Thursday, September 25, 2008

...Sitting in Barajas/Madrid airport waiting for my first long-haul across the Atlantic, below the equator, I am uploading 2 posts I wrote already this morning - my first day into this big adventure...

I have the greatest backpack in the world… (Thur 25 Sep – Day 1)
(Where am I now: gate A3 – Geneva airport – flight IB3489 to Madrid)

I have the greatest backpack in the world. I really do. I packed it yesterday, finished at 02:20 – not too much sleep was planned anyway, my first flight is to Madrid today at 08:25 with Iberia. It is the greatest backpack in the world because it locks up, looks beautiful, I can carry it (it weighs 17.5 kg with all the stuff) and it can fit everything I could need… almost.

Some things weigh less than air itself but to carry them they are unmovable, to fit them you need whole rooms. It’s the same with my backpack. How can it fit all the love and affection I’ve been receiving the past week, as the big day came closer and people got more and more into asking me about the trip.?How can it fit the smiles, hugs and wishes that I received yesterday night at my place from a few close friends? How can it fit the envious smiles and looks of surprise or admiration from colleagues and friends at work who either would have liked to do the same or failed to understand the purpose of this (it is not really good for your career now, is it?)
So as I said goodbye to the last 3 friends that visited me (the ones I’ve known the longest in Geneva and those that I’ve spent the most time) I went upstairs with a bag-full of gifts (books, locks, tripods, chargers) and anything you can imagine to make your travelling life a bit easier – I just stared at the white T-shirt that Kostas, Afroditi and Giorgos printed for me – “Kostas Around The World: life is a book and those who do not travel read only one page…”.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. So, special people do actually exist. It’s those few, like those I’ve seen the past few days that actually understand how you think, are in your DNA somehow; participate in your dreams, your worries, and your excitement. I guess that’s probably an indirect way to describe “real friends”…

So this first posting is for all of you. Friends and family. Not only the ones I saw this week and said goodbye to personally or over the phone but all of you who the past few months have listened to the plan a million times, all the destinations, those that have seen my eyes shine bright when I mention the places I will be visiting and the number of days I will be away from Geneva/work and, all those that have seen the big smile on my face whenever I am asked the question: “So, how many days to go?”…

I will try to carry you all with me, in my backpack, on the straps, in the ziplocks, on the handles, through these pages, through postcards and letters, through phone calls and emails. At the end, it’s one of the few things that could ever make someone coming back from such an adventure really worthwhile.

“Bonjour Mesdames & Monsieurs, le vol Iberia IB 3489 destination Madrid est prĂȘt…”
I am leaving on a jet plane but I (…) know I’ll be back again…

See you in Spain…

Flight 3489, What? no paella…? (Thur 25 Sep – Day 1)
(Where am I now: Seat D25 in an IBERIA Airbus A-320 called Museo Gugenheim)

Ok, I have very low expectations on an economy flight to Europe. I’ve been trained for this. It all started a few years ago for me when Swissair crashed (financially I mean…), was then bought by Lufthansa and as part of the billion CHF restructuring program they did away with standard in-flight meals and replaced them with the world famous Buitoni calzone. The Greeks reading this that fly back and forth to Athens from Geneva with the (new) Swiss know exactly what I am talking about… (and are probably smiling)

Iberia is worse. I can accept Easyjet asking me to pay for drinks and sandwiches (after all it is a BUDGET carrier) but Iberia is the national carrier of Spain – they could at least serve some water damn it… My breakfast today consisted of a pain au chocolat and a bottle of milk (yes, I am the milk & cookies type of guy) bought from Cornavin train station as I was making my way towards the airport. But that was almost 3 hours ago and I am hungry. How about some paella (ok it’s a bit early for this) but then how about a nice tortilla (images of my first girlfriend in Cordoba and her mind-boggling pan-flipping, tortilla-cooking skills rush through my head down to my stomach… thank God I have my noise-cancelling headphones on and at least I don’t hear the “grumble in the stomach-jungle”). Anyway, maybe Madrid airport offers some sandwiches at the typically exorbitant prices for travel-weary around-the-world travellers. I Want a McTortilla or a McPaella now! Too bad this whole ticket was booked with the One World alliance – if only it was Star Alliance – I could at least munch on the peanuts in the business class lounge... :-)

I’m booked for my Buenos Aires flight as well – I have a 2 hour stopover in Madrid – and then a 12 hour flight to BAires. Now this is going to be a real test – I can’t remember if I’ve ever taken such a long flight (I guess my body would remember if I had). I’ve also been informed that the flight is completely full (oh yeah, right, you are flying economy.) I made a conscious choice when I booked my ticket: I asked for isle seats all the way. It’s ok I can survive the narrow seats or the knee-hurting table pushed in me after the guy in front has fully reclined his seat. Having however to jump over 2 people because “nature calls” or because if I don’t stand up I am risking a leg amputation or DVT (Deep Vain Thrombosis – what an acronym) is NOT an option, I need freedom to at least (pretend to) be able to move around. And as with all choices, this has a price as well: no window seat, no bird’s view of all the beautiful places I am visiting… ah well.

A small side comment, as I am going through the Iberia magazine – I love the section with the maps, where they draw these thin curved lines that connect the different cities the airline companies fly to. They look like strings connecting dots like a harp, you just think your finger through the lines and hear the hum of the jet engines, the “pling” of the “fasten your seatbelts" sign and the “kruunk” of the lock on the folding doors that let you connect with nature in privacy 10 kilometers from the surface of the earth…
I wanted to quote some of the advice on the exercising, proper drinking they suggest: “During the flight we are at a pressure equivalent to 1500-2000 meters. This causes a small reduction in barometric and oxygen pressure. When pressure is reduced, intestinal gas tends to expand, which can cause the passanger slight discomfort. For this reason, the day before flying it is not a good idea to eat meals that are heavy or might produce gas…”

Well, I guess that’s it then, no chili con carne for me before my 18-hour flight from Santiago to Sydney…. :-)

See you all at the airport…


Evi said...

Wow - you really are carrying us with you. :-)
Kalo taxidi Spuropoulaki! I'll keep an eye on your updates.

Veerle said...

C, It feels as if we are flying with you...keep up this writing it brings you closer to us!!!
Wish you and amazing supercalifragilistic experalidogious trip and will keep an eye on you for sure!!
X. V.

Markos Karavias said...

Eisai teleiws paranoikos! Gyrna me tin prwti ptisi stin wraia Genevi kai alysodese ton eafto sou sto Jet d'Eau, atakte alania!

Anyway, to blog kai i idea pisw apo afto einai teleiws spectacular!

Kalo Taxidi! All the Best

odevoted said...

Who’d have thought that a single back-pack, can pack about 35 people and 12.5 t-shirts ! Damn! event hough i feel a bit cramped in there (next kostasaroundtheworld trip pls spare an extra dime and buy a larger one or lose the t-shirts dude), I want you to know that I'm honored to b in it!

Bon Voyaaaage matey ! Vaya con dios!

PaniosBanios said...

Well I said good luck before you left so no need to repeat myself in writing.

Can I ask for some calzone when you come back though?


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