We reached Frankfurt airport about nine in the morning.
It’s a huge airport with a North American size footprint. In other words, it sprawls. We’d been flying over a large river, either the Main or the Rhine, I’m not sure which, as we neared our destination. As we were preparing to land I looked out my window and there beside us, looking like it was only a few wing tips away, was another jet, obviously doing exactly what we were doing – preparing to land. We flew parallel paths, both descending at the same pace. I watched it until we were so low that the trees between the two runways obscured the other plane. Now what was cool. Like looking across the room and seeing your twin.
In the North American airports I’ve been to planes taxi up to the terminal building after landing and passengers disembark into a sky bridge that is hooked up to the terminal building. Not in Frankfurt. Our plane taxied into space in a plane parking lot and we left the cabin via a portable staircase. We were transported to the terminal via a bus. The bus was obviously constructed to be a mass people mover, because there weren’t many seats and most of our jumbo jet’s passengers had to stand. That was probably a good thing after being scrunched up in a narrow little plane seat for six hours.
The bus dumped us out at what looked like a basement area that hadn’t been cleaned in ages. The patina of grime covering everything gave the area a feeling of being unimportant. This was utilitarian at it’s best. In fact, it was the customs area. A uniformed man, looking bored, was seated in a glassed in area. Tired, stiff passengers staggered off the bus and ambled toward his window where perfunctory questions were asked, our passports stamped, and we were welcomed to the European Union. After that we wandered into the main part of the airport, which was considerably cleaner than customs, and tried to figure out where our connecting flight would be found.
Like I said, the Frankfurt airport has a huge footprint and I think that customs was at one end and our flight at the other. It seemed that way, anyway. The Lufthansa Frankfurt to Athens run we were booked on wouldn’t take off until hours later, so it wasn’t a problem that we had to walk down passageways, take an elevator, use a moving sidewalk and sometimes get lost on our trek to find our gate. We discovered it in a new part of the airport, so our wait was as pleasant as an airport wait can be.
Once we were in the general area we were supposed to be in, we found a small café for a snack and a beer – okay, it was 11:00 am, but it was Germany! We had to try out a local beer, right? Absolutely. Once we’d been fed and watered, we found our gate and settled in on typical airport plastic seating to wait.
By now it was my bedtime (somewhere around 5:00 am my time) but we had that connecting flight to catch and besides, there was that beer. I have to admit that I did try to snooze on that damn hard chair, but to no avail. I gave up and read instead. The clock ticked around toward our departure time. The seats around us remained empty and no airline personnel showed up to set up the departure gate. We began to get worried. What was going on?
At some point between when we sought it out just after our arrival and the departure time, the gate had been changed. Okay, not a big deal, except that it was now way back in an older part of the airport, back the way we’d come. The change meant we had to hustle to get to the new location in time. We arrived just as our seat numbers were being called, so it was a little bit of a heart stopper, but we were to have worse on our way home.
Frankfurt to Athens is a two-hour flight (2,435 klicks). The Lufthansa people fed us lunch with lots of wine and great chocolate. Unfortunately I didn’t get a window seat for this trip, so I couldn’t get a sense of the terrain we were flying over once we were in the air. I did see the Athenian coastline as we were descending and the plane banked for a turn. Gorgeous blue water and golden beaches. Lovely.