February 11th, 2015:

ITALIAN TRAIN STRIKE PROVIDES COMEDY

Gloomy view of the Adriatic

Gloomy view of the Adriatic

Visiting Italy is not always a guarantee for sunshine and fun, even in April. My newlywed husband and I discovered that on our honeymoon years ago in Milano Marittima.

In our quest for the sun, Hans and I decided on a short trip to San Marino, an ancient separate country within Italy.

As the bus climbed to the top of the little mountain country, instead of sunshine, we had managed to get even more socked in. It might as well have been raining, and it was so foggy we could see almost nothing, much less the so-called spectacular views. We got off at a restaurant before we reached the top; there would be good Italian food and better yet, some wine to soothe us.

San Marino--the way it was supposed to look

San Marino–the way it was supposed to look

When we came back to the hotel, a few hours later, there was still no sunshine and the next day was no better. We decided to call it quits and go back to Germany. Heaters and oysters, even Italian food, didn’t make up for lack of sunshine. We weren’t getting any warmer, not even with sex. By this time it was nearly Easter.

The next day we packed our heavy bags, wondering why we’d brought so many clothes and the tennis rackets. When we got back to the train station in Rimini, we discovered we’d chosen the wrong day to travel. Italian workers apparently love to go on strike and the trains hadn’t been running for three days. That it was almost Easter made it worse; the station was packed with people. First class reservations didn’t mean a thing! To add insult to a gloomy trip, the sun was coming out!

There were no seats to be had—it was standing room only. For the first leg of the journey we were packed in at the back of one of the cars near the W.C. (toilets). There were not enough cars to hold all the passengers wanting to go somewhere, like home for the holiday. We had to stand by our heavy suitcases. Hans was very obliging and good natured: he would lift the young passengers, who needed to go to the toilet, over the suitcases.

We rode standing for an hour or so before we reached another train station. They were going to remove some cars so we had to get off the train and find our new car. Trouble was, the cars hadn’t all stopped near a platform, which meant we had to carry those heavy suitcases through the large rocks surrounding the train tracks until we found the designated car.

For this segment of the journey, we were lucky to find a seat. It was a fold-down seat in the mail car, an interesting location and somewhat entertaining as we watched train workers sorting the mail. Hours later, and another transition from one train to another, we actually found a regular, fairly comfortable train seat in a fully packed car. No scenic ride back to Germany. By the time we got to our Mannheim, Germany, destination, it was near 3 a.m.

At that time of the morning, we didn’t want to spend the money for a hotel and Hans’ room in the BOQ wasn’t available. We made the best of it by having a drink and a light snack. We shared a table, as Europeans do, and watched the interactions of the people sitting around it.

I have a vivid memory of a young blond German woman entertaining her GI companion. She might have been charging! She had apparently bought a new bra and wanted to show him how pretty it was. She thought nothing of pulling her sweater up and modeling it, not only for him, but for everyone else at the table and nearby. We Americans were absolutely clueless in bra design in those days. Hers had colorful flowers on a green background. American women were still wearing white, beige and black.

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