Crossroads Tour – Florence to Istanbul

A Wednesday in May 2011

Today begins the second leg of my Crossroads Tour, as I depart Florence for the much anticipated city of Istanbul.

It’s a calm morning as I grab a final cup of caffe from the machine in hotel hallway, and call a taxi that is waiting for me by the time I get downstairs. I’ve gone from hotel shower to airport gate in 30 minutes, like clockwork perfected. It’s going to be a great day.

About 15 minutes before we are to board, the flight is cancelled due to technical difficulties. I’m among the first to retrieve my luggage but the last one in line to rebook my ticket. By the time I get to the ticket counter, I ‘m rebooked on the only flight to Istanbul that day, connecting in Munich. It boards in ten minutes…

I sprint to security to find a long line. Shoes off, watch off, netbook out of briefcase, I’m slamming things into bins as fast as I can. I pass through the x-ray without setting it off this time, grab my belongings helter-skelter and run in my stocking feet to the gate.

After an elsewise uneventful trip, we land in Munich. I have a 6 hour layover which will put me into Istanbul at 11 PM. I am completely frustrated that a city that 4 hours away is taking me 14 hours to get to. I cannot find a WIFI connection and after several more phone fails, I leave my name and tentative arrival time on the voicemail for the hotel, and hope for the best …

  • Travel tip: Always rely on the flight departure boards and not on what your ticket says. Once again, the gate I’m departing from is at the opposite end of the concourse from the gate listed on my ticket. I run into an English gentleman looking for the same gate, but he says its locked. We agree that airports change gates on a whim as a some cruel form of endurance test.

The Munich airport is on a straight concourse with all the ambience of the SouthCenter Mall in Seattle — white, stark, and full of shops.

My flight has been delayed by another hour and now departs at 7:30. I find a coin operated internet point and try to email my updated ETA to the Hotel Han. It’s the first European keyboard I’ve used and I can’t figure out how to type the “@” symbol. I ask a couple of teenagers who can’t figure it out either. But they mention it’s some sequence of three keys, and after watching them for a couple of minutes, I figure out the sequence and sign in to my hotmail account.

I’m hot and headachy, exhausted and frustrated. My Italian is non-existent, my German is failing and my English isn’t far behind. About halfway through this layover I wish I had rented one of the napcabs — a private pod offering internet access and place to sleep. Hindsight being the clear vision that it is, I console myself with the optimistic thought that tomorrow will be a better day…

  • This is an excerpt from my original travel journal. The full text, which includes historical notes and traveler tips, is available for your literary pleasure at AugustPhoenixHats.com.

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