Saturday, 6 May 2017

A return to the fatherless Fatherland (SEA to FRA to MomTown)

8 am
It's light outside but it's dark outside.  Is it raining?  Nope, it's just foggy, which is surprising given yesterday evening's radiant sunshine.
YES it REALLY is that crooked ;-)
I've slept surprisingly well, given that I was staying in the CHEAPEST motel in the vicinity of SeaTac International airport. Even though it's the same price as my hotel in North Vancouver, it has a much better location (walking distance to airport) and it lacks the squeaky floors, the major construction site right outside the window, as well as the dirty spots that the cleaners missed.  It even has breakfast included ;-)


I check my blog post of 2 months ago for information whether SeaTac has smoking lounges.   Nothing.  Now that would have been information worth putting into the post.  But I assume that the absence of such information simply means that there aren't any.  Must do BETTER today, LOL.

At least I remember that they sell a carton of cigarettes for 25 Euros in the plane, so I won't have to buy cigs in the airport this time.

Time to eat some real food. According to online reviews, Aqua Terra Restaurant seems to be not too bad.  At first I make the mistake of looking for it in the Hilton Hotel.  It's not there and that is a relief, LOL.
cherry blossoms on grass in front of the Hilton
  So I walk up the hill to the Marriott, which is harbouring the restaurant.   

I'm guessing that this hotel is very much more expensive than the one I'm staying in, so I make a point of studying the guests when I walk through the lobby.  Sure there are a few business types but most people look pretty normal and NOTHING reveals why they would shell out CAD 260 per night for a bed instead of the CAD 80 that I just paid for the last night.  Is it FEAR that prevents them from taking the CHEAPEST hotel (night-time attacks by bed bugs, belligerent blacks or even Mexicans?) or maybe the fact that they would have to WALK to get to a decent restaurant?   I really have NO IDEA but it's another indication why most people think that travelling is EXPENSIVE.  Yeah it sure is if you're staying in Marriott Hotels, LOL.  

Since I just saved CAD$ 180 (LMAO !!! Don't people realize that in today's world they have to go to WORK for that?) on last night's hotel bill, I can easily afford the US$ 15 Calamari and the $9 glass of Riesling at Aqua Terra. 

And I'm glad I came here.  The Riesling is very drinkable and the Calamari are different from any that I have ever eaten (carrots & spicy peanuts?) but the combination REALLY WORKS.
Isn't this one of the reasons why I travel:  to experience something new ?  

The 7/11 is on the way back to my hotel so I stop in to buy my provisions for the airplane (YES, you're paying MORE for those snacks at the airport and EVEN MORE in the plane !).  It's those hours of unproductive waiting for departure times when I have time to think about those issues LOL.  Since Condor is a budget airline, I actually paid them 6 Euros last time to acquire 4 small bags of peanuts (oh, memories: those about 20 bags of FREE and YUMMY peanuts from Korean Air years ago).


My relaxed exile will come to an end in less than one hour.   But I used the time well.  I've already bought a BahnCard 25 (a price-discounting instrument reducing the price of German Rail tickets) and then a discounted ticket from Frankfurt to my destination. 
This morning's gloominess has given way to sunny skies and warm air.  I'm walking around in Sandals, Shorts, and just a T-shirt.    I've waited a LONG TIME for this ;-).


I walk over to the airport terminal.  By now I have realized the folly of following the route indicated by the posted signs.   The POSTED pedestrian path between the Link station and the terminal has the shape of a very long horse-shoe winding its way around the parking area.  Walking right through the parking area cuts the distance in half.

As long as humans exist it is One way from Green to Grey


I have my boarding pass.   Halfway to the outside smoking area, I have to head BACK to the check-in counter because since no-one had asked me whether I had any check-in luggage I completely forgot to check in my small bag.  Good thing there is NO line-up. NO, I'm telling the truth, LOL.  Anyone who ever flew Air Canada or Lufthansa knows the mind-numbingly LONG LINE-UPS in Vancouver, but I've never seen a line-up at the Condor counter at SeaTac.

That leaves me 2.5 hours until take-off and NOTHING to do except penning boring little pseudo-wisdom in my blog.  I refuse to proceed through security because a brief internet search revealed that there are NO smoking lounges in this terminal building.  So I might as well have a cigarette outside in the sunshine while I wait.


I'm used to long lines before security in Vancouver.  American airports used to be much faster but now they have lines at SeaTac as well.  And they're man-made lines. 

 What they did was to give 2 or 3 security stations to a company or program called CLEAR (here is the web-site).   All they do is get you to the security check by using your finger print instead of your passport.   THAT will cost you $15 /month.  Another US$ per year down the drain, LOL.  I study the people using the CLEAR line while I wait in the regular line.  None of them look to be giants of industry or intellect.   Just dumb people with too much money?  I feel like asking them across the cattle barrier whether they had considered standing in line with us regular people and donating the saved money to starving children in Africa or their local homeless person.   


There are NO Smoking Lounges behind the security line at SeaTac.  I do MISS the civilized airports of Europe and Asia ;-)
Kind of looks like YVR

Alaska Air making a stink during touch-down

Noon (Central European Time Zone)
The way from the plane to passport control to the luggage conveyor belt is LOOOOONG. I have NO IDEA how Grandma would be able to manage to travel this distance.  And luggage handling is GLACIAL.  What happened to German efficiency?


I'm not taking a taxi today, but rather the bus service I discovered 2 months ago.   Euro 3.15 instead of Euro 33.  Not bad.  

Talking to one's cell phone instead of to people has spread to Germany


I've checked into my hotel.  Next to the forest, comfy bed and decent bathroom, everything spotlessly clean. Fridge & hot-water kettle are also there. 40 Euros per night.
 The last time I stayed in this place was in December 2014 just before my Spare Mom's funeral.   
WHY will I return to Vancouver and pay DOUBLE for something HALF as nice?  


I receive an e-mail from Alan and find out that half of my efforts at saving money on travel will benefit orphans in Beijing, LOL.


I head back to Martins Thai Bistro, a shack restaurant just around the corner from my hotel in the Industrial District of Walldorf (Hint: hotels in these areas are DEAD-QUIET during the night ;-).  They are not afraid of substitutions here, so I get my green Thai Curry with octopus (it's actually squid) instead of prawns. 

The place is BUSY and rightly so.  Food is good (Alan is right: NOT excellent) and cheap (Euro 10 for Curry & 1 glass of wine), service is friendly, and the owner is happy to turn on 2nd League Soccer on the TV for the neighbourhood young Turks. I don't know how long this place has been here, but the building has not progressed beyond the original shack/shed architecture of the original construction.

During a few waking hours at night I realize that I have to use quite a few of the travel-planning skills that I have acquired over the last few years.   I was hoping to stay in Cologne on 2 different nights to use it as a starting basis for trips leaving from Cologne airport (Salzburg) and Cologne Central Station (Paris).  But I find that on both dates the CHEAPEST hotel in central Cologne costs in excess of CAD$ 200.   I'm NOT paying that much.  With the quality of the German rail system I don't have to ;-) I can always stay in a little town with a train station along the way and pay 1/3 to 1/2 of that price  ;-)

And there are better places to spend that money.  At 4 am, my fingers fly over the keyboard again, trying to find the best place to spend some Dollars while I'm in Europe. And I can't shake the two following pictures out of my mind, LOL.

Yes that would mean a new CONTINENT in my collection and it would mean 30 degree sunny weather in May.  Tres Tempting, LOL


It's almost breakfast time.   And what I FEARED would happen, did indeed materialize.   48 hours out of Vancouver and my back, which had been bugging me for 3 weeks, no longer hurts in the least. No more hay fever and no more lack of positive outlook.  Could it REALLY be THAT simple?  

 At least I know what helps form a positive outlook.  Starting the day with the view of a SKY instead of a view of circles created by rain drops in puddles.

 While Frankfurt does not offer a direct view of the rising sun, at least it is reflected in the fuselage and condensation trails of overhead planes.


Oops. Breakfast is not until 7 on the weekends.  But another guest also was told 6 am, so the breakfast woman gets us a great breakfast and coffee within 10 minutes.  No, OF COURSE she is NOT German.  

 PUFF, the magic dragon ;-)
But I'm imagining myself in a plane to Tunis already, LOL

Yes the Tunis Suite with ocean view would be EXTRAVAGANT @ CAD$180.
 But then my DIVE in North Van charges even MORE, LOL


Time to check out and walk to the bus stop.

There are some things travel-related that I'm NOT perfect at ;-)

1) NOT starting to walk too early (I see the 8:31 bus pass when I'm 20 meters from the main road)
2) Weeding out wrong information in internet schedules (There is NO 9:01 bus today, only the 9:31 bus, which means I'll have to wait almost one hour)

But that's OK. I walk BACK one stop to the gas station and buy a bottle of wine for 5.49 Euros.   I'm going to drink wine in the train anyway, and this way I get a whole bottle for the same price that I would pay for a glass ;-)  Then I walk two stops ahead and still have to wait half an hour, but it's sunny and I have a book in my backpack.  No worries.

Even the later bus still gets me to the Distant Train Station at Frankfurt Airport with 10 minutes to spare.  


The train is reasonably empty, so I manage to secure myself a window seat on the side that will be the castle and water side along the Romantic Rhine Route in about one hour.  So far everything is going PURR-FECT !


Less than half an hour into the train ride, I remember why I could NOT live in this country anymore.  

Having traveled in German trains before, I don't take the nicest seat because I see the small 'seat reserved' paper slip at the window.  Someone will presumably come at the next station and claim his seat.   An African man with 3 gorgeous and well-behaved children does not have that wisdom and the family sits in the seats.   
Fear hits me out of no-where but I instantly realize what I fear might happen.
The Ugly German (not my picture)
And this being Germany, my fear quickly becomes reality. Three fat German soccer fans in their 40s come to claim their seats.   The way they do that is to stick out their beer bellies at the family, whistle, and point their thumbs over their shoulders.   The African father is on the phone and ignores them for a second, which causes loud German-language shouts of "Ich habs sooo gehabt mit diesem SAUPACK" (I'm refusing to translate this, but it's highly offensive). 

 I pipe in and tell the Germans "Nun benehmen Sie sich mal!" (~ didn't your mother teach you manners?), which seems to calm the situation down a bit.  Now the bullies finally produce their tickets, accompanied by grumbling noises from the other 15 soccer fans.  The father leaves with his 3 children to find other seats.   

Always make sure to call out racist behaviour.  The riff-raff only feels strong in numbers and their imagined racial purity.  Having someone of the 'same colour' challenge them, takes the wind out of their sails ;-)
 I would HATE to be a refugee or resident of a different colour in Germany.  I've visited quite a few countries recently, but I must say that NOWHERE have I witnessed people acting as repulsively against visible minorities as in Germany.  
 The soccer crowd kills any joyous anticipation I had about today's train journey. The earlier incident has shaken me badly.  What must it be like to flee from a war and then be loudly affronted and despised by the people in your new home?  This was a model family (note that the mother was absent), they just happen to be the wrong colour in this country.  What does that DO to those admirably behaved kids?
More Ugly Germans (not my pic)

  I'm ashamed for my countrymen and briefly consider giving the father money to buy something nice for his kids so they learn ..... but they know that already ;-)  I've read interviews with refugees and they see right through the BS of Germans.  They are the target of the never-dying German racism but while they come from war-torn regions, they also most likely still know what 'normal' human conduct looks like.  And they see clearly that Germans apparently are NOT lucky enough to have mothers who teach them decent and honorable manners, LOL.

The train arrives in Mom-Town 10 minutes after a train change in some other hooligan-packed Nowhere.  The overflowing train station garbage bins here in Mom-Town have not been emptied in a while and the entire place has developed a STENCH.  Welcome to Germany!  There is a taxi parked right in front of the train station. (There is a public bus but it goes once an hour during the week and every 1.5 hours on weekends)   Wouldn't it be funny if I saw my mother walking her dog, I had thought earlier in the day.   STOP I shout at the cab driver when the lone woman on the street indeed turns out to be my mother (sans dog though ;-).   I tell her that I'd pick her up at 16:45 for Chinese food and her mood visibly improves.   


I've come back from LIDL.  German supermarket food prices are RIDICULOUSLY low.  A sharp knife, a box of granola bars, a bottle of wine, bread, a pack of sliced cheese and two packs of sliced salami, 2kg of oranges and 4 cups of yogurt cost me not even 15 Euros.

It's evening, but it's still shorts and T-shirt weather! I've met my mother at home and we are eating at the usual Chinese restaurant. A youngish (25?) blond German is standing outside the windows. What does it say on his T-shirt?

There is hope. 

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