Germany 2015

It was high time to see the families back in the old country. Both Anja’s mom and my parents are getting on in years and while both have visited us in Canada, we don’t foresee any more international travel for either of them. Apart from Skype calls, neither of our parents had met the twins in person yet. Apart from that, there was a wedding and friends to be visited.

I have to be honest at this point – I did not want to go. I hate flying at the best of times, and the idea of flying with three young kids filled me with horror. I don’t sleep on planes, and have always hated the flight east. A short, sleepless, night followed by a disorientated, grumpy, day and relentless jet lag. When I am on my own, I can just grump away, but with the family, that’s not an option.

But, it was the right thing to do, so we booked the family onto an Air Canada flight to Copenhagen – Anja’s brilliant idea. Copenhagen is only about 250km from Sierksdorf, the village on the Baltic Sea where she grew up, and where we were renting an apartment. Copenhagen, the Scandinavian air travel hub, is also a direct flight from Toronto – no changing planes in Frankfurt, the German hub, which would have been a nightmare. My parents would take the train up and visit for a week.

Paying for five full price tickets meant that we had no option but go for cramped Economy seats. Anja did the booking and, thank you, thank you, thank you, got me seated in the emergency row, with ample legroom for my 6’6′ frame. Air Canada flies the new Boing Dreamliner on the Scandinavian route and it was indeed a beautiful, spotless, plane with large windows, ample headroom and all mod-cons. Boing did a great job on the plane, if only they could design an economy seat one could sit in in comfort for longer than an hour at the max. We eyed the large seats in Business and Premium Economy with envy as we were herded towards the back of the plane.

There is no way around it, the night flight to Europe was uncomfortable. The kids were overtired but even they had a hard time sleeping in their small seats and only crashed out periodically. Thankfully the flight was fast, six and a half hours, and when we landed in Copenhagen we were in better shape than I would have predicted.

Also, there was Starbucks, and two large coffees later we felt we were ready to take on the day.

But we weren’t out of the woodwork yet. Copenhagen Airport managed to lose half the plane’s luggage, including ours, on the runway for an hour, with neither apology nor reason forthcoming. This was followed by Avis trying to cram us into a tiny Toyota – despite us booking a seven seater people mover three months in advance.

Terse words ensued, centred around the idea of customer service in general and the deplorable state thereof at Copenhagen Airport. We finally settled on a brand new VW Passat station wagon. Still cramped, but at least the luggage and all three kids fitted in – just.

We strapped in and set off. At the first traffic light, the engine stopped. Confusion ensued until I realized that this was normal behaviour. Taking my foot off the brake instantly re-started the Passat’s diesel engine and we were ready to go again. All of this was happening in the name of fuel economy and worked extremely well. Despite putting well over 1000km on the car, we only had to fill it up once. German engineering at its finest.

The drive out of Copenhagen was painless, even with extensive roadworks. Waze instantly recognized we were travelling, and while we had to reset the language from Danish to English, worked just as well as it does in Toronto – helped by the fact that mobile internet in Denmark is fast and available almost anywhere (unlike in Germany, but more on that later). I had originally planned to purchase a Danish and German Sim card for our phones phone, but Rogers roaming fees these days are extremely reasonable – use your phone just like you use it at home, data and calls, and pay a maximum of $100. Beats purchsing local data access in my book, so that’s the deal we went with and it was worth every cent. Emails arrived instantly, although texts took a little longer, phone calls were made without even thinking about it.

The VW came with its own, very capable, onboard navigation system so between the two screens we managed to avid the worst of the traffic and soon found ourselves in the lush Danish countryside, on our way to Germany. The kids, at this time, were fast asleep in the back.

Several long bridges and one windy ferry ride later, we arrived in Germany and pulled in at our apartment.