My horoscope in this morning’s paper said, ‘Keep both feet on the ground today.’ I know astrology is total rubbish, but perhaps I should have waited till the stars were correctly aligned before trying to get to Lithuania.
At Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport the information board said my flight to Frankfurt had been cancelled. Apparently the plane was ‘kapot’. No-one wants to fly in a kapot plane. Fotunately the nice Lufthansa people switched me to a later KLM flight, assuring me I could still make my connecting flight to Vilnius. KLM took off as scheduled, flew without technical difficulty and, since I was carrying hand luggage only, I was able to whip through into Frankfurt Airport. Now what?
Frankfurt Airport is big enough to be a separate nation state. I had 53 minutes to get to Terminal 1, Gate A42. ‘You need the Skytrain,’ the man at the transfer desk told me. I’m nervous about these trains with no driver, but the Skytrain did deliver me to Terminal 1, and stopped when it arrived. I headed for ‘Gates A 1-60’, but was detained at security by a large gentleman in a turban and red jacket.. ‘This is a ticket, not a boarding pass.’
‘I know. I was supposed to be on a Lufthansa flight from Amsterdam, but…’
‘You must to check-in counter.’
‘But my flight is leaving in…’
‘Is around the corner – by Gates B.’
‘But my flight leaves in…forget it.’
I ran to Check-in, wrestled the automatic machine and finally got the better of it. A boarding card was in my hand, with my name on it, but no seat number.
The turban man let me through. Gate A42 turned out to be at the far end of the terminal, somewhere back near the Dutch border.
Five minutes to go. I ran again, past A6, A8, A10… I noticed that Frankfurt airport staff themselves get around the terminal on bikes. A28, A30…
…A42! Pant, pant! I was in time to hear the announcement in English, ‘Due to late arrival of our aircraft, Flight 3254 to Vilnius has been delayed…’
An hour later I had a seat number, and we were flown to Vilnius.
The sun takes a long time to set when you get this far north, so I was in no hurry. At the airport kiosk I bought a bus ticket to Vilnius Central train station. It cost 2 litas (about 60 US cents). Bus 1 arrived on schedule. Everyone was very friendly. A fellow passenger chatted to me in Lithuanian the whole way into town and offered me a swig of his beer can.
Three hot air balloons were hovering in the sunset above Vilnius train station. l got out of the bus and walked, following my handdrawn sketchmap I’d copied from Google Maps. I couldn’t find the names of any of the streets I’d noted down, but in Vilnius’s handsome city square, people sat on the terraces, drinking beer and eating pizza. This looked good.
Suddenly there was a street name I recognised, ‘Ausros Vartu’ and, yes there was my hotel. All was well with the world.
Think of the fun I would have missed if I’d kept my feet on the ground. Those astrologers must just make it all up.