A sparkling way to start the day
I arrived early in the morning at Helsinki airport after a long flight to Finland from Australia. I was travelling to Berlin that day to participate in events associated with the bicentenary of the birth of explorer Ludwig Leichhardt in Lower Lusatia, Brandenburg, known as East Prussia in his day. Leichhardt, a famed figure in the annals of Australian science and exploration, was born in the village of Trebatsch in Lower Lusatia in 1813.
I boarded the Berlin-bound Finnair flight along with a plane load of morning commuters. It was by now about 7.30am, the breakfast timeslot. I took my seat on the full aircraft, with rows of three seats either side of the aisle. Other passengers were mostly dressed in business clothes. They were, I imagined, heading off to meetings in the German capital just over an hour’s flying time away.
As the aircraft levelled out, the cabin crew announced they would be serving a light breakfast, and that champagne and wine were also available for purchase. I wondered who would want to contemplate champagne or wine at this time of day.
Most of us are familiar with the preoccupied demeanour of corporate passengers on morning flights between Australian capitals, during which they either immerse themselves in printed documents or gaze at their laptops. So this cheery offer from the cabin crew struck me as overly optimistic. I could not have been more wrong.
Every other passenger, it seemed, decided to order champagne. Stewards dashed up and down serving bubbly right, left and centre, as well as dispensing a light breakfast tray set with Marimekko-designed napkins.
By the time a steward reached my seat, near the rear of the aircraft, the champagne had run out. The couple next to me settled for white wine.
The atmosphere aboard had now become very relaxed. People held animated conversations across the aisles, waving their glasses in the air. Why on earth didn’t I join in and order a drink too, I wondered.
By then it was too late. The cabin crew prepared for landing, the glasses and breakfast leftovers were cleared away, and we arrived in Berlin. There was a surprise there for me, too. My hosts had noted my birthdate on my passport when they made the travel arrangements. They greeted me with birthday flowers to celebrate. Send your 400-word contribution with your name and postal address to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Columnists will receive a hardback copy of New Zealand Wine by Warren Moran, a guide to key winemakers and wine regions; $75. More: hardiegrant.com.au.