Sixteenth in a Series
August 29 — We survived the world’s longest queue for passport control out of Bucharest and were soon on our way to Zurich. On the plane, I perused the “Bucharest in Your Pocket” booklet that the JW Marriott had been kind enough to provide in the desk drawer of our room. I wondered if hotel management read the editor’s preface:
“Welcome to the Pleasuredome.
Forget Xanadu, forget Amsterdam. For hedonists Bucharest is now Europe’s top destination. The Romanian capital — so long a stuffy, traditionalist kind of place stuck in a 1950s timewarp — has over the past few years become on of the most deliciously decadent cities on the planet.
Anything goes in Bucharest these days…”
Sure enough, on page 38 there was “Vice Advice,” which offered three options for “a little debauchery”: 1) erotic massage where there was “much fun to be had, from happy ending massages to full body massage from one, two or even three nubile young ladies” 2) “simply go to a brothel”; or 3) “call one of the escorts who advertise,” which, the guide noted, is completely illegal. “You really ought to think twice before picking up the phone,” the piece ended.
Strange…. Tauck didn’t put these tips in our tour materials….
Our lightning visit to Zurich started with a bang when our taxi was sideswiped and scraped so badly that the left hand doors no longer opened. On the right hand side, where the taxi ricocheted into a curb, the wheel rim was bent. Both front tires were blown out and three out of the four hubcaps had gone flying.
From behind, I could see the taxi driver’s shoulders shake and hear his fast, ragged breaths. His hands gripped the wheel. A long minute went by with him frozen in the front seat and us in the back.
“Are you all right? Are you all right? Jesus, we almost hit that concrete pole,” Todd said.
The taxi driver looked over his shoulder. I don’t think the possibility of injury had occurred to him before then. Todd and I had both secured our seat belts, something we almost never did in a cab, so we’d only been jostled.
“Are you all right?” he asked. We assured the driver we were okay. I was more worried about him, as he continued to hyperventilate.
“Good reactions,” I told him. He didn’t seem to understand my English. “You kept us all safe.”
“Did you see? Did you see?” he asked. I’d been looking down at our travel materials but Todd had seen the white blur that came from the left, when the car lurched toward us to change lanes.
“Will you talk to the police for me?”
Of course we would. The taxi driver had made no effort to pull to the side of the road, as we would have in California. Behind us, a small white car was stopped. The sideswiper, I assumed. And behind her, a Volvo, undamaged, also stopped in the middle of the airport lane. A witness, we guessed. Apparently the protocol is to stay put when involved in an accident.
I didn’t feel safe with traffic zooming by to bypass us. So Todd and I climbed over the seats and suitcases through the open rear hatch of the van. Our friends Buddy and Carolyn were more than a little surprised to see us standing on the median when they drove past in their rental car.
After we completed the police report , about an hour later, we met our friends at Zeughauskeller, a noisy and warm restaurant housed in a 15th century armory and featuring traditional Swiss food (including my delicious pork shank). And beer. Lots of beer.
A quick walk across the river and we were in the plaza by our hotel, Hotel Helmhaus Swiss Quality, where we enjoyed ice cream at an Italian cafe.
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