Seven Italian Postcards
Card 4: Whistles in the Night

Trundling across the plains of Lombardia, our train tracks the landscape due south toward the sea. Ahead lie maritime mountains and our goal of Liguria, but before then we have a few hours to enjoy the narcolepsy that night travel by rail fosters, of gentle motion and the ceaseless metronome of the wheels.

Crossing the flatland there is little to see - just highway lights and an occasional distant town - so the mind invents people and lives, those who dwell out there in the passing darkland as we pummel forward in our great machine, bound for the coast. The ride is comfortable and our wine is fruity, but train travel in Europe was not always so pleasant, I know.

Each time our coach briefly stops at greenish night stations and I hear the shrill plaintive whistle of a platform conductor signaling the engineer, then the answering locomotive whistle, sonorous and final, only one word comes to mind and it chills me: Gestapo. Aren't I hearing the same sounds from those nighttime roundups (even though I only know them from old movies and newsreels)?

Didn't such whistles once herald a voyage to oblivion? Maybe history makes its own noise to attract and remind us, like an echo that never fades, so just when you think you can outrun the past it finds you anyway, and you begin to understand, don't you?

Card 5: Moonbeams at the Columbarium

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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