a long night journey at basel

Before time has change just like the wind blow away the leaves from the trees, I want to write this posting for my friend Carolina McRacines to whom I keep my eyes open with, during our strange night at Basel train station, Switzerland. Also for Lea Chiaramellano, amica mia. She has to continue the trip to Milan without us with SNCF.

So, this was about coincidence and yes stupidity from the officers who check my trans-Euro ticket and check Carolina’s visa to enter Switzerland. The careless ticket officer read my ticket three times and he said “No problem, Ma’am!” according to my question, “I don’t have Switzerland visa in my passport, since I don’t mean to make a stop-over in there.”

Then about Carolina, another officer [can I say also about this as a careless thing?] just check the stamps and not about the expired date.

Great! Our couchette just knocked by Switzerland Polizei around 1 AM and how sleepy we are to stay awake. And the conclusion from the police, Carolina and I must stay in Basel. What? Why? How? Hmm … no need further explanation since it’s just happened.

* picture courtesy of simone pare

And that night became one of the longest nights in my life. Time seems frozen and we’re stuck at train station. The ones that used as a stop-over for Anne Frank before she face her execution –I had bad feeling to remember the story about this old-but-nice Basel train station ever since I read the history.

There’s a huge hall and my eyebrow raise up to see groups of people here. Illegal immigrants [“Huh, are you sure, @rie?” Carolina kicked my trainers and I do roll-eyes. “What else, then? Grmbl, grmbl … grmbl ….” Mon Dieu, I turn into Obelix’s mode as Mr Grumpy whenever he feels hungry 🙂 ], Africans, Moroccans, teenagers, backpackers et cetera et cetera.

We choose the most comfy table [again, huge!] and start looking here and there. I still carry 2 cans of lemon tea and 2 bratwurst. And I shared with Carolina even her expression, “Oh you … eat again … in this situation.”

But I just smile looking at her and then we laugh to each other whenever we found there’s a painting hanging on the wall. We know very well, what the story about: Heidi von Switzerland. Smiling, friendly good-looking, cuddling little cattle and the most important thing … the condition as appears in the painting frame is definitely not matching with our condition at that moment.

A policeman just came arrive and tell us the recent situation. Our passports will be given within next 4 hours. And albeit very badly … can not enter Switzerland for any reason. Wow, cool! Beside, who wants to go here at this moment? Not me, neither does she!

I will get a free ticket to Paris and Carolina should stay longer whilst police station will make a call to the US embassy for further plan! Okay, finish the conversation and he offers some breads and fresh milk as compliment. We take it without any words from our lips. Not even thank you since that’s not our fault. Who wants to be blamed anyway? I asked the officer before catch the train many times, so does Carolina!

From the main hall, I tell Carolina that we better to ‘explore’ this train station. Killing time and find a restroom. Learn the map as shown next to the hall and further away, check the phone booth – even we know exactly, to whoever we make a call, it will not help the situation to be better!

Several African boys and girls approached us. I try to answer their questions such as why you’re here, is this place your original embarkation place, why this and that but when I turn my head to see Carolina, she makes some ‘emergency’ signage with her fingers and wink her eyes.

So we say that we need a spacious place to take a rest. We ‘runaway’ from them and I try to say something but Carolina insisted to say ‘No’ without a sound, until finally we find a place in the corner. I try to pick some used papers from my daypack to write to her.

Wij wensen u een prettige reis. Can not help but smile. This was my ticket around Netherland. A huge paper, write down there ‘Nederlandse Spoorwegen’: naar Bruxelles-Nord … station, trein, bijzonderheden zitplaatsen alleen 2e kl. Slaapwagen.

But before I finish writing, Carolina already gave a paper. So I write down in return and give her back. This happened many times and I used my print-out paper of Grand Prix de Belgique de Formule 1 time schedule since the paper size is far more better [further read, I feel the nostalgic feeling always come over: Bruxelles, double Gauche pouhon, Stavelot, Blanchimont, chicane, paddocks, La Source, Ligne du depart, Raidillon Eau Rouge, Kemmel, Malmedy les combes].

(c) ukirsari >> my lovely ID pass Belgique GP

Carolina: Please read this quietly!! You can not use VISA in the phone booth. DO NOT let the people behind you know that you have a VISA card or any money because you don’t know what they will do to you!

Me: You know what, because you’re very helpful and kind to me, so I think it will be nice if I do the same for those guys. But I’m wrong, I don’t know them for sure! Stupid me, I am sorry!

Carolina: Don’t worry, I know that you want to be kind to them but they might be illegal immigrants as you told me so. I know almost sure that the guy in the white shirt knew what was going to happen. This is why he was so angry at the police. It is VERY nice of you to try to help them but you have to be careful!! 🙂 and we will be fine. GOD IS ALWAYS taking care of us. Just ask Him to take you to Milano safely and He will. Ok?

Me: Yes, He will. Oh, I realize now. They look don’t even care for themselves. Strange. Not about helplessly feeling but … you know what I mean, the immigrants?

Carolina: Just be polite. There is no need to be rude to them. If they want to talk then we respond but no more is necessary. If they needed to make a phone call [like you and me] they would have looked for a phone themselves.

Me: You know, without a passport I feel … I can not breath 😦 I am not a citizen from a country or something, just nothing!

Carolina: I know EXACTLY how you feel. I feel the same! But we only have two more hours until we get our passport. Maybe from here you can make reservation to France and Milano directly!

Me: So we have to keep these eyes open ‘till the main gate open [I mean those police let us go and give our passports]. We’ll be fine and let’s keep on ‘chatting’ by writing like this!

Carolina: Yes, time will go by quickly. See, by now already two hours have passed since we got here. I am sooooo sleepy now!

Me: You know where we have to pick up ours are? I just a little bit envy for … the group that we meet up at the phone booth, they are now in a great grand hotel. If you want to take some sleep, I will look after our luggage!

Carolina: 🙂 what I understood from the police is that they will come and look for us at 6:00 AM, if they are not here by 6:15 one of us will stay here and the other will go to the place where they took us first and ask what is going on.

Me: Now, make a plan. 1) go to the police office, 2) you pay your visa to enter Switzerland so can continue the trip since maybe your embassy provided everything in advance, 3) I don’t need to buy ticket to France since provided by police as the officer mentioned before, 4) 😦 we can not travel together from now on, 5) I have to practice my pretty damn limited French!

Carolina: Your plan sounds good. Think about a frontier based on Switzerland, maybe you don’t need to enter Paris!

Me: Sure. I will check it out after we got our passports. I feel very upset to continue my trip by my own, but I am sure we can meet up to each other again someday.

We look to each other. Sharing the smiles and both of us pretty sure, we’ll be okay. Again we’re walking through the train station. The weather goes to be cold as the autumn has come already. People around us were sleeping but some of them still have chit-chat. I am not worry about the train that will take me out from Basel. I just think my friendship with Carolina and Lea has to be cut so sudden.

We keep walking to keep the heat in our bodies. Summer just leave us several days ago. Again we laugh for this situation; being arrested in Switzerland. Not about visa [stamps] doesn’t take us anywhere … this is about careless ticket officers and randomly checking from the frontier police stations.

Moral of this story from my side; by this ‘accident’ I know better about a travel-mate. As my Dad told me long time ago, “Good friends sometimes have to be found in a difficult way. And good people can be find on the roads, along the way to your destination.” He is indeed correct. Including, if we do something good, a good karma also follow us.

* picture courtesy of Lea Chiaramellano about me, on the way to Bruxelles

Time goes by and we run to the police station. Faster than other people in the train station who has the same problem like us. I hold my passport pretty tight as Carolina does the same. With me, also a ticket to France and she stay longer than me, caused her consulate send a memo to give her a pass for a direct ticket from Basel to Milan.

Con te partiro as singing by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. We have to say goodbye. We hugs tight to each other since we are sure, there’s un-definited time to see each other again. From my side, I tell Carolina how lucky I was to share a couchette with her and Lea. And funny, since both of us can not say ‘till we meet again.

The carriage which will bring me somewhere to the border is empty. Only a guy we –Carolina and I– had met last night. His name’s Lionel and very helpful. And the reason he got stuck in Basel quite funny: “Fallen asleep in the train so I miss Wupperthal train station.”

I wave Lionel goodbye at Mulhouseville then make a shorter connection via Lyon-part-Dieu, Paris then Milan.

I know this was strange experience, being arrested by Switzerland Police. But I was very happy to have friends like Carolina, Lea and also Lionel. Hoping you are fine wherever you are, Guys! Time goes by but my memories about all of you will never fade!


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