Across Northern Europe: A Trip to the Airport

There were potatoes, chick peas and cauliflower cooking in green curry and coconut milk on a stove in Copenhagen, Denmark tonight. The potatoes were taking too long to cook and my flight to Berlin left at 9:25pm and it was 8:00 by the time dinner was served. The food was scorching hot and tasty and after a week or muesli and bad, pricey Icelandic take-out it was quite nice. It was 8:10 when I hurried off to the train; the flight would stop checking people in at 8:45.

Trains in Denmark seem to come quite often when you have more than 35 minutes to get to the airport, but on this occasion the little board told me it would be 11 minutes until the next train. It turned out to be more like 13 and every minute was counting because I still had to switch at the main station.

At the main station it looked like another 10-15 minute wait and I was wondering what I’d do when I didn’t make my flight. But another train pulled in behind schedule and the conductor told me it was going to the airport and I got on with 17 minutes until my flight closed.

I don’t know how many times I’ve flown, I’d guess 200 or so. I’ve only come close to missing a flight once: Fall ’01 in San Antonio, TX when I slept through my alarm until 27 minutes before departure. I took a 20 minute cab ride, ran to the front of security and found a boarding pass waiting for me at the gate. That was in the weeks after 9/11 which only further cements it as my greatest airport triumph.

But tonight, there were just four minutes until my flight closed when the train reached the airport and my two bags went sprinting up the people mover and into Terminal 1 where the departure board informed me my flight was leaving from Terminal 2.

“I’m sorry, but where is Terminal 2?” I asked the barman by the arrivals gate.

“Just to the right, about two minutes away.”

I assume he meant two minutes if you sprint because that’s what I did all the way to Terminal 2. In my bags were two video cameras, two tripods, three microphones, five batteries, several items of clothing, a sleeping bag and assorted junk. I can’t remember if I’ve yet mentioned my significantly injured left foot?

In Terminal 2 there was a Departure board listing the check-in areas for each flight. It hung above stall 112 and listed my destination as stall 143.

I huffed up to 143 panting “Berlin, Berlin” and the lonely gate agent said, “You do realize the flight closes in less than a minute?” But he was asking rhetorically because it was obvious I knew.

He handed me a boarding pass at 8:45pm and as I walked away he said, “Don’t stop running until you’re on the plane.”

Around midnight in Berlin there were many hostels with many travelers already booked in. But I found one bed available for one night and hopped a leisurely train to the city center. The hostel was very nice and modern looking and the man at reception smiled as I walked in. But it turned out they had no beds because I had mistakenly gone to the hostel with no beds instead of the one with beds. The receptionist graciously called the hostel I meant to go to and informed me they didn’t have any beds either, after all.

Okay, ready? It’s time for the moral of our story. Because the guy who runs the hostel came over and suggested they just give me an available private room for the dorm room price because no one else was going to take it anyway. And so everything worked out because everything always works out and now I have my own place to stay that isn’t a tent in the cold on an uneven hill.

Previously on Across Northern Europe:

  1. Shining a Light on Iceland
  2. Lonely Love on Iceland
  3. Iceland Gone Wild

Brook Silva-Braga is traveling northern Europe for the month of August and reuniting with some of the people he met on the yearlong trip which was the basis of his travel documentary, A Map for Saturday. You can follow his adventure in the series, Across Northern Europe.