SEP 28 - More travel, and with a new bag that we picked up to hold our ever-expanding supply of trinkets. Unfortuately, that would levy a high cost at Munich, our main stop for the day. Having grown used to carrying two things, we jumped off the train in eager anticipation of the nearby Oktoberfest, and it wasn't until we finally found an empty locker that I realized that I should now be carrying THREE things: backpack, trinket-bag and .. video camera. That precious cargo was now working its way north into the heart of Germany without me. (Fortunately, I had changed tapes at Interlaken, so only one day of shooting was in the camera at the time). This mistake cost us another hour as I wandered from place to place, attempting to determine with my vague German to whom I should report my problem. We finally found the right place, but no camera had been turned in at Munich. Since nothing else could be done, we made the logical choice: go have a Bier!
The Oktoberfest is amazing, either a super-State Fair, a mini-World Fair, or just a string of beer-halls with amazing rides, souveniers and crowds. We arrived at lunchtime, so I had a half chicken and a liter of Bier while Marcia had wieners mit sauerkraut and shared my drink. We moved on to an obscure corner where an English-speaking attendant sat us down by some well-inebriated Italians; Marcia made eye contact, and one practically sat in her lap, hugging her and speaking an interesting Italic-Germanic-Bier-English. As we were leaving Marcia wanted them all in a photo, so the same man sat me down with them and gave me a bear-hug (without the grope), and we continued our tour. By about 4:00 we were getting hungry again, but the crowds had grown tremendously; we tried a spot or two that were now standing-room only, so we returned to the station for our trip to Augsburg, a half-hour away. I inquired again about my camera, this time referring instead to the green bag rather than just the camera; still no luck. In Augsburg we found a good motel 50m from the station, and Marcia rested while I searched for an Internet post. I verified that our flights had not been canceled, much to my relief, and returned to the motel. At bedtime I noted with dismay that my sinuses were getting congested, a terrible thing for them to do just before an obscenely long flight.
SEP 29 - For the last time we packed and headed for the station. Our route this morning would not be through Würzburg as I had always figured, but instead went through Ulm, Stuttgart, and Mannheim before reaching Frankfurt about 11:15. Marcia's dad had been stationed near Ulm many years ago, so she snapped several pictures to prove we'd been there too. At Frankfurt we switched to the airport train and arrived well in advance of our 3:30 flight. We checked in the big bag and found another Internet spot, where I hopefully would find news of my runaway camera; sadly, no news could not be considered good news. Also in the airport we hit a supermarket for a few supplies, a nearby apotheke for nose-drops, then dined at a pizza/pasta joint. The flight home was interminably long (nine-plus hours) but was aided by a tail-wind for the first few hours; we actually reached Denver a half-hour early and had to wait for the previous plane to vacate the gate before we could park. Sights along the way were few but impressive, including a great view of Greenland's ice-cap reaching its glaciers down into the Atlantic, where many massive icebergs were visible. The Denver landing was entertaining, as we slalomed through several big thunderstorm cells before landing. The Denver airport was extremely spooky. Less than two months before I had been here, and it was full of people and generally unadorned. Now we wandered the empty, flag-draped building practically by ourselves, and the train to the concourse held only one other traveler. I napped for most of the final leg to Portland, where we arrived at 9:30 and were met by my parents. Marcia's mom met us soon after at the house for the final event, where Marcia and Waldo (our Boxer) were reunited after three weeks of vacation.
What worked, What didn't
For the most part, everything worked very well. Our improvisations seldom came to grief, and even failures became successes in their own time. Other than leaving the video camera on the train at Munich, most other problems were external - the wrong tickets at Interlaken, Ireland's day of mourning - and were solved with no more than imagination and just a bit of stress-induced adrenaline. My prime regret from a packing standpoint was my choice of tiny computer - had I brought the one that lives on AA batteries, this narrative could have remained entirely real-time. The other regret is the time constraint, but every traveler hits that one. Each open door representes a thousand closing doors, and our leisure on the Beara peninsula cost us views at Dingle, Galway and other spots. Nothing should be explored halfway; to rush the Beara would mean it would need to be seen again, so losing Dingle and Sligo is a choice we will live with. Clearly Ireland will need three more weeks to see, and maybe more. Other lost sights along the way - Chamonix is my best example - will simply move up the priority list for next time. We saw some amazing stuff in wonderful weather; what more dare we ask?
This entire trip was put into perspective by the tragedies in New York and Washington. I personally had never been to either city, living three time-zones away, but such unspeakable damage was done that the shock could be clearly felt in London and all over Europe. BBC1 showed nothing else for the entire time we were in London, and of course Ireland in effect shut itself down on Friday the 14th. The Irish never lose their own, it seems, and every missing American with an Irish name was as painful as their own missing nationals. Nearly everyone expressed their sympathy to us personally throughout our trip, and we were touched by these statements. Whenever I would mutter or complain about travel issues, I would simply recall those who would gladly exchange our little problems for their huge ones - and I would shut up.
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