First of all, this post for Amanda turned out a bit long. Thank you for reading, really. As I told Snow Melts Somewhere recently, it takes a certain effort to be swept in anything these days. I truly appreciate it.
The runway ends in a hillock, then there’s the fence, and then there’s us. The airport is at Brnik near Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Even though it has been renamed after a politician, we still call it Brnik.
Do you planespot? I mean, you either do or you don’t. I need more than 20 years to board my first plane, so I spend years watching them wistfully first. I even ride my first helicopter before my first plane. (I win the ride as a prize. It’s a different story.)
In primary school I have notebooks wrapped in Peter Stuyvesant cigarette commercials. Those planes in romantic sunset hues, you know? (If I google the name, I don’t see any planes or sunsets. Was I dreaming? The ads were in Der Spiegel…)
Which reminds me, my mother’s first job was at the Duty Free Shop right here, at our Brnik airport. She sold cigarettes and booze to pilots and still knows certain Dutch phrases from those times.
She always calls the airport “aerodrome”, and when I’m told in my kindergarten that we are about to go and visit the hippodrome, I come home excitedly and tell my parents that we are going to see where mom used to work.
When father indeed takes me to the airport one day when little, I’m afraid to climb the stationary, show airplane there, because I’m convinced that it will take off while I’m on it. For that I’ll have to wait another 15 years or so.
The first time I fly is after the sleepless night to London with my family, out of Vienna and not my home airport Brnik. It is pretty spectacular when one of our suitcases comes out in London opened with bras hanging out. We get a brand new Samsonite in compensation because they broke it.
A bit later I start going with friends to our regular spot from the first paragraph to watch the planes land and take off. They do it right above us. It’s a trip without a trip. I hear later that this spot becomes so popular that kids order pizza there.
The last time I’m there it’s winter and just before we leave, I spot a white owl on the fence, illuminated by my car’s headlights. It could be another dream, but I know it isn’t.
No, the last time I’m there I’m older, my sister is about to land from her trip to Peru and I stop at the hillock for old times’ sake, to see her plane land like we used to do it together. I know she is looking down.
Later I stand in front of the airport building with my first dog and my friend and we keep gazing at the exit intently for her to appear and suddenly she is standing next to us and smiling. We missed her. She is dressed like nature and has learned her magic. She blends in.
A couple of times she lands in Venice after her travels. Once a delegation of friends go there to meet her and we come early and ride the vaporetto and it’s February and the boat ride in the mist is like a film or a dream, except it isn’t.
The second time I pick her up in Venice I’m alone, it’s summer and her plane lands at 6 am. I google the distance. It’s three hours. I leave at 3 am. When the right lane on the highway gets to be bumper-to-bumper with trucks, I know something is up. Indeed, an accident prevents our progress and for a while everything stops. We need to leave the highway at one exit and return at another and we move like snails.
All in all, it takes me 6 hours instead of 3. When I finally reach the airport, I try her phone. A woman’s voice replies: “Ospedale.” Oh no. Before I can focus and decide what to do, I find the toilets. And there she is, my sister, and I’m over the roof happy. She lost her phone on her travels. The number I called didn’t include the prefix for Slovenia and by chance she shares the number with an Italian hospital. On return to Slovenia we chat so much that we don’t even notice or care that we drive on an old straight road instead of the highway. Who needs highway when you’re happy.
The last time I’m at an airport with my sister is when I drive her to Fiumicino in Rome from where she will fly to Peru. It’s for work this time and she doesn’t know when she will return. I accompany her to the check-in and there is a problem. They don’t let her on the plane because she doesn’t have a return ticket. Just when she thinks she will need to buy a bogus ticket to make them happy, the lady gives in and lets her board.
All this has just barely to do with my own airport experiences but really, I don’t fly much. I have only flown eight times (I count one trip as one flight, or that would be 16 times). I can imagine Snow Melts Somewhere, who used to be a flight attendant, read this and laugh.
Three times of these are to London, including my first and last flight. The last time is eleven years ago to hear Pearl Jam in Hyde Park and I’ve just posted photos from this trip.
Four summers, back to back, my ex and I fly to four Greek islands for a week – Karpathos, Samos, Lefkas, Kefalonia – with charter planes that are always really late to pick us up on return. The trip to Lefkas is the only with photo evidence and here it is.
The eighth time, and the only time I am anywhere outside Europe, are two weeks of California.
It’s before Christmas and our first flight leaves from Klagenfurt in Austria. My two friends and I come early, the airport is tiny and – closed. We are too early. Our taxi has left and there is nowhere warm to wait. It’s freezing, there is snow around, and we are dressed for California. I discover an unlocked tower of sorts and we wait inside on the stairs.
The Lufthansa flight to Los Angeles leaves from Frankfurt. From there I remember only vastness. We can still smoke on the plane for all 15 hours or so and I do since I still smoke.
When we disembark at LAX I can see tiny dogs with vests saying: “I am your friend.” They are searching for fruit. It’s a big no-no of the times. I don’t know if peanuts qualify, that’s why I leave them on the plane.
I can see a big security guard motion me to approach. Why me, I think, others are let go freely. It must be my leather jacket. It’s torn in places and I have taken it with the intent to ditch it. He is kind in a menacing way but after a short interrogation he lets me go.
I can see people waiting with signs. I thought this only happened in the movies. At the end of all the waiting people is our host, the Slovenian video artist in a leather jacket. “It’s a bit chilly today,” he says. “Let’s drive through the town.”
The last time I’m at the airport is the last day of August this year. My two friends from Oregon are flying in after a three-hour delay caused by their first cancelled flight in Portland.
I drive into the gated area at the Fiumicino airport near Rome. We meet and leave quickly but still not quickly enough for the 15-minute freebie. The gate doesn’t open unless you pay with the credit card. We try an American one, and then another, and nothing happens. Then I try my Slovenian bank card without much hope. And yet, this one works and we are off to our adventures.
First Ostia, tomorrow the world.
For Friendly Friday Photo Challenge hosted by Amanda at Something to Ponder About: Airport Experiences
This day in my blogging history