Day 1 – Berlin, Germany, here I come
Over 175 days ago I made the decision to travel to Berlin, Germany in the Fall of 2008. I wanted to visit with my cousin, Gerhard Kolberg, and his family. Gerhard and his two adult grandsons had visited us in St. Joe in 2000 and I had wanted to make a trip to them in Berlin since that time. As with life, each thought to plan such a trip was met with roadblocks such as job requirements, financial concerns, etc. Finally this last Spring I decided this would be the year.
I wrote to Gerhard and immediately received a positive response back from him that he and his family would be very happy to have me visit. Dates for the trip were set for October 9-23 and plans began. I started counting the days off on my office calendar and at 175+ days, the trip seemed so far away. However, time passes quickly and before I knew it, my calendar was showing 10 more days, 9, 8, 7, etc until finally 1 more day.
During the last two weeks before my trip, major glitches turned up with my self-employment and my two client groups. One group, a local service organization, had a financial crisis and had not paid me for 3 months. They kept assuring me that they would soon pay me but the day before my trip I was still looking at near the end of my 3rd month without pay. My other client, the physician practice that I perform medical transcription services for, informed me that they would be transitioning to electronic medical records soon and my services would soon diminish and eventually reach the end.
This was not what I wanted to hear but they informed me that they had an opening in their practice for a surgery scheduler/administrative assistant and they had me come in for a day and observe the current employee in that position who is retiring the end of the year. Within a few days they were offering me that position. There was much to think about when I should have been thinking about, and getting ready for, my trip. Friends who knew of my trip to Berlin were asking me these final two weeks if I was ready for the trip, was I packed, was I getting excited and I had to stop and think that I felt numb from all these client issues and the offering of a new hired position all at the time I should be anticipating my trip. Last night, I was finally packing.
Today dawned bright and sunny in contrast to the last week of non-stop rain. My neighbor was going to drive me to the airport shuttle in Michigan City, IN and we left on time. As we pulled into the Holiday Inn to catch the shuttle, there it went driving on down the road. I had heard that the shuttle waits for no man (or woman) and it was obviously the truth. No matter, as I had allowed much time and within an hour another shuttle came. Now began a two hour ride to O’Hare airport with multiple stops along the way.
Arriving at O’Hare, amazingly Lufthansa Airlines was the first stop. I had assumed Lufthansa would be at the International Terminal but it was not. I still do not know why as I have returned from Germany in the past on Lufthansa and the plane landed at the International Terminal. The shuttle driver bypassed Lufthansa and parked at the next terminal which was United. There were swarms of people waiting to get into the terminal at United and as I was walking back, with my luggage, to the Lufthansa terminal I could see that there was ONE lone passenger waiting outside the doors. This would be the easiest check-in ever.
A quick scan of my passport at the check-in area confirmed all my flight plans, tickets were printed, my one piece of luggage was checked and I was off to the gate carrying my purse, my jacket and a very heavy carry-on bag which became heavier and heavier throughout the day. I was carrying my laptop which has a 17” screen and conventional laptop cases would not accommodate the computer so I had opted for a carry-on bag which actually was a large case received free from Estee Lauder one year with a cosmetic purchase. A nice case and large but NO wheels and wheels I could have used. I began to consider the possibility of searching in Berlin for a wheeled case to come home with because I do not relish the thought of carrying this bag again.
Check-in and security check all took place within 10 minutes tops and I had allowed 3 hours lead time for this phase of the trip. I toyed with the idea of cruising around the airport but the carry-on bag quickly changed that thought. I did stop at a café in the airport for a sandwich and a bottle of pink lemonade for the price of $12.00. They sure know how to “get” a person. Later I bought 2 large bottles of water to take on the plane and the cost for them was $5.99!
This would be a long day and still waiting for boarding time. Finally after near 3 hours of sitting, reading and people watching (of which there were many), as well as watching Lufthansa board two earlier flights to Munich and Frankfurt, the Düsseldorf plane was finally ready for boarding.
The flight took off on time and was amazingly smooth. A wonderful airline indeed as nice sized pillows and blankets were on each seat and the plane was full except for one empty seat and that was right NEXT to me. It could not have been better. I could spread out and didn’t have to worry about someone crawling over my legs or sitting shoulder to shoulder.
Despite the fact that this was to be a 10 hour flight – through the night – it went quickly with the continuous round of food and beverage services. First came beverages of which anything and everything was available, followed by snacks and then a dinner. Two entrees were offered and I selected a chicken and rice dish with salad, fruit and apple pie. I read quite a bit of a good book I had brought along called appropriately “Family Tree” while two movies were being played. Tried to sleep some but the hours passed quickly and it seemed like we had just had dinner when they began serving breakfast which consisted of a roll, cheese, fruit and beverages. The flight actually took only 8 hours and as morning dawned in Germany, we were landing in Düsseldorf.
Above photo of Lufthansa Terminal, Chicago, Ill - Copyright © 2008 by Cheryl Schulte