Apr 212004
Authors: Elizabeth Kerrigan

As Americans, we stereotypically have a low tolerance for

foreigners who are visiting our country and can’t speak English,

but being on the other end of the spectrum can put things into


This is exactly what happened to Joe Palladino, a senior

technical journalism student, while he was backpacking across

Europe last year. He and his partner in crime, Ray Gordon, spent a

long, crazy night in Prague indulging in more than just partying

and seeing the sights. The night’s previous activities put them out

of commission and they were unable to get up on time for their

scheduled train ride out of Prague and into Berlin.

“We were in such a hurry leaving our hostel I just threw the

pillow and blankets at the lady at the front desk and took off,”

Palladino said.

Frantically running to the train station they luckily made it

just in time and boarded the train right before it pulled out of

the station. It was then that horror struck.

“When you check into hostels you have to give them your passport

to hold and they give you blankets and pillows, when I threw the

stuff back at the lady, I never grabbed my passport back from her,”

Palladino said.

As the two approached the border of the Czech Republic and

Germany, unsure of how they would be able explain to anyone what

had happened, being that they only spoke English and everyone else

spoke German, they knew making a plan was hopeless.

Once they got to the border, the train stopped for a routine

passport check and Palladino could not produce a passport, let

alone an excuse. He said that the German police took things out of


“They didn’t speak English and they started getting mad at us

and pulling on us to go with them,” Palladino said. “They started

to get really rough with us.”

As things got heated, Palladino and Gordon were pulled off the

train and had no idea what to expect.

“We were literally out in the middle of nowhere. They took us to

a little wooden hut to be detained and we didn’t know what was

going on,” Palladino said.

Just as they thought they would spend the rest of their years

locked up in a wooden, German hut, in the middle of nowhere, a

short German policeman came out from behind a desk, opened his

mouth and it was like music to lost boys ears.

“He spoke a little English,” Palladino said.

They were able to tell the officer that they were students, not

fugitives, and that they had simply left a passport behind.

“You … you are not going to Berlin,” Palladino said the police

officer told them.

Instead they had to wait for the next train back to Prague,

which would only take a gruesome five hours.

“The police ended up being pretty cool, once the little officer

told them what was going on,” Palladino said. “They told us to go

outside and play until the next train back to Prague came,”

Palladino said.

The two were thankful for many things on their way back to

Prague, especially the nice, English-speaking German police officer

who intervened before any body searching or probing could


They enjoyed their second night back in Prague and left for

Berlin in the morning, passports grasped tightly in hand.

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