My attachment to trains dates from 2007. I was a student at the time and fully exploited my right to free public transportation. It got me hooked to the freedom of traveling around, and it turned me into the loyal, paying customer of the Railway Services that I am.
There’s much I get in return. To wake up while staring at cloudy streaks of pink set against a grey morning sky or to look at a pretty girl reading Milan Kundera makes me happy and relaxed. I comfortably move from A to B, say Amsterdam to Brussels, and it’s a journey too.
There’s an attractive calm in the smooth horizontal movement of trains. Ever heard someone argue toilets are called restrooms for a reason? Supposedly, they offer temporary safe havens to escape the bustle of our professional lives. Maybe it’s because I prefer a slightly more inspiring environment, but I choose trains over restrooms to zoom out.
Admittedly, to catch a train isn’t always the delight you’d hope for – especially for those who tend to be late. Some delays aside, Dutch departure times are strict and although certain people surprise with athletic attempts to make it in time, doors close and if you’re late, you’re left behind.
Accordingly I felt disappointment when a few years back, I entered the vast Victoria train terminal in Mumbai. As I walked in, I quickly recognized it would be a serious challenge to catch my train – Mr. Bolt himself would be daunted. Only after precious seconds did it occur to me: Indian trains don’t have doors! With a modest sprint, I managed to reach the right platform and jumped on the now quickly accelerating train.
Feeling like a movie star that just caught his ride with grace I looked up to see about fifty women staring me in the face: slightly disturbed, possibly secretly amused too. A flash of panic, I stood in the women’s only compartment. Hesitant for a moment but seeing no other option I jumped off again, sprinted, and rather stupidly than gallantly, managed to squeeze in between countless men in the next wagon.
What a way to start my travels in India! I admit, this doesn’t happen at Utrecht Central, nor will you find yourself in a situation like this, or this or this. Then again, a Dutch train driver once informed over the intercom we were going slow due to a wandering swan over the tracks. Don’t we live in wonderland?
What are your best and worst moments on trains?