(I’m on my way home, or maybe already home by the time I post this. But as with my last trip I have a few more stories to tell so just pretend I’m still in Norway, ok? Tusen takk.)
I’ve always found European airports to be less chaotic than their North American counterparts. I write this as I sit in a busy corridor in Copenhagen airport, where it isn’t quite serene, but still rather relaxed nonetheless (this is the 3rd time since September where I’ve sat in the same chairs; next to the H&M, across from the electronics store, with my earl grey tea and a croissant, using the airports free wi-fi, and people watching…).
Maybe it is because European airports aren’t quite so loud – Americans, well we ain’t known for being quiet. And there are quite a few airports in Europe which are “silent airports” where there are almost no announcements over the loudspeaker. Maybe it is because Europeans travel more (I surmise, but I don’t know if this is really true) – thus being at the airport isn’t so novel and airports are less unknown to the majority of travellers. Maybe it is because Europeans actually take vacations on a regular basis so being at the airport doesn’t evoke the same sort of excitement as it does for many Americans who have been saving their vacation time forever to take this one big trip. Maybe it is because Europeans seem to tend to check their luggage and don’t feel weighted down by all their belongings. Maybe it is because security guards and immigration agents are actually friendly and interactions with them are pleasant.
Sunrise over mid-Norway on the way to Kiev, October 2011
All I know is that when I travel in Europe, it is considerably less stressful than travel in the US. Case in point:
I had a 6am flight from Trondheim to Copenhagen. I had this same flight back in December. There is a bus that takes you from the city center to the airport. The first bus of the day arrives at the airport at 5:10am. Cutting it close? Elsewhere, perhaps. But the airline counters and security don’t open until 5 and the airport is small so it shouldn’t be a problem.
In December, it wasn’t. In June, well…
The first thing I noticed when I got off the bus were the lines. To check-in, to drop off baggage, to go through security. If I encountered this back home, I would probably be in major freakout mode. I’m really surprised that I wasn’t, especially considering that I was lugging 5 bags and had my flight booked on 2 separate tickets with 2 separate airlines, meaning potential problems if I missed a flight. But there is something about Norway, or maybe me in Norway, that didn’t worry. I’d probably make the flight, right?, and if not, well, we’d deal with that if I didn’t make the flight.
I waited in line to use a kiosk to check in and get my boarding pass. Then I waited in a line to check in my bags. The counter agent took 2 bags from me (freedom!) and pointed me to the left to pay for my extra bag (I’m still not sure why they were only going to charge me for 1 extra bag, not 2), then to the right to drop off my oversized ski bag. I went left and waited in line (sensing a pattern here?) to pay for my baggage.
Bergen from above, November 2011
Because my flight had been booked as 2 separate tickets (my school paid for the ticket so I had to use a travel agent instead of booking myself), I was expecting to have to pay $65 each for my 2nd and 3rd bags for the first leg of my journey (booked on SAS), and $65 + $190(!!) for my 2nd and 3rd bags, respectively (booked on Condor Air). And that folks, adds up to a whooping $385/2322kr! The agent began tapping away at his computer, then flipping through some pages in a book, he went back to the computer, and then walked over to the woman who had checked me in with my luggage. When he returned he scratched out the “1 excess bag” written on my boarding pass and pushed my credit card back to me. He told me – “The charging system on the flight to the US seems to be by the kilogram and we never took note of how much your bags weighed (note: A LOT). This one’s on us…” Thank you SAS!
The ladies bathroom in the Bergen Airport.
At this point it was close to 5:50. I was assured that they’d hold the plane until everyone arrived, but the security line was 30 people deep. Another gate agent walked me over to the oversized baggage drop (in case I missed the big “Oversized Baggage” sign and got lost?) and then proceeded to usher me to the front of the security line. As I gathered my hand luggage off the x-ray machine, I heard the last call for my flight. I picked up the pace to a slow jog. My gate was at the far end of the airport but at that point I wasn’t too worried about making the flight. As I settled in my seat, other passengers straggled in behind me. We even pulled away from the gate at 6am, right on the dot! And that is life in Norway.
Even though I had to travel to Copenhagen and Frankfurt before the 11 hour (!!) flight back to Seattle, the whole trip was swimmingly smooth. I even managed to go for a run around Greenlake and join in for a post-run beer and pizza after the journey. I do hope that I never have to lug that many bags through an airport again though. My back and shoulders still hurt days later!