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"The flowers of your voice.."

Near disaster last Friday night at Zurich HB. I was on my way from Luzern to Zurich airport to spend the night at an airport hotel for a Saturday flight home. I decided on the 9:09 pm IR train to Zurich HB changing to a train to the airport. After dinner of a pizza and a couple beers at a watering hole outside Luzern station, I retrieved my luggage out of the station lockers, a big heavy one and a backpack and computer bag. I made my way to the platform and boarded the train to Zurich. 40 minutes later, I arrived at one of the upper platforms and my airport connection was below me at the underground platform.

I grabbed my heavy suitcase and computer bag and hustled down two escalators and boarded the waiting train. You guessed it. As soon as I began stowing my suitcase, where is my backpack? Its still in the train upstairs!

I grabbed my suitcase and bag and hustled up 2 escalators. The train I arrived on was still on the platform, but all the lights were off. I tried opening one of the doors, the circuits were dead. Then, it slowly began pulling out. In a mad panic, I ran toward the platform head looking for an SBB employee. I spotted a conductor leaning against a column doing some paper work. I summoned up my best pidgin Deutsch. "Koennen sie hilfe mir! Ich habe vergessen meine Gepaeck an diesen Zug!" as I pointed to the departing train.

Now it is one thing to speak the language, but you have to understand the responses. The conductor asked me a question that I did not understand. "Backpack, backpack!" as I gestured to my back. At this point, he switched to English. "What color was it?" "Black, black with blue trim!" "Might it be this one" as he pointed to his feet. And there was my backpack! He was filling out the paperwork to log it into the lost items database.

I grabbed his hand and began pumping it vigorously. "Danke, Danke sehr, vielen Dank, Thank you thank you.." until i ran out of words. It was then that he said something that seemed strange at first. "The flowers of your voice warm me." I honestly thought he was commenting on my breath at first, but then I realized it must be a direct translation from a Swiss German saying that he appreciated my thanks.

I reflected that a conductor's lot is not a happy one. Most of his day is kicking indignant people with 2nd class tickets out of 1st class carriages, busting fare dodgers, people who bought half priced tickets who don't have half fare cards, etc. So it is nice to occasionally receive a little appreciation.

So now with my backpack in place, I made my way back downstairs in time to watch my original train depart for the airport, No worries. Across the platform sat another train and the sign board said was leaving for the airport in 5 minutes. This is Switzerland after all. In retrospect, I was lucky that I picked a train that terminated at Zurich HB and it was the end of the day and being taken out of service. If it was a through train, I would have been out of luck.

Posted by
1679 posts

What a lovely expression, and what a lucky break.

Posted by
3199 posts

The workers with whom we tourists interact deserve nothing but kind words for their efforts. Whether they be a street cleaner, sandwich maker or hotel janitor, a “Hello,” or a “Thank you” can make their day - and yours.

Posted by
5019 posts

Sam, thanks for sharing a happy tale. I can just imagine your fright. Good things do happen to good people. You have helped us all so much here.

We had an experience not quite so scary, but we still talk about it.
My daughter went thru security screening at Heathrow, after we landed from Prague, (which was a 6:30am flight. We had had 3-4 hours sleep the night before, leaving our hotel at 4:00am.)
She walked away from Heathrow security with only her backpack. We wandered, shopped, used the restroom, all before I looked at her and asked where her carry-on suitcase was? Yikes! This was before Apple Air Tags, but she had a Tile in her suitcase, and tracked the bag on her phone back to security. This was before anyone really did this, but she was young and tech savvy, and had Tiles in her valuables. When she showed up at Security, the bag had been pulled, and the bag and her person put through several screenings and searches, but all ended well! It was a lesson for us all, no matter how exhausted, we need to take inventory of our belongings frequently.

Congrats on a great ending!

Posted by
6788 posts

Beautiful story, and lovely words. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
7400 posts

What a beautiful way of describing your kind words!

Posted by
33131 posts

you have made a hard working person happy - and you are happy too, smiles all round. Don't do it again OK?

It is good he did his job properly and checked the train before it went to the depot.

Posted by
16709 posts

What a great story, and a good result, Sam.

I have to admit I am rather glad to hear others forget their bags now and then. . . My husband does that a lot. So far we have always been able to get the missing bag or item (iPad, iPhone, etc.) back.

And now I am trying to figure out how to say that in German.

Posted by
476 posts

Reading your post made my heart beat faster! Oh I hate that feeling of panic! And backpack maybe your most important things…computer, travel papers, etc…oh my!
Impressive to me….is your German as you explained your situation! And so glad that train still there! Whew! The words then he used that still ring in your ears are beautiful! Oh those travel stories thay we have….I prefer the happy endings!

Posted by
9777 posts

Sam, what a wonderful story ! I am sorry you had the stress of forgetting your backpack then seeing it start to depart on a dark empty train... but what an absolutely beautiful story it ended up making for !

Thank you for sharing that moment between you and the conductor.

Posted by
20321 posts

At that point, the backpack contents were pretty much dirty clothes, but still, they were my dirty clothes. I actually left a coat on a Swiss train about 15 years ago and I got it back. But that is another story and even more hilarious.

Posted by
20321 posts

OK Kim, I will be posting it shortly on the Switzerland Forum. It is my original write-up, on which I need to do some editing.

Title: "Everything you ever wanted to know about how we got to Wengen (but were afraid to ask)"