Germany Part V: Return to Minneapolis

January 1

After waking up, we spent the morning packing and getting our luggage arranged for the final leg of our trip.

We hoped to go to the grocery store and visit some of the other floors of KaDeWe before catching our train back to Munich. Unfortunately, almost the whole city was shut down for New Year’s Day. We wished we would have known this, or that the stores would have had their hours posted for January 1st, so that we could have finished up some of our shopping on an earlier day.

We got train tickets for the S-Bahn and departed for the Hauptbahnhof early. We grabbed a bite to eat at the train station and bought a lot of chocolates to take home with us at a grocery store inside of the train station.

We caught the ICE train from Berlin back to Munich. Adam and I watched several episodes of Arrested Development and played a few rounds of Forbidden Desert on the iPad.

Once we got to Munich we got tickets to head to our hotel by the airport. After arriving at the airport, we decided to attempt to check-in to our flight and try upgrading to premium economy seats. I went to pull out my passport to be scanned at the check-in kiosk and was unable to find it in my coat or bag. Adam checked all of his pockets and bags as well and still we couldn’t find it.

Before completely freaking out, we decided to check with the information desk about how to report a lost passport and what this meant for flying out of the country. They referred us to the federal police. We explained our situation to the federal police and they directed us to the Bavarian state police to file a police report. Everything sounded like it was going to be an easy and smooth process at this point.

The Bavarian police helped us to file the police report.  They had us sit in a waiting room that had the worst smell of second-hand smoke I have ever experienced while they were completing the paperwork. I honestly think they took their smoke breaks inside of the building.

Once they had completed the paperwork, the police assured us that having a driver’s license and a copy of the police report would be sufficient to exit the country. “Americans lose their passports all of the time during Oktoberfest and it’s no problem” is what we were told.

Just to be on the safe side, we decided to check with the airline ticket counter to see if they had any special policies we needed to be aware of given our situation. Their response was pretty grim. After being on the phone for at least 20 minutes with various supervisors, the airline personnel told us it would basically be impossible to fly without a copy of the front page of the passport, a new passport, or a special fax from U.S. Border Protection stating that I would be allowed into the U.S. when I arrived.

We decided it would be best to try to get a new passport in the morning at the American Consulate in Munich. We checked on alternate flights and were able to reschedule for later in the afternoon. It came with some hefty charges for rescheduling, but we decided it was better than be stuck for an unknown number of days while we tried to track down the passport.

So, at 11 o’clock at night (less than 15 hours before our new departure time), we caught the hotel shuttle. We did some backwards time calculations to figure out our schedule for the next day. We made a reservation for the 5 o’clock hotel shuttle back to the airport to catch the train to the city, check with lost and found at the station, and get to the consulate by 8 o’clock when they opened for the day.

We quickly packed and weighed all of our luggage, and took a quick shower before calling it a night.

January 2

Our alarm woke us up at 4:15am. With barely 4 hours of sleep, got ready for what we anticipated to be a very nerve-wrecking day but hoped would go as smoothly as it possibly could.

We caught the train to Munich and were at the Hauptbahnhof shortly after 6am. At the train station, we checked with the Deutsche Bahn information center to see if my passport had been found and turned in. Unfortunately, it had not been turned in to that service desk. The other DB service desk and the lost and found counter didn’t open until 7. In the meantime, we found a locker to stow all of our luggage so that we wouldn’t have to lug it throughout the city to the consulate.

At 7am, we tried the other DB desk and found out that they didn’t keep any lost and found items. We were told to report to the station’s lost and found center. My passport had not been turned in there either.

We caught an U-Bahn to the Residenz station so we could walk to the consulate. It was still quite cold and dark out so we hustled and stuck to the well-lit areas.

We got to the consulate about a half-hour early, but there were already people in line for appointments. The security guard started checking people in. We told him that we were there to get a replacement passport, that we had already called for an appointment but had not yet heard back, and that we hoped to travel out of the country still today. He said he would do his best to help expedite the process.

We waited outside for about a half-hour and then I was allowed to enter the consulate shortly after 8. The security guard encouraged me to talk with the consulate service desk to inform them that Adam was outside waiting and request that he also be allowed in.

Security at the consulate was much more thorough than at the airport. Police cars and police officers on foot were patrolling the outside of the building. Inside the security building, all electronics were taken from us and were held until we returned from the consulate. The officers were kind enough to notice that I was pregnant and turned off the metal detector to instead be checked with the wand.

Once through security, I was directed to the counter to complete the lost/stolen passport paperwork. I then waited for everything to be processed. Adam was allowed in to the consulate after having a more thorough inspection of his bag and electronics.

I was called back to sign my paperwork in front of the passport processing officer (who coincidentally had spent some time living in Minneapolis). He then started the process to make my replacement. I was told that hopefully it would be finished within an hour but it ended up being completed much sooner.

After getting my new emergency temporary passport and safely securing it, we caught the U-Bahn back to the train station. We retrieved our luggage and caught a train back to the airport.

At the airport, we reported to the airline service desk to confirm and pay for our new reservation. This ended up being a bit of a hassle for the airline personnel. For some reason, the computers were not allowing them to finalize the reservation or complete payment. Eventually we got our tickets printed and we headed over to check in our luggage.

We still had two layers of security and two separate passport checks to get through. Thankfully we were able to get through all with no issue or incident.

We grabbed lunch at a cafe before reporting to our gate to get our seats assigned. Luckily we were able to get seats together in a decent area of the plane despite booking our flight so late.

Our neighbors across the aisle on the flight were exceptionally whiny for most of the flight. They complained about having their seats changed without prior notice (even though now they were sitting in a place more towards the front). Their biggest upset though was that their in-seat monitors weren’t working. Clearly the airline had purposefully placed them in seats where they couldn’t get in-flight entertainment. They threw a huge fit and ended up getting 50 Euros each to spend with the airline as well as complimentary first-class service.

When we landed in Chicago, we had to go through customs, retrieve our checked bags to take through customs, re-check our bags, transfer to a different terminal and go through security again. I’m glad that we had a 2 1/2 hour layover because time was already a little tight to make all of that happen. A lot of other passengers had also had a very long day at the airport due to severe winter weather all along the eastern part of the country.

Shortly after we got to the gate we were informed our flight would be slightly delayed because we were waiting for a crew from another flight that had been delayed. Then we had to transfer to another gate and again wait for a crew to arrive. We ended up boarding about 30 minutes after our scheduled take-off time but then we had to wait for additional luggage to be loaded onto the plane that had not made it to its final destination due to the weather.

Adam and I finally slept a little bit on the plane to Minneapolis. This was our first time sleeping in over 24 hours.

Once we got to Minneapolis, we got our checked bags and found the shuttle service counter to arrange a ride home. Our driver ended up taking a wrong turn on the way to our place so we got home a little later than we should have. Thankfully we were the first stop on the route.

We brought all of our stuff upstairs, got into our pajamas, brushed our teeth and finally closed the door on our adventure to Germany in our own bed.

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