Monday, November 16, 2015

2359. Travel stories: Five flights movie v real life

On November 15, 2015, Luftansa cabin crew had commenced working and so my packaged tour group of the Balkans Adventure Tour boarded the A380. We had enjoyed our SIA flight from Singapore to Istanbul on November 5 instead of Luftansa as the cabin crew had started a strike then. I was glad there was no delay even though we might fly back by SIA.

There were no interesting movies and after watching the James Bond's Skyfall, I chose the movie 5 flights adapted from a book "Heroic Measures" by a French author. It was about a couple's personal and real estate problems when they wanted to sell their 5th floor apartment which had no lift.

The title "5 flights" reminded me of my problems of climbing up 5 flights of steps at the Mostar's Hotel Peregino during my Balkans Adventure Tour. I had a weak right knee and had to carry 4-kg computer and camera bag up 5 stories to my room to check in. Then to walk down to go for dinner at a restaurant 10-minute walk away. After dinner, I had to climb up 5-stories and walk down the next morning. The other 19 travelers except one had no knee problems and so had no worries, sprinting up the steps.

The hotel had two strong men to carry the heavy luggages upstairs since there was no elevator. I considered my weak knee as a sign of wear and tear and so took my time. There was no knee pain and I was very careful. Still, this was a surprise from the packaged tour company to offer us a hotel with no lifts.

My fellow travelers complained of the need to have two keys. One key to open the main door and the other key to open the bedroom door. This was so rare nowadays as my fellow Singaporeans are used to electronic card access. The other 7 hotels had card access. Aggravating their unhappiness was the lack of hot water for bathing, the lack of air conditioning as some European hotels do not provide air conditioning in winter. The floor to ceiling windows had to be opened to let in the cool air. But one traveler on the 4th floor complained that the window unit compresser hummed so loudly that he could not sleep when he had opened the windows. He inferred that it was my air conditioner preventing him from having a good sleep since I was on the 5th floor.

I had no problem with the air conditioner working. However, I had cold water in the bathroom though others did have hot water. The 5 flights of stairs  and my camera and computer bag could damage my right knee more but there was no sharp knee pain. I limped to the outside restaurant for dinner as the Hotel did not provide in-house dinner.

The soup and fried chicken were served. However, the guide had said that drinking water would need to be paid unless served. Since this restaurant did not give us a bottle of drinking water for 6 people, none of us ordered a bottle or asked our tour leader who had paid for our drinking water the night before at a meal.

"It is not that we can't afford it," one seasoned lady traveler in my table of 6 said. "We don't want to be burdened with the local konner coins in our purse since the restaurant does not accept Euros."

After the chicken, we waited for the dessert which is customarily served in other hotels. None came and our guide did not inform us. After a long wait, we stood up to go. "Since you all did not order drinking water, " I commented. "This is why the restaurant did not serve you the dessert!" There was joyous laughter as none of the 19 in the group had dessert. Some had bottles of drinking water on their tables although they did not pay eventually.

Hotel Peregino was a most memorable occasion, but my fellow travelers would say otherwise as they would like to forget about the most unusual experiences encountered. This included climbing up the 5 flights of steps and a real telephone operator waking us up early. I picked up the phone hesitantly and there was a real person.

I doubt the travel agency would book Singaporeans into this hotel but it was such experiences that make travelling so much memorable.



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