my life (25 euros – I’m not a fancy diner), all for free. When I woke up that morning I never thought I’d end up here, but here I am.
The whole trip started 23 hours ago, at 7 in the evening Austin time. We arrived at the airport to learn that our flight to Frankfurt was delayed by two hours (the plan was to fly Condor to Frankfurt, then catch a connector flight on Lufthansa to London Heathrow). We were fine with this, being the adventerous people we are – we simply explored the Austin aiport for a few extra hours.
Transatlantic flights are normally no fun at all, but our seats were automatically upgraded to premium, so we got extra legroom, free pillows and blankets and earbuds, and free movies. Good movies, too – I watched Rogue One and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, two of my favorite movies. That and 3 hours of having my eyes closed helped to pass the 11 hour flight.
The flight was still an eternity, but we eventually we landed at 5 in the evening, Frankfurt time. A little bit late to meet our connecting flight to London at 3:30, but no worries, the Condor flight crew reassured us that we just talk to the staff at the gate and they’d set us up with a new flight.
Someone must have been misinformed, because either we misheard which gate had the staff, or the staff decided not to show up at the arrival gate. Either way, we couldn’t find the Condor staff to get us to London. Undeterred, we hiked to the desk where our connector was supposed to take off from. We had to leave the security area to change terminals, but that wasn’t as bad as it sounds. American security is much more stringent than European security – Here in Germany they even let us keep our shoes on.
Along the way, Dad’s girlfriend Kayla, who teaches German at a college, taught us how to pronounce various German words as we passed by them. (I can’t quite get UT to count this as a credit, though). For example, “Not halt” is pronounced “note halt,” and while you would think it means “not a halt,” it actually means “emergency halt.” Which explains why a lot of buttons said that.
As we would learn a word, we would all say it to ourselves (and each other), until we happened upon something else to catch our eye. In the meantime we were walking around saying “not halt,” and the Germans around us were wondering why we’re walking around saying “emergency stop, emergency stop.” It’s a miracle we didn’t run afoul of any anti-panic laws.
Once at the Lufthansa gate, we found out that our connecting flight had in fact departed hours earlier. A portly man behind the counter kindly tried to put us on another Lufthansa flight, and after spending a few minutes on the phone, informed us that all of the remaining flights of the day were booked because the weekend was a religious holiday, so everyone was travelling. He said we should go find the Condor service desk in the atrium airport, and he said that they would have to give us a hotel voucher, implying that there’s some sort of law.
We managed to find the Condor service desk in the airport atrium. Unfortunately, so had another few dozen people from our flight, so they were swamped. By the time we were at the head of the line, the agent informed us that not only were all of the flights to London-Heathrow for Saturday full, so were all of the Sunday flights.
This is where I think most people would give up. Our trusty Condor agent did not, and excitedly assembled a complicated plan whereby we would take an early-morning flight to Dusseldorf, and then take an afternoon flight to London. The second leg would be on British Airways, which Condor doesn’t have any agreements with, so the agent called up corporate of both companies and hammered out a deal. The deal involved our luggage being trusted to be managed by Condor overnight, hoping they would put it on the right plane in the morning. Then we would take the bag from the baggage claim and check it into BA, who would take it to London.
It still took several hours to hammer out the deal, which we managed to pass by playing cards. But at least we had a deal.
Until morning, then, we got to stay in the airport hotel. I’m used to travelling in the cheapest motel, but when I stumbled into the hotel at midnight after 23 hours awake, including an 11 hour plane ride and 5 hours wandering an airport, I was blown away.
The hotel was so fancy, we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the bathroom lights. The switches were weird press-button switches, but pushing them seemed to do no good. The room lights had already been on when we entered the room.
Not wanting to be the room that called room service asking how to turn on the lights, Jason (who I was rooming with) went down to ask the other two rooms (the airline gave us three rooms for free) whether they had figured it out. Turns out, you had to place the room id card in a slot by the front door before the switches start respecting you.
Having not used a bathroom since I left for the airport in Austin, I went in to use the bathroom. I closed the bsthroom door, which had no visible lock, and turned around to walk to the toilet, when my eye caught Jason peering in at me with his characteristic grimace.
Turns out, this hotel has a bathroom with the unique feature of having a window in the entryway that looks into the bathroom, with a perfect view of the shower.
There were no blinds, no frosted glass, nothing to block the view. We theorized that maybe it was designed for businessmen travelling alone, since the window gave an excellent view of the TV from the shower.
We also had various other ideas, but that was the least creepy so we stuck with it.
We managed to block the window using a pillow, since while I had neither clothes or toiletries, Jason did and wanted a shower.
Before his shower, though, we went downstairs to grab a bite to eat at midnight. I had eaten nothing in the past 18 hours that we had been in the transit system, and the only meal anyone else had had was airline food.
After a good meal in the wonderful weather of Frankfurt, I finally went to bed at 1, ready to wake up at 6:30 to catch our 9:00 flight to Dusseldorf, concluding my 24 hours awake.