flight

Entry Info

As you probably know, Israel has serious diplomatic problems with the neighbouring countries and if you have a certain evidence of entering Israel, some Muslim countries such as Syria and Lebanon wouldn't allow you to enter their territory. (So far, you can enter Jordan and Egypt WITH an Israeli stamp on your passport as they formally established diplomatic relationships)

As I mentioned at the previous entry about Amman, the backpackers travelling around this area have two options to avoid this problem; asking "no stamp" at the Israeli passport control and taking the risk of a lengthy interrogation OR going to Syria and Lebanon beforehand and submitting the passport without reluctance. I chose latter as the troubles for the "No stamp" process would bother me although most travellers prefer the former. Besides, it would be funny to have an Israeli stamp next to the Syrian one.

As Israel is exposed to the threat of terrorism, the severe security check began even before the boarding process at Istanbul airport. When I was queuing for the check-in counter, two Israeli officers started a passport inspection with some questions. And one of the officer's hands became completely motionless when he checked my passport. Indeed I had pages of stamps of Syria and Lebanon which are officially at war with Israel. Besides, they look glum with the other Arabic letters such as Egypt and UAE.

After this, they totally changed their attitude and questioned me about every detail starting from my purpose of the trip, family structure, occupation, how I managed to save up such a large amount of money for the trip and the like. I just answered the questions as I hadn't done anything wrong but due to the delay caused by this inspection, I had no time to stay at the airport lounge. The flight time was only 2 hours which was shorter than the whole procedure at the airport. As Turkey faces Israel over the Mediterranean, it's very close in fact.

At the Tel Aviv airport's passport control, literaly the final gate of Israel, I presented my passport without any hesitation. However, the officer became motionless again when she was checking the other stamps. After some exemplary questions, she picked up her headset and started talking. After a little while the other officer came and I was instructed to follow him. Well, it seemed like I was sent to the special room for suspected people. Besides, my passport was still in the officer's hand at the gate. Though it's a special room, the space looked like a waiting room separated by a partition from the main area and some people were already nervously sitting on the hard chairs which are very typical at airports.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there was wi-fi available at the area and I could kill my time by tweeting my situation in real time (on reflection, I wonder they might have censored my network traffics) but after waiting and waiting my name was not called at all. It looked like it all depended on the officers' judgment who is to be picked up. I noticed some people who came after me were called immediately but some had been waiting since before my arrival. Although a few people demonstrated their irritation, I tried to be calm but expose a little anxiety. Anyway, in the worst case, I could've been expelled from the country but it would've become a part of my funny travel talk likewise the other accidents.

After 2 hours or so, finally my name was called and a beautiful female officer took me to her office for the private interrogation. Some of my friends had told me before, Israel government intentionally choose beautiful people for the personnel who have chances to contact with foreigners and I suppose it could be true from this experience. Sitting in a tiny room, a beautiful lady was asking me a lot of private question. What a bizarre situation it was.

The questions were basically the same as the ones at the departure gate of the Istanbul airport for double check. Anyway I have no reason to tell any lies and just answered the question again. But her attitude was so cute and cunning. For the reason of the trip to Syria, I answered "I'm travelling around the world at the moment and interested in the culture of this area. But some countries such as Syria would refuse me if I had the Israeli stamp. So I decided to go there before Israel." and she commented "Oh, I didn't know that" with a mean smile. How come she was acting so sadistically yet enchantingly? "Well, Israel is a good country because you can enter with the Syrian stamp?" YES, absolutely.

After all, the interrogation finished in 15 minutes and she handed me my passport with a sheet of paper saying "Ok, you can go. Bring this paper to the passport control." It was an indulgence; just passing the sheet of paper I finally entered Israel. But I realised a very important fact that I hadn't gotten the stamp on my passport. I'd heard it would be possible to ask "no stamp" at the airport. But I hadn't had the faintest idea of applying it for me. I rather wanted to get the one though, it was for the best; I'll be able to travel to the other Muslim countries later.

Entry Info

Lufthansa First Class Terminal I dreamt ofI stayed at Five Elements Hostel in Frankfurt and I liked this accommodation very much. Probably one of the best hostels so far in this whole trip. Though the bed room is very neat too, I must mention about the sophisticated café space located at the ground floor. For its simple and modern design, you can't believe the hostel costs only 18 EUR for one night. Nevertheless, the price range at the café is as reasonable as the other budget hostels; I always stayed here, drank beer and browsed the Internet in the evening[KO1] . Although I didn't go much sightseeing at Frankfurt, I felt like there more than home thanks to the hostel.

 

And the main event at Frankfurt is Lufthansa First Class Terminal of my dream. I mentioned this story before and I've been longing to visit here for more than 4 years. Yes, the dream came true.

I arrived at the normal terminal as I used the train to go to the airport and anyway checked in there. At the counter, the staff gave me a pass to the first class "lounge" but I asked her about the terminal with very indirect speaking like "Well, I heard you have a nice terminal for the first class passengers." And she assured me I can use the terminal if I don't mind going there on foot for 10 minutes. I don't mind it at all of course. Without the luggage, 10 minutes waking is the same as nothing.

 

Lufthansa First Class Terminal I dreamt ofIt was bit difficult to find the building though, finally I arrived there. In front of the building I couldn’t find anyone around but a person in charge came to me immediately after using the intercom. According to her, they didn’t really think about people who walked from the main terminal as the visitors usually use their own cars or taxis. Well, the reason is so plausible that I couldn't blame their assumption.

 

In order to enter the building, I had to pass the departure procedure as it was a terminal of a sort. Nevertheless, once the personal assistant took my passport, what I had to do was only passing the security gate. Although there was only one gate available, basically there are few visitors there and no queues. After that, the assistant offered me a guided tour around the terminal and I decided to go with her.

 

Lufthansa First Class Terminal I dreamt ofIncredibly, the shower room had a decent bath tub. What's more, the shower booth and the tub were completely separated and the room was spacious enough as though I can make my living there. In terms of amenities, the sets of Etro's mini bottles looked very luxurious while there are usually big bottles attached to the booth in the other terminals. Besides, you can enjoy the tub with a duck. I couldn't recall when I'd had such a gorgeous bath time before this.

 

Lufthansa First Class Terminal I dreamt ofAfter getting refreshed with the bath, of course it was the time for the meals. Prosciutto, salmon, shrimp cocktail, it seemed like a buffet table at a luxurious hotel. How come there are more than one kind of prosciuttos? I reckon the volume and luxuriousness of this terminal far surpassed the other places I ever stayed before. Although I had no time to order the real course menu, I was quite satisfied with the delicious finger foods and exquisite sweets.

 

Lufthansa First Class Terminal I dreamt ofWhen the boarding time came, I had a chance to use a limousine service as the first class terminal is located far from the normal gate. Though there are many luxurious German cars such as Mercedes S class, surprisingly a Porsche Cayman came to me since presumably I was quite young and they brought a cool sport car. Of course, this was the first time to get into a Porsche. Maybe the car wasn’t customized for sports driving too much and it was quite comfortable in the passenger seat. Though there was only a 5 minute drive it was a very exciting moment indeed.

 

Lufthansa First Class Terminal I dreamt ofThe aircraft was not really impressive as it was just a middle distance haul but the quality of their service was quite high. Especially, I loved the chocolate after the dinner. As a chocoholic, I had been already captivated by the chocolates in this area. I'm very much looking forward to the next long visit there at this summer. Despite some troubles before this day, all in all I was satisfied with the trip with Lufthansa.

 

At last, I arrived at Cairo. Though I'd already visited Dubai, as the city was bit special, I should say the trip around Middle East finally began. This 2 month trip from Egypt to Turkey on land would become the most backpacker-like trip in my whole route.

Entry Info

8th (Sat)
May 2010

[day52] Jump to Amsterdam

Oh, again. I missed a flight! And even worse, Lufthansa labour union was planning to hold a strike from the next day and the airport was in total chaos. Following the advice from the gate staff I went to the ticket office but there was a shockingly long queue. It took me more than 2 hours until my turn finally came even though I was in a priority lane. During the time, I was trying to sort out the problems. I must not boast this though, I'm very good at confronting any kind of troubles.

First of all, what concerns me the most was the flight I'd missed. In fact, I had a previous experience of missing a flight with a discount ticket and at the time the ticket became invalid. (I've sworn it would never happen again!) What would happen in case of the award flight? Plus, the checked in luggage made me uneasy too. Had it been loaded and left me to Cairo, it must be very difficult to retrieve the backpack. Besides, I had to cancel the airport pick up service from the accommodation in Cairo.

I asked the first two questions to the staff in the counter and regarding the award flight they didn't know the details but they said my agency should handle it. What was the agency anyway? I organised this trip by myself but she repeated "the agency is the agency." About the luggage, Frankfurt Airport has a system which tracks the passengers and unless a passenger is on board his luggage won't be loaded too. The staff secured my luggage and arranged to send it to the carousel. Anyway I felt quite assured as the financial damage will be minimum.

I managed to send an urgent cancelation email to the accommodation with Kindle during the waiting time in front of the carousel. It was positively surprising that Kindle's internet function was finally made full use of. After retrieving the luggage, I joined the queue again at the ticket office to solve the question of 'the agency'. This time, I repeated the question patiently and the staff said "It's the agency which you book the flight." Oh, well it must be ANA.

Well it was Frankfurt airport. I dashed for the ANA counter. However, the answer at the counter was that award flights were not their area and I had to make a phone call to their service centre. Anyway, I got the phone number from them and connected to Skype by airport's paid wi-fi.

According to the operator, if I waited for 8 days, they can arrange an alternative flight at business even though it was a part of award flights. What's more, it was actually possible to book at first class with 10 days waiting. Oh, I couldn't be happier with this result as I'd actually resigned myself to the worst case that whole trip become void. The dream of Lufthansa first class terminal become feasible again.

Besides, the Cairo's accommodation gave me a kind reply which said that they didn't mind as long as I inform about the alternative flight. What amazing consequences they were! Almost no financial damage occurred even though I missed a flight.

The last thing I had to consider was how to spend these 10 days in Europe. I'd once thought of visiting friends in Germany and Switzerland but after careful consideration, I noticed that FITC (a big flash conference) was going to be held on the next day at Amsterdam. I must've been guided by the god of designing.

Once I decided what the next action is, I moved very quickly. Thanks to "Last Minutes Ticket Center", I secured a flight to Amsterdam. Also, during the waiting time at the gate, I booked the accommodation and contacted some Japanese people who were going to join the conference. Only 4 hours later since I called ANA, I arrived at Amsterdam airport. I would like to applaud myself for this recovery.

Nevertheless at the carousel something wrong happened again. The checked-in luggage didn’t appear at all and finally the carousel stopped completely. How come this knockabout? This is my first time of the lost baggage. Since I had almost all valuable things such as the camera and laptop with me and wore warm clothes, I could survive without the luggage. But not having a backpack, I felt quite insecure in the unfamiliar city. "Probably, we can find your bag in a few days", said the lady at the desk and tried to trust her, I headed to the accommodation.

It was already after midnight when I arrived the hostel. Phew, such a long day it was.

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