Friday August 19: Budapest to Boston
This is the start of the transition portion of the trip. I said goodbye to Amy about an hour ago, and now I'm in the Budapest airport, waiting for my flight to Zurich.
This morning was filled with only a little adventure.
We got up at our usual 6:30. I took a quick shower, and we went down and had breakfast.
Back in the room, it was time for final packing. I was bringing some of Amy's stuff back, which resulted in my checked bag being too heavy. I migrated a bunch of stuff to my carry-on bag, and this left my checked back barely underweight, and my carry-on bag quite full. I managed to separate the zipper on the carry-on, but I got it working again. I shudder to think what would happen if the zipper on any of the suitcases catastrophically failed just before leaving for the airport.
We went down and checked out of the hotel. I checked in at the Viking table to confirm the transport to the airport. I caused a small fuss by bringing my suitcases down myself, as I was uncomfortable just leaving them in the hallway. The problem was that they had a list of which rooms to retrieve luggage from, so we had to tell the bell crew not to expect suitcases outside of our room.
It turns out that this type of cruise is really aimed at the 60-80 year old group, I would say, and there is some expectation that these people would have difficulty managing their luggage. Hence the idea of the bell crew managing your bags within the hotel. After the taxi ride to the airport, there was a Viking staff person there to assist with luggage and checking in.
But before all that, back at the hotel, Amy had them call a taxi for her, to take her to the other hotel. She was told to take a seat in the lobby because it would take a while for the taxi to arrive. I waited with her. This went on for quite some time. After about an hour, I think, I suggested to Amy that she check on the status of the taxi. I was afraid that it had come and gone long ago, and that she was waiting (and losing more and more time) waiting for something that wasn't coming.
It is a good thing that she did, because apparently the taxi had arrived, they couldn't figure out who it was for, and so it left again. This time Amy was introduced to the bell staff, and a taxi appeared in a minute or two, and the staff got her. I saw her off, and we were both officially on our own.
Outside the hotel, I saw a mime pretending to be a statue. He was doing a really good job at it, and I marveled that he could hold that pose without noticeably moving.
I had about 45 minutes to kill before my transfer. I decided that rather than spend more time in the hotel lobby, I would walk up the river to the shoe memorial (in honor of WWII Jews, who were shot and dumped in the river, but after they had removed their shoes). That is where I had gone the first night, but I didn't bother taking any pictures, as it was dark.
It was about a 10-15 minute walk up there. I took a bunch of pictures, and then returned to the hotel.
The mime was still there, and he was actually in the same pose. Then I looked more closely and realized that the "mime" actually *was* a statue, and not just a person pretending to be one. That explains how he was doing such a good job.
I killed a few minutes in the hotel lobby, and then it was time for the trip to the airport. I was sort of paranoid that my bags wouldn't make it, but the way it worked was that they took the bags out, I identified them as mine, and then they were loaded into the van. I was going to the airport with another couple. They were on the same flight to Zurich that I was on, but then they were continuing on to England, while I was going on to Boston.
Checking in was very straight-forward, and security was a breeze. There was no immigration or other international hurdles to jump through. It was sort like flying internally within the US, except that security was quicker and easier.
I stopped at the duty free shop and bought some duty-free water, as I was rather thirsty after my morning walk in the sun. I have about 2 hours before my flight, and I'm writing this up.
The only remaining hurdle is that I have a layover in Zurich of just over an hour (as does, coincidentally, the other couple in the van). If we don't land late, and there aren't any unforeseen delays in Zurich, I should be all set.
It was about 1pm, and my flight was leaving at 2:45. I wasn't sure if there was going to be food on the flight or not. I decided to get something small, so I wouldn't be starving if there was no food, and I wouldn't be stuffed if there was. I went to the food court and got a cheeseburger at the Burger King. I ordered at a kiosk, and by the time I figured out what the order number was and found the order board, I found that it was already served.
At Zurich, everything conspired to delay the transfer. First of all, the plane parked on tarmac, so we got off on a stair and went to a bus. Then we had to wait for the bus to fill before it went to the terminal. At the terminal, I had to go through passport control, even though I was just passing through Switzerland. After that, I needed to take an autonomous train to concourse E. Finally, I had to stand in another line to have my passport checked by US agents.
On the other hand, boarding was delayed by about 25 minutes, so even though I arrived at the last line at the specified boarding time, I had some time to kill (to write this up) before boarding really began.
Due to the rushed connection, however, I didn't have time to look for Swiss chocolate in the shops along the way.
The plane was arranged as two aisles, with two seats outside the aisles, and three or four between them. I was in a window seat, so I was going to have some stranger sitting next to me for the next 8 or 9 hours.
When I boarded the plane, I was happy to see that there was a normal sized gentleman sitting next to me. Even better, he was one of the few people (other than myself) wearing a mask. However, luck was not on my side.
Just before we pushed back from the gate, a woman came over, said something to the guy next to me, and they switched seats. This woman was ginormous, absolutely immense. She somehow wedged herself between the two armrests. I was glad that there was an armrest between us, otherwise I think she would have spread out into half of my seat. There wasn't much clearance between her and the seat in front of her (fortunately for her, the person in front did not recline their seat). There was no way that she could come even close to opening the tray table in front of her. Likewise, since the audio jack was in the side of the armrest, she couldn't use any audio during the flight, as her thighs were pressed tightly against where the audio plug had to go.
To make matters worse, the guy in front of me spent almost all of the flight with his seat reclined. (Fortunately, he did raise it when they served dinner, so I had a little space for the tray.) I felt rather claustrophobic in my seat. There was the side of the plane to my right, a literal wall of flesh to my left, and a reclined seat in front of me. I felt like I was in an 18 inch by 18 inch box, just big enough to enclose me.
They fed us well. We didn't get any food on the first flight (so my hamburger had been correctly done). On the second flight, however, they first came by and gave out water. Then they came by again with choice of beverage and dinner. They also gave us metal utensils. Then they came around with a choice of after-dinner beverage. Towards the end of the flight, they came by with "breakfast", even though it was probably 8pm in Boston and about 3am in Zurich. They handed me a box and a package. One was hot and the other cold. I quickly determined that the cold package was a cup of ice-cream. I opened the box to find some sort of quiche. The ice-cream came with a wooden "spoon", but there were no utensils for the quiche. To eat that, I just picked it up and ate it similar to how you would eat a sandwich. Finally, just before the descent, they handed out some small Swiss chocolate bars.
Getting back in at Logan was pretty easy. There wasn't a long line at passport control, just 3 or 4 people in front of me. So I breezed through that pretty quickly; which resulted in me having that much longer of wait before the luggage started coming out.
Eventually my bag came out, and I left to go through customs, but instead, I suddenly found myself outside. I went across the street to where the shared vans were located. There was a Knight's Limo (shared van) parked, apparently waiting for me. Actually, there were two parked there, and mine was the second one. I got on board and he left. He seemed to spend about 15 minutes giving me a scenic tour of the back-roads of Logan airport, and eventually he came up to Arrivals for concourse B or C, where he stopped and picked up another couple. Then we actually left the airport.
At this point, it was probably about 3:30am in Budapest, and I was definitely fighting to not doze off. Fortunately, I was dropped off first, before the other couple. The house was a wreck, but nothing that I needed to deal with that night. Sleep came pretty easy that night.