A Day From Hell – Copenhagen, Denmark

A Day From Hell
Copenhagen, Denmark

Naomi and I were on the cusp of a long anticipated month-long great hostel adventure. We survived the trans-Atlantic flight and made our way up to Hamburg, Germany, where we experienced our first night in a hostel. To our relief we noted that there were plenty of seniors, like us, and that the image of the footloose, hippy youth as typical hostellers had largely changed.

Stoked by a hearty German load of calories (mostly bread, cheese jam and the like) we set out for a connection to our next stop, Copenhagen. We were planning the trip around use of the handy Eurail Pass, whisking us to about 10 European locations, in two of which I would hook up with relatives (I’m of Norwegian descent).

I had equipped myself, serendipitously it turned out, with a large backpack for my stuff, Naomi had a smallish suitcase. We cut down a leaf-strewn hillside shortcut from the hostel, headed toward a city subway stop and then the central train station.

Ever the gallant, I took on the job of toting Naomi’s suitcase as we made our way downward. It was a glorious late September running. I never saw the leaf covered hole in the lawn which transformed the promising start to our adventure — into a DAY FROM HELL…

I stepped into the hole and promptly twisted and tumbled to the
turf. I also heard an ominous crack, and then felt a stab of pain in my right foot. This kind of thing wasn’t entirely new to me. Once before I’d done a very similar bad thing to my left foot — on the eve of an adventure to New Zealand — breaking the small side bone. (That trip was done with the aid of a crutch, as did this).

So I now more or less knew the story, same bone, different foot. I somehow got to my feet, or should I say, my foot (left) and contemplated the future in a vastly different frame of mind than the one I’d had just a minute earlier. How could I ever do this rather rigorous trip on one good foot? Would I have to turn around and fly home? Not if I could help it.

I gingerly tested the broken member. I couldn’t put my full weight on it, but I could limp, and then there was all the getting used to the new balancing act with the heavy pack on my back. Naomi got her suitcase grumpily handed back to her (‘if it hadn’t been for you, etc.’ but I kept it to myself).

We continued on, slowly, to the subway. It was the morning rush-hour, crowded, hectic. We didn’t know the drill of what to do. Despite the confusion, we found that right subway train, where I had to stand. Emerging, I limped some more to the central train station and finally settled onto a seat on our train. The adrenalin had subsided and we sorted out our options, concluding to at least see how I could make it up to Copenhagen (our next hostel reservation) before a drastic change in plans.

By now the foot was very swollen and still throbbing, with a duller, constant pain. Naomi thought some ice might help and sought at least some coolness to apply, finally returning with a somewhat tepid can of Coke.

As I watched the well-kept German countryside whiz by the fast traveling train I tried to count my blessings. Maybe I could still do this thing, at least get a crutch and try.

The next complication came several hours into the trip when we had to leave the train and change over to another train to be able to match up with a ferry across to Denmark’s main island. It wasn’t so easy for a guy with a broken foot and a heavy backpack, because it involved standing the whole time of the half-hour transition period.

Back on the Danish train, we finally pulled into the central Copenhagen train station in late afternoon. Again the daunting, for me, task of leaving the train. We grabbed a cab and went to the newest hospital, arriving about dusk. After a short wait I got to see a team of extremely pleasant, competent medical people. An x-ray confirmed the break. They also provided me with a tight elastic bandage and an adaptable elbow type aluminum crutch. A cast wouldn’t help much with this injury, they said. Just stay off the foot as much as possible. Sure. Twenty nine days’ itinerary in front of me, all staying off my foot.

When it came time for what I assumed would be the bill, the response was, ‘Oh, no. We have completely free medical care in Denmark. There is no charge. Good luck to you, sir.’ Think about doing this in America.

On we went, by cab again to our hostel. It was nice and modern and I got a chance to ensconce myself in an easy chair there, while Naomi fetched a plate of food from the cafeteria. So we sat together, sipping coffee, in the pleasant lounge, reviewing the day. I had survived so far and now with the crutch to help could probably continue onward, difficult though it might be.

What I didn’t know as the postscript to the day which loomed ahead.

Finally, about 9:30, weary, I headed for the dormitory, this being one of the hostels which split up the sexes. The minute I walked in I sensed trouble. The beds were bunk type, and, not unexpectedly, all the four lowers were taken. Only two uppers remained unoccupied. No way could I make it up into an upper, that I could see. On observing my dilemma, a young man generously offered me his lower, near the door. So I settled in, hopefully for a restful night at last.

Along about midnight, accompanied by his raucous singing, evidently in Swedish, there staggered in the only hosteller who’d been missing. This inebriated individual, a middle-aged skinny fellow, turned on the light and immediately stripped to his undershorts. That he sat in the middle of the floor, going on with his self concert, until another hosteller threw a shoe at him and demanded that the singer shut up, turn off the light and go to bed, which he did.

By now thoroughly awake, my adrenalin was flowing again. Not to mention my bladder. I now bitterly regretted the coffee I’d been drinking, because the need to get up to pee arose, not just one but two additional times, during the very long night. Moreover, the hostel, to save money I supposed, had a peculiar lighting system in the hallway. It was kept dark, with light switches spaced periodically along the wall. Well and good for a normal walker, but not for a temporarily crippled one, just getting used to his crutch. Every time the need arose, I had to struggle up, get out in the hall, only to find that just halfway down to the next switch, the hallway would go dark. The communal men’s bathroom was three switches down from our room, which made for mini-adventures during each of my three journeys.

The night finally passed and a new day dawned. Somehow I’d get through the trip, and darn it, have some fun doing it. Naomi would help, all she could.

And that’s exactly what we did.