Saturday, January 28, 2012

Välkommen till Sverige!

We have arrived! Finally. The last week in Atlanta was perhaps the most stressful week I've ever experienced.  We had so many errands to run, bags to pack, items to ship and tons of furniture to sell, give away or recycle.  I was able to sell my Ford Explorer on Saturday but had to spend a good 2 hours at the bank on Monday to officially sell it.  Tuesday morning was a complete blur as we frantically ran last minute errands and seemingly endless runs to Goodwill.  We left for the airport at 2pm and still barely made our 5:30pm flight (blame the dogs!)  (Quick aside, never listen to the TSA agents about the care of your dog during transit. They had no idea what they were talking about and only stressed us out even more).

We boarded the flight to Amsterdam and the Delta agent asked us if we wanted to gate check any of our bags.  Ummm...yes please!  It was a $200 fee to check luggage upon arrival so free gate check was unexpected and awesome! No more schlepping!  We hopped on the flight and were happy to have the extra seat for Calvin.  The woman next to me was cooing and playing with him. She tried to entertain him in her lap but he was having none of it.  He ended up spending an inordinate amount of time in my arms because we experimented with a homeopathic remedy that was supposed to make him sleepy.  Instead, he was dialed in like he was on Ritalin and was zooming and lunging all over the place.  Never ever experiment with new things while traveling on an 8 hour flight.  Never again.

We landed in Amsterdam and I will say that those flight attendants for KLM look like they are straight off the set of the tv show, Pan Am.  Those women walked with purpose and were polished and made up.  One of the KLM attendants assured us that our dogs were now in the pet hotel at the airport.  I imagined Bessie and Darby in a whirlpool jacuzzi getting their nails done, remembered that the Atlanta TSA agents laughed in my face when I mentioned that the ground crew would walk them during the layover, and hedged my bets.  Who should I believe? This doe-eyed beauty in a soft blue uniform reassuring me that my pets were being fawned over or some overweight, underpaid TSA agents in Atlanta?  I chose to believe what could have been a beautiful lie.  The KLM agent won me over and I was hopeful that the girls were getting the walk they deserved.  We could easily find out whenever we saw them as their kennels were zip-tied shut in Atlanta.  If those were broken at all, they had been walked.

We hung out in the Amsterdam airport, ate a chocolate muffin, breezed through customs (nobody asked why we were traveling with 8 bags and 2 dogs) and napped on the 2 hour flight between Amsterdam and Stockholm.

As we were flying into Stockholm, all we saw was snow.  Beautiful, cold, snow.  The landscape was beautiful but I was terrified as to how cold everything looked.  Calvin wasn't even wearing socks!  We had left 68 degree weather in Atlanta and landed in a winter wonderland.

As we got off of the plane, we headed toward baggage claim/customs.  Terrified of the condition in which we would find the dogs, we spotted them easily.  They were on this massive cart that is usually pulled by a truck.  We grabbed our 8 bags and asked the transportation folks if we could use the cart.  Answer -- yes, but not through customs.  Okay...

This is Jon pulling our massive amount of luggage to customs.  Bessie barked at everyone who passed. People literally stopped and stared.  I felt like the head of a freakshow.

As we approached customs, I imagined a whole room full of passport lines with customs declarations and pieces of paper to fill out.  We've been through numerous countries and always had to fill out a form on the plane or when we landed -- then stand in line for about 45 minutes before proceeding through a long line.  Not in Sweden.  We transferred all of our bags to 4 of those baggage carts and declared the dogs.  The customs agent checked out their veterinary forms (somewhat quickly) and sent us on our way.  We passed through 2 big doors and much to my surprise, went straight into the surprised gaze of our taxi driver.  That's it?  No questions about why we're transporting 2 mutts and 8 bags? No questions about what we're doing in your country or who we are?  Nope!

Our taxi driver knew to expect a couple with 2 dogs and a lot of luggage but I don't think he had a clue!  He packed the bags while Jon focused on packing the dogs.  We managed to fit everything in fairly easily.

The taxi driver was helpful and dropped us and our bags at the foot of our apartment.  We ended up in our furnished place relatively unscathed and ready to drink some water and go to sleep.  More pics and videos to come!  

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