Saturday, March 23, 2013

Planes, trains, and automobiles

After my exciting adventures in Dublin, I was off to visit friends in Germany. I booked a flight from Dublin to this tiny airport called Maastricht from there. I knew I'd be taking a bus and three trains to Cologne (Koln) where my friend Antje would pick me up by car. Throughout the day, I often felt like Mr. Bean because I only had 3 hours of sleep the night before.

I flew with a budget airline called Ryan Air. I had heard it was a strange airline, but experiencing it was much more odd than I anticipated. First, we had to board the plane by walking out onto the Tarmac. The plane boards like a cattle call where you can sit anywhere unless you pay a fee (they're big on fees) for an assigned seat. Luckily, I had an assigned seat in the front row. Unluckily, it was covered it water from rain blowing in the door.

When we took off, it became clear that the flight staff felt very proud to have their jobs. Not that I blame them, but you would think they would be more proud of a different airline. Once airborne, they started selling all kinds of food. Their carts looked like someone had dumped out a vending machine on them. In addition, they were selling cigarettes and SCRATCH OFF LOTTERY TICKETS. No joke. The plane's landing was no less surprising when we hit the ground with a huge thud. I heard other passengers saying that Ryan Air always has these landings and they've just had to learn to cope with them.

When I got into the airport, the challenge to get to Cologne started. While I was waiting for my luggage, I fired up Foursquare to check in. A message popped up, "Congats! You haven't been to The Netherlands in two years." My first thought was that Foursquare must have been broken. My total airport commute would be two hours to Cologne. How could I be in The Netherlands? I was looking around for clues. Everything was finally confirmed when I saw the wooden Dutch shoes in the airport gift store. I really was in The Netherlands and wow, I was REALLY tired.

Despite my fatigue, I made the bus and the three trains on time with no issues. At the bus stop, a college student asked me if I was also on spring break. This may end up being the highlight of the trip.

My friend Antje picked me up at the train station. We drove to her new house were I was able to visit her husband Thomas and their new baby, Emma. Everything was great. Emma is so sweet. Meeting me was her first English lesson. Thomas made us some tasty German waffles and cherries, and we talked for a few hours. Their new house (that is really nice) was built just a few months ago. It's a special kind of house that was completed in one week or less. After the first day, they were given the keys to the house. Talk about good German engineering!

After a nice German dinner complete with breads, cheeses, and meats, Antje drove me to my friend Steffi's apartment in Cologne. I know Steffi from Memphis where she was an intern at FedEx a few years ago. Steffi had just completed her school's final exams earlier in the day. As a result, a big group of her friends were going out to celebrate. We went to a huuuge bar that is built in an old factory or warehouse space. It's probably the largest bar (and most crowded) that I've ever seen in my life. It was also an experience to see so many young people. In Germany, you can legally start drinking at 16 (although i think the club was 18+). I had a great time meeting Steffi's friends, trying the local beer, and dancing the night away.

No comments: