And here we are, finally, on a new continent (well, new to me and Kassy; I assume the continent itself has been here a while). I am immensely tired. Despite my best intentions of following the intelligent travelers' example, I simply could not sleep during the flight. We were very tightly packed, for one thing--there were few, if any, empty seats. I was quite tightly wedged myself, being a tad wider and taller than strictly average. In point of fact, it was quite difficult to shift position at all, and completely impossible once the lovely lady in front of me reclined her seat most of the way to my knees. Thankfully, that was brief; even so, I stayed quite uncomfortably awake. Sleep is such a fleeting mistress anyway, flitting away at a whim. I spent the seven...eight...however many hours it was...chasing sleep; changing position; watching a movie without the sound (it didn't look interesting enough to bother finding my headphones); wondering whether I should read; watching people; chasing sleep again; figuring out what Chris might be doing; wondering whether my time conversions were correct...six hours? Or seven?
The only hitch we'd really had with the flight was a glitch when Kassie went to board, but that was quickly fixed; she'd simply neglected to give them the paper part of her boarding pass. We weren't sitting with the Kubiks, either, but that could scarcely be helped. The flight itself was quite nice, despite the foreboding appearance of our stewardesses (or, rather, flight attendants...I find it hard to break the habit of addressing them as "stewards and stewardesses"). We even got to use realio, trulio metal utensils. It was quite pleasant for them to extend the level of expectation that I wouldn't suddenly begin redesigning my seat cushions with my table knife. Ruth, of course, would be pleased to know that our evening meal included a crusty roll (excellent for tossing during lightly-armed combat, though I restrained myself) and a piece of cheese!
Towards morning, Kassie and I struck up a game of rummy with Kassie's seatmate, Georgina. She and her husband were headed to Germany for the World Cup. She did her very best to teach us a Mexican version of rummy, with 16-card hands and slightly complicated scoring. It would no doubt have been easier had she spoken more English or had we spoken any Spanish. Whose bright idea was it, anyway, that I take French in high school?? She was very nice, though, and it did pass the time. Just as we arrived at the airport, she and I swapped e-mail addresses.
Frankfurt airport was very confusing, a swirl of intent-looking people rushing by, wheeling suitcases in their wake. There were B gates on several levels; ours was, of course, not on the same level as our passes indicated. We had to go down to a separate area, where we had to go through security again (and yes, I set off the alarm again and had to be wanded). We waited at the gate for a bus to take us out to the plane...another novelty! Accordingly, we boarded, and the bus drove through narrow alleys and across the tarmac, only to come to rest behind a parked bus. Our driver, apparently, assumed that this bus was waiting for something, and so we waited. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Finally almost fifteen.
At last, our driver pulled around the other bus--and only then did we see that the driver was deeply absorbed in a newspaper. Once we were past, our bus still did not go directly to the plane, but followed some circuitous route around, it seemed, the entire lot. With only five minutes remaining until our flight was scheduled to leave, we were all a little impatient and anxious; but all was well. We boarded without incident.
I was off by myself this time, and I managed to cat-nap for a while, but true to nature I awoke just in time to eat. Lufthansa gained extra brownie points by presenting, as a snack, a roll filled with a slice of white cheese. I dozed a bit more, but was then fascinated by how different Europe looks from the air, compared to the U.S. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it, except to say that the U.S. seems to be spilled everywhere across the land, sprawling in orderly rows of big squares. Towns and cities are like dense crumbs scattered mathematically across a table cloth. Europe, though, is more as though the roads are cracks in a pitcher, through which little villages and towns have seeped. Where there are towns, the houses are puddled together sociably. Where there are not towns, there is nothing, save vast empty fields and thick trees. Europe is much more as I had always imagined the earth to look from a plane.
I passed perhaps an hour marveling at the clouds suspended so sparklingly in place between the earth and the sky. They were just so implausible: fluffy dumplings caught between the top and bottom of a clear broth of sky.
The red-roofed houses seemed to advance into view and then shimmer away, ceding space to patchwork fields or an occasional apartment building or stadium or even a race track. I was excited when the plane began to descend, but less so when it suddenly began to pull up again. The pilot or copilot said that we need to try again because the wind conditions had changed...there was wind sheer or something (I didn't really understand it all). We made it the second time with no problems. It was a little bumpy to me, but then all landings are a little bumpy to me. At any rate, the rear half of the plane broke into applause (somewhat ungrammatical; it wasn't the plane applauding, but the passengers). I still am not sure whether it was ironic applause or praise.
Surprisingly, passport control was completely speedy, and customs was nonexistent. I showed my passport and the lady stamped it almost immediately; she didn't even ask why I was in Hungary. There was no one even in the Customs area, which surprised me. Well, perhaps there was in the Declarations area, but since we had none, we wandered through the double doors and past empty "Nothing to Declare" lanes, and there we were: on the ground in Hungary. The next part of our journey had begun.