Although I set my alarm correctly last night, I stupidly forgot to turn it on (*duh*). I woke up just two hours before my flight’s scheduled departure. No breakfast for the likes of me…just a quick sponge bath, then checking out of the hotel and making a beeline to the Lufthanza check-in place (which handles Austrian Airlines).
As expected, they made me check my walker through, so I’d need wheelchair assistance in Berlin, Vienna and Varna. They took my one checked bag at the check-in place, but left me with my one carry-on bag and my walker; and I was directed to another place — I can’t remember what it was called, but it was something like “Mobility Assistance”. I signed up for assistance there and waited for four or five minutes until a guy showed up who took me to the place where they checked my walker, and then to a truck that took me to the plane where it rose and let me in through the door opposite the one used for normal passenger boarding. I made it aboard with about half an hour to spare. 😎
The flight from Berlin to Vienna had all coach-style 3-3 seating, but they didn’ll sell the middle seats in the first four rows. That’s business class on this flight. We did get very nice complimentary food and beverage service; and I was ready for it since that was my first meal of the day.
We landed in Vienna right on time. The guy giving the wheelchair assistance met me at the airplane door and took my carry-on bag; but I had to walk behind him up the boarding ramp. It turned out that he had an electric cart, not a wheelchair; and I got sat down in it just as my old back was starting to complain. He took me through the passport check, at which time I officially left the Schengen Area, and because I’m one of those fools who hasn’t been able to quit smoking yet, dropped me off at a Raucherzone (I learned a new German word today) that was close to the gate where I’d board my next flight.
Just passed the designated smoking area was a small café; and although I’d had a late breakfast aboard the plane from Berlin, it wasn’t much, so I bought a schnitzel sandwich and a diet coke which I took to the gate. After eating the food and drinking most of the Coke, I sat for a while watching the world go by expecting to have to walk from the gate to the airplane.
Shortly before boarding would start at noon, another guy showed up, called my name, checked me in at the gate, and drove me in another electric cart to an elevator where I was told to wait for somebody else who would help me the rest of the way. He arrived about five minutes later with a wheelchair and took me down the elevator to another one of those trucks that lets you board the airplane through the right-side door. The plane was spotted, not at the gate, but out on the tarmac; and I was the first person to board. It was another ten minutes or so before the first of two busses from the gate to the plane arrived with more passengers.
The plane from Vienna to Varna was more narrow and had all 2-2 seating, the first few rows — I don’t know how many — being reserved for the passengers with business class tickets and who got the special service.
We arrived in Varna almost on time; and I was told to wait in my seat for the wheelchair assistance. It was another of those trucks that rises to the level of the right-side door, so I got on and waited a few minutes while they helped an older woman who needed a great deal more assistance than I did. She and a couple of companions were dropped off somewhere, then I was taken to an entrance that was very close to the checked baggage area which I was able to walk to with only minor complaints from my back, and where I met the colleague who was offering me a ride to the hotel. (I wish they’d let me identify them…I’d have some very complimentary things to say, and not just “thanks for the ride”.)
It turned out that my walker showed up at the regular checked baggage place, and so I then had the walker and both of my bags and was reasonably independent. If only I’d been allowed to have my walker with me the whole trip, I wouldn’t have needed all the wheelchair assistance. The good news is that I had something to write about. 😎
It was about a half-hour drive to the meeting hotel which is in a touristy place on the Black Sea. The driver warned us that most of the eating places in the area were really bars aimed at young party goers. Indeed, my colleague said that there were four people behind them on the plane who mostly talked about the parties they’d be going to. That struck me as a pretty expensive party. Also, I guess for American tastes, there’s a Subway (sandwich shop) and a Waffle House right across the street from the hotel. I might have more to say in future posts if I do anything interesting in the evenings, but at present that doesn’t seem likely.
It seems that many in our group showed up at the hotel at about the same time, and the line at the reception desk was quite long and moving slowly. It reminded this erstwhile electronics technician of p-type conduction in semiconductors: it wasn’t so much about people moving forward as it was about spaces for people moving backward. 😎
I didn’t do much after checking in, aside from catching up on my e-mail and other reading, and writing this post. It’s now time for bed.