Greetings from…Dusseldorf??

28 Jun

As any follower of our travels knows, rarely do any of our planned trips turn out as we expect. Sometimes we find ourselves in a new and unexpected adventure and sometimes we end up wishing we had never left home. As I type, we’re supposed to be on a boat tour along the Bosphorus after spending the afternoon decompressing from an international flight to Istanbul. We left South Bend early Friday morning with an easy itinerary- straight to O’Hare, then New York, then Istanbul. Bing bang boom, simple.  Instead, we’re in something like hour twenty-five of traveling and in that time span have unexpectedly found ourselves looking for Obama’s Chicago home, finding that we were in fact going to be heading to Rome, deciding we didn’t want to wait around for that flight, hopping an overnight to Germany, and spending a beautiful summer day in the charming city of Dusseldorf. After all that, I’m now sitting on a flight to Istanbul, on which I’ve unfortunately touched more crotches than Michael Jackson.

Seriously, it’s been quite a day.

The pilot just came on and announced that we’re starting our descent into Istanbul. Finally, we’re here! I’ll check back in tonight.

(Later) Whew! What a long freakin’ day (or two days, technically)! We’re back in the hotel room now and I’m pleased to report that all is well. Hopefully we got our quota of travel craziness out of the way and can now enjoy ourselves. So now, a more detailed description of our day.

We left our house early Friday morning after a difficult goodbye to our kids. I couldn’t imagine not holding my squishy babies for a whole ten days. We left them in the capable hands of my parents, so we know they’ll be okay. I think I’ll have a much harder time than they will. Finn worships his grandpa so we know he’s diverted. So we had only gotten two blocks from our house when Barb’s phone rings and we hear her say “our flight is cancelled?!” Apparently there were weather issues in New York so we started scrambling to get booked on something else and sped towards Chicago at warp speed. By the time we got there, we had changed our tickets to an Alitalia flight to Rome. We’d be in Rome most for a few hours and then catch a flight to Istanbul. All set and we had an extra three hours to kill before we had to be at O’Hare.

We decided to explore the Hyde Park area, since Patrick and I didn’t know it at all and Scott and Barb had both gone to school and worked there. They showed us around the amazing campus. The architecture was stunning. I think I’d say most beautiful campus I’ve been on. I love Notre Dame and it has great character but U of Chicago kicks its trash (for the record, Patrick disagrees). Anyways, we spent some time in the seminary bookstore which had a fantastic selection of interesting books. We grabbed lunch at a local place where Obama likes to eat and then headed for the airport.

After standing in a crazy long line behind a group of high school kids, we got to the check-in counter only to have the Italian attendant casually tell us our flight had been delayed…nine hours, meaning we would miss our connection and not make it to Turkey for another full day. Crap. I muttered to Patrick that it was probably a strike, those Europeans strike for every possible reason. (Sure enough, it turns out it was a strike that caused the delay.) Scott got irate and demanded that this be fixed. The lady huffed into the back office and then came out and tried to tell us that there was nothing she could do but Scott wouldn’t accept that and practically marched her to the other airlines to find out what flight she could put us on to get us to Istanbul. Patrick and I sat down with all the bags while he and Barb worked on the problem. All of the sudden we saw them rushing towards us. They told us we could go to Dusseldorf, Germany and then catch a flight from there but we’d have to go to a different terminal, check-in, go through security, get to the gate- all in the 30 minutes we had until the flight took off. We ran for it. The people at Lufthansa were fantastic and got us through quickly.

We were scattered all over the plane, all stuck in middle seats. The TV screen on the back of the seat in front of me wasn’t working, which ticked me off since movies are the only way to make it through an international flight. There were a few moments while we were waiting to take off where I was sweaty, had developed a nauseous migraine, felt squished, and I just kept thinking about what else might get screwed up and whether we’d ever make it to Istanbul and I thought “okay, I’m done. I miss my kids.”  Eventually I started to feel better though and the flight attendant fixed my TV so I settled in for the long haul. It was a good flight, it passed pretty quickly and only took eight hours, rather than the twelve we had expected. I watched Valentine’s Day, which was terribly cheesy but had a part at the end where Julia Roberts, a military mom, comes home to see her young son. When he saw  her and yelled “mommy!” and threw himself in her arms, I burst into tears. It was going to be a long week. I also watched most of Up in the Air, which I thought was really fantastic. The Tylenol PM I had taken kicked in though and I passed out for about the next four hours.

We landed in Dusseldorf shortly after. Now I wasn’t expecting much. First of all, Dooooseldorf is a pretty geeky name. And I’ve never had any desire to visit Germany. I’ve always pictured it the way I stereotype Germans, severe and efficient. But oh my, was I mistaken. We took a cab into the town center. Upon talking to the driver, we discovered that he was Turkish and not only that but from one of the towns that we would be visiting! Between that and the fact that Scott and Patrick could speak some German, he was delighted to have us in his taxi. He took us down to the Rhine and pointed out the streets to check out. We went and looked over the river, then walked to a church that was nearby and looked interesting. The streets were cobblestone and the buildings were these charming old European homes with hidden alleyways. The church had interesting artwork and gorgeous stained glass in muted grays, blues and pinks.

From the church we wandered down an alley were we stumbled on an amazing and dramatic sculpture.  We kept going down a street lined with cafes and bakeries, which were all just opening for the day. There was a little bakery where the bread looked like art so we went in and stuffed ourselves with chocolate croissants and fritters. They had beautiful loaves of bread, cookies in the shape of their soccer players, and black and white faced cookies that represented the US and Ghana. We talked to the owner for a bit and then moved on, exclaiming at how beautiful everything was. We came up the town square and a market that was going on. It was filled with lush flowers, fresh seafood that looked amazing, bright berries, artisans selling everything from wood toys to handmade soaps. We wandered around here for a while, it was just a really neat place. The locals all had these little wicker baskets that they would fill with fruits and cheeses and flowers.

Patrick wanted a real German bratwurst so we stopped at a stand to eat. Barb and I went and got some fresh and delicious cherries from a fruit vender and we all gorged ourselves. We moved on to the main shopping street where we popped into H&M, where I got a shirt for the twins that says I (heart) Mum, and then we sat at a sidewalk café to people watch, like the Germans were doing, and talk Turkish politics.

We headed back to the airport and eventually got on our flight to Istanbul. Here’s where I explain the crotch thing. So my seat was on the aisle in the very last row, right next to the bathroom door. About a half hour after dinner, everyone and their kid had to use the bathroom and apparently Turkish Airlines doesn’t have a “no congregating in the aisles” policy. So I had a half dozen people at any given time squished next to me, hanging over my seat, resting their elbows on the seat in front of my with their hands hanging right in my face, and everytime someone would pass through the aisle, they’d end up brushing up against my arm with their crotch. Ewww. Way to close and personal. I was getting really angry and was weighing whether I would be arrested upon arrival if I stood up and started yelling at someone. Reason won though and I just gritted my teeth until the rush was over.

After landing, we met the representative from the foundation that was hosting us. He was really friendly and took us to the hotel to drop our bags. The rest of our group had been waiting for us and postponed the Bosphorus tour until we arrived. We ran quickly to our rooms, where I threw on fresh clothes and washed my grimy travel face. We met everyone on the group, there are thirteen of us total, and then headed to the sea. It was sunset and the weather was perfect as we sailed up and down the strait while our leader, Bilal, pointed out landmarks and told us about Turkey. We passed by a number of palaces and at each on, there was a lavish wedding in full swing. At one of them, a singer was performing who turned out to be one of the most popular European singers in the world. The sun went down and a huge full harvest moon rose over the domes and minarets in the distance. We had that on one side of us and on the other fireworks from one of the weddings. In front of us was a huge gorgeous bridge that was all lit up in red lights. It was just a perfect evening and relaxing way to start the Istanbul leg of our trip. From there we went to a seaside restaurant where I had a yummy fresh grilled seabass and Patrick had great lamb chops. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and called my parents. I got to hear Finn’s voice and the reassurance from my parents that everything was going great. Feeling much better, I hit the shower and we knocked out for our first uninterrupted night of sleep in four months. Heavenly is the only way to describe it.

Sunday was an overwhelmingly busy day. We saw and did so many interesting things. It’s late right now and I have another night of pure blissful rest ahead of me, so I’m off for now. When I get a minute tomorrow, I’ll be posting pictures. Goodnight!!

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4 Responses to “Greetings from…Dusseldorf??”

  1. Liz June 28, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    OK… please say the famous Turkish singer was Tarkan?! I would have FLIPPED OUT like an 8 year-old seeing the Jonas Brothers. Ahhhhhh!!!!!

    I burst into tears at that very same moment in “Valentine’s Day.” Sob.

    The best part of this whole post is the part about uninterrupted sleep. YAY!!!! I’m so glad that you got it. And sorry that people had to frotteurize you on the plane.

  2. Melissa June 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    I don’t remember her name. Bilal said she was the most famous Turkish singer- he called her the Turkish Lady Gaga.

    Last night I got a full eight hours. This morning a lady commented on how refreshed I looked.

  3. DaD June 29, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    Thanks for the update! Read your post just as your twins were coming around the corner and into the pit for their 11pm pitstop, rear tires and tank’em up……..what a race! ( is there a finish line?) By the way, did you take your cape or is it still around the house?

  4. mom June 29, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    Finn, Rhett, and Lucy miss you too and Mom-Mom and Poppa have forgotton what a blissful sleep feels like but on this day (#5), don’t really care. These moppets are worth every second of lost sleep. Save one of those Tylenol PMs for my trip home.

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