To the Apotheker

I learned something new this evening. After work I had a splitting headache, so thought “it’s fine – I’ll buy something to eat from the supermarket, and have a quiet night in the hotel room”. I presumed that I would be able to buy headache tablets at the supermarket, just like at home. I was wrong. I left the supermarket with a bottle of multi-vitamin juice drink (read: all the leftovers poured into a huge bottle), pre-packed salad, some fruit, and a box of sushi.

It turns out in Germany you have to visit an Apotheker to buy any form of drugs – even some herbal remedies. You know the ridiculous “Rescue Remedy” bottles you sometimes see elsewhere – always with German names like “Dr Bach”, or something similar – you know, the ones that don’t actually do anything… you can buy those in the supermarket. If you want paracetamol or nurofen, you have to visit an Apotheker.

What’s an “Apotheker”, I hear you cry – or at least, I did – or rather, I searched on Google “where can I buy paracetamol in Germany”. It responded with “at at Apotheker”. The most direct translation is “Pharmacist” – the direct translation is the store house for the drugs.

Google Maps is your friend. A few moments later I had located an Apotheker only a few minutes away – and set out on foot. The heavens chose that moment to begin dumping several days worth of rainfall directly on my head – Truman Show style. I splodged into the clinically clean Apotheker store, my shoes squelching with each step.

“Hallo!”, a bright lady said as she swept past with somebody’s prescription in hand.

“Hello!”, I replied.

I approached the counter, where a portly man in his 60s surveyed me through glasses balanced on the end of his nose. He looked very serious indeed – like an operation had been performed many years previously to remove his sense of humour.

“Erm… Paracetamol?”

He looked me in the eye, and repeated the word back to me in a much lower register, before turning and reaching for a small orange and white box on the shelf behind him.

I suppose the funny thing was while standing in the Apotheker panicking, the headache had gone away.

While trudging back towards the hotel with my bag of shopping and a box of paracetamol safely tucked inside my coat pocket, I came upon a rather strange individual standing outside the main entrance of the Irish bar I visited last night. He was dressed smartly, rocking back and forth – from one leg to the other, with a furrowed brow, and pursed lips – like he was having a violent conversation with himself in his own imagination. I walked quickly past, trying not to tip him over the edge.

I’m back in the room now. I’ve taken the paracetamol, and eaten all the food. I did my usual trick of sharing out the sachet of wasabi across all the sushi rolls, and nearly blowing my nose clean off my face. At least if the headache had been anything to do with a cold, I’ve probably already incinerated it at source. Good stuff, that wasabi.

My plans for the evening are rather simple – watch German television, catch up with blogs, email friends, and not much else. One more day of meetings, one more night of similar fun filled activities, and then I catch the plane home. Well – plane, then underground train, then mainline train, then another mainline train, then one more final mainline train, followed by a twenty minute walk.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some nothing to be getting on with.

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