Friday, March 28, 2008

Viva Die Bahn!

As I arrived at Stuttgart Hbf I went straight to "PresseCenter", got a little bit reading material, was minding my own business, not expecting anything bad to happen. My mom drove me to the station, and helped with the luggage.

As I got to the platform, however, they showed those beautiful notices on the destination signs: "Dieser Zug verkehrt heute nicht" This train is not in service today. ... uh ... huh? I have a ticket with reservation for that ICE 576 I even have a seat reservation!

German Bahn helpfully placed a little lady at the platform, "next connection to Mannheim 13:51 from track 9". But I want to go to Frankfurt Airport! "Frankfurt Airport 14:05, change trains in Frankfurt Hbf". Ugh. 2 large suitcases, one carry-on, and my laptop backpack. No way I'm going to change trains.
The information kiosk confirms that the ICE to Mannheim actually continues on to Frankfurt Airport. Good. Now I just need the ticket changed to the other train. Long lines at the "service point", only one guy behind the counter. I go down to the "ReiseCenter", get in another long line... at least it's serviced by 5 counters. 10 minutes later I'm back at the platform, and say Goodbye to my mom.

From talking to other passengers it appears that the tracks were closed. I'm guessing there was an accident, and the tracks were closed for the investigation.

I tried to see if T-Mobile hotspots on ICE actually work ... hmmm. doesn't look like it. I get an IP address, and can talk to the (squid) proxy on the train, but no connection to the outside world. Looks like either there is no connection, or their DNS server is borked.

United Airlines from Frankfurt

After a joyous 70 minutes in the vestibule of an ICE, sitting on top of my suitcase, I arrived at Frankfurt Airport. Frankfurt is hands down the world's worst airport when it comes to signage. It's not that they don't have signs. Actually, there are a lot. However, you need to know how to interpret them. It doesn't help that my United flight is leaving from a part of Hall C that is under re-construction.

Here is my route from the doors of the train to the seat in the waiting room:
- exit train, get luggage cart
- walk around the escalators
- get on long escalator to mezzanine level of the Fernbahnhof
- continue on short escalator to main level of Fernbahnhof [there is a nice glass roof construction here. Reminds me a little bit of the roof at Munich Olympic Stadium.
- enter Fernbahnhof main corridor
- head towards airport, do not stop at Rail&Fly Check-In counters [they are Lufthansa only, boy would *that* be convenient]
- continue through the corridor, avoid other passengers, various small and large booths along the way
- Be puzzled at the end of the corridor: Turn right to Terminal 1, Hall A, or left to Terminal 1, Halls B+C, and Terminal 2.
- Check poster on the wall. Aha! United is in Terminal 1, Hall B.
- Turn left, down the long escalator, cart nose down.
- Watch that carry-on bag! It might slide off the suitcases and hit someone!
- Continue straight ahead, ignore signs to Terminal 2, and continue on short escalator down to the dungeons [I think the reason why they didn't just extend the dungeons to the Fernbahnhof is that there is a large building in the way (parking?) ]
- Watch the really short end of that escalator, climb a few steps backwards on the escalator for more leverage to push the cart over the bump at the bottom of the escalator.
- Make a U-Turn to avoid hitting the wall right after the escalator [Be happy, that you didn't have to take the route in the opposite direction. That escalator was out of order... ]
- Hang left and navigate through cross-traffic of people leaving the airport for the regional train station, towards a rather narrow pair of doors back into the airport. Those folks show no apparent interest for someone trying feverishly to keep his luggage cart on track.
- Get on a long escalator up to Departures in Hall B. Where are the United counters. Good thing I remembered the counter numbers from earlier (501-507). Eventually, I found the United counters in a corner dominated by almost 50 Lufthansa counters.
- Be pleasantly surprised that there is absolutely no line at the United counters. The counter personnel was visibly bored when I arrived. My two suitcases weighted in with a total of 47kg. No complaint from behind the counter. Phew.
- Continue on to Hall C, hang left through a barely marked door into a hallway with a few stores.
- The end of the hallway is fenced off, turn left following signs to C2-26
- Finally, the security check ... uh, wait. All doors are closed? My face must have looked pretty dumb. So the security check is closed. What now?
- Eventually I see more signs to gates C2-26 that lead into departure hall C [huh???] , through the hall into a new hall that was apparently added later and is not in operation yet.
- I turn around head back to the departure hall and get a book and something to drink.
- Walking by finished but empty counters I continue through the new hall, hang right, past closed store fronts with workers still building the stores inside.
- Make a sharp left turn and hang right into a somewhat dimly lit corridor with open ceiling, past construction walls.
- The coolest part was a large tarp hanging under the ceiling with a drain pipe into a waste bin. Apparently water is leaking from the roof into the corridor.
- Continue to the end of that corridor and hang left into another smaller corridor, down a short escalator.
- Finally, the security check for gates C7-9.
- No-one in line, I'm through in no time and find myself a seat near C7.

Boarding starts in 20 minutes. Time to pack away the computer and get in line to the gate area.

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