Day 1 (July 31st): the most special person on the train!

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.’

me in my spacepod

me in my SPACEPOD!

But I really WAS the most special person on the Cologne train because I had the FRONT SEAT! Like, the VERY FRONT ONE! I was looking for my carriage and thinking, blimey, this is a long way… and it was what at that moment I thought of as the LAST carriage, but it was actually the FIRST one! I got on, right, and I was looking for seat 11, and I was, like, at the wrong end of the carriage, and I got to the right end and I still hadn’t found number 11. But there was this pair of glass slidy doors leading into a SPACE POD with just a few seats and ‘quiet area’ written on the front in German. And I was, like, that can’t be for me, it must be for first-class passengers or astronauts, because it looked so scifi. So I asked this guard who was standing by the door and he showed me in because it actually WAS FOR ME! And the guard wasn’t the guard at all, he was the TRAIN DRIVER! It might sound like seat 11 can’t be the front seat of the train, but it is, because the driver is so important that seat numbers 1-10 are all assigned to his seat.

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.

Cologne cathedral

Cologne cathedral!


About alarichall
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4 Responses to Day 1 (July 31st): the most special person on the train!

  1. Ralf says:

    What a spacy train. That was really cool. Great that you also met so many fellow passangers on the train… 🙂

  2. greedycroc says:

    wow – I need to find that train too! What sort of train was it? Was it an ICE train, if it had a German sign?

  3. Woah! That is awesome! The rail link to New York JFK is good for that, too, btw 😀

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