Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Auf Wiedersehn...







I'm back! Amazingly enough, so is my luggage. [g]

I think I've been to Germany five or six times now—and my luggage has never once reached the place when I did. It's always showed up eventually, after one, two, three, or even four days, but I'm probably one of the few Americans who knows exactly where the British Airways lost-luggage office is in the Duesseldorf airport. Mind, the first time I went to Germany, Things Happened en route, and I ended up in Amsterdam rather than Frankfort, so it was no wonder that the luggage ended up somewhere in the bowels of Gatwick airport and I was obliged to attend my German god-daughter's christening in the jeans and T-shirt in which I'd been traveling.

(That was the four-day delay, which led to my being Really Tired of those jeans and T-shirt by the time I arrived in London two days after the christening, which in turn led to my washing said clothes in the bathtub of my borrowed flat with a bottle of shampoo (I'd arrived on a Sunday evening, nothing was open save the little shop down the road, and I had only two pounds in English money on me; all I could afford was a tiny bottle of shampoo and a carton of milk) and hanging them out the window to dry, only to discover that the humidity of a summer night in London is about 92%. I eventually resorted to drying my jeans in the oven, though I was still pretty damp when I squelched off to Selfridge's in the morning to buy a fresh shirt and a pair of earrings before my first interview.)

You'd think I'd learn. But nooooo….I entrusted my luggage this time to USAirways (my current candidate for Worst Airline Ever, and I speak from vast experience), to be handed over to Lufthansa when I changed planes in Chicago. Not that I really had much choice; you can't carry the Necessary for a week-long book-tour in a book-satchel, after all. I was not really surprised, though, to eventually reach Cologne and discover that my luggage hadn't.

Well, one gets philosophical about this sort of thing, and the Lufthansa lost-luggage people kindly gave me an emergency overnight kit, with toothbrush, toothpaste, and a size XL white cotton T-shirt in which to sleep. I had my book-satchel with me, containing Kindle, takeoff/landing book (because they won't let you read your Kindle during those periods), chocolate, and essential meds, after all—what else did I really need?

Granted, there was a photoshoot scheduled for the next morning, during which the German publisher proposed to get a new dust-jacket author photo. And while I could do interviews perfectly well in jeans, turquoise Uggs, and a turquoise plaid shirt (my travel ensemble), that seemed a little casual for the evening event at LitCologne, the city's very elegant literary festival, for which I was meant to address the multitudes—in company with Cologne's Vice-Mayor for Culture (Cologne has seven or eight vice-mayors, I'm told. And there is evidently quite a bit of vice, too; I was told that the new Metro was constructed by the German equivalent of the Mafia, who stole so much material from the project that a new underground station had recently collapsed—taking with it the state Archives (which was sitting on top of it) and destroying the biggest collection of medieval manuscripts in northern Europe) and Daniela Hoffman, the actress who reads the German audiobook version of my work, this event to be held on a ship cruising up and down the Rhine.

The resourceful publicist who'd met me at the airport checked me into the Hotel im Wasserturm (Hotel in the Watertower, and it is. Built inside an ex-water-tower, I mean. Interesting place. Wedge-shaped rooms. http://www.hotel-im-wasserturm.de/), then asked the desk clerk where to find a department store likely to be open in the evening, and we charged down the street in the rain (propelled by the enormous umbrella helpfully supplied by said desk clerk, which acted as a wind-sail) to Kaufhof, a monstrous store with acres of clothes, shoes, luggage, jewelry, etc.

One hour of frantic shopping, and I was hastily but respectably equipped with black short-sleeved sweater, black long-sleeved sweater, black pants, colorful scarf, a rudimentary makeup kit, gold earrings, and what my husband described upon seeing them as "fetish boots." (see above).

Got up early the next morning and dressed in my new finery, went off to be photo-shot. The art director from the publishing company had chosen two locales for this: the basement of the City Hall, and the ruins of a bombed-out church. (Don't ask me; I'm not an art director.)

The entourage included said art director, the publicist with me, the photographer, the photographer's assistant (the hapless person whose job it is to hold immense reflectors and carry the tripod), and a nice young stylist named Xenia, who plied her art subtly enough that while I did look older than I do unadorned (_vide_ the less formal snapshots, which were taken that evening in a café with some local readers, after the LitCologne event, and the lovely rain-soaked one taken by my German translator coming down into the Moser Valley). I did not look like a prostitute, I'm happy to say.

I did nearly freeze to death. It had stopped raining, but spring had not yet sprung, and I tell you what, old stone buildings are C-O-L-D, especially if you have to stand very still on said stones for very long. The photoshoot took abour four hours, all told, and Xenia and the publicist took turns leaping forward to swathe me in coats and shawls whenever the photographer paused to change equipment.

The locales were actually very picturesque; the basement of the City Hall is open to the sky, and is the oldest part of the building, with arches and twining vines; they told me that it's a popular site for weddings (preferably in warmer weather). The church is St. Alban's, and the ruins enclose a very moving war memorial called "Grieving Parents", which I think you can see here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/schroeer-heiermann/4124722676/

and in more detail here:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alt_St._Alban_-_Trauerndes_Elternpaar_%289127-29%29.jpg


(We were naturally not shooting near the sculpture, but off to either side.)

Cologne is also where I made rendezvous with my friend and translator, Barbara Schnell—who is also a photojournalist. You can see some of the pictures she took of the German tour here (click on one of the pictures to enter the site, then click on "blog" and you'll see the entry for March 20th there is of the German tour):

www.bschnell.de

I had a wonderful time in Germany, but am glad to be back—and so is my luggage. [g]

45 comments:

  1. Good to have you back, I hope you enjoyed yourself. Great pics by the way love the shoes.

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  2. Glad to hear from you! And to know that when you are not writing, you are having a little adventure... if lost luggage counts as that?:)The shots turned out lovely - and the boots are cool, not the least fetish-ish...

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  3. I actually like the boots... although I didn't think they were quite your style :) Glad all worked out and you are back to your warm home. I lived in Germany for 3 years and I do know how cold Easter is there. (We always had snow on Easter)

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  4. love the boots!! love the pictures! glad your back home safe and sound!

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  5. The pictures turned out wonderfully! They made me smile. It sounds like not so much fun ... but I still wish I was there!

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  6. I love the boots! If they are a 7 send them my way when you are sick of them! :-)
    Glad you made it back safely!

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  7. Love the photos of the boots, Diana.

    Glad that you have arrived home safe and sound and with your luggage. :)

    Judie

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  8. Diana, I've always enjoyed your use of brackets to embed tales within tales when you post here. Sometimes I get lost in the layers and have to reorient myself when emerging from the final closing bracket [g]. Your story of the collapsing subway was a wonderful tangent.

    On reading 'Echo' I was tickled to discover that William writes in the same way in his letters to Lord John with equally interesting diversions within his brackets [g].

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  9. Good to know you are back home safely. Beautiful photos...you look lovely. What an adventure you have had. Shoes were amazing!

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  10. Well, the funny thing is, I'd _never_ have thought of buying boots like that. But most of the shoes available at Kaufhof were either sandals or rather stodgy pumps. I _was_ going to buy a pair of wedge-heeled sandals, but the publicist wouldn't let me [g], insisting that my feet would be cold (which in fact they _would_ have been; I was frozen to the bone as it was). So I said, "Well, OK, what have they got in the way of boots?"

    They had maybe three pairs of boots with enough heel to get the hem of my pants off the ground (actually, I had to hem the pants, using the little sewing-repair kit I carry in my book-bag. It comes with six pre-threaded needles, each with about six inches of thread. Consequently, my pants are hemmed in six different colors), and these were the only ones they had in my size (I wear a 6, usually).

    But the boots were a great success--everybody who saw them loved them! Which just goes to show that you oughta try something different now and then, I suppose. [g]

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  11. 幸福是人人都要,又怎麼可能都歸你所有?要知道這世界幸福本來就不多........................................

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  12. I love those boots. Very cool. The pictures of you are wonderful- very glamorous and dramatic. :)

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  13. Kaufhof is great. You get a lot of things there. :)
    Tell me if you are in Sweden this year. I'll be there for around six months to do my degree work in Stockholm.

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  14. Diana:

    I thought the photos of you were exceptionally lovely and well done. The make-up did not age you as you stated. And the environs were quite picturesque!

    I have to laugh at your post because, as I read it, I kept thinking how much you *sounded* like Claire, "I had my book-satchel with me, containing Kindle, takeoff/landing book (because they won't let you read your Kindle during those periods), chocolate, and essential meds, after all—what else did I really need?" That last bit is priceless and Claire all the way.

    Welcome home.

    Midge
    (Merrymags)

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  15. Joining the fans of the new boots - very nice! Loved the photos as well!

    As far as the continuing adventures in luggage arrivals goes, I was going to suggest that maybe they should schedule your arrivals with at least 36-48 hrs to either allow said wayward luggage to arrive or time to go shop for replacements. But then I remember that the Powers-That-Be can have a rather warped sense of humor; either the luggage will arrive with you and you'd have all that wasted time waiting for the events or, if history repeats and the luggage has gone walkabout, that extra day would end up being some sort of national holiday in where all the clothing stores would be closed. ;-)

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  16. "Kindle and a take off/anding book" !!!! A girl after my own heart!
    I loved this post. The boots, your lost luggage, your side stories, and even the comments :)

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  17. Welcome Home! I was thinking the same thing as Midge. Now I know how you can describe Claire's lost things so well, you have had plenty of practice yourself.

    You made me a little nervous about US Airways, my sister and I are traveling on them to Ireland in June,and I'm thinking we should carry an extra outfit just in case.

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  18. Ahhhh...these are the blogs that keep me coming back for more! Your mishaps make my life seem so less hectic~ Thank you for yet another gut wrenching laugh. So funny~ Glad you made it home. BTW, in my neck of the woods, we call those "fetish boots", too...Typically not my style either, but in a pinch...or if I were drunk...With the right outfit, though, I'm sure the possibilities are endless . Maybe I'll expand my horizons and go find myself a pair somewhere...

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  19. Glad you are back safe & sound with lovely new boots. As a traveler myself, I completely sympathize with the perils of lost luggage and dealing with W.A.E.(too bad that can't work out to "WOE") Mine is American airlines.
    I'm very sad to hear that the Cologne (rather, Koln) archives lost their collection of medieval manuscripts - Really Awful! I lived in Germany (near Trier) from 1985 to 1994 and visited Koln many times. It is a great place to visit.

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  20. Where did you get the t-shirt with your name on it? What does it say at the bottom of the shirt? I love the cover of An Echo in the Bone and would gladly wear that shirt if I knew where to get it.

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  21. Dear NYBlueJeans--

    The shirts were made by a German fan-group, many of whom came to the Chocolate Museum cafe after the event in Cologne (it's on the Rhine, very near where the "Literature Ship" was docked [g]) to meet me. They gave me and my German translator _and_ the publisher and publicist all shirts, too--which we promptly put on over whatever else we were wearing.

    I don't recall what it says at the bottom, and I left my shirt with my German translator/friend to mail after me, because people gave me so many nice presents, I couldn't fit everything into my luggage, what with the extra outfit and the fetish boots. [g] But I'll let you know when it arrives, if you like.

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  22. Next time you find yourself in cologne without luggage you can borrow some of my clothes ;)

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  23. Glad you made it back! I am new to your blog but a long-time reader of your books.

    Anyway I can't imagine why it would take 4 hours for a photographer to get *one* photo for a dust jacket but I guess that's just me. =) If I was standing out there in the cold I'd probably have said "you get 15 more min" and be done with it!!

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  24. Dear SteveandAlina--

    Ha. [g] The trick to getting a _good_ photograph is take a million of them and throw most of them away. Which is why professional photoshoots invariably take quite a awhile.

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  25. Great pictures! And you look so serene after the lost luggage and all! Welcome home.

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  26. Hi Diana,

    Love the fetish boots.

    And turqouise Uggs ! ! ! Wow !

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  27. Love the boots! My husband would _hate_ them, lol. The pictures look great. And I love your stories. Tangents are fun aren't they? [g]
    Lady Oliver

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  28. This is off subject from your trip, but I wasn't successful trying to register at Compuserv, so I thought I would catch you here.

    I have never bought a graphic novel before, but I am certainly getting The Exile. I have lurked at Compuserv and saw the thread about the GN. One poster didn't like GNs and wondered why you were doing it. I thought your answer made a lot of sense and very honest about the fact you want to reach more readers and why. Today there is an article in the Houston Chronicle about the University of Houston's new Graphic Novel Workshop that was very interesting. I have never given GN's much thought (until The Exile) and this article explained how the GN has grown over the years and why, who it reaches and how the subjects of the GN have changed. I felt the article basically echoed your opinion on Compuserv. If you are interested, here is a link.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6945397.html

    Thanks for the great storytelling. I am especially waiting for LJ and the Scottish prisoner. Love both of those guys.

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  29. Have you ever heard Tori Amos' song Etienne? I always think it describes the Outlander novel so well....and it makes me smile.

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  30. Gotta say the "fetish boots" are super great. Reminds me of one of my college roomates favorite sayings. "You're boots may be for walking, but mine are in case I need to kick your ass."

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  31. Glad to hear from You!
    Diana what do you think about Twilight's saga success?

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  32. My lady, not trying to be overly toadying, but you get lovelier and lovelier with each passing year. The picture of you in blue (aka, the traveling outfit).

    Anyway, I thought Delta had the lock on worst airline ever.

    I do dig the boots, though.

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  33. Diana, I know this is late, but I just came upon this article today: www.bakadesuyo.com/how-to-guarantee-your-luggage-wont-be-lost-or
    Basically this guy is saying that he includes, and declares to TSA, weapon, which in reality is a starter pistol, one of those blank shooters that referees use in swim meets, in his luggage. He says that that luggage gets extra special atention because TSA of course does not want luggage with a weapon to be lost. Interesting issue.

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  34. Many thanks, Jesse! [g]

    Mariella--I'm all for it. Anything that makes people read books is a Good Thing. Besides, I figure that eventually I'll inherit many of the readers of Twilight and Harry Potter, as they grow up. [g]

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  35. Hello Diana,
    when I read your lost-luggage-story, I get a bit afraid of my upcoming East Coast USA trip. I hope Lufthansa manages to deliver my luggage in time…

    I was at your book signing in Dortmund and I am still thrilled of your kindness and your brightly aura.

    I love “Echo der Hoffnung” as well as all the other books of the series. Thank you for creating this marvelous and exciting world.

    It was a big pleasure to meet you!

    Auf Wiedersehen!

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  36. Dear Sonja--

    Oh, I wouldn't worry; I've lost my luggage every time I go to Germany [g], no matter which carrier I have--but I've never lost it coming back! (It's just that there's no good direct connection from Phoenix to where I need to go in Germany, so I get multi-legged journeys, often with tight connections--and _that's_ where they fail to get the luggage transferred.)

    Best of luck, and I hope you have a great time!

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  37. Hi, Diana! I love having discovered your blog. Hoping I've not totally overlooked this info--do you plan on visiting Los Angeles to promote Echo anytime soon?

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  38. I have to tell you - I just flew on Spirit Airlines (the most expensive no frills airline...ever) and asked the flight attendant if I could read my Kindle during take off. And he said "yes - no problem"! It was a good thing, too, because I'm on my first read of "An Echo in the Bone" and to say I was a bit anxious to continue reading would be an understatement. :)

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  39. Late to the party as usual (sigh); however, I have a question... You mentioned your Kindle and I am wondering how you like it. I am in the market for an ebook and there are now several to choose from. As someone who reads voraciously, would you recommend the Kindle over the others?

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  40. Completely off the subject of the post, I wanted to say thank you for the recommendation (if several persons removed) of the Felix Castor novels. They were amazing! I only wish I could get my hands on the most recent 2 books of the series without actually having to buy them. (My book habit was becoming a bit too expensive to maintain these days.) I was also wondering if you had read the Flavia de Luce Mysteries by Alan Bradbury. I thought they were very well written, clever, and amusing, and would recommend them to any of your readers who are patiently [g] waiting out the interim until you next book.

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  41. Ah... one minor correction. The Flavia books are by Alan Bradley, not Bradbury.

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  42. Dear Emma--

    Well, no. Generally, one only promotes a book when it's newly published. They normally _do_ send me to LA for at least one appearance on book-tours, but didn't this time--publishers cutting costs, I expect; the whole industry is in a tail-spin.

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  43. The boots are positively fab and they suit you. The photos are quite lovely and I don't think the makeup ages you at all; I don't even notice it in the photos. Glad to know you survived your adventures and remain undaunted, just as Claire does. I think she has many qualities in common with you. Sending you hugs~

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  44. Hi

    had a similar nightmare on my trip to the United States - starting April 16.....remember.... volcan ash....and we "just" booked a cruise, starting from San Diego....

    Begged the check-in lady on my knees to stick a "priority label" on ma luggage, because I had to change airplane at Newark...

    Airplane was the next to last starting until they closed Munich as the last airport in Germany....

    Had to fly a detour not to fly into the ash...

    Delay.....

    Immigration officer chatted friendly with collegues - unfortunately he forgot to stamp my passport, so I was supposed to go to the second screening....

    And there they are really not in a hurry - and they don´t care, if you need to catch a flight or not..

    Boarded connecting flight as last passenger, was denied to take carry on with me, while plane was fully booked. Unfortunately my scarf and sweater (yes I know what to expect in a plane!) were in my carry on...

    Plane was cooled down to zero.....

    Result: I cannot speak a word for two days and have a very sexy voice until now :-)

    But got my ship...

    Wendy

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