Three words: what a mess!! Actually everything worked out for us. Security was no problem at Heathrow, despite the check-in and bag drop area being packed. We were near the back of the line, but someone started calling out, “If your flight is leaving at 7:55 or earlier, follow me!” She was right next to us, so we got right behind her and told her that our flight was leaving at 7:55. She took us to a new line, where we were third instead of at the back, to get our bags checked. Security was quick, we stopped by our trusty Terminal 5 Starbucks for latte and a brie and cranberry chutney sandwich for breakfast, then boarded our flight. The entire time, we had our fingers crossed that our flight would still take off.
And it did, only a half an hour late. We landed in Hamburg and grabbed our luggage, quickly rented a car (paid extra for snow tires), and sped off on our ways. Our first
impression of Germany: there is so much snow here! The guy behind the Hertz counter told us it had snowed the night before, so the snow was fresh. It was bitterly cold, so cold that the snow puffed up around our feet like clouds with every step. The small roads had a nice layer of snow on them, but the freeways were pretty clear. On the way down to Leipzig, which was about 400km from Hamburg, there were at least 3 accidents, which of course caused some delays. We also stopped at a Restenplatz (rest area) to refuel, go to the bathroom, and grab a quick bite to eat. In all, it took us about 5 hours to make the journey, which I thought wasn’t bad considering the accidents, our quick stop, and the fact that we got a bit lost finding the hotel in Leipzig, since our Google Maps directions took us the wrong direction near the end.
When we got in and went to check in with the competition organizer, we realized we were only the third couple to check in. The organizer told us everyone was delayed because of the snow, with some still stuck in London. That night at the welcome party, there were only about twelve couples there, but more were on their ways.
The next morning, during a break between the invigilation round and our first round, the former world champions, Gherman Mustuc and Iveta Lukosuite, finally arrived. We’ve known Gherman and Iveta for a long time, so as we stretched and got ready to dance, they told us their story:
They had also flown into London, where they got stuck. Their flight was supposed to be in the afternoon. Every flight to Germany out of Heathrow was cancelled. Gherman showed me a picture of the flight screen on his phone. Neither they nor we had ever seen anything like it, where every flight listed on the board is flashing red “Cancelled” signs. He told us they cancelled every flight to Germany on Friday after 8:00 am. What time was our flight on Friday? 7:55!! We took off and made it to Germany literally by 5 minutes! Gherman and Iveta, meanwhile, were not so lucky. They rebooked to Zurich, where they were hoping to rent a car. No luck; none of the rental car companies would give them a car to take across the border. They took a taxi from Zurich to Munich that cost about €1,000; then they boarded a train from Munich to Leipzig, where Iveta did her hair and makeup on the train! They arrived at the Leipzig Congress Center where the competition was held and danced the first round; only after that were they able to go back to the hotel and sleep.
What’s crazy about this whole experience is that originally, we were rebooked to Berlin at 1:00pm, and we specifically changed to Hamburg at 7:55am because we were worried about further delays. Had we kept our Berlin flight, we would have been in Gherman and Iveta’s situation, and I don’t think we could’ve afforded a €1,000 taxi ride (or €500, if we had met up with Gherman and Iveta and shared the cab). We were so lucky. That’s when you know… somebody up there loves us!
Our first impressions of Germany? We love it! Even just walking through the airport, we felt so comfortable here. The people are so nice, the facilities everywhere are updated and clean; the countryside is beautiful, especially with the snow blanketing everything! Windmills are everywhere; not the traditional, stereotypical windmills, but the new ones that actually generate electricity, with their massive white-pole bases and their gargantuan white propellers. We went to the grocery store next to the hotel, and the food at this huge store was to die for! Freshly baked pumpernickel bread still hot from the oven, packed stuffed grape leaves and sundried tomatoes swimming in basil and olive oil, thinly sliced cured pork shoulder, brie cheese just as cheap as in France…. I could go on. And the alcohol! An entire section of the store is packed from floor to ceiling with crates of beer; there’s another section of the store stacked with wine; and another two or three aisles devoted just to spirits. Even at the checkout counters, they have those sample bottles of spirits on display for quick decision making. Another strange thing – you can buy packets of chewable caffeine pills at the checkout counter. Could you imagine?
We hardly spent any money on food, and we ate like kings. Even the included buffet breakfast at the hotel was scrumptious. There was not one thing we ate in Germany that we didn’t enjoy. Simeon said finally he found a place in Europe where he could move and be happy. I told him I could never move to Germany – I would get too fat!