The theme of our travel yesterday(1) was seredipity and the avoidance of potential disaster by a wide enough margin that it made us appreciative but not nervous.
I left my house around noon on Wednesday. My flight to JFK arrived 45 minutes early, but they didn't have a gate for us, so we didn't actually get to deplane until 5 minutes late. I noticed that they still called it an early arrival for their statistics, though, which struck me as a tad bit fishy.
kcatalyst left her house earlier, about 10:30. We were going to meet at JFK and travel together from there. The excitement started when her plane turned out to have a new schedule, one that left earlier than originally expected, so she missed it. Fortunately, she had a ridiculously long layover at JFK, which allowed her to get rerouted without screwing up our flight together. Even when that flight was an hour late arriving at JFK, we had time to get dinner before getting on the plane to Berlin.
The flight to Berlin was as you'd expect: long, and painful. I didn't manage to sleep at all, unfortunately, so I'm glad I have a good book. I understand the theory of red-eyes, but they still suck.
We got to Berlin a full hour early (yay!), and were through the passport check and our bag pick-up by about 9:30am. This left us plenty of time to figure out the public transit system enough to swing by the office of the place where we're renting a room when we get back to Berlin and pay for the room (mysteriously [to me], they only accept payment in cash or bank transfers) before catching our train at 4:30 to Poland. In fact, even with dawdling, we were done with that errand and at the train station (with food!) before noon. By then, of course, we were in a sleep-deprived haze of confusion.
The "WC Center" at the Haupbahnhof, which cost an outrageous €.80, apparently also had a shower, which I briefly considered using, because, wow, was I not at my freshest, but I was too tired to think about getting undressed, clean, and then into new clothes. Not to mention that we still had another 8-10 hours in our day, so it hardly seemed worth it. We settled for brushing our teeth and lingering as long as we could. For that price, they ought to offer napping benches in there.
As we were wandering around in a daze, with almost 5 hours to wait for our next train, kcatalyst had the utterly brilliant idea of checking to see if there was an earlier train to Poznan and then on to Gniezno. There was, and we had about 45 minutes to sort out the reservation change. This was the moment that we recognized the theme of serendipity, because it saved us from the worst part of the day -- not only did it move the end of our day up by at least four hours, but it saved us from taking an unknown and poorly marked local train to a hard-to-find location from a station where almost no one spoke English to a station where almost no one spoke English in the dark after more than 24 hours awake. Instead, we got to do all that in the daylight, and doing it then made me a gazillion times thankful that we weren't doing it in the dark, and with that much more unslept time behind us.
So we arrived and were in our room, staring at each other in a daze by a little before 6, about 24 hours after leaving my house in Somerville. We made a pact not to go to bed before 7, aiming for more like 8, and in order to achieve either of these goals, we had to go for a walk. Plus, we wanted to eat something other than the emergency travel rations of bread, cheese, bananas, and almonds. So we went for a stroll into town, which turned out to take us on a deeply beautiful walk beside a little lake. We passed a dog carrying a stick approximately three times as long as his body, and exchanged friendly comments with the dog's owner. We're not sure what she said, since it was in Polish, but we're pretty sure it boiled down to, "It's important to think big!" We found a place that made pizza and had a menu in English, and we were able, through handwaves and nods, to convey that we wanted a particular pizza, but without onions. Then we sat down to wait for it to be made and nearly fell asleep at the table while waiting.
Eventually, the pizza arrived, we paid, and started the long trek back to our room. It was still beautiful, but as we came up the hill turning toward campus, it started to rain heavily. Fortunately, we'd brought our umbrellas, but we feared this was where our luck had run out. The pizza probably only contained onions, we figured. As we crested the hill, we stepped into misty, golden sunlight shining through the rain, and we turned the corner to discover the most enormous rainbow I'd ever seen, arching high over the sunlit trees and town in the distance, with dark clouds behind. No, clearly, our luck had not run out.
We took the scenic route (read: wrong turn, but we made it eventually) back to our room, ate, and got into bed at 7:57. Win!
(1) Where "yesterday" means the many-hour-long day that existed between our beds at our respective homes and our beds in Gniezno.
Today, I explore Gniezno while kcatalyst does linguist things. I am resolved not to nap. No, really! Um ...