I’m sitting in the departure lounge of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport, just outside London. I got here far too early. Official guides tell you to arrive at least 2 hours before your flight for European flights – I arrived 3 hours early on account of giving the trains between home and the airport an hour to mess themselves up. Guess what happens when you build-in time for everything to go wrong? Absolutely everything works like clockwork. Everything.
For the first few minutes it was fun – checking my bags in, going through security, and walking along the half a mile or so of corridors that lead to the terminal. I spent a few minutes watching aircraft landing from one of the seating areas – marvelling at the skill of the pilots (or the fidelity of the autopilots) in bringing the aircraft in so smoothly. I gazed in awe at an Airbus A380 as it dropped from the clouds and smoothly slipped onto the runway below.
Now I’ve kind of had enough. I just want to get on my plane now – but the gate won’t even be announced for another twenty minutes. I don’t even know how long the flight takes – it can’t be that long – perhaps a couple of hours? I think the longest flight I ever went on was to San Franscisco, against the wind – from take-off to Landing was a little over 10 hours.
I’ve already got money for the trip – I drew 200 Euros, which should cover everything for the week – taxis, meals, lunches, and so on. If there is any left I’ll get work to exchange it, and the next person following me can have the cash if they need it.
Ten more minutes to waste. I think you’ve heard enough of my stressing for the moment – I’ll write more when I get to Frankfurt.
Arrival (several hours later)
I’m now sitting in the hotel alongside the river Main in the heart of Frankfurt. Everything has gone wonderfully so far – but then I suppose there was no reason it shouldn’t have really.
After winding my way down the ramp and onto the aircraft at Heathrow, I was greeted by quite possibly the most beautiful flight attendant I have ever seen. You know how the first impression some people give is so perfect that they intimidate you? She was like that. I noticed as each passenger approached the cabin crew, they greeted them in their native language – I’m guessing this is a game the crew play – identifying nationality on-sight (I once fell foul of it in France, when I prepared to talk to a waitress in Parisian restaurant, and she interrupted me in English). Here’s the thing though – the people here thought I was German.
Since getting off the flight, it’s happened again – twice – but I’ll get back to that.
The flight went like clockwork. Just as rain clouds gathered over London, we accelerated away, and up through the clouds to bright blue skies, and hurtled eastwards towards first Belgium, and then to Germany. As soon as we hit cruising altitude we were served ridiculous half-sandwiches, and glasses of orange juice. Although I had bought a magazine at Heathrow, I spent the entire journey glued to the window – watching clouds, cities, and beautiful scenery scroll past below us.
Before too long the seat-belt sign came on, and we began the descent into Frankfurt. I spotted the city over the top of the wing, and was able to pick out the building I will be working in throughout the week. I took a ridiculous number of photos, and recorded both takeoff and landing as video for the children to watch when I get home.
After picking my bag up, and wandering straight to a waiting taxi, within twenty minutes of landing I was stood in reception of the hotel. The only minor speed-bump was waiting in line to get through border control within the airport. When my turn finally came the security guard had no sooner waved my passport into the machine behind his desk, as handed it back to me, and said a cursory “thankyou”. I guess I’m not interesting to the authorities, which is a good thing, right?
The taxi driver thought I was German, if you were wondering. So did the concierge at the hotel. So did the waiter in the street cafe I found half an hour later to grab something to eat.
After dumping everything in my room (small, cheap, basic, but clean, and everything appears to work), I went for a walk along the bank of the river Main, that passes through the middle of the city. I had read before leaving that the old part of the city is about twenty minutes walk away, so set off in it’s general direction. I couldn’t walk too far into the city, because my phone was nearly flat and I had no map – but figured as long as I didn’t stray too far from the river, I would be able to find my way back.
I had hoped to find somewhere serving traditional German food, but of course Frankfurt is a modern city – so has just about every cuisine going. I eventually stumbled across the German equivalent of Wagamama, and it had outside seating (it has been a beautiful evening), so chatted with the waiter – who thought I was German – and found a seat.
I have now had my first beer in Germany, and it was rather wonderful. That might have had something to do with me being thirsty, and it being a warm evening, but still – it was good. There’s a photo of the bottle on Instagram if you’re a beer officionado. I didn’t even look to see how strong it was.
After eating, and earwigging the conversation between a young German man, and his American dinner partner (it was quite obviously their first date, and I had to stop listening to their conversation because I kept grinning), I wandered back to the hotel – back along the river as the sun went down.
I came here with no real expectations of what Frankfurt might be like – or what Germany might be like, really. Friends had told me it is a wonderful place – that the city is very cosmopolitan, and the people wonderfully friendly. I can see what they mean now. It’s similar to many other cities I’ve visited, but perhaps cleaner, less busy, and things seem to cost less than other places I’ve visited. Take dinner as an example – what I ordered would have cost £25 in Wagamama – in MoschMosch it cost less than half as much, after taking into account the exchange rate.
Let’s hope this trip turns into the first of many while working on this project, and that I am afforded the time to get to know a few people in this foreign land a little.