I have been impressed at how many nearly magical moments we experienced in that short two weeks of our train trip through Europe, and they were mostly a direct result of our lack of planning. It seems, I have more than just a little bit of a taste for adventure, or I wouldn’t have married Alex, one could say.
On that soft September evening, as we made our way from Barr Switzerland we were waiting for the “right” town to get off the train and look for a hotel. It was a picturesque place and we wandered the streets finding two hotels. One was flying a large Canadian flag out front, and when I walked into the little lobby, I asked about a room and the young women, in perfect English, expressed regret that they were full.
“What about the Canadian flag?” I asked. She was born in Prince George BC, (a town we drove through at least once a year on our way to visit Michelle and Alex relatives) of Swiss parents. As a young adult she returned to Switzerland and was operating this hotel. She suggested we get back on the train and try another town.
With no room in both the Inns, we trudged back to the train station, which had no attendants. It was dark and a soft rain was falling. A man with a black suit and fedora was also on the platform and I asked him if he knew if this particular track would take us to Milan. Janine’s friend Joanna, in Barr, had recommended we go to the Cinque Terra on the rugged Italian Mediterranean coast. It was a group of ancient villages, perched high above the sea in Northern Italy, connected by hiking trails and the train that tunnelled through the vineyard covered mountains. But back to our little Swiss town.
He was fairly sure that was the track we should take to Italy. Then another dark figure joined him in a strange headdress and long black coat. They approached us and invited us to their monastery for the night, and we accepted the invitation. We found ourselves driving through the gates of a looming building, which they told us was 300 years old. Their English wasn’t very good, but we discovered they were an ancient Syrian Christian group, not Roman. We noticed as we sat and shared scriptures of Jesus, we communicated well. They served a supper of pita bread, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from their garden and tea. Our cots were set up in a laundry room and all was well. Early the next morning I took the picture that you see on this blog of the garden behind the monastery. The air was moist and the mist hung in the background. The brothers and sisters gave us breakfast and returned us to the train.
I value that experience and have often thought if we had booked accommodation in some hotel further along, we would have missed a unique spot in Gods world.
See you again on a similar theme. “less plans, less stress” (according to this traveler anyway).