arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 9th, 2009 09:01 am)

Woke up this morning, checked email, read post by a friend from Emory panicking over her student loans, felt onset of howling panic attack, decided not to think about it: nothing I can do about that today, or right now, or really ever, other than pay them off as quickly as I can when I'm in a position to do so. Icy cold hand of dread nevertheless still clutching the heart - honestly, as much as I dislike the private sector, I might throw my hat in the McKinsey ring. If I actually got hired, I could pay my student loans off in about 5 years if I was making six figures but still living as modestly as I do now. The big question, of course, is whether I could ever get a job in academia as a professor after working as a merc. Maybe, if I kept up with conferences and published. Maybe.

Anyway. Those are another day's problems, so I might as well not borrow them this day, which is a Monday, and involves more windy, blizzardy weather in Munich:


Hotel parking lot

At least I have clean clothes. Which is kind of a miracle given the instructions for the odd Germanic wascherei machine setup (it involves tokens and codes) and the fact that I had some difficulty figuring out how to get everything working because of course I left my dictionary in the hotel room.



I leave for Vienna tomorrow evening. I have two weeks left in German-speaking countries and "the hard part" should be behind me then. I expect to be fine in Italy and the rest, just in terms of simple daily life functioning, and I'm looking forward to it. It's ironic, in a way, but I was told by a guy at the bakery the other day (who was Arabic, and was helping me out to communicate with the baker by translating) that most Arab countries require children to learn English in school, so they're all pretty much bilingual. Additionally, I haven't had ANY problems with Arabic men behaving inappropriately or freaking me out (unlike some of the gross Germans and the expat Africans). I suppose that if you're a Muslim man who has certain ideals of womanhood, you wouldn't be interested at all in crazy white girls.  It would probably be easier to travel through Syria than Germany. Not that I'm planning on testing my theory.

Off for breakfast and to the archives - bis spater!

So I leave Germany tomorrow and head to Austria. YAY! One country down, five to go. I'm totally ready to go. I never want to see another sausage again for at least six months (I like sausage). The same goes for cold cuts of any kind. I had my bowl of cereal and cup of coffee this morning as usual, but skipped lunch so I could just power through my last manuscript, and I was really super hungry by 3:45 when I got to the station. All around me were the damn wurst sellers and their infernal sausagi. NO MORE. I passed a shop selling rotisserie chickens and I will not lie: I bought one. A WHOLE ONE. Just for me. I ate half of it for late lunch and will eat the other half for late dinner, and I was really damn happy to have it. Plain chicken: sometimes it's exactly what's wanted. In other weird "the body wants what it wants" nutritional TMI, I bought a whole red pepper at the supermarket the other day and ate it whole, just like an apple. And it was the best thing ever.

I did the right thing by buying train tickets as I went - saved about 50 euros over the cost of a rail pass (4 days of travel in a month).

Weirdly, though airfare to Vienna from Munich was cheaper than train fare according to railpass.com, which is evil and lies like a lying liar who can't do any truth telling, the train from Munich to Vienna is cheaper than the train from Nuremberg to Munich.

Both on high-speed trains. The train ticket to Vienna, bought at the station, is 70 Euros. So: Sarah has to get from Munich to Vienna. She already has a $50 plane ticket, but will spend $15 on the shuttle to the airport and in all likelihood another $20 on baggage overlimit fees because Lufthansa is crazy and says carryons can't weigh more than 8 kg! So you can take your wheelie, and you can put one pair of shoes in it, and maybe some socks. But then you are done. So Sarah would have to check her bag, the idea of which gives her the connips, because that is seriously every stitch of clothing she has plus all of her civilizing products in bottles, and she doesn't want to pay to replace any or all of it should the bag wander off. Estimated cost for taking the flight tomorrow: $35. Estimated time involved: get to airport by 3:30 at latest for 5:15 flight with mandatory by-4:15 check in means leaving HBF at 2:30. Arrive in Vienna at 6:15. Collect baggage from carousel. Be done at airport at 7:00. Figure out mass transit or take taxi (probably the taxi option) be at hotel by 7:30, bringing total to $55 and 4 hours.

OR - tomorrow she can wander over to the train station tomorrow after a leisurely breakfast, and pay 70 Euros for an 11:26 train ticket and be in Vienna four hours later. The train station is a 15 minute walk to her hotel. Cost difference: about $35. 

I'm going to go ahead and consider that the penalty for being a dumbass and buying the plane ticket in the first place, take the train, and travel in the blissful certainty that my luggage is safe and sound and right above my head.

I also dumped my Easyjet ticket from Venice to Paris. Since I don't have to stop and pick up a visa for a trip to Moscow anymore, there's no point to the layover there, I should just head straight north, start at Brussels and do a little train circuit from there to Saint Omer, Cambrai, and Bruges. Again - cutting out the cost of travel from Paris to Lille will pay for the change. Unfortunately, the Venice to Brussels leg is just not train-able. It would take forever - almost 20 hours in trains - and cost a fortune in tickets. The cheapest I could find to do it *still* goes through Paris - $120 sleeper train overnight, then another $100 in tickets to Saint Omer and a full day's slog. So I really have to take the plane.

Aaaand it leaves at the asscrack of dawn. Unfortunately, to get the 12 Euro ticket from Venice to Brussels I have to fly out of Venice at 8 AM. The alternative is flying business class and paying $500, which isn't going to happen. So I'm up early as hell. Check in is mandatory by 7 AM, so I figure I'm going to have to leave the hotel by around 5 AM, because I'm going to have to get to the other side of the city to the train station to get the bus transfer to the airport. I might look into a hotel closer to the airport for the last night in Venice, and then just take a cab, but it's kind of a weird area. As far as I can tell there aren't any (at least I haven't found any) hotels that are right near the airport, they're all technically in some town north of Venice? I need to look into it a little more.

I'm flying Brussels Airlines. Hopefully they'll gatecheck bags, because I am going to be scampering up to the gate with my backpack in stealth mode. If I lurch a little while I walk, maybe they'll just think I'm a hunchback.

I think there's a pretty good chance that I'll also pitch the flight from Brussels to London in favor of the train to Hoek von Holland (6 Euros) cross the English channel on a ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich (36 pounds) again, just to avoid the hassle with luggage.

I might do the same thing going back to Paris from Oxford, and take the train to Portsmouth instead of London and the ferry to Le Havre (23 pounds) and the train to Paris (30 Euros).

With the increasingly draconian restrictions on cabin luggage, my plan to avoid checking bags is looking pretty much impossible. I'm still glad I'm only travelling with a carryon, just because of how many times I've had to sling the bag up flights of stairs and into overhead luggage racks, etc. Choosing ferries over flights also just strikes me as more fun and adventurous and less of a pain in the ass. Back when I thought I could use a carryon suitcase as a carryon, things were different. But... 8 kg? Really?

And I just have really low risk tolerance for losing my luggage on a trip of this length.

Anyway, that would eliminate all flights but the Venice-Brussels leg, and that one is on a regular carrier, so hopefully no problems (knock on wood). Plus I like ferries. I like the smell of seawater, and I don't get seasick.

I wish they still had hovercraft crossings over the channel. I would have liked to experience that.
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