Wednesday, August 12, 2015

airport hopping

It's not that I did not try to rebook my flights, so that I would have a harmonious, linear progression to my destination tonight (Warsaw). I tried by phone. (Yes you can make the change! It'll cost you $3000.) I tried in Detroit. (We can do nothing.) And I tried again in Amsterdam. (You cannot skip segments: your ticket will be invalidated.) No bananas. I'm stuck crisscrossing Europe today -- east, west, then east again, just so that I can end up spending the night at my sister's place in Warsaw.

The larger question is -- what's my final destination? The immigration agent asked me that just minutes ago as I entered the EU in Amsterdam. I told him -- well, Helsinki, really and I am going there, but not today yet, or rather I am flying there, but then flying right out to be in Warsaw. He looked at me quizzically. I continued -- you know, I've been waiting for someone to ask me that question. Thank you for letting me explain the absurdity of my travel schedule this week. He laughed and stamped my passport (a ritual that I swear will soon fade into history).

But apart from the sudden insert of Warsaw, this trip was supposed to begin with a restful three days in Finland and after, we were to take the train to Russia.

You noticed the "we?" I'm not going alone. I'll be traveling with my friends Diane and Ernest. Longtime Ocean readers may remember that I've taken many a trip with Diane -- sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with her and her husband. This time, the three of us are to meet up in Helsinki and proceed together from there.

I wont even begin to answer the question of why Russia. In fact, it's rather grandiose to say we're going to Russia as Russia is vast and we're just visiting St. Petersburg. If you can experience only one city in Russia it should be, in my opinion, St. Petersburg, even as it is perhaps not very representative of the country, which tends to be rather inward-looking and St. Petersburg is not really like that.

But the truth is, I only know St. Petersburg from the time it was still Leningrad. I have very vivid memories of visiting it in the same weeks that the Soviet Union was invading Czechoslovakia. (Though I think the term used was "entering the country to lend support to its government.") But, I'm steering clear of politics. Not because it's Russia, but because politics and Ocean do not mix, unless it's something grand, like the politics of bringing sheep and royalty to the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh.

Perhaps this trip is a test to see if memories are worth much, or if they blur into absurd images that have little relation to any reality out there.

But let's stick with this day of airport hopping. Because my longest layover is in Amsterdam, the post comes from there. You want a photo? Eh, it's just an airport -- the fifth busiest in Europe (after London, Paris, Frankfurt and Istanbul). But I will post my breakfast, which has a touch of the Dutch in it (note the dark bread, the slice of yellow cheese and the unceremoniously presented boiled egg).


Next post should be from Warsaw, but you never know!

UPDATE: Yep -- you never know. As it happens, a lunch at the Helsinki airport proved to be an irresistible temptation to open up today's post again. In a city known for modern design, the colors of my midday meal feel so... Scandinavian!


But I ask myself -- is it lunchtime? My computer, set to Madison time, says it's the hour to let the cheepers out. I can excuse the yogurt vegetable soup. The glass of wine, on the other hand, seems aesthetically pleasing, but is it in sync with the clock that still has me feeling awfully like I stayed up all night and now am ready for oatmeal on the porch?

No matter. Lunch at Helsinki airport it is. [I should note that, frequent flyer that I am, all my airport meals, wine included, are free.]