Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Blog Negligence and Travel Days

I've been home in Minnesota for over two months now and have no worthy excuse for leaving this blog hanging.  Life snuck up on me, I guess.  At any rate, I have started a sporadic home blog for my, admittedly, less exciting musings about day-to-day living.  Check it out, if you're so inclined!

On the morning of August 27, H drove me to the Brnik International airport which is less than 10 minutes away from Kranj and has a whopping total of two terminals.  I boarded the flight immediately and found myself in Zürich, Switzerland less than two hours later.  (Note: I had booked this Adria Airways flight five months in advance for $37 as the first component of my route to Iceland).  I now had eight hours to kill before I boarded my flight to Berlin, so I bought some free internet and downloaded as many episodes of Breaking Bad as would load to my laptop before my paid-for wifi hour expired. 
Airlines that give me chocolate?  Yes, please!
I used my ample time at the airport to change my clothes in the restroom and enjoy a pretzel from the airport cafe before my laptop informed me it was on "reserve power mode" and would shut off in a few minutes if not connected to a power source.  I wasn't about to abandon the exploits of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, so I searched high and low for an outlet.  I finally found one... in the smoker's lounge.  But desperate time calls for desperate measures, so I parked myself and my luggage in the corner and decided that smelling like a Swiss ashtray was a small price to pay for top-notch (albeit bootlegged...shh!) entertainment.

After more time than I care to admit inhaling second-hand smoke, I opted to go through security find my terminal (Air Berlin this time) in order to check my luggage.  I checked my backpack but kept my smaller suitcase, as I'd sent a package home from Romania to ensure the bag's status as a carry-on, thus saving me $$$.  I explored the airport and bought an illustrated book for myself and some Swiss chocolate for my Couchsurfing hosts in Iceland.  (More on that coming soon).  Before long, I found myself landing in the Tegel International Airport.

Unlike Zürich, where I had been content to loaf in the airport, I decided to travel into Berlin during my six-hour layover.  All things considered (and I had done my research, mind you), I decided to give myself about three hours in the city itself.  I stowed my suitcase at the checked luggage station, found myself a map of the city, changed my remaining Romanian lei and American dollars into euro, and bought a shuttle ticket to Alexanderplatz.
The Fernsehturm
It was a thrill to experience a taste of Berlin, however short a time.  My last year in school ignited my interest in Berlin when I took a seminar on the Holocaust and supplemented that experience the following semester by auditing a class on Europe's history from 1945 to the present.  I didn't see nearly as much as I would have liked (alas, the zoo simply wasn't feasible in the time available to me) but I did manage to acquire a few souvenirs and photographs.  I definitely want to go back. 
At the Soviet War Memorial.  A Woman in Berlin, the diary of a German woman during the Soviet siege of Berlin at the end of WWII, is one of my favorite books and I recommend it to anyone interested in that part of history.
Liberation Reenactors.  (If you read the book I mentioned in the caption above, you'll understand why I felt vaguely uncomfortable seeing teenage girls pose for pictures by hugging or kissing the soldiers).    
Street Mercantile
Brandenburg Gate
I returned to Tegel Airport in time to pick up my suitcase and buy an illustrated children's book of Berlin.  Meanwhile, I connected via internet with my host in Iceland who had provided me with information about the Fly Bus into Reyjavík and the surrounding area and other details, including his phone number.  The flight was delayed about an hour, so I wouldn't be in Iceland until after midnight.  (Keep in mind, I was still on Central European Time which made midnight about 3am for me).

When the plane finally touched down in–unexpectedly dark–Iceland (what happened to "land of the midnight sun?"), it was even later than I had expected, and it was well after 1am when the Fly Bus finally left the airport and brought me to my stop on the outskirts of Reykjavík.

As the bus pulled away, leaving me on an eerily empty stretch of sidewalk, I was immediately struck with how clean and fresh everything smelled.  I was also struck with how chilly the air was here.  It was even drizzling, a little.  According to my body, it was 5am and I needed to get to my host's couch, stat.  Furthermore, I didn't want to keep the people who had agreed to host me free of charge and at the last minute waiting, so I set off following the vague directions my host had sent me online.  Unfortunately and unbeknownst to my jet-lagged, adrenaline-surging brain, I misunderstood the directions and started walking–all of my luggage in tow–in the wrong direction.

After a long, long, time of rolling my suitcase on the side of the highway, a car, one of the few I had seen that night, stopped and the driver asked me in English if I needed help.  (Note: Aside from brief encounters at the airport, this was the first time my ears were graced with hearing an Icelandic accent, and it was lovely.  It's a hard accent to explain.  It doesn't resemble Swedish at all; it has a lilt that's a little Irish sounding, but it's less thick and much easier to understand).  I asked him to use his phone and he obliged; I called my host and tried to explain where I was, and he seemed to think I was almost there.  I returned the phone to the nice stranger and continued on my way... Again, I walked in the wrong direction.  (At this point I was vocally motivating myself: "You can do this, Rosa, keep walking, S-I-W!")  It was another long stretch of time before I came across a girl on a bike who apologized that she was "a bit drunk" but proceeded to let me use her phone.  This time, she talked to my host in Icelandic and assured me that he would be on his way within minutes.  I thanked her, she rode away, and I took off my heavy backpack while I waited for my host to pick me up.  He was there very soon and I found my way to the couch immediately upon arrival, thankful that I'd had the foresight to "borrow" the blanket from my flight.  (I wasn't sure about Air Berlin's policy for blankets, and I didn't ask... Whoops).

At any rate, I later looked up the distance I had walked from where the bus dropped me off.  I had walked two. miles.  In the wrong direction.  Ugh.  On the brightside, I made it to my destination and thoroughly enjoyed my week there.  But I'll save the details on that and why I resorted to Couchsuring next for my next post.  Until then, here's a teaser picture of Iceland:
Esjan Mountain Range

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