I’d been seeing the same dentist for about 30 years. When he died, it unsettled me, but I had no tooth-related problems at the time. A year later, I chipped a tooth and needed a crown.
Because it happened in Vienna, I asked my Austrian friends to recommend a dentist. It turned out that they all go to Hungary when toothache strikes. In response to my stereotypical reservations about eastern European dentists, they simply opened wide.
The 60-kilometer journey through pretty Burgenland from Vienna to the border, where the freeway ends and a quiet country road takes over, was actually very pleasant. You feel you could continue along it forever, but soon, the first town comes into view: Sopron, pronounced “Shopron.”
The Austrians have turned it into “Shop on” because it’s a bargain hunter’s paradise. The ads begin five kilometers from town: a forest of signs and building and factory facades all singing the praises of shopping centers and dental clinics. My sat nav guided me to an address I was unable to pronounce, but the dentist’s first name, Gabor, presented no problems at all.
A pony-tailed man in jeans, he treated me in a beautifully restored, 360-year-old, half-timbered house with ultramodern technology and anesthetics that not only banished my pain but put me in an excellent mood.
In the end, the entire visit only cost one-third of what I would have had to pay in Austria or Germany. I drove back in good spirits and had a wonderful evening – and the slightly euphoric effect of the anesthetic stayed with me for a while.
When he was only 17, Helge Timmerberg (now 63) decided to hitchhike to India and become a reporter. More than 200 countries later, he still writes travel books from places all over the world.