Hello again my dear reader,
this is the second post about the journey from the Czech Republic to Bermuda. We start at 4:15 in the morning from Pisek. After a quick shower and heavy caffeine consumption to survive the journey, we set off. The first obstacle is to go up the street outside of Milos’ house in the rental van. The van is a Ford Transit van which, while spacious and comfortable, doesn’t have traction control. So, going up a steep hill that is covered in ice and snow meant backing up into the drive of a house and really gunning it up the hill, wheels spinning and engine roaring all the way to the top. Then, Milos had to drive faster that he would have liked in these conditions in order to keep the car going forward. But, with a little effort we made it out of Pisek and were finally on the way to Frankfurt. The snow didn’t stop falling all the way to the German border at Rozvadov. We took refuge in a McDonalds near the border and fuelled our bodies with the crappiest breakfast you can imagine. I just don’t understand McDonalds sometimes. Their food is basically disgusting at the best of times. But, at least after a few beers or when you have no other choice, their burgers are borderline edible. However, this McDonalds we stopped at only served the breakfast menu in the morning, no regular burgers. Every single item on that menu is a plastic-tasting piece of crap. At least the coffee was nice though I will never understand why McDonalds coffee has to be served so hot.
After a most unsatisfying breakfast, we got on the road again. Despite our hopes for a respite in the snow in Germany, the situation got worse and worse. In the end, Milos had to take care of some business of his own in Germany so we drove to Nuremberg, to his uncle’s house, and then changed drivers. So, the famous Zaneta was now taking us to Frankfurt. Again, the rest of the drive was pretty uneventful, snow-covered and boring but overall not too bad. If I had slept the night before (something rendered utterly impossible by Jitka’s snoring and the stress of the journey) I would have almost enjoyed it. Driving in the Bundes Republik is fun, sometimes, at least when you don’t get stuck behind a German driver who despite seeing you steaming up to the back of his car at 180 km/h still stubbornly overtakes another car doing only 120 km/h. That can get scary, I tell you. But, in the snow there were no such problems.
We got to Frankfurt, found some luggage trolleys for our mountain of luggage, found parking for the van and were ready for check-in. This is the single most stressful moment of the journey. The Germans are notorious for being sticklers to the rules (and boy do they have rules in Germany…) and while we were not breaking any rules, you just never know, especially with the dog on board and the extra luggage we were carrying. In the end, we got checked-in by a young trainee at the Air Canada desk who was quite nervous and didn’t check too much so it was OK. We had to pay 150 EUR for the extra suitcase and 35 EUR for carrying the bike as sports equipment but, other than that, we had no problem. We took five pieces of luggage in the end (two medium-sized cases, a large hard shell case, a medium-size diving bag and a dog kennel wrapped in cling film (Saran wrap in the US) filled with clothes, my humidor and Athena’s toys. Add to this a business item (my backpack with my laptop and Jitka’s laptop), a piece of hand luggage (larger dog carrier filled with clothes to change in Toronto), Jitka’s handbag with the passports and tickets plus the Brompton, we were quite loaded. With the bags checked-in and out of our hands, we enjoyed a last european meal in the airport, said goodbye to Zaneta and got ready for the flight.
It took a few tries to get Athena to eat her sedative pill (prescribed by our vet for exactly this occasion and this size of pet) but in the end it was OK and we found ourselves boarding a plane, the adventure beginning but the stress not diminishing yet. The flight from Frankfurt to Toronto is normally 7 hours and 40 minutes but, with de-icing the plane in the beginning and the usual delays caused by cold weather, it took almost 9 hours. I can tell you, we were quite ready for disembarking when we made it to Toronto, 9 hours is a long time and I can’t say that Air Canada offer that much space in the economy (cattle?) class seats.
This is getting to be quite a long post so immigration and customs in Toronto will be described in the next post. Please check back soon or use the rss feed.