Forgetful Violinist Leaves Priceless Stradivarius on Swiss Train

Hey people, can we please keep a better handle on our priceless instruments?

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Brendan McDermid / REUTERS

A Stradivarius violin known as "The Penny" is displayed at Christie's auction house in New York on March 27, 2008.

A Swiss musician could have been playing his swan song last week after he left a Stradivarius violin, worth millions of dollars, on a train. But the priceless string instrument, which violinist Alexander Dubach was merely borrowing from a friend, quickly appeared at a Swiss lost-and-found office. After a five-day search, it was finally returned to its rightful owner.

Dubach left the instrument on a commuter train when he got off in Bern, Switzerland last Friday. A fellow passenger, Pascal Tretola, picked up the violin and turned it in to the train station’s office on Sunday. Tretola, suspecting it was valuable, told the AFP: “There were some drunks in the train, which is why I took the violin case to make sure nothing happened to it.”

(MORE: Stradivarius Violin Up for Auction to Aid Japan Earthquake Victims)

Staff searched relentlessly for the owner, resorting to reviewing surveillance cameras to try to determine the identity of the owner. Dubach, who actually doesn’t own the violin, was grateful that the million-dollar violin had been returned and was reunited with the instrument yesterday. The owner and Dubach have said that they plan to reward Tretola generously for his kindness. And the scare has led Dubach to modify his transportation habits: he’s vowed to never again tote around the violin by himself.

Stradivarius violins are named after Antonio Stradivari, who created the instruments in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Only about 600 of his violins are thought to have survived the passage of time, leading them to be considered among the rarest and best instruments in the world. Acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell uses a Stradivarius, and cellist Yo Yo Ma also uses a cello created by the Italian violin maker, who died in 1737.

(MORE: Lost Luggage: Musician Forgets Million-Dollar Violin on Train)

This violin’s value remains a mystery, but Stradivarius instruments are generally valued at millions. Last year, a Stradivarius was sold for $15.9 million in an effort to raise funds for Japanese tsunami victims. In 2008, a violinist left a $4 million Stradivarius in the back of a New York cab. The cabbie later returned it — and received an impromptu concert in thanks. Because money is hardly compensation for the safe return of such a priceless instrument.

Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.