Day 12 – The Couchette

It all began when we walked up to a crinkly round, kind of smashed looking, German woman.  She had perfect nails, shiny rings and bleached hair.  She took one look at us and it was over.  “Sprechen zee englisch?” we asked with smiles.  She shook her head as if to say, “not for you.”  We proceeded with telling her our destination point, a stop over point, and giving her our Eurail pass.  After a few back and forths we had her yelling a big roar at us as she crinkled up the wrong reservation for a third time.  We chimed in with surprised and nervous laughter and seemed to match her yell nicely.  Somehow, Aaron thought to comment on how nice it has been to have the weather cool off.  She smiled and in a moment handed us our reservation slips.  “Danke!” we said as we left.

There are odds and ends of the day that don’t really need be included in this episode of The Couchette, including an epic search for playing cards, eating a huge sausage and purchasing the cheapest tiniest bottles of liquor I have ever seen, so I will move onward and continue with the items of import.

Upon booking our train we were told that there were no beds available for this 9 hour night train from Berlin to Basel, Switzerland and we would need to take the couchettes.  Couchettes are basically high-backed chairs that recline a little more than regular reclining airplane or train chairs.  Aaron and I quickly and silently understood that we wanted to spend the least amount of time in these things as possible.  Mine particularly reclined in a very clunking and rapid motion and when I looked in front of me I couldn’t imagine having another person reclining back over my legs.  We left for the dining car.

The dining car was just so nice I wanted to stay there the whole night.  But alas, we stayed as long as we could until the nice lady needed to take the tablecloth from underneath us.  We journeyed back past all the sleeper cars to our couchette car.  Everyone seemed to be asleep and so we made ready to do the same.  While I was putting my backpack away Aaron reclined his couchette to go to sleep when suddenly someone behind him smacked his chair and started pushing it back upright as if to say, “you cannot lean back, then I won’t have enough room.”  Now, everyone was reclined and being reclined upon at this point.  For some reason this person thought they should, however, not be reclined upon.  Usually I am very diplomatic, I see the other person’s side immediately and approach the situation with smooth conflict resolution skills.  However, I watched myself just open my mouth and let pour out a squall of “hell no”.  There was a fire blazing in me and suddenly I felt I was standing for all the injustices done form one human being to another.  Surely we can all figure out how to recline our couchettes and be reclined upon, can we not?

I am fairly sure she did not speak English and I don’t even remember everything I said, but the meaning got across.  Essentially, I said, “No! Everyone gets to rest! Everyone!”  I was surprised at her reaction, for I expected a retaliation.  But I was happy when she became soft and gestured for Aaron to lay back and me to be quiet and that she was sorry.  Her rapid turn over might have had to do with the various shushes that were coming from the train that I was completely disregarding, but  maybe she admitted her argument held no value.

It would have all been fine then, but now I had to recline on her.  I told her I was coming back, she seemed to make a sound like “alrighty”, but as I said before my chair was a little overzealous in its reclining.  She wasn’t moving back to make way for my couchette and I lost control of my recline.  My chair smashed right into her knees.  I just didn’t understand, there was plenty of room.  But she had scooted forward, as if to sacrifice her knees in order to make me feel bad.  It worked… a little, but then I put on my sleeping mask and slept like a baby.

We awoke the next morning at 8am to spend four hours in Basil, Switzerland.  Excited to be off the train and in a new place we locked our bags in the train station and set out for a quaint breakfast in the old town of Basil.  We quickly found out that nothing is open before 10am and no one eats more than coffee in quaint cafes OR drops $30 (or should I say Francs) on some eggs.  We searched and searched as we got more and more hungry, until finally a farmers market opened.  To make a long story short by the time we got back to the train we had spent $40 on some cheese, a tomato, some leaves of lettuce, the bathroom, an angry Swiss German woman yelled at me as she threw a slice of tomato from the ground on to my food, and we were ready to get the @#$%&*^ out of Switzerland. Looking for the silver lining, the whole experience gave us a great crash course in getting on our traveling feet.

Crossing the border into Italy was like coming home!  Or like, arriving in Disney Land.  Either way, it was inviting, warm, and a total dream world.  Set against our experiences over the last 24 hours, we felt like we had found Utopia.

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