Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Long Way Home

What a week! What a day!!

I'm writing these lines sitting here at London Heathrow and since there's no free wifi-access it will be some time before I'll actually be able to post it. The thing is that I should have been home in Vienna 2 hours ago, unfortunately we got somewhat stuck here due to an enormous amount of canceled flights because of bad weather yesterday. Coming from Boston we arrived here in London at 5 a.m. only to find out that our flight to Vienna had been canceled. When we moved into the departure hall where we were supposed to go to the British Airways ticket office to get new boarding passes we realized that something bigger was going on since there was an enormous queue in front of the ticket office. At this point someone told us that all the flights to Vienna had been canceled and that we'd have to get in line and hope for the best.

[several hours and a few hundred kilometers later]

At the moment I'm sitting here on a train that's taking me from Vienna to Linz where my family will pick me up so we can have at least a small and late version for our regular christmas celebration. It's close to 10 p.m., but that time we've normally already finished setting up our living-room with the Christmas tree, singing, giving out the present and eating. In the past few years this was about the time when I went out to a friend's place, where we'd sneak out a bottle or two out of his dad's wine-cellar and then just chill with good music and enjoy the wine.

But let me go back in time and explain what happened in London earlier today. After we had been told that we should get in line it wasn't quite clear which queue we'd have to stand in as there were two of them. At this point Aaron and I decided to split up and he went with the first queue while I went for the second one. After some time I started talked to a group of people who were standing behind me, amongst them a girl from Bratislava who was supposed to fly to Vienna the previous day. She told me all about the chaos that must have been that day, with no real information by British Airways and just a general grand confusion. She ended up getting a voucher for a hotel and went there with other people she had meet in line, needless to say that they ended up drinking until the morning. Inspired by that story and her good humour (after 24h of waiting mind you!) I started to think of alternative solutions in case we wouldn't be able to get tickets to Vienna for that day. The first option would have been to just take a regular flight to Vienna with Austrian Airlines, but I really wasn't going to spend >€500 on that one. Alternative airports such as Munich, Salzburg, Graz and Linz were also mentioned. However I decided that there were really only two reasonable things to do: either rent car and drive to Vienna ourselves (we were 4~5 people who needed to get there) or just wait for British Airways to pay us a hotel in the evening and get hilariously wasted.

Luckily it turned out that Aaron had been in the right line and so we managed to get to an actual ticket counter after about 3 1/2 hours. (And having heard so many other stories of people being stuck in Heathrow for >24 hours I really considered myself to be lucky!) So I went back in line to say good-bye to my queue-friends, even though I felt really bad for not being able to do anything for them except to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Our rebooking called for us to go to Copenhagen, spend about 1 1/2 hours there before heading on to Vienna where we were set to arrive at 6:30 p.m. In Copenhagen we meet a linguistics student from Vienna who had just spent a week or two in Edinburgh and she promptly invited us to a drink to celebrate our situation. So I ended up sitting in a relatively empty airport with a glass of excellent (and totally overpriced) Scotch, toasting to Christmas, British Airways and whatnot. Could Christmas be any better?

Seriously though, at this point I had somehow stopped caring about my journey and just tried to make the best of whatever was happening. So I guess that mindset also helped once we actually got to Vienna only to find out that our suitcases hadn't managed to keep up with us. I had been expecting for that to potentially happen and even though I was a bit pissed there was really nothing I could do except for leaving the relevant information at the lost&found and hoping for them to turn up soon.

Anyway, now that I'll shortly be arriving in Linz it's time to turn this machine off, make the best of my evening and maybe post this entry before I head to bed...

Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope you were able to spend it in a better way than I did! ;-)

P.S. I'll be posting more (incl. some photos) about my trip in general over the coming days.

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