My Serbian Savior
I had a most extraordinary experience several years ago that I want to tell you about. Cindy and I were aboard a train, returning to Paris from Baden Baden Germany after a trip down the Rhine River.
We were flying out of Charles De Gaulle airport the next day, heading back to the States.
I was a little on edge, having secretly bought Cindy the diamond she had noticed in Baden Baden, and planned on proposing that night in Paris.
We stayed at Schoenberg Castle on the Rhine River. At right, room service ( included with the stay).
Lorelei Rock is in the background at the bend of the river.
We were enjoying a leisurely rail ride through the French countryside and had just passed Strasbourg, when the train’s conductor walked into our car and demanded a reservation. We had one, and had prepaid our Eurail Pass.
This was our first trip to Europe, and the ways of the trains were new to us. Even though we had already paid for our Eurail Pass, there were still instances where reservations for high traffic trains were extra. We were on one.
The conductor spoke no English and was a little abrupt. I spoke no French and wasn’t in the mood. The conductor got upset and asked the gentleman in the seat in back of us, who it seemed he knew, to translate.
The mood was tense, as the entire transit system was poised to strike the French Government the next day. We were getting back just in time. I remembered hearing tails of being thrown off a train in these incidents, but the gentleman in back of us talked with the conductor in a low voice and soothed things out.
After the conductor walked away, the man who had translated for us introduced himself as Victor.
“You are American,” Victor said. “We shot down your F16!”
“Oh?” I said, intrigued.
“Yes, Captain O’Grady, I believe. We scared crap out of you!”
Victor was in fact a member of Serbia’s new ruling family after Slobodan Miloševic was finally strung up by his thumbs. He was on his way to the Serbian Embassy in Paris on business.
“Your President, Bush, he doesn’t really get it does he?”
Victor wanted to talk, and it turned out to be a fascinating two hours of Serbian and Bosnian history. I won’t get into the politics, but it was good to both defend my own country and then shut up and listen to another point of view. That point of view, I might add, being from a hell of a lot closer to the bombs and the bullets than we in America.
Finally the discussion got back to our trip to Paris.
Victor inquired where we were staying our last night in town, and I had to admit that I didn’t know yet.
“Someplace cheap and close to the airport. We’re flying out in the morning,” Cindy told him. Victor immediately got on his cell phone to his embassy in Paris and had them arrange for a diplomatic rate at a nearby hotel.
“ You are very beautiful” he told Cindy. Serbian women are pretty, but they do not have your hair…”
“You must be my guests tonight,” he continued. “I have sponsored a Serbian middleweight and he is training for a fight next month in the States. Come, we will watch him work out and then we all go out to dinner as my guests, no?”
“Great!” said Cindy, always up for some excitement.
Shit, I thought. I was disappointed to turn down this most unusual offer, but I had planned on a quiet Parisian café that evening to give Cindy her diamond. I most likely performed a diplomatic faux pas, and Cindy was certainly more than a little upset at me for my behavior- at least until she saw my reason for refusing our Serbian Savior’s invitation.
As it turned out, I could have used his help the next day at De Gaulle, as I was being detained at the boarding security area by French Police with M16s, but we’ll leave that for another time!
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