One way to get the most out of life is to look on it as an adventure.
Tuesday, Dec 6
Breakfasted (amaretto muesli with yogurt for me, plus the obligatory eggs for extra protein) and ready to be over at the hospital by 7:45 to meet Christiane, the international caseworker. This week’s group of international patients met together. Each of the four had an EKG, then met with the anesthesiologist and assistant surgeon. The other three are American: two men and one lady. The one man was here six years ago for three lumbar ADR. Now he’s back for a cervical hybrid fusion/ADR. One of the men is a Hutterite from Montana. His two brothers accompanied him. Some people ask more questions than they are allotted, so it took the whole group longer than expected to get through the routine. Humour was good though, and we had a lot of fun with the couple from CO.
Hans, the assistant surgeon, was easily understandable. He explained more about the surgery. The ADR (artificial disc replacement) will be done from the front. They will also clean out debris from the degenerated discs. Then they flip Rylan over and make a posterior incision for the spinal fusions. Hans explained that along with the deteriorated condition of his spine, the scoliosis is a big reason they will do a double fusion vs ADR for all 3 discs. Because the scoliosis has been ongoing for a great length of time, 3 new discs would over correct the curve of his spine, causing more problems than it fixed. Dr. Ritter-Lang knows to what degree the curve should be fixed and no further. We had been nervous that talking with the surgeons would be difficult with their limited English and strong accent. It turned out to be reassuring and simple. The anesthesiologist was equally easy to talk with. He made it clear that this surgery would be more strenuous to the body than some of the simpler ADR surgeries they do, but that pain management is a priority with them and Rylan will be under constant supervision to achieve the highest level of comfort possible.
Once finished at the hospital we walked to Schierbrok and caught the S-Bahn into Bremen. Bremen hbf (central station) presented another first for me. Never have I ever swiped my credit card to use the water closet. 1€. Somehow paying actual money really gives one the feeling that one should not rush the whole operation. Also makes one question their liquid consumption. We walked a little ways to the Christmas market in Old Town. The twin spires of St. Peter’s Cathedral stand guard over the main square. We stood in silent awe for a minute, taking it all in. It reminded me of the first time I saw Niagara Falls: it looked exactly like the pictures I’d seen and I could hardly tell that this was happening live.
Rylan promptly ordered curry wurst, a bratwurst fresh off the grill then covered in curry sauce. The booths were similar to the markets in Munich. Mulled wine, kinderpunsch, friesenpunsch I kid you not, baked apple juice with 40% cointreau. Not a whole lot here for the teetotaller. Crepes, waffles, and every kind of deep fried dough you can imagine. Schneeballen is definitely high on the To Try list. Leather works, wood carvings, and all the kitsch trinkets Germany produces. Reindeer firs. Hand knit winter wear. We rested our bottoms on the pews of the cathedral awhile, admiring the stained glass windows, pillars, and arches. Back out for some crepes: Kinder chocolate with strawberries for me, and white chocolate with blueberries for Ry. My tourist anxiety rides high: I want to order something different each time, but I also want to enjoy the things I know I like. Off to Espresso House for a soft couch and crème brûlée lattes. Enjoyed the warmth while I worked on my blog, Rylan did some book work and dozed. Found a free bathroom, a win after a big latte. I dragged Rylan into H&M, a 2 min walk up the street. Ooh la la is all I’m going to say. Jan, I didn’t even go into the home section. We will do that together.
One last spin through the market. It feels so festive and dramatic after dark. The music gets louder and the crowd bigger. I found a fruit booth. Finally something other than dough. I asked for 1 kilo of apples, and got 3 colossal ones. Okay.
It was time to trek back to hbf and we were wearing out. We walked past a cluster of e-scooters and eyed them, then each other. Sat on a cold concrete step and dove into the Google rabbit hole. A few minutes later with the Voi app on our phones we were gliding down the sidewalk at 30 km/h, phones fastened into the holder so we could watch our maps. €0.19 /minute with a 1€ unlock charge. Caught the train back to Schierbrok. The 20 min walk back to Backenköhler Hotel took over 30 because age and the cold catches up to us all.
Tuesday is wash day at the palace. Lots of splish splashing in the bathroom sink, and before we fell asleep there was a row of dripping clothes hanging over the balcony railing.
Food here costs similar to at home. Drinks, however, are more. A 6 oz coffee costs 4 to 5€. Other than at the airport, we have seen no disposable drink cups. I found out this morning if you bring your mug/glass back at the markets you get refunded 1€. And here I was envisioning a suitcase full of glass mugs coming home with us.
It's not hard to find someone who speaks a few English words, enough to get by. Probably about 5% of the people we've met can carry on a good conversation in English.