Swiss train travel: railing against misfortune

'Pleasant journey," says the Czech carriage attendant in heavily accented English when she sees I've locked myself out of my first-class private sleeping compartment.

"It will be a lovely night in the corridor," she says.

She pushes past with a tray of food for the people next door.

I stepped onto this train only five minutes ago. Ahead of me is a 13-hour journey from the northern Swiss city of Basel, east across the width of a slumbering wintry Germany, to the Czech Republic's capital, Prague.

Nothing of comfort, including words, is on this side of the door.

My cash and cards are locked inside so I can't buy anything from the food and beverages menu. Apart from the basic breakfast my ticket entitles me to - still hours away from delivery - and some dried horsemeat hiding in my jacket pocket that I bought in Zurich thinking it was goat, I have a hungry night ahead. The novel I'm reading is also so near, yet so far. As are the complimentary magazines, which aren't in English but I'm certain the pictures are more interesting than the view I have now.

For the past three days, I've energetically explored Basel: cycled the cobbled streets of the Old Town, toured multiple cathedrals and galleries, gorged myself at pastry shops and crossed the river Rhine several times aboard a tiny unpowered ferry on a cable.

Now I'm tired and need a lie down. I want to wash my face in the little faux granite sink set into the vanity unit tucked behind cupboard doors and stare blankly into the oblong mirror lit with vertical fluorescents as I dry my weary face.

There was, I'd noticed, a choice of six white washers and towels. But now I have a choice of none.

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A couple more people squeeze past and I'm forced to back up against the wall like a bullied child.

I look around to see where I might spend the night. The corridor isn't quite wide enough to lie flat without being trodden on, but maybe I could curl up in the area between carriages.

Noisy, cold and without carpet, but at least I'd be out of the way.

At least I wouldn't have to look at the happy faces of train passengers with beds and vanity units and Czech magazines.

How quickly a small mistake can change a travelling experience, I reflect with bitter regret.

How constantly a traveller needs to be on their toes even in one of the biggest cities of one of the most ordered countries in the world.

I start to spiral down through my emotions, as can so easily happen on the road when it's late and you're tired and alone.

As I'm about to slide down the wall at the hopelessness of the situation, the carriage attendant reappears, having delivered the tray of food to my neighbours.

"I make a joke with you," she says, then introduces herself as Vasta and tells me she's there all night if there's anything I need.

When she uses her master key to open my door and even holds it open for me, I almost fall into the room with relief. Then I actually do fall sideways onto my bed as the train moves off from Basel SBB station with a jerk.

The writer was a guest of Switzerland Tourism.

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