Friday 11 May 2012

All aboard, again

Back on the trains today, successfully avoiding the scenario above: twelve hours from Berlin to Budapest during which I mainly gazed out of the (regrettably dirty) windows and watched the countryside pass by. It was sort of an experiment, to try overland instead of through the air, and on the whole I think it was a success. I saw occasional vapour trails of planes passing overhead whose passengers at best would have seen the yellow of the oilseed rape, but little else.

They didn't see the little towns and villages with their onion-domed churches and brightly-painted half-hipped houses, and the bridges over the Elbe (the river looking muddy brown but nowhere near as doomy as in Wolfgang Borchert's play Draussen vor der Tur), and the flowering chestnuts and lilac trees, the busily productive allotments, and the boats on the river. Nor, to be fair, did they see the derelict factories with peeling paint and broken windows, all the graffiti, the Soviet-style concrete apartment blocks, the power stations with their smoking chimneys.

But it felt good to travel in real time, to have the leisure to watch the day pass by, the sun move from one side of the train to the other, to see the people rushing to work and then, later, out enjoying the sunny evening on bikes, roller blades, walking dogs through meadows knee-high in grass and dandelions, fishing in ponds and the river; before a lovely sunset that I could watch till the very end of the afterglow. And it was good too to be able to move about during the day, wander through the carriages, be greeted at regular intervals by the cheery trolley guy with his beer and snacks. Finally - admittedly, about two hours later than would have been ideal - it was good to end the journey in a new city feeling tired simply because it was bedtime, and not spaced-out and confused after yet another episode of limbo.

Although, whoa, this was confusing: what's Rangitoto doing in the Czech Republic?

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