quinta-feira, 19 de maio de 2011

Travel log - Europe - Day 9

Day 9 - Berlin Christmas Eve or the The fall of the house of Ush.. Carol

(warning - longer post - rich in details)

This day was to be a special one. We woke up very early and commented on how excited we were about the day. It was cold as usual, we had breakfast and the place where they served the meals was a bit empty. So, without taking to long to prepare, we hit the road in order to get to the meeting point on time. We were hoping that despite being Christmas eve, the tourist places would be open and there would be walking tour.
As we arrived in front of the zoo station we met a guy, Jakob, who surprised us with a perfect English. Even native speakers (our friends from the US) asked him where in England he was from, and he told them: “I’m from a beautiful English city called Berlin”, so everybody laughed. When we arrived at the meeting point, we approached him, told him we would like to take the tour and paid him the price. With the Berlin card we had some discount, but I don’t remember how much it was. Anyway, nobody arrived and we went, just the three of us, to the second and last meeting point. We took the subway and talked all the way about our lives and everything. He was a very friendly and intelligent person, with a major in literature and history.
At the second meeting point, there were some people waiting, all of them couples: one from Sweden, one American and a nice lady and her husband directly from New Zealand. So, this small group set off to the main streets and building around the center of the city. We visited museums (but did not enter any, the objective was to identify the building, know a bit of its history and come back later if one wished). We walked for about 3 hours and the spotlights were the Reichtag and the Tor and the Monument to the Jews. (Pics below)

The funny thing about this tour was that Carol decided to let out the Japanese in her and she took more photos then than she had taken all the rest of the trip. OK, I might be overreacting a little but all the time I had to call her because people wanted to move on and she was left behind, looking for the proper angles and lighting. She felt a bit bad because she thought I was embarrassed she was holding people, but I was very amused for two reasons: it was too cold for me to want to take my hands out of my pockets and take pictures, if she did it, afterwards I would have a lot of photos with me in them. So I made a little scene, pretending to be annoyed but I was so having fun with my new friend photo freak.
So, we finished the tour by lunchtime and we were hungry. It finished in a square with a church and on the corner there as a chocolate store (http://www.fassbender-rausch.com/), huge and full of sculptures of chocolate. The most amazing one was a building with some hot chocolate fountain. We had a kind of pie, or sweet in a bakery. It was so funny because there were some sparrows inside the bakery which seemed to have been trained to be on the ground eating the crumbs.

Then, after eating something, we decided to go to the bus station to try to buy the tickets to Prague, our next destination. We arrived at the station and it was awful. The place was far from the center, but there was a subway station nearby. Few people spoke English and most of the ticket booths were closed. It was not so late, about 3pm, but no one could give us definite information about the buses. We met an American girl who said she could not find tickets and she would have to spend Christmas eve and Christmas there because she was trying to go to Prague to see her family but she was told no bus would leave in that holiday period. So we left, but with the information that there were two times we could take the bus to Prague: either 7:30am or 3pm. But the thing was we could not buy in advance, just at departure. Can you imagine what would happen if there was no place in the 7:30 one? With our big suitcases and all that snow we would not go very far. We would be stuck there to maybe get a bus in the afternoon. So, we decided to think about later.
Then, after all that walking we had to go back to the hostel, have a shower, relax a bit and get ready to our party. We were not going to the Russian one, but there was a bar which was offering a X-mas night. So we would go there.
As we left the subway, I was a bit tired and carol was rambling on something we had done or would do. Se was talking and talking and I was three steps ahead of her. Note that we had been walking in Europe for days and we saw many people falling. I played in Belgium that she was clumpsy so I would have my camera handy as to when she would fall. When a part of the sidewalk was slippery we would tell each other to be careful and I would have done so if it. But it wasn’t. Anyway, I heard her scream and when I turned in half a second, she was lying on the floor, bent over herself and saying it was hurting. My first movement was to try to raise her, but I was afraid of making things worse. There was a bar and I could more or less drag her to a chair. She asked for some ice while she tried to remove her sneaker and her sock. I got some snow and would give her so that she could put where it was swollen. She said the pain was incredible and I imagine it would be worse after the adrenaline of the moment went low. Some people saw that and asked if they could help, but there was nothing they could do. Again, the so-called cold German people were displaying a kindness to break with any stereotype.
Anyway, we needed a taxi because she felt she would not be able to walk the 5 minutes to get to the hostel. We knew the way, but no taxi appeared, it’s always like that when you need one. But soon a taxi stopped and I put her in the back seat and I sat in the front. The driver asked for the directions but of course I had no idea what the name of the street was. I had it written but the paper was... in the hostel. So I started describing the place to him and how to get there on foot so he got there very fast. In fact, I wanted to take her to a hospital, but there was a problem: before leaving Brazil, we had done an insurance covering health and baggage. I had done it the other time I travelled but it was not necessary so I thought it was worth what I had paid. I imagined I would give the person my location and she would tell me how to get to the nearest hospital of my area, which they had a partnership. So we arrived at the hostel, I sat Carol in the lounge sofa at the reception desk and went upstairs to get the insurance number. It was about 5pm. It seemed things could not get any worse.
After a contact with the company the girl asked me to tell her all the details of what had happened. So she said she would be in contact with their office in Germany which was in Munich. And she would call us back in at most 40 minutes to give the instructions.
Well, I waited and Carol was in great pain. We had brought several types of medicine but none for pain. Headache yes, stomachache for sure, but no pain killer. I tried to sing with her, talk, interview, write, do whatever I could to entertain her and take her mind off the pain. In vain. Almost one hour going by and no contact from the insurance. So I called them again in order to impress a more urgent tone. The woman said they were waiting for the contact with their office and she was going to try a direct connection. She didn’t do that, but said in 20 minutes they would be calling us. Another half an hour, almost 7pm and they called and told the reception guy they would be sending a doctor to the hostel. Excuse me? Sending a doctor here? We were sure she had broken something but how could he tell if he had no way to perform an X-ray at the hostel lounge. Maybe, as we were in the first world, they would have access to some technology of portable X-ray, so we tried to imagine what that meant. Some minutes later the guy from the reception tells us the doctor called and he said he was behind schedule so he would get there by 9pm. It was a quarter past seven. Carol got desperate, angry. She had no way to move and she started feeling like going to the toilet which was across the hall, but even the attempt of trying to stand was so painful she could do nothing but cry. I decided to ask for information on where I could find an open drugstore. The guy smiled at my naïvité there would be any open at that time of that day. But I could not stand being there just sitting and waiting and doing nothing. It was snowing heavily but anyway I started walking around looking for a place to buy a pain killer. There was a hospital near the hostel so I tried there but people thought I was crazy, they would never sell drugs without prescription and I headed back with my hand empty.
The doctor had arrived by then. He examined her and gave an injection to cut off the pain. Then, he told us in a poor English we would have to go to a hospital. No kidding. We knew that hours and hours before. Which hospital is covered by the insurance? He called them and he told us we could go to anyone, pay for it and then the insurance would refund us. Super again! So, there was a hospital but it was 200 meters from the hostel. The one I had tried to buy drugs from. So I went back there and tried to borrow a wheel chair. They were suspicious and did not want to lend me one, so I left my passport as a guarantee and then headed for the hostel in order to pick her. The pain had decreased a bit and she hopped till the toilet (she was in need, remember?) and after to the chair and there we went toward the hospital. The sidewalks were full of snow, it was still snowing and the wheels were not turning, they were sliding. I had to make some extra effort to pull her and hold the chair so that it would not turn over. I had to use my arms to pull and to keep it steady. It took me 10 minutes to go the same way I had gone in 2 minutes with the empty chair. We got to the hospital and I was sweaty and breathless. The hospital was pretty empty. The doctor was very kind to us and was doing his best so that we wouldn’t spend that much money. We kept chatting how cute he was and so was the X-ray guy. Something nice we had to have out of that situation. They confirmed there was nothing broken, but she had probably ruptured her ankle ligaments. No walking for one month at least. Hey. It was the rest of the trip. No hard activities in 3 months. Well, they made some immobilizing and she got some (very expensive) crutches.

We went back to the hostel, and it was about 10 to midnight. We hugged and wished each other a merry Christmas. We surfed the net a bit and decided to go upstairs to try to get some sleep. The next day we would think about what to do.

Um comentário: