SUITCASE TRAVEL NIGHTMARES IN EUROPE

SUITCASE TRAVEL NIGHTMARES IN EUROPE
Over-Packing

Over-Packing

DISCLAIMER: My travel partner has given me permission to divulge some of the more colourful journeys our overweight suitcases went on during our somewhat muscle agonizing adventure.

One has to ask, where were you when I posted my PACKING DILEMMA before flying to Europe? Someone needed to set me straight – BUT NOOOOO- you didn’t comment. I’m almost certain I would have listened…

Prior to embarking on our BIG ADVENTURE, my traveling partner and I talked almost daily for months about what we’d take (not what we SHOULD take). She’d tour my packing progress, and I’d check out her continuously changing clothing piles spread out in her spare bedroom. Our biggest decision we agonized over for weeks was what outfit and shoes should be worn on the flight. In retrospect, we’ve decided that we took our wardrobes on a “clothing parade” throughout Europe. What was that all about?

Let’s just say, for women who have travelled significantly, we’re somewhat ashamed of ourselves. Yes, we were going for three weeks. But when one has a base, as we thankfully did, doing laundry intermittently was always an option. No need for 21 pairs of underpants – really!

The first sign of trouble was getting our cases in and out of the car trunk shuttling us to the ferry. It took the strength of the two of us to heave those beasts! And then weighing those cases in the terminal – of course these overweight bags were destined to be red tagged!

Picking up the cases on the mainland, was another foreshadowing of the mess we had made for ourselves. The limousine driver taking us to the airport was most accommodating as he graciously strained his own back getting them in and out of the trunk (And indeed, earning him a sizable tip).

However, being the over-anxious Type A personalities that we are, our arrival at the airport was hours before Condor Air’s ticket booth opened to allow us to drop off our luggage. What options did we have? Everywhere we wanted to go in the airport, our burgeoning bags accompanied us. Of course, one questions, “What’s the big deal? They’re on rollers, right?” And yes, that’s a correct assumption to make, but picture a gigantic case that has its zippers opened to enlarge its capacity to a mammoth-sized depth. Yep, now you get it, don’t you? I might also add that we aren’t exactly the weight-lifter type of women who could probably manage this without a problem. We’d be better described as slight designer women, loving anything trendy and stylish, but not particularly sensible. (Or at least that’s how we’d like to describe ourselves!) And seriously, where does one to put such a case when needing to visit a tiny washroom stall?

The relief of sending those incredible burdens off was the best part of the day! Our arms were giving out from the strain of pulling them behind us for the three hours spent waiting. While packing, never once did we anticipate the number of times we’d be carting those cases along and boarding and retrieving them from planes, trains, buses, and cars. The workout! / The pain! / The stupidity!

 

Travel Weary

Travel Weary

 

TRAIN STORY ONE

After sitting upright in a discount air carrier for a whopping 9.5 hours, these naive adventurers had the joyful experience of having to retrieve their bags and roar through the terminal to load them onto a train for an additional 3 hour ride. Looking anything but fresh, Twiddle Dum decided to use the train washroom. Once she emerged, she found her frenzied partner convinced that the train would be stopping any minute at our stop. She had positioned the 2 oversized brutes together for a speedy exit and had been praying that Twiddle Dum would come out in time. As expected, the train pulled alongside a platform, we struggled to get the *#!#!*bloody cases off, and just as the train pulled away, the station sign was spotted. Surprise! Twiddle Dee, my capable German-speaking partner, had read the station prompter incorrectly. We had gotten off in a city one stop before our destination! Of course we had! No wonder our welcoming hostess wasn’t standing there to greet us!

Well what can 2 women dragging 2 massive cases do in this situation? Wait for the next train and reload “our elephants”, that’s what! Our German friend would be standing at her train station worrying that something had gone terribly wrong with Twiddle Dum and Twiddle Dee. Of course, neither of us brought a cell phone to Europe, so we had to accost passengers on the platform, by offering to pay to make a call. Not everyone was warm and receptive to the prospect of handing over their phones to the two distraught women with the massive cases. Luckily, however, a young man with a good sense of humour took pity on the two dishevelled, anxious women and put the call through to our friend. He teased that he’d be calling us back in half an hour to check up on us. And no, he wouldn’t take any euros for lending us his phone!

Picture us finally pulling into our destination station with our German hostess waving and “Yoo-Hooing” (the German way) to us. Such a welcoming sight, until we heaved those crazy cases down onto the platform, only to discover that we had a flight of stairs to attack and no available elevator or escalator in sight. MADNESS!!

TRAIN STORY TWO

Thanks to our gracious hostess, two smaller rolling cases were put at our disposal for our trips to Berlin, Hamburg and Amsterdam. One would think that this would resolve our over-packing issue … but alas, NO! We still needed shoes, clothes, cosmetics and all our hairstyling brushes and products, didn’t we?

Nevertheless, the cases proved to be a godsend, and we were actually able to load them onto the rack above our seats like the other train passengers. (Alright, maybe not as effortlessly, but we were managing.) That is, one of us was managing well, the other one was headed for trouble (obviously the weaker of the two with a better manicure). And trouble with a capital T arrived.

As we neared our station, Twiddle Dum, made an innocent suggestion (remember, she’s TYPE A, as well) that perhaps getting the cases down and moving along the narrow aisle towards the exit area would be a good idea, knowing its a fast stop and congested. No sooner had she mentioned it, Twiddle Dee jumped out of her seat, pulled on her overhead case, lost her balance while bringing it down, somehow propelled it to slam into the aisle (thankfully not on a fellow passenger’s head) and landed on her back, hitting the armrest with her hip, on her way down. This all occurred within 2 seconds of the suggestion.

The entire railway car of passengers was aghast, as the fallen adventurer lay there, not moving and not responding to her travel partner’s angst to help. Obviously writhing in pain and looking very pale, she ignored any help her travel mate offered, and eventually allowed a male passenger to pull her up from the aisle floor. As she came to her feet, she pointed her finger in Twiddle Dum’s face, yelling, “SHE PUSHED ME!” causing another collective gasp throughout the cabin. What the heck was that? It must have been the shock of her injury! Obviously in pain, she ignored any assistance, and made her escape down the aisle towards the exit area. Before reaching the door and retreating from the car without any further drama (if only), she addressed the carload of stunned German travellers, “Well the show’s over folks. You’ve had your entertainment for today and now I’m getting off. Hope you enjoyed the show!” Yet another collective gasp was heard as the two embarrassed, travel-weary Canadians silently disembarked.

BUS STORY

Who could anticipate a windstorm of 150 km whipping through the portion of Germany that we were visiting? Not Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum, that’s for sure. We certainly heard about the chaos the fallen trees had made to the train system when we went to book our seats to Amsterdam. Shockingly, the only seats left available to us were first class tickets that would have cost more than our flights over to Europe. So what to do? Forfeit our prepaid room in Amsterdam or find another method of travel. This is where our superstar hostess came to our rescue. (You must understand, our German friend was far more tenacious than any travel agent would ever be!) Miraculously, she found, online, a new tour bus company that would take us to and from Amsterdam for a mere 35 euros each. Seriously! And even better, the bus was a brand new Mercedes with luxurious amenities and the two over zealous travellers had the front seats with unobscured views. What could possibly be better than that?

If any of you have ever travelled in Europe, you have had the privilege of using the autobahns. There are no real speed restrictions and road rage stories abound. As we embarked upon our short 3-hour jaunt to Amsterdam, anticipating the lovely sites, little did we realize we’d be white knuckling it the entire trip. Our driver was no 40 year-old. Oh no, he was pushing 60, at least. As well, a heat wave had hit Germany while we were there and NO ONE drove without wearing their prescription sun glasses. No one, that is, except for Mr. Geriatric Bus Driver. But he did have his readers dangling from his neck and in short order, we figured out why that was. (They certainly weren’t for driving!) Not only was he the driver and tour guide, he also had to keep track of the passengers he picked up along the way, sell them coffees, beer, snacks while driving, keep an inventory of goods sold and an accounting of the money earned and change given, and keep up on-going communication with the company with email, texts, and phone calls. And this was not while he was at a stop picking up passengers … Oh no, that would have interfered with his smoke break.

Yep, we took off on the bus ride from HELL to Amsterdam! So, Twiddle Dee let her mouth run away with her, voicing her fears with loud, inflammatory comments (knowing he spoke and understood English) about how the fat slob driver needed to keep his hands and eyes on the road. While Twiddle Dum applied brakes and nervously held on tight as the multi-tasking driver sold one more beer, sent one more text, fingered one more driver, or read one more email. Did we think we’d live to tell this tale? We weren’t entirely sure! The one incident that really summed up our angst was travelling at *!? km per hour on a curve, readers perched on the driver’s nose while he simultaneously texted with both hands?!? OMG!

The ultimate insanity was when the passengers were asked to disembark the bus in some obscure suburb of Amsterdam, away from the city center. We were without a map, at a regular city bus stop, and next to a busy bicycle lane. He stopped the bus, opened the baggage hatches below, and told everyone to meet back at the same spot in 2 nights for pick up. Twiddle Dum disappeared into the bowels of the baggage compartment to retrieve the 2 suitcases that had rolled to the other side of the underbelly of the bus. (Retrieving suitcases wasn’t in his varied job description!) Bikers tried running us down, as Twiddle Dee asked politely where we were and how we were supposed to get to town. He pointed at some sculpture landmark and said, “Four Tables”, and at a laminated paper sign taped precariously to the city bus stop post with his bus company’s name on it and told us, “Be here for pick up Sunday night at 7:00.” Yeah, right!

We surprised ourselves! We made our way to Amsterdam center by tram, and even figured out the tram change to make to get us to our accommodations. Of course, we had a room on the top floor with only a narrow, windy, somewhat unlit staircase to reach it. (The hotel was too old and small to install an elevator… it’s Europe, after all!) Did we carry our cases up or down that flight of stairs? NOT A CHANCE!

Regardless of our overpacking issues, Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum had a wonderful European vacation and would return again (once their muscles have recovered) and do it again, only smarter!  I’m sure you have some comments to make about our over-packing and perhaps have some humorous stories of your own to share. Please share these in the comment section.  Remember, it’s always good for the soul to laugh at ourselves!

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