Jacksonville to Romania for Christmas
After getting married in Romania in November 2011, I returned home to take care of some year-end business via the Patriot Express from Aviano to Baltimore and Jacksonville. I was then ready to return to spend Christmas with my new wife and 3 ½ year old step-daughter. On December 10 th I packed my clothes, etc. in my large Samsonite Spinner suitcase($10 from the Goodwill store) and strapped it on the back of my 16” wheeled 1987 Dahon folding bicycle. It took about two hours to ride the 14 miles from my house to the NAS Jax air terminal. Roll call was at 1430 but as there are always plenty of seats on the Baltimore rotator they were quite casual and many people arrived later. The 737 charter had individual TV screens with a selection of programs and arrive in Baltimore around 1900.
There was a Patriot Express from BWI to Ramstein with a 2130 roll call and 219 seats advertised. I relaxed in the USO a while and then went up to the AMC counter where everyone was immediately processed. The plane was only half full with about 175 empty seats. The world airways charter didn’t have individual screens and showed two movies on the flight and two meals. With a strong tailwind the flight time was just over six hours, but we had to delay departure as the Germans don’t allow arrivals in the morning on Sundays.
There were no other flights from Ramstein on Sunday so I got a room in the new lodging across from the terminal. I got microwave meals for dinner and breakfast for about $2 each from the front desk. There is a large selection at the exchange food court but much more expensive. On Monday there were flights to Sigonella, but I decided that was too far off my route so I decided to stay another night. Ramstein and Landstuhl lodging were full but I got a room at Vogelweh in Kaiserslautern. I biked about 16 miles there, checked in, and had lunch at Burger King on the other side of the base from lodging. I got another microwave meal for dinner and got snacks for the next day from the front desk.
The medevac bus leaves from Landstuhl hospital at 9:00 am Tuesdays and Fridays with pickups at Ramstein at 9:30 and Vogelweh at 10:00 for Vicenza. The staff at Vogelweh said there was nearly always space and we only had six or seven on this trip. It was a pretty ride of twelve hours south of Munich and past Innsbrook. We had lunch and dinner stops, both at McDonalds, and arrived at Camp Ederle in Vicenza about 2200. I met two soldiers on the bus who were taking vacation in Italy before returning to the states. As the army lodging costs are much higher than the air force we decided to stay at the youth hostel. We got three beds in a room for 20 euros each including breakfast.
I had a skin cancer surgery on my forehead the Wednesday before I left and I was due to get the stitches out so I went back to Camp Ederle clinic to see if I could get that done, but their dermatologist wasn’t in that day and they wouldn’t do it without his examining it. I would have gone to Aviano and the gotten done at the hospital there, but the Italians had a train strike schedule for Thursday and Friday and I didn’t want to stay there an extra two days, so I took a train to Gorizia on the Slovenian border with a change in Venice Mestre. There is a connecting bus from the train station there to the station in Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Unlike most Italian buses you buy the ticket on board from the driver. For 9 euros I got a train from there to Ljubljana I wanted to take the overnight train which ran from Venice to Budapest, but it had been cancelled as an austerity measure. The Bit Center Hotel in Ljubljana has hostel room in the basement where I have stayed several times for 18 euro with breakfast and the number 9 bus goes there from the station. The intercity bus station ticket office also sells tickets for the city buses which you must buy before boarding. I spent the night there, and returned to the station in the morning.
At 8:50 there is a train to Budapest that arrives at 1745 at the Deli(south) station on the west side of the Danube. The ticket was 35d euros. There is no food service on the train so I stocked up with food and drink at the Lidl supermarket by the hotel for the nine hour trip.
I have had skin cancer work done by a plastic surgeon in Budapest so I emailed him to see if he could set up the suture removal for Friday. I called and got an appointment for Friday afternoon so with an overnight train to Bucharest and a bus to Mangalia, I was back with my Bride of less than two months by Saturday night.
By George Johnston