Jun 14, 2016

The Road to Prairieville I: Stuttgart to Atlanta

Our wedding trip began with my alarm going off at 3 am. I had gone to bed precisely three hours earlier. Saori hadn’t even gone to bed, as she was making last minute preparations. Of course, we had planned on cleaning the apartment and tidying up before we took off, but like so many other things, we ran out of time. At four AM, I had hauled down our two 50 pound suitcases plus the garbage, and we called a taxi to the airport. It was a quiet and misty ride.
One thing we had prepared well was our flights to the US. I had found us a screaming deal on Turkish Airlines- Stuttgart to Atlanta round trip for under $500. Sure, we have to stop in Istanbul, which realisticaly adds about six hours of travel time, but for us, worth the savings. Plus, I like traveling with them. The food is always good, the entertainment system is on par with or better than Delta, and they always hand out lots of bottled water and travel kits.
We flew first to Istanbul, which felt a lot longer than it really was, and then we didn’t even have time to breeze through the airports mini-grand-bazaar before we had to go line up for the “enhanced” security for travelers going to the US. They swabbed us with the explosive detector, didn’t even really check our bags, and still missed my pocketknife. We slept little on our flight to Atlanta. I booked us basically on the last row of the plane, where there are just two seats in the row, right in front of the area with the food and bathrooms. It’s nice that we have the row to ourselves, and a little extra legroom where the third chair would be. Plus we are not climbing over people to get out to the bathroom etc.
I love flying into Atlanta from overseas. They have a new system for returning US visitors so instead of filling out the blue form with questions like “Did you spend time on a farm? Do you enjoy fondling livestock? Are you carrying snails?” you scan your passport at a kiosk and they give you a bad black and white selfie that you take up to an agent who asks you more interesting quetsions. But everyone is also so nice in Atlanta. I was bringing back WAY more wine and hard liquor than we are allowed but when we tried to explain it to the customs agent they just waved us through with an “its all good” expression. Laid back country. Plus a Starbucks immediately when you pop out. Saori bought us iced lattes and we toasted each other and a lovely start to a wedding trip.
It’s a sharp contrast to Dulles in DC, where it assumed until proven otherwise that you forged your own passport and your primary reason to visit the US is terrorrism and criminal mischief.
One thing I really love about the US is people get really sentimental about airport arrivals. There was always a big group of people lined up with balloons and banners and signs, and even though they’re not there for you, it’s a warm feeling to see. It never happens in Germany.
The airport in Atlanta has two terminals at the ends of a very long axis. We popped out of the international terminal, but MARTA, the light rail for Atlanta, only picks up at the domestic end. So we had to hop on the free shuttle to get there. The driver let us on first, and then loaded in approximately fifty peices of luggage, stacking them up to the point where he had to clamber over a mountain to get to the drivers seat, and even then I had to help pull some roll-ons in from falling out the front door. It was an operation. And about a fifteen minute drive including at least one freeway to get to the other end of the terminal. We took MARTA into town. MARTA is about fourty years old, so I can dig the retro style. I think we were the only white people on the train. It was a very down-to-earth way to reconnect with the US. Saori’s sister would have picked us up but she had her two kids, and Tim was on call for the hospital, so we had to manage ourselves there. Ayumi did come and pick us up from the neighborhood station, where there was some kind of arts festival going on. They live in a duplex in Decatur, and after Ayumi grabbed us, Saori and I insisted on getting milkshakes because they sounded incredible after months without a milkshake and a long day of travel. It was.
It was already past the kid’s bedtime, so Ayumi made us a little dinner and we just crashed in the bed upstairs. 

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