It was good to be heading across Europe again. All my usual topoi were there: watching French farms drift past; that feeling of freedom of exchange as we zipped across borders and the languages I was hearing shifted gradually around me; and the unfamiliar feeling of the good service you get on international trains. The Eurostar was delayed (someone on the line near Dagenham) and I had a tight change in Brussels. One of the guards comes onto the intercom: ‘We have informed all services of your onward connections’. Don’t hear that on Eastcoast… I ask her what the Cologne train will be doing. ‘They’re going to hold the train for you.’ Yes, that’s how special I am! ‘We do as much as we can—because we can’t do any more’ adds the dashing-looking Dutchman poised to open the doors so that me (and, admittedly, about twenty-five other people) can scoot across to the Cologne train. He fumbles momentarily, as the appreciation of the young lady next to me prompts him to further elaboration. ‘You know, we can’t do any more because of the, er, restrictions…’
‘Of physics?’ I suggest, trying to be helpful.
‘Oh yes, we do physics too.’
I was already really excited to be in the FRONT SEAT, but it got better. The driver’s cabin was separated from my space pod by this spacy opaque white glass. But at some point, right, the driver presses some button, or maybe just used his Jedi mind-powers, and suddenly the wall becomes TRANSPARENT, and I COULD SEE OUT THE FRONT OF THE TRAIN! Hyperdiligent readers of the 2012 blog will be aware that I really like underground trains where you can see out the front. But this was a PROPER TRAIN, going REALLY FAST. It was really spacy!
It did turn out that I had to share my space-pod with a couple of other people in less special rows, but it also turned out that one of them was taking the train from Leeds to Kuala Lumpur, and, to be honest, at that point I decided that she might actually have been a more special passenger than me, even if she wasn’t in the front seat. She’s making some arty blog thing about the trip and had me record a poem for her. If I ever find out the URL I’ll link to it… We hung out while we changed in Cologne (look! I finally get a picture of me with the cathedral that inspired me to start the 2009 travelblogue). Then I got in the part of the sleeper that would go on to Denmark, and she got on the part that would be sent to Minsk. I chatted to my cabin-neighbours for a bit–Swedish architect moving home after working in the Netherlands, a Syrian-Finnish gent in the midst of moving from Malmö to Birmingham; the inevitable interrail students (this time from France) and a German lass going on holiday. Trains are good for meeting people. Then I slept, and Europe rolled by.