Things have gone ok so far. We got to the Park & Ride with plenty of time to spare. The Van Galder bus got us to O'Hare with plenty of time to spare, & the flight into Frankfurt was fairly uneventful.
On the flight across the ocean we sat pretty much at the back of the plane, constantly deafened by the roar of the engines. I had earplugs & got some decent resting time – you know, that pleasant feeling of closing your eyes, clearing your mind & letting yourself drift – but haven't actually slept yet. The plane seats were just too small. I could get my legs comfortable but there would always be strain somewhere else like my neck or an arm. I'll sleep like the dead tonite, but now that we've finally made it to the Sheritan Offenbach alive & well & settled in I feel like I could drift off at any moment. Which explains why my current recollections are probably going to sound random & disjointed. But I'm running with it. So be prepared.
I mentioned the flight was uneventful, but there were still a couple points of note: a young man & an adult sat behind us on the flight over. The fellow had normal attire but the young man was dressed very specifically. Black pants with some odd light coloured strings hanging here & there in a seemingly specific manner. A white shirt under a black coat. A black beanie. (A Jewish-type beanie. I know the name but can't spell it so it's just “beanie” for now) And a black, wide brimmed hat. I presume he's Jewish but I don't know what kind. Extremist of some sort I'd guess considering the complete attire. Now, I didn't obsessively monitor this young man but since I don't understand his culture a couple things struck me as odd so I am merely listing them here out of curiosity. I'll read up a bit more once I return home.
Twice during the journey across the ocean he got up to retrieve his coat & wide brimmed hat (he wore the beanie throughout most of the trip but the hat would go over this) & return to his seat. He would then read from a book in some middle-eastern script while rocking back & forth. I only noticed this during the second time but he also held some sort of plastic block to his forehead with straps tying around the back of his head. This pushed his hat further back on his head making the entire ordeal look extremely odd. I found it rather amusing that during this he would occasionally glance out the window & get distracted by the view, thus halting his rocking. He'd eventually catch himself & the process would begin again. I never made it obvious I was looking since I, too, spent a great deal of time staring out the window, but I did chuckle a bit inside.
I tried to nap quite a bit once we'd settled in but after a long while gave up, especially since it was dawn again outside. It's an odd feeling that is, seeing it's one AM by your watch & watching the sun rise. Travel can really mess you up. Anyway, when I finally resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't get any real sleep for a while I noticed that I could see daylight outside & devoted myself to leaning over my sleeping father to peer out the window. I saw a vast, white landscape slowly appearing through the hazy early light. It was a flat, nearly featureless plane which looked too strange to be real. My first thought was of ice! but I knew we wouldn't be that far north toward the arctic circle. Still, the fissures here & there & the endless white as far as I could see spoke only of the great frozen north. It was beautiful & eerie, & it held my gaze until I finally decided to get my damned glasses to finally figure out what it was. Well it still looked like ice but I figured I was wrong. Clouds have many moods & forms & that's probably what this unusual landscape was. I returned to my book & would check back later to find the truth. *
Sometime later I saw on the video screens that their stateside television programming had ceased & returned to the current flight progress which included current time in our departure & arrival cities & a map with a handy line of our flight so far. Ireland was fast approaching so I put down my book & returned to the window.
The first thing I noticed about Ireland was how irregular the fields were. In the Midwest they're large & square, covering vast acreages of land. What I saw below me was much the opposite. Fields were small & irregular, growing either a great variety of crops, as evidenced by the colour. Instead of clearing all of the land to make way for the fields they seem to have followed more of the lay of the land for what they needed. Also sprouting here & there were many small windfarms of anywhere from six to twelve windmills each. It's a trick of perspective but the land appeared much closer since the windmills are so huge.
Landing was delayed slightly which inevitably threw a wrench into the plans. The plane had no gate ready so they wheeled stairways up to the exits & we took a bus into the terminal. After customs & luggage I was so disoriented that I didn't know where to go. The tour brochure said to meet at a predesignated “Meeting Point” at the airport which I did eventually find but it was long after the last designated tour bus departure. So after exchanging our American money we took a 30 euro cab ride 15km to the hotel.
We settled in for a bit, spread out on the beds, I showered & tried to pretend that it was one thirty in the afternoon instead of six o'clock in the morning. I began the first half of the first day of this travelogue, interrupted only by the welcome drink & tour orientation scheduled at 3:30.
We met our guide for the journey, Ingrid, an friendly Austrian, who explained the basics of the tour, what sort of accommodations to expect & who to go to for questions. Then began a brief tour of Frankfurt which centered largely on their financial district & the enormous & banks. Allied forces bombed the shit out of Frankfurt during WWII so there really wasn't much left of the old city afterward. They rebuilt through the following decades & successfully reconstructed many areas to look as they had before the war. But not everything was destroyed. A building here & there remained unscathed after the bombing & many were kept since then to preserve their historic importance. So you will have these centuries old gothic cathedrals across the street from enormous, modern designed shiny skyscrapers. It's an odd contrast & one that keeps you on your toes.
We dined while out & about too. I wanted to go to this sausage place that Ingrid recommended. There was a good variety there but I had to have a frankfurter, being in Frankfurt & all. It was delicious, & served with a variety of potato salad & a healthy dollup of mustard. However, to drink I ordered a applevein (I'm sure I've butchered the spelling) which Dad assured me to be the apple cider that had also been mentioned. It was not. It was actually a very strong apple wine which I couldn't finish, however thirsty I was. Heh. Like Japan, the first alcoholic drink I had in the country was accidental.
The room was nice enough. I probably don't need to go into detail about it but I made a note about it this morning as I was rushing to try to finish this entry. There is also a note about “street” which I don't follow either. Anyway, I'm over a day late as I finish this so I had better get started on Tuesday's (today's) entry.
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*It really was just clouds.