Thursday September 30
Today started early, too early and not good. The sky was still murky at 6 a.m. when the telephone in our hotel room rang. It was the reception.
“The police is looking for Mr. Kertesz.” “That’s me.” Janos got to the telephone first. “Do you want to come down or should we send them up?”
A minute later two young officers knocked at the door and informed Janos that he was to be at the police station at 9 a.m. We had no idea what this was about.
A nervous scramble across town on our bicycles in the morning traffic got us to the police station punctually, a scene of many officious civil servants scurrying back and forth in long corridors. Finally after much waiting, an officer with more gold on his uniform than the others explained the situation.
“Your wallet was robbed in Vicenza seven years ago, yes?” “Yes.” “The Vicenza police believes they have caught the thieves and request that you appear as a witness – in Vicenza.”
An absurd situation. Janos had been the victim of a theft seven years ago and was now being treated almost as if he were the offender! He had orders to appear in Vicenza.
We were no longer in German speaking South Tyrol and the Italian police spoke no foreign language. I was doing my best to understand a situation that wasn’t easy to understand in any language.
Eventually we were able to convince the police that Janos wouldn’t be able to recognize the suspects after so many years. After another long wait and much palaver on the telephone, the police officer said we were ‘free’, he had convinced the police in Vicenza that Janos wouldn’t be much use as a witness. We then recounted the story of the theft for a written report – in Italian – which we all duly signed. It was almost noon when we were finished. By now we had lost interest in cycling the next few kilometers to Rovereto and decided to come back another time for some more cycling in Italy.
Many trains travel daily from Trento to Munich via the Brenner Pass and buying tickets home should have been a cinch. But it wasn’t. In the European Union the railroad companies of the respective countries are having a hard time cooperating. Italy no longer sells tickets to Munich, for example. So we bought tickets to the Austrian border and thought we’d figure it out from there.
I don’t want to go into too much boring detail – but things got worse. We didn’t realize you have to cancel your tickets before boarding the train. The conductor took no pity on foreigners who don’t read the fine print on the back of their tickets and wanted 200 € fine, 50€ for each passenger ticket and 50€ for each bicycle ticket. We were more than flabbergasted, particularly after the frustration of the morning. We didn’t even have that much cash on us. The conductor then settled for 50€.
That was not the end. There was no ticket office at the Brenner where we changed trains and we didn’t have enough money to pay for the tickets on board the connecting train. Of course, there are always solutions. We were not doomed to spending the rest of our lives freezing at the top of the Brenner Pass.
We had enough time to walk to an automatic teller and were on the next train to Munich – although no bicycles were allowed on this type of train. Hurrah, outwitted them this time! We have folding bikes and they can go on any train.