Monday, November 26, 2012

Gute Nacht from Frankfurt!

Sunday morning started off with a panic. I had a rough night’s sleep due to my ever-growing list of things to do before we left for the airport. Do laundry. Collect our VAT receipts. Take a shower. Pack away our carry-ons. Stuff our backpacks. Send last-minute emails. Return the vacuum to our neighbors. Sweep up the dog hair. Strip the bed and collect our towels. And, most importantly, spend at least 5 blissful minutes savoring the sweet afternoon sunshine whilst listening to the ocean on our back patio.

I’m pretty sure that the pet menagerie knew something was up, as they’ve never seen me rush around so frantically before. Pella hid under the coffee table, her trademark “you can’t kick me out and leave if I’m here” move, Biscuit looked up at me sadly with his big brown eyes, not even bothering to ask for a belly scratch this morning, and Mugwa the cat just got the heck out of my way.

Five hours later, we finished the list. “Wow! You’re done really early -- nearly an hour to spare!” Jim exclaimed. (Given my notorious history of last-minute packing, this actually was a pretty remarkable achievement.) “Yes, but I knew it was going to be a big push today. I haven’t been this stressed in months!” I remarked.

Before we knew it, a bare-footed bear of a man (the incoming housesitter, who somehow maintains his imposing build on vegetables alone) was at our door to take us to the airport. We rushed through check-in, VAT refund, security, passport control, and currency exchange with just enough time to arrive at the gate for “boarding.” I use quotation marks because while the airport monitors said “boarding,” passengers at the gate were clearly *not* boarding. A few minutes later, the monitors refreshed, indicating a 2-hour delay…

About 2 hours and 30 minutes later, people were starting to get restless. We could see the plane on the tarmac, so knew that we weren’t waiting for another flight to arrive. It also couldn’t be the weather, as a Lufthansa flight had just recently departed for Munich. “The flugzeug fliegt nicht,” I told Jim. Then, moments later, the captain and co-pilot appeared at the gate and approached the boarding desk. A crowd gathered around, and the captain began to speak:
“Guten tag, hindelkassen wergarhdtsstadf kndergrautenze flugzeug scweischertrschlizt groschlisnghaus mechanisch gwentwizerbosch…[5 more minutes of indecipherable German]… Danka.”
(I have only completed Unit 1 of Rosetta Stone German, which thankfully includes a lesson on basic greetings and a boy sitting under an airplane.)

The captain then said,
“Oh, is there anyone here who doesn’t understand German?”
A handful of Anglo passengers sheepishly raised their hands.
“I will repeat for you the interesting parts. The flight is delayed. We have booked accommodation for you for tonight. You will get a slip of paper under the door of your hotel room in the morning with information on our new departure time.”
Many hours and several German-only announcements later, we had collected our bags, were corralled through immigration, and hopped charter buses en route to our hotels. While I had hoped to return to Cape Town someday, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
Southern Sun Hotel in Cape Town
The next morning, the front desk gave us an early wake-up call to inform us that the buses were leaving at 8 AM. Not wanting to push our luck with German punctuality (have you ever ridden their trains? I swear they are timed to the second!), we hurriedly packed, showered, and scarfed down a gut-busting breakfast with our new German freunden.

Back at the airport, we repeated the check-in process (except this time it was performed en masse with 300 passengers) and claimed our usual seats at the gate. Finally, after a 17-hour delay, we boarded our flight from Cape Town to Frankfurt.

But weren’t we headed to Croatia? Yes, we were (and still are) heading to Zagreb. But we arrived too late in Germany to catch a connecting flight. This means a second night at a hotel on Condor’s nickel. Not ideal, but it’s much nicer to sleep in a bed rather than a cramped economy seat or an airport bench.

Sheraton at Frankfurt Airport
I may have jinxed us on Sunday by proclaiming, “Next stop, Zagreb!” in my Facebook status. So, this time, I’ll just say “Guten nacht from Frankfurt!”