We were very happy that we actually happened to celebrate our first valentines day after marriage in Rome , Italy , the country of Saint Valentines.It wasn’t actually easy to plan this trip.Europe is very expensive and for a middle class Indian , like me , to visit Europe is actually a big financial adventure or should I say misadventure.But did I ever care for money?Never .My logic in life has always been to enjoy the life at present. Who knows , “Kal Ho Na Ho”. 🙂
As renowned Hindi Poet Rahul Sankratyayan wisely said –
सैर कर दुनिया की गाफ़िल , ज़िन्दगानी फिर कहाँ
ज़िन्दगी गर कुछ रही तो , नौजवानी फिर कहाँ
The Twist in the tale was that it was becoming more difficult to leave the Rome than it was to come here.You know the reason in no time if you decide to waste your precious time in reading further.
After having a great day on 14th Feb , we had a great night also 😉 , we had sound sleep.When we woke up , the only thing in our mind was to get our self ready as quickly as possible and reach the station at time.our train to Venice was at 10:30 , that would leave from Termini.I don’t know what made my wife to insist that we took our breakfast in the hotel before leaving for the station but it was a decision which was going cost us a cool 40 Euros and good two hours, I will tell you Why and How-
After finishing our breakfast we headed to the station.I don’t know why but that day frequency of buses was lower than normal.I could sense that it was going to be a tough task to catch the train.Finally bus came.We took the bus and then reached the Metro Station.After disembarking from the bus , we were literally running to board the first available train standing on platform.And we did it.Train started to move and so our Race against Time.Every time train halted at stations along the route , I would push it and pray for it to move fast.And better it doesn’t stop at all. 😉
After a round of increasing heartbeats and nervous moments , we reached the station. Great ! I took a deep breath.It was just 10:20 AM and train was standing right there at the platform.We were so happy that we could now enjoy our first journey in high-speed EuroStar trains.The reason behind this apparent curiosity was that our Eurail Pass , including reservation , was actually worth more than what we paid for return Air- tickets from Delhi to Rome for two. Facility of Eurail Pass can be availed only by non-European people.Another annoying thing is that we can purchase a second-class Pass only if our age is less than twenty-six year old.If we are above that age-limit then we have to buy only a First-Class Pass.The price difference between these two class are great but only a subtle difference in the luxury and facilities.May be only a glass of juice and two cookies extra.
We went up to find our compartment.That was not a very tough task.First class coaches are generally just behind the engine.So an effortless search.We took our Eurail-pass in the hand , showed it to the Ticket-Collector at platform.He had a look at it and then told us to get it validated.For those who are not familiar with how system works in Europe then I would like to tell them that a travel pass has to be validated by railway officers , generally by stamping and signing so that you can’t misuse/reuse that.You also have to fill the current date before boarding the train.If that is found empty , you have to pay a hefty fine , perhaps twice the price of ticket , I am not sure.
Now starts the not-so-noble way of Rome to express its affection for us.TC gentlemen told us to get our ticket validated from the Customer-Care Service failing which it would cost us Euro 20.(Though it was written on Eu-rail website that we could also get it validated on the ticket counter ).Just ten minutes were left before the train would leave.I rushed to the customer care counter.There was a small que.I was on the third or fourth position.It took five minutes to reach inside the cabin and another five minutes to explain the situation to the lady inside.But she was probably not getting it.And time was running fast.Sensing that I was running out of time , I literally came out from cabin and ran towards the platform without getting my pass validated.I could see the train moving slowly and I couldn’t do anything.
We missed our FIRST and also the FIRST train in Europe.
Not only did we miss our train , we also lost the validity of our reservation ticket which was valid only for that specific train.Next train was an hour later at 11:30 AM.Another problem arose when I went to book the reservation for next train.Lady at the counter told me to use the automatic ticket-vending machine.If machine could do everything why the hell she was there ? I am very good with machines but my problem was the language.Home screen was in Italian and I wouldn’t know where to touch or press the screen.One time I almost went correctly till it was the time to PAY and I didn’t know how to use the Euro currency notes for cash payment to the machine.It was frustrating.I asked some people around if they knew “English” or would they help me in booking my reservation but unfortunately most of the people present there were ‘foreigners’ .I asked the security officers on duty to help and they proved to be just a better ‘dressed and looking’ extension of our Indian police.In fact Indian police officers are better , at least for me , as they know the languages which I can understand.
Now came the most interesting part of this interesting scenario.One local old aged man came and ask for money when I was trying to book my reservation through the machine.I had first ignored him.Then I got an idea.I asked if he knew English.Surprisingly he knew.Then I asked for help.He , not surprisingly , knew how to book a ticket and pay through the machine.I gave him one Euro.He asked for more.I hesitantly gave him one more.Two Euros were given as consultancy for booking a Twenty Euro Ticket.A real big deal.
Having booked our reservation ticket solved one of our problems.Another more important thing was to get our ticket validated.I once again went to the customer-relation block and then got myself in a que.This time it had more people waiting to get in.I was at sixth position.As it was just 10:55 now and my train was at 11:30 so I was relaxed.People were taking more time inside the cabin or as I found out when entered that only one lady was handling all the people.Another man who was supposed to be there was no where to see.Well , I got inside a good 15 minutes before the departure of my train.I explained everything to the lady present there.And much to my shock and horror , she told me that I was at wrong place and I should have been at ticket counter to validate my pass.(Surprisingly TC had told me to go to Customer-Care Service earlier).I was still holding my anger.I rushed toward the ticket counter and then I was disheartened to see that there was a huge line at all the counters there.There was no way I could have validated my pass if I follow any of those lines.So I tried to get help from the person who were at the front in the lines.One cute girl actually understood English and tried to help me but at that time it was around 11:25 so even if I happened to get my pass validated instantly I would have missed my train as it would take more than five minutes to reach the train from ticket counter.So , I simply gave up. I , justifiably fuming , started walking toward train.When I got to see it, It was still halting.After ten second it started to move and I could once again do nothing.
We missed our SECOND Train (but not last 😉 ) in Europe.
Once again our One Hour and Twenty Euros were wasted.This time , I was going to be very firm and strict with pathetic , ignorant and lazy Italian train staff.I had never missed my train in India because of such silly ignorance or arrogance of train staff.Thing , somehow take a positive turn in the last hour.Though at their own pace.I was very upset.I once again booked reservation ticket for the next train which was to leave at 12:30 am.I once again went to customer-service counter so that I could tell them my problem that I had already missed two trains of mine and as there is big que at ticket counters so if they could help me or not.This time I got to talk to a guy aged around 48-50 and explained my sympathetic situation.He listened carefully and then simply asked for my pass , stamped it and filled up the dates of journey.And that’s it.I was cursing the lady earlier who refused to do this simple task by herself and sent me to ticket counter.Either she was ignorant and lazy or she was intentionally behaving in this manner.I could never know.But I made sure that she was made aware of what she did to me.I complained to the officer about her , though in a polite tone.I didn’t make a scene but it wasn’t anything which people present there could ignore easily.
Finally , I had my pass validated , reservation tickets and plenty of time to catch the train.
Good bye , Rome !