It took Phileas Fogg 80 days to travel around the world. Thanks to the power of commercial jets, Westminster couple Ernest Weiss and Hannelore Riehl completed the trip — with vacation stays in each port — in just 20 days.
"Hanna and I have always liked to travel, and we've been to China, India, Egypt, all over Europe and a lot of other places," Weiss said. "One day, I had this idea that it would be neat to take a trip and circumnavigate the globe. It's been years since I thought about it, and finally decided to do it."
Riehl, originally from Germany, said they decided to finally make the trip in order to visit her sister in Germany for her 80th birthday.
Their trip took them from BWI to San Francisco, Sydney, Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt and Venice before returning to Baltimore just 20 days later.
Since 2010, and including the most recent trip, the duo has logged more than 75,000 air miles, enough to circle the equator three times. Weiss said his love of travel dates back to his youth.
"When I was in my 20s, I remember one time I went to a movie in Baltimore, and they had a story on Egypt and the pyramids. I decided then that I had to see the pyramids," Weiss said. "It's like I have to see it for myself. I can't just see it in pictures."
Weiss said the list of places he wants to see is shrinking every year as he crosses items off of his bucket list, but he still has a desire to travel to South America and Ireland and to see Stonehenge.
Riehl said she too has loved to travel since she was young.
"I want to see the world. I'm 78 years old and I want to see everything there is to see," Riehl said. "We do everything ourselves. I don't like to go in the groups. I don't like it when they say, 'You have to be here at 2 o'clock.' I want to travel on my own time."
During the trip from San Francisco to Sydney, they crossed the international dateline, losing a day of their vacation. Weiss said upon their arrival, they were mildly surprised to find just how cold it was.
"The fact that it was winter threw me for a loop," Weiss said. "I knew it was going to be cold, but to walk around and see people in their winter coats was strange."
During their five-day stay in Sydney, the couple visited the Taronga Zoo, shopped in the city and met with the locals. Weiss said he wanted to see all of the stereotypical trademarks of the country, including koalas, kangaroos, boomerangs and an outback hat.
"I went into a hat shop, and I told the guy I wanted a 'Crocodile Dundee' hat. He told me he had no idea what I was talking about," Weiss said. "Eventually, after describing and discussing the movie, he realized what I wanted. They call it a Kubra hat."
From Sydney, they stopped over for a night's stay in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, before traveling to Frankfurt, Germany, to visit Riehl's sister.
"We came to surprise her for her birthday," Riehl said. "You should have seen her face when the whole family marched through the door. She started screaming in happiness."
Riehl said many of her sister's stateside relatives came to the party, but took what she calls jokingly "the short path to Germany."
After a week in Germany, Riehl and Weiss drove to Venice, Italy for the last leg of their trip.
"I drove from Germany to Venice because I still have my German license," Riehl said. "It's very hard to lose a German license once you get it."
In Venice, they both mentioned they were impressed by the canals and gondolas as well as the view from St. Mark's Square.
"It's just like the pictures you see of Venice," Riehl said. "It's an interesting city in that they have water taxis and water buses where they travel along the grand canal."
Weiss said he's traveled so much that he is not surprised by most of what he sees; however, he had one mild shock during his trip to Venice.
"I found out that I didn't like the pizza in Venice," Weiss said. "I've been all over Italy, and I've liked the pizza there, but it was really thin, like cardboard."
From Venice, they drove back to Frankfurt and took a flight back to Baltimore. Weiss said he and Riehl felt surprisingly fresh after their long trip of nearly 25,000 air miles.
Weiss said traveling a lot has really expanded his horizons from when he was young. He said it's hard to travel without learning something about the world.
"Basically, I've realized people are pretty much the same everywhere you go, but there are, of course different cultures. You get a different perspective on a trip like this," Weiss said. "On this trip, I really found out, even though there are some bad people in the world — and we all know that — I found out how nice people were on the whole."
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Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or email@example.com.