Saturday, 13 October 2012

Journey to Berlin

On Monday evening, when we began repacking and reweighing our stuff before leaving for Berlin, I knew that I was ready to be done with moving around, packing, and travel. We spent several hours trying to get our suitcases to the acceptable weight and trying to figure out how to manage the rest of our stuff. It was very frustrating. Airline luggage allowances are simply not designed for people who are going to be living off their suitcases for 2+ months.

Tuesday morning, much too early but not early enough, we were off to the airport and then stuck in traffic. Fortunately we’d left with the plan to get there 3 hours early, since the traffic was so bad that we only go there about 2 hours ahead. Then came the next hiccup—in order to weigh our bags prior to checking them we had to pay to use the scale. I used my last couple of pound coins and Andy fortunately gave us a couple. Bags were weighed and items were moved. And inevitably, as we checked them in, one ended up being over because the airport scale and the airline’s scale didn’t agree. We were not impressed. Fortunately the woman at the counter had pity on us and let us check it anyway.

The travel from Aberdeen to Berlin was one of the most stressful I’ve experienced. Trying to navigate all our carryons, ourselves, Walter, and his puschair through security was a giant pain, especially when they made me take his pushchair apart to put it through their luggage scanner. Arriving at the plane only to find out that we board it up a set of stairs on the runway was awful, since I can’t collapse Walter’s buggy with one hand and I can’t easily carry him up a flight of stairs while managing my carryons. Then there was some confusion about where our seats were. And, once we were all settled in, they came around with this ridiculous baby seatbelt that I had to loop around Walter, although I can’t see what good it would do to anyone since it in no way holds the baby secure. All it did was anger Walter, since he hates having things even hint at constricting his movement, so he treated everyone on the flight to a display of his outrage. He settled down as soon as the plane was in the air, but knowing I was going to have to go through the whole riggamarole again, and knowing that I was going to be ending my day in a foreign country where the language wasn’t English, meant that I ended up having a panic attack partway through the flight...and then a second one when we were waiting at Heathrow. Needless to say it wasn’t a great day.

Walter really disliked the flight from London to Germany, especially as they kept us waiting on the runway for an additional ten minutes before take-off which meant he had to spend a long time hot and uncomfortable in his baby seatbelt. We got so frustrated with it that we ended up just taking him out and holding him properly, at which point he settled down for most of the flight. I was pretty amazed at how little I cared about his crying bothering the other passengers. At church or in restaurants we try to remove him as soon as he starts crying, but since I couldn’t do anything about it on the airplane, and since his reasons for discomfort were beyond my control, I found I just couldn’t be bothered to stress about it over much. Fortunately there were other, older kids who were also crying and carrying on so we didn’t stick out too much!

I started to get really excited when I could see Germany through the airplane window. I couldn’t believe that after 28 years I was finally going to be “in Europe”. My excitement died a little when we discovered that although Tegel Airport is an airport in the capital of Germany, it is ridiculously tiny and not particularly user friendly. We couldn’t get Walter’s pushchair brought to us at the gate, which meant I had to carry him plus several carryons. Fortunately it was a short walk between the gate, security, and the luggage carousel where his chair was. The next snag was discovering that the baggage trolleys were coin operated but that there were no change machines in site, nor anywhere to buy products in order to make change. The trollies accepted coinage in three currencies, all of which I was carrying, but I didn’t have the correct coins. We ended up having to wait until the other passengers had departed, at which point I used some very broken German to beg a security guard to have pity on us. He obligingly unlocked a trolly and we left to go find a taxi that could accommodate all our bags.

 I was feeling pretty nervous by this point. I was exhausted, our driver didn’t speak English, and I had no idea of how the apartment system worked. What if I couldn’t find a way to buzz our flat? What if the guy wasn’t there? What if I had the address wrong? You get the picture. Fortunately, miraculously perhaps, as our taxi pulled up there was a man waiting on the street and it turned out that he was our landlord, come down to see if by chance we’d arrived. From then things began to improve—the men took the bags upstairs (and are there ever a lot of stairs!) and soon I was safely inside my Berlin apartment, able to relax for the first time all day.

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