Love sponsored by Swiss Railways
Yesterday, I received a letter from the Swiss Railways. It was neither a bill nor a reminder to pay, but an unexpected gift.
The gift came in the form of a voucher for a Companion Day Pass that allows my husband to travel with me for a full day to anywhere in Switzerland for half the price, since I have a GA Travelcard.
Although I pay a very decent amount each month for the GA Travelcard (I still have the bad habit of converting every sum in my mind from Swiss francs to Tunisian dinars, which frustrates me at times), I did not expect any gift from the Swiss Federal Railways, because it has already given me so much!
In the summer of 2019, I came to Switzerland for the first time to attend the awards ceremony of the True Story Awards, for which I was shortlisted for my investigation “S17: Victims of Interior Ministry's mood”. After disembarking at Geneva airport, I had to find the train to Berne. And because I had, and still do, a problem with directions, I wasn't sure which train I should ride in the hustle and bustle of the many platforms around me.
So, like every "Arabian in the city" that chooses traditional methods over technology, I thought to ask one of the passengers. For some reason I approached a tall, blond guy in summer shorts and a baseball cap. This is how the story began...
Benjamin, who was returning from a weekend in Belgium, not only answered my question about the right train to Berne, but asked me very kindly if we might get on the train together. And for some reason, I agreed to that.
When Benjamin tells the story of our meeting to his friends, they tell him how romantic it is! In a country like Switzerland it is rare to start a romantic relationship on public transport.
In the next times I visited Switzerland, the train was the space where I got to know Benjamin deeply. We would always take the train to explore a new city or get to the starting point of the hiking trails. We talked a lot, we read together (each in his own book), we listened to music, we watched the transformation of the landscape around us, and we dreamed...
At the age of thirteen or fourteen, I read Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express". From that day on, trains became associated in my imagination with magic and tales. Although Swiss trains are free of drama and crime stories, they have undoubtedly given me my most beautiful story!
Riding trains is not only one of the ways to get around in Switzerland, it is a national (sorry, federal) culture par excellence. The Swiss travel more by train than any other nation in the world, with an average of 2,400 kilometers per person per year within Switzerland. This is not surprising in a country that has more than 5,200 km of railways, and 1,000 km of mountain railways! (Source: eda.admin.ch )
On the trains of Switzerland, I fell in love and inside them I loved traveling more. Not because Swiss railways are always ranked best in Europe, not because Switzerland's trains come on time, not because their drivers apologize when there will be a minute delay (it still amazes me every time), nor because they are clean and tidy, not because their second class (economy) isn't, in my opinion, any less luxurious (except for the price), and not because riding trains here takes you to the most superb panoramic journeys through the Alps...
Not because of all the reasons mentioned above that I loved the Swiss trains, but because they brought spring back into my heart. So I feel I owe them my happiness.
I'm just afraid that my article will find its way to the Swiss Railways and that they will start putting an additional price into my GA Travelcard for the service of "happiness".
Dear Swiss Railways, allow me to quote two of the greatest writers. First, Agatha Christie with her great expression: “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”
So, thank you for making my happiness possible.
Second, George Sand, who once wrote :"There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved."
So, please don't put a price on my happiness!