Tales from the Man who would be King

Rex Jaeschke's Personal Blog

Travel: Around the World in a Daze – Part 1, Milan

© 2008, 2024 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

After traveling continuously on business for eight months, from late August 2007 until the end of April 2008, I gave myself most of the next four months off. (Frankly, I found that working was highly overrated!) Of course, all good things must come to an end, so there I was in September with duty calling.

This time, I was off on a 14-day trip around the world (take that, Phileas Fogg), taking in Milan, Italy, and then Jeju, Korea. Frankly, it would have been preferable to go west rather than east, but, unfortunately, that wasn't an option. There was one good bit of news, however; I was seated in Business Class all the way.

Sound exotic? Want to trade places? Be careful what you wish for as you just might get it. Being wide awake in a hotel room from 2–6 am is no picnic, and neither is trying to stay awake and be productive mid-afternoon in a business meeting.

Now, for a trip like this, one must prepare in advance. In my case, I had a 6-day "practice" trip, going west, to Yokohama, Japan, 13 hours non-stop each way. I got back from that little jaunt six days before this new trip started. So just when I'd nearly recovered from that big time-change, I was trading one direction for another. So, sit back, relax and join me for a whirl around the world.

Preparing for the Trip

In the morning, I took care of some domestic chores, and got house guests Lis and Ivor breakfasted and off for a day of sightseeing in Washington DC. After lunch, I spent a few hours on business, and then casually tossed a few bits of clothing into my case along with my slippers, toothbrush, and razor.

At 4:30 pm, my cab arrived, complete with a driver from Kathmandu, Nepal. Like me, he'd recently gotten U.S. Citizenship. We chatted on the way to the airport. It was a glorious afternoon, and we had the windows down. Things were rather quiet at United's Business check-in counter. I was offered an upgrade to First Class for the first leg for a paltry $650! I politely declined. (As it turned out, the plane was a Boeing 767, and First Class was only marginally better than Business as it had only reclining seats rather than convertible beds.)

I moved through security rather quickly, and caught the shuttle to Terminal D. There, I settled into a comfortable leather seat in United's Red-Carpet Club, and sipped a tall cup of English Toffee coffee. Next to me sat a mother and daughter from Florida. They were traveling to St. Andrews, Scotland, where the daughter was about to start a 4-year university program.

The Flight Over the Pond!

At 6 pm, I headed to Gate 15, where boarding of premier passengers began just as I arrived, so I walked right on-board. I settled into center-aisle Seat 6C. The configuration across was 2-2-2. I had legroom to burn! Flight UA953 to Frankfurt, Germany, took off on time, at 6:53, and soon we were headed northeast. Warm nuts and drinks were served once we leveled off. I watched the movie "Deception," starring Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman. It was time well spent.

Dinner was served during the movie. First came some smoked salmon and salami slices with vegetable crudité and sun-dried tomato dressing. That was followed by a garden salad with a choice of two dressings. The main course was a selection from three choices: mustard thyme-scented chicken with warm horseradish potato salad; braised short rib of beef with red wine demi-glace, with potato pancakes and oven-roasted root vegetables; or Boursin lasagna, alfredo, and marinara sauce. I chose the beef.

For the busy executive on the go, for whom time really is money, an alternative offer was "Express Dine – a 3-course meal served all at once at the time of one's choosing, to allow one to maximize one's time," don't you know. And while I'm certainly "on the go," I wasn't that pressed for time.

Of course, nowadays, international business seats come complete with power outlet, but the last thing I want to do on a plane is work on my laptop computer. Dessert involved some vintage cheese, port wine or cognac, caramel tiramisu, and tea or coffee. I was so disciplined that I declined them all.

Two and a half hours into the flight, we'd passed over New York City, Boston, and Bangor, and were headed out over the North Atlantic from the north coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Flight details were as follows: ground speed 574 mph, altitude 36,000 feet, outside temperature -61 degrees F, 1376 miles behind us and 2737 more ahead, tail wind 44 mph. Total flight time was estimated to be 7:36 hours.

I changed my palmtop computer from Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-5) to Western Europe time (GMT+1). As a result, I went from 9:45 pm Friday to 3:45 am Saturday in an instant. (My, how time flies!)

[Next day] I laid my seat back all the way—which was considerable in Business Class—and started counting sheep. Fortunately, I fell asleep almost immediately. Unfortunately, I was awake again in less than two hours. Ah, the joys of flying east overnight! By then, we were due south of Keflavik, the airport that serves Iceland's capital, Reykjavik.

As we flew over Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland, breakfast was served. It consisted of a rather large plate of assorted fresh fruit, a croissant with orange marmalade, and yogurt. I washed that down with three cups of quite decent coffee, taking in enough caffeine to counter the distinct lack of sleep. From there, we flew just north of Amsterdam, and on into Germany, passed Cologne and down to Frankfurt am Main (FRA), arriving more than 30 minutes early.

A Short Layover in Frankfurt

By the time I got settled into the Lufthansa business lounge, my eyes were getting heavy, which was not surprising since my body clock registered 3:15 am! I stocked up on some emergency rations and read some European newspapers. I was informed by a lounge hostess to allow one hour to get from the lounge through security and to my gate. So, I followed her instructions, only to find it took me 15 minutes. Don't you hate when that happens! Along the way, I got another stamp in my new U.S. Passport, and had to go through a security checkpoint.

At my gate, B13, I saw no plane, nor, indeed, any place for a plane. Boarding was announced in German and then English. We went down a flight of stairs, out the terminal and onto several articulated buses. Then we drove at least a kilometer around the airport. I thought perhaps we were driving to Milan! Eventually, we came to a Lufthansa Boeing 737. Mobile stairs lead up to the front and rear doors. It was a 2-class service, and I was in Seat 3A, which was severely lacking in the legroom department. However, Business Class had few passengers, so I moved to a bulkhead row with more room.

Flight LH3954 to Milan's Linate city airport took off on-time at 10:55 am with safety announcements made in German, English, and Italian. At 55 minutes, it was a short flight, and I didn't expect much service. However, those of us up front got a full-service lunch. With Oktoberfest coming up soon, lunch was a Bavarian affair with various cold cuts, kraut, gherkin, potato salad, cheese and bread, plus a small dessert and a piece of chocolate. It was very impressive. The flight attendant said it was best eaten with beer. There's nothing quite like being sedentary for 12 hours while regularly eating and drinking!

Soon, we were over the Swiss Alps, which had a light dusting of the new season's snow. Then came some deep valleys with farms, large lakes (including Lake Lugarno) and occasional small cities. On approach to Milan, we passed over lots of farms, all neatly organized with lots of tree borders. Quite a few still had cereal crops waiting to be harvested.

Arrival in Milan

We landed right around noon in very nice weather. The vast majority of the planes on the ground belonged to the Italian state carrier Alitalia, which was very close to going bankrupt. A bus took us the short distance to the terminal, and our luggage arrived very soon after, a welcome benefit of using a smaller airport. A few days earlier, a series of strike actions occurred in the local transportation section, but, fortunately, my flight and airport were unaffected.

I picked up a city map from the information desk, checked out my transportation options and coaxed €100 from an ATM. (The exchange rate had become more favorable in recent weeks, but it still made things expensive.) I hopped in a cab and headed to my hotel downtown, some 5 km away. It was sunny with a light breeze, and people were out driving and shopping. I chatted with the driver who asked if I was in town for the big fashion show. Although he was serious, looking at my hiking trousers and boots, I thought that was pretty darn funny!

After €14 and 15 minutes, we arrived at the hotel Mediterraneo at Via L. Muratori, 14. It was a relatively new building. I checked in and the desk clerk said that if I waited 10 minutes, he'd have housekeeping prepare me a room with a larger bed on account of my height. So that was a good start. The room rate was €203 per night, which included breakfast, and wireless internet service was available for an extra charge. (Hey, what do you expect for $300/night?)

My room was on a corner of the 7th floor and was well appointed. It came with a small refrigerator, work desk, comfortable chairs, French doors opening out over a yard, plenty of storage space, and a large bathroom complete with bidet and telephone on the wall by the toilet. From the windows, I looked out on roofs of classic orange terra cotta tiles. It all looked, well, so Mediterranean!

In the bathroom, I noticed a cord hanging down the wall by the bath, and thinking it activated the ceiling fan, I pulled it. As soon as I did, I noticed a small sign further up the wall, that said "alarme," and I knew I'd done something wrong. Sure enough, within seconds, the phone on the wall rang and the front desk was asking me (I suppose they were, as they spoke in Italian) if I'd had an accident in the bath. I politely informed them that everything was okay. (Considering how many accidents do occur in bathrooms, it seemed like a sensible idea; however, I'd never seen it before.)

By 1:30 pm, I was fading fast, and contrary to conventional wisdom, which says to stay awake on the day one arrives, I hopped into bed and was sound asleep in seconds. More than 3 hours later, my alarm politely informed me that it was time to get up. An easy thing to suggest, but it actually took me 30 minutes to get into a vertical position. While the sleep was good, the 30 minutes after one wakes up can make it seem like a bad idea.

I connected to the outside world, and, sure enough, email was waiting for me. One message was from a Japanese colleague, Toshiaki, who was just departing Tokyo's Narita airport, telling me he was on his way to Milan. Another from Hawaii told me that the U.S. Head of Delegation had been hospitalized and would not be coming to Milan this week. I hooked up my internet headset and made a few phone calls catching up with Astrid in Germany and Jenny back home. I had a selection of TV channels, most in Italian, but with several in German, one in French, and one in English, CNN International. There were also some music channels.

Around 7 pm, I ventured out. It was a quiet residential neighborhood with an occasional shop and restaurant. I found a large supermarket where I took my time looking in every aisle just to see the differences in products, packaging, and advertising. Between my basic knowledge of Spanish, German, and a bit of French, plus the pictures, I was able to figure out quite a bit. At the checkout, the woman was quite patient and helpful as I sorted through a large handful of Euro coins to make payment. On the way there and back, I looked at the menus of several restaurants.

Back in my room, I settled down to read and watch some TV while snacking on leftovers from my trip and cold drinks. Then I had a hot shower that was delivered via an extremely aggressive one-setting-fits-all massage shower head. That definitely left me feeling refreshed, if not bruised.

So, what was I doing in Milan? I was there to chair a 4-day plenary of committee ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 22, or, more simply, SC 22. This committee oversees the so-called ISO standardization of computer programming languages such as COBOL, Fortran, Ada, C and C++. From 1999 until 2007, I attended these plenary meetings as a U.S. Delegate, being U.S. Head of Delegation for the past eight years. Last November, I took over as acting chair for one year, and, this coming November, I'll start a full 3-year term. As chair, I'm no longer part of a National Body delegation, so I have to be impartial. We meet once a year, typically in September. Last year, it was in Singapore; this year in Milan, Italy; and next year, in Delft, The Netherlands. We try to rotate between locations in Europe, the Americas and the Asia/Pacific region, depending on offers to host. It's my job to find new hosts.

By 10 pm, I was starting to fade, so I pulled the heavy drapes closed, put in my earplugs and set my alarm. As I turned out the light, the clock on the TV read 22:22; an omen, perhaps. I'm sure I was asleep before 22:23. The travel experience thus far was good; no lost luggage, no delayed flights, some decent food, good service and I met some nice people. After the constant exposure to Italian, I was getting into the mood, and my hands were moving around "eager to get talking." It had been more than 10 years since I was last in Italy (in Milan, in fact), but all those useful words and phrases started coming back to me. Things like "prego," "grazie," "buon giorno," "ciao," "arrivederci," "Mama Mia," and, my all-time favorite, "What's a da matter with you Luigi?"

[Next day] Some 5½ hours later, I was wide awake, so I got up and got an international news fix while eating some emergency rations of cheese and crackers with cold whole milk. Just the thing for a growing boy. As is usual, more emails had come in overnight, including a message from Toshi that he'd arrived safely and was ready to meet me at noon to play tourist. Another colleague told me he was several hours away in Padua, but would arrive later that same day. I did a few logic puzzles on my computer (where "few" can sometimes translate to "no more than 100") to get my little gray cells stimulated, and then worked on this diary.

Out and About!

I tried to sleep again, but no such luck. At 11:30 am, I left my hotel to walk the 20+ minutes to Toshi's hotel. It had been two years since we'd last met, at a conference in London. He had been up for some hours, and had already toured the main downtown area, which included the Duomo (cathedral). So, we walked to a large castle and gardens, preserved for several hundreds of years. The weather was wonderful, sunny with a light breeze. We walked and talked, then sat and talked some more. Then we strolled through a whole street of food and craft stalls stopping for a cone of delicious hazelnut ice cream.

By mid-afternoon, I was fading, so we walked back to our respective hotels. There, I took a 3-hour nap, but felt worse when I woke up. At 6 pm, I met Sally, the Secretariat of my committee, who lived and worked in the heart of New York City. We went in search of dinner, but found that most restaurants were not open for another hour. However, we found one that had set up an outdoor cooking area, so we sat outside and ate there. The food was passable.

Back in my room, I made a few phone calls and played a lot of games on my laptop while listening to some albums of music (Amy Winehouse, you rock). Lights out at 10:45 pm.

Meeting Day 1

I slept for five solid hours, but, at 4 am, was wide awake. I caught some international news while snacking. From then through 6:45, I tried sleeping again, but mostly just lay there. Day broke around 6:30. At 7:30, I was seated in the breakfast area, and Sally joined me.

At 8:30, we headed off to the local office of the Italian Standards Organization, UNI, a 15-minute walk away. Once again, the weather was pleasant. Many of the conference attendees were already there when we arrived. To allow delegates to find the meeting place, I delayed starting until 9:15. Six countries were represented; Denmark, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, UK, and US. Delegates from China and Germany were also registered, but failed to show. The group totaled about 20 people.

Mid-morning, we broke for coffee, tea, and juice, and then continued until 12:15 pm, when we broke for lunch until 2 o'clock. Having had a big breakfast, I stayed in over lunch working on a resolution I'd discussed with various delegates earlier that morning. Mid-afternoon, we had another break. This year's meeting agenda was somewhat slimmer than those of previous years, so we got through a lot of items. So much so, that it looked like we might finish a day early. We broke for the day at 4:45, and Sally and I walked back to our hotel stopping to buy some groceries along the way.

At 6 pm, I walked to McDonalds for a light supper while sitting in the glorious sunshine. Nearby, I bought a travel pouch from a street vendor as mine was wearing out from constant use. Back in my room I caught up with world news and email and worked on this diary. By 7:15, I was fading. Lights out at 8:30, asleep at 8:30:05!

Meeting Day 2

I slept soundly until 2 am, at which time, I snacked, watched some world news and handled some email. I also phoned home, as it was a convenient hour (8 pm, EDT). At 3:30 am, I went back to bed hoping to get more sleep, and, surprise, I slept until my alarm went off at 7:15. Soon after 7:30, I was eating breakfast. At 8:30, Sally and I headed out. It was quite fresh out and a bit colder than the day before. In any event, we got some vigorous heart exercise during the 15-minute walk. Automobile traffic was steady, but not too busy, especially as we didn't have to cross any major roads.

We had invited a guest from Geneva, Switzerland, to speak, and he arrived at the start of the day, so after a small amount of administrivia, we spent the morning with his presentation and resulting question and answer session. That was followed by a 2-hour lunch, and a short afternoon session. Members of the resolution drafting committee then met to refine the text of the resolutions we'd agreed to thus far.

To the onlooker, it might seem that we spend a lot of time on breaks, and long lunches and dinners, and we do. However, it has been my experience that a lot of important business gets done during such social settings. People run ideas by each other, and they get to know each other. And those who develop a personal relationship with each other are more inclined to behave more civilly towards each other when in conference mode.

I walked back to the hotel in the late afternoon, and the sunshine was very pleasant. I worked a bit while some classical music from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" played in the background. It was altogether quite civilized.

Just before 6 pm, I walked to a hotel nearby where I met our invited guest. As we visited a number of restaurants in the area, we found none were open until 7, so we sat in a park and chatted. We'd met once before, when I was in Geneva earlier this year, but only briefly. After 7, we made the restaurant rounds again, and settled into a small place. More than 4 hours later, we had covered a lot of personal and business ground while managing to not eat or drink too much. I walked back to my hotel. Lights out around 12:30 am.

Meeting Day 3

After five hours of solid sleep, I was wide awake, although I did try for more. I was down at breakfast by 7:30 am, and off to my meeting. We'd made such good progress that we were a day and a half ahead of schedule, so I proposed, and the attendees agreed, that we'd finish at lunchtime that day. Those who could change their travel plans did so, while the rest of us planned to take a bit of time off and/or work from our hotel rooms.

The main business of the morning was to take the wording of the resolutions the drafting committee had produced, and to modify that wording to get the most consensus from the National Bodies present. While unanimity is preferred, the chair (me) determines if or when consensus has been reached. (For example, a 4-to-2 split would be considered consensus.)

I adjourned the plenary around noon, at which time a US delegate gave a short technical presentation to those who wished to stay. After that, the delegates said their goodbyes and departed. Three of the four Japanese delegates asked if I could join them for lunch, and I agreed. One of them was a long-time colleague; I met the other two for the first time at this meeting. We had a most enjoyable time. The €10 set menu was cheap and included two substantial dishes and non-alcoholic drinks.

I walked back to my hotel in glorious sunshine, but once I saw my bed, I remembered how short of sleep I was, so, at 3:15 pm, I lay down for a "quick" 3-hour nap. And when my alarm sounded at 6:15 pm, I set it for yet another half hour of sleep.

At 7 o'clock, Sally and I went to another hotel to meet some others for dinner. Friend and colleague John had brought his partner, Vicki, and they were having a vacation. We ate a variety of Italian dishes. Given the very low prices of the pizzas, I assumed they wouldn't be very big; however, when mine arrived, it hung over the sides of my very large plate. It was most enjoyable, but a struggle to complete. Over two hours, we covered a lot of topics not the least of which was the up-coming U.S. Presidential election. Back in my room, I handled some email and watched an Italian variety show with lots of singing, all in Italian. Lights out at 11 pm.

An Unexpected Free Day, Sort Of

I was awake at 5 am and got my world news fix, which, mostly involved the meltdown of the U.S. financial system. Senator McCain had suspended his campaign and wanted the first debate postponed, and had urged Senator Obama to do likewise. Given McCain's weakened position of late and his less-than-stellar ability at public speaking, my initial reaction was that his was a diversionary tactic to try and make him look more presidential without having to debate. As such, I was very happy when Obama responded that he was not inclined to postpone the debate. After all, a president would have to handle multiple non-trivial events at the same time, so why not deal with the financial crisis and have the public debate?

I worked a while on this diary, and then planned the day's business activities. With an unexpected free day, I would be able to take care of most, if not all, of the action items I'd taken on as a result of the plenary. I had a leisurely breakfast, sipping hot tea with honey while working on an especially difficult Sudoku puzzle.

Back in my room, I settled into work until about 11 o'clock, when a petite chambermaid came to clean my room. She was ever so sorry to interrupt me, but after a series of "pregos," "grazies," and smiles, we agreed that she could come in and clean and make-up my bed. While she cleaned, I pulled on my boots and went for a short walk in the sunshine to pick up emergency rations at the supermarket. I took care of all the major food groups: whole milk (latte intero), apricot juice (albicocca), salted peanuts (arachidi con sale), and chocolate with hazelnuts (cioccolato al latte con nocciole).

I worked until 2 pm, snacking along the way. Then I darkened the room and lay on the bed without setting the alarm, to give me a chance to well and truly catch up on sleep. For the next four and a half hours I drifted in and out of slumber, and when I awoke for good at 6:30, I felt the worst I'd been all week. So much for catching up! What's more, I'd caught a cold from the draft coming in my open window. Don't you just hate that when that happens!

Well, the best cure for tiredness is disciplined hard work, which I did for nearly six more hours, stopping for the occasional snack break and TV news fix along the way. At 12:15 am, I sent my last email, spoke to Jenny back home, and turned out the lights.

A Very Long Travel Day Begins

I was awake at 4 am, which excited me not at all. I soon got back to sleep but was awake again at 6. And despite further efforts to stay in bed, I was up, showered and down for breakfast at 7 o'clock. Although the food selection was very good, and the staff friendly, after six days, it was getting rather repetitive. And to complicate matters, I was stuck on more than a few clues in a crossword puzzle. Don't you just hate that when that happens!

Back in my room, I packed my bag, reorganized my computer bag, wrote in this diary, and did a bit more work. It was to be a big Travel Day: taxi to the Milan airport, plane back north to Frankfurt, plane west to Seoul, bus to the domestic airport, plane to a resort island, and, finally, bus to the resort hotel, with a change of day tossed in for good measure and some eight time zones to cross, a number of meals in flight and snacks in airline lounges. Is that something to look forward to, or what? (Still want to change places with me?)

I took care of some last-minute business email—the sun never sets on Microsoft—browsed some business news websites, and put on my long-distance traveling clothes, which looked remarkably similar to those I wear on short trips. There were my L.L. Bean hiking pants with zip-off legs, heavy socks and separate sock liners, loose-fitting shirt and jacket, and my trusty hiking boots, which were showing signs of serious wear.

At 10:15 am, I was at the front desk checking out. I pretended to faint at the size of the bill, but it was as expected; no nasty surprises or fines for pulling the emergency cord on the first day. Within minutes, my taxi appeared, and I was on my way to Linate airport. The sun had finally appeared. The driver spoke quite some English, so we chatted during the 15-minute drive down tree-lined streets. The fare cost €15, and I gave him my loose change as a tip. He protested, but took it anyway, and said that he should pay me for the English lesson.

I had arrived rather early for my flight, and planned to sit in the business lounge. However, the lounge was through security, but the check-in desks were closed until 11 am. So, I chatted with a young American woman who was also waiting. She'd tripped and broken her ankle some three weeks before just as she was about to leave. The doctor put a cast on her leg and prohibited her from flying for several weeks, so she had an unexpected extra-long stay.

The 11 am-time came and went, and around 11:15, a couple of Lufthansa staff ambled in, chatted with each other for a while, and, eventually, decided to deal with the long line of passengers, but only on their own terms. After all, this was Italy! "Are you in a hurry? Well, that's your problem." "You got a problem? I don't want to hear about it."

Although I was flying beyond Seoul, I made sure my bags would be unloaded there, so I could hand-carry them to the domestic terminal, especially as I wanted to catch an earlier flight, if possible. Security was very lame. Twice I walked through the detector, and twice it beeped. The security guard simply shrugged his shoulders and waved me through.

Yes, there was a business lounge, but one run by a contractor for a number of airlines. It was comfortable, but had only the basics on offer. I passed the time reading several European newspapers. I made a cup of tea, but, unfortunately, the temperature of the so-called hot water was about that of gnat's urine, which, as everybody knows, is certainly nowhere near boiling (fortunately for the gnat).

At 12:25 pm, I went off to Gate A4, a short walk away. Our bus arrived, and, after a few minutes, we went up the stairs of a Lufthansa Boeing 737. Once again, I had been assigned Seat 3A, but as Business Class was almost empty, I moved to 1A for the extra legroom and better view out the window in front of the wing.

Flight LH3955 took off, on time, for the 1-hour trip north to Frankfurt. Soon after, we were over the Swiss Alps and then Germany. Once again, a very nice lunch was served, complete with chocolate mousse in chocolate syrup and, yes, with two pieces of chocolate on the side. That took care of three of the major food groups.

Another Layover in Frankfurt

On the ground, we were bused to a terminal, which was, of course, nowhere near the terminal I needed next. On the way, I saw planes from Morocco, Iran, Portugal, Cyprus, Australia, the U.S., Germany, Lebanon, Singapore, South Korea, Kuwait, Canada, Thailand, Japan, Turkey, Denmark, Croatia, Italy, China, Israel, Tunisia, Poland, Brazil, and Qatar. And I saw another half dozen planes whose tail insignia I couldn't identify. In the terminal, the main flight board showed 100 different flights departing in the next three and a half hours. FRA certainly is an international hub, not to mention a small city.

As I had three hours to kill before boarding my next flight, I took my time getting to Terminal C. Then it was through passport control and security. Once again, the alarm went off, and, this time, my U.S. Passport was found to be the culprit.

I located the Lufthansa Business Lounge, right next to my gate, and was welcomed outside the entrance by a smiling hostess, who immediately noticed my Prussian bearing. She checked my documents and noticed I was a Star Alliance Gold member. As a result, she invited me to the First-Class lounge next door. Well, that hadn't been my plan, but I relented just that once. And guess what, I was the best-dressed hiker in the whole lounge, fresh from Milan with the latest in grunge fashion!

Not having eaten or drank for at least 45 minutes, I made the rounds of the kitchen area. (After all, it would be a shame to be in the First-Class lounge and not take advantage of it.) The hausgemacht (home-made) turkey soup looked so inviting I just had to try it. And after I loosened my belt another notch, I sipped several cups of milchkaffee. On offer were complementary wines from Austria, Italy, Germany, France, and South Africa. (Meanwhile, those poor people in the Business Class lounge had to make do with only three choices. "Let them eat cake, I say!")

The lounge windows were well insulated, so while I had a bird's eye view of the traffic on one busy runway, it was like watching a silent movie. And my fellow lounge mates were subdued, probably because, like me, they were in transit waiting for the next long haul. An interesting oddity was that all the external gates were carrying advertising for the Royal Bank of Scotland, one of Europe's largest banking conglomerates. It just didn't look right for a German airport, but, I guess, that's globalization in action.

While I was working on this diary, I overheard two people talking in a familiar accent. I asked them if there was an Aussie reunion in the lounge. The man was with Siemens pharmaceuticals ordinarily based in Australia, but currently living in Shanghai, China. He was on his way back there. The woman was also in the medical science field, working for a Boston-based company while working on an MBA degree. She lived less than 10 miles from me in Northern Virginia. She'd been installing an instrument near Munich, and was on her way home to Washington DC. We exchanged travel stories over drinks until their flights were called. By then, I was 30 minutes away from boarding myself, but when I checked the monitor, my flight had been delayed 30 minutes. Apparently, our plane was late arriving. Don't you just hate that when that happens!

At 5:40 pm, our flight was called, and I went down the stairs to find, yes, another bus waiting. We took the scenic tour of the airport, finally pulling up alongside a behemoth 4-engine Airbus A340-600. After some time, an agent came on the bus to tell us that the plane was still being cleaned, and we'd have to wait on the bus 15 minutes. We waited for that and more, and then two large busloads of passengers leaped out like sheep released from a pen, and raced to two narrow mobile staircases. No priority boarding there today; it was every man for himself. Once we were seated, the pilot said the good news was we were all ready to go. The bad news was we'd lost our air traffic control slot and would have to wait another 15 minutes. I saw a pattern developing.

Stay tuned for the second half of the trip, to, in, and home from South Korea!