12.5. Helsinki -> Frankfurt

Struck by an inexplicable bout of altruism, a friend offers to take me to the airport at 6 o'clock on a Sunday morning. Melodic trance plays on the way there, appositely culminating in Learning to Fly as we reach Helsinki-Vantaa International.

A polite request results in a spacious bulkhead seat on the plane, and the familiar realization -- "Damn! On the road again!" -- hits upon take-off. My excitement is somewhat abated by a dreadful airplane breakfast (what do they do to those eggs, and is there somebody who likes overcooked zucchini at 7 in the morning?).

12.5. Frankfurt

I haven't been to Frankfurt's airport for a while, it's even more humoungous that I remembered. Everything seems to be slapped more or less haphazardly on top of everything else, terminals sprouting new cancerous growths here and there -- I'm reminded of the NYC and Tokyo subways.

I have three hours to spare, so I hop on an S-Bahn to the city itself, only 20 minutes away. The first stretch of forest looks like green like a jungle compared to Finland, even the air is humid. Then the city appears, industrial wasteland with skyscrapers stretching off into the fog... yech.

I walk out of Frankfurt Hbf and the first drops of rain start to off, turning into a torrent when (largely at random) I stumble into the European Central Bank HQ a few blocks away. (And a tip of the hat to them, I was actually able to use my Finnish euros, even in German vending machines!) It's early on a Sunday monring and absolutely everything is closed, there's nothing I can do other than peek into churches for shelter.

I head back. On the escalator, one of those German mountain men I thought only existed in commercials saunters past, a wiry old guy in leather leggings and green felt cap who looked like he could jump over a mountain in single leap. By the time I'm sitting comfily in my train the rain has become a downpour, and even the Bavarian-accented German announcements sound weird to my amateur but Berlin-tuned ear. I spend my last eurocents on the little notebook I'll record my thoughts in until I reach Tokyo and get my luvverly little computer back.

12.5. Frankfurt -> Kuala Lumpur

Mein Gott -- I'm in a 777-200 (capacity over 400 people) and this thing is less than 10% full. I conquered an entire 5-seat central row, and so did almost everybody all of my fellow passengers. This also works wonders for the efficiency of service: it takes less than 30 minutes to get all of a warm towel, some peanuts, a glass of OJ and a glass of beer... and then it's time for dinner!

It's oddly comforting to sit next to an immense engine emblazoned with a large Rolls-Royce logo. Then again, if you are sitting next to an oversized vacuum cleaner than sucks in air, mixes it with gas, ignites the result and funnels the resulting explosion out at a speed of 1000 km/h, it's nice to know that the thing has been designed and built literally as well as possible...

I actually managed to sleep for two three-hour stretches, a rare feat for me on an airplane -- the previous weekend's half-intentional sleep deprivation probably helped. And then I realized that the pull-out handset also has the full complement of Super Nintendo games, including all the classics like Super Mario Land and Street Fighter II! Joy!

Chicken noodles for breakfast, yum. Dinner was a bit of a disappointment though, generic fish in generic white sauce and the protein content of "salad with shrimp" really was a shrimp. Still, all in all I must say Malaysian was a pleasant surprise -- what on earth do they do in First Class, have a waitress suck on your toes?

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