Well, maybe not as crazy as some, but I’m doing fine on the travel tales that can be fit into the ‘huh?’ category :). My latest and greatest were the trip to Italy and getting from Moscow to the Hague via Prague – while practically not sleeping for 3 days :). Here’s how it went:
I just got back from the Berlin Zouk Congress and was looking forward to chilling off. This was not, however, meant to be. It turned out that two Russian ladies who spoke absolutely not a single word of any other language bought themselves tickets to Italy for a conference and a specific event following it. My mother asked me to go with them to help them out… I have to say I can’t imagine how they were hoping to manage the trip alone, but it sure was an adventure!
To begin with, I booked an EasyJet flight to Milan, having checked and double-checked everything several times. Or so I thought… On the day of the departure, I arrived to the airport but my flight was nowhere on the ‘departures’ table… I found the office and asked them to check it, since I don’t have a printer to print out the ticket and only had my booking number. It turned out that I managed to book the ticket for the right dates… but the wrong month – July instead of June! The lady in the office gave me the EasyJet service center number, where they were kind enough to change my ticket for the right month without the administrative fees. Since it was about 1pm and the flight was leaving at 10pm, I went back home and slept…
Thing is, I actually needed to get to Turin. I found out that there was a direct bus from Milan Malpensa to Turin at midnight, but wasn’t sure whether I’d make it. Alternatively, I could spend the night at the airport and leave in the morning… Luckily, we landed around 23:20, so I was able to take the bus. I arrived to the hotel where the Russian ladies were already chilling since afternoon in the middle of the night and went to sleep for a bit.
The conference wasn’t the focus of their trip, but our technician was actually able to connect them to the Russian translation line. So far so good.
On the 2nd day of the conference I skipped the afternoon session to walk around the city, take pictures (coming up soon – I’m still working on Berlin album!) and enjoy the warmth of the summer sun. I walked all around the place and got to the cemetery around 5:40pm. It said it was open till 6pm, I thought it was small enough to walk through in 20 minutes… However, since I was busy taking pictures, I ran a bit late. When I made it to the entrance gate, it was closed and I was locked in :D. Good news is there was an emergency button, so some guy arrived a few minutes later to let me out :). I was also smart enough to hide my camera before he got there because I noticed the sign that taking pictures is prohibited without permission (ops!). He asked me how come I was still there, I told him I was far from the gate and by the time I walked back it was locked :D. It was kind of true, but in reality when I realized it was 6pm, I decided to not rush it, finish picture-taking then work-out my escape-plan later on…
The ‘fun’ began when on the 17th it turned out that instead of June 18th, the exact event the ladies were so determined to attend was moved to June 19th – and we all had return tickets for that same date… Thus began a session of an international effort (involving my mom in Moscow) to change (most importantly) their tickets for the 20th.
Towards late evening it was finally determined that a) their tickets weren’t possible to change b) they didn’t care and were willing to buy one-way tickets back instead c) there were two acceptable flights (price-wise) back to Moscow – this time from Milan, one morning and one 14:50pm and d) since my own (newly changed) flight was at 19:50pm on the 20th, I would not go with them to the airport if they would decide to get the morning flight (and they kept saying that they didn’t want to fly the airlines that had the 14:50 flight)…
Around midnight we tried buying their tickets. My mother had to walk to the bank in the middle of the night (around 2am) to deposit some money into her account since neither one of the ladies had a credit card… Unfortunately, the initial transaction didn’t go through due to a technical error, but the money was blocked from the account (they’re due to return within 30 days, but it’s bloody annoying that the sum gets blocked for a month when transaction doesn’t even get confirmed!). My mom said that this means we are on stand-by till later on the 18th because she’d need to find some more money to throw into the account to buy these same tickets from the other website…
When the rest of the group has left to the next city on the itinerary on the 18th, we stayed in Turin (in case we wouldn’t be able to sort out the tickets – since their original flight back was from Turin) and did some souvenir-shopping (well, my ladies did…), while we were slowly advancing towards the main train station. Early evening was when my mom finally gave us green light to proceed with the trip – new tickets were bought.
At the train station, we were relieved to learn that we won’t need to get an overnight train to Cesena (the event was to be held there), thus loosing 1 paid night at the Turin hotel. We could get an early morning train with a change in Piacenza. We bought the tickets there and also from Cesena to Milan on the early morning of June 20th – to get to the airport. Thank goodness my ladies agreed for the afternoon flight! In the evening I checked how to get from Cesena train station to the hotel, we packed and passed out to sleep a bit.
Around 5am we walked to the Turin train station, took our train and made it to Cesena by half past noon – totally frozen! AC in the trains is set on super-cold for no good reason :(… We then caught one of the buses we could take and then walked for about 10 minutes to the hotel…
The rest of the group was supposed to return at 3pm. We relaxed, showered and waited for them. No one showed up. Better yet, everyone’s phones we tried were unavailable… Had we known they’d be running late, we could go eat something, but oh well – we didn’t know if the program didn’t change again, so we waited, hoping they’d re-emerge soon. At about 5pm we found out the address of the venue for the event and wanted to go there by a taxi – we even called one. However, 2 minutes on our way I finally got through to one of the people – turned out they were simply late, everything was pushed to later in the evening and they were on their way to the hotel to refresh. Oh, and the venue was in some black hole where there was no cellphone reception… We turned back – luckily, because the venue was quite far away and it would cost us a fortune for no good reason to get there.
We got a ride with someone from the group to and from the event (which finished right around midnight) and, happy with the sense of ‘mission accomplished’, returned back, packed and slept a bit.
The next morning we took the first train to Milan, froze once again, but made it otherwise without much adventure. At the central station, my ladies discovered a few more things worth buying, so it took us a while to get to the airport express bus. I had a mild panic attack when it turned out the bus would take longer than I originally thought after checking online to get to Malpensa airport, but we made it about 15 minutes before the end of their check-in, so I successfully waved them goodbye, finally took out the magazine I was planning to read on that trip and spent a few hours with it, some pizza and coffee before transferring to terminal 2 to catch my own flight back to Prague.
2. Moscow-Frankfurt-Prague-Eindhoven-Utrecht-Hague in 24 hours and 3 sleepless days :).
My next unplanned trip (courtesy of my parents, yet again :)), was to Moscow. We had a financial 3-day seminar with a new marketing plan and a master-class by one of the most experienced in our mode of business figures on June 30th and July 1st. The last day was actually July 2nd, but I already had a flight booked to the Netherlands for the early morning, so we were lucky to find a flight from Moscow to Prague on Sunday evening.
My flight to Moscow was on June 23d. I was, for some reason, convinced it was at 7-something pm. I was smart enough to check the time online at around 4:35 to discover, to my horror, that it was at 18:10 (and the 19:50 was my connecting flight from Frankfurt to Moscow, ahem… Maybe i should buy a printer?), I won’t be making it if I took the bus, and I was still unpacked. Therefore, I called a taxi and threw everything into the suitcase in under 7 minutes. So far so good :).
But the real fun began on Friday. As it turned out, the Moscow Zouk & Samba congress was held that same weekend. Of course, I decided to attend at least one of the parties. I was late for the warm-up open-air party on Thursday, so on Friday night I went to the congress itself. There were roughly twice as many girls as there were guys! Something must be done next year to address that issue! The party finished around 4am – a silly time, since metro is still closed and most public transport isn’t running yet. I took a taxi back home, but by the time I got there and into the bed, and by the time I chilled down enough to get sleepy, my parents woke up and made enough noise to keep me awake. A short while later, it was time to get up anyway and get ready for the seminar…
It finished in the evening, much later than I hoped for. I was planning to catch a nap but it didn’t work, so I went to the Saturday night party without any sleep. Whatever :D. On Sunday morning we walked around with another Zoukeiro from the Netherlands trying to find a specific cafe, but we couldn’t. We found a 24h supermarket instead though and got some food, then waited for the metro to open. Needless to say I got home too late for much sleep, since yet again we needed to leave by 9:30 to the master-class.
We only stayed for the 1st session with my mom and then left back home to pack. I think I managed to sleep for 10 minutes but it didn’t really help much. Finally, it was time to get to the airport…
At least I can sleep in airplanes – I know some people who can’t! Frankfurt was hell this time – I had 1h 10 minutes between the flights, some people had even less time, and in that window I had to go through passport control (which took forever, because only a few windows were open), walk a mile, go through security check, then make it to the gate which, of course, was on the opposite bloody side of the airport. Needless to say this was a rather athletic experience, but I made it :D.
I was back home in Prague around 1am. I had just about enough time to unpack my suitcase and pack again for Holland, take care of a few things, have a cup of tea – and then I headed right back to the airport again to be there in time, since my flight was at 6am… Like a BOSS!!! :D.
Once in Eindhoven, I took a bus to the main train station, then a train to Utrecht, where I was meeting my friend in the Starbucks. We had a ‘breakfast’ then got to her place, where I finally got a few hours of precious sleep in the row – after 3 days of only occasional snoozes! We then went to get lunch and I set off to the Hague. I got there around 9:30pm and spent about 2 hours in the shower trying to make a human being out of myself again :D. I then finished the rest of my take-away beef noodles from lunch and, happy puppy, went to bed. PHEW!
Ready for the Scheveningen Salsa-Zouk Beach Congress I am now!