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: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. 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.

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