Tuesday, March 25, 2008
"What is your nationality?"
Can you guess where I spent Easter?
Alice and I took a train from Florence to Paris on Saturday night. We had a three hour snow delay in the mountains, which means it took fifteen hours to get there (glad I brought my knitting!), but it really wasn't so bad, since we had a sleeper car. We really wanted to stay longer, but all we had was Sunday afternoon, thanks to the snow.
We saw a ton of very strange things while we were in Paris, which will make their way into the next episode of the podcast. We wanted to actually record while we were there, but just didn't have the time, and we couldn't find a quiet place--there were so many tourists!
Because it was Easter, just about everything was closed. The only real tourist site we got to see was Notre Dame. Everyone always shows pictures of the front, but the sides and back of the church are so much more impressive!
We walked around in the Latin Quarter, and are planning where we will go next time. We still have one round trip left on our Eurorail passes. Alice wants to so someplace more southernly, to avoid the long trip, but I really want to go back to Paris. Since I'm the one who bought the tickets, I'm going to be a little bitchy about this, but I'm also going to try to get an overnight stay, which will make things a little easier. Twenty-seven hours on a train for a six hour tour is not fun, even if you do sleep through most of it.
Oh, and can I say one thing about Italian customs officials? They're JERKS.
Okay, so we pull into our first Italian station around 2am. Everyone is asleep. Then all of a sudden, someone is pounding on our compartment door. These two security guys come in with a German Shepard, and start shaking everyone awake. "What's you're nationality? Where are your bags? Show me your passport!"
At first, we thought he meant "What language do you speak?" because he was using a mix of English, Italian, and French, so Alice and I both said English. Then he started demanding nationalities, passports, etc. Of course, none of us had our passports, because with the night trains, you give your ticket and passport to the porter, then when you pull into the customs station at night they take care of everything (without waking you), and return the paperwork in the morning.
At least, that's how it's supposed to work.
The guards started hassling this one woman in the bunk below me. She was from Camaroon. They were really giving her a hard time because she didn't have her passport. Then they realized she was traveling with her eight or ten year old son. I think they felt bad after that, and left her alone to try to calm him down.
When they were done with us, we all laid awake in our bunks for a while, watching through the windows, trying to figure out what was going on. There were police there, but from my angle, I couldn't tell if they were regular police or MPs, which you see a lot of around here. Alice said she thinks they were normal police, but someone else said they were MPs. I don't know. All I saw was a shoulder.
I know that they took one person into custody, but I don't know what for, or what they were looking for. A few minutes before we pulled out of that station, another sleeper train arrived on the platform next to us, and they got searched, too.
Alice and I didn't sleep much after that. We were completely freaked out, and were sure that they were going to come after us because we had said "English" rather than "American," and we didn't have our passports or anything. We were sure they were going to arrest us.
I really hope this wasn't a normal Italian re-entry. It makes me a little nervous about going back to Paris, much as I loved it.
Peace Project Update
If you have not signed up yet, then please do so quickly! I just finished counting, and 155 flags have been signed up for!