Returning Home, or Multiple Levels of Dante’s Hell

This is the final post (#24) of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Friday, September 27, 2018.

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Why is this photo taken at night?  Because after a night of interrupted sleep, at 5:30 a.m. I say to Dave, “Ready to give up?”  He is, so we are out the door by 7:15 a.m.

We take the Metro to Potsdamer Platz, head to BackWerk and pick up breakfast and lunch, then board another Metro train to Zoolischer Station. We are just happy that we remembered to validate our tickets in the last stop of that ride.  Better late than never.  We board bus X9 for (as my travel journal states) “a bus ride to the Outer Levels of Hell, a.k.a. Tegel Airport.

We can hardly figure out which end is up, and of course, are completely frantic to get where we have to go in a big fat hurry, for in spite my romantic musings of yesterday, we are ready to go home.  Boy, are we.

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After walking through an interminable and exceptionally crowded terminal hallway, we arrive at this place: budget airlines’ check-in.  We join the queue, getting an band for our “Under Seat Cabin Luggage” to prove that we checked in.  We pray our checked luggage makes it.  Then across the room from this stately and orderly process (we were early, by the time we left this gigantic room, it was a hive of activity and suitcases), we headed towards security screening.  If people went through too fast, everything locked up and no one could pass.  Finally the magic hour arrived, and they brought in more staff to process.

We walked down an interminable hallway, then another, then another passageway to arrive at another giant room full of people milling around.  It feels like a temporary terminal, filled with kiosks dispensing overpriced water (Euro 3.40 for a 1/2 liter–we bought one, then another).  I was glad we had purchased our breakfast, but when you are locked into a level of hell, snacking is the only pleasure, and there is none here that we want to buy.

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Finally it was time to board.  No jetway.  As Dave said, again, “Welcome to budget travel.”  We didn’t make the plane reservations; his conference did.

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This flight is uneventful–the best kind.  We land, yet it’s that “fake” kind of landing that European airports/airlines do: you are somewhere hanging out on the vast tarmac somewhere and you have to wait for people-mover busses to come and get you, all the while the pilot is chirping that “we have an on-time landing.”  Yet it’s not really, because there is still thirty minutes of waiting/moving until arrival at the terminal (photo of the door of the people mover, above).  After being moved to the terminal, we try to find out where we go next.  Another typical experience of European airports is that we have to hang around in a central lobby until they deem it the “right time” and only then will they tell us our gate.

Since we’d already been through the “dining experience” at Dublin airport, we avoided that.  Again, we’re looking for a snack.  Above are our choices for food in the Dublin airport where we are waiting.  I bought the Hunky Dorys, and we shared them.  I look up at the screen: it’s Magic Time! and we could head downstairs to the USA transit center.

This was new to us.  Downstairs was another set of massive rooms, all nearly new, where we would clear customs into the U.S., allowing us to come in to any terminal in Los Angeles, not just the International Terminal.  First up: security.

Apparently I was tagged for a secure search.  (Was it the jars of jam?  Just kidding–that was in our checked luggage.)  I’m pulled out of line, patted down, swabbed on the hands, devices powered off, shoes off, and basically treated like a criminal.  I glance at her sheet: approximately 20 of us are on her list.  I read about it later, the Frequent Flier guy mentioning that seeing the code “SSSS” on your ticket will send shivers down your spine.   Here’s another version of that.

Meanwhile, where’s Dave?  He’s watching all this from outside the glassed-in area, waiting patiently for his convict wife to re-appear.  We find a place to eat, and enjoy our lunch: squished sandwiches from early this morning in Berlin. I read the headlines from home (not a good idea) then it was again Magic Time! and we could head to our gate.  I’m double-checked in again (that SSSS thing), but we finally made it on board, heading for home.

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I was pretty happy to take off!

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Last views of Ireland.

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This made my day.  My spirits were lifted.

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I didn’t sleep much, so I was able to enjoy the view over Greenland.

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And here’s the contrast with our own Western United States mountains.

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After a long flight, this is breakfast/lunch/whatever.  Dave was still asleep so I took the one on the left, saving him the one on the right.  It was cold sludge by the time he ate it.  We landed, we were home and the only thing left was this:

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Welcome to LAX and waiting for the luggage (about an hour).  We are happy to see our luggage, happy to be near home (another couple of hours to drive) and happy to have gone to Dublin and Berlin.

At the beginning of the trip, we loaded our luggage and packed our expectations and headed off into points unknown, ready for adventure.  But upon returning, the routine and familiar tasks await: check the phone for the traffic, call my 90-year-old mother, letting her know I’m back on American soil. The final pieces are laundry, stowing the souvenirs and suitcases, and dealing with jet lag.  Is travel worth it?  Does the hassle negate the more intriguging aspects of leaving home and seeing different places?  Each trip determines its own balance, the scales tipping one way or the other.

But the old phrase, “seeing with new eyes” is certainly the weightier recommendation for leaving home.  Pico Ayer, a travel writer, notes that “One curiosity of being a foreigner everywhere is that one finds oneself discerning Edens where the locals see only Purgatory.”  I think of Evelinde watching me be a tourist in her small corner of Berlin.  I think of all those people who walked briskly on past me, as I was busy taking a photo of a flower, a tile, a decorated building.  Does it balance out?  For this trip, yes.

Ayer also noted that “Writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.”  As far as journaling the experience goes, I’ve also learned to let the photos and the travel journals rest a bit after a trip, let them breathe a little.  The photos don’t compare to the memories, and it is only somewhat later, that they start to sync up again, reminding the traveler of what they saw and experienced.

To whoever reads this: I hope these letters about Dublin and Berlin prove satisfying.

One thought on “Returning Home, or Multiple Levels of Dante’s Hell

  1. Ah, the contrast between being somewhere and being in airports/airplanes.One most pay the price, I suppose, for the joy of travel. I love the Pico Ayer quote at the end.

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