Monday, March 24, 2008

Homeward Bound

Good bye park, good bye Blue Mosque.
Home again, home again, not so lickety-split. We were up at 5:00 am to get ready for the shuttle and thankful that the alarm worked since the wake up call never came. They did call to say the shuttle was there and waiting, though 15 minutes earlier than planned. We were the sole riders for the 30 minute ride, which they had told us to plan an hour for. Sleep deprivation could have been reduced.

When we arrived at the airport, the driver pointed to a line of traffic, grunted and went down a different road. He drove up the parking ramp and around and around climbing the levels of parking, with us scratching our heads. He finally pointed to a doorway that was direct access from the ramp to the entrance of the airport, thus cutting through the line of traffic if he had come the other way. Quite clever, we thought after we had realized what he was up to.

Absolutely immediately upon entering the airport, you have to go through security. All luggage and your person must be scrutinized before you can even check in at the airline counter. Once through this, we looked for our flight's ticket counter to get our boarding passes, but it only went as late as 8:30; our flight was 9:15. There are no restaurants or any diversions until after Passport Control.

We waited for over an hour for our flight to be posted, but then I realized all Turkish Airline flights were being ticketed at G/H sections. Our flight was Lufthansa, but operated by Turkish Air. We walked over there and sure enough, they were doing open check in for all flights. For some reason they could not give us our connecting flight boarding passes for Lufthansa, though Lufthansa could coming. They were able to send our baggage through to Budapest. Passport Control was relatively easy and then the long walk to the gate. That is one big airport.

As you approach the gate, you have to go through security yet again. They asked me to turn on my laptop this time. Then they check your passport against your boarding card and stamp it one more time. I have to give kudos to Turkish Air. All of their seats are leather, we had plenty of legroom, and the meal was substantial as well as tasty. We left 15 minutes late, but arrived in Munich on time, which was not a good thing arriving at 11:00 am with a 3:10 pm connecting flight.

Munich airport is also huge, but there were few shops in the area we were in, so not wanting to leave a secured area and reenter, we sat it out. Lufthansa also gets high marks for having racks of reading material at the gates: International Herald Tribune, USA Today, and the Financial Times all English publications. Also impressive is their self-service coffee and tea kiosks which are free. Great service!

Munich has gone the way of other airports with their strict no smoking policies. Those renegades such as myself are destined to stand in a square Plexiglas well ventilated fishbowl to indulge our bad habits. My empathy for aquarium creatures and zoo animals has increased tremendously. This was the only such den of iniquity in the entire wing of gates, so I did get some exercise doing a fast walk back from our gate area for one last hit before descending to the gate itself.

One hour was productively spent on the computer writing, but the battery was about to give out. I only get an hour on this laptop and thought ahead to reserve some power for another go at having to turn it on again. Although we were in a secured area, past security and Passport Control, we had to go through yet a second security to get to our gate. The gate was on the lower level and when they called the flight, we boarded a bus. I found it interesting that the overhead announcement repeatedly stated that due to increased security measures for those going to the US, please go to your gate immediately. I cannot imagine the security being any stricter than what we passed through already.

Not being a full plane, we had the middle seat free. The 'lunch' service was exactly the same at the one we had going, only this time, no choices. It was salami or salami. So much for Muslim food restrictions; we were now out of their zone of influence. Flying time was 55 minutes, a full 15 less than going. Must have been a good tail wind that propelled us.

Having gone by the shuttle to the airport, we had our return tickets already and were called within 5 minutes. Alone in the van we thought we would get home in a hurry, it stopped at the old airport and filled every seat with tourists, so we were third to be dropped off.

All in all, it is fun to go, but for me a joy most of the time to return to familiar surroundings and comforts of home.

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