March 30th, 2010
March 21 was a day of sitting. We ate breakfast in our hotel in Prague that morning, which was pretty similar to an American hotel breakfast, save that the rolls contained black olives and that the all-you-can-eat buffet didn’t have people take a new plate on their second time through.
Anyhow, we made it to the airport in Prague with plenty of time to spare. That trip that involved a tram, a subway, and a bus, and was on a Sunday morning when all of these services run less frequently. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we did it in right at an hour, just as the hotel desk had estimated.
Anyhow, in Prague they were heavily steering people to the self check-in kiosks. So we tried it, and got about halfway through the procedure when it asked us to put our passport on the glass scanner. I did so, and it appeared to process, then complained that “the document is not a passport.” Eventually an airport employee came over, had the same result after trying it twice, so beckoned us over to the counter.
Then on towards our gate. We briefly considered some sort of snack, since we wouldn’t get to Munich until after lunch, but the terrible prices scared us off. An entire dinner with friends the evening before cost only 235 crowns ($12.53) for the two of us together, and one restaurant was advertising a panini and Coke for 1 person at 220 Kc ($11.72). Anyhow, we eventually found ice cream bars at a reasonable price.
While sitting down at our gate, in the out-of-the-way “small planes only” part of the airport, we noticed only the second drinking fountain in Europe — conveniently labeled with an icon indicating what it’s for. The only person other than me that used it washed his hands in it, and did not sip the water.
We eventually got on the packed bus to our plane, then flew to Munich. Over there, announcements at regular intervals suggested that passengers flying to the USA go to their gate immediately so they can pass the extra security screening. What joy. We headed in that direction, stopping only to change my remaining Czech crowns to dollars.
And then we got to go through passport control followed by security for the second time of the day. This one took special interest in our camera and Terah’s scissors. Mysteriously, there was a stream of people not going through security, and we never quite figured out why.
We wanted something for lunch, and inside this special security zone there was only one real option: a bar of sorts. We got there, and watched a guy pay for two small beers and a pretzel. They shop conveniently let him pay for dollars, and the price came to $25. Worst exchange rate ever. We bought a pretzel and two croissants and I got rid of my last Euro note (EUR 5) and a EUR 1 coin.
Eventually our flight got going. It was interesting comparing our international flight on Lufthansa to our flight to Hamburg on Continental. Lufthansa came through the cabin — even in our “cheapest economy seats” section — with hot wet wipes, handed out and later collected with tweezers, before each meal. The food was slightly better than Continental. The in-flight entertainment system had more things on it, though there were not power hookups at the seats. I still didn’t really care for any of the entertainment options, though I did watch a Ricky Gervais movie which was OK. I caught a brief nap and read my Kindle.
In Chicago, we got to go through American passport control. To get into the USA, even as a citizen, you get to fill out a whole form. That’s a bit different than getting into Germany, where they check your passport and send you on your way without even bothering to inspect your bags. (There’s a voluntary office you can go do if you have anything to declare.) I had noted on our form that we were bringing in food, and they asked me what kind. I told them it was chocolate still in the wrapper, and they said, “OK, that’s fine,” and waved us on. So in the end it was really no more involved. All the customs people we saw in every country were friendly and helpful.
In Chicago, you have to go through security again after customs, so that made our third security check of the day.
At our gate, CNN was showing the House debate on health care, and the bill finally passed just prior to boarding for Indianapolis. That was a pleasant “welcome home”!
Our flight got to Indianapolis a bit after midnight (as scheduled, sigh), and then there was a bit of a drive. We spent the night in Indiana. Jacob and Oliver were staying there with their grandparents, but of course were already asleep. Jacob woke up in the middle of the night at one point, panicked because he couldn’t find the butterfly he always sleeps with. Terah helped him find it, and apparently he just sat there staring at her for a minute.
Both boys were happy to see us in the morning. Jacob was talking about the toys, and Oliver was just laughing. We ate breakfast, then tried to get on the road as soon as possible — we had an 11-hour (before stops) drive ahead of us, and had to complete it all in one day. We had talked about what we would be doing, and Jacob was sad to leave grandma & grandpa and their farm.
About an hour into the drive, Jacob said, “Dad, where are we going?” “We’re driving home.” “Kitty doesn’t like that. We should go that way.” (and he pointed out the back window.) “Back to grandma & grandpa’s house?” “Yeah!”
Jacob has this habit of referring to himself in the third person as a kitty, and probably more so when there’s something sad or difficult.
We stopped for lunch or “running around breaks” a few times, and wound up getting home at about 8:30. Oliver started laughing when he saw our porch, and we got inside, Jacob said, “I want to run around all over the place!” and he did. They were happy to be home.
In Leipzig, Fritzi had chosen a book to give to Jacob. On Monday, I got it out, and explained it was from “Fritzi in Germany.” Jacob was very interested. I told him it was about a mole (Maulwurf), and he thought that was great too. I couldn’t remember Brad’s translation of the German story, so Jacob and I made up our own story as we went. This was a big hit, and he had me read the book three times all at once. Then he wanted to talk about who gave him the book again.
In all, I’m very glad we took the trip. It was fun seeing the sights, visiting with friends, and being a part of an environment that’s different from our own. I hope we can do it again before too long.