Cell Phone Madness
You may be aware the FAA has approved a study on whether cellular phones interfere with aircraft navigational equipment. If it is determined they do not, the presumption is that such phones could be used by passengers in flight. Let us all fervently pray that does not come to pass. Their omnipresence in the course of the excruciatingly tedious flight experience—from check-in at the departure airport to baggage retrieval at the destination—is already pushing the needle of my nausea meter into the red zone. It seems one cannot fly anywhere these days without some annoying oaf spewing, at high decibels to an entire airport concourse, his all-too-personal, all-too-tiresome, business.
Next time you're on an airplane that has just arrived at the gate, look around and see the number of phones that are immediately fired up. "Hi, it's me. We just landed. How's whozis? What's for dinner? Blah, blah, blah." Such extreme vapidity is not for public consumption. Then there's the VIB (Very Important Boor) who likes to run his company in public." Tell 'em they got the order but this time I'm gonna personally be on the loading dock and if it ain't right it's goin' straight back and we'll let the attorneys figure it out." Imagine someone like this in the seat next to you for six hours? About 30 minutes of cell-prattle and the nastiest Al-Qaeda hardcase would be blubbering out bin Laden's GPS coordinates.
Maybe, like cigarettes 40 years ago, cell phones are being passed out free on street corners. Everybody seems to have one. In the Portland, Oregon, airport last weekend I saw a 10-year-old child chatting away. What was mom doing? Why, talking on hers, of course. (I caught just two words: aroma therapy.)
In my memory book of cell-phone-conversations-I wish-I'd-never-overheard is one in which a young woman connected with a friend seconds after the wheels of our flight hit the runway in L.A. Unfortunately, it was 30 minutes before the plane got to the gate and allowed the talker's fellow passengers to escape what should have been a very private discussion. The dialogue involved a custody fight and those of us trapped in our seats were privy to it all: the cheating husband, his new girl friend, the sleazy attorney, the children's ordeal, the whole sordid affair.
If in-flight cell phone use is allowed I predict a spate of air rage incidents followed by the adoption of cell-free seating areas.
I'm confident that anyone clever enough to be a Gemütlichkeit subscriber would never offend fellow travelers in this way, but just in case someone thinks what they have to say to their wife, child, broker, mother, best pal, or business partner is interesting to rest of us, I'm here to assure them it is not. I'm not a Luddite, cell phones are great, but find a remote corner of the airport and have at it.
Great Christmas Market Tour
Every year Gemütlichkeit gets requests for information on Christmas markets and Christmas market tours. There are many of both. Tour operator DER offers an unescorted six-nighter that includes the usual Frankfurt, Nürnberg, Munich itinerary with daytrips by rail to Rothenburg, Augsburg and Stuttgart. Priced at $607 it features Best Western hotel accommodations and no meals but breakfast. Basic stuff; you'll see the markets and DER is reliable.
For something special, however, take a look at Karen Pasold's 11-night, Olde World Christmas Markets tour that covers Prague, Leipzig, Erfurt, Weimar, Dresden, Krakow, and Budapest. The hotels are top of the line and include the Kempinski Taschenbergerpalais in Dresden, Le Meridien in Budapest, Prague's U Prince and, for a spot of East Europe romance, first-class private sleeper compartments on the overnight Dresden to Krakow and Krakow to Budapest rail legs.
The $1975 per person price includes hotels, ground transport, nine breakfasts, seven dinners, five lunches, tips, and a welcome reception. The group will see the more authentic markets of Eastern Europe, and a number of guided walking and bus tours are included in the price. Itinerary stops that catch my eye are a visit to Oskar Schindler's factory (Schindler's List) in Krakow, dinner with Gypsy music in Budapest at Nosztalgia Etterem and, on the last night, a ballet (possibly the Nutcracker) at the Budapest Opera House.
The main reason we enthusiastically endorse this tour is that it has been meticulously planned and will be personally escorted by the energetic Ms. Pasold. She is a longtime Gemütlichkeit subscriber who we consider an expert on Eastern Europe travel. She has selected every hotel and restaurant following in-person visits and careful inspection. Let me assure you, this is the mother of all Christmas market tours.
Exquisit Our Pick Over Asam
There is a change to the "We Recommend" list of hotels on this page. Munich's Hotel Exquisit supplants the Hotel Asam, whose prices are no longer in line with the level of service and comfort provided. The Asam now charges 158 euros for its smallest double rooms. Add breakfast, which is not included in the room price, and the cost for two persons for one night is now 182 euros ($214). The Exquisit, whose doubles start at 160 euros ($188) and include breakfast, has larger rooms, is rated four-star rather than three, and as such offers more services than the Asam. In our view the Asam's only advantage is that it is five to 10 minutes closer to the center on foot.