We all know that traveling contains risks. You might lose your wallet or your passport, you might be robbed – you might end up in a hospital after a too-much-alcoholic evening not recalling your name. But what do you do when your bus takes fire? Well, this might also happen.
March 29th, 2016
I’m coming back from Berlin.
These three days have been beautiful as well as tiring, as I have been walking something like 50 km – traveling on a budget requires the use of your legs, and that’s always a good training.
I hop on the bus a few minutes before the departure time and I make myself comfortable on a sit in the back of the bus. I’m
I’m taking off my boots – poor the guys around me! But my feet after all this wandering are in need of some air.
I’m still thinking of the kebab I just had before getting on. It was mouth-watering! Never had a kebab with grilled aubergines and grated feta on top. Well, we all we know that Berlin is the European capital of kebab so I’m sure I have not even tried the best one in the city.
I lazily start reviewing the pictures I shot with my camera, doing the first skimming. I’m slowly closing my eyes: The alarm clock for three days at 7 was asking pledge.
A sudden hard braking wakes me up. The driver is hastily trying to pull over, yelling something on the microphone.
My German, at this time practically less than elementary (I didn’t improve a lot since then, but at least I can ask for help when needed), don’t allow me to catch straight away what is going on, so I sluggishly turn my head to ask the guy on the seat back to mine what he is was screaming at.
There is no need for his answer.
Just outside of the bus, on the very rear part, flames are burning up. One second later a disturbing burning smell begins to spread along the bus corridor reaching my nose.
Most people start to panic. Not an easy situation. Even though I haven’t literally understood what the driver was shouting, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that we have to leave the bus as soon as possible.
Luckily, I had managed to fit everything I needed for three days in a daypack. Amazing, isn’t it? All the stuff I carry is here, on the seat next to mine. Just the camera is still outside and I quickly stuffed it on top of the bag, at the same time grabbing it and starting to move away.
A guy tries to open the emergency door in the middle of the bus. In that moment I realize how difficult it is to keep your mind working in nasty situations. I’m just waiting for my turn to exit from the front door…
Unfortunately, the door doesn’t open. All of a sudden, a heat wave comes into the bus – just a few meters and I’m out, just a few meters!
Tack. I step onto the ground. It is cold…
It’s too cold.
In the hurry, I have forgotten to take my boots. Of course, when your bus takes fire, the first thing you do is certainly not to look if you’re wearing boots – even because you’re supposed to wear them.
Alright: barefoot, end of March in a German highway, temperature close to 0, it’s dark, any knowledge of the language. A bus burning in front of your eyes. What could go worse?
I take my camera out and I start to film the fire. It is growing bigger and bigger.
People are tranquil, almost incredulous, just a bit cold. An old woman is heavily coughing as she has inhaled some smoke.
A loud bang lashes the cold air – finally, the wheel has blown up.
The driver is handling a fire extinguisher but he also realizes that there was no way he could control such a fire.
In a few minutes, the Feuerwehr come, alongside a police van.
There are no people willing to enter again whatever kind of vehicle, so I take my chance to sit down and warm up my feet. Even though I put on an additional pair of socks, I’m freezing.
In the meantime, I get to know Ismail, a Greek-Turkish guy who immediately notices I’m without shoes. And another guy working in Munster, Inigo from Spain. He also doesn’t speak German.
The firefighters soon extinguish the fire, leaving the partly burnt carcass of the bus. It is time to take back what people left in the luggage storage.
Everything is almost completely burnt. Ismail complains about his laptop – for a designer, that is the worst thing he could lose. Incredibly, amid the rest of his bag, only one thing was saved by the fire: a little agenda, now with all the margins burnt and smelly.
After a long wait (I wonder: how long would have it been in Italy?) another bus comes to pick us up.
Entering a bus when another one has just burst into flames is not the best thing to do, but it’s our only choice.
We reach Bremen, this time flawlessly. Ismail invites me to sleep at his place, which is a few tram stops away, as mine is pretty far from the bus stop and with no night connection. I can’t say no.
‘Is that guy crazy, without shoes?‘ That is probably what most people is wondering, spotting me stepping with only a thin pair of socks on the ground. Lessons learned:
- Keep your shoes. You might want to loosen the shoelace, though 🙂
- Knowledge of languages is essential.
- Try to carry everything on the bus.
- Do NOT panic and do NOT stop in any way (like trying to save your belongings) the flow of people. We had just a couple of minutes to get out. Fortunately, I was with wise people.
It was pretty a misadventure. No one got injured or whatever. Just that woman coughing hard went later to the hospital.
It ended up the company reimbursed my boots and I even got a free return ride!
All’s well that ends well!
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