Livestock and Airports

Before I start, no, I don’t think airports are great places for cows either.

It’s been three weeks since I flew out of cold Berlin to the Sunshine State, and now I’m back again. I actually meant to write a post about the trip home right away, for, you know, prosperity’s sake. Because my opinions are, like, really important. But now I have 2 more airports to talk about. I could just scrap the post, seeing how late it is, but some interesting and funny things happened and it’s almost the end of the week (or the weekend when you read this) and you could really use a fun read, right? I’ll at least try to keep it fun.

My trip on March 15th started with a 3:30 wake-up call, because the plane was leaving at 6 and I’ve heard stories of people who headed to one of Berlin’s two operational airports only to find out their plane was leaving from the other side of town. I obviously wanted to avoid missing the flight!

I would have missed this:


and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss celebrating birthdays and Easter with my family, either, of course.

Although I checked five times already, I still left early and it felt good to arrive at luggage check-in with more than an hour before human check-in. There, I was reminded that Tegel Airport is the small, old airport that it is.

And when I mention Tegel’s age, I actually need to acknowledge Berlin history. Berlin once had 8 airports, and, as one can imagine, these were heavily used during the World War II. Most of these airports were key for the war efforts and were meant to be closed after the war. In fact, Tegel (TXL) would have been shut down after WWII if it hadn’t been for the Soviet Blockade of West Berlin in 1948 and the ensuing Berlin Airlift. But since the airport was needed, it lived to serve Berlin through the Cold War. And since the major BER airport, under construction since 2006 and meant to be opened in 2011 STILL is not opened, TXL lives to fly good people like myself in and out of the city. And that’s a wonderful thing, since while Schönefeld and BER are 18 km out of the city center, TXL is a mere 5km and 20 minute bus ride away.

But woops, I got off track. So I was saying that I was reminded of TXL’s size and age, and this is because my walk from check-in to security check was 20 meters, and the security line itself was only 50 meters long. Can you imagine a time where security wasn’t necessary? You could after being in Tegel. But anyway, before I knew it, I was out of the waiting area of the terminal, and I barely had time to check out the same 5 kinds of candy and alcohol and perfume in any duty-free shop in any airport in. the. world.

First stop: Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. I’m ignoring the namesake for brevity’s sake (look him up!), but I do want to talk about something that struck me about this large airport in Paris: its two priorities seemed to be the highest end shopping I’ve ever seen in an airport and the fancy patisseries and, well croissants. They were awesome. I felt so cool with my high school French ordering cappuccino and croissant until having to revert to English when they needed smaller change for my payment.

The stark contrast between Charles de Gaulle and the German and US airports I’ve been to made me more aware of the other airports I went to: Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale International. Travelling through several international airports, I learned that one can tell a nation’s priorities based on the venues offered. European airports seem to feature a mix of shopping and food. German airports especially have a lot of news/book/paper supplies stores.

But then Atlanta also surprised me with its very well done decorations between terminals. Besides having one food place next to the other, the airport still gave the impression of being interested in sharing its history, geological heritage, and culture. One of the busiest airports in the world, Atlanta (or Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International) airport features an indoor railway that brings people from terminal to terminal. One could opt to take the shuttle, but my layover was long enough to walk the not-so-long distance between terminal F and A and see the sights along the way.


And I’m not telling you where this was, because I want to encourage you to walk and discover for yourself. Or I forgot.

What really impressed me was a timeline of the history of Atlanta. Created by the artist Gary Moss, ‘A Walk Through Atlanta History’ is a permanent exhibit in the transportation mall between terminals B and C, it reminds people of the Cherokee and Creek tribes who inhabited Georgia before they were forced to leave their lands during Andrew Jackson’s presidency.  For a country that likes to wash over this difficult part of its past and present, acknowledging the indigenous people of Georgia is a bold move (and if you think “duh, of course it had to be acknowledged,” check out some history books from before the 1960s). The Indian Removal Act that led to the “Trail of Tears” was not mentioned, but I admit… that may have been too much to ask (or perhaps not? Comments below!).

But yes, I enjoyed my walk and after Atlanta, arriving in Fort Lauderdale was a bit of a letdown. It’s a bit too old and unimpressive with low ceilings and gray walls to really make a great airport to come home to. But I’m sure plans for renovations are in place.

Okay, enough with the history lessons and facts, already. You’re probably asking where the funny stories are, that I promised.

Let’s start with me informing you who/what the real MVP of my trip was: my bladder. Marathon training and international trips don’t mesh well. After the trip, I was glad for my excellent hydration habits. During? Not so much. My short trip from Atlanta to FLL was the only one where I had an aisle seat. From Paris to Atlanta, I spent 9 hours stuck between two guys and since I hate asking people (unless it’s my brother) to get up, I just kept it down to  three requests to get up. Window seat guy didn’t get up once. Seriously?!

See? I’m terrible at telling funny stories. I’ll try again. This time, it starts with a Ukrainian in seat C on the way from Paris to Atlanta. Not being one to start conversations with strangers, I kept my earbuds in and tried to be a responsible PhD student and work on my much-too-large for an airplane laptop, and then digressed to watching Despicable Me 3 (yes, I’m an adult child-though I laughed enough to make window seat guy start watching it too, not sure if he had much fun as I did). At some point, though, after the second time asking him to get up, aisle guy, in a thick accent proceeds to tell me that he’s Ukrainian and his English isn’t so great. Could I help him fill out the customs form? “Sure!” I say. And then we proceed down the sheet. I get through mostly okay. I don’t tell him that I took three years of Russian (which is related to Ukrainian) in college in order to avoid unnecessary attempts to hold a conversation after this good deed is done, but when we get to the question about handling livestock, I wish I had. I also wished my three years of study had taught me what livestock are in Russian. I tried as many examples of livestock that I knew. I wasn’t even sure if chickens counted as livestock. For some reason, I only mentioned hooved animals. Mostly, I was hoping he would understand with the word cow… He didn’t. And I couldn’t even tell him the Russian word, because I’ve forgotten all my Russian, it seems. So remember, kids. Take your language studies seriously. You never know when you might need them!

In an interesting series of coincidences, a conversation while home with my former Russian teacher (also Ukrainian!) happened to remind me of корова, which also happens to be the name of a Russian candy:

Image result for korovka candy


And then, the walls of the airport in Amsterdam were covered in cows. So maybe the universe was telling me it’s a good thing I never finished my post in Florida, because now I can say:

no, I don’t think airports are great places for cows either.

Unless it’s these cows:

Cows in Amsterdam

Let’s not forget the windmills.


check out the shadow effects!

Clearly, Amsterdam Airport’s priority was making sure you didn’t forget you were in the land of windmills and cows.

Cheers! Until my next attempt at entertaining posts,

Some legitimate wandering- Braga, Portugal

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It is likely that there are more words to type out here than I have the time or energy to let flow from the jumbled collection in my mind through my fingers, but I will try a little.

2015-04-16 15.41.33The collection is jumbled because I haven’t thought of a way to summarize my trip. I guess I could say that I went for a conference based on one of my chapters for my thesis (it’s amazing what a 20 minute time limit and weeks of digestion can do for an argument; I almost wish I could rewrite the darned thing, but not really). On the other hand, I also went to see Portugal and learn something about a country I had never seen before. In fact, I haven’t been to a single country south of France, so I’m pretty limited in my world view. Ultimately, I suppose one could say I traveled, as we discussed at the conference, to learn a little about myself… but also to forget myself.

While in Braga, Portugal, which is/was the un/official catholic center of Portugal since the Middle Ages (there was a church almost on every corner), I learned to forget preconceptions, worrying about how I presented myself, how to greet and say goodbye to strangers or people who I spoke animatedly with for hours at a time. I also learned that it is possible to travel with very little funds, and that not having change rattling around in one’s pocket makes traveling more relaxed because one doesn’t have to worry about collecting souvenirs for others. Souvenirs are only pieces of displaced memories that perform the same work as photos, and photos are free. I took many photos, but also learned to leave my camera in my pocket and resist the urge to pull it out, taking in the images only for myself.

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Some things I noticed about  Braga is that the Portguguese like their lemon trees, roundabouts, tiled facades, and churches.

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What surprised me about Portugal was how strong the recent EU crisis and recession hit their country. I hadn’t been aware that the wealth of a city or country would reflect so strongly in its buildings. I found a ghost town just north of Braga’s university campus, and was struck by the contrast of natural beauty and dilapidation.

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This trip was different than my longer trip to Hamburg to study abroad because in Braga I was able to forget about myself. I think my first weeks in Hamburg were the same way, but eventually academic and social responsibilities brought me back to myself in a way that traveling to Braga let me release for a little while again.

I can understand how traveling can be addicting. One does not have to claim a productive presence as long as one does not stray too far outside the expectations of the culture. Not knowing the language is an excuse for any step out of line, and most people that are not irritated at themselves will be helpful and want to make sure you’re okay, are able to enjoy their country. I think people like tourists to some extent, because they validate the choice to live where one lives. One has to accept that if other people will travel to be where one lives, one lives in a pretty damn good spot. Of course, I don’t mean to say everyone should like tourists or look for validation. I just used the opportunity to think to a larger audience than myself for a while. Thanks for putting up with it.

Hope you’re having a good weekend and that the next week brings you something exciting!