Northern Exposure

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 Road Junkies 0 Comments


Northern Exposure, Days 1 & 2:  Atlanta to Amsterdam to Copenhagen.  As anyone who knows us can attest, when summer arrives in Georgia, we begin seeking a path north.  Two years ago we found relief in Newfoundland and Maine; last year we retreated to Alaska and Canada's northern territories.  This year's version of our summer escape takes us to northern Europe, which has brought us to a completely different understanding of the word "north."
Overlay shows continents at equivalent latitude.
As the overlay map demonstrates, what constitutes 'north' in North America is closer in latitudinal equivalence to southern Europe.  Our home state of Georgia is at the same latitude as Morocco.  London is farther north than Calgary, and Montreal is south of Paris.  So when we decided to go north in Europe, we'd be considerably closer to the polar region than our "northern" forays in the U.S. and Canada.
Northern Exposure trip plans
Our six-week "Northern Exposure" journey will take us to the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  Since we will be "in the neighborhood," we also plan side trips to Minsk, Belarus, and St. Petersburg, Russia.  After plotting out the places we'll visit on a map (above), we thought it looked rather like a constellation, so we decided to see what would happen if we connected the cities, using straight lines for flights and water travel and road lines for land travel.  Admittedly, we felt a little sheepish about the result.
Maybe connecting the dots was a baaaad idea.
After departing with KLM from Atlanta Monday night at (yawn) 10:30, we arrived in Amsterdam mid-day on Tuesday, grateful that we had been able to upgrade to the last two lie-flat seats in first class with our mileage currency.  A brief layover gave us just enough time to hike from the terminus of one concourse to the end of another in the all-walking Schipol Airport.  Another KLM flight, just under two hours, took us on to Copenhagen.  After almost 5,000 miles on less than four hours of sleep, we were quick to make the acquaintance of our bed in a hotel near the airport.

Just an hour's nap refreshed us enough to visit the on-site Bark restaurant for dinner and enjoy a walk in the area before retiring to our room for the evening.  Tomorrow we'll spend the day in Copenhagen (a preview since we'll be here four days at the end of the trip) before flying tomorrow evening to Riga, Latvia, to begin a Baltic road trip.

Two-Day Stats
    •  Started in:  Atlanta
    •  Ended in:  Copenhagen
    •  Miles flown:  4,795
    •  Miles walked:  6.57
    •  Weather:  93° (Atlanta) to 59° (Copenhagen)
    •  Number of times we inquired about upgrading seats:  6
    •  Decent restaurants in Atlanta's international terminal:  0
    •  Miles used to upgrade:  47,500 each (and worth every one!)
    •  Screaming children on second flight:  too many
    •  Bicycle stands in Copenhagen arena parking lot:  2,243

Loved:  Acquiring an upgrade to first class with lie-flat seats meant we were able to get some genuine rest on the overnight flight.  

Lacking:  Appealing restaurants at Atlanta's international terminal.  Planning to have a relaxing dinner there, we were appalled at the miserly selection of eating establishments in this part of the world's busiest airport.  All save two—a seafood house and a meat market—were fast food joints offering counter service food court style.

Learned:  Though it was fraught with uncertainty, upgrading our seats at the last minute cost us only about 15% of the dollar equivalent difference at the time we made reservations.  But you need luck—and a lot of it—for this strategy to work.

Much to our surprise, we also learned that if you do have lie-flat seats, a longer flight is better.  On our 8.25-hour flight to Amsterdam, the first two hours and the final hour and a half were consumed with meal service, leaving us just a bit more than four hours for rest.

Where Are We Again?  We were fascinated to learn that the major directional signs at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport were all in English, not a problem for locals since about 90% of their population speak English as well as their native Dutch.   Copenhagen went for the more traditional local language with English translations below.

When a Gift is Not a Gift. Since the 1950s, KLM airlines has presented each of its first class passengers with a Delft Blue miniature of a traditional Dutch house.  Each depicts a real house in Holland and is filled with genever, a special Dutch gin.
When KLM decided to begin the practice, airlines were forbidden to provide gifts to passengers, as it was thought to promote unfair competition.  Since there was no law requiring drinks to be served in a glass, the company's executives decided to deliver the houses filled with gin and call it beverage service.

More Photos from Days 1 & 2
Back in line for an update on our upgrade request
Attractive Atlanta international terminal with lousy food choices.
Our terrible choice for dinner at Atlanta airport.  (Lack of a single Asian employee should have tipped us off.)
Yes, I'd love a glass of champagne.
A lie-flat seat?  Yes, please.
Favorite Dutch Word of the Day:  Videobewaking
Fabulous indoor forest at Copenhagen Crowne Plaza has 60 trees and 4,500 other plants.