Most times when I travel home I carry a suitcase the size of my car. It’s almost empty on my way out but not so much so on my way back. I pack to the absolute weight allowance of the airline plus an additional piece of hand luggage. See the problem is, I can’t live without certain things over here so I have to ‘import’ them. The most important one: Kölsch, the beer brewed in Cologne and that I grew up with. Even though I managed to move to a town in North Wales that has finally it’s old brewery back and makes an excellent beer, namely Wrexham Lager, I need to have a German one on certain occasions. Eurovision Song Contest is one of these or international/european football championships (especially when we win the world championship) or just a certain time of year, for example when it’s carnival season in Germany. It’s a piece of home. That’s the reason why my suitcase is usually quite heavy on my way back over here, it’s all those bottles (well, and other bits). I always dread the moment I have to haul it off the baggage carousel at the airport and it usually leaves me with at least one bruise on my shins. The things you do for something you love…
I remember one particular occasion. The flight had been delayed and we all had been waiting quite a while for our luggage; there’s nothing more annoying because you were just crammed into an uncomfortable seat for quite some time and the only thing you want is going home but you can’t just yet. Finally the belt started to move and the first suitcases showed up (mine is usually one of the last ones). People were moving closer to the belt, eyes fixed on the whole in the wall where they first appear, trying to spot theirs.
“The suitcase is wet. Must have started to rain.”, I heard a woman mention to her partner. “But the ground looked dry and we didn’t fly through any clouds.”, he replied. He picked up another suitcase which was slightly wet as well. He touched the wet spot and rubbed his fingers. “That’s not water. It’s somewhat sticky. Smells like alcohol.” Oh dear, I had a very bad feeling.
And then the moment of truth arrived in the shape of my own suitcase, even wetter than the other ones. I pretended not to know what had happened, touched it tentatively, rubbed the liquid between my fingers, smelled at it, grunted something and hurried out of the terminal. Needless to say my suitcase was dripping and left a wet trail. Fortunately nobody seemed to notice. Outside the terminal I quickly opened my now soaked suitcase and disposed one broken beer bottle in front of all the smokers and other waiting people. I do wrap them properly and even put them in a box but the beer found it’s way out. Probably should have warned me when another bottle broke after falling down about 10cm onto a carpet floor while I was packing. I was properly embarrassed to say the least, even more so as I had to take a shuttle bus to my car and it smelled distinctively of beer. People on that bus must have thought I was drunk. I’m just glad I wasn’t stopped by police during the following week because the beer smell lingered for a couple of days in my car, too.
What I learned from this episode? Apart from the fact that socks are good at soaking up liquids, that some clothes needed to be washed twice and that I found some sticky spots in my suitcase for quite some time and in unusual places, nothing really, to be quite honest. I still ‘import’ my Kölsch, I just try to protect it even better.