Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Hundeführer and the Ausfahrt

The Hundeführer

As most of you are aware, there was a major breakdown in Helsinki. This resulted in me quickly (and poorly) organising my trip to Germany, which I had intended to do from the beginning. This breakdown has left me a little isolated as the idea of airing out my personals online feels a little naff to me. But you know.. I will accept anyone's tea and sympathy right now.

Well here I am in sunny Germany. Summer is in full swing here and the country has gone mad with World Cup craziness. I took Europe's version of Jetstar from Tempere to Frankfurt Hanh, both of which are Helsinki and Frankfurt's auxiliary airports. I was told that the flight for 50 euro was a bargain, only to find out that including taxes and transfers it came to over 100 euros, which would have got me onto a nice flight to and from the places I wanted. Oh well.. Welcome to air travel in Europe.

To get here, I got onto the bus that takes me the 200km from Helsinki to Tempere and immediately fall into a drowsy coma, with relief metastasising through my body. And whenever I opened my eyes to see the green of Finland passing by, the babbling of the Finnish girls in the seats behind me lull my eyelids shut. We arrive at the terminal, and it is just that: terminal. A Hodge-podge bang up job reminiscent of Virgin Blue's earlier attempts at an airport. No air conditioning and surly female ground staff who didn't make it as flight attendants. Aside from using my passport as a means of identity, there is no emigration process or impressive stamps thanks to the new boarderless European union. How does this place know where I am? How can they enforce the working visas? While distracted by the neo-political landscape of Europe, I forget to check my pocketknife and have to do the whole process again to avoid loosing it to the security guard's tourist trophy collection.

Security: sorry. you cannot take this on board. you have to surrender it to us. (mentally rubbing her hands together)

Me: shit. sorry i completely forgot. can I check it in?

security: (slightly crest fallen) oh.. yes.. but you have to go through again.

Seriously.. there needs to be some sort of system where forgetful passengers can put all their tweezers, knitting needles and pocket knives into a bag at security and have it taken in the cockpit or something like it. I mean come on.. the plastic knife they give you with the metal fork and spoon? really. Do I look like a terrorist? I buy a cookie and a tea and wait for my flight. The seating is a first come, first served process, where people are let on in order of arrival. When I get on the plane, I'm slightly confused as my boarding pass says 84 and the seating only goes to 30. I take my seat and once the clouds cover the ground, I fall asleep again and only wake up for our decent. Germany looks amazing from the air. Forests, castles, rivers, farming plots, autobahns.. it's familiar but different. We land, and I go through the nothing to declare isle, passport unchecked, bags unmolested.

I message my host Svenja, letting her know that I have arrived and that I'm on my way. No message returns, so I guess she understands. The directions she has given me don't line up with anything I am seeing on the information boards so I ask someone for help. I am in a different airport. Shit. I message Svenja again to let her know the story and get on another 2 hour bus ride to Frankfurt. I see a big sign saying 'Ausfahrt' and have a purile chuckle to myself, half wishing I had taken a photo of it. I see another three and work out that it's not a town name but an off ramp from the freeway. There were many Ausfahrts along our route (he he.. root). We take one of these Ausfahrts and venture through the German country side. As the bus was full, I got one of the granny seats up the front. This wasn't so bad as I got a first class view of what German farming communities live like. It turns out that this alternative route was not for sightseeing, but to avoid a road toll. Ah RyanAir. Oh how you love to cut corners. Still no response from Svenja. The bus driver bounces away on his suspension seat and turns on the radio. Germany vs Poland. Oh the poetry of it. Let's not mention the war. As the German commentary shouts excitedly, the driver twitches, causing the bus to lurch back and fourth as his feat and arms involuntarily move the buses controls. We stop at the actual Frankfurt airport, where I thought I was going to land and catch a glimps of the game. Nil all.

We arrive at the main train station in Frankfurt and I have still no word from Svenja about an how my alternate arrival destination affects her original instructions. The streets are dead, with bars and small shops full of tense faces lit by small TV sets. I adapt and go into the train station and find something in her directions that lines up with what's on the info boards. I catch the last train to it's last stop and wait for a bus. I catch it to Svenja's stop and get out. It's quite and there's no one around. I find a phone booth and try her number. The polite German voice announces that the number is not in service and hangs up on me. I take out the laptop and hunt for some wireless, finding some in front of a house around the corner from the bus stop. The night is warm and humid, reminiscent of home. There is cheering coming from the windows, the World Cup game marking my confusion. I find Svenja actual number (one off the one I had) and decide to watch the end of the match in a local bar before calling her.

It's the 88th minute and the score is still nil all. The bar maid is seated with the punters, still as statues deep in thought. No one is drinking. Hands are on foreheads and mouths are wide open. My backpack and scruffiness attracting the smallest amount of interest. I try to introduce myself. 'Shhhh..!' Then in the 91st minute, Germany scores. the room erupts and the statues awaken. everyone is hugging and some guy high fives me. The game ends and pleasantries are exchanged. 'oh Australian! Ve like Australia. Kangaroos! Velcome to Deuchland.'

I leave and call Svenja. This time it works and she is close by. She has just walked out of a house watching the game and is on her way home. She walks me down the street and we go to the house where I got the internet from. Nice.

I meet her folks. Her dad is really ecited to meet the Austalian and promptly offers me some apple wine and his favourite stories. Mum and Svenja roll their eyes and smile. Svenja's dad, Alister, is the local game warden and hundefuhrer. He gives out hunting licences and makes sure that everybody's dogs have had their rabies shots. Mum, Christina, offers me some meat and eggs for supper and we chat about travels. The great part was that when we were setting up the sofa bed in Svenja's room, he says to me 'so.. do you like hunting?' I'm not sure whether this was a polite version of 'shotgun and shovel', but it's probably better to err on the side of caution.

While I enjoyed hanging out with younger people in Finland, it's good to have a family around me at the moment. I've not been feeling too good of late, but the home cooked hospitality is helping. I wish things could be better, but they are in the process of being fixed, so that at least is keeping me happy.

My next adventure will be trying to get a ride to Munich, meeting up with the boys from Adelaide and then buying a bike for a bit of touring.


pip said...

Strange. There were so many AusFahrts all the way from Shanghai to Finland too, but no signs.

Good on ya babe. I'm glad you got to Frankfurt... eventually.

Keep safe.

Anonymous said...

its brianxAdel in keswick. sorry to hear of the split, but am here for both of you. this life is very strange.....
take care,
BrianXPasta boy

kt said...

My thoughts go out to you as well as Pippa. My boyfriend may very well be experiencing the same things that you have been...

Michelle said...

Ah the antics of RyanAir! We flew from somewhere vaguely near Paris to a Military airport nearish Rome last year, it was quite a laugh. In the french airport they closed the gate halfway through boarding (we thought they'd oversold the flight and had a mild panic) turned out they had to let another plane pass ours on the runway, Then when we landed it was lunchtime so the customs offices had been abandonded. We weren't too worried because of the EU thing until a week later when we went to leave at Milan's main airport and were told by to Military Police that they had no record of us being in the country... Good times!

I have such great memories of walking in the woods near Frankfurt with my Grandad when I was little and drinking German beer and eating the sausages.

Have a great time, take care.

leighstardust said...



i hope i have typed in the same amount of kisses and hugs for you as i have for miss p. thinking of you both lots and think you are both awesome.

xo lsd

emma (in the uk) said...

Hi Dan,

It's emma and craig (as in Craig from Ratbag and Emma who knows Toopie !)

We're well settled over here in Scotland now! So if you happen to reach the UK, let us know, there's always Milo and tim-tams here!

Ems and Craig