One year into my first job right out of university and my boss tells me we are going to Germany. Whoa, Germany!
Back in 2012, I was working in sales for a flooring company, and ever since we had acquired a new German product in our portfolio, I had been hoping that the company would fly us there for some training on how to sell their products.
Finally the day had arrived when Ryan, the director for the Middle East, sent us an official invite to visit their factory and get trained. Now this guy happens to also be a friend of mine apart from just a business associate. This meant that this trip was going to be something more than just a training programme.
First up – visas! VFS in Dubai did a fantastic job with the visa. It was approved in two weeks and tickets were booked in no time. Germany here I come.
Now, I haven’t mentioned this trip’s agenda, and honestly, I don’t intend to because that’s where the fun lies. You need to read on to see how things unfolded for me.
August 27th 2012, 5:30am. I arrived at Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3 ready to check in and board my flight. While I was at the check-in counter, I met my colleagues who were going to accompany me. Our flight, EK 0045, was scheduled to leave at 8:25am for Frankfurt and was on time. It was a seven-hour flight and I’d never been on a plane for that long before. I didn’t feel the length at all in the excitement, though.
On arrival at Frankfurt International Airport, the police stopped me on my way to immigration in order to check my ID and passport. Troublemaker already.
Ryan arrived in a small Renault to pick us up from the airport. We were headed for the town of Goslar, which was a three-hour drive away. Everything until now had been amazing; the flight, the food, the weather. We chatted away and in no time we reached our destination.
Goslar is a small town in Germany with a lot of history behind it. The Old Town of Goslar is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We were put up in the beautiful 4-star Kaiserworth Hotel for our stay.
Right outside the hotel, there was an alley that had some amazing bars and restaurants. We checked-in, refreshed ourselves and were down in 15 minutes, ready to hit a bar. Food and alcohol kept coming in, courtesy of our hosts, the German company. It wasn’t until 3am when everything shut down that we finally went to bed.
We had training at 9am.
So I got some sleep, had a massive breakfast with a couple of cups of coffee, and was ready to get trained.
The workshops took place at the company’s office in Bad Grund, which is another beautiful place. While coming back from the workshops, we came across a couple of natural lakes. Ryan stopped at one so that we could have a look, and it was simply stunning.
Soon enough it started to rain, so we rushed back to the car and off we were back to the hotel. We freshened up and were ready to raid the bars (notice a trend here?). The drinks kept flowing and soon we were bar hopping in the small street. This was our final night in Goslar and we had to make the most of it.
There was a bar run by an old divorced lady who was about to close for the night when we sat down and asked for a round. I was too drunk to remember the time but it was definitely late. The lady told us they were going to close so we ordered a chunk of drinks at once.
Seeing what state we were in, she kept the bar open for as long as we were there. We were completely wasted and in no shape to get up in the morning to go for the last training day. Somehow we got up on time the next day, though.
Super high on alcohol from the previous night and the caffeine in the morning, we managed to get through the final session. Thanks to the super hangover I had from two nights of continuous drinking, those six hours were the longest six hours of my life.
To top it all off, after the session we had to drive to Amsterdam.
Soon, we were on the road, driving on the fast roads of Germany with thoughts of Amsterdam in our heads. One pit stop for petrol and drinks, and four hours later we arrived.
We collected the keys to our apartment and within minutes we were all settled. We were so excited to be there that all the tiredness just seemed to melt away.
Once we settled into the apartment, which was a massive four-story building, we locked the doors and headed out for a bite. As we were looking for a place to eat, it started to rain. While searching for shelter we came across a café that sold weed, hash, premium coffee and some delicious brownies. Soon enough we were all stocked up.
We blazed away following the traditional format of puff, puff, pass. We quickly realised why Amsterdam is known for its ‘stuff.’ It was just too good. By the end of the first joint, the three of us who smoked were flying high. We blazed another and left the café. The beautiful thing about Amsterdam or the entire Netherlands is that you can smoke up whenever, wherever you want.
We bought some umbrellas as the rain just kept pouring. Soon, we found ourselves in a pub. High already, we started chugging some drinks. Honestly, it felt like we were filming the Hangover sequel. As soon as the rain stopped, we were out of the pub and in an open air club. Never before had I seen such a party.
We had some drinks followed by some more stuff to maintain the momentum. Soon, the weather turned great, the music was phenomenal and the high was just too good. I know I sound like a junkie right now but I am not one.
The party was taken to another level when we decided to tour the infamous red light district. If you’ve never seen or experienced something like this before (like me), you’ll get the biggest culture shock of your life (like I did). It was just a never-ending series of barely clothed women standing behind glass windows. It was way too overwhelming and totally not what I had expected.
We soon became bored of the red light district and decided to head to a good pub close to our apartment. My boss realised that he had overdone it with the booze and decided to leave. We all wished him good night and he was off.
Within about 15 minutes, we receive a series of messages from him saying that our apartment had been broken into and all our belongings were gone. We thought he was just trying to fool us and we carried on with our celebration.
When he realised that we weren’t taking him seriously, he quit texting and started calling. When we heard him talk, we quickly realised that he was serious. The bill was paid, a cab was called and within minutes we were at the crime site.
There were four doors in this apartment out of which only two remained. When I walked into my bedroom, I noticed that my bags were all over the floor and every single zip on them was open. They took everything that I had; my passport, my cash, my clothes and my laptop. The same had happened to the rest of the group. When we were heading out earlier in the evening, we had decided to keep our cash and passports in the apartment as we had heard that people get mugged.
We dialled the police. They took about two hours to come even though the police station was only 10 minutes away. They looked at the place and said they couldn’t do anything as this happens a lot. No report, nothing. They gave us a piece of paper and asked us to come to the station the next morning.
I slept on the couch hoping that it was all just a dream and everything would be good once I woke up.
It didn’t work.
First thing in the morning, we made our way to the police station. They took forever to get someone to write our report and finally we were asked to go to our respective embassies to get new passports.
The Indian Embassy is in Hague, which was a couple of hours away by train. When I arrived, I explained why I was there and without any sympathy, I was asked to step outside as it was their lunchtime. I almost lost it but soon realised it was useless.
After a couple of hours, I met the head of the embassy who told me such cases are very common. He then told me that they had no authority to print a new passport and if I were to wait in the Netherlands, it would take them up to two weeks to get one to me.
The other option was to go to India with an emergency certificate and get a new passport there. I had no cash in my pocket, just my credit card which was already reaching its limit. There was no way I could stay in the Netherlands. I decided to take the emergency certificate. I filled in the form, submitted a copy of the report and was told to come back the next day for the certificate.
I then headed to Amsterdam to meet the rest of the victims. They all had fresh passports with them, one of the other plus points of not being Indian. We had one more night in Amsterdam but I had to be up early to go to the embassy as I was flying to New Delhi by noon.
Guess what? We still got smashed. New stuff, new pubs, fresh drinks and a fresh high. It made me forget everything that had happened over the past two days and I was in a world of my own in which I was having the time of my life.
Next morning, fortunately enough, I woke up on time, bid goodbye to the rest of the folks and headed to the embassy. They made me wait for an hour to take the certificate and I was told that the moment I showed this at the passport office in India, I’d get a new passport.
Soon I was at the airport, ready to board. Nobody asked me why I was without a passport or what had happened to me. It just made me wonder how common this must be for people to just ignore it and not question it at all.
At the end of it, I was stuck in India getting a new passport for almost two months but at least I have a memorable tale to tell and some amazing memories to live with.