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December 07, 2006


Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Get out the snark-repellant!

We're off to Seattle Saturday for a four-week experiment to see how well Nancy can tolerate the cool, cloudy, wet winter there (she hated it as a child but managed three winters in nearby Portland just fine as an adult).

So I've been busy stockpiling posts to cover the period I'll be behind the wheel and unable to write. I'm taking a break from that to gift you with some grumbles in the best Bah! Humbug!! tradition -- it being the season for that.

* * * * *

* Did I just write gifted you? Lord, I hate that phrase! For me, its Grating Index is right up there with the beloved "let me share with you ..."

* Vienna is one of my favorite European cities, so it pains me that there's one itsy bitsy local practice that sets my teeth to grinding.

It seems that when Johann Strauss, Sr.'s Radetzky March is played at a concert, the audience lustily claps in unison when the chorus is played. Apparently it's a local tradition dating to when the work was first played, according to this account.

The Radetzky is a cute little march we used to play (badly) in Junior High band, and I'd like to hear it instead of having it drowned out by all that traditional clapping.

* While on the subject of Europe I might as well vent about what I consider to be the lousiest major airport terminal on the continent.

Keep in mind that I've only flown to/from seven European airports. Nevertheless, I'll nominate Terminal 1 at Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Terminal 1.jpg

I deeply regret that I didn't think to snap a few pictures of the passenger waiting area used by American Airlines -- I was too wrapped up with departure details. The exterior photo, above, is the best I could crib from the Web.

The departure area is dark -- low ceiling, black rubber-like flooring. There are no decent eating places that I could find: only a stand-up snack bar. News stands were sketchy and expensive -- we spent around $50 for five magazines (admittedly non-German ones).

Airport officials ought to take a quick trip to, say, Copenhagen to discover what's missing at Frankfurt. And then act on their findings.

* * * * *

There. Got it off my chest. I feel much better. Cheerful, even.

But I'm not so sure I improved your dispositions. Peeves can be contagious, you know, and I neglected to warn you of that at the top of the post. Tee hee.



posted by Donald at December 7, 2006


I dunno -- CdG is much worse, IMO.

Posted by: CyndiF on December 7, 2006 3:56 PM

I'm with you on Frankfurt airport. Have you been in their bathrooms?
Lemme tell you: I'm working on a juvenile detention facility for one of the eastern States now, and the bathrooms we designed for the INSTITUTION are much, much happier places than the ones I encountered in Frankfurt.

Posted by: Tatyana on December 7, 2006 11:26 PM

Re Frankfurt: don't forget that it's filthy and smelly and even, apparently, underdimensioned - half the time you end up getting deplaned in some odd corner of the tarmac and herded through whatever miserable weather is pelting, blasting or sweltering through town for the day onto one of those miserable little stand-up buses. Somebody tip the Frankfurters off to Temple Grandin; they could use her help.

Posted by: robert on December 8, 2006 4:42 AM

"Gifted" always makes me think of the late former premier of Indonesia, Sukarno, who gifted this country with two Komodo Dragons - the world's largest living lizards - some years back, which are now residing in the National Zoo in Washington.

Posted by: Brian on December 8, 2006 7:40 AM

"to gift you with": isn't it the "with" that's wrong?

The English don't seem to use "gift" as a verb much, but the Scots do. In this style - Elsie McGregor gifted this bench to the city so that visitors might enjoy the view that her late husband Alan so loved.

No "with".

Posted by: dearieme on December 8, 2006 10:12 AM


I was especially interested in your comment on Frankfurt Airport, as I was there last week transiting on a return from Rome. I absolutely agree with you: it is the most unsightly, confusing, user-unfriendly airport I think I have ever encountered, and I've been to some lulus. New York's JFK is a day spa by comparison.

The first problem with Frankfurt Airport is that the shopping tail is wagging the transportation dog. I'm not against stores at airports, but those at Frankfurt seem to have taken precedence over everything else in Terminal 2 (I didn't go into Terminal 1, which may be just as well). Not only does the retail mall create immense visual clutter, but because the stores are interspersed among the functional areas rather than being separated from them, the distance the traveler must cover on foot is vastly multiplied.

In addition, the various check-in counters for Lufthansa are broken up into separate "islands," with no evident rational pattern, and you can't see the whole to get oriented as to what is where.

To be fair, the ticketing agent for Lufthansa who re-booked my party was pleasant and helpful, but I found the other airport employees I dealt with irritable that anyone should ask them to do the work they were being paid for. It comes with living in the socialist paradise, I guess.

Finally, the architecture and design were of that frigidly modernist mode that makes you feel like you're in a factory. And I can empathize with Robert about waiting for a bus (in our case, to take us to a hotel for an unavioidable overnight stay) at a sinister location outside the terminal, exposed to the elements and with nothing to see except a multi-story car park.

Airports don't necessarily represent the spirit of the cities they serve, but Frankfurt not on my short list of holiday destinations anyway, and it looks like that will continue.

Posted by: Rick Darby on December 8, 2006 12:21 PM

I have a friend from Munich and he is quite proud their airport. Its won "Best Airport in Europe" for the last two years in the Skytrax World Airport Awards. It was third in the world after Singapore and Hong Kong. Copenhagen came in 10th in the world, 4th in Europe after, Munich, Helsinki, & Z├╝rich. In my limited survey of Europe this summer, I'll second the claim that Paris-CDG is pretty bad, and in fact all of Paris was falling apart, especially when contrasted with German cities.

I have always liked airports, and being from Portland originally, I have been mightily impressed with the renovations at PDX. I like the openness, simplicity, and especially the free wifi.

Posted by: Ben on December 10, 2006 11:21 AM

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