It was a perfect time to escape for a couple of weeks. We once again had a front door in our house and the place where the floor had rotted out had been repaired, but I just didn't want to face the next project of installing of a whole new layer of wooden parquet flooring. Eastern Europe seemed far enough away and Monika found a bus tour that would cover Prague in the Czech Republic and Budapest in Hungary as well as Nuremburg in Germany and Vienna and Salzburg in Austria. Since the car rental company had not allowed me to drive into Eastern Europe during previous visits to Germany (Wanderungs 2 and 5), this seemed like an easy way to get a feel for two more countries. Although the bus tour would not let us bounce around in our typical loosey-goosey fashion, I would be able to see the countryside much better than when doing the driving myself, and that was a decided plus.
We booked a nonstop Lufthansa flight direct from Dulles to Munich, Germany, where the tour started, and decided to fly in a couple of days early in order to spend some time looking at Munich and environs. Using a German web site, Monika found us a pension in downtown Munich, and we pre-booked our room so that we had a place to stay for the extra nights and didn't have to worry about where we would lay our weary heads. We printed street maps of Munich plus each city we would visit on the tour and I created a roadmap of the area to download to my new GPS unit, and we were basically set to go.
Since our plane didn't leave until 8 p.m. (cheap seats are on the red-eye flights, of course!), we could take our time and explore getting to Dulles airport using public transportation, which is always an adventure in the U.S. I drove Monika and the luggage over to the local bus stop and then parked the car back at the house and walked over to join her. The local bus delivered us to the nearest Metro station where we hopped on a train to West Falls Church and then took a large, comfortable cross-country bus directly out to the airport. This all took us about two hours from our door to airport check in and cost us about $20 total ($10 per person), whereas being picked up at our door by an airport shuttle would have taken us about 45 minutes and cost more than $40 with tip. Is saving an hour and enduring some folderol worth $20? I don't know how that calculus works for you, but in our case the $20 we saved covered the pizza dinner we had while waiting for our flight at the airport. Of course, next time we'll remember to bring a bag lunch and pocket the entire savings!
Eight hours in Economy Class on a red-eye flight probably deserves a place in Dante's "Inferno". However, there were no screaming babies on this flight, only a few moments of turbulence, and the food, while not the quality of Air France, was exactly the low-fat fare that we had, in a moment of extreme virtuousness, asked for when we made our reservations. Virtue can be its own reward, as the saying goes, but it can also most assuredly be its own punishment. I'm not saying that our meals were low taste as well as low fat, but when Monika found that her lemon salad dressing actually had a zesty tang, she immediately slathered it all over her "chicken" entree in a desperate attempt to give it some flavor. Later in the abbreviated night time, we did both manage to get an hour or two of sleep so clearly this flight would have only rated a level "1" as far as infernos go, and that's not so bad.Copyright 2006 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt