Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mine Münchner Doppelganger(s)

I arrived at London City Airport at early o'clock last Wednesday morning, with the aim of catching the first flight of the day to Munich. My mission? To take in the city, and enjoy the 2nd leg of the Bayern Munich – Aberdeen UEFA Cup tie the following evening. Let the tale begin...

Due to fog, my flight is canceled. So, after ringing through to the Lufthansa call centre, I manage to get booked on a flight for later that evening. These things happen, and since London City's not too far from where I stay when I'm in London, 'keine problem', as they say in Germany. So, it's back on the DLR to Deptford Bridge and from there, by bendy bus towards the sunlit uplands of New Cross.

Fast forward 9 hours. I arrive once more at the airport and despite the chaos still being played out by the fog from earlier in the day, my rearranged flight leaves more or less on time. I arrive in Munich and about an hour later, I meet up in the Hauptbahnhof with my friends Ewan and Corrie. Since it's nearly midnight by this time we skip the pub to go back to the hotel, which is where the fun really begins.

Despite E&C having informed the receptionist well in advance of my late arrival, by the time I get there the night porter is denying all knowledge of my booking. My print out with 'reservation' on it from my online booking is waved away haughtily as being “just a piece of paper”. After what sounded like some choice words from Corrie (she's fluent in German, I'm not), some sleep-deprived glowering from me and a blast in Fifer from Ewan, a room miraculously becomes available, but only for one night. We withdraw having won a partial victory, enjoy a can of beer upstairs and curse the malevolent little troll downstairs masquerading as mine host for his obnoxious, misanthropic, downright unhelpful attitude towards us.

In the morning, we find a different receptionist who sympathises with us having to deal with the 'chaotic' porter, but who tells us that a 'Richard Thomson' has already checked in. Sure enough, someone's signed my name on my reservation, but it ain't me and ain't my signature. No matter – the room I slept in is free for this evening also, so again, keine problem. And off we go to explore the city, with maybe just a sneaking regard for the cheeky sod who managed to blag my room last night, or more likely, bung the thoroughly repellent night porter a few Euros for his trouble.

Evening comes, and we're off to the Allianz Arena. It's a great stadium, and sitting amongst the 61,000 Bayern fans, we get to see the 5,000 Aberdeen fans in full cry, and from the noise, you'd never guess which set of fans were being outnumbered 12 to 1. The 5-1 scoreline is a little harsh, even if the defeat is no great surprise. Anyway, off we head on the U-bahn after the game since as 'fans' of Bayern, the police don't make us wait behind. As we approach the city centre, though, the train in front breaks down. Eventually, we make it to our chosen brauhaus, and get some much needed food and beers in to warm us all up.

Next morning, we grab a quick breakfast at the station, and since E&C have a flight before mine, I explore the city on my own for a few hours after we say our goodbyes. Eventually, it's time for me to head to the airport also. When I get there, there's no joy from the self-service check-in computer, which is always an ominous sign. I therefore join the queue to get checked in the old-fashioned way, and then, we uncover the problem - much the same as the original story with the hotel room, I appear not to have a flight reservation despite the existence of my e-ticket.

After much to-ing and fro-ing, I am accused by a member of Lufthansa staff of having made a duplicate booking which they have had to cancel, and of having flown from Edinburgh to Munich via London on the 20th without telling them (wrong on both counts). Craning round to see their screen, I then see that the email address for this Richard Thomson is not mine and the penny drops – there are 2 Richard Thomsons leaving Munich for London that day and Lufthansa have taken it upon themselves to cancel my flight, since clearly, there can only be one Richard Thomson and he must have booked one of the flights in error! (Could they not have called, or checked the credit card numbers first?)

So, what can be done? Well, the remaining 3 Lufthansa flights to London from Munich are now fully booked, but I can be given a 'high priority' passenger status to take the place of any 'no-shows'. Nein danke – selective deafness seems to kick in when I mention the words 'British Airways direct', so I ask instead about the prospect of getting to the Lufthansa hub in Frankfurt and then onto London that way? After a bit more playing around, it turns out that this is possible. Sighs of relief all round, interrupted only by my picking up a compensation claim form on the way to the security check.

So, to recap - my first flight is canceled due to bad weather. My hotel room is given away to someone else who may or may not be called Richard Thomson. My team get gubbed 5-1 and then, my flight home is canceled due to the Teutonic over-efficiency of Lufthansa's booking system. I'm typing this as we descend into Heathrow, desperately hoping that nothing else can go wrong. Bizarrely, though, I've just been told by the steward and the girl traveling next to me that what little German I have is spoken with what sounds like a Dutch accent – work that one out if you can!

Anyway, Munich's a lovely place, the food and drink were great and the company even better. If you can, you should visit soon, not least because I seem to have used up for a while all the bad luck that might befall any other visitors to the city! And if by a million to one shot your name is also Richard Thomson, and you took a hotel room in Munich which you knew fine well wasn't yours before flying back to Edinburgh today with Lufthansa, may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits for all eternity...


Richard Havers said...

No wonder we won the war!

Richard Thomson said...

Luckily, the flight from Frankfurt was itself delayed by about 45 minutes. Otherwise, there's no way I'd have got through the 3 further security checks (I was already airside!) in time to get to the gate.

As an aside, I looked at taking a combination of Eurostar (to Paris), TGV (to Strasbourg) and ICE (to Munich), but decided against as it would have taken the best part of 10 hours. As things turned out, going there and back and assuming no problems, the train would have beaten the plane in both instances :-)

Anonymous said...

Scots seem always to speak German with a Dutch or Hungarian accent Richard. I forevern get asked 'Sind Sie Nederlander ' or 'Sind Sie Ungern'

dandydowser said...

["Ich heiße Richard Thomson", "Nein, ich heiße Richard Thomson".......

The München remake of Sparticus didn't quite work out as expected!]

Sorry to hear about your fun and games on the way back but glad you got home ok.

Was a good trip, glad you were able to join me and C and I see the pictures came out well. Mind you those ones of the Küchen at Alois Dallmayr make me want to go back right now!

Anne said...

Good God Richard, you're beginning to sound like me!!! Most of my trips are fairly similar to that lol.