17 November 2023

Chief place to visit today: Curonian Spit

My driver and guide friend – Gintautas – assured me that the Curonian Spit is the best view Lithuania has to offer. You climb up the famous sand dunes and get a brilliant view of the Baltic Sea. He himself had not done it in 20 years.

Moment I checked into the hotel in Klaipeda, I dropped the luggage at the check in counter and heade d out for the Curonian Spit. To do that, I needed to cross the waters and reach the Neringa island. The distance is very short – but there are no bridges.

So, as you see here, my friend and I waited patiently for 30 minutes for a ferry to pick us up with our car.

15 November 2023

Sometimes the logos lead to intersection points!

I had been walking inside the terminal for nearly 45 minutes to get some morning exercise in when I thought I saw a young lady with a familiar shirt. Well, at least the college logo was familiar. Having seen how Nikita used to wear Natasha’s NYU and USC shirt (which she had bought as a souvenir), I realized that the shirt may not have anything to do with the lady.

Still, I walked up to her.

“You go to GW?”
“Yes!” She was a bit surprised.
“Which year?”
“I am a freshman!”
“Ah! My daughter is in GW too! She is a sophomore!”
“Really? What is her name?”
“Nikita Roy. Which dorm are you in?”
“That is exactly where Nikita was! This year she is in Shenkman.”
“Oh! that is where I want to go next year!”

And thus I struck up a friendship with this complete stranger. Crazily enough, Sofia Dayan (my new friend) lives literally under the room Nikita was in. Same room number. She is in 7th floor. Niki was in 8th floor.

Even more coincidences… Sofia was born in Atlanta. Although her parents moved to Pennsylvania eventually.

“What do you want to study?” I asked her.
“International Policy is what I am thinking. How about Nikita?”
“I think she is veering towards Public Health. Either the policy side or legal side.”
“That is very exciting”

“So, where are you headed all by yourself?”
“Visiting family?”
“No. I am a figure skater. I am going for a competition there!”
“Oh! I think you are the first figure skater I have met!!”

My flight to Vilnius was called out the second time. I quickly gave her Nikita’s number and took a picture of us.

“Make sure you meet Nikita after Thanksgiving. I will send her this picture too.”
“Sure. Also, look me up when you come to see her in DC”
“Deal. Now best of luck for your competition and safe flight!!”

We went our own ways. But I am sure this is not the last time we have met.

There is some merit to wearing logos of your company or schools then. There is an old story about how my company logo on my T-shirt once helped me locate my in-laws who had gotten lost in an airport terminal – after landing in a foreign country for the first time!!!!!!

But that is a story for another day.

15 November 2023

This airport is special to me

Exactly 30 years back, I landed in Frankfurt airport – completely dazed and out of sorts after staying awake most of the night on a Lufthansa flight. That was my first international flight. This was my first international airport.

I did not understand the language. Nor could I follow the instructions. And the scale of operations were unnerving to say the least. I had started from Bombay airport the previous night. Most people today will not realize how small Bombay airport used to be those days. I doubt it handled even 100 flights every day then. Today, it handles 1000 daily.

My first reaction watching two airplanes take off within 30 seconds of each other in Frankfurt was that there must have been a big mistake. Surely, the next day there was going to be front page headlines about a flight accident. Except I noticed that the pattern continued. Plane after plane kept taking off and landing. I figured that was what the famed German precision was all about.

Later in life, this airport became my monthly calling. A quarter million Lufthansa miles from all those trips to Asia and India ensured that I knew every nook and corner of the terminals and the staff at the lounges and some stores in the airport.

Now that I think about it, I think this was Natasha’s first international airport too. Lufthansa used to fly to Kolkata those days and Natasha’s first trip to check out her grandparents in 1999 at the age of 18 months was thru this airport.