Our return flight took us through Frankfut, an airport I am beginning to become very familiar with. Our connections coming back weren't great, and we had a five-hour layover in Frankfurt. This layover came on the heels of a transatlantic redeye that never quite made it into the night. We skipped that part. It took off at 2:30 and landed eight hours later which turned out to be 5:45 AM in Frankfurt, but only 10:30 in Chicago.
Five hours in an airport with three small children who have only had, at best, five hours of sleep in the feels-like-middle-of-the-night-but-is-actually-morning, is at least the third circle of hell. Maybe the fourth, depending on the day.
And so I decided that we would burn up the five hours by going into downtown Frankfurt. Far away from my carefree and fancy days of irresponsible youth, I looked up the details and made note of the schnellbahn trains and promising stops. I even made sure of how to buy the ticket and checked the weather.
So when we landed, after using the restroom one and all, finding a baby changing room, filling Edwin's bottle, and realizing that the passport control we were standing in line for was not the way out, we were on our way. A lot of walking and a quick stroller-fold to get through the smart-cart-proof poles found us at the correct and completely empty passport control by 6:30.
The very bored man at the window let us through and then we were in Germany. We found our way to the entrance of the terminal and located an ATM. Unfortunately, our checking account was empty, but fortunately there was an internet access computer right next to the ATM for such emergencies.
With the 50 euro bill tucked safely away, we went in search of elevators down to where the signs pointed for railways. The elevator worked for the first floor down, but not for the second (where's the World Association of Persons with Disabilities when you need them?). Unfortunately the 50 euro bill didn't work in the ticket machine, so Brandon watched the children while I went to McDonald's for a small bag of apples,two grapes and a lot of change.
The tickets bought, we went down another elevator (bringing the day's total to 35) and found ourselves finally on the schnellbahn platform. Unfortunately it was the wrong platform, and so another trip up the elevator and a trip down an escalator led us to the correct platform. Where Kathleen announced she had to go to the bathroom. Back up the escalator, into the bathroom, and back down before we got on the schnellbahn headed for Frankfurt.
The sight of beautiful, well pruned green trees greeted us as we emerged from the last set of escalators in the Konstablerwache station. Nothing else greeted us, however, as I had forgotten that it was Saturday. At 8 am. And 55 degrees outside. And my children were wearing summer clothes. Edwin at least had the benefit of a blanket, but he cheerfully insisted on kicking it off every time we tried to tuck it around him.
Not ones to waste a perfectly good opportunity to spend the last hour in civilization however, we gamely pushed on. Brandon and I admired the shiny, sparkling windows and Sophia tried to push the stroller with Edwin and Kathleen (50+ pounds) over the cobblestones. I enjoyed the sun sparking on the river, silhouetting the arched bridges. Kathleen wanted to go for a swim. We got freshly-baked buns from a heavenly-smelling bread shop and Sophia broke down in tears because she was too cold to eat it. And so we left, bidding adieu to the last sight of order and cleanliness that we will encounter for the next year.
Back in the airport we reversed our crabbed route of escalators (did you know that a Joovy Caboose will fit on an escalator without folding it?) and elevators, split up at security so that Brandon could dump apple juice the girls hadn't drunk, and made our way to the 'short' passport control line.
While standing in line seven people back, we heard the boarding announcement for our plane. I could see Brandon's eyes starting to bulge as a wheelchair-bound woman was let through right as we were supposed to go to the window. After getting our own stamps, we dashed through the crowded plaza, trying to understand the incomprehensible signs pointing to A62. A mistaken elevator ride up (number 63) had to be reversed (64) and we finally found another elevator down (65) to A62, a bus gate.
We rushed through the gate area, breathlessly checked the stroller, jumped on the bus... and waited twenty-five minutes. Finally, after telling the girls to sit down and be quiet for the fiftieth time, we snaked past every single terminal and one in construction to find our plane which was still there despite Kathleen's fears that it had left us.
Thankfully everyone fell asleep almost immediately because I was stuck with all of the children in the row behind Brandon, who had a seat by himself.
Brandon asked me if all of the trouble was worth it, and it was. Even though we had to ride every elevator in the entire airport, never once did Kathleen or Sophia complain of being bored. And that is priceless.