Thursday, 25 July 2013

Journey to Brindisi

Every time I am going to travel I start worrying about different thiungs that can go wrong. When the journey is by train, the anxiety is lesser, I just need to make sure that I have sufficient time for the connecting trains. When the travel agency tells me that there is a connecting train just ten minutes after arrival, I usually tell them to forget it and to look for a train after at least one hour. It is rare that a fast train of Ferrovie Italiane does not have delays of 10-15 minutes and with other non-fast trains, the delays are usually much longer.

I was not worried about my journey to Brindisi. It is a straight train, no need to get down and change trains, so even if there will some delays, I can relax and arrive calmly. Brindisi is in the lower eastern tip of Italy, a famous port city. In 1931 even Gandhi ji had taken the ship for India from Brindisi port after his journey to UK for some meeting.

Our house is quite close to the Bologna railway station and a journey by car usually takes 10 minutes. However, my wife was busy so she could not have accompanied me and I needed to take a bus. I checked the bus timings and decided to be prudent by leaving an hour earlier. In about twenty minutes we were quite close to the railway station when the first problem cropped up in the form of a traffic jam. To do the last two km of the journey, it took another 20 minutes. It seemed that there was some kind of protest demonstration in the area that was driving the traffic mad.

Anyway, I had still 20 minutes to my train and the railway station is not so far from the bus stand. At the station, it seemed the train was on time and I reached the platform, a bit huffy puffy from carrying the suitcase over the stairs, but still with five minutes to spare.

Five minutes passed. Another five minutes passed. Then another five minutes passed. They were making lot of announcements but they forgot to say anything about our fast Eurostar train. Finally a sign of “delay of 10 minutes” appeared on the sign board, even while the delay was already of 15 minutes. Then after a few minutes the announcement about our train, a last minute announcement of a change of platform. An old lady with two heavy looking suitcases looked me with imploring eyes and asked for confirmation, “Have they changed the platform?”

So when we reached the other platform, I was even more out of breath. Anyway, I had made it to the train. I have my laptop with me with couple of films I want to see. I also have my lunch packet plus some papers for reading. Eurostars trains are quite nice inside with electric sockets, so that on journeys you can use your laptops and other electric gadgets without any problem.

However another surprise awaited me in the train. I had the corner seat right near one end of the carriage that had no folding table or electric socket in front of it. It is just not my day, I had thought. There must be only 7 or 8 such seats on the whole train out of the total 700 seats, yet it was my luck to get one of them and I am sure if I really wanted that kind of seat, I wouldn’t have ever got it!

“I have an eight hour journey, can you please find me another seat?” I asked the ticket controller. He nodded in sympathy and so I have moved to another seat with a table and a socket for plugging my laptop. The controller hasn’t actually said if if this seat is free right up to Brindisi or I would need to shift back to my original seat at some point in time, but I am not complaining!
The surprise came at the end. The train reached Brindisi after a 7 hours and 40 minutes journey, exactly on time. The journey back was equally impressive, it arrived in Bologna five minutes before time!
While I got down from the train in Bologna thinking that perhaps Ferrovie Italiane has indeed changed for better, I heard the announcements. The train for Bari was delayed by 60 minutes because of engine failure. Some other train for Rome, Rimini and Milan also had delays. Guess we were just plain lucky!
Here are a few pictures from this short trip to Brindisi.

This post was originally written in 2008

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