6/28/18

Whew.....we made it to Klagenfurt!


This is our fourth trip to Europe to visit Karel's family and third trip combining the trip with a visit to Klagenfurt to race Ironman Austria. We competed in the event in 2014, 2016 and now, for the 20th anniversary, we will be racing on this amazingly beautiful course on Sunday. Every time we have traveled to race Ironman Austria, something happens. We could fill a chapter of a book on all of our traveling nightmare stories that we have experienced over the years but for some reason, traveling to Europe for a triathlon event has never been easy for us. Let's just say that we are so happy to be in Klagenfurt, Austria right now. Here's a recap of the past few days.

I had booked a flight on KLM as we really enjoyed the experience on our last trip to/from Europe. Also, with KLM, I had more options for our layovers (I like 2.5 hours to help us get through customs/security checks and for our luggage/bikes to have enough time to get from plane to plane) and I could select our seats to give us both aisle seats near the front of the plane (not business class). I really wanted a direct flight to take us to either Vienna or Prague but there was nothing available near where we live. So the best option was to drive to Atlanta so that we only had one layover in Paris, France. After I booked our flights, I realized that our flight to Paris was operated by Air France and our flight to Prague was operated by Czech Airlines so we never flew on KLM which was a bummer.

I had a lot of difficulty reserving/confirming our bikes as KLM/Delta/Air France requires that at least 48 hours before the flight you call and reserve your bike to make sure there is room for them on the plane. I must have called at least six times in the two weeks before the flight as no one could help me so this was extremely stressful. Finally the bikes were confirmed. The reason why I made sure to confirm our bikes was because in 2014, Czech Airlines would not accept our bikes coming home from Prague which was very stressful. After over two hours of trying to deal with the situation, we finally got our bikes on the plane around 30 minutes before the flight. So we never wanted to experience that stress again so I've always called to confirm our bikes before our international flights.

We arrived to Atlanta International Airport around five hours before our flight which was a little early but we didn't want to feel rushed. We parked in the hourly parking so that we could walk across to the terminal with our bikes and luggage and then go to the off-site parking to leave our car. The check-in was very simple and we paid the $150 for each bike and all was good. 

Since we had some extra time to spare, we found a Moe's to eat lunch (a few miles from the airport) and then went to the Ramada to drop off our car. Since I reserve the overnight parking for around $2 a day, a few weeks in advance with OneStopParking, I didn't think there would ever be an issue but I was wrong.

When we arrived, we brought our printed out paper to the front desk and they quickly informed us that their lot was full and One Stop Parking was suppose to call us to let us know in advance. I called One Stop Parking and they refunded our money but they were unable to find us a place to park our car for 36 days as they said everything was full. I was not happy with this situation and I couldn't believe that they wouldn't help us find another place to stay. I could not justify paying $14 a day for almost 6 weeks in the airport economy parking lot so we drove to hotel to hotel trying to find a place to park. We ended up at a Holiday Inn Express and the lady at the front desk was so nice and helpful - finally. She told us to reserve the parking online and it worked! We were able to park our car there and thankfully, the hotel was gated to keep our car safe.

Instead of waiting for the shuttle, we got an uber to take us to the international terminal and finally we arrived to the airport around two hours before our flight. Thank goodness we allowed plenty of time! We got through security, walked to our gate and we were happy to be almost ready to bored the plane. Oh the stress! 


We saw our bikes outside the plane which was a relief. Once we got on the plane (it was huge! 3 by 4 by 3 seats), it felt nice to finally know we were on our way to Europe. Karel and I each had an aisle seat to stretch our legs and to make it easy to get up and walk around/go to the bathroom and I had an empty seat next to me which was nice. We both watched a movie while eating our dinner (I pre-requested a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal) and then tried to get some sleep before arriving to Paris.




Nearing the end of our flight, we were given "breakfast". I was pretty tired but was planning to get a little more sleep on our next flight. We arrived to Paris around 7:45am which was 1:45am EST. 


I brought a few snacks with us as our flight was only 8 hours to Paris (and through the night) but I was thankful to have a few Amrita bars to fill in some protein gaps in my diet with all the carbs I was served on the airplane. Each of the protein bars has 15g of plant based protein (not powder, real food based).


We had to go through a lot of security checkpoints in Paris which gave us plenty of walking before we got on the plane. The next flight was very short (75 minutes) from Paris to Prague and Karel and I slept the entire flight. When we arrived to Prague, we were happy to finally be in Karel's home country. Although the Vienna airport is closer to Karel's home town of Znojmo, the Prague airport made more sense for our returning flight after we compete in Challenge Prague near the end of July.

Our luggage came pretty quickly but our bikes did not. We waited and waited and no bikes. Never has this happened before so it was very stressful for us. We went to the baggage desk to inquire about our bikes and although the Czech staff was very friendly, they weren't able to help because the bikes were never scanned in Paris - so they had no way to track the bikes to know where they were located. Karel and I were so upset and after hearing from others how Paris was not known to be great with luggage (in other words - lots of lost luggage) we started to get very concerned about the possibility of our bikes arriving.

Because of this situation, our plane to drive to Znojmo to see Karel's family was thrown out the window. Karel has a good friend Roman who lives about 90 min outside of Prague who offered for us to stay with him as we waited to hear about our bikes. He has a few connections with Czech Airlines and he had a lot of people trying to figure out where our bikes were. Karel and I had a hard time finding joy in being in Europe as our bikes were lost with no way to track them. Thankfully, Roman made us feel at home and we were even able to get in a 40 min swim at a local pool just to help move some blood (although it was really hard to focus).

I was so exhausted from everything that I took a 3 hour nap when I arrived to Roman's house. We didn't go to sleep until almost 11pm. We woke up at 7:30am as our plan B was to find some bikes to rent in Prague for the race - and helmets, shoes and pedals. Thankfully we had our other race gear in our suitcase. Just after we got up, Roman told us they found our bikes! Somehow they ended up on the last flight to Prague. I realize this is only a short time since we arrived to be without our bikes but the stress came in not knowing where our bikes were. Oh what a relief. 


We then drove 90 minutes to get our bikes. Then we got stuck in the parking lot as the meter took our ticket without us being able to pay for it. Karel had to stand in line for almost an hour trying to get us a new ticket so we could leave the parking lot. Then we had a 3 hour drive to Znojmo. We said hi to his dad real quick, exchanged some of our money to Euros in the town square, picked up his mom, made a stop at the grocery and then drove 5 hours to Klagenfurt. What a Tuesday! We didn't end up arriving to our rental home until about 11pm and our friends/athletes Justine and Natalie arrived just after us.  We all didn't go to sleep until almost 1am. Let's just say that when we woke up at 10:30am on Wednesday morning, we were all so happy to be in Klagenfurt.....with our bikes!