Friday, August 5 and Saturday, August 6
It took forever to feel like we were really going (probably until sometime Thursday, August 4), but on Friday, August 5, around 3 pm, we flew from Lincoln to Chicago without a hitch, then from Chicago to Frankfurt overnight, arriving on Saturday morning just around 10 am without a hitch, and from Frankfurt to Hamburg (the first time for us to fly there together rather than to take a train, also without a hitch). Given this summer’s horror stories about lost bags, we did not check luggage but instead traveled with two super-practical carry-on suitcases (especially practical because I will return a week later than Mark) and with two backpacks full of electronics. It’s made traveling so much easier, I know I’ll never go back to checked luggage! (It helps that we are exclusively staying with friends so doing laundry is not going to be a hassle.)
Everything about the trip went smoothly. We did run at a fast clip to the inevitable at-the-end of the terminal gate for the flight from Frankfurt to Hamburg after being bussed from the tarmac to Terminal 1, but when we got there, they had just started boarding regular passengers–so we were fine. But we got our exercise in that way! And because Mark was sitting in an exit row on the leg from Frankfurt and so had to check his luggage, so we had to wait for it at the carousel anyway, in spite of bringing only carry-on. But these don’t even count as minor hitches. By just after noon on Saturday, we had landed in Hamburg, and went across town by public transport–in about 30 minutes, we were at our friend Andrea and Peter’s house. I was trying so hard to be ready for contingencies of all kind (late or cancelled flights, long hours in line to rebook things, hotel nights, etc.) but am very grateful that this readiness wasn’t actually put to the test for this flight. I still can’t quite believe things went so smoothly–although of course we know that we could still hit the ultimate hitch, of course, and come down with Covid. But we did wear our masks even when not required, trying to be very cautious in anticipation of visiting my mom soon–after waiting five days before testing to make sure we did not catch the Pestilence before we go see her.
The rest of the day felt so… normal. We’ve been with Andrea and Peter so many times, their apartment feels like another home. We had a lovely simple welcome meal of rolls, cheese and cold cuts, and a little nap (timed for an hour, so as to minimize jet-lag, but really necessary–we would have never made it to the evening without it), and then went for a walk to the nearby park and small botanical garden in Andrea and Peter’s neighborhood. We’ve walked there many times before, but it is so beautiful–many ponds with lilies, nestled between mature trees, with paths meandering through meadows where people are picnicking and playing with their kids. Everything is incredibly green and lush, and because it is later in the season than we’ve typically traveled to Germany, different flowers are in bloom than before. We saw two herons in two different ponds. It was a lovely walk and just what we all needed. Then, Andrea made pasta with a vegetarian tomato sauce for dinner, and we planned our next few days together. The two of them basically took all their own vacation days to coincide we are here, so we can go on some day trips. We are all very excited, but I think they are just as much in need of extra rest from several months’ worth of stressful work life as we are from our transatlantic trip! So I think we’ll be taking it easy tomorrow. Andrea and I grabbed some more supplies for meals at home from the nearby grocery store and we hung out and chatted for a little longer. So we managed to stay up pretty late (again for jet-lag prevention purposes) but were very glad to be showered and in bed by 11 pm.