The Odyssey

The journey from Prague to Athens was an interesting one. And to think, I was worried about being late (late for being two hours early) this morning.

As it turns out, I wasn’t late. It was a misty morning in Prague. I caught the train to the tram to the bus with no problems. I even accidentally got off at the wrong stop and had to wait for the next bus. That was a little awkward. I wasn’t paying attention, then when I heard the announcement “airport terminal something” I panicked and jumped off.

I didn’t see anything that looked like an airport. I thought perhaps the public bus just dropped you off nearby and you had to walk the rest of the way. My main concern is that I had no idea which terminal to go to. I had no wifi at my apartment, and no way of getting online before my journey.

I spend a few minutes at a security point at some nearby complex. I thought this could make sense, you know, airports and security. I spoke with a very confused Czech man who I’m sure had no idea why I was demanding information about the airport. The language barrier didn’t help.

I decided I had no options but to get back on the bus and try again. I didn’t wait long. The real airport was three stops further. I arrived two hours before my flight almost to the minute, so I was feeling quite good about everything.

I find flying and airports kind of relaxing. I spend so much time in my daily life right now running around. I’m always trying to figure out where I am, where I’m going, it’s exhausting. In an airport, as long as you get there with the recommended two hours, you just move through the machine. You don’t have to figure anything out yourself, and then you’re on a plane. Not only are airplanes fun and exciting, but you’re actually forced to do nothing. I don’t allow myself that often, and I actually really enjoy it.

The thing that I like about airports is that, even when things go wrong, you’re just rerouted. You still follow a planned route. That was the case today. That romantic fog is not so seductive for take offs and landings. I was told to have a coffee and come back for more info in a half hour.

I never mind having a nice coffee. Moreover, the whole airport had free wifi, so I was sufficiently entertained. When I came back, they were going ahead with my flight to Warsaw with only a small delay. It was a small delay that would make me miss my connecting flight, but that was their problem to worry about, not mine. This is why I like airports. When trains are cancelled or things go awry any place else, you have to figure out your own solution. 

I can be a very zen traveller when things are out of my control. Plus, I always try to remember how much anger and frustration the poor airline employees have to face on days like this. They’re not responsible for the weather, they’re just here to help accommodate you in the best way possible. And I hope that, if the time ever comes that there is a single seat left on a flight to Athens or some extra goodies to give out, they’ll remember the nice girl who smiled and wished them a pleasant day. That’s me.

I’m sitting at a window seat in the Starbucks, observing the misty cause of our delay and writing addresses on postcards. I had been worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to use wifi and get that taken care of, so I was glad for the time. I was pretty absorbed in my task, and had just finished when I realized at a quite curt Czech voice was directed at me. 

They were ordering me to leave because there was some suspicious luggage. I suddenly realize that I am the only person left in the place and there is security tape all around me. I quickly try to gather my things. I’m sure I looked like the clueless tourist of the year as I fled the Starbucks in total disarray. They hadn’t just blocked off the shop but that whole half of the airport. Whoops. I saw the offending backpack on my way. I kept thinking to myself that if this thing explodes and kills me while I’m trying to pick up all these darn postcards, Matthew is going to have new passion for his career.

Displaced, I decided that this was as good a time as any to head back to the check in desk and see about my flight. I was told that I should go ahead and get through security, it would only be delayed 45 minutes. I’d probably miss my connecting flight since I’d had only a 30 minute layover, but they told me that they would work something else out for me at Warsaw.

After waiting around by the gate for a while, the flight was cancelled completely. I was very, very happy that I had decided not to check my luggage. While everyone else was stuck at the baggage reclaim desk, I breezed on through to the ticket desk.

I was the first to arrive from this cancelled flight, and the poor guy was clueless. He called his superiors, who apparently gave him no information but to tell us to wait there. I was suspicious about the inefficiency. I considered going to the ticket desk outside security, but he promised us some free food vouchers so I thought I’d see where that went.

Person after person came up with the same questions: I don’t need to go to Warsaw, is there a different way to get to my final destination? Should I get my luggage and from where? Am I in the right place?
His response was an increasingly frustrated plea for us to just wait. Again, I was feeling a little suspicious.

When another man came up to ask about getting to Athens, I told him that it was my destination as well. He has a smart phone and a personal assistant, and while we were waiting was able to ascertain more concrete information. The next way to get to Athens was via Munich and we would arrive around 6:00. They could do this for us straight away at the other ticket desk.

Happy I’d cast my lot in with this guy, we headed out of the security area. Unfortunately, the flight to Munich was full. The next flight was through Frankfurt, and would deposit us in Athens at 21:55. 
Of course, this isn’t ideal. If it had known I’d be spending an entire day in the Prague airport, I could have seen a few more this this morning. But like I said, I’m quite tired. I’m lucky to be going to Greece at all. A nice relaxing day before I arrive is actually pleasant. I have a new friend, food vouchers, and I’ve now experienced my first ever cancelled flight. All in all, not a bad day. Besides, airport or not, I’m still in Prague. I’m lucky to be anywhere on this continent, every single day.

My friend asked me if I smoked, and although I don’t I was happy to join him. We stopped for a coffee, and I was completely bewildered when he got out a cigarette right then and there. Coming from America, it’s so unexpected to see smoking indoors. I assumed he’d meant to step outside to smoke, and it took me a few moments to process. It was just a small moment, but one of those funny things that stand out to you when you travel.

The only bad thing to come of having to leave security was that, on the way back through, my eye makeup remover was confiscated. There was only a small amount in the bottom of a relatively small bottle, but it goes a long way. It would have lasted me months. I’ve flown with that same bottle in much fuller states, gone through the same security with it just earlier that day, and it was quite irritating to see it thrown out now. Fortunately I was meeting a professional makeup artist in Athens, the amazing miss Jolie. I wouldn’t be totally out of luck tonight.

We ate lunch using our “refreshment vouchers” and headed to our gate. The flight, of course, was delayed. This time it was not due to weather, but the plane itself was running late. Apparently, due to strong northerly winds, only one runway was usable. Every flight out was delayed. The bad news didn’t end there, for we were headed straight back to Frankfurt to catch out flight to Athens.

I think I dozed off through most of the short flight. There was a sense of general panic when we arrived, and I believe that we were the only ones not late for our flight. I hope the delays allowed everyone to get to their planes on time. I had two hours to get to my gate, so let the rest run past me.

My friend and I had coffee while we waited, by now for the fourth time. It’s taken a lot of caffeine to get me through this day. As you know, it’s been a long week. Our flight was projected to be 40 minutes late, which turned out to be nearly correct. Unlike American flights, all European flights over two hours serve a meal–and as an American, this excites me.

This trip dragged on for much longer. It’s a shame, because I really like to be up in the air. I fell victim to what seems to be a more and more frequent occurrence these days: the man next to me was slightly too large for his seat. His body was as wide as the seat could allow, which meant that his arms at rest at his sides intrude several inches over the narrow armrest and into my space.

Normally, being petit means I’m quite comfortable on planes. I have an extra few inches between my arms at rest and the armrests. But I had nowhere to go to escape from constant an awkward contact, since the lady on my other side was of a perfectly average size and took up an average amount of room. She’d have to have been quite small for me to borrow any of her space reasonably. The food was decent, but it was an uncomfortable three hours.

I tried to prop my left foot up on my purse to keep it a bit elevated. I only need my feet to last two more weeks, and that can’t be too much to ask. There is a sharp pain at the top of my foot, and I’m not quite sure how to deal with it because I’ve never had problem like it before. Even after a restful day like today both my feet are swollen, again an atypical problem for me. I don’t think I’m doing particularly more walking than my other travels, so I wonder if it’s the constant cold and wetness. 

I’m going to buy new shoes if I come across any, because these are falling apart now at the seams. They have several large holes, but apart from being in once piece I don’t expect to find anything that will be much improvement. Again, just two weeks is all I need from them. I wish I could afford new insoles, as well. They usually last a few years, but I’ve worn mine out in less than five months. I think I’ve just been doing that much more walking than average.

When I bought them, I asked how I could tell when it would be time to replace them. I was told it would be like when you knew to replace an old pair of sneakers (which I admittedly don’t have much experience with) and they would be wrinkled and cracked. Well, mine fit this description. They’re cracked on several places and I’m wearing it away in the heel. 

It’s a bummer to have spent a full day in airports that I could have been exploring Athens or Prague, especially since I had so little time left. However, as difficult as it has been to actually get to Greece (I could have been 1/3 of the way there by train in the amount of time it took today) I am so incredibly happy with my decision. I’m going to take a slower pace and enjoy the dry, sunny country. I had wanted to badly to go there, and for so many reasons now I’m happy it worked out. 

I arrived after 11:00. All of my troubles for the day would have been made up to me by a new stamp in my passport alone, but that stupid EU foiled me again. This was quickly forgotten though, when I walked out into the night and it was warm and dry. At night. I had forgotten such things were possible. 

I tried to take the train back but the bus made more sense. Mine was the last stop so there was no way to miss it. The hotel was supposed to be very near the Syntigma Square, practically in it, so I hadn’t planned my route any further. 

A young Greek man saw me looking bewildered and offered his assistance. His name is Chris. He told me that he has many friends who are traveling at the moment, so he hears a lot about the complications of traveling. He also didn’t want to leave me to wander around at midnight, which was really cool.

There is an Electra Palace and and Electra Hotel both within a few blocks of the square. I knew I was in the palace, but I don’t think he knew that the names were different. We went to the wrong one first, but it was a small mistake. I reunited with Jolie a few short minutes later.

The hotel (or should I say palace?) is fabulous. She took me up to the rooftop pool for my first view of the acropolis. The angle from here is totally unobstructed and stunning. I felt like I was really in Greece! I could have gotten here faster from America than I did from Czech, but I did it. It’s amazing how exhausting this can be, as relaxing as it seems to hang out and drink coffees all day. I will sleep well tonight!

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