Finally in the Frankfurt airport terminals, I was disappointed to see only gray skies and gray buildings. With my connecting flight in a little over two hours, however, I hadn’t much time to appreciate a view anyway. The next hour and a half was a jumble of high-speed navigating and endless queues. I finally found the correct terminal, and settled down to wait.
Thirty minutes went by, and then all business class and first class travelers were requested to board. Then nothing. Another fifteen minutes passed; according to my boarding pass (which I had printed at home the day before), economy class should have started boarding. I waited another five minutes, then checked the gate’s flight status. Instead of Basel, it read “Dusseldorf”. I realized the gate had been changed without me knowing. There was no one at the desk to ask, so I approached two friendly-looking pilots: “Entschuldigung, aber bin ich im richtigen Ort? Ich muss nach Basel fliegen.” The ladies looked at my ticket, grew alarmed on my behalf, and pointed me to a help desk across the way (I could have sworn it was empty before).
I repeated my question to the assistant at the help desk, and she quickly found my updated gate number. I asked her “bin ich zu spät?” but she reassured me I could make it.
As I rushed off to the next section of gates, I mentally complimented myself on using and understanding German during the entire emergency.
Four gates later, I saw with relief the gate to Basel. The assistants at the desk smiled at me–also relieved–and called out: “Frau Schmitt?”
“Ja,” I gasped and handed them my boarding pass. They ushered me downstairs, where a shuttle was waiting for its last–and late–passenger. A kind man offered me his seat, and I sat embarrassed as we drove to the plane.
My second Lufthansa experience was vastly different than the first. The plane was much smaller this time, and my backpack was slightly too deep to fit in the compartment overhead. My embarrassment grew, as my efforts were clearly visible to the sparsely populated plane. Thankfully, the flight was only half an hour, and I stuffed my gear under the seat in front of me.
We received small snack bars, and as I munched, I watched the flight attendants demonstrate safety procedures (a task relegated to the TVs on the 747). All of this paled to the fact that I could now look out a window. The tops of clouds in the purest white, the gradual appearance of hills and mountains, and–as we descended–medieval houses; all of these sights took away my disappointment from before. Even though the smaller plane was much simpler than the fancy 747, I think I preferred the basic version. The attendants seemed more personable, and the trip more organic. Except for the TV series Lost, adventures are just more likely to happen on small planes.
I sat once more next to a gentleman who has traveled a bunch. Nimrod is from Israel, and helps with research for treating heart arrhythmia. His job requires him to visit countries for lectures, although he’d prefer to stay at home. He talked about life growing up in Israel, explaining that there was always pressure to perform well. “With all the stress from school and the military [many Israelis are required to serve], most young Israelis decide to travel for a while, as a break,” he explained. “But I didn’t do that.”
“Well, I guess you kind of get to do that now, with your job.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he smiled. He went on say that the U.S. news fails to capture the complexity of the Israel-Palestine issue and misrepresents the Israeli military. Because terrorists blend well in civilian communities, the military is cautious not to harm innocent lives as much as possible. However, this hesitancy has lead to the deaths of several of his friends.
This conversation reminded me that at the root of all political disputes, individual lives pay the cost. It’s easy to take one side or the other, but in reality, the situation is rarely ever black-and-white.
The plane landed in Basel, and I caught promising glimpses of old architecture in a nearby town. The airport was deserted at 1 p.m., and I quickly met up with my host, who had come to take me to her home.
To avoid jet lag, I managed to stay up until about 10 p.m. local time, even though I had only a few hours sleep on the plane the night before. So far my strategy has been working well, though I’m growing tired now. I’d just love to tell you about my first hike in the Black Forest or our ever-so-casual drive over the Rhein, but that will have to wait for the next post.