Orient Express: an incident at the Vatican

The Orient Express, now the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, is perhaps the most famous train in the world, with its royal blue carriages with gold livery, and its luxurious interior with rich wood paneling. Rooms have wash cabinets and comfortable seats that turn into beds. There are impeccable dining in the restaurant car and relaxation in the bar car with its baby grand piano. It truly is the most romantic of trains, with people dressing up for the bar car and for dinner. Legends were created here as kings rode the train with their mistresses, the armistice for the Great War was signed on it and Agatha Christie used it as the scene for her famous novel "Murder on the Orient Express". A lesser known incident took place in 1990.

In the particularly hot summer of that year a young couple were part of a group to see the Vatican. They had asked their guide about dress and were informed that shorts were acceptable. The young lady wore a blouse and thin crepe slacks. Sneakers completed the outfit. The young man had on shorts and a polo top, the weather having been so hot. They walked towards the stairs leading up to the Church. The young man ushered the girl in front of him, following her closely behind. They patiently moved forward step by step as the crowd went through the narrow iron gate at the top of the stairs, the portico area being fenced off. The lady went through but an arm went in front of the man.

"No," the short guard said flatly.

"But I'm with her," the young man pointed through the opening.

"Pantaloni!" the man was firm, pointing at the young man's bare legs.

"Come on, I'm with her."

"No! Pantaloni!"

"Oh come on!"

"Pantaloni," the same firm monotone voice repeated.

In the short time that this had occurred the crowd behind the young man had gathered, and the people already in had turned around to watch the commotion.
Suddenly the lady shouted the young man's name across the gate, "This lady has a skirt in her bag!" She put on the skirt and started to take off her pants (she had shorts underneath), as the man and the guard continued their exchanges.
"Catch!" she screamed.
The young man saw her arm go up into the air, and her pants, rolled up, flew over the crowd, and over the guard. The young man jumped up, catching them. The crowd stood, watching this sport. The man quickly put the pants over his white shorts. Being designed for a slim lady, they did not quite fit, leaving a large gape at the front, over which he tried to pull his top. The crotch was a few inches too low, but he marched right passed the stunned guard, through the gate.

"That was quick thinking," he complimented her.

"Lucky for you, I decided to take trousers, and even luckier that that lady brought this skirt in her bag, just in case her long shorts were rejected."

"Oh, I was determined to get in by hook or by crook!"

"Well, you did! Did you see the crowd? I think you'll be famous now!"

Although he was not that comfortable, the man thought the effort worthwhile, for the Vatican with its magnificent buildings and art treasures was truly beautiful.

A short time later the couple were in the bar car of the Orient Express, having got on in Venice to travel to Paris and on to London. A baby grand piano was being played. People, all dressed elegantly, were chatting. The men were in tuxedos and the ladies either in twenties' dresses or in cocktail gowns. They caught the words of a lady near them, who was entertaining a small group. She was an official from the railway company.

She was heard to say "...and then she threw her pants over the guard's head..."
"Why, she's talking about us!" they both exclaimed.

And so another legend was made. Although the identity of the people is known, PD respects their request for privacy.

Note: photographs are from the relevant website and are the copyright of the respective owners.

Contact Prowling Dog at prowlingdog@protonmail.ch

© 2015 Prowling Dog