A roundish number and a solid fifty before getting to story 2500! So here is a true saga – as is the custom on such occasions. Some may regard this tale as “inappropriate”.
It was New Year’s Eve. I had been staying with a friend in Passau, Germany (once again trying to find my way back to New Zealand after studying in Massachusetts). The next leg of my journey was to be Italy. The train left Munich at 10 p.m. and would arrive in Verona early in the morning of New Year’s Day. As the train departed my friend presented me with two bottles of red wine – to celebrate the New Year.
I waved farewell. The train was on its way. It was already New Year’s Day in New Zealand! I shall toast the New Year there. I had recently been in England. I shall toast the New Year there! I had visited Ireland. I shall toast the New Year there! I had been in many countries all over Europe. Well! I was given two bottles to celebrate the New Year. The train arrived in Verona. It was three in the morning. I left the empty bottles neatly in my carriage compartment.
Aha! There was a café in the station and it was open. I had exchanged some German money into Italian currency before I left Munich. I said to the lady behind the counter: “Coffee please”, and what did I get? One tiny cup with what looked like a teaspoon of molasses. I noticed other customers “knocked it back” and went on their way. I hovered and listened how to order a decent mug of coffee. I was successful!
And then I wanted to go to the toilet. Urgently. Number 2. But to get into a cubicle you had to pay with small coins and I didn’t have any. I handed the guarding janitor a hefty note and he let me in.
Let me explain before I go any further… I am not exactly a fashion model but it was midwinter and I dressed warmly. I wore jeans and boots. The jeans were held up by a pair of suspenders (we call them braces). Over all of that I wore a pullover and a heavy coat, a scarf, and gloves. And – oh dear – the toilet was not sit-down but a beautifully tiled hole in the floor.
Let me get over this bit quite briefly… One can’t lower ones jeans without undoing the suspenders. One can’t undo the suspenders without taking off ones coat, scarf, and gloves. One cannot squat on the floor with pulled down jeans. One can’t take ones jeans off without first taking off ones boots. One doesn’t want to get ones socks wet on the bathroom tiles. To cut a long story short, there I was (ever so slightly inebriated) totally naked in a freezing toilet in Verona at three in the morning. I have no idea how Italians do it.
Emerging (fully clothed) back into the station I checked the train timetable. No train to take me out of this God-forsaken place. The train station was some distance from the centre of town. I decided to walk – in the dark – and arrived in Verona town centre at dawn.
What a marvellous place! I fell in love with it and I was sad a few days later to leave this wondrous town! I even saw the balcony where Juliet said, “O Romeo! Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” It was magic and my real introduction to the entrancement that was Italy.