I was on a trip through parts of Europe, including Eastern Europe a few years ago, and at this point in the trip, three countries in, I had experienced both wonderful things and ones that I would rather forget (all of Hungary, for instance – I think that I might still be traumatized by that whole experience).  I had seen people eating mayonnaise on pizza, and others that introduced me to the wonderful baked delights of Croatia.

I was on the train from Slovenia to Austria, through the most picturesque landscape that I had seen in years, filled with lush valleys, rugged mountains and the cutest, quaintest villages of colorful houses that I have ever seen this side of Norway.

The trip itself was only a couple of hours, and I thought that I had the car to myself, since I had gotten there early and no one had joined me in the four-person car in almost half an hour.  Suddenly, outside my window, I see a grandmother with what appeared to be her daughter and toddler granddaughter at the station platform; the older woman bugging the two younger ones and waving and blowing kisses as she walked toward the train.  A few moments later, she appeared in the doorframe and walked through, sitting opposite me.

She didn’t speak a word of English, just Austrian-inflected German, as I quickly found out when I said hello to her.  She almost ignored me totally at first, too busy waving goodbye over and over to the little girl outside the window.  She smiled at me, and continued to wave, all the way to the point where we could no longer see the station or the little girl and her mother.

She settled in to her seat and smiled at me again, giggled a little bit and said something to me that I couldn’t make out.  Whatever it was, I could tell that this was a person that I wouldn’t mind spending a couple of hours with, happily just staring at the passing countryside, anticipating what I would encounter in the next country (Austria).

I had managed to snag some extra green grapes from my final breakfast at the hotel in Slovenia and brought them out to munch on a few.  I offered some to the woman, and although she demurred at first, a little nudge was all that it took for her to join me in finishing them off in a matter of a few minutes.  She took a few, then a few more, thanking me and again giggling and saying more things that I couldn’t quite make out.  I managed to understand enough to know that she was telling me a little about her granddaughter and that she asked me something about myself, but all that I managed was my name.  She told me hers, but as I have never been great with names, I can’t recall it.  I did manage to take a photo of her enjoying the grapes, though, smiling and with the same glint in her eye as my German-American grandmother.  Actually, she reminded me so much of her that for a moment, I almost thought that my grandmother was with me on that train.  It was a very comforting feeling.  We then spent the next couple of hours just enjoying each other’s quiet company and watching the countries, the villages, the houses, slowly change from one to another; the sun shining and a slight breeze moving the trees in the distance and creating ripples on the water of the lakes that we passed.  It was a truly lovely experience.

When the train arrived at my station, I said goodbye to her and thanked her for being such a lovely travelling companion, and then waved to her as I walked by her window.  She actually smiled back and waved to me as I left the station to find a cab to my new hotel in Vienna.  She, most likely, was off back home or somewhere equally comforting.

I have no idea what ever happened to her, and I likely never will.  But, I have a photo of her to remind me of her giggle, her smile and that delightful trip through the mountains and valleys of Slovenia and Austria.

Thank you, kind woman.  Whoever and wherever you are.

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