Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow in Chicago, snow in Munich, snow in Sarajevo and other snafus

The first snag on the day we left Portland was checking in at the United counter. The automated boarding pass machine rejected our reservation and directed us to see a representative. It turned out that Bosnia’s visa rules forbid foreigners from staying longer than 90 days. In the past, Fulbrighters were advised to apply in Bosnia for a 90 day stay, then reapply for an additional 90 days once in Bosnia. The United representative, however, told us that United could be fined up to 5000 euros for violating Bosnian visa requirements. Luckily we had already booked flights in April to return to the US; Landy to Portland to take his forensic boards, and me back to Milwaukee, Wis. to celebrate my fathers’ 90th birthday. Once the rep found and verified our April flights, she issued our boarding passes. I’m not sure if United would have allowed us to fly if we’d only had the return tickets in July.

The first leg of our trip was Portland to Chicago. When we arrived in Chicago, there was snow on the ground, it was overcast, snowing lightly, and pretty cold. We didn’t have much time. By the time we made our way to the international terminal and reached our gate, the plane was already boarding. I wasn’t optimistic about finding our bags when we arrived in Sarajevo. Because of the cold and snow, the plane had to be deiced – a first for us. Once in the air, the flight went very smoothly. There was a couple sitting next to us, flying from Chicago to Munich with a service dog. We were on the plane four hours or more before we even noticed the dog. Buster would never make a good service dog.
More snow when we arrived in Munich. A good deal more snow than in Chicago. Snow plows were hard at work clearing the runways. Not a reassuring sight. Leaving Munich for Sarajevo, we were told there was a long “queue” for de-icing. Sat on the runway about 30-40 minutes for the approximately 1.25 hour flight.

Finally arrived in Sarajevo – 15 hours after we first flew out of Portland. And still more snow. They got about 4 inches or so yesterday and it’s been snowing lightly but steadily since we arrived about 6 hours ago. But unlike Portland, they have snowplows! We saw them clearing streets when we headed out for dinner. Sidewalks, however, are not cleared and are quite hazardous.

The final snafu of the day. We had not had a chance to change money, but had enough euros for dinner. On our way back to our hotel, we found an ATM. Landy put in his card and we got a message that the transaction was being cancelled – and the machine kept our VISA card! The helpful hotel staff found the address of the bank and we will have to follow up with a bank visit tomorrow. Landy is afraid that the machine destroyed the card; I hope he is wrong and we get the card back. I still have my credit cards so we have a back up but this is not good news.