So a Glaswegian Talks German to a Dutchwoman
France, Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Liechenstein
Day 2, or day 3 in Prague if you want to be fussy, was spent largely at the British Embassy attempting to get our friend a new passport so we could travel to Frankfurt on the following day. The problem was this was Friday lunchtime, and if we could not get a passport we would be stuck in Prague until Monday at the earliest. Anyway, to make a long story a little less long, we managed to get a replacement passport, railpass and travellers cheques in time to travel to Frankfurt on the Saturday morning.
We returned to Germany with almost a sigh of relief. At least now we were back in the EU, and if anything else went wrong we could at least get home without much difficulty. We only went to Frankfurt to allow two of our party to fly home due to work commitments.
Before we hit Italy we stopped for one night only in Munich. Now we had to begin to attempt to communicate without our chief interpretor, who had now flown home. “Ich mochta eine double cheeseburger meal” was about as far as we got.
And so to Rome, the Eternal City, a place that along with Prague was somewhere I had been looking forward to more than anywhere else. We took the night train from Munich, to head through Salzburg, Bologna, Florence and finally Rome.
I think the train finally stopped at Naples, but Rome was far enough and long enough on a train for us. Or at least it would have been. After a couple of hours on the train we reached the Italian border. As is standard on international trains there are a new set of ticket collectors at every border crossing.
The Italian train guards appear, check our tickets and start shouting “supplemento, supplemento” Oh dear. “How much?”
The figure was only about 6 each or 25,000,000 Lire (joke), but the money we did not have. Additionally, I had done my homework and was well aware that we may be ripped of at some point.
“We’re not paying it,” I kept saying, getting louder and more abusive every time.
“Supplemento, you pay,” was the guards limited level of Italglish. Eventually the head guard, an older, much more pleasant man, appeared. He explained the situation and we believed that he was genuine. We offered to make the money available on our credit cards, but this was no go. We even offered our passports as hostages and offered to pay when we reached Rome. This was also rejected. We had to leave the train at 2 o’clock in the morning.
The older guard let us stay on until a place called Treno, he said, rightly, that it would be easier to get a free connecting train to Florence from there and continue via national rail to Rome.
So we waited for two hours (at least it was warm) in Treno in the Italian Alps still some 200km north of Verona. At last the train arrived, but we got on at the sleeper compartments. We were advised by a pleasant female guard to get off at Verona and move to the middle two carriages as only they would go to Florence.
At Verona the train split three ways. The front to Milan, the back to Venice and the middle stood still for over an hour as half the employees of the Italian rail network worked out that an engine was required to get us anywhere near Florence. The journey to Florence was possibly the worst experience of my life. The time was now about 5.30 am, and we had not slept at all. We were forced to stand on the train next to a bunch of noisy school kids ranging from around 12-14 in years. Two hours later they left the train at Bologna and we managed to get a seat and a sleep for the remainder of the journey. After changing in Florence we arrived in Rome about 7 hours late and later that day I managed to fall asleep in the Colleseum.
Despite taking forever to get there I really enjoyed Rome. The splendour of the city is outstanding, and the area around the Colleseum is full of history dating back centuries. On our second day in the city we visited the Vatican City and were privileged to wear our Rangers shirt. Nobody seemed to mind this obvious, but well-humoured show of offensivness, but sadly we never got a picture to prove our claim to fame.
Our Italian trip concluded with visits to Florence, which disapointed me slightly, and Genoa. On the way from Florence to Genoa I once again had a run-in with the Italian rail network. When handing over my railpass to be stamped the guard noticed the silver foil ticket, vital to travel free, was missing. I was charged about £15 for a ticket on the spot, which left me raging. To avoid the problem I bought a ticket from Pisa, where we were changing trains, to Genoa, costing around £10. When we reached the hostel in Genoa I found my ticket, leaving me frustrated that I had paid extra money and relieved that I could make it home at no extra cost.
At last we heading back to Scottish soil going to Prestwick via Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Basle, Liechenstein and Milan, all on the same train journey on the same night. Six countries in the one night, a claim to fame I think.
We landed on Scottish soil not a moment too soon. Back to a land where people understand what I’m saying, and don’t, well don’t usually double my train ticket charge for no reason.
They say fools never learn and I am heading back to Europe this summer to visit Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Poland and Germany. Natives beware.