I’m back to travel blogging again. For those of you who follow and don’t yet know, I’m traveling in Europe for five weeks. It’s my last blast before I trend back from the world of make believe (writing and publishing) to the real world of schedules, cubicles and meetings.
My buddy, Barry, encouraged me to take this much time. Barry is a school teacher and has the summer off. I had been pursuing my book and Barry was of the mind that since I’m “not doing anything”, I was totally free to travel with him for as long as HE wanted. I had already planned on traveling to Europe for three weeks maximum to see my family again and hit a few other places. It was Barry who twisted my arm for this elongated visit. And I acquiesced. After all, once I get back into the corporate world, I will not have the luxury of taking this much time off for a long while.
Our trip includes Rome, Florence and the family compound in Ascoli Piceno. From there we will take a train up the Adriatic either to Innsbruck or Salzburg—location to be determined. Then we travel up to Munich and from there we start heading east—Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. We are scheduled to arrive in Moscow on July 20 and leave on July 27.
We were in for a rude awakening as we started traveling on Tuesday. Originally, we were going to take a train from Budapest through Romania, Moldova and Ukraine up to Moscow. The Ukrainian crisis pre-empted that. We then decided to take a two day train ride through Poland and Belarus to Moscow. During my layover in Atlanta, I found out that we need a visa to enter Belarus. Since we have no Belorussian visa, a train through Belarus is out of the question.
Our options now are a flight from Budapest to Moscow or a train ride through Poland and Latvia to Moscow. Barry is still toying with a train ride into Ukraine. I’m not sold on that one yet.
Anyway, this trip started out in Portland with a drama that made me uber-pissed. It had been my goal to make sure that this trip was relatively stress-free with a maximum amount of organization and a minimum amount of my famous stupidity.
For those of you who have been gleefully and laughingly watching my travel posts, you know that in January of 2013 I got into the wrong line in Dubai Airport and missed my flight home resulting in the purchase of another ticket and a flight through Munich (sitting on the tarmac for three hours due to technical difficulties), San Francisco and on to Portland.
You will also remember the nightmare that was January of this year when Toiletair, er, Ryanair was late getting me to Rome resulting in a missed flight to Amsterdam and an unexpected $350 charge. You will also remember that I left my laptop in my hotel room and, by the time I got it, had missed my flight from Amsterdam to Portland resulting in $2000 in unexpected charges and the beginning of a very impressive ulcer.
I had pre-ordained that nothing bad was going to happen this trip. Well! I am proud to tell you that my Alzheimer’s is still intact. While checking in at Portland International Airport, I found out that my itinerary had me returning from Moscow to Portland on JUNE 27, not July 27. Now I had purchased my ticket through Delta, not a third party website. I was freaked. Did I make the mistake? Did the Delta rep?
Immediately, I tried to call Delta, only to be put on hold for forty-five minutes. Sweating bullets with countdown to boarding time nearing, I tried to calm myself down while mini whirlpools of sweat swirled in my armpits. Barry had gone through the checkpoint and was waiting for me as his flight was leaving an hour after mine.
Well, I’m happy to tell you that an agent called me back and, after about ten minutes, was able to get me on a flight out of Moscow on July 27. Immediately, the sweat dried into a gross thickness on the back of my neck. But I’m still not sure if I screwed up or Delta did. Either way, I should have more diligently checked my itinerary. I haven’t yet looked at my bank account to see if I was charged because I’m still in the airport and I don’t want to get hacked. If there was a charge, someone will pay with their life—or at least a huge amount of chocolate.
Now, you might wonder why this was so important. As it turns out, paranoid Russia is adamant that, when applying for a visa to the country, you enter when you state and leave when you state. Otherwise, I guess they throw you in some gulag in Vladivostok where you become the love monkey for some hairy ape named Rasputin. So, there was a reason why I was freaked out. All I can say is that I hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend for this trip. I mean, I still have five more weeks to go and I am quite capable of starting an ethnic war, if not actually screwing up my visit.
I have no photos to post as of yet. I have been awake for forty-one hours with only two and a half hours of sleep. I am a complete vegetable and feeling sticky and grungy. Barry hasn’t arrived in Rome yet. His flight will reach Rome in another ninety minutes. I cannot sleep on a flight. Barry can so he will probably be in better shape than I will be.
When traveling overseas it is imperative to get on the locals’ time. A person’s body clock must be on local time, otherwise it is virtually impossible to enjoy the trip because one will always be tired and awake at the wrong times.
Barry and I flew separately. I flew through Atlanta with a nine hour layover. Barry flew through Montreal with a layover length of which I’m not aware.
For me, Atlanta was great. I have an old buddy, Jim, who lives there and is the sales manager of a hotel. He got me into one of their day rooms where I could shower and change clothes and sleep a bit—in this case, one and a half hours. After a breakfast and lunch with him and his partner, I was off to Hartsfield International Airport. Other than that bit of sleep, all I’ve had is some fitful zzz’s on the plane.
We only have two days in Rome. That was all Barry wanted. For me, I didn’t care. I’ve been here about seven times so everything is old hat. Italy is for him. I’m going to let him determine the itinerary here and in Florence. But I cannot go to the hotel and sleep yet. I will wait until tonight when we finally crash at which time I will have been awake roughly fifty-two hours.
I suppose if I can live through that, I can keep from mucking up this trip. Anyway, more tomorrow.