At rail's end

Trip Start Dec 11, 2012
Trip End Oct 17, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Attica,
Sunday, July 14, 2013

Finally the dreaded moment has come, the one we've feared since the moment we set foot in Europe and discovered the amazing world of non-car travel: our Eurorails have expired. Yup, three months of unlimited hassle free zipping through the continent has come to a screeching halt. Finish and klaar. Fertig. Finito. No more.

And so we are gathered here today to commemorate the loss of our beloved friend, companion, golden ticket and get out of jail free card. Because through this magic piece of paper, we have discovered our true love: the train.

Over the months, we have become the masters of train travel. We can tell you which trains are the best (Germany - as hard as it is for us to admit), the worst (Spanish regional - a cattle cart would probably get you there quicker), who has the most complicated system (England - who needs so many kilometers of board? It is not friendly towards the shortsighted-blind-as-a-bat people such as myself!) and who has the worst announcement jingle (France! Definitely France! It's enough to give you a toothache together with an eye twitch.).

Losing our train virginity was rather an interesting process. At the beginning we practically asked every single member of train staff - including the janitor - how to get to our train and if they were sure this was the right train and whether they were ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE this was the right train. We knocked little old ladies in the solar plexus with our bags, hit poor innocents in the face with our dangling shoes and dropped backpacks onto people while trying to retrieve them from the luggage wrack. We were not well liked.

Even the toilets required an initiation process. Now I don't know how many train toilets you've been in to, but they look like little spaceship cubicles. There are levers and blinking lights and secret buttons. Once I didn't push the right disco button or pull the right lever, so while my pants were around my ankles, the futuristic sliding door beeped and slid open, exposing me and my naked behind to the blinking queue. There was nothing to do, but calmly rip up my pants and urgently yank the slowest moving sliding door shut with my remaining dignity, in order to finish my pee. And I wasn't even wearing my lacy panties.

By now we actually get disappointed when a train journey is less than 4 hours. That's barely enough time to get settled (though even we will admit that our record 38 hour journey from Sagres to Paris was pushing it just a bit). And because that means we won't be stopping over in some random dorpie train station bar. There are villages where all social activity revolves around the train station. Stooping old men in flat caps and walking sticks take their daily strolls, women smoke half a pack of cigarettes over coffee and teenagers in tiny shorts dangle their legs over the tracks. We take the opportunity to enjoy gin and bitter lemons in the smoked out train bars resembling a western saloon. It makes napping in the train easier.

Trains are our second home. Claudia and I have had our morning coffees at the espresso bar, watching the ever changing scenery whizz by in blurry green and purple through puffy makeup-gummed eyes at 6am; I have scavenged for KitKats in the food carriage in the middle of the night, whilst wearing my pajamas and slippers; we've been drug searched; we have tried to make out the dialogue of Spanish movies on the communal television sets; Claudia has merrily filed her nails during audiobook listenings, dusting me in fine white nail snow; we've stood in line to brush our teeth (knocking your head against something during this act is just part of the package) and glared at people with hysterically screaming toddlers. See? Just like home.

For all other young trainees and trainers out there, we've even made a list of conductors ranking in friendliness:

Germans (again - who would have thought, right?!)
Portuguese (we got to sit illegally for 30min)
Spanish (well, who doesn't like a nice lisp?)
English (it might just be their accents)

Dutch (a slight twang here, as the train conductor accused us of not filling our pass in correctly. Pff.)

The French (...)

So adieu dear friend, you've served (and saved) us well. We tearfully wave white hankies to you from our very stationary position on the platform as the final whistle is blown.

Now it is time to tackle the next great adventure: the European bus system...

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Tammy D on

Oh, I can't wait to hear about the bus system! I'm a recent follower from the US, and you are inspiring me to travel abroad.

aquirkybunchof2 on

We're so glad you like our scribblings! And we would totally recommend going abroad ;)

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