[Now with photos. Also, please to be entering contest and maybe winning Flip MinoHD (kindly provided by AXE) when I return. -RjC]
The ridiculous modern magic of air travel is seriously diluted by the real-world implementations of it.
That's not an amazing insight. But don't let it distract you from the modern magic that causes it: air travel is really, really cheap. Maybe even deliriously so.
So I left on a jet plane earlier this week, along with TLO and her parents. We had the misfortune to be traveling to Athens via Frankfurt, and on the very day when a general strike closed the Athens airport (and later in the day, saw three people die when an associated protest march turned riotous and firebomby).
With our FRA-ATH flight cancelled, the YVR Lufthansa people advised us (surely correctly) to just fly into Frankfurt and take pot luck with the next day's flights.
Lufthansa FRA promptly looked over our situation, sent us to a nearby hotel (NH Mörfelden), and fed us. The hotel didn't look particularly promising: it was located in the middle of an industrial park, and clearly built to serve the conference-and-layover set. But it was clean, well-furnished, quiet, and the dinner and breakfast buffets were far better than expected. It probably made the whole trip more comfortable than the straight shot would have been. So a bit of thanks to the Athens airport traffic controllers for joining the strike, and to NH Mörfelden for being the nicest mismatch of bad view/good place ever.
The next morning saw us back in the Frankfurt airport, deep in the standby line for an ATH flight. We knew our chances were toast when they offered a €400 payoff for any already-seated passenger willing to take a later flight. Lufthansa's backup plan was re-routing us onto a flight to Bucharest, and thence onto a TAROM flight to Athens.
It worked! Despite about 30 minutes between the scheduled arrival and departure times, we made it, and Romania's flag carrier entertained us with goofy in-flight programming and a very silly in-flight magazine, which appeared to be actively soliciting Romanian celebrities to say how well-treated they were by TAROM, a ploy which was about as transparent and convincing as a videotaped speech by a hostage soldier. They got us to Athens, only about 24 hours behind schedule. In a further non-surprise our eight checked bags, last seen in Vancouver, appeared on the conveyor belt and were no worse for wear.
The in-Europe flights were done on a pair of Boeing 737s, and it may be the most humble, practical, and emblematic passenger carrier of the jet age. There isn't much to say about these, except a general fan-boy shout-out to the single plane that did the most to bring flight to the masses. It's no coincidence that notoriously-profitable carrier Southwest built its business model around the 737.
I'm writing this from Athens. We're staying with family until tomorrow's boat to Syros. Athens (at least the neighborhoods around here, far from downtown) looks perfectly normal. The trash was collected today, a clear indication that the country has been returned to service.
And now we're booked on a morning boat to Syros. Expect much less of this in the near future, as there is no nearby wi-fi to beg or borrow from the house (thanks, AIRTIES_RT-205! Your generosity will not be abused.) Future web surfing will involve planned expeditions into town, hopefully at long intervals.