AUSTRIA TRIP 2008-2009

US Airways flight 706 was scheduled to depart Philadelphia at 6:30 PM on December 21. Like good passengers are supposed to do, we arrived three hours early for check-in, but the plane didn't lift off until 15 hours later!

According to US Airways personnel, someone tossed a diaper in the toilet which then froze and broke. A mechanic who was called to fix it fell from a ladder and was taken to the ER. Another plane was ordered, which arrived around 2:00 AM.

About 200 passengers spent the night sitting on the benches or trying to sleep on the floor.

Early during this time there was a fire alarm with screeching sirens and horns that continued for about half an hour while lights flashed and a recording warned everyone to leave the area. Most of us jumped and headed for the nearest exit, but then we noticed that airport employees and people operating concession stands were doing business as usual. We discovered that these false alarms happen quite often. We experienced two more such false alarms during the long night.

Around midnight, US Airways announced that we could get in line for a food voucher worth $10 that could be used for food at any airport restaurant. There were far too few vouchers, however, and those who didn't get one were told that more were on the way. The "lucky" ones who got a voucher, soon discovered that the concessions had closed for the night. At 2:00 AM, an announcer said that more worthless $10 vouchers had arrived and those who didn't get one could now get theirs. We got ours just to keep as souvenirs since there was no place to spend them.

The city of brotherly love (Philadelphia) came to our aid with a tiny bottle of water and package of cheese crackers for each passenger.

At about 3:00 AM, a US Airways agent announced that they were "finally getting rid of us." We could begin boarding the plane.

We then spent over two hours on the plane because the fueling process wasn't working properly. The first truck didn't have enough and the second truck was missing the proper paperwork.

At 5:30 AM I told Verna that I had had enough and was getting off the plane. As a 70-year-old heart patient (4 bypasses in 2005), I didn't want Verna to have to ship me home in a box. Verna told the pilot that I wanted off and he said, "If he gets off, everyone will get off." He then complained that he had been on duty for five hours and not moved one wheel. I had no sympathy for him since he was getting paid overtime while we passengers had endured much longer and were paying his salary. My threat may have had some effect, however, because almost immediately, the pilot announced that we were taking off. It was 5:45 AM.

The flight was normal and we arrived in Munich around 7:00 PM on Monday. The flight attendants were wonderful and considerate! Because we were so tired and it was late, we decided against driving our rental car the three hours to Austria. We found a Bed & Breakfast that had a room available and collapsed.

We had a good trip to Austria. The typical clammy cold and overcast skies that greeted us remained in place constantly for the next two weeks. That is one part of Austria that we haven't missed!

It was great to see our son and his lovely family again after more than 18 months. Doris was only a month old when we last saw her, but she warmed up to us fast. The lady in blue is Martina's mother.

We attended the Christmas Eve program in the Voecklabruck church. They are now meeting in the brand new auditorium of the Music School.

After the service, we arrived back at the house and had a light meal before retreating to the living room - Austrians celebrate on Christmas Eve. We sang several carols and Benjamin played a special number on his mouth organ. After Richard read the Christmas story, The children began opening their presents. Doris Joy was only nine months old last year, so this was all new to her.

Opa was not feeling well and soon retired to bed. He spent the next three days in bed and Oma came down with the same flu two days later. Richard was struggling to get around on crutches and later on, Benjamin was taken to the hospital after hurting his arm sledding. You might think we were in a hospital! Once we recovered enough, we made seven visits with friends and former neighbors.

On January 4, we celebrated Benjamin's 11th birthday and on the 6th, we took the family out to eat in our favorite restaurant. Below, Richard and Verna are eating desert - Salzburger Nockerl and pancakes with ice cream.

Our return trip to America on January 8 was without incident! Thank you Richard and Martina for a wonderful visit in spite of all the problems!