Day 1: Berlin – Santiago
In February 2014, I boarded a flight to Santiago, planning to travel through as much of Chile and Argentina as I could in 24 days. Up to that point, I had never gone backpacking on my own before even though I had travelled quite a lot to visit friends in different countries or to actually live there. While I waited for my flight to board, I was both unbelievably excited as well as nervous about what the coming weeks would bring. I was particularly nervous about my Spanish skills. Despite studying Spanish for a year at Uni, my actual skills in speaking the language didn’t extent far beyond saying my name.
I took an evening flight with Iberia from Berlin (TXL) to Madrid (MAD) and then on to Santiago (SCL). Changing flights in Madrid was a bit of a challenge. Rebuilt in the 1970s, the airport in Madrid is modern, clean and exceptionally big in order to cope with increasing numbers of people. The train that connects the different terminals leaves every couple of minutes and can easily hold planes-full of people. However, do calculate at least 90 minutes between flights because otherwise you might end up running the entire length of the airport to get to your flight on time (Upside: At least half of my flight from Berlin was running to catch the same flight so it’s not like I would have been the only one stranded).
Glad that I had caught my flight, I was very surprised after I walked onto the second plane. I don’t know how many of you have been on a long distant flight recently but most of you will know that seats now have screens at the back of each seat. Well this plane had video screens every 10-15 rows and a sound system straight from the 1990s. However, this was just the beginning of a very long 12 hour flight. I wouldn’t want to say that Iberia is a terrible airline (though I’ve never heard anything good about them) but those two flights were the worst I have ever been on. To start with the plane was unbelievably cold. Not just cold in a way that makes women put on every piece of clothing they own, but cold in a way that made men start complaining and penguins to shiver. Oh and the flight attendants. To be fair, my Spanish isn’t up to scratch, as I said, but I am fairly certain that flight attendants are required to speak English as well as their native language. However, the attendants on that flight didn’t intend to speak in a way that made anyone understand what they meant. Unless of course, when they made fun of the passengers because they did that in plain sight and earshot of everyone around.* Finally, the food. Imagine a bowl of porridge containing a bit of dark sauce and something else indiscernible. It was lovely, assuming of course that Iberia wanted to win the worst plane food on the planet competition.
The only good thing about this flight was the view coming in to Santiago airport. The view of the Andes beneath a piercing blue sky was absolutely stunning and like nothing I had ever seen before. But more about that tomorrow.
- Never fly with Iberia, even if it’s cheaper than other flights.
- Always check that you have more than an hour to change flights in Madrid.
- And finally, because this cannot be stated enough, never fly with Iberia!
*To be fair, I did meet one very nice Iberia employee when checking in for my flight in Berlin. Unfortunately, I forgot his name but he was very nice and if he were representative for the entire company, then I would certainly fly with Iberia again.