Homeward Bound

Day 10 - Sunday, September 25, 2005

This was probably the earliest morning of them all. Because we had an early flight to catch, we went down for breakfast before the hotel restaurant even opened. I'd often wondered what kind of crazy people go to eat breakfast that early in the morning. Now I know. People like us. Again we got to enjoy pancakes before going back upstairs to finish packing our stuff.

Now when we booked the tour, we actually booked transport to the airport, because we didn't think the tour bus would bring us there. But as we stood around waiting for our lift to arrive, almost everyone else leaving at this time piled into the bus and took off without us. We stood there feeling silly for having booked this extra transport that apparently was going to take longer to get to the airport than the bus would. At least we weren't alone, there were two other couples from our tour who were standing around with us.

We didn't actually have to wait all that long for the ride to arrive in the form of a van. It was just long enough for us to wonder if it was going to arrive at all. Anyways, we pile in and off we go.

It was extremely foggy this early in the morning, and we struggled to see out the windows to watch the countryside go by. Suddenly, we looked up ahead and there was none other than our beloved tour bus! Being a bus, it couldn't go as fast as our little van and we soon overtook it and left it in our wake.

We were the last to get off the van, the other two couples having airlines whose gates were closer than ours. So we find ourselves in the interminable lines that define the airport experience and wait to get our boarding passes and check our luggage.

A few minutes pass and we notice some more people from our group at the back of the line, the bus had finally caught up to us. As we weaved back and forth between the dividers, we eventually ended up side-by-side and were able to talk a bit every now and then.

At last we checked our luggage and went to wait for the plane. I discovered that unlike in Toronto, where smokers were forced into a smoky room to enjoy their vice, in Munich, the "smoking section" was the middle of the waiting area, nothing separating it from the rest of the passengers. We hoped that our plane would leave soon.

But it didn't leave before we noticed a Japanese family sitting not too far away. Remember when we went to Neuschwanstein and my mother ended up in the back of the carriage while my father and I sat in the front, well guess what, these were the exact same tourists my mother rode down the mountain with. They were as surprised to recognize us as we were to see them. Though they didn't speak English, the man made some motions with his hands as if he were holding reins to get across the image of a horse and carriage.

At last, the plane boards and takes off for Frankfurt. The stewardesses hand out drinks, and just as quickly as they are done, they start collecting them, since the flight is only a half hour long. Fortunately we don't have to wait long to catch our connecting flight back home, on the contrary, by the time we get from the arrivals to the departures walking along a long tunnel lit with coloured lights, a moving sidewalk, and with music playing in the background - makes you feel like you're either in an aquarium or some kind of science fiction movie. We then got in line to get a tax rebate on one Swarovski crystal I bought while in Innsbruck. Unfortunately, it turns out you have to go to customers first (which is upstairs) to get some papers filled out, and then back down again to the rebate counter. To top it off, they had some escalators that spanned two floors. You had to be careful which one you chose or you wouldn't be able to get off at the floor you wanted. Of course I found myself on one of those. Reminds me of dreams I sometimes have of needing to get somewhere but you have to find the right combination of escalator and elevator to get to the right floor.

And don't forget the running around for bathrooms and food before the plane takes off. No, we didn't have long to wait at all, they actually started calling us to board before we were done. At first I found it odd that they were boarding us so early, but this was because they had to first load us up on a bus and then drive us out to the tarmac where the airplane was waiting. This was the first time I'd boarded a plane by climbing stairs leading directly into it.

At last we settle ourselves in for the flight back. I worry for a while that I'll get sick again on the flight, but I managed to be mostly fine the entire trip back. I'll probably never enjoy plane flights, but at least I now know it won't kill me.

Since I was somewhat more aware of what was going on around me on the way back, I was able to watch a strange discovery my mother made. One of the stewards comes over and asks my mother if she knows a certain woman. Surprised, she said yes, she was a Latvian acquaintance of hers. The man then said that he was her husband, and that's when the two of then figured out who the other was. Even my father knew him. Apparently I'd met him too but I was too young to remember it. What a small world that you could be on a flight from Germany to Canada and actually meet up with someone you know. He tried to talk as often as he could, but he had a job to perform so we didn't see too much of him.

Several hours later, the plane descends, reaching its final destination. Exhausted, we drag our plane-cramped bodies home. Tired though I was, I was sorry the trip had ended. On almost every trip I've ever been on, in the last few days I usually can't wait to go home, but this one was different. I could have spent another week in Europe, no problem. I would have loved a few more days in Vienna, although anywhere would have been great.

The best part is, now my parents are looking forward to going back! Maybe the next time I suggest we go on a big vacation, their suggestion won't be "Vermont" or "Maine" but "Italy" or "France".