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,”
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,”
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,”
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.