I traveled a lot in 2023. In total, I visited between 19 and 23 countries (depending on how you count them), three continents, thirty-plus cities, and found myself taking off and touching down at least 49 times. My last flights of the year brought me home to Charlottesville via Newark and Dulles, and I was glad to park my butt at home for a month.
2023 wasn’t quite as bad as previous years, what with the #FlughafenChaos that struck Germany in 2022, but I have grown an immovable disdain for BER. The long-awaited and much-overdue airport is a shitshow. It’s an unfinished mess with amenities from the last century, located far outside the city. Security control is abysmally slow, often you’ll see everyone just talking to each other while not moving any bags at all. You’re not allowed to put your own tray on the conveyor. (That might have to do with the electric shocks the security crew were receiving from the machines). Passport control is understaffed. There’s no lounge in the C-D gates, past the Schengen zone. It connects to nowhere.
It’s that latter complaint that struck me on this trip. United, my carrier of choice, ran a seasonal IAD-BER connection, but that stopped on October 31. It doesn’t look like it’s coming back next year. That leaves no connection between the capitals of EU’s most important economy and the world’s. This is mind-boggling. Yes, Munich and Frankfurt have long reigned over Germany’s air travel universe, but come on, Berlin is a capital city, the country’s biggest city by a factor of 2. You’ve got to do better than that.
So off I went through Newark. Newark’s airport has been refreshed lately, it’s a perfectly fine airport to transit through and the United lounge there is great. But I am scared of the airport and have been ever since a plane landed on a taxiway there in 2006 and much more recently, since a plane tried taking off from one. It’s too crowded. A disaster is going to happen there some day and I try to avoid it when I can. But I didn’t die on this trip.
Instead, I got home with little difficulty. I wish I had planned better – I had scheduled an appointment with Customs and Border Patrol to get my Global Entry interview done, which meant a few days after I arrived I had to drive back up to Dulles to do the interview. I resisted doing Global Entry for a while, as CBP isn’t exactly my favorite government organization. But this year I flew so much I gave in. I am absolutely done waiting in airport lines. I made status this year. I got my US passport working at Schengen border control automated checkpoints. I can cruise in and out of two continents now, that’s pretty great. I’m going to save a lot of headache.
Anyways, I had to drive up north during the break so I called up my lovely friend Eve and met them at the National Gallery in DC. A Rothko exhibit was running – I’ve never seen Rothko, and I found his work fascinating. The subtle use of color is outstanding.
After finishing my work year, Christine and I hosted a few gatherings. Her family came over for Christmas dinner and then we hosted a party during the week “zwischen den Jahren”, what Germans refer to as “between the years” and some others refer to as Boxing week. We did it open house style, with folks popping in any time during the day, and it was good to see friends, and good to send off the new year.
After the parties, I started work on an old house project, working on renovating our upstairs. It’s a project long in the making but I made good progress. Long story short, I’m putting in new subfloor and new flooring, replacing trim, moving a laundry room, and finally repairing a utility room that was being unused for years. It’s nice to get the house in order.
After a month home, I came back to Berlin. I’m still fighting off the jet lag, but I hardly have any time to rest: I’ll be underway again soon.
Trip log, 2024:
- Washington, DC