A Travellerspoint blog

Day One – Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Melbourne Australia to Warsaw Poland.

View Andy's Trip to Eastern Europe on Andy_in_Europe's travel map.

And we're off!

The plane was fully booked according to the online map of the Emirates Boeing 737-800 as I checked in (Melbourne, Australia) with those clichéd traveller pangs that I’d left “that thing’ behind -- ironically, the answer to this question is you are leaving everything behind. I selected 45C, which means you are sitting near the back of any commercial jet.

I have this internal calculation with numbers, letters, and words whereby I use numerology, maths, and resonance, whereby the names of things can show you the way.

4+5 = 9 (3x3)
C= 3rd letter of the alphabet
Observable synchronicity in the number 3.

There was no seat behind 45C (the aisle widens), so I considered not having children’s feet or a person indecisively slapping their tray table up and down like a wave machine as an upgrade.

The check-in world online and seating plan was greyed out with ‘x’ marks creating faceless passengers. At this point, I have no idea who I might be seated next to, thus introducing the opportunity to be in for that surprise. I board the 737-800 jet, departing at 2.25 am for Singapore, Dubai, and then my destination, Warsaw, Poland. Boarding the plane in Melbourne, I can’t wait till I get to my row, and my maths brain is calculating ahead, and I’m scanning row 45 for who is sitting next to me. They are empty.

The last departing announcements start playing, and they have closed the doors to the plane, and I look to the left to me and grin. I have three seats (observable synchronicity) on an economy flight. This means kids that I won’t have to try and sleep sitting upright with a $35 travel pillow. I have three headphones, three pillows and three blankets. All I feel like is sleeping, so I make my bed by folding all the chair arms up, stacking said pillows next to the window, and wrapping myself like a kebab in Emirates flight blankets.

A married couple seated behind me, 46B & 46C, whom I don’t know, are travelling to rekindle their romance on their trip to Paris and a planned guided trek of the southern French Alps. They discuss my comfort levels in economy class and hear the man say to his wife, “Genius. Next time darling, we will book three seats together to experience economy travel like this man in the next row.

I grinned, too tired to offer the voices a reply and slept 90% of the first leg to Singapore like I was in business class till they woke me for breakfast with only 90 minutes remaining on an 8-hour flight. You don’t usually sleep properly folded upright on aeroplanes in Economy. Still, I had, so I could only consider that passengers would have been exposed to my incessant sleep-talking and had some flatulence with their turbulence.

Singapore was warm, and honestly, I didn’t look outside or notice what the weather or day was doing. We reboarded in the same plane after it had been serviced and cleaned. I was still ticketed in 45C to Dubai and told by the queue length to go via another security checkpoint; I sensed the two empty seats next to me would be packed for the next leg from Singapore to Dubai. And I was right. A beautiful young Indian couple who could have easily starred in their Bollywood movie welcomed me back to my seat from 45B & 45A. I was wide awake, with no need to recline or sleep; I opened my Kindle app on my phone and started reading “Scars of Justice – A Casey Thomas Novel” by John S Malnor.

This book has special significance. During covid, I wrote a sci-fi novel (draft) and was introduced to the most beautiful bunch of people on planet Earth I fondly call (with an accent) The Americans. John is a competent writer and mentor who has been the glue and leader in all things administration and motivation. It’s hard to believe there are not three of him with his writing and everything he’s involved with. It’s exceptional to write and PUBLISH a book, but it’s as unique reading a book from a person whom you know and have developed a rapport with. The Scars of Justice is John’s second book, and he's working on his third. Thanks for all your writing, compassion and hard work, John; it’s a good novel. Look it up on Amazon!

The Indian couple beside me are fascinating. They are on their honeymoon from London (UK) and have been to the Maldives, Singapore, with their last stop in Dubai. The young man 45B was what I call an F1 tragic (like myself), so we immediately hit it off, talking about all things Formula One. We land in Dubai; all I can think about is human trafficking. Thanks, John, haha.

It's 45 degrees Celsius in Dubai, and my synchronicity has taken an awful turn for the worse. I can’t see anything as we landed into this incredible sand and dust storm that reminded me of that scene from The Mummy, where a skinny version of Brendan Fraser is trying to escape an ominous wave of sand. Dubai Airport is enormous. I’m unsure if it rivals LAX (Los Angeles, USA) in size, but I tried several photos down the long travelators that seem infinite, like when you place two mirrors facing one another. I check my next boarding pass and the colossal display boards for my departure gate. Dubai is a silent airport. Impossible, I thought. Have you heard a jet taking off? No, what they mean is that there are no announcements for flights. It’s brilliant. No three-tone introductions to messages over loudspeakers in 22 different languages that have nothing to do with you. I check my seat, and it's 27D.

2+7=9 (3x3) but… D??? That’s the 4th letter of the alphabet, so this a break in the synchronicity, but why? What does this mean? I feel a sense of trepidation when things break, so I am paying particular attention to everything. Dubai to Warsaw, the gate lounge is filled with a language I know the sound of well. Polish. I get a little giddy as what has been a 23-year trip in the making (my last visit was in 2000) finally seems real, and the only thing in the way now is this D at the end of my ticket. Hmmm. They start calling the flight to board by row number, so I join the queue of Polish citizens when it’s my turn and wait for the female attendant to receive my pass. I hand the boarding pass to the attendant, who immediately tears it up and smiles. Here comes the D! What does this mean? Are they telling me I no longer have a seat? Why is the attendant so happy about not letting me on the aircraft?

“Mr Betts, we are upgrading you to business class!” She hands me a freshly printed boarding pass that says BUSINESS, and the seat allocation is 1D. I am back massaging the pilot! The last three times I have flown internationally with Emirates, I have been upgraded from Economy to Business class. I think someone has hacked the system or is trying to pry customers away from Qantas, whom I’m a frequent flyer with. I tell friends my travel stories, and I don’t blame them for not believing most of them. It’s ridiculous. I board the plane and watch all the other passengers trek past my extra-wide seat while sipping a glass of French champagne. They are all giving me that “what a wanker” look. They didn’t all know I was upgraded, but there’s something about what seems like entitled folk who talk and act differently in the front section of planes where the class system is fully displayed. Please get to the back, you peasants, I hear in my head as an announcement. It was probably welcome on board in Arabic – the primary language of Emirate flights and proceeds all English. Even the safety briefing is in Arabic, but I can translate. Pretty sure it’s peasants to the back, wankers to the front.

The woman sitting next to me is an animated version of a supermodel from Vogue magazine. Young, vibrant, brunette, tanned, showing off more skin and body parts allowed in the United Emirates (UAE) and rocking a smile that most of us would need a second mortgage to afford. Her Gucci style and the way she navigates the seat next to me, this isn’t her first rodeo. I refrain from gawping sideways to gain more information for this travelogue and research purposes only. We taxi onto the runway and then stop. It’s 45 degrees outside, and another dust storm arrives, curtailing our departure. The pilot apologises for not only the delay but a function of most jets which is the air conditioning cooling the plane doesn’t work in our holding status. As the minutes tick by, the cabin temperature rises, and the young supermodel next to me suggests we will all be naked if this keeps up and removes what is undoubtedly her last remaining layer of clothing. It’s a sauna; they aren’t letting anyone leave their seats. Kids are crying, probably because their parents are so poor in Economy class and imagining we have a more comfortable experience at the sharp end of the plane. Nope, same air-conditioning and all of us inhaling each other's farts in a pressurised tin can. Flying is glamorous.

The supermodel is anxious. She tells me she wants to check on her parents, who are seated in Economy. It seems a ridiculous situation that will require more thought, and in this heat, with the champagne kicking in, I am trying to fill in more of her backstory by osmosis. I’m sweating, and she is glowing and stretching in her seat, which I could only identify as ASANA Yoga. She has imbibed all of her Perrier water, and she is staring at me, you know, that way. She wants my water as well, and strangely I pictured myself shrivelling up like a dried apricot and being helpless to resist her unbelievable gaze of wanting. Wanting my Perrier water kids.

The storm passes, and we finally take off for our destination, which is six and a half hours away. The cabin temperature cools as we all slip into something more comfortable. Well, not those crammed peasants in the back who sound like sheep off to the abattoir. I’m presented with a dining and drinks menu and real cutlery. Garden Salad with balsamic dressing, Poached cod with fennel, and Chicken Chasseur, completed with a banana-infused Tiramisu. Another champagne? I must collect a rental car in Warsaw and drive at night, in the rain in a city I don’t know, on the wrong side of the road. Cheers.

Turns out the woman next to me is the partner of a famous golfer who won the Australian Open. A golf widow and loving it. She is flying business class because her husband pays for her too. Her parents, who are Polish, are not provided with the same upgrade when they all travel together. The backstory is solved, I can die and go to heaven. Back to Casey Thomas's adventures and human trafficking, then a documentary about Mathias Lauder and Rob Hunt – sons of the famous F1 driving pair who fought one of the best battles in F1 in 1977. Nikki Lauder and James Hunt. Their sons were racing against one another at Donington Park Raceway (UK) to honour their fathers’ comradeship and rivalry in a sport that takes no prisoners.

We land in Warsaw, and I’m first off the plane. I’m greeted in Polish as I stroll towards customs. A lot has changed since 2000, even the airport, I remember. Travelling to Eastern Bloc countries before they became a member of the EU was grey and militarized, as you see in the spy movies. The customs man who took my passport smiled. Was he going to rip it up and send me to a Gulag? No. He wished me a great holiday, and I strolled towards a set of doors I had dreamed about for 23 years. My eyes welled with tears, and part of me wished she had changed her mind about not meeting me at the airport. Stubborn little bear. I’m sorry for those of you reading this, as it may feel like cryptic misdirection. Underlying this whole trip is an incredible love story, albeit the end of one. Broken pieces of this will fall out of me later. Chin up, it’s a holiday.

I was pleased they hadn’t lost my bag on its separate journey from Melbourne to Warsaw. On my last trip in 2000, they lost my luggage when I flew the Polish National Airline, LOT – or what I translated to as “Lost Our Things.” I had rented a car for 26 days through Budget, but they had gone home on arriving at the counter to collect it at 8.45 pm (7.30 pm was my original arrival time). Not just gone home, but pissed off at 6.30 pm after advising me via e-mail that they would track my flight and ensure someone would be at the counter to perform the transaction. Swear word.

No one to meet me, and no car. I catch a taxi, and the driver speaks no English, so I can’t share anything about what I have been doing for the past 26 hours, let alone the past 23 years. He drives the cab like he’s stolen it as we wind down unfamiliar streets and boulevards. It doesn’t feel like the Eastern Europe I remember, as he drops me off at my hotel and tries to find the English that he doesn’t accept the credit cards displayed on his cab. That old chestnut. I’m tired, emotional and am not playing his zloty-only game. He digs out a machine from the glove box and swears in Polish. I don’t speak enough Polish to care about his problem. I arrive at my hotel reception, am given an upgrade to my room, 601, and get into an automated lift with no internal buttons. At least the instructions are in English. I’m in Poland in Schindler's Lift. Yes, I heard a few of you groan, but I love movies and Dad jokes.

I go straight to bed to work and align myself as best I can to the time zone. I’m tired, and it’s late at night, so that’s a great start.

End of day one.

Posted by Andy_in_Europe 04:37 Archived in Poland

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