Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Our Christmas Vacation Part Five – Heading Home

 Saturday morning. We are heading back home today.  As I woke up in the hotel on our last morning in Salzburg, I pulled back the curtain to get a last look at our mountain view.  What I see is unbelievable!  The sun is just rising and the colors behind the mountain are unlike any I have ever seen before in the sky.  Eric had snuck out earlier to climb up to the wall on the other side of the river to capture some early morning shots of Salzburg before we left.  It had snowed again overnight so everything was covered in a light dusting of white.  He saw the sunrise too.

Waiting for the train.
Reluctantly, we packed our bags, enjoyed one last delicious Austrian breakfast and headed to the train station.  We had a flight to catch in Munich later that day.  Not the original flight we had been booked on however.  Two nights ago I had received a text from KLM, the airline we were flying on.  Basically it said our flight on Saturday "may" be canceled.  "May" be canceled?  No explanation why.  Strange text to get.  Then last night, another text reading, “Your flight to Amsterdam on Saturday has been canceled.  We are in the process of making alternate plans for you.”  I went to bed last night a little uneasy because at that moment, we were no longer booked on any flight back to the UK.  Saturday morning, after catching the spectacular sunrise, I checked my phone again.  Relief!  Another text had arrived at 5:00 am.  KLM had rebooked flights for us on a different airline, Lufthansa, that would take us a different route home, but we would get back to Birmingham that evening at about the same time we had originally been scheduled to arrive home.  And, as an added bonus, the flight out was leaving later so now we would have a few extra hours to spend exploring Munich.  If you remember way back to the beginning of this story, because of a flight delay we had lost the day we had planned to spend in Munich.  But here was a chance again.  Funny how these things work out sometime.
Salzburg - a train station with a view!
We arrived in Munich around noon, stashed our luggage in some lockers at the train station, and headed out the doors to see what we could see.  And what did we see exactly?  Snow!  Lots and lots of snow falling from the sky.  And people!  Lots and lots of people everywhere.  Munich was crowded.  The heavily falling snow had not kept anyone at home.  We were right in the heart of the city and headed towards the Marienplatz, the central square in Munich which, like many cities in Europe, is surrounded by buildings displaying magnificent architecture.   

A snowy Marienplatz.
The street we followed leading to and from Marienplatz was a pedestrian only zone, lined with shops and restaurants, churches and statutes.   

One of the department stores had a colorful, fun Christmas window display of scenes from fairytales using stuffed animals.

We ducked inside to see this beautiful church (and to get out of the snow for a bit).

A statue near the entrance to the market.
From Marienplatz, we headed further down the street towards Viktualienmarkt, which means victuals market.  This gigantic market, dating back to the early 1800s, is spread over a few city blocks and houses 140 vendors selling all varieties of fresh foods and delicatessen.  There are cheese vendors, meat vendors, fruit and veggie vendors.  There was a huge tent under which was displayed more varieties of olives than I knew even existed.  There were bakers selling breads, pastries and other goods, and vendors selling spices, oils and vinegars.  And of course, you could grab something to eat on the go from the many vendors selling sandwiches, sausages, and warm cups of coffee.  I was in heaven!  You see – I LOVE farmers markets.  In fact, back in Zionsville, Indiana, I visit the farmers market religiously every Saturday morning stocking up on most of the food that will sustain our family of four for the week.  We got but a glimpse of this huge, beautiful market in Munich, but a glimpse is all that was needed for me to fall in love.  Oh what I would do to live near a market like this.

Strolling through the market.

By midafternoon, it was time to head back to the train station for the ride to the airport.  We gathered our luggage and set off on a city train for the 45 minute trip.  We walked into the Munich airport and headed toward the departures board to find out which gate we needed to get to.  We would be flying to Frankfurt first, so we searched the board and found the flight.  There was no gate listed.  Instead, we saw the word “Abgesagt."  What the heck does Abgesagt mean?  My heart sank as I looked up and down the board and noticed that same word behind several of the flights heading to other cities in Germany and the surrounding countries.  I don’t think this is good.  My suspicions were confirmed a few seconds later when the English translation for the word Abgesagt flashed onto the screen – CANCELED!  Nooooooooooo!  Our original flight had been canceled and now the flight we had been rebooked on was canceled too?  We probably should have expected this but for some reason it hadn’t crossed our minds.  We had just spent the day walking around Munich getting pummeled by snow the entire time.  Clearly the snow was having an affect on airplane travel given the number of flights listed as canceled on the board before us.

We were directed to the Luftansa transfer center where they would rebook us on other flights yet again.  The cordoned off area specifically for this desk was full of people, the line spilling out into the rest of the airport.  Lufthansa had exactly one person working at this desk trying to help this long line of people.  We got in line.  This was going to take awhile. 

Lucky for us, I’ve seen my fair share of Amazing Race episodes.  There has got to be a better way - a faster way to rebook our flights.  I suggested to Eric that he try calling KLM since it was their canceled flight yesterday with no explanation that had gotten us into this mess in the first place.  Let's see if they could rebook us again.  He did.  Ten minutes later we ducked out of the long line with tickets reserved in our names for a flight out the next morning.  We would be spending another night in Munich.  The friendly woman behind the hotel desk in the airport found an apartment for us in a hotel about 15 minutes away.  A driver picked us up and dropped us off it what turned out to be more like a condo complex in a quiet little residential neighborhood.  We were hungry so we dropped off our luggage and headed down the street towards a little Bavarian restaurant.  It was a lovely walk.  The streets were dark and quiet.   It had stopped snowing and the moon was trying to peak out from behind the clouds.  The fluffy new snow on the ground was too much for the girls to stay out of so they frolicked along playing in it as we walked.  The restaurant was warm and cozy, the food delicious.  We lingered over our drinks and shared some ice cream at the end of the meal.  Yes, ice cream again in the middle of winter and it was as good as the ice cream we had in Austria.  We headed back to our apartment and went to sleep.

Whenever we get to a new hotel, the first thing Leah wants to do is jump on the bed - everytime! 
Bright and early the next morning, back to the airport we went.  In the end, I hadn’t really minded being stuck in Munich for an extra day.  We had enjoyed our quiet, low key evening last night – one more bit of relaxation before heading back to real life.  But today, I was ready to head home. 

The Munich airport was a buzz that Sunday morning, lines of people everywhere, full of the normal travelers with the addition of all those who had been stranded for the night in Munich, like us, because of the snowstorm and were eager to get home or to their next destination.  We checked the departure board.  Whew!  Our flight had a gate assigned to it – a very good sign.  We headed towards security passing the Lufthansa transfers desk we had briefly stood in line at the night before.  The number of people in line had multiplied like gremlins in water.  There were easily a couple hundred people in the line that morning.  Thank goodness we didn’t have to go there today.

We passed through security and headed to our gate with a sigh of relief.  Even though this had been a great trip, we had run into our fair share of problems – arriving in Munich a day late because of the flight delay at the beginning of our trip, the stomach flu incident in the Munich train station, spending two days in the hotel in Salzburg taking turns watching over our sick kids, having not one, but two flights canceled as we tried to get back home to England and finally, having to spend an extra night in Munich.   We were ready to get back home.  As we approached our gate, I glanced at the board over the check-in desk to make sure we had the correct flight and what do I see – the word DELAYED.  You have got to be kidding me!  No, no, no, no, no!  I do not want anymore of this.  Yes, I momentarily turned into a child throwing a tantrum, although I kept it all inside because with two young impressionable kids in tow, we need to keep our cool as parents in the most trying of times, right?  We had a connecting flight to catch in Frankfurt and not very much time between flights.  If this first flight was delayed by more than half an hour, we would miss it.  Ahhhhhhh – I did not want to go through all of this again!

We sat down to wait for more information.  Shortly thereafter, an announcement was made – something on the order of, “Sorry folks.  The plane is still on the ground in Frankfurt.  They need to de-ice it and will take off as soon as they can.  Once it arrives here in Munich, we will get you all on board as quickly as possible so you can make any connecting flights.”   

We were not going to make our connecting flight.  Once it finally arrived and was ready to go, we boarded the plane in Munich at the exact time our flight in Frankfurt was scheduled to take off.  We headed to Frankfurt anyway and would decide what to do when we got there. 

It was a short flight, only an hour long or so.  When we landed, something told me to run.  Our scheduled departure time for our flight back to Birmingham had long since passed, but something told me to run anyway.  So we did.  We grabbed our bags and as soon as we were off the plane, we sprinted across the Frankfurt airport, through the concourse we had landed in, stopping before we exited the concourse to have our passports checked, ran down a set of stairs and through the very long tunnel connecting the concourses, sprinted up another set of stairs and into Concourse B.  We ran towards the sign for our gate and as we rounded the corner, we were meet with a gate full of empty chairs.  Not a good sign.  Everyone was gone – except for the three Lufthansa employees working the gate.  As we approached, the lady looked at us and asked, “Are you on the flight to Birmingham?”   
A huge smile spread across my face.  “Yes, we are.”  
“Well, let’s hurry then.  The bus is about to leave to take the last set of passengers out to the plane.” 

Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  Miracles do happen!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!  I felt like bursting out into a song of joy that is how excited and relieved I was that the plane was still there and we could still get on it.  I almost kissed her. 

She scanned our tickets and sent us down a flight of stairs where we found a bus full of people heading in the same direction as us.  We had no sooner squeezed onto the back of the bus when the doors closed and the bus took off.  We couldn’t believe it!  We had made it - barely!  How, I don’t know and I really didn't care.  We were finally on our way home!  And to top it off, they serve drinks on Lufthansa flights and let me tell you, a glass of wine, even a airline quality glass of wine, has never tasted so good. 

What a trip!  We made it to three new countries, the Netherlands, Germany, and my favorite so far, Austria.  Salzburg was absolutely a magical place to spend Christmas.  A sleigh ride in the Austrian Alps is something I had never really thought I would ever do.  The food during the entire trip was outstanding.  We collected some beautiful souvenirs at the Christmas Market to take home with us when we head back to the states.  We unexpectedly got to spend a few hours in Amsterdam.  Eric did an amazing job captured all the sights and experiences from this trip on his camera (where oh where am I going to hang all the photos I want to display when we get back home to Indy).  And, by Christmas Eve, everyone had been healthy again and we spent a wonderful Christmas together as a family.  End of story.

Weeeeeeeeell, sort of.  You see, our troubles weren't quite over with yet.  While we made it back to England just fine, our luggage sadly did not.  Remember that race across the Frankfurt airport we had made hoping and praying that by some miracle our flight had not left yet?  Well, apparently whoever was handling our luggage did not sprint like we had.  None of our suitcases made it onto the plane.  We had to put in a claim to have them tracked down and were told "if" they are found (okay - “if” is a scary word to hear when three of your suitcases full of most of your winter clothing and other personal items are missing), the luggage will be delivered to our house.  We stopped at the store on the way home to pick up some milk and toothbrushes, and we waited.  Our luggage did show up – two bags the following day and the third two days later, so in the end, it all worked out just fine.  And that truly is the end of the story.

I'll be back next week with some more postings on life here in England.  These posts about our trip with all the photos took a lot of time to put together (time I am glad I spent because I really do want to chronicle all of these trips for our sake as well as for you to enjoy while everything is fresh in my mind).  I need to focus this week on making travel plans for our next couple of trips.  Oh, life is rough living here in Europe for two years.  Life is rough. :)


  1. That will be a Christmas vacation to remember - loved reading all about it and of course the photos, wow! I have a couple questions, how many countries have you visited so far? Better yet, how many miles have you put on?

    1. We've been to England (of course), Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands - so 7 countries to far. Crazy! As for miles, I'll have to ask Eric. I think he's been tracking all our trips but not sure where.