No, I Can’t Sleep In Chairs

So I’m back from Germany.

Sitting in my office, 24 hours later than anticipated.

Having arrived back in Kilkenny 16 hours later than anticipated.

I now have it confirmed as a fact that I cannot sleep on chairs. That, or Ryanair designed Frankfurt Hahn airport so it is impossible to get any kind of decent sleep.

Having had a most fantastic weekend away in Bad Soden-Salmunster, namely here for two gigs, myself and my brother arrived in Hahn on Sunday evening all set to go home. It was a bit foggy out, no big deal I thought. We disappeared into the terminal, pretzels in hand and in search of some coffee before checking in. No more than five minutes in the terminal and a flight to Oslo or Stockholm had been cancelled.

A quick look outside the door and the fog seemed an awful lot thicker than before. But, the other half of the group (who were travelling from Frankfurt Main) had departed no problem, though I guess the bigger airports handle fog an awful lot better than Hahn. No sight or sound of a delay, no warnings from the ticket desk or check in desk, so we advanced through to “the other side”, strolled around the duty free, drank more coffee and walked to Gate 7 around 9:30pm Sunday, boarding due at 9:40pm.

9:50pm. 10:00pm. An announcement that a flight to Milan or somewhere else has been cancelled, delays going up on the board but Dublin is still good to go. Flight time comes, 10:10pm, 40 minute delay posted on the board. No problem I thought, just means we’re arriving back in Dublin around midnight.

We never reach the end of the 40 minute delay, an announcement was made – that all the German-speaking passengers understood – that Dublin was cancelled and we could fly out the same time tomorrow night. Bloody great. They were now also diverting planes away from Hahn to Koln, but Frankfurt Main was still in the clear.

This was certainly where the MaxRoam sim card came in handy, phone calls back to the family, phone calls back to the office, phone calls in search of flights from both Hahn and Main (no chance of me sticking around another 24 hours to risk the exact same thing happening again). We joined the hour-long queue at the Ryanair ticket desk, a phone call to John informing me that we wouldn’t have to wait until tomorrow (Monday) night, but we could get out of there at 10am for €150 or so, the same story from Frankfurt Main with Aer Lingus if we were so tempted.

People around us were making phone calls, arranging collections, hotels in nearby towns. When the queue went past the main entrance to the terminal you could see the hoards of people trying to get a room in the B&B Hotel across the road. Crowded lobby, queue around the corner – “I guess we’re slumming in the airport so” I’d said to my brother.

They were giving out notices on what to do when your flight is cancelled, what you can expect – accommodation, meals, compensation etc. except when the airline can prove that something exceptional, such as the weather, comes into play.

So we arrive at the ticket window, secure seats on the Monday morning Dublin flight and look to kill 10 hours or so. Some cokes, shite coffee, a bag of onion rings keep us going for an hour all while walking around aimlessly. We discover a ‘casino’ upstairs where it turns out we’re not too bad at the video poker machines, my brother taking 200 euro in a few minutes (having deposited maybe a fiver in change). That certainly lightens the mood. About 1:30am or so we look to settle down, any half decent open space in the airport taken or coated with some crazy dust that was turning our bags and jackets an odd sandy colour.

We instead opt for the restaurant upstairs thinking the chairs look big enough. For about five minutes sleep. Five minutes here, ten minutes there, slump across the table for ten minutes, back to the chair for ten minutes and so the pattern continues until 5am when we’re all hunted out by the lady opening up, who in turn also sells shite coffee. For all the effort I would have been better off staying awake for the night with the pain in my neck and shoulders yesterday.

American pancakes and bacon at 5:30am and eventually we arrive back in Dublin ten minutes early. I was convinced the pilot was putting the foot down all the way in on the landing, no sense of slowing down at all, hitting the runway with a slap before jamming on the brakes. Rough night, rough landing, last time we’ll be flying to Frankfurt Hahn for anything.

Getting through the airport in Dublin was grand, no checked in luggage, straight to the car park to grab the van, only to park on the M50 almost as soon as we hit it.

Of course, there were some good points about Germany…

  • The two gigs were awesome. We played some Seger Sessions stuff on the Saturday night to bring down the house. Some sketchy songs though on the Saturday night before all that…
  • The staff at the pub / hotel and everyone in the group were legends.
  • Got to day-trip to Heidelberg which looks better in real-life than it does in photos.
  • The pub served pizza until 2am and Jagermeister was only 1.50 a shot. We reckon Jager and Red Bull (or big pump) will end up on the menu as collectively we must have consumed about 4,000 of them, give or take.

But, bed beckons at 3pm and all is temporarily forgotten.

Until the phone calls start when I switch my mobile on in the bed at 7pm and I’m reminded that I’m back in the real world…

Author: Ken McGuire

Runs Event Media and The Devious Theatre Company and writes about food at Any Given Food. You'll find me on Twitter here and here.