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  • April 30, 2019



    One of the most exciting parts of our recent Viking river cruise along the Rhine and the Danube, was definitely not on the itinerary.

    It was the day my wife, Carmela, and I took the bus to Wurzburg, skipped the guided tour of the Wurzburg Bishops’ Residenz (yet another of Germany’s largest and most ornate palaces), and spent our time wandering around town, mingling with the residents, which we enjoyed immensely. Unfortunately, when we got ready to go home, we found we had been given incorrect information from the guide, who inadvertently showed us the wrong place on the map to catch the bus back to the boat.

    So as night began to fall, and rain began to pour, we missed our bus pick-up time and had to figure a way back to the boat.

    We did the obvious thing. We called a cab, got a crazy and angry driver, who didn’t speak English, and who kept yelling at us, as though if he was just loud enough, we would suddenly be able to understand German.

    Unfortunately, we didn’t really know exactly where the boat was moored. We called the boat, got an interpreter, and gave the phone to the driver. He yelled at her, and she yelled back. Meanwhile, we are sitting in the back seat, cold, wet, and hungry, thinking any minute we were going to be part of an international incident. Finally, the driver threw the phone to Carmela, started complaining loudly in German, and driving like a madman through the streets of Wurzburg, cursing other drivers, swerving through traffic, and waving his arms in all directions.

    We didn’t have seatbelts to tighten, but we hung on for dear life. I’d like to say we were distraught, but in a way it was great fun. Were we going to die in some flaming crash? Maybe, but what an exciting way to go, speeding along the highways of Germany with a mad man at the wheel, yelling crazily at everybody he passed. It would certainly give our loved ones something to talk about for years to come.

    Finally, after about an hour of this, the driver pulled into an industrial area of some German settlement, and motioned for us to get out. We didn’t really know where we were, or exactly where we should be going, but we did know that we were nowhere near a boat, and there was no river in sight. The driver didn’t seem bothered by this. He just kept yelling something, which we think was close to, “get the hell out of my cab!”

    Carmela called the boat back, and gave the driver the phone. Another argument ensued. We could hear the person on the boat yelling at the driver and the driver screaming back at her.

    Finally he threw the phone back at us, and sped off. At this point, Carmela started yelling at the driver and motioning for him to just let us out, but he ignored her. The people on the boat started yelling at Carmela to get his license number because they were going to call the police. Carmela, who is being thrown all around the back seat and yelling at both the cab driver and the people on the boat, was telling them it was impossible to get the license number because we were traveling at 50 mph down little two lane roads, and the driver wouldn’t stop.

    Finally, the driver “flipped a u-ey,” as we say, turned down a gravel road parallel to the river, and delivered us to the boat, skidding to a stop and demanding 20 Euros. Meanwhile, about 10 of the boat crew were standing on the gangway waving their arms and yelling and looking ready to call the police when we showed up. We gave the driver his 20 Euros, plus a 5-Euro tip and got out of the cab.

    The driver actually seemed touched at the gesture and nodded to us as he drove away. We went aboard and dressed for dinner.

    George Lee Cunningham

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