Carry On (your luggage, not your wayward son)
It is almost 7 am on Saturday, 9/6 here in Sofia. I’ve been awake for a little while now, and I gave up on the notion of sleeping in as my mind had already started working. I knew it was time to get up when I started thinking about what I’d write in this entry while lying in bed!
Before I left for this trip, I went back and forth on whether to check luggage or carry on. My dad had asked met to bring him something small from the US I couldn’t bring in a carry on, and while he would have been fine without it, I wanted to try and bring it for him anyway. My parents rarely ask for me to bring them anything, even at Christmas, so having a specific request from my dad, however small, meant a lot to me. I had packed a carry on backpack just to see what the weight would be, but even though I kept everything to a minimum (only 2 pairs of shoes, I swear), it still weighed upwards of 20 lbs (9 kg). That was above the weight limit Lufthansa allowed for carry-on luggage, and you know if anyone would be a stickler about rules, it would be the Germans. I also didn’t look forward to lugging so much luggage around on my back. However, I was equally worried about a checked bag somehow getting lost on my return to the US, when I had planned a short side trip to London. I had only set aside 2 days there and the last thing I’d need was a luggage fiasco. So carry on I did. I ended up checking only a small backpack with the item my dad had requested and some other gifts.
Upon arriving in Frankfurt, I turned on Wifi and started chatting with my dad on an app called Viber. Coincidentally, just about a half hour before that my mom had heard on the radio that Lufthansa pilots were starting a strike. My dad checked my flights and sure enough, my FRA–>SOF leg was one of the many short- and medium-haul flights that had been sacked. As soon as my dad told me this, I hurried to the nearest Lufthansa Service Center, which was at another terminal. The journey on foot took long enough for my backpack to start bothering me, but I was thinking it’s highly likely I’d get stuck spending the night in Frankfurt, so I was already glad I had all my stuff with me. To my enormous surprise, I got re-booked on Austrian Airlines through Vienna. My flight from Frankfurt was departing in an hour, and I had an hour layover in Vienna. Ironically, this scenario got me to Sofia more than 2 hours earlier than my original booking!
The one thing about traveling with a carry on is that you always worry about boarding early enough to still have room for your luggage in the overhead bins. So, on both my Austrian Air flights, which got boarded in no particular seat order, I was one of those annoying people who stand at the gate long before boarding starts, to make sure I get on as soon as I can. That is fine if you have a roller suitcase, but my backpack was starting to hurt my shoulders. Low and behold, the little backpack I’d checked didn’t make it Sofia with me. My guess is it got stuck in Vienna, where the connection was pretty short. The guys I submitted my claim with at the Sofia airport didn’t know exactly where it had gotten stuck, but they assured me it would get here by the following day. I wasn’t too worried. I had my 20+lbs of clothes, shoes and my laptop all on my shoulders. 🙂 Next time, I’ll seriously consider using my carry-on sized suitcase – although rolling a suitcase around comes with its own set of challenges.
Sore shoulders or not, I was so happy to make it home! After my medical ordeal earlier this year, I’d gotten in the habit of talking to my parents via Viber almost every day (as opposed to the once-a-week Skype session that was the norm before), so coming home this time felt like I had never really left. Mom had made shopska salad and eggplant dip and banitza and bean soup for me, and of course there were slices of feta cheese and lukanka to feast on. And beer and wine. And Ritter Sport chocolate with hazelnuts. Bulgarian news were on in the background, friends I’ve had for almost 20 years were calling and texting… Home is home, even after so many years abroad.