Finally!Â At long last this is the final post in a series on my 2006 trip to Europe to ride coasters and visit Oktoberfest.Â If you want to review the series, you can go to any of the other installments with these links:
Our trip to Germany had finally come to an end.Â I have been on longer ones, but I was happy to be going back when we did.Â Too long a trip, especially an on-the-go one like this, can be very exhausting.Â We were all ready to get home, particularly Janna since she'd come down sick.
Since we were flying out that day we had some extra packing tasks to do.Â However it wasn't as difficult as it might have seemed.Â Having moved frequently from hotel to hotel throughout the trip we had never gotten time to establish ourselves, and had had to pack everything up several times already.Â We did have to deal with our carry-on liquids, but this was not too difficult.Â I had a minor worry when I began to look for the receipt I had to buy back dollars for Euros at the money exchange at my original rate.Â Had I lost this I might have been out some money, but fortunately I was able to recover it fairly easily.
Among the things I would be sorry to leave behind were the breakfasts.Â By this time I was used to eating pretty well early in the morning (quite the opposite of my usual habits I'm afraid), and this day was no exception.Â This breakfast had a good selection of fish, such as some very nice smoked trout and lox (surprisingly with a horseradish sauce rather than sour cream).Â An unexpected option was baked beans.
We had been planning on taking the 8:38 train to the airport, but missed it.Â Tim's meticulous planning always included a secondary option in case of such problems so there was a later train we could still take and make it on time, but it turned out to be a very tight squeeze indeed, the beginning of a difficult trip back.
The ticket to the airport cost 3.35 Euros, a good opportunity to get rid of a lot of loose change!Â We were able to board a train right away but then had to wait a long time, very impatiently, for departure.Â When we finally did leave I got a good view of the skyscrapers of Frankfurt through the fog.
Tim, Janna, and were flying home on the same flight while Greg was on a different one, so we split from each other at this point after a week or so of having traveled together.Â He had a much smoother time getting home than we did, as we found out later.
We had to walk a long distance on a seemingly endless series of escalators, both up and down, to the Sky Line shuttle to get to our concourse to check in.Â We could tell we were in a European airport; one of the main decorations of the concourse was pillars with soccer balls on top of them.Â However we weren't so much concerned with the decorations but the long line for the Delta counter that we found.
Not only did we have a long wait, even when we got to the desk we found ourselves with problems.Â One of the employees there objected to the bottles of contact lens fluid we were carrying with us, which we had no problem with on the trip out.Â It turned out that the rules had been tightened (from allowing a 120 milliliter bottle to only 100) while we were overseas, so that our bottles were no longer allowed.Â To add to the confusion, the posted sign still had the old maximum volume (under which our lens fluid would have been permitted) and the two people at the counter disagreed on the new rule.Â Ultimately it didn't matter; they simply wouldn't let us go with the lens fluid in our carry-on luggage.Â It was frustrating because not only did we now have no saline solution in case of emergencies, we had specifically tried to follow the rules to the letter only to find them changed out from under us.
In addition to this snafu we were delayed when the woman at our counter had to help another employee.Â By the time we were served, everybody else in line had been taken care of, so suddenly we found ourselves likely to be the last people to get to the gate.Â We endured the passport control line (where we seemed to choose the slowest-moving queue) and the standard airport security, only to find a second security line to get into the gate area.
I wasn't sure why there were two separate security checks but got a sense that the second one, which was definitely more extensive to the point of people removing their shoes to have their feet patted down, was specifically for US-bound passengers.Â The line looked long, but fortunately there was a second line hidden behind a corner that was much shorter.Â We were not the only people who were by this point nervous about missing flights.Â Some women going to an Atlanta flight tried to barge ahead of us.Â In my frustration I told them irritatedly, "Wir sind auch spÃ¤t!"
In the end, the angst was for nothing, as the plane was not yet boarding when we finally arrived at the gate.Â However, nearly 2 hours of check-in and security hassles can make anybody irritable!Â In any case they did begin the boarding process a few minutes later, making this a closer call than I am usually comfortable with.
Our flight took us to Cincinnati.Â Our connection had been changed from Atlanta by the airline sometime before the trip, supposedly because of a too-tight layover.Â We didn't question this at the time (though we would have plenty of reason to later), but were immediately inconvenienced because we'd been reassigned to seats that were not next to each other.Â I wound up with a stranger as a seat-mate.Â I did share some travel experiences with him for a few minutes but was happy enough to not have to talk to him for most of the flight--I'm just not one for chit-chat.Â In retrospect I really should have seen if I could have arranged a seat swap to be able to sit next to Janna.
The flight took us over northern waters.Â I could swear at some points I saw hints of sea ice.Â Our first sight of North American land was very rugged too.
Meals for the flight were modest, to say the least.Â We were served HÃ¤agen Dasz ice cream at one point in the flight, and later vegetarian pizza.
Toward the end of the generally uneventful flight we had to fill out our customs forms.Â Given that I didn't buy much while on the trip this shouldn't have caused me much of a headache.Â But I got wrapped up in wondering if I'd reported the right number of T-shirts I'd bought, particularly since I'd gotten one to bring back for Derek.Â I kept trying to alter the numbers I put on the form as I revised my thinking, which must have looked pretty suspicious but fortunately caused me no trouble.
Things started to turn sour once we landed.Â First we had to wait to be towed to the gate, then we had to wait further before disembarking because they told us the customs area was full.Â Apparently in Cincinnati all international flights come in at nearly the same time, which means customs and immigration only have to be open limited hours, but are extremely busy during those hours to the point of really being overloaded.Â We could soon tell that it would be a big challenge to get through passport control, customs, and security and yet make our connection to Pittsburgh.Â The US policy of having to collect baggage and then recheck it for a connecting flight added to the time we'd have to take.
We split up in order to have the best chance of finding our bags.Â None of our bags came out quickly, which increased our nervousness, particularly when Tim's was among the last of the bags to emerge onto the belt.Â My main bag and daypack had almost been separated, which would have added to the hassle.
Once we'd gotten our bags we had to take them through customs.Â There were two long lines, and the one we chose seemed to be the slower of the two (as often seemed to happen when we had a choice of lines that day).Â Carrying our bags with us was a stupid formality, as we went through with no issues and then had to dump them among a whole mess of other bags for a variety of flights, giving us no confidence they'd arrive in Pittsburgh with us.
We had yet one more hurdle to cross but it was the most frustrating of all.Â Once we'd dropped our bags off we saw a long line to go back through security.Â Having already gone through two security checks that day without having left a secure zone, I was rather upset about this waste of time, all just to take a local flight back to Pittsburgh.Â I am all for being secure, but the convoluted entry procedures into the US do not seem to enhance security so much as make people jump through hoops.Â Interestingly just a few days later I found an "Ask the Pilot" column on salon.com making the same point.
With our short layover time we wound up missing the flight, though not by as much as I thought we would.Â The airline's rebooking us from an Atlanta flight made no sense to me in retrospect--this was supposed to be an easier connection to make?Â If we'd had half an hour more we might have made it, but the chances of the lines we'd been through ever being short enough to make this a reasonable connection were nil.Â We were by this time pretty annoyed with both US security policies and Delta.
Fortunately we did get one break at this point.Â Thanks to a helpful woman named Brenda at the Delta counter, we were able to get on the next flight.Â Moreover, she gave us the last three seats on the plane, which happened to be first class.Â It was a bit of a waste to sit in first class for such a short flight, but it was a great gesture, and helped smooth over our feelings considerably.Â Thanks Brenda, wherever you are, I appreciated your help!
We had time to spare before the flight boarded.Â Tim and I had a meal at the airport Max and Erma's while Janna just wanted to find a place to lie down by that point.Â I later went and brought her a fast food meal, but had a lot of mix-ups.Â Several of my best intentions went awry but at least she had something to eat.
Happily there isn't much to say about the final leg of our journey.Â After all the hassles we'd had that day, it was pleasant to have a trouble-free flight.Â Much to our surprise, our bags even made it!
And thus ended a great trip.Â As long as it's taken to write up, it's been good to relive the good times from it.Â There are so many memories that will linger, such as our madcap time getting overseas and getting our luggage; VÃdampark, the off-kilter park we visited in Budapest; getting to see historic Prater Park in Vienna; the brief but beautiful time we spent in Salzburg; riding the little Nautic Jet ride in SchloÃŸ Beck; probably the most fun few hours I've ever experienced in the beer tent at Oktoberfest; re-experiencing amazing Europea Park.Â All this I got to share with some great friends, as I have tried to share it you.Â Those who have stuck it out for this long, thanks for reading!
Up next:Â Since 2006 I've taken two other overseas roller coaster trips, to England and to Spain, which I will begin to document.