neither here nor there: day 6

Is there something better than "best case scenario"? That's what I was thinking early Friday morning as the embassy man walked back to the window with my passport in his hand. Neal and I got up early and skipped breakfast so we could make it to Bond Street early enough to get the correct kind of passport photos before the embassy openend at 8:30. Apparently the photos I took in one of those drugstore photo-booths (it looked official) weren't quite to U.S. standards so we "borrowed" wireless internet access the night before to find a place near the embassy that could retake my passport photos. We found a place that opened at the same time, which drove me a little mad, wanting, obviously, to get to the embassy as soon, if not before, it opened. At any rate, we made it to the Bond Street area a little after 8 a.m. and the photo place appeared to be open. We walked up several flights of narrow stairs (I think the guy who works there must not want to walk back down the stairs to open the door when he's officially ready to open) to an open photo studio. The guy working appeared to be getting dressed in a little room in the back. It was a little weird.

But I had my photos and we were in line at the embassy by about 8:15. There were only a few people in line ahead of me so it wasn't long before I was filling out forms and standing back in line for a temporary replacement. I was just happy that it looked like I would indeed be out in time to catch my afternoon flight, but as the man behind the counter was processing my forms he stopped and repeated my name a couple of times before getting up to walk away without saying anything to either of us. Initially, I was confused and a little annoyed, thinking maybe there was someone with the same last name who worked there. Like I have time for sillyness such as this! It started to dawn on me as he walked back, though, and I was so happy I could cry by the time he got back to his desk. Apparently, my passport was found by a security officer in the park where I thought I'd lost it and returned to the embassy the afternoon before. It was the last lost passport he processed on Thursday before heading out. I just happened to get the same guy and he just happened to recognize my name. I asked him how often that happens. He hesitated for a second and then replied, "Never."

I think I floated out, after promising to take extra good care of my passport from then on. We grabbed breakfast on our way to the Holborn police station to close out the report we'd placed the day before, on recommendation of the embassy. It was unnecessary, apparently, and Neal and I joked that they probably recycle the reports at the end of each day.

From there we headed back to the hotel, picked up our bags, and got back on the underground for the airport. Getting through check-in and security at Heathrow was way more efficient than in Boston, getting through both within about a half-hour. They don't list gates until five minutes or so before boarding (and occasionally your gate will be in a different terminal, 15 to 20 minutes away), leaving you with little to do other than mill about the duty free shops, where you might be inclined to buy a one-kilogram bar of dairy milk. But your husband will dissuade you.

Anyway, we flew to Athens on Lufthansa, via a four-hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany. Beer and wine are free but there's little in the way of in-cabin entertainment. Flying into Frankfurt was a surreal experience. As I've noted here before, I lived on Rhein Main Air Base between the summer of 1987 and early fall of 1991. The base, officially closed as of 2005, shared an airstrip with the airport. There's a mile and a half or so long road that connected the main part of the base with the residential area, running along one edge of the runway.

That road is still there, as is the Berlin Airlift memorial. You can read more about the base and memorial here.

There was a shuttle bus and casual carpool linking the two parts of the base, but I remember walking along that road many times, watching the planes fly directly overhead before landing. There were also soccer fields as you got close to the residential area, near where the Lufthansa food processing building was. It always smelled a little funny around there. Other than that one road, I couldn't tell if the rest of the base was still standing in any form. As we rode the tram from one terminal to the next, I felt like I was getting pretty close to where the residential area had been but I couldn't tell for sure. I did see the Steigenberger Hotel, though, where we stayed for the first couple of weeks we were in Germany and walked to base by way of the "back gate" every day.

In my eagerness to explore the airport, I guess I didn't notice that we'd left a security area. At any rate, after getting really confused and finding it near impossible to get to a central food court area in one of the newer terminals we decided to head back to where we started in search of the bar we passed coming in. I'm still not sure how we got so turned around, but after passing back through security complete with full-on frisking we made our way to our next gate, bought a pretzel from a little cart and waited patiently. Charlie Kaufman should set his next screenplay in the Frankfurt Airport.

Our flight to Athens was delayed but otherwise uneventful. They served us slightly warm beer and maltaschen, a (if I remember correctly) more southern Germany specialty. German ravioli is what we used to call it. I can't believe there's no wikipedia page for maltaschen.

Needless to say, with an afternoon flight, a four-hour layover, and a 45 minute or so delay, we got into Athens pretty late. Technically, we could have taken a 70-minute bus ride to Syntagma Square and then tried to hail a taxi from there, but we decided instead to take a taxi directly from the airport to the hotel. It was about 2:30/3 a.m. by then. 30 minutes and 50 euros (all the cash we had exchanged in the Frankfurt airport) later we arrived at our hotel, checked in, and collapsed.


Anonymous said...

Of course wikipedia has an article - but it's listed under the singular, not the plural:


Looks tasty.

Becky G. said...

Thanks, Jef! I knew that couldn't be right!