Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us!

Pasadena, CA, 91106
United States

A compilation of stories, telescopes, internship resources, and other things radio astronomy.

A (Ful)bright Future

Erster Tag Überraschungen

Olivia Wilkins

Alex and I landed safely at Frankfurt am Main around noon local time on Tuesday, July 28 after a delayed 7.25 hour flight. The flight was one of the many the Überraschungen we encountered in our erster Tag—at least for Alex.

We flew charter from BWI to Frankfurt; our tickets were about half the cheapest offered from other airlines two months out and were selling for just over $400 the day of the flight. We flew Condor, and our plane was operated by Omni Air International, a company neither of us had ever heard of. The only information Alex could find about Omni Air were two reviews of similar flights online, both of which complained of food sickness. Great.

Condor Boeing 767 operated by Omni Air International
Photograph taken at FRA by D. Hedinger

In the week leading up to our flight, Alex jested that we would have to keep our aircraft aflight by peddling, as if the plane would be some contraption that belonged to the Flintstones. We were very happy to find that the Boeing 767 was not only a modern machine, but our flight was the most comfortable either of us had ever taken. Both of us had plenty of legroom, with 7-10 cm to spare. (Okay, that isn't that much room, but it was really comfortable compared to having your knees jammed into the back of the seat in front of you!) The food was great, and neither of us got food poisoning! Our breakfast was of the German variety—a warm roll, fresh fruit, cheese, and slices of turkey ham... a great way to start the day!

At the Flughafen, we passed through customs easily, no questions asked—literally. The border officer checked our passports without saying a single word to us. As if border control weren't easy enough, we entered baggage claim and waited no more than 60 seconds for our baggage to appear! By far the easiest flying experience either of us has ever had.

Aerial view of Frankfurt Airport, Terminal 1
Photograph by Brücke-Osteuropa

Our next stop was Marburg an der Lahn, meaning we had to buy train tickets. From the fifth largest German city to a fairly large town over an hour away, day-of tickets weren’t all that expensive at 30€ for two tickets. However, Deutsche Bahn (DB) tickets do not list any itinerary, and we needed to change trains. „Ich habe Karten für Marburg aber ich weiß nicht welche Zug.“ Luckily, I know enough (broken) German at this point to get a train itinerary from the DB travel office! So far, this has been a breeze; the simplicity of this adventure is too good to be true!

The surprises didn’t stop at the flughafen, however. We caught the correct train to Frankfurt HBF with no problem and walked seven platforms to the train that would take us to Marburg. We found a car that accommodated Fahrräder, which gave us plenty of open space to stow our luggage opposite a pair of bicycles also on their way to Marburg. Moments before the train left, three men in their early 20’s hopped on the train into our car, now crowded with Fahrräder and Gepäck. They were interesting, to say the least.

Frankfurt HBF
Photograph used from Flickr

The first of the guys to board the train was tall and thin, with dark, brown hair that fell straight to his mid-neck. His flat, long face sported bright orange Sonnenbrille over a rather large beak-like nose. Over a red T-shirt, he wore a patched vest, made of logos and icons from every punk and metal band you could ever think of. The arms that came out of that vest were filled with a case of bier, which the guy plopped down on one of the two open seats before taking the other.

His lackeys were just as mismatched as his attire, and their luggage consisted of large backpacks filled with clothing and sleeping gear. The second guy to enter the train was about as normal looking as a guy can get, with short light brown hair, an olive green T-shirt and jeans. He plopped down a bright red lawn chair in front of our luggage, making use of my suitcase as a side-table for a bottle of water. The third and final guy to enter was short and not as skinny as the other two, with short, nearly black curly hair that he kept pushing out of his aviators. He, too, plopped down a lawn chair to match the other, leaving a 15 cm aisle between his chair and the bicycles on board.

As if the rag-tag crew’s seating arrangements weren’t entertaining enough, the three guys did something that you could not get away with in the States, especially on a train—they cracked open some beers. The guys happily chattered away, drinking their beer, laughing, and spilling a little bit. About 15 minutes into the train ride, the Normal-Looking-Guy pulled out a plastic pitcher, still in the plastic wrap from purchase. He opened the packaging, took out the pitcher, and—while attempting to remove the price sticker—immediately punched a hole in the bottom. The three of them burst into hysterics: half laughter and half panic at the certain loss of their alcohol pitcher as they tried to decide whether they could hold the lid to the bottom to prevent excess leakage.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Curly-Haired-Guy pulled out a roll of silver duct tape. For ten minutes, he crisscrossed tape over the gaping hole at the bottom of the pitcher before tightly wrapping layer upon layer around the lower half of the vessel to keep the patch in place. Proud of his accomplishment, he kept his ego in check, heading to the onboard WC to use Wasser from the sink to examine for leaks. Curly-Hair came back beaming, and the guys filled the pitcher with what we presumed to be a mixed concoction. They happily engulfed their libations, and their Geschwätz continued.

As the train continued on north of Frankfurt, snaking across the country with small picturesque towns populating the horizon, Curly-Hair stood up and began wrapping Zigaretten, lighter in hand, four stops before Marburg (Lahn). I was bracing for him to begin smoking on the train despite the multitude of no smoking notices lining the car. What he did instead was more shocking. At the next stop, he and Orange-Sunglasses jumped off the train for a smoke. They ran out ahead of other passengers exiting the train and passed the Zigarette until the last on-comer boarded. Then, they hopped back on the train just before it took off again. They did this at the rest of the stops before we got off at Marburg. Shortly before arriving in Marburg, the conductor passed through our car to check our Karten. When she walked passed our Bier-trinken Freunde, she laughed at what would be illegal in the states but is acceptable on DB regional trains. Deutschland was already proving to be a totally different country.