Authored by Brad himself!
Our alarm awakened us at 1AM to begin our 24 hour travel marathon to the Eastern European half of our sabbatical. The previous night, the hotel concierge told us to allow for about an hour to the airport. However, our bus driver (and by bus I mean a frame wrapped in tin foil with a small diesel engine) took advantage of the roads with light traffic and got us there quicker, blasting by two instances of cars stopped in the traffic lane of the dark highway to change flat tires. The bus driver even cranked the volume on the scratchy 25 watt speaker when “Love in this Club” came on by Usher and sang along to the chorus. Then the radio station changed to English lessons, reciting awkward and simple conversation like “Red is my favorite color. What is your favorite color?”. Thankfully our first and last ride in Africa during the nighttime. Nearly all of the driving there was terrifying.
It didn’t take long to pass through security at JRO, and then we boarded our turbo prop plane to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As we taxied to the runway, things didn’t look good. The pilot shut down the engines because “something” wasn’t working. He literally said “something isn’t working”. Whatever was wrong must have fixed itself as once the engines fired again, and we took off. After a touch down in Mombasa to drop off some passengers, we continued on to Addis Ababa where we arrived at 9AM. We had about an hour layover before our next leg to Frankfurt, Germany, so we didn’t get to stop and enjoy the Ethiopia Airlines hub. When we got to our gate, we received updated boarding passes and were informed that we had been upgraded to first class on the upcoming 7.5 hour flight!! Thank you United for our Silver status, and thank you Ethiopia Airlines for being a member of the Star Alliance!
Our flight was excellent-lots of food and drinks and AMAZING service! Plus mimosas – Brooke’s soft spot. We had a choice of “traditional” food, or ordering dinner from the Ethiopian menu. Brooke and I are both skeptical of airline food, so we opted for the traditional menu. However, the flight attendant came by and offered us samples from the Ethiopian menu anyway, and Brooke and I found the food delicious!
Upon arrival in the Frankfurt Airport, we stopped to get a German beer to kick off our 4 hour layover to celebrate Brooke’s first time in her ancestor’s homeland and our engagement-moon. After realizing our electricity converter was in the checked baggage, that the big iPad was totally dead, and that Brooke had wanted to do some blogging and was now a bit crabby about the converter situation, I left Brooke to go exploring for a way to fix the situation. I updated our boarding passes at a Lufthansa service station since the last leg of our flight was a Lufthansa flight. Our boarding passes showed that we were Star Alliance Gold status (although Brooke and my United status is both Silver-maybe we were put as Gold due to the previous upgrade?). Regardless, Star Alliance Gold gets you free access to the Lufthansa Senators Club, so we headed into a Senator’s Club, where there was a self service bar, good food and desserts (enough to fill us up without a separate dinner-way better than Delta or United Clubs), and a 110 volt electricity plug so Brooke could blog! I think Brooke was more proud of me than she led on for finding our way into the club. (This is Brooke now – I was proud and certainly less crabby!)
Finally it was time to make the last (1.5 hour) flight of the 24 hour travel day. Brooke and I both slept on the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Budapest. When we got outside the Budapest airport, we were given a number corresponding to our taxi. Also, there are set rates depending on which region of the city you were traveling to, so we didn’t have to worry about a surprise taxi fare, which was nice. After the clock struck midnight, we checked into our downtown Budapest Marriott and went to bed, just over 24 hours after awakening in Tanzania (accounting for the one hour earlier time zone). It felt great to hit the Marriott bed, a familiar bed we sleep in more often than our own.
Today’s greatest surprise and piece of advice to travelers with airline points: Our flight across the equator covering over 3,500 miles from Tanzania to Budapest cost 30,000 United points per ticket, + $160. If we had purchased the tickets, it would have cost over $1000 per ticket. We were able to quite easily book the flight crossing over from Ethiopia Airlines to Lufthansa due to those airlines being in the Star Alliance with United. The upgrade and club access made the trip that much sweeter!
Mimosas to kick off the engagement-moon!