An unexpected event challenged me to take a trip back to Europe in a matter of hours. I had to choose an Airline very fast so I bought my ticket and, soon, I was standing at the Lufthansa terminal in LAX.
I have never flown this Airline before so I was, both, curious and nervous. I was going to travel alone for the very first time, back to my childhood, now, after 25 years..
I entered the jumbo jet, “gazed into the horizon” for my seat number, put my carry-on lugguage up and shut the compartment door. Was I ready for a 14 hour flight? ...(I looked at my right)...and sit next to this man???
“Hallo. Mein Name ist Hans” , said a very talll, thin, blond, glass wearing man who did not speak English.
“Hello!” I smiled...
The plane was secured shut, the safety instructions were gestured by mute arms and fingers, and I was saying “Good Bye!” to Los Angeles from the second seat next to the window . The uniform grids of the Citadel were slowly becoming smaller and smaller, some distorted by a corner of the male passenger's glasses , and some becoming just a dotted line along the Hollywood sign. Clouds were taking over my retina settilng some fear in my heart, fear of not being in control. I surrendered and close my eyes for a while.
Huge chocolate bars of Toblerone were moving forward along the rows of seats bouncing up and down cheerfully, white airplane toys with the Lufthansa inscription on them were for sale, the windows were covered with cotton candy from the outside, and carts with goodies were pushed by doll -like people in uniform.
Was I dreaming? Did I land in Hans and Graetel's fantasy world?
No! And still 12 and a half hours of flight left....
I could hear the noise of shades being pulled down to cover the round airplane windows with a rhythmic authority of a parent as if saying : “It's night time. You need to go to bed now!” ...although it was day light outside...
Big screens slowly emerged from the ceilling of the airplane, one for every ten rows or so, showing the map of the world: the US, Canada, Atlantic, Europe...and a red dot...that was our airplane, tiny, bright with so many beating hearts and so many life stories, one of them being mine.
After several movies watched, meals served, night-night times, quite a few maps of the world again showing the progression of the flight, after few kicks in the ribs if he started to snor (at my co-traveler's request!) I finally landed in Munich, Germany , more exactly Flughafen München.
I had to change planes in about 3 and a half hours so I had time to spare. I found out that the airport was located on four different municipalities, it is named in the memory of the politician Franz Josef Strauss and that it is the second busiest airport in Germany.
The International transit area was emply though. Long, endless hallways were hosting quite a few “oasis” of snack bars so I decided to spend my time between them, the Souveneir Duty Free shops, and looking through the large windows at the freshly snow-powdered “birds of steel” landing and taking off to and from so many foreing places.
I have never tasted such a sandwich combination in my life: pickled fish, and toppings on a warm long bun. Yes! Some people might find it strange but this German sandwich really made a pleasant impression on my taste buds. Not mentioning the German beer. Prosit!!!
My wait of 3 and a half hours turned into 5 hours, then 7 hours, and , finally, ten hours as my Airbus flight, coming from Spain had mechanical difficulties.
I saw waves of people come and go. I could even tell what airlines they were on as the concentration of a different ethnicity revealed itself. What can I say? That WAS a vacation in itself. Stranded in a city within a city. Now I was the main character in Tom Hank's movie “The Terminal”...
As I made friends with the border officers they let me go outside the transit area for a breath of fresh air, once or twice checking and stamping my passport, after a while they just let me be...
As I went outdoors, a divine silence caressed me with fluffy, white snowflakes falling between huge sail-like covers. They were melting on my hot face and waking me up to reality.
I got inside through a different entrance. A huge shopping mall with the latest fashion stores, hair salons, farmer's markets, restaurants, museums and rairoad revealed itself. I even did not have to walk anylonger as I was carried away striaght to the hair salon for a manicure, pedicure, and highlights...and, after one hour, for a massage...Who says to not mix business with pleasure...that person is wrong!!! Next time I will take the train and go to visit the city of Munich with its beautiful buildings and history.
For now I was an active guest of the Munich Airport which won the title of "Europe's Best Airport" 2010 and four years in a row from 2005 to 2008.
Before I left I admired the three historical aircrafts on display in the park: a Douglas DC-3, a Super Constellation, and a Junkers Ju 52/3m and visited the Viewing Terrace on the roof of Terminal 2.
What a spectacular view! Planes from Russia, Canada, Romania, Egypt, France, Croatia, Switzerland, and South Africa were present on the tarmac ready for "action".
As the tenth hour approached I was ready to “face the World” for a more serious matter. Now I can really say that I really took an “Airport Vacation”. I even bought some Souvenirs.
So, Mr. Tom Hanks, you were not the only one stuck in a “Terminal”..
San Diego / March 2012
starring Iolanda Scripca 3/30/2012