Around midnight, a Yugoslav customs officer accompanied by a burly policeman opened the door and came in. They gave us each a stern look as if we were smugglers or criminals on the run. I tried to stay calm, but my heart started to race and beads of sweat appeared on my forehead. The police officer took my passport, opened and it and
comparedchecked its number withagainst the numbers in his notebook. Apparently, I was not the person they were looking for. He gave me back the passport without a word, and they both left the compartment closing the door behind them. Then an Austrian customs officer came in. A man in his twenties was smiling, greeted us kindly, and even spoke some Serbo-Croatian. He looked at my passport and asked me where I was going. He opened his notebook and comparedchecked against the numbers, and then returned my passport saying, “Thank you very much.”
The train pulled out of the station and a wave of relief swept over me. I went
into the corridor, opened the window and breathed in the cold air. You’re free now, I said to myself. You’re in the country of Mozart, Wittgenstein and Trakl. The Communists can’t harm you anymore. You’ll never see Tito’s picture on a wall again.
Before dawn, we arrived at the German border and this time the procedure was the similar to the previous one. The borders officers wore dark green uniforms and reminded me of our foresters. One of them took my passport,
comparedchecked its number withagainst a list in his notebook and gave it back to me wishing me a nice journey. I was surprised that he did not bother to ask me where I was going.
We arrived in Munich around eight. My two fellow travellers shook hands with me and got off, and I sat alone in the compartment. I looked out the window at the passing landscape, but my mind was with my father. What was the old man doing at this moment? Was he listening to the foreign broadcasters, as it was his habit, or working in the orchard to forget his worries? Who was going to help him if, God forbid, his heart should fail?
About two hours later, the train finally stopped at the Stuttgart railway station.
For myTo a 19-year s-old eyes, it was huge. There were so many tracks that I was unable to count them. The interior reminded me of a cathedral. The large arched windows on both sides let in the bleak October light. Instead of portraits of saints and scenes from Paradise, the large billboards on the brown walls, and neon lights, urged people to buy more. Instead of a sermon, the voice from the loudspeakers was announcing the arrivals and departures. Crowds of travellers walked up and down the large hall, and their steps echoed on the spotless grey tiles. Usually railway stations in my country were stuffy and smelly, but here a pleasant scent [STRIKE] camewafted into my nostrils. I could not find the source of it, but it was a blend of perfume, newly baked pastries, coffee, flowers and herbs. The impressions made me dizzy, and I was eager to comego outside and breathe in the fresh air. But outdoor smy senses were overwhelmed by heavy traffic, wailing of sirens in the distance, smell of petrol, and passers-by, who hurried in all directions. I carried my suitcase and walked like in a dream--the voices of people passing by me as a constant cacophony hurting my ears. I did not know where to go and what to do until I saw a police sign. I pressed the buzzer and heard the cracking in the wall. A male voice asked me what I wanted, and when I told him, the door slid open. A tall, middle-aged police officer with a drooping moustache towered behind the reception desk. He took my passport, flipped through it and told me that, unfortunately, because it was Saturday, I had to wait until Monday to make an official application. He gave me a piece of paper with the map and address of the office where such an application could be made. Where I was going to sleep at the weekend, I asked him, and he shrugged his broad shoulders and spread his arms. “I don’t know, a hostel, a hotel...” He gave me another piece of paper with the map and address of the tourist office, and wished me good luck.
I had a communication problem with the man at the tourist office. He gave me a long list of hotels which prices ranged from 60 to over 300 German marks and had different kinds of services and standards. The cheapest were outside the town, and when he tried to explain to me how to get there, and which underground lines and buses I should take, my mind reeled as if confronted with a giant puzzle. The young man was losing his patience with me, his blond hair plastered to his forehead, his cheeks glowed, and he probably cursed inside himself the ignorant foreigner who spoke neither German nor English properly. When about twenty minutes later I was
cominggoing outside, he shouted at me, “Learn some foreign languages. It is useful when you are abroad.”