Europe 2016-Day 35 & 36….Homeward Bound-Reflections of the past 5 weeks

We got up early and packed our bags for the last time.  We walked back to the train station.  It made more stops than the night before.  Jim kept getting up to make sure it wasn’t our stop as not well-marked.  At Mestre, the ticket machine for the Aeroporto bus was broke.  Jim found a shop that was open that sold the tickets, but cash with Euros only.  We looked at the schedule and it was bus 15 at 6:32am.  We waited and waited, several other buses came but no bus 15.  At 6:38am, it came zooming down the street and didn’t look like it was going to stop.  Jim stepped out in the street and began to wave his arms.  The bus screeched to a stop and we showed him our ticket.  We guess since he was late, he wanted to make up some time.  It was like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride all the way to the airport.


We found the Turkish Airline kiosk and used our NCL travel tags for identification.  The agent weighed the bags and we didn’t get charged, which we were expecting to be charged.  At security, you scan your ticket and then go through the line.  Jerie got searched as she set off the alarm.  You then go through a passport check and we got an Italy stamp.  We sat down, feeling pretty comfortable that we had made it to this point.  Cindy then remembered that she didn’t get her custom stamp for her Delft plate to receive a refund for the tax.  She and Jim, went back out through the passport area, but couldn’t find an exit.  Found a policeman, who would only let Cindy go to get the stamp.  He escorted her out past security.  She found the custom office, the agent didn’t even look at the merchandise, just stamped the book.  Went back to security and had the wrong boarding pass (Istanbul) and the Venice boarding pass had already been scanned, security had to find a police officer to escort her back to the passport area.  However, when Cindy was gathering her items at security she dropped her boarding pass.  Thankfully, security noticed the boarding pass and chased her down.  However, at passport check, they didn’t like that her book was already stamped, even though they were the ones that stamped it 20 minutes earlier.  Finally got back to where Jim and Jerie were sitting, with everyone a bit stressed.  Cindy told them about the boarding pass, and said “God loves us”.  Jim said, “You have no idea how much, because I set the alarm last night.  Woke up at midnight, with the thought of check your alarm.  I had set it for 4:50PM”.  So not sure with the stress of the entire situation was worth the $18.00 sales tax refund.

We boarded the Turkish Air plane and headed to Istanbul, Turkey.  Wow…they feed you really well.  It is only a 2 hour flight but we got breakfast.  Landed in Turkey, and we had to de-board the plane on the tarmac, hop on a bus, which took us to the terminal.  On the way to the terminal, our bus hit another bus.  Oh Jeez!!!

So we did set foot on Turkish soil, but we need to go back to get the entire experience.  In the Istanbul airport, there were 3 layers of security at the gate.  Once you passed through the first 2, you were not allowed to leave the glassed in boarding area.  Everyone starts to board the plane, and Jim is pulled aside and told that he has to re-screen.  Jerie and Cindy don’t know whether to get on the plane or wait, so it was a bit of limbo at the gate.  He finally gets through security and we are the last people to board the plane.  Once we were seated, we were glad that the drama of the morning was on one of the last days of our trip and not the first.  The plane ride is about 10 hours.  We were fed 2 meals and 2 snacks…have never been that full on a plane before.  We watched lots of movies and 2 FIFA soccer matches on the free TV.

When we arrived in Boston, Jerie’s bag is not in the custom area.  We go to the Turkish Air counter and they had just got an email, that the bag was left in Istanbul.  The bag will arrive the next day and they will FedEx to our house in Idaho.  Thankful that it got lost at the end of the trip.  By the time we get the bag issue settled, it is after 10pm.  We have a flight on Southwest in the morning, so decide to spend night in the airport.  The only place open was Dunkin Donuts, so we ate pop and donuts for dinner.  We found a quiet spot to eat our donuts.  There were rocking chairs nearby so we moved those to our corner.20160614_031337

We got settled for the night and a “homeless man” lays down in the opposite corner.  It’s all good, we can share space…..but he begins to snore LOUD.  Floor was clean, so laid down and put bag over ears.  About 2:20am it got really cold, so moved to chairs in front of the SW ticket counter.  Jerie went to the kiosk and got our boarding passes printed and we were expedited through the check bag line. This morning was one of only 3 morning we actually watched the sunrise in the past 5 weeks.  We landed in St Louis and are headed to Des Moines. Iowa.  Mechanical issue in Boston, delayed our flight and we made the connection with 8 minutes to spare.  This is the last official item on our trip schedule.  We are now headed to Iowa.  Our oldest daughter leaves there, and since Jerie went to college there, we have to pick up her personal items and head to Idaho.

It seems so surreal that the trip is coming to an end.  It went by so quickly and was so full of activities, that it almost is like it never happened.  If we get Jerie’s bag back, then the trip will be 100% a success. Many times we found things we didn’t know we lost.  We got the feeling to check on items and had inspiration to find our tours, trains, and hotels.

Jerie also has to say good-bye to her 6 year old niece, who she has been near for the past 4 years.  I don’t know who is sadder.

On the way to Idaho, we stopped in Wyoming in Hoback Canyon and celebrate the summer solstice.

So our European oddessy had come to an end but we learned some things…so here are our observations after 5 weeks and 17 countries.

  1.  Eurail Passes are awesome.  We would use them again
  2. Always read the reservation instructions.  In Europe, there might not be a reception area, but only a key drop
  3. Some cultures have no sense of personal body space
  4. Some cultures/languages are really Loud and sound Angry
  5. It is okay to be vigilante about checking and re-checking and checking again to make sure you have all your bags and papers.
  6. The world is not going to fall apart if you are gone/off the grid/not at work
  7. You can organize your own tour of Europe
  8. We discovered that Jerie has a very good parental tone that she uses on her parents
  9. People do not understand the proper way to use a buffet line
  10. We will never again complain about the cost of food at McDonald /Burger King as they are really inexpensive eating establishments in the US
  11. If you don’t know the language, then you can’t be offended if they swear at you
  12. Free public toilets are awesome and we will not take them for granted
  13. There is no sense of body decency…nude beaches, statues, and advertisements. Obviously we have different ideas in the US
  14. The United States has no idea how a McCafe should be operated
  15. Europe is very active for having visible police/military presence, but lax on baggage security at train stations and airports
  16. Hard to find “on the go” food options, that aren’t crepes, croissants, fries, pretzels, or dunner boxes.  We love all of those, but not for 5 weeks
  17. To take a picture in Europe, you have to pose as a model in 20 different poses,  position your hair in 10 different styles, and then switch places, while everyone else waits for you, so they can take a picture
  18. We are not good at quick currency conversion math
  19. It is interesting watching a movie in another language and coming up with what you think the plot is
  20. We need to do more historic research, before we go somewhere without being on a tour
  21. Tourist don’t read or follow instruction, for example…Don’t fill your water bottles at the drink machines.  They stick their bottle on the dispenser…ewww…we don’t want your germs
  22. Being a semi-germaphobe, you can survive in Europe, with 1 large packet of baby wipes, 1 container of Clorox wipes, 2 add’l containers bought along the way.  Never be embarrassed to wipe something off
  23.  In every country we visited, we heard the same theme, immigrants need to assimilate to that country’s culture.  There is great national pride in Europe
  24. Graffiti is much worse in Europe than the US
  25. Venice was our least favorite city.  It is a tourist trap.  However, the countryside of Venice, reminded us of California.
  26. Take clothes pins to hold your towel on your beach chair.

Jim and Cindy’s final hope is that Jerie will remember the past 36 days fondly.  That as she reads these blogs, she will smile and laugh. It was exciting, exhausting, sometimes frustrating, but always adventurous.  Even though we lived the adventure, we are still awestruck that we pulled it off.  High Five to us!!  On to the next adventure, we don’t want life to ever be boring.