France and Germany… a send off from the Army– Part 9

After two nights in Nice, Bill and I hopped a flight to Frankfurt.  We flew from Nice on Niki, an Austrian budget airline that collaborates with Air Berlin.  Bill and I flew on Air Berlin in 2009, when we took our Scandinavian cruise.  Let me just say, European carriers are a hell of a lot nicer than American carriers are.  You go on the plane and they offer you a newspaper.  You get a drink and a sandwich that is actually edible.  The seats are somewhat comfortable, too.  I would definitely “fly Niki” again if we ever get back to Europe and have the opportunity.

The flight attendants were kind of oddly dressed on Niki.  The top half of their uniforms were very formal and businesslike, with a blazer, blouse, and perfect makeup and hair.  The bottom half was jeans…  nice jeans, but still jeans.  It was like the fashion equivalent of a mullet– business up top and party on the bottom.

Flying over Vienna…

Our flight routed us through Vienna, another city that was on my 1997 European tour.  I have yet to visit Vienna with Bill.  I hope someday we’ll get there together.  As we were getting on the flights, I was all wound up about the term “dependapotamus”, a slang expression used by certain people in the military who bash family members… aka “dependents”.  There was a young guy sitting in front of us on the plane who must have overheard me and I think, told his two female companions about it.  They reminded me of a reincarnation of ABBA, minus Bjorn.

Upon entering Frankfurt, we approached a guy who appeared to work for the airport.  We were trying to find the train station in the massive airport.  The guy was obviously American and spoke German with a heavy accent.  He directed us to the right place and we arranged for a train to get us to Landstuhl, where I had booked us a room in a cute, family run hotel in town.

It was quite an ordeal to get to Landstuhl, though, because we had to change trains three times to get there and it happened to be rush hour.  We got on the first one, a high speed ICE train, for a twenty minute ride to Mannheim.  The train was packed and I was grumpy about it, as usual…

Waiting for train tickets at Frankfurt’s airport…

We stood near the bathroom between cars and Bill then very gallantly decided to get me a snack at the onboard bistro.  He came back with a beer and a container of curry wurst, which was basically a sausage with a curry sauce.  It smelled good and was piping hot, but I couldn’t eat it and balance at the same time.  I appreciated the gesture, but told Bill he should have gotten me something less labor intensive.

At one point, the train lurched and both Bill and I lost our balance.  I was holding the currywurst and it almost tipped on me.  Thankfully, a very kind German lady noticed and saved it before it spilled.  I said “Thanks”, but it probably came off sounding annoyed rather than grateful.  I’m sorry about that.

While we waited for the next train, Bill and I shared the curry wurst.  I started to feel less grouchy as my blood sugar came up a bit.  We got a seat on the train from Mannheim to Kaiserslautern, but it was also pretty crowded.  I remember one guy in our car was a cop and he seemed like a nice person.  When he got off the train, he said “Auf wiedersehen.”

On the third train, a local s-bahn from Kaiserslautern to Landstuhl, we were in a car with a large German family with several kids.  Then an American woman with her four kids and mother in tow got on the train.  She said, “Ramstein?”

Bill told her she had the right train, so she and her family took a seat and struck up a conversation.  They had just gotten back to Germany after a trip to Paris.  They’d gone on a military tour, then broke away to take the kids to Euro Disney.  The young mother’s husband was posted at Grafenwoehr, which is an Army post in Bavaria.  They had parked their car at Ramstein.  The trains were apparently a new experience for them.  Bill and I explained about how the trains worked, then told them how lucky they were to live in Germany.

Grandma asked us where we were from.  I told her I’m from Virginia and Bill is from Texas (more or less).  She looked surprised.  I told her that we met when I lived in South Carolina and he lived in Kansas.  I guess she has never heard of the Internet and how people can meet that way.  I said I’d love to move back to Germany and Grandma said, “Yeah, but how do you raise a family there?”

I said, “It’s just us and two dogs.”

Grandma looked utterly shocked that we don’t have kids.  I posted this story on my other blog as part of a rant.  Here, I will just say that it’s apparently unusual to run into military couples who don’t have kids.  Fortunately, our stop at Landstuhl came up before we had time to talk more.

Bill and I got off the train and walked to our hotel.  It was obvious that the proprietor had been waiting specifically for us, since the place was pretty much locked up when we arrived.  He quickly showed us to our room and beat it.  Our very full day of traveling left me ready to relax and wind down, which I proceeded to do.  Bill went to a Turkish place and got us a couple of Wiener schnitzels with fries and some beer.


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