A whiff of hos­pi­tal­ity


It was with a sense of ad­ven­ture that my hus­band and I boarded the train from Bel­grade in Ser­bia to Mon­tene­gro. The com­part­ments were small but rel­a­tively empty so there was plenty of space be­cause we were trav­el­ling light.

Our flight from Ro­ma­nia to Bel­grade the pre­vi­ous day had been com­fort­able and with­out in­ci­dent. In fact, as we dis­em­barked I com­mented to my hus­band how im­pressed I had been with the air­line. That changed as we waited in vain for our lug­gage to ap­pear. For­tu­nately, it wasn’t lost, but still sit­ting on the tar­mac at Bucharest air­port. Note to self: don’t be the first to check in; your suit­case might not ac­com­pany you on the same flight.

As we set­tled into our rail jour­ney we were grad­u­ally joined by fel­low trav­ellers. My ex­cite­ment at the prospect of shar­ing hol­i­day anec­dotes turned to dis­ap­point­ment when I dis­cov­ered no one in our com­part­ment spoke En- glish. The lovely older gentlemen sit­ting next to me made sev­eral at­tempts, but my shoul­der-shrug­ging and sym­pa­thetic smile clearly in­di­cated I had no idea what he was talk­ing about. We set­tled into a com­fort­able si­lence.

That was un­til a di­shev­elled man with ques­tion­able hy­giene en­tered. It wasn’t dif­fi­cult to work out he had en­joyed a few drinks prior to board­ing, and he had brought along one for the road. But he had not an­tic­i­pated the scarcity of bot­tle open­ers on the train, and was be­com­ing in­creas­ingly frus­trated in his at­tempts to open his beer.

Most pas­sen­gers were heav­ing a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief, as the aroma of al­co­hol per­me­ated the com­part­ment. You can ap­pre­ci­ate my hor­ror when my hus­band, obliv­i­ous to my me­nac­ing glares, gal­lantly of­fered to demon­strate some Aussie in­ge­nu­ity. Who would have guessed win­dow sills could be so ver­sa­tile?

The ine­bri­ated man’s de­light was ob­vi­ous. The older gentle­man was equally ex­pres­sive. It wasn’t nec­es­sary to speak Ser­bian to un­der­stand he was unim­pressed. Who said lan­guage is a bar­rier to com­mu­ni­cat­ing? Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists re­ceive L’Oc­c­i­tane hisand-her treats of Ce­drat Af­ter-Shave Cream Gel with notes of berg­amot, nut­meg and cedar; and a limited edi­tion Rose Shea Hand­cream re­leased to mark L’Oc­c­i­tane’s 40th an­niver­sary this year; $82. More: au.loc­c­i­tane.com

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