Have arrived in Stuttgart, or, to be more precise, Sindelfingen, where the Marriot is, after a shockingly long day. We began at SFO, where we had arrived with plenty of time to spare, more than enough to get through security, find our gate, find a store that sold European plug adapters, call both our dads to determine that the computers could operate with only the plug adapters, and we did not need to find voltage adapters (my dad won that one), buy books, magazines and hand wipes and have lunch at the Japanese restaurant. So we went for margaritas at the Mexican place, on the theory that, when traveling by air, it helps to have a relaxed attitude.
The first real disappointment of the trip came when we boarded the plane, and discovered that our “Luftansa” flight was actually on United, which struck me as a significant failure in disclosure. So instead of the fancy euro-accoutrements I was hoping for, we got the same old crummy seats, lousy food and sullen service familiar to any American air traveler. Sigh. Not helping matters was the fact that I was seated right next to the kitchen, where the stewardesses kept the lights on and the chatting going all through the overnight flight, or that I had carefully packed my eye mask in my suitcase. Which I checked. So the sleeping thing was kind of a non-starter.
Which was too bad, because the flight was only step one of our four-step travel schedule. Step two was to take the train from the Frankfurt airport to the Stuttgart train station (a step that was actually included on the ticket from Luftansa), which involved going through a fairly complicated and arduous check-in process, in order to get a boarding pass that no one ever looked at (the German approach to lines seems to have less to do with who got there first, and more with who can shove their way to the front) (also, based on today’s experiences, I would have to say that the rumors of German efficiency seem to have been somewhat exaggerated) (but we did have some tasty sausages from a booth in the train station).
The train trip was about an hour and a half through a countryside that mixed the residential, industrial and agricultural with wild abandon. Most of the houses looked like ordinary mid-century subdivisions, though there were a few stretches of tiny, almost shanty-looking places crammed along the edges of fields and up against the railroad fences that I’m still not entirely sure were homes.
One might think that, having arrived in Stuttgart, our presumptive destination, we would be all set. But no: the rental car was at the Stuttgart airport, another half an hour away by the subway system (for which, once again, we waited in line to purchase tickets, and once again no one ever looked at them). We made our way to the rental car counter and picked up the keys for the car, for which the instructions for finding went something like this: “Go to the end here and turn right. Then go across here and take the first moving walkway. Then take the second moving walkway and get off and turn left. Then go down in the elevator to the first floor and find Athen street in the parking lot. Then go over here, or you can cut through these spots, and you will find your car. There is a phone here if you get lost or you have a problem with the car. Any Kvestions?”
Shockingly, we did manage to locate the car eventually, without even having to send up a flare. Then it was on to the autobahn, where you can famously drive as fast as you want to, assuming “as fast as you want to” is the same as “the speed traveled by all the giant trucks around you (about ten miles an hour).”
Finally, we made it to Sindelfingen, where the Marriot is conveniently located next to the Cheverolet/Opel service center, just down the street from nothing in particular, and where we then proceeded to take a four-hour nap, and eat dinner in the hotel restaurant. It’s been a day.