RJKARR - May 2000
And Off I Go - Part 1
It seemed as if the time would never arrive to leave
for Germany again but it was finally here. My tickets to the Passion Play were safely ensconced in my backpack
and I eagerly plopped down in my seat of the United jet which was to take me to Chicago where I would connect with
my flight to Frankfurt. My good friend and traveling companion Xio (pronounced C.O.) would be meeting me in Frankfurt
following morning. She was taking a separate flight from Tucson and I originated in Salt Lake.
Things did not get off to a good start, but that's OK. I'm on my way to Germany. We were late leaving the gate at SLC because there was a major computer glitch which affected all United flights throughout the US. For some reason they were not able to do any of their preflight calculations on the computer and had to do it manually. (Oh, how did we ever fly before the days of computers?) I just hope they remember their simple math when figuring how much fuel to put in the plane and how much weight is on board. I don't know whether to be relieved or not when they announce a lot of mail has to be removed from the cargo because we are over weight. Finally, we pushed away from the gate and I was, at long last, really and truly on my way.
Some time into the flight, the captain announced that we were circling over Wisconsin because of bad weather in Chicago. He also made the joyful announcement that we only had 25 minutes worth of fuel to circle and if we weren't cleared in that amount of time, Madison would be our next stop. Now I'm sure Madison is a very nice place, but it's not exactly on my travel itinerary for the day! He also added that only 2 planes had been allowed to land at O'Hare in the last 40 minutes. Things don't look good!
After about 10 minutes he told us we had been cleared to continue our flight to Chicago. However, a little later, he announced that we were circling somewhere over Illinois with only 15 minutes worth of fuel to circle. Once again, we were told Chicago was a real mess. I was not too worried at this point because I had a good leeway on time. Eventually they announced we were landing, but neglected to tell us exactly WHERE. Much to my great relief, the arrival was at O'Hare.
I still wasn't worried even though we landed at the exact time my continuation flight was scheduled to depart for Frankfurt. If the airport was in that big a mess, probably most flights were late departing. When we got to the gate, they announced that virtually all flights out of Chicago were cancelled for the day or at the very least greatly postponed to some time later. They did announce that a very few were still scheduled for departure. If your flight wasn't announced, it was cancelled! The saints be praised, my flight to Frankfurt was one of only about 5 announced for departure.
I walked off my plane and right on to the one for Frankfurt, which had already boarded. Imagine my delight when I saw that I had 3 seats to myself - probably because some other poor passengers were still circling over Madison, Wisconsin. The doors were closed about 15 minutes after I boarded, but we had to sit at the gate for another hour before departing.
When dinner was served, I took a heavy duty sleeping pill and stretched out leisurely (yeah, sure) across the 3 seats. It seemed as if I didn't sleep a wink even with the sleeping pill. (I'm extremely difficult to sedate.) I must have slept some, because I was very rested and alert the following day.
Upon arriving in Frankfurt about an hour late, I went to claim my luggage. I watched all the other luggage come off the plane, but my luggage, along with that of several other passengers, never showed up. It was somewhere back in the neighborhood of Chicago! It was coming on a later flight and they assured me they would send it to me that night. I gave them a copy of my itinerary and said a prayer of thanks that I had toiletries and a complete change of clothes in my carry on. At least I could have clean teeth and clean underwear until my luggage arrived.
I still had about 2 or 3 hours before Xio was to arrive, so I put the time to good use and found the car rental agency to get the paper work done for our car. I had prepaid for a mid-size automatic car and was very put out when the lady at the desk said, "You do drive a manual car don't you?" I quickly informed her that I don't. (I lied. I can drive a manual. I just WON'T drive one.) She said "Oh" and then smiled and said she was going to give me a Mercedes A Class car, like that was some big favor. Well, thanks to another member of Ben's Stammtisch group, I know better than to fall for that one! I asked her if that wasn't one of the tiny, little, dangerous cars that Mercedes makes, which she confirmed. (I guess it's OK if all you're traveling with is one change of underwear and a toothbrush in a paper bag, but you're dealing with 2 women and there is NO WAY we could get our luggage in that thing. Heck, I'm not even sure we could get into it.) When I informed her that I would not accept that one either, the people in line behind me began laughing and cheering me on. I know I'm within my rights but she's trying to pawn off a car that is much cheaper than the one I have already paid for. When I stood my grounds, she finally said she thought I would be pleased with what she was giving me, and I was. We got a Mercedes C180.
After Xio arrived and we had her added to the paperwork at the car rental agency, it was off to Rothenburg.
Rothenburg, rain and lost luggage - Part
The 7 weeks prior to our arrival had been unseasonably warm and dry with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. That was to suddenly change when we arrived. We hopped in our blue Mercedes and headed out to Rothenburg. A few kilometers down the autobahn, a light rain began to fall
Near Wurzburg we decided to exit the autobahn and take the little roads that lead through the beautiful small villages which dot the paths along the way. One such village was Ochsenfurt, which we had never visited before. We decided there was no time like the present. The rain had stopped and the sun was out, so we found a place to park right in the middle of town and got out for about an hour.
It's a delightful place and we were amazed to talk
with one of the locals and learn the town is approximately 1,000 years old. Here in the States, we think something is old if it has lasted for 100 years.
After admiring the beauty of the town, it was back in our car and off to Rothenburg. It didn't take long to arrive and we drove straight to our hotel. We had reservations at the Hotel-Garni Hornburg (DM 155 - Hornburgweg 28, 91541 Rothenburg; 011-49-9861-8480 phone, 011-49-9861-5570 fax).
I saw the hotel the last time I was in Rothenburg and decided to stay there on this trip. We had room number 7, which has a beautiful view of the town walls and towers. This was a wonderful choice of places to stay. The owners could not have been nicer and the place is just delightful.
- - -
We unloaded the car and got settled in. It began
raining really hard while we were getting organized and my umbrella was somewhere between Chicago and Frankfurt.
The rain stopped by the time we were ready to tour the town but it still looked threatening. I was able to borrow
an umbrella from the hotel, but luckily did not need it.
This was Xio's first time in Rothenburg so we had to see the usual sites, not the least of which was Kathe Wohlfahrts. However, we resisted the urge to buy anything. We walked around the outside of the wall and also on the wall.
It's such a peaceful pleasant walk. However, with rain threatening and the wind blowing, I was freezing. I only had a sweater with me; my coat was with my umbrella in the luggage somewhere between Chicago and Rothenburg. (I gave United the benefit of the doubt that by now it was at least somewhere in Germany.)
- - - -
We decided to return to the hotel to see if by some miracle the luggage had been returned to me. As soon as we walked in, they told me there was still no luggage but they were on the phone at that very minute with a driver who was bringing it to me. They assured me it should be there by about 9:00 p.m. With that somewhat comforting news, we went to eat.
After a yummy dinner of bratwurst and sauerkraut, we returned to the hotel and sat in the lobby and talked with the owner for some time. Since we had been traveling for a long time with no real sleep, we finally excused ourselves to retire for the night. About 15 minutes later, a knock came to our door with the announcement that the lost had been found. My luggage was there!
The next morning we were up early and ready to check out after breakfast. As we walked out the door, we heard a "clunk". The lens on Xio's camera broke and fell off, and this was only the second day of the trip. We went into town to see if the camera shop there had a quick fix, which they didn't. She just decreed that I was to make doubles of my photos and she would share the cost. That's lucky for me because I take lots of pictures and it would help in the cost of developing.
We got to our car and noticed a bad scratch on the back fender. I had committed the cardinal sin of car rentals. In my tired state, I forgot to check for scratches and dents when renting the car. We don't know if that scratch was on there when we got the car, but I don't think it was. I think someone whacked it pulling out of the parking spot next to ours. I guess I'll find out when I get a repair bill from the car rental company. With that, we were off to Dachau and Munich.
Dachau & turning
your life (or your car) around - Part 3