Friday, November 16, 2007

Strangers in a strange land - I: The train to Munich

Certainly, our budget for the Munich Holiday did not account for cloak room charges of 15 Euros per day for 5 days. So Antara, I & our eight pieces of luggage found ourselves with the task of somehow finding our way from the airport via a train ride to the Munich Hauptbahnhof & rolling from there to our hotel. It was not very difficult getting to the airport train station given the trolleys we had, but once we got there, there were no more machines to help us. It was down to strength. And strength had never been my strength. So it took what seemed like an eternity, & we must have gotten some help from the sympathetic people around - for I don't think we got all the bags into the train ourselves - to get everything on the train with me striking a fine balance between trying to stand & lending a helping leg & a helping hand to help two suitcases trying to stand.

So there we were, trying not look anybody in the eye. I finally figured out a way to arrange the suitcases & myself in a less dramatic posture. The group sitting around us consisted of two elderly gentlemen, one young woman, & two college-age boys. One of the elderlies who had been considering our state for sometime decided to break the silence & proceeded to make conversation. Now, my general experience in the US had been that not too many strangers asked very direct specific questions, they ask general questions & you're can fill in whatever details you wanted at your own judgment. This person obviously did not believe in that kind of a thing. He first wanted to know if we were students & proceeded to ask exactly what we did if we did not study, how long had been in the US, how long was our vacation in Munich - you know, stuff which produces simple, direct, truthful answers , not unlike a visa interview. Having established our credentials, he proceeded to share some of his own. He said that they were from MD, USA & are returning from a holiday in Kiev. They had a flight home in the evening & were going to Munich meanwhile.

At this point, he asked me the question I was avoiding to ask myself. He asked how in the world Antara & I proposed to take the luggage from the station to the hotel. I produced maps & directions pointing out that it was about 100 meters from the station & we might take a taxi or one person will do all the moving, say two pieces of luggage at a time, while the other stood at the station. He listened & gave me a the kind of look a headmaster gives a pupil from whom he expected better. He simply said that they'll walk with us with our luggage to our hotel. I tried to protest, but he was not really asking me if we could do what he said, he was telling me exactly what we would do.

The short walk was over soon. I carried the heaviest suitcase, he carried the second heaviest, the young boys carried 3 lighter cases between them & Antara just carried one. They quickly departed as soon as we had checked in, having shaken my hand firmly & not even exchanging names, leaving us to feel warm & grateful on a Sunny Monday Munich morning.


*This is a series on people I've met during my travels. Most of these encounters were short, but left lasting memories.

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