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Yesterday was spent cruising the middle Rhine and stopping off for various sightseeing activities along the way. But the diary details were filled in during today's interminable hours of travel, rather than eating up precious sleeping time last night.
We've settled in for the long haul home. Michelle is watching a movie and I'm about to do likewise, once this diary is completed.
We got up at 06:30 this morning, packed our bags for the last time, and descended to reception, which was empty. I investigated the breakfast room, finding the food there laid out already. Further exploration led to the kitchen, where the owner was taking eggs out of boiling water. I interrupted him and explained that we needed to check out now in order to catch a flight. He dropped everything and came over to reception where he glanced at the booking and asked for one night's fee. I said two nights, and he laughed and thanked me for pointing that out. I paid with the cash we'd withdrawn last night, and we took our leave.
On the way to the station, Michelle grabbed a cappuccino from a bakery along the way. There was a train for Mainz leaving at 07:52, and the train the guy at Würzburg had suggested leaving at 07:54. The second was longer and slower, and when I used the ticket machine it also turned out to be more expensive to go via Bad Kreuznach, so we decided to take the Mainz train instead. We waited on the indicated platform 201 with about a dozen other people. A couple of minutes before the scheduled time, an announcement came over the speakers, of which I understood nothing but the number of another platform. Immediately, everyone else on our platform raced across to the adjacent platform, so we followed them to see our train pulling in. We piled all our stuff on board an relaxed a little, having made one of the most important connections of our trip.
I'd been puzzled over the timetable listing of stops for this train, as it seemed to say it went to Mainz via Frankfurt, but Mainz was closer. A bit of thinking and examination of a route map showed that Mainz was indeed between Bingen and Frankfurt, meaning we would have to change trains there.
We arrived at Mainz after a stately all-stops journey and I consulted the departure schedule to find a train leaving for Frankfurt in two minutes. We raced up the stairs and then down again on the appropriate platform. 30 seconds later our connection pulled in - a very local service that looked like a city metro train. It took us the eight or so stops to Frankfurt Airport, where we alighted just after 09:00.
Climbing the escalators to the terminal, our first priority was getting the VAT refund form for Michelle's leather coat stamped. We found the place to do it and read on a sign that we needed a boarding pass first. So we switched to check-in mode and located the Malaysian check-ins in terminal 2, after a ride across in the skyrail thingy between terminals. The check-in was open already, so we did so, and then sought the VAT customs stamping point in this terminal. We found it and then noticed another sign saying that it was for checked baggage only - hand luggage needed to be inspected at yet another counter inside the passport control zone.
Since neither of us had eaten yet, we first had a look at the food court area, but found it full of uninspiring fast food outlets, so decided to bite the bullet and join the rather long queues to get through customs and security. It took some time, but the long queues flowed smoothly enough. Michelle beeped the metal detector and they asked her to remove her shoes and sent them through the x-ray machine before letting her put them on again. Through that ordeal, we located the VAT refund desk after some back and forth searching, where the customs inspector didn't even look at the coat before stamping our forms. We placed them in the box provided and, by now ravenously hungry, set about finding some food.
Unfortunately, inside terminal 2's security zone, there was virtually nothing in the way of shops or food, being a large duty-free tobacco and alcohol place, a smaller place with chocolates and deli items, a nasty looking American-themed bar/restaurant, and a couple of small coffee stalls. We grabbed a couple of croissants and a coffee at a stall - for some ridiculously enormous quantity of euro - then browsed the chocolates in the duty-free shop. We bought a few to use as gifts, and I found a small bottle of Jägermeister, which I bought too. Then we discovered the deli had bread rolls and croissants for just €0.70 each! I got a last pretzel to tide me over for the meal on the plane and we headed off to the gate.
For some reason they were doing a second complete security check before the gates. By the time we got through that there was only one hour to departure. We amused ourselves while waiting by playing "spot the celebrity" - where we took it in turns to point out people in the crowd and say what famous person they resembled. By the time we boarded, we'd spotted Meat Loaf, Sting, Tina Turner, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Salman Rushdie, Tom Selleck, Hiro Nakamura (from Heroes), Rosa Klebb (from From Russia With Love), Julia Roberts, and Little Orphan Annie, all waiting to get on our flight. Michelle kept breaking into a rendition of Tomorrow and we were cracking up laughing.
Eventually we boarded our plane and waved auf wiedersehen to Germany.
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