This one was kind of a bad landing. Not the worst ever, but it was pretty rough. I barely made my train this morning after having to drag my hated suitcase over cobblestones for about a kilometer. Note: the train station is more than the reported 10 minute walk away if you are wearing a 20 pound backpack and lugging a 40 pound suitcase that has ineffectual little wheels over rough terrain. Then I ended up having to drag the thrice-damned thing the length of the train because it was one with reserved seating. The suitcase, which I am officially renaming The Albatross, doesn't steer straight any more and in any event could only ever be dragged behind me, not pushed in front or peacefully strolled alongside, so this involves going three feet, yanking it out from under someone's seat, repeat for 10 cars. If I could have carried The Albatross I would have, but with its weight and size that was really out of the question. I would have probably ended up smashing someone in the face with it by accident.
I am pretty sure that I'm going to have to replace the damn thing sooner or later and this is my solemn swear: if I happen upon one with omnidirectional wheels I'm just going to buy it. The end. Put a stop to this bitching and the aggravation which produces it.
I got to Munich and walked to the hotel - the advantage of arriving in daylight hours: I only had to dodge TWO of the hateful Cameroonian Lotharios. It was too early to be let into the room, but I checked in anyway. I said to the guy at the desk that I felt pretty sure he had me in the room right next to the elevator and that we could just go ahead and change that right now, please. And he looked at my room number and his map thing and said "OK, I'll change that for you now." !!!!!!! What the hell is up with every single goddamn hotel putting me next to the elevator engine room? What is that? I think that while I am getting outstanding fares on some hotels that technically book for two or three times what I’m paying, the tradeoff is that I am being classed or coded as some kind of subprime guest who is to be stuck in the worst possible room and treated like doo. Other options include: being a solitary female traveler (just like one often gets considerably worse treatment at restaurants when one is eating alone and female – the conventional myth there is that single women don’t tip well, if at all). Or both. Or neither. I don't know. All I know is that when I went up to the room it was directly next to the elevator. Evidently I'd been in the one directly in *front* of the elevator, which, while it totally sucks, is still way better than sharing a wall with the clonking machinery.
You know, I'm pretty sure it is the lower rate. I am going to resist the temptation to give in to gender paranoia. That way lies scary bitter future of being like Evil Former Advisor. I imagine that's how online booking functions with hotel economics. Offer a rate of $52 a night. Fill your crappy rooms with budget travelers motivated only by price and to some extent, location. Offer a rate of $72 a night. Fill your less crappy rooms with holiday seekers who are looking at midrange hotels because they want to have a good time. Offer a rate of $100 a night. Fill your regular rooms with the sorts of people who are willing to pay that much to stay someplace which is, nevertheless, not the Meridien or some other actual higher end hotel that has rooms in the low hundreds. Granted, there those are probably the ones next to the elevator.
I went to the archive. To get there you go through a giant empty dark ballroom and a long hallway. I'm pretty sure that the trip I made today was one long metaphor for death.
If it was an accurate metaphor for death, I have some concern that this means the Mormons are right, and the rest of us are all really screwed.
Trying to get the hotel room all sorted after getting back from putting in five hours at the archive after nearly four hours of lugging luggage and schlepping stations and trains and to the hotel and then back to the train station to get the U-bahn - then putting in til close of archive, then running ragged trying to find a damn geldautomat and some dinner to bring back to the hotel - I came as close as I've come yet to having a meltdown when the desk chick started yelling that there were no other rooms but the smoking room (GROSS) in front of the elevator. Observation: yelling seems to be not so much the provenance of that first hotel desk clerk's crazytown as it is the standard German customer service strategy. Because I'm here to tell you that girl is a very sweet person by nature. That much was easy to see. I was very tired, and hungry, and thirsty. I was very tired. I held my hands up. I said "I am very tired, and just want to rest. Please, are you sure there are no other single rooms that are non-smoking?" And she found one. I am pretty sure that she could tell I was going to burst into tears in five, four, three, two...
And if she'd been a sadist, that would have been bad news for me. But she is not, so instead there was a better outcome. According to my watch pedometer, today I walked: 10,650 steps. And it was accidentally turned off for part of the day. I think it probably came to about two miles with the luggage and a mile without. I'll be really glad when the hotel quiets down - the floor isn't carpeted so it really is quite noisy in front of my room. I haven't unpacked yet - whether or not I do depends on whether I get to sleep enough tonight that I'm not a mess in the morning. I'm now on my third night without good sleep. Pray for me. I get really weird when I'm sleep deprived.
This is my last week in Germany and it’s in Munich, which is a city that I really loved last time I was here, so I have high hopes for a nice week. Then I fly to Vienna for a week. Then I take the train to Salzburg (another week). Then to Italy, where I pass through Mantua and spend a little time in Venice (last week of March). And then I fly to Paris on Apr. 1, and take the train to Cambrai (2 days) and Saint Omer (2 days) and then Bruges, where I spend most of Easter week in the archives and the weekend at the beguinage (yay!). Then it’s on to Brussels, where I look at a few manuscripts and then fly BMI from Brussels to Heathrow on April 17th, heading on to Cambridge the same day. I spend the last two weeks of April in Cambridge and Lincoln and Worcester, and practically all of May in Oxford. My mum is hoping to join me there for a week, and that would be nice.
I can fit the next three months of travel into a few simple declarative sentences and it's reassuring. It looks easy, right? And honestly, it probably will be once I get to countries in which I speak the languages. At least easier, if not easy.