I have arrived in Deutschland!
As far as my harrowing adventures go, this one wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have to run through the airport to my gate or have my passport flagged at security (thanks again, London) or be delayed so long I missed my flight. But it wasn’t without incident. I said in my last post that this wasn’t a practical travel guiding blog, but here are some things I’ve learned.
1. The Berlin Airport, terminal A, has no place to lay down.
This is a big deal for the weary traveler who’s flight departed at 5:30 p.m. and arrived in Germany at 8 a.m. local time, with perhaps a total of two hours of darkness. I would not call what I did on the plane “sleeping”* so I had a grand fantasy of stretching out across some bench seats at the airport during my 5.5 hour layover.
*more like varying levels of awareness that my eyes were closed, my neck was cramping, and one of my limbs was numb
I was directed to terminal A where passengers were not allowed into the “gate” area until boarding time. There was no room full of chairs. There was not even a room with a carpeted floor where I could curl up in a corner. There were restaurants and shops and a handful of metal chairs facing human traffic, something you might see at a train station, but no place to “hang out” and read or sleep or plug in your laptop. Therefore, I did not sleep.
2. The internet is not free.
I wasn’t surprised by this because it’s a growing trend in airports (even at JFK, in the land of the free) so I assumed I would not be getting online, but I did stumble across a cafe that had free wifi. I can blog! I thought. I had just enough euro from last year’s trip to purchase a coffee, but when I tried to log into the wifi system, it required me to enter a phone number. I did, only to find out they texted me a special code, which I could not access because of my disabled phone/cell service. So I went without, only to purchase it ten minutes before my flight because I had no way of making sure Lauren knew my flight was delayed and I didn’t want her waiting for hours to pick me up.**
**crisis not completely averted, thanks to #4.
3. Check your gate number repeatedly.
My gate changed four times in the span of an hour, including a switch from terminal A to terminal C. They don’t announce this, so you have to be vigilant.
Please note: Terminal C has seats at the gate, so if you’re in need of a nap, go to terminal C (but not in the middle of the day when all chairs are taken).
4. Even with a 6+ hour layover, your luggage will not make it onto the connecting flight.
Well. Can’t say I’m surprised.
But waiting for all of the luggage to come off of the flight, and then to file a missing claim report, meant that Lauren had to park the car instead of idle in the place we’d planned to meet, but that’s where I went, and she had to park, and I didn’t know where she was and she didn’t know where I was, and I had no working phone or internet, and I was about to fall to the ground weeping when I saw her. PRAISE THE LORD.
5. Germans excel at everything except customer service.
You need help? Understanding? Someone to explain something? This is not the country for you.
Customer service reps aren’t compassionate. Obviously whoever’s calling is a moron, and while we believe the same thing in the United States, we’re threatened into being nice with bad write-ups and commission. Here, they just avoid dealing with stupid people altogether.
The phone numbers they gave me to check on my bags were always busy. We looked at the website, which said my luggage delivery had been “initiated,” but the only number we could find online was a fax number (that’s useful). When we finally got through to an automated message and put on hold, we were either hung up on five times, or the phone automatically disconnected after ten minutes–we weren’t sure. We spoke to a human once (!), and she said my luggage was on its way and would arrive in 1-2 hours, before “Mittag” (noon).
We waited at the house for it to come. All day. Until 4:30 p.m, with no way of knowing what was going on because the phone numbers were useless, the online information was useless, and there was really nothing we could do.
6. Not Germany related, but a good lesson to keep in mind.
Let the fun begin!
Disclaimer: Ich liebe die Deutsche und ich denke dass sie sind sehr intelligent und komisch. Bitte hasst mich nicht.