Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production

CQQ-No.028: Landing in Town

Roof-scraper landings at Hong Kong's old Kai Tak. ©2000 UrbisMedia

Roof-scraper landings at Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak. ©2000 UrbisMedia

In times past our first encounter with a new city might have been through one of the gates in its walls, by its seaport or river port. Later our entrance might have been through its rail station. These days our first encounters with a new city might be by way of an off-ramp on an interstate.

But for international travel our first encounters are usually with international airports. Depending upon the airport this first encounter can range from pleasant experience to a decent into Dante’s inferno. De-planing ranges from a short stroll through a jetway into an air-conditioned terminal, to a crowded bus ride to the terminal, to a long walk across a hot tarmac and blasts of jet wash.

Terminals themselves can provide a promenade through a shopping mall atmosphere, to a frantic and confusing through swarms of people and baggage. Often, but not always a city’s airport reflects the social and political conditions of the country in which one is arriving: we may be welcomed with great warmth, made to feel like terrorists, be accosted by beggars or the allures of designer goods in the duty free. The architecture of terminal buildings may range from inspirational design to the Spartan utility of a warehouse.

International air terminals are also—in the names that are given to them—a clue to a city or country’s history and culture. Match the following airports with their gateway cities.

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©2004, ©2015, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 1.1.2004)