Sunday, 6 April 2008

Cercedilla and Cotos

We had a brilliant day out today, to Cercedilla which is in the mountains to the north, on the way to Segovia. MamaDuck had been told about this place by some of her work colleagues. Their advice was that when you got off the train, you change for a smaller one that chugs its way higher into the mountains. This line ends at a place called Cotos (remember this, it's important), but we jumped off at the first stop, Cercedilla Pueblo.

What we needed to do was
a) Have coffee, and
b) Buy some bread to go with our picnic.

Wandering around the pretty pueblo, we discovered that there were no cafés, and no shops. So we walked back down the hill to Cercedilla proper, had some coffee, bought some bread, and then headed off up a pine-wooded mountain. It was fantastic to be away from the city, to see cows, to be surrounded by green stuff and country noises rather than city noises. Much of the noise was generated by the grazing cows, whose bells would bong whenever they chewed a mouthful of grass.

We clambered around the woods for a few hours, and headed back to the railway station around mid-afternoon. There was a certain amount of confusion at the station. Nobody there, including the RENFE station manager, knew which platform the train for Madrid would arrive on. We were advised to listen for announcements. There were a couple of dozen boisterous and happy students on the platform with us. By default, when you leave the ticket office, you are on platform 4, and it is theoretically possible that Madrid-bound trains could stop there. But they could also stop at platform 1 or 2, which are reached via an underpass.

When we were about 10 minutes away from the departure time, the RENFE signature tune was played over the speakers. Everyone fell silent to listen. The pre-recorded voice said 'proxima tren por...' (next train for...). Then the station manager said 'Cotos'. And then the machine-voice said 'via tres' (platform 3).

This was repeated a few times, and our companions heading for Madrid began making jokes about it. Hell, we all desperately wanted some advance warning of where the Madrid train was going to be - everybody had rucksacks, some had guitars, a few had mountain bikes. The last thing anyone wanted was to have to do a twenty-second dash through an underpass.

Announcements for Cotos continued. Probably two dozen in all. Someone compared the announcer's accent to that of failed Presidential candidate Mariano Rajoy. The next time the announcement was made, the Rajoy joke was extended to reveal that the name of the little girl (la niña) who spoke to Rajoy in his dreams and was his inspiration during the election campaign was... 'Cotos.'

It was all screamingly funny, and yes, about one minute before the train was due, we were told it would be on platform 1, so we all had to do the tunnel-scramble. Although there was a bit more confusion because Cercedilla station has both a platform '01', and a platform '1'.

We all boarded the train. As it happened, MamaDuck and I were in the same carriage as the students. There was another group of students and a mountain of rucksacks already in place in that coach. At the next stop, a third bunch got on. It was fun to start with, but after about ten minutes of the noise I would have quite happily jumped out of the window.

Finally we arrived at Madrid. We had overheard that most of them would be getting off at Nuevos Ministerios, the stop before ours. They all managed to get off with their kit, and there were a few minutes of silence. Then the train announcement said 'Proxima Parada...' (next stop...), and the remaining students all yelled 'Cotos!'

Oh, how we laughed. But I don't think anyone who was waiting for the 1534 to Madrid at Cercedilla station today will ever be able to hear the word 'Cotos' again without cracking up.


Andrew said...

We had an amazing day out hiking in Navacerrada (on the way up the hill to Cotos). The weather was brilliant, and there was still some snow left to play in. One of the best days out from Madrid I have had so far!

A local told us you can follow some kind of trail down from Navacerrada to Cercedilla, about 3 hours! We are planning to go back now the weather is improving!

And we had the same problem (and train) at the station! Although our train was 15 minutes late (God knows how!) so it arrived at 15.50 ;)

Graeme said...

We arrived at Cercedilla station a couple of hours later than you, but they did the same platform switch on us - we didn't have any students to make it entertaining though. We missed the previous train by about 20 seconds. If you get hold of one of the little maps they hand out at the information office a bit below the hospital in Cercedilla it shows you all the marked routes you can do in the valley. One of these leaves from the end of the platform itself at the station and takes you to the hospital by a higher path rather than going by road.

Mme Cyn said...

Hysterical, Keefie! And it will stick with you forever. Fifteen years later, I can still do the bell sound and "Mito, Mito, Mito desu" in my (mostly) perfect imitiation of the Japanese train lady.

Sounds like your Spanish had gotten good if you're eavesdropping on students. Good on ya.