… but we have more than most. At least en route to our year abroad. Quite an adventure yesterday getting to our home-for-a-year in Fribourg, Switzerland… with some misadventure mixed in. For the record, I did think this through many times, weighing (no pun intended) many times the pros and cons of shipping boxes ahead of time, flying directly to Switzerland rather than stopping in Iceland and Paris with many heavy bags, etcetera. My overriding thought was short term pain, long term gain – financially for sure (shipping was for us prohibitively expensive), but also in terms of having all checked bags be duffel bags with no wheels. Crazy, right? But in our small apartment here in Switzerland, having to store any other kind of luggage was daunting. So there we were in the train station in Paris, eight large and heavy duffel bags, one big rolling “hand carry” plus a backpack each. We. Looked. Ridiculous. We had heard rumors of porter-like men in yellow jackets, but I believe this is a Parisian myth (I was optimistic, as we had dispelled of the myth of the ride waiter, having had nothing but fantastic and charming service all week… but no). No men in yellow were to be found. So, we anticipated four stressful events for the day with the luggage:- get on the train in Paris without getting anything stolen and stowing all luggage
– get off the train in Geneva with all luggage
– transfer to the next train and board with all luggage to Fribourg
– get off the train in Fribourg.
It was indeed VERY stressful and strenuous and relied on the kids being on their Very Best Mature Stepping It Up Behavior (which, miraculously, they were).
Well folks, we were thisclose. We passed the most difficult hurdles and were on the last train. PapaHatch high-fives me and said “we made it!” and even though I put on the agreeable “yay” face, inside I was like, “actually not yet.” Sure enough, we stand at the door as the train pulls up to the Fribourg station, exhausted yet excited, ready per the plan to assembly-line our luggage out the door onto the platform as quickly as possible. The train stops, with the platform on the other side of the train than when we boarded the train (this sounds like an unimportant detail, and yet…). The door doesn’t open. We pull on the handle. The door still doesn’t open. We start to panic. We then notice the ominous bright red sticker on the door – in German, which we do not understand – that appears to be some sort of alert that may, just may, mean that the door is broken and won’t open. We start freaking out and try to sprint (hahahahahaha with all the luggage) to the door at the other end of the train car… and just when we pull the handle to open the door, the train pulls away. Noooooooo!!!! So that was that, we were on our way to Bern (luckily only 20 minutes away, but still). Seriously, I thought, ok that’s it, we will just have to live on the train all year; I am not moving this luggage off and on and off another train.
Then out of nowhere, sitting in a seat nearby, our angel of mercy spoke up. An young Swiss woman was sitting there and calmly said, “It’s no problem; just take the train back from Bern. I will help you.” Every time I tried to suggest that maybe it was time to just give up, throw money (ok apparently a LOT of money) at the problem and take a taxi (or two?) from Bern, she would have none of it. Sure enough, this complete stranger helped carry the luggage off that train, all the way to the new platform (several trips), and helped us buy new tickets back to Fribourg. She wanted nothing for her trouble (probably especially my anxiety over the whole thing).
We finally did end up making it back to our original destination, weary but relieved, and met by three more incredibly kind and generous (and calm! I am taking notes) Swiss: the lovely parents of the woman we are subletting from and the assistant of our main university contact, who met our train (twice! ack!) to help us transport us and all our luggage to our new home. Both brought groceries for us to tide us over until Monday, since almost nothing is open on Sundays here. So, so kind and thoughtful.
The silver lining of the day was an incredible introduction to the Swiss character. Even the random other passengers were seemingly understanding of this crazy family with all the luggage. A good lesson to me: calm, acceptance, it’s not so bad.
Even so, Fritz captured my own feeling on hauling so much luggage on trains: “I did not like this day.” I would rephrase that to: “next time, we will rent a car.”
But now we are here, in this charming city, chez nous for the next year.