Greetings from Berlin! We have at last arrived after a long night of travel. The group flight on Lufthansa was actually more or less stress-free, though the nice customer service lady I spoke to on the phone last week told me an untruth by saying that we would all have our own personal entertainment screens. The 747 on which we flew to Frankfurt appeared to be a fairly old plane, and only those in first and business class were personally entertained. I will say, however, that it sure seems like the international carriers still know how to treat their passengers in a way U.S. passengers have long forgotten. Complementary wine, hot towels before dinner, a full meal with a choice of two entrees, ongoing beverage service and an appealing breakfast were all part of the amenities offered. Sure beats the bag of peanuts and one soft drink I have become accustomed to on our domestic carriers.
The title of this entry is a nod to our intrepid Zamir manager, Barbara Gaffin, who shepherded us around the airport like a mother duck looks after her flock. I have nicknamed her "Mrs. Mallard" after the memorable character in the classic book "Make Way For Ducklings". Besides our general care, Barb was seen wandering around handing out cookies and bags of Ghirardelli chocolate and other delectibles, to be sure we were all well-fed and well-sugared.
We arrived in Frankfurt more or less on time and after a bit of confusion made our way to the gate for our connecting flight to Berlin with enough, but not too much, time to spare. That flight was a quick "hopping flight", under an hour in the air. On this plane, we noticed a group of people all wearing the same polo shirts and hats. They turned out to be the members and travelling companions of the Johannesburg Jewish Mens Choir, one of the other groups performing at the festival. Suddenly this whole event became even more real to us, as we enjoyed chatting with members of that group, comparing travel notes and sharing our excitement of the upcoming events.
Upon arrival in Berlin, we were delighted to find that the baggage claim area was only a stone's throw from the gate rather than a distant hike, and in even better news, nobody's luggage was lost! After many hours of travel and bodies who believed it was still 3 AM instead of the beginning of the day, that was a welcome cap on our journey.
It did take us a while, and a good bit of wandering around the Berlin airport, to locate the bus that the Festival had arranged to pick us up. That done, we had a bit of difficulty getting all of the luggage and the bodies aboard, but some creative thinking and good collaboration made it all work out. As I write this, we and the JJMC are on the bus heading to the hotel. I think we all just want some caffeine and a hot shower before we prepare for our first concert this evening.
As I look out the bus window, so far I see a city that looks more or less like any other major metropolis. The architecture of the buildings is varied, and there is a noticeable mix of old and new. There is commerce, and retail, and business as in any other city. The weather is overcast but not raining, and around 40 degrees. Not so different from home.
And here we are arriving at the Berlin Crowne Plaza. More to come on the latter part of the day...