June 26th, 2011

Spain, Germany, and Phoenician Seafaring

I left the excavation on Wednesday to fly to Germany to attend the symposium “On Sea and Ocean: New Research on Phoenician Seafaring” at Philipps-Universität in Marburg, which, founded in 1527, is the oldest Protestant university in the world. My trip once again turned out to be quite the adventure, as powerful storms around Frankfurt caused the cancelation of many flights, including my own from Madrid. Although Iberia Airlines certainly cannot be blamed for the cancelation, they didn’t handle the situation well and left us sitting and waiting without providing us with any news or information on our flight status, other than that it was delayed, nor any reason for the ultimate cancelation. Even after the cancelation, the departure board only said that the flight was delayed indefinitely, and that passengers should go to the customer service desk for further instruction. The plane’s full load of passengers mobbed Iberia’s customer service counter, trying to reschedule connecting flights or make other contingency arrangements, and the scene quickly degenerated into a mass of frustrated and angry people jostling one another and shouting at the airline representatives. The latter responded by shouting back and lowering the shutters of their windows, which only irritated and inflamed the situation further. Finally, airport security was called in to restore order and keep things from escalating. In the end, after more than 6 hours of standing in line, everyone was put up in a dingy old hotel not far from the terminal and rebooked on another flight in the early morning.

Cryptic message on the flight status board for flights to Frankfurt (photo by M. Polzer).

The crowd grows at the Iberia desk as more passengers realize that the flight is canceled (photo by M. Polzer).

At the crack of dawn the next day, we were all bussed back to the airport and put on a special flight to Frankfurt. From there, I traveled by train to Marburg and then by taxi to our hotel, which was located outside of town. I was to give the plenary address at the opening night of the symposium, and just did have enough time after arriving to check in, shower and change, and then catch a taxi back into town to the University for my talk and the following welcome reception.

Marburg, on the River Lahn in Hessen, Germany (photo from www.brodyaga.com).

The symposium was organized by Texas A&M University Nautical Archaeology Program alumnus Dr. Ralph Pedersen, visiting professor of nautical archaeology at Philipps-Universität Marburg. It was a thoroughly enjoyable few days of meeting new and old colleagues, making new friends, and listening to interesting presentations on various aspects of Phoenician seafaring, including Phoenician harbors and lighthouses, shipwrecks, trade and commerce, colonization, and culture contact with the indigenous peoples of the lands where the Phoenicians settled. Ralph and all of the supporting faculty and students at Philipps-Universität, as well as the Mayor of Marburg, are to be credited for the warm hospitality we received and the well-run conference we all enjoyed; hopefully, the first of many more.

I received word that, back in Spain, the team was unable to dive on Friday and Saturday (June 24–25) due to high Levante winds; valuable time we can ill afford to lose.

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