Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Train Ride to Remember

Frecciarossa, high speed train
Photo: Wikipedia
(no, our train was not this elegant and fast)
Several years ago we were on an overnight train in the south of France bound for Paris, a twelve-hour trip in a reclining car. The couchettes were all taken by a very large Canadian tourist group so the thirty-six of us had to make do with reclining chairs.

I was leading an American group of students and two parents who had little understanding of the dangers of traveling in Europe at night. They did not seem to be frightened by the presence of gypsies on the train who were harassing passengers by begging and threatening them with a very large dog the size of a large calf.

There was no police present and those few in uniforms who were supposed to check the passengers' tickets were hiding somewhere in a couchette so they wouldn't have to deal with the threatening gypsies and the frightened passengers who were accosted.

One fearless parent, a nurse, went for a smoke in the designated areas between cars, holding a glass of red wine. One of the gypsies (rroma as they like to be called, progressivism PC has infected Europe just as bad as the U.S.) must have put something in her glass when she did not pay attention (gypsies are famous for slight of hand and pickpocketing) and fell to the floor unconscious. It must have been a powerful narcotic - she slept for the entire 12-hour trip, did not wake until we arrived in Paris. We were afraid for her, so we made sure she laid back properly with un unobstructed airway.

Everyone was relieved when a group of mercenaries (French legionnaires) climbed into our car at the one and only stop before Paris, Le Havre.

The whispers heard were, "Thank God they are here, we are safe now from the gypsies." I was the only one still afraid, as I knew who the mercenaries were, so I moved my daughter in the window seat, away from the aisle.

I sparked a conversation with the two fierce-looking men seated across the isle who happened to be from the Ukraine. I knew Ukraine's history with fascism so their presence was uncomfortable to me to say the least.

I stayed up all night, making sure my daughter and the rest of the group were safe. We talked a bit in Russian, a bit in English, and found out that they were going on leave for a few days in Paris. The ever curious economist, I asked one of them how much the French Legion paid them. Europeans are quite candid about money and do not mind asking each other how much they make. These killers for hire were making about 20,000 euros a year.

Needless to say, the gypsies miraculously stopped coming through our car but I did not relax all night. When we got to Paris by 7 a.m., the two legionnaires I had befriended actually carried our luggage off the train like proper gentlemen and helped us to disembark. We thanked them graciously that they protected us from the gypsies.

Since then, it's been ten years ago, I've been uncomfortable taking trains in Europe. They can be quite comfortable but, you never know who can get on and off.

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