Thursday, August 3, 2017

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Our journey back to the States began a day before we actually left Germany. We flew from Düsseldorf back home, and to make things easier on ourselves with our many bags, we decided to take a train there the day before and stay the night at the airport hotel, saving ourselves from getting up at 1 in the morning to head that way. I'm so glad we made that decision because it saved us a ton of headache and probably sleep! 

The morning we left Münster, Carson had an errand to run, and I slipped out to say goodbye to our little baby's grave. That date also happened to be the exact same day that I would have hit my third trimester, had things not happened as they did. It was hard to stand there and to think about what might have been while faced with the reality with what was. I did cry, but it was good.

Carson ordered a taxi, and we stood outside and waited for it to arrive. I don't know why, but it feels so embarrassing to stand there with so many bags. I wanted to shout to the people who passed by "No, you don't understand, we moved here and now we're moving back! We aren't just going on a trip for a weekend or anything!" but I didn't know how to say all that in German, and they probably weren't harshly judging me like I supposed. Germans are just really great at giving you THE STARE.

More pictures of us with our building while we waited for the taxi.

We got to the train station with plenty of time to spare... and discovered that the train we were supposed to be taking all the way to the airport with no changes (we hoped for that because of the bags) was being replaced with a BUS that didn't even have the same stops! So we checked the schedule and found a train with connections, but at least it wasn't a bus that would just drop us off in the middle of nowhere.

When we changed trains, there were two going to the airport. One (the one we were supposed to take) was obscenely crowded, but I noticed that there was another that was pretty empty and would get there about the same time. We weren't under a time constraint anyway, so we and our caravan of baggage hopped on that one instead and had a whole compartment (and over seat storage) to ourselves. 

We stayed at the Airport Sheraton. It was pretty nice, but the nicest thing was that we could just WALK to the airport to check in for our flight the next day. We checked in to the hotel and then went to explore Düsseldorf. We were there in December and saw Christmas markets there, but it was fun to see the city in the summertime. I'll post about that separately to avoid making a long post longer.

So the next morning, bright and early, we got up and checked in and then made our way through security. 

Empty bottles people had consumed before security.

We had a little trouble in passport control because they had to read allllll our papers that extended our residence cards. We had Visas that lasted until the 15th but flights that left on the 23rd, so we had to get those extended and then they gave us a pack of papers to give to the passport control agents so we could get out and not pay fines (or something - I'm not totally sure what might have happened).

You can see on the ticket that our boarding time was 6:30. I took this picture at 7:30, and we hadn't begun boarding yet. That was fun!

Our connection flight was in Istanbul. Yes, we went three and a half hours further east to go west. Yes, that did make for a loooooong flight from Turkey to Atlanta. And genius me packed all my pants in my checked suitcase and then realized that planes are cold, so I was stuck wearing shorts on our flights. Thankfully it wasn't so bad!

The back of our first flight was super empty and we were in the last row. They asked for volunteers to sit in the exit row and Carson didn't realize until after people had raised their hands that exit row = more leg room. Next time I think his little hand will shoot up first!

See ya, Rhine River!

Carson slept but nooooot me.

We connected at Ataturk Airport, where we were supposed to have almost three hours of layover, but because our flight didn't leave Germany until late, we actually had to run as fast as we could (and I couldn't... my legs and arms did NOT want to move that fast) to catch our flight. We were the last people on the shuttle bus to the plane. And they had four or five passport/security/pat-down checks on the way that didn't speed up our attempts to get to the next flight. 

But we got there. Looking a bit more sweaty. Somehow we were in the very back row again. It turns out that it's a great spot because you get fed first and you're near the bathroom if you need to get up. It was also nice that there wasn't a third seat in our row. The middle section was longer and the sides had two seats apiece which was nice so nobody climbed over strangers.

This flight was delayed leaving too, so our running was apparently in vain.

I do think Istanbul would be a neat place to visit sometime, but you had to have a Visa, so we couldn't have left the airport even if we'd missed our plane.

Carson once again snoozed for a great deal of the flight, while I looked on in jealousy. This flight was 12 hours and 35 minutes, which makes it just barely shorter than my flight from China (we went the other way that time).

About to land. We'd been up for quite some time at this point, as it was almost 2am back in Germany.

The de-boarding process took about an hour, from getting off the plane to going through passport control (they have such funny automated machines for it in Atlanta!) to picking up our bags (it took so long for ours to come out and we were starting to worry that maybe they didn't make it in Istanbul and then all four came out at once). Then we got randomly selected to go through extra screening to make sure we didn't have anything agricultural with us. All our bags had to go upside down through a massive bag screener. 

Finally, we exited and saw the huge crowds of people waiting and there were my parents! They were beginning to despair a little after waiting an hour in the airport.

We had Publix subs as our first meal back in America, and they were delicious. Dad decided to just drive on back to Beaufort that night, and we got there at 2:15 in the morning. Carson slept almost the whole way, but I still didn't, even though I was exhausted. The welcome brigade (their three dogs) were there to greet us, and Oscar was particularly happy to say hello. Finally, after a joyous 28 hours of being awake, I went to sleep. Hallelujah!

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