I’ve been to small towns before. Quite a lot of European cities, and Melbourne, can be explored on foot (maybe, some tram). But last week, I visited the smallest of them all – a town named Sønderborg in East Denmark.
Sonderborg, like many other towns in Europe, is the home of a manufacturing giant, for which it is best known. Corporate presence helps create employment opportunities and develop local infrastructure of these smaller towns that would otherwise be neglected. A local airline, Alsie Express, operates a few flights to Copenhagen everyday with their ATR aircraft in jet-black livery.
Shortly after takeoff the hostess came out of the front door to serve coffee, chocolate or nachos. We initially thought it was the pilot making good use of the auto-pilot, but later realized it was the ATRs cargo hold. The aircraft is an all business class configuration with the kind of leg-space that my friend Hriday needs, but hardly gets. Each seat stretching two window panes speaks for itself.
The approach served us a beautiful view of the area – lush green islands in the sea. The airport was a tiny little building – the size of a petrol pump (or smaller actually). The bags were loaded on a cart and then pushed into a gutter in the building. The 4 table cafeteria was empty, and there was free coffee and WiFi in the 8 seat waiting area.
There was a single, large common washroom. In the time that my friend took a smoke, people had moved out in their cars and the airport door was locked. The few taxis that were there had gone and we kept waiting. A lady realized we were new here and asked us if we need a cab. She had to ask the last person in to open the airport door so she could call from the taxi hotline. While waiting for the taxi, we asked a local if there was anything we could do this evening; he replied “You’re shit out of luck”. We had got the message.
After a 20km drive, we reached our hotel that was a 1 storey building, with just one of the many rooms lit. We walked in and found envelopes with our names near the door. Much like a reality show challenge, we had to find our way in. There was no light in the back yard and the entry door screeched like a haunted house. The corridor was hardly lit and we had to haul our luggage upstairs. As we entered the room, the door screeched back on us. We had no hopes of dinner but we at least hoped someone would guide us to a diner.
Curios and unassisted, we walked down back on the street to find people. With no luck, our last hope was the single lit room. Looking closely, we saw a man sitting there and we waved to him. The window’s reflection made it unclear if we was facing us or had his back. Our only option was to dare go up and knock his door. It was probably hunger that got us the courage.
While we were planning to knock, we were wondering if we’d open up if someone knocked our room. But I guess the person in there was brave too; he opened the door. He told us that there is a pizzeria down the road – he probably assumed that we had a rental. On leaving his door, the spooky ambiance forced us to pray that we’d spoken to a living person.
The next morning, we were the only 2 persons at breakfast and the reception and lobby was still empty. We knocked the kitchen door and that’s when a lady walked out. On request, she was kind enough to make us scrambled eggs. After our meeting, we took a cab back to the airport. There was single check in counter and we were issued our boarding passes without any ID – I’m sure they don’t see a lot of Guptes and Gopals there. Arrivals and departure was only separated by a partition. As the aircraft landed, more people arrived 20 minutes before departure to check-in. We still took off on time.
I don’t want to end the post like an Anurag Basu movie, leaving you to wonder if we had dinner that spooky night. No, we didn’t.