Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Tag: trains

German efficiency

When you are in Italy you will always complain about bureaucracy and very poor services. And you would often be tempted to make the case of other countries, take Germany for instance, where everything works well. I myself believe this is generally true. But there are, of course, exceptions.

Today I had to reserve an international train ticket from Brussels to Berlin. I made filled the online forms, proceeded with the payment, but never received my online ticket. I called the contact centre and I was told they would have sent me the ticket in a matter of a few minutes. They did not. I called back and this time I was told me there was a problem with their electronic system and asked me to hold the call for a few seconds, which turned out to be ten minutes – the cost of the call is 30cent/minute. Eventually, they told me I would have to buy a new ticket. I said no way, my payment already went through, it is your fault therefore you have to fix it. They apologized and told me they would have tried to fix the problem and I had to call them back. I told them they were the ones who had to call me back once the problem was fixed and I hanged up.

One hour later I receive my online ticket by email only to discover that it appears to have slightly different details than those I agreed upon when originally made the reservation. The departure station is now different from the one I picked (Brussels Midi instead than Centraal) and the price is higher (150 euro instead than 140). Of course, these are relatively minor differences; but, I thought, they represented a big blow for German efficiency. I was getting quite annoyed only to realize, eventually, that the entire system had not been managed by the German railway company, but by the Belgian one instead. Of course it makes much more sense: even though Belgium starts being nice to me, the country still remains even more annoying than Italy when it comes to the efficiency of bureaucracy and services.


Of course, while criticizing Belgium so much, there is also something I like about it. This Spring has been incredibly sunny for local standards and I am actually having a great time here. I had some of my best moments while I was sitting on a train. I have a fascination for these silently laborious wagons. Unlike planes, train traveling is a pleasure. You can concentrate, focus, relax, and still feel part of the changing landscape all around. And the Flemish landscape is often very pretty during Spring time. This year I am particularly fascinated by this part of Belgium that figured so much prominently in European history. The following pictures were taken in Brussels but also in some other Flemish neighbouring towns.

My angel strikes again

Yesterday I got to Bologna Central train station at 16:00. I had to get to the airport to board a flight to Bruxelles and for some reasons I was convinced I had plenty of time as boarding was scheduled for 17:30. It wasn’t: it was scheduled for 16:30. I realized I was dramatically late only when getting off the train. I then ran outside the station, smacked down a couple of old people on the stairs and caught my lifetime opportunity to do what I always wanted to do: get on a cab and shout the driver “to the airport! as fast as the light! I will pay you any prize”. In fact I didn’t: I payed him 15 euro, with a tip of about 2. Still. I realized I had a chance to get onboard when we arrived to the airport and the radio was playing ‘Highway to Hell’. I check-in, passed security and got to the gate in 15 minutes neat time. And so I departed.