Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Flying Solo: My Journey Home

Well, the time had come. Last Friday it was time for me to gather all my German treasures and memories and head back to the U.S.

I returned home early from the trip for my brother's graduation, so I was making the journey solo. And, I had to say goodbye to my classmates. We had all become close, so goodbyes were hard!

My day began at 4 a.m. Germany time, which was 9 p.m. Thursday night American time. My first of four flights was at 6:15 from the Cologne airport, so Michael, one of the teachers at the university, picked Travis and I up bright and early at 4:45 to begin my journey.

After Travis helped check me in for my first flight, I was on my own. Next, I headed to security. One thing about security in Germany is that they do not ask you to take your shoes off. So of course my boots set off the alarm and I had to be patted down. It was pretty painless though. Then, I was ready to fly!

Not a very exciting crowd at 5:15 a.m...
My first flight was to Berlin. On It lasted about an hour in all, and it was so early in the morning that I honestly don't remember much of it. I guess that is an okay thing though. I'd rather have it be uneventful...

Once in Berlin, I had to grab my luggage and re-check into my new airline, which I would take all the way back to the States. The lady at the counter asked if I would like an emergency exit seat on my next flight, which would take me to Munich. I bravely said I would. After all, who was I to turn down the honor of protecting my fellow fliers?? (Or maybe I just wanted the extra leg room...)

My spot of honor. 
Once I arrived in Munich, I thankfully did not have to re-check my luggage. However, I did have to go through about 7 more security checks (that might be a slight exaggeration...) because I switched over to the international terminal.

Once I got to my next gate, I went to ask if there were any aisle seats left on my plane. The lady who helped me in Berlin had said there were, and considering my flight would be 10 hours long, I decided to check it out. However, the line to talk to the desk was long and unorganized, so I should have known then it probably wouldn't happen. But, I thought I would try anyway.

When I got the the front of the line, I was rudely told by the worker that there were no spots left and that she had already announced this and that I was lucky to be sitting by the window. Seeing as I had to go through so many security checks, I missed this announcement. Whoops, my bad...

I next got into line for my long flight. I was already worn out from two flights, was frazzled from the woman at the desk, and was hot from my fast journey through the airport and security checks. So needless to say, I was not in a good state to start a ten hour flight...

However, once I got on my flight and saw I was by a nice older couple, I calmed down a bit. And, when I looked at the movie selection, I was pumped. The movies were even better than on our flight over, and Frozen was one of the options, so naturally I was pleased.

My entertainment for 10 hours. 
I got all settled in for the long flight, picked my first movie, and was ready to head back to my homeland!

The last view of the beautiful, green Germany.

The flight was, well, long. There isn't much else to say. I watched "That Awkward Moment," "Frozen," "Her," and a few random TV shows. One of the options was "Friends," which has always been a favorite of mine. However, there was something interesting about it...

Korean subtitles! I have no clue why...and had no idea how to get rid of them...
We had a few meals on the flight, I slept for about 20 minutes, and I spent a fair amount of time in line for the restroom. However, while the movie and TV options were great, I wasn't overly impressed with the lack of times the attendants came around. I was parched by the time I finally pushed my call button to ask for water! Which, by the way, I hate having to do... 

Despite this and a sore back, it was an otherwise pleasant flight. And, after 10 hours, we were finally in Chicago! 

Next, came Customs. Oh Customs...so fun. I have been through it twice-once on my trip to Germany last year and then this time. Both times the line has been ridiculously long. And, it takes a total of about 30 seconds to actually talk to the officers. And, I had to get my suitcase, walk through another check (where they didn't do anything at all with my bag), then re-check my bag again for my domestic flight to Cedar Rapids. 

Then....came another flight. Only before I could get on that flight came a hunt to find the right terminal (which involved a train ride. O' Hare is HUGE), yet another security check, and more waiting. But finally, I was on my fourth and final flight of the day. 

There isn't much to say about the last flight. It was about 25 minutes total in the air, and it had a very friendly flight staff. 

The view coming back into Iowa...not quite as green as Berlin!

Once arriving at my final destination I gathered my luggage (which thankfully made it back in one piece!), greeted my grandparents who had come to pick me up, and headed home. 

My rather anti-climactic ending to a wonderful trip doesn't really do it justice. The trip was great, and as soon as I got home I already missed Germany and all the wonderful people I shared my time with there. Thankfully, I will get to see my classmates again. As for Germany, I can only hope I make another trip back to the beautiful country I was lucky enough to spend my May Term in. 

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