November 18, 2018 - 2 comments

Airport Stories

Collected notes and photos from getting around.

Amsterdam Schiphol

Like many other airports, Schiphol offers a connection to-and-from the city center by a train. However, while many airports are the terminal station on the railway; here, the line goes through. This can result in a bit of trouble when you miss the stop - like me, the last time I was leaving the city: as soon as I sat down in the train, I fell asleep. And when I woke up, I realized that the train already passed the airport station and was heading somewhere further into the country. Long story short, jumping between platforms and getting a train to the opposite direction thankfully went without difficulties, and I did catch the plane. Uff.

Another "Uff" situation I experienced on the..

Paris Orly

The best way to get to the downtown from Orly is by the subway. Piece of cake, when you travel from the airport, as there is no room for a mistake. But when I was going back... Once at the station, a train with "Orly" written on it arrived on my platform, and I hopped on. However, later I found out that while there is the connection that goes straight to the airport, there's also a second one, which takes a good size detour through the outskirts. As you probably guessed, I learned it the hard way. When I was looking into my phone, I couldn't believe what was the gps showing. "The map calibration must be messed up," I thought. But then it said "accuracy 2m / 6ft, and I knew that it was me who messed up. The issue was, I planned my time tight, so I'd have hardly any time to spare even if I'll board the correct train. Now, sitting in a wrong one, my nervousness went into high digits. Counting my chances, I ended getting off the train, running to the main road nearby and hitchhiking. Luckily enough, one guy stopped and saved the day. As said, Ufff.


Most of the times, Edinburgh proves itself as an efficient and friendly airport. However, when I had broken knee, their security workers were so proactive, it was literally painful. They insisted on checking my brace, took it off me and said "Get into the scanner." When I nearly passed out, they were like "Ooh, you need it to walk??" You can read that story here.

Similar proactive approach I experienced in..

London Stansted

Some sort of love-hate affair here, airport business as usual, I guess. While I lived in London, I really liked to fly from/to here, as you can score very cheap flights to many European destinations. Also, the queues are all right, most of the times - unless...

Once, having nothing metal on me beside the zipper on my trousers, the regular scanner started beeping. "We need to scan you in the more advanced scanner" Aye, no problem, I thought. But these "more advanced" scanners require the scanned person to stand in a special posture, which can be an issue for a tall person as I am. "Sir, you need to put your arms higher," the officer said, while I was touching the scanner's ceiling already. "I don't think I can," I replied, but the guard repeated: "Higher, sir!" So I banged into the ceiling, pointing out that it's not happening. Suddenly another officer ran towards me: "Please, stay calm and focus on the instructions given to you. You need to put your arms all the way up" ~ "Jesus, we'll be here for long then..." After examination that, indeed, I truly can't put the arms any higher than I already had, they run the scanner. It shown that I had a suspicious content on my back. "I will do a personal search, do you have anything sharp on you, sir?" A few additional moments later: "Ah, nothing. You are free to go." What a waste of time and resources.

The security, as much as it can be annoying, makes for good stories. Some of them I got in...

Prague Václav Havel

Here I learned that you can be classified as a terrorist when you try to board an airplane with an analogue synthesizer. First, they scanned it from all angles like 5 times, then tried to take it apart and then took it for some sort of chemical examination. Surprise, no TNT was found. To deal with such disappointment, they checked every single item from my backpack, twice as precisely compared to when I went to photograph Obama on a US military base. I couldn't believe what I am seeing. And hearing, too, because the lines they said meanwhile, like: "You could choke someone with a usb cable ... but the TSA approved lock wire would do a better job," left me in speechless.

But I have to give to Prague, that while the isn't going to feature in any "cool design" list, things works mostly fine and queues are short.

Santiago de Compostela

A modern airport with good organisation and hardly any queues. But when I flew out of there, some greedy staff member opened my check-in backpack and nicked my Ray-Bans.

Shenyang Taoxian

At this good-looking terminal, located not too far from the North Korean borders, I had an unexpected adventure as the NK shot some warhead into the air the night before my flight. This triggered some Chinese military activities, and plenty of flights were suspended. So instead of departing at 9am, my flight took off past 6pm. Joy of joys, but what can you do...

Vienna Schwechat

While the building looks all right, the user experience was lacking. After about 10m of standing in the queue to the ID check, my counter closed. Moving to the next one, I was thinking why do I always pick the slowest line - in grocery stores, in banks, airports... And man, this got real, as the counter I moved to closed after another 5 minutes too. l had to stand through yet another one, which finally got me through. But then I noticed the queue to the security - holy cow, it was massive! Anyway, I thought about charging my phone. In the waiting area was an abundance of plugs, "Cool," I was thinking, "at least something." Um, not. Tried 8 of them, none worked. Seriously, what is it with airports and plugs? In so many cases, they are either non-working, or non-existent to be safe. It makes me wondering about some power consumption stats, if the passengers drain so much or what. Because it's not like you'd see many passengers taking a toaster, or a big fridge out of their carry-on luggage and pluggin' them into the mains, is it...

Warsaw Chopin

The first time I flew through here, it was from Chicago. It was the cheapest MidWest - Europe connection at that time. Well, and as I got out of the plane, they took me and a handful of others passengers into a small room, patrolled by a guy with a Kalashnikov, and asked questions like "Why do you want to emigrate into Poland." I was just transferring, so I was released soon, still tho. Whatever they were smoking must have been some darn material. But I remember that they had free WiFi back when it wasn't a standard yet.

A couple years later I went there to actually see the city, and was surprised how close the airport is to the downtown. Almost walkable distance.

Stories sometimes happen in airports. However, in the most cases, airports are only the point where the story begins, or ends. They serve as gates to bigger adventures.

Like these below:

Bergamo Orio al Serio

The start and the end points of my Italian Getaway.

Chicago O'Hare

Among my favorite airports, for sure. While the buildings aren't as stylish as some others, things work as they should and every time I was passing through, it felt somewhat special. Click for my collection of Chicago cityscapes.


An impressive airport, with nice lounges and swift security. See my story about the city!


Perhaps the cheapest flight I've ever took was to here. And the city was good, too.

London Heathrow

...saw me when I was moving from the US to Europe. And as you see, while some security consider a synth as a weapon, others allow you carry massive metal sticks on-board with no problem. But that journey also wasn't the smoothest, read about it here.

New Orleans Louis Armstrong

Here I remember that as soon as I got off the plane, they welcomed me with the jazz culture. Music, pictures... Kinda like when I got off in Vegas, and the first thing I saw were the slot machines. Anyway, See my post about NOLA's cityscapes.

Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro
Shanghai Pudong

This was my gateway to China. I can't express enough how much awesomeness was packed in that 3 months.

Lastly, below is a few pics from other airports with no big story attached, but I still like 'em.


A tiny airport with a cosy feel.


This was among the first destinations I flew to.

Dallas/Fort Worth

The infrastructure around the airport looks like some spines of concrete beasts. pretty cool. A few weeks after I flew from here, I returned to explore the cities. See the story here.


The architecture and decoration of this place left very good impression on me. All of Denver did, actually.

So yeah, airports. I could go on and on about the silly weight restrictions, which result in people sweating in bright snowboarding shoes during mid-summer, space issues for tall people like I am, and the security weirdness - I managed to get through the security with a Swiss knife - two times, both at major airports. It was by an accident, I forgot to put it into the check in luggage and it stayed in my pocket. I placed it to the tray together with a wallet full of change, and nobody noticed. But then I got yelled at because of half-empty toothpaste, and a harddrive case with a chocolate. I get the concerns, but when a 2hrs flight takes 6hrs.. oh wait, that's not where I was going with this.

The point is, every time I am flying somewhere, it is a special moment. It is entering a new dimension away from the ordinary life, as all the ads around you presenting those Omega watches, penthouse sofas and 5-stars hotels as affordable, sweet deals. Then you get seated, and start thinking of all the safety procedures before the stewards do. "This is how you fasten your seatbelt. This is where the emergency exits are. This is what you do in case of landing on water. Secure yourselves first before helping others. Smoking triggers fireworks." and so on.

And later, as the thrust glue your body into that seat, you take off - ideally with noise cancelling headphones playing some excitement, like Hendrix, Extrawelt or so. Then there's the social experiment of being placed with random strangers for some time: will you talk to them, find out their story, or will you rather read about other strangers, in the magazine placed in the seat-pocket in front of you? Or will you zone out, sleep the whole time? Will you use the airplane as a sanctuary, a place to think, to establish plans and conquer personal issues?

Eventually you land in a different world, sometimes as a different person.
Flying is a privilege, flying is grand. And airports have a good share on it.

If you liked this post, I'd recommend my article about how to travel cheap, and travel well, or my photo collection capturing the passion for driving. Because flying isn't everything..


Travel Cheap, and Travel Well!

summer 2015

Through The Windshield

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Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Collections, Stories