"It amazes the guests."
From espresso to chicken curry – on the train between Lucerne and Interlaken, Izabela Cimala caters to the culinary needs of her guests. A chat about precarious bends, wide-eyed guests and a panorama that works wonders.
Do you still even notice that you work on a train?
Oh yes. On the Lucerne–Interlaken route, that’s hard to forget. Mostly because of the unique panorama and the amiable guests. And because it sometimes rocks like a boat.
What’s it like for you, working on a moving train?
It was a big challenge at first, because things tend to suddenly topple over. But now it’s routine, partly because I’m so familiar with the route.
Do you adapt what you do to the route?
Yes, I know the precarious bends and bumpy spots now. So I just stand still for a moment to make sure nothing falls off my tray. It always amazes the guests, and I hear “Well, I wouldn’t have your balance!"
How does your working day begin and where?
On solid ground [laughs]. Seriously though, it starts and ends in Lucerne. There are two different shifts. I travel either once or twice a day on the Lucerne–Interlaken–Lucerne route.
What challenges you most in your job apart from keeping your balance?
Definitely the time. The route as a whole isn’t long, and the sections between the stations are short. When the bistro is busy, you have to plan the service well and take your bearings from where the guests are going. You don’t want anyone to leave the dining car hungry or thirsty.
Can you imagine working in a normal restaurant again?
No. It’s much more interesting on the train. You have a fantastic view, the team is very friendly, and the mood of the guests is somehow different – more cheerful and relaxed.
Really? Not more stressed because they might have to get off soon?
On the contrary, the vast majority of guests are very relaxed, pleasant and grateful. They admire the route and enjoy themselves. When I have the time, I like listening to their stories.
Do you have regular guests as you would in a normal restaurant?
Yes we do. And just like in a normal restaurant, you quickly get to know what they like. For some of the regulars, I get their drinks ready before they’re even on the train. All I have to do is see them standing on the platform. Many of the regular guests have a favourite steward and they like being served by the same person.
Is it a mutual pleasure?
It is for me. I always look forward to seeing the regulars. What I also really like are the older passengers. They’re warm-hearted and good-humoured. They sometimes tell stories, sometimes we talk about everyday things. I like to make their journey as pleasant as possible.
How about guests from abroad?
That’s a real positive aspect, and I get to speak German, English and Polish. We get Polish guests from time to time. I notice their Polish newspapers, for example. They’re always surprised when I start speaking to them in German and then switch to Polish.
What do you do when there are no guests in the bistro?
I wait on the 1st class passengers directly in their seats, which often astonishes people because it’s a service you hardly ever come across.
When do you really come into your own in your job?
When it’s busy. I like that. It’s when I really enjoy my work.
And if it gets too busy?
Then I just need to pause for a moment, take a look out the window and a few deep breaths. The incredible panorama of lakes and mountains is very relaxing, and it revitalises you at the same time.
Paper edition of the magazine “hin und weg” – also available as a subscription.
This is an article from the magazine “hin und weg”. You can find the printed version at the train stations in Engelberg, Sarnen, Stans and Meiringen, in all Travel Centres, as well as on trains. We will also be happy to send the magazine to your home address. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Subscribe to hin und weg magazine” and include your postal address in the body text of the message.