Big Euro Adventure

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Subj: The Adventure Begins...


I'll come get 'em…" as I swigged down my beer. — "You will?" was Jim's immediate response. "Yeah sure… I'll just take a long lunch break, no one will even notice me gone!!!" Jim laughed. Jim is an old friend going back over 25 years. He got a six-month job working in Bratislava, Slovakia and his kids were going to visit for a few weeks during the summer. Their travel to Slovakia was set ,however returning them to Los Angeles was a little more complicated. Daniel and Carmen are 9 & 11 respectively and in need of an escort.

So what the heck — I could use an adventure. The kids know me. Plus, my wife is half Slovak so I've heard of the place. It was once Czechoslovakia until the split. I had been mumbling of late how I'd like to take several months off to travel the world. Some "pie in the sky" thinking, however this was for real.

Hmmm… I could see part of a former Soviet bloc country, be on my own for some much needed philosophizing about life and go from there. I knew Slovakia was once part of Czechoslovakia and they have great beer. Any more than that was a blank. Of course, I'm always saying I'll do something or go somewhere, it never happens — I expect this little escapade to end up the same way.

A week later, Jim calls. In a random kid poll between me as escort or nanny — I was the overwhelming fav. Jim wanted to secure some dates. I might REALLY be going? I'm thinking to myself, Jim is serious. Hell, it would be great to get outta Dodge and see someplace half a world away. It's on…

But — but — but — cold feet start to set in. I've never travel alone to a foreign country. It ain't Canada; I'm not 23 and just outta college. Plus the wife ain't coming which could be good or bad. In this situation — all bad. This is the wife, Lynn; former world traveler who's done trips like this bunches of times. Whenever we did any traveling, she did all the legwork. All I had to do was show up. However, she's not part of the equation. It's all up to me to plan it out. OK — I can do this — I've seen her do it so I can do it.

I lay out a plan. Fly into Vienna, Austria and spend a few days walking around getting over jet lag. Go to Bratislava, Slovakia, which was 45 minutes away by train. Check in with Jim and the kids for a day or so then head off to Budapest, Hungary. Maybe tool around Hungary, maybe not… Return to Bratislava, pick up the kids and back to the USA.

A good plan, however getting ready was another story. My final week before departing was the worst. I was spending money left and right — new walking shoes, film, travel books, clothes, return the clothes, get different clothes, another pair of walking shoes, luggage, more travel books, camera, which camera? — what if it gets stolen? socks, underwear, more maps. The only plus to it all was I really needed some new underwear.

I was backing up everything, even the back ups…

By the time Lynn
drops me off at the airport terminal — I'm a nervous wreck. Hadn't felt this way since my parents dropped me off at boarding school — 7th grade, Hall of Divine Child in Monroe, Michigan. Oh man… a military school run by nuns. Now I'm off to euro land and it might as well be nuns waiting at the other end.

Your overseas terminals are not like the average domestic terminals. The place is slicker — high concept stuff. Plus the excitement level is ratcheted up several notches. Kids seem to have doubled up on the sugar dosage — adults act like had they had that extra cup of joe. Inside the terminal, everything is a cut above. The security is tighter; the counter service seems a bit better. And the passengers are a bit more obnoxious. Don't know what it is about flying however it seems to empower some people into total jerks.

You have two classes of jerks — your domestic flying jerks and your international flying jerks. By far and away the domestics don't hold a candle to your internationals. The couple in front of me arguing with the skycap — they insist, "We've traveled ALL over the world and WE ALWAYS have this luggage as carry on". Even when they weren't arguing — they had to loudly cite every country they've flown to and how they NEVER had problems with carry on. Lady — shut the bleep up 'cause I'm freaking out as it is and don't need to hear your crap. About now I start to get chest pains and my breathing is a little weird. I figure it's nerves but what if it's not??

Anyway — stay focused, keep counting my bags, and don't lose anything. I make it through all the checks and searches. Ok, time for a bon voyage photo. I set the self-timer and sit on the floor next to these plants only to have some jokers push a baby stroller in front of the camera as it fires. Hope this isn't an omen…

Its July 23, 5:40pm. I board British Airways Flight #282 and it's outta here. Brit Air — love those flight attendants. The accent, the dry wit — it's like watching Monty Python… The chest pains go away.

Except for the next 10 hours, I'm sitting next to some slug going to Norway. He looks like the Unibomber and said nothing to me the entire trip. Ten hours on a plane and I'm sitting next to someone lookin' like they're off a FBI Wanted Poster. I did get a few obligatory smiles when he needed to hit the head. He spoke great English and made noise when he didn't get his special order vegetarian meal. I got the same meal — pasta and it wasn't no special order. I think his pasta came in a special serving tray. O well, sluggo sits there and stares and his screen — I sit and watch mine.

Thank god for those little screens which create this eerie glow in the cabin EXCEPT there isn't any movie worth watching. "You've Got Mail!!" Like I wanna see an ancient Tom Hanks movie??? Some other gems as well — 6 different movies and nothing worth watching — it must be me…

Well — like clockwork, 10 hours and 20 minutes later we land at Heathrow Airport. Its noon however I have no concept of time. Gotta find Ft 697 to Vienna and not lose anything in the process. It's the only thing running thru my mind. Except, there's three hours to kill. I won't buy anything 'cause I'm thinking the money mess. I'll just rush over to the next gate and wait.

It don't work like that. They don't announce gates until 30 minutes before departure. Everyone sits in a big holding area waiting until your gate is announced.  Sorta felt like the emergency room of a hospital on a Saturday nite — People sitting around bored and waiting for some announcement.

Well I sit — recite a few lines of "You've Got Mail!!" and keep an eye on my luggage.

The announcement comes and off I go. Next stop Vienna, Austria — this ain't so bad. Nothing was stolen, nothing lost and I'm feeling better about the trip…


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