Thursday, August 12, 2010

From Heidelberg With Love

(NB:  I wrote this post in the Frankfurt airport but was kicked off of free internet before being able to post. I want to post it now, unedited, because in the future I will want to remember how excited I was to see Hattie at the end of the journey, even though right now those memories are painful. I did check in both with the flight manager at the gate and the flight attendant on board, who had checked and assured me Hattie was on the plane. In the words of the gate agent, "she [was] making terror for everyone." This made me laugh because I know both how harmless Hattie was but how emphatic she could be when she wanted something. She would have been an excellent guard dog. She was a marvelous companion. See the next post for more.)

Heidelberg, as everyone told me, is a beautiful place. I only have 40 minutes until I board my plane to Saudi (!), so I will only write a short post, but I wanted to do so before forgetting everything once I arrive in the Kingdom. Pictures to follow once I settle in and find my camera cord...

(And now an interruption to my thoughts to be really excited because the airline PA system is broadcasting in Arabic as well as German and English!!! I know it will get old soon, but right now it's all new and exciting.)

I had an aisle seat on a somewhat full flight with an empty seat next to me. Perfect! Not as perfect as being upgraded to the (completely) empty business class, but that didn't happen. I was able to sleep a bit but was mostly restlessly trying to get comfortable.

My flight arrived early, and my bags arrived with me. The story behind this is that I was hoping to be able to check my bags to Jeddah or to have the airline lose my bags so I didn't have to lug them to and from Heidelberg. I had all I needed for the first few days in carry-on. Neither scenario materialized. So all my luggage and I shuttled to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Heidelberg, which I highly recommend. Centrally located with very comfortable rooms and a great Club lounge. Not a lot of old world charm, but plenty of anonymity and all the amenities, which is what I wanted. Their 'light snacks' in the Club lounge was basically all but one of my meals, and I made good use of the included minibar and drinks available in the lounge. Gotta love making the most of per diem! I napped for a couple of hours and then set off.

The Hauptstraße was close to my hotel, so I walked its length to the funicular railway at Kornmarkt. Along the way I popped into a few shops, including the amazingly fun and labyrinthine Kathe Wöhlfart German Christmas Museum. I of course picked up a few trinkets for this year's verboten Christmas tree.

After a short ride, I reached Schloss Heidelberg (the castle). I spent a couple of hours poking around the grounds and the various attractions there, including the world's largest wine keg and the German Apothecary Museum. I walked back to the hotel along the River Neckar; I'd hoped to take a boat ride, but I was too late in the day.

A pleasant dinner at the hotel restaurant later, I repacked and went to bed. This morning I had to fight my way onto the airport shuttle (they had me reserved for a later time) and then had to listen to the driver berate me most of the ride for their mistake, but all that really matters is that I arrived at the airport in plenty of time. At the ticket counter, the agent didn't blink an eye when I checked three bags (I had redistributed two heavy suitcases into three after almost having to pay $350 in Boston for the extra kilograms). Instead she looked at me and asked, "You're allowed three bags, right?" I said yes quickly and emphatically, and that was it. Amazing. So. Three flights with about 65kg of baggage cost me a whopping total of $50. Not too shabby. Of course now I've allocated my rolling carry-on to checked baggage, so I'm left lugging three non-rolling bags. Small price to pay.

In exciting news, Hattie is in Frankfurt as well! She made it out of DC last night without incident (to the best of my knowledge; last I heard she was en route to the airport, and after that no news is good news). I wasn't able to see her here as she's traveling cargo, but I am going to go check with the flight manager shortly to make sure she is getting on our flight with no problems.

And though they may never see this, I want to wholeheartedly thank the several staff members who are working overtime to help facilitate my arrival in the Kingdom tonight. An expediter and a PAS colleague are meeting me with one van at the terminal, while another car and expediter work on getting Hattie cleared through customs. I am so grateful for this assistance. The whole staff has been great about preparing for my arrival. I can't wait to finally meet everyone and start working.

So, my short post has once again turned long, and I am going to sign off and see about boarding the plane.

Here's to finally getting to post!

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