It was the trip of a lifetime. My husband and I had long wished and dreamed and hoped and planned to travel to Europe. To see all the places we had read and learned about our whole lives. We were going to Greece, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, France, Britain and Ireland. We would visit the ruins of the Parthenon in Athens and Ephesus and experience the Greek Islands. And as for Italy, we would visit the Vatican, Rome and all its ancient ruins. We would spend time in Naples and Pompeii and the Isle of Capri. We would explore Venice, Florence and Pisa and drive down the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento. Then on to Switzerland and France. It was amazing! The trip through Britain and Ireland would be great, as we wandered the streets of towns and cities we had only heard and read about. All in all, we would be away almost seven weeks. Yippee!! I could go on and on about that trip and I probably will in future posts – watch this space.
We had a fantastic flight with Emirates (still my favourite airline) from Brisbane to Dubai and then on to Athens. This was post-9/11 so we expected security to be high in Athens. Well, we got that wrong. After collecting our luggage we were merely ushered out into the arrivals area with no security checks. Interesting.
From there to the hotel. We were tired from our flight so had a rest and then took a walk and decided we would go to a nice looking little restaurant for dinner that night rather than eat in the hotel. Afterall, we were seasoned travelers. We had managed to fly from Australia to Greece without incident. How good were we?? We had our first meal overseas in an almost deserted restaurant (remember, it was Athens). The eatery was near the hotel so catered for tourists of which we were and still are, unashamedly. We thought we were eating late at 8pm. The Athenians don’t come out to eat until much later. I still can’t do that. Sigh.
The following evening we met our Tour Director and our traveling companions for the next three weeks. We met folks from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We had a pleasant time of meeting and greeting and then a light dinner and an early night. The next day was the beginning of our adventure. We were visiting the Parthenon on the Acropolis, for goodness sake. Need to be on the ball.
On the Acropolis, we were given an informative talk by our experienced local guide and afterwards explored the ruins on our own (translate to, with the other 10 thousand tourists doing the exact same thing) until it was time to board the coach (remember, it is not a bus). It was arranged that we would all have time in the Plaka and the city centre for shopping and lunch and that the coach would pick us up at a designated time. So off we went on our separate ways.
We found ourselves in a part of the Plaka that is a roadway and therefore not for pedestrian traffic. We realised that and I was stepping from the roadway onto the footpath. I literally had my right foot on the footpath and was lifting my left leg up when I felt a heavy weight on the calf of my leg. In a split second, a car tyre had nudged my leg and I immediately felt my leg begin to swell and become very painful. My first thoughts were, “Oh, no, this is the end of my holiday!” and “Ouch – that really, really hurts!”
The woman (Katherina) who ran into me, parked her car and came over to me to see if I was alright – which I wasn’t. Katherina was a consultant engineer and an academic who spoke excellent English. She was very upset and insisted on taking me to the doctor. She left her car in the city and we caught a cab to the hospital that only treats broken bones and accidents – no sick people. Well, that was an experience in itself. Athens’ cab drivers are notorious for their crazy driving and their bright yellow cabs are known as yellow demons – referring to their drivers, no doubt. We arrived at the hospital and I thought we were going to drive through the glass front doors, we were so close. However, he wanted to get me as close to the entrance as possible as my leg was swelling at a rapid rate.
Into the hospital we go and I think “where am I?” The paint is peeling off the walls and while it is clean it is quite dilapidated. Nothing like the hospitals I am used to in Australia. It wasn’t very long before I am X-rayed and then seeing a doctor, all in record time. During this time I had noticed that Katherina had discreetly slipped money to attendants and whoever needed to be hurried along to ensure we passed through the system in the minimum time. The upshot was that I had no broken bones but a very bad sprain and so I was duly strapped up and told to keep off my leg for THREE WEEKS minimum (how long was this tour , yes, that’s right THREE WEEKS argh!!). The doctor provided a handwritten recommendation (not a prescription as in Australia) for pain killers. Katherina has had the cab wait, so off we go again. We stop at the ATM for her to access some cash and then to the pharmacy to purchase my painkillers and crutches.
Then back to my hotel. Katherina is upset – Ummm, so am I, let me tell you – so she calls one of her friends who is a doctor to check me out. I am in my hotel room feeling very fragile when the older doctor arrived. Following our conversation about my medical history and my current injury, he advised that I should probably be medivacced back to Australia but given my situation, there may not be an airline that would take the risk. Well, that’s handy.
My husband says that if I have to go back home, he will miss me but … he is not going home with me. We would see about that. Following discussions with our Tour Director, we delayed the decision to go home until after the upcoming three day cruise around the Greek Islands.
Well, that’s what we did. And, no, I didn’t fly back to Australia. I wheelchaired, crutchered and hobbled my way around Europe. I went everywhere. Even hobbling around Pompeii on their huge cobbled streets. I had waited far too long for this trip and I was NOT going home. A big thanks goes to our Tour Director, Jonathan and my wonderful tour mates for their support during that time.
There were some good things that came out of the incident. Firstly, we made some great friends that we still keep in touch with. Some live close by and we regularly meet for lunch and catchups. We have had further travels with many of those on that tour in 2009. The other is my love for travel was strengthened after that first European trip. We have since been back to Europe another few times. Each time staying a little longer. But, ah, Athens. Thanks for the memories!
Do you like to travel? Have you found yourself in unfortunate circumstances while traveling? What is your favourite thing about travel? I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments Section. Thanks for visiting.