Koln station is resplendent with Pretzels, sausage-booths and a small Buddhist garden, where a concrete Buddha stands with a hand raised (Halt!), wasser spouting from a bamboo throat behind him. We step out of the Ausgang in search of an internet café to print our tickets Aus for the next stage of the journey. Ausgang into a grey square where a cathedral looms, Gothic and enormous, made somehow more huge by the very cold rain.
Round the corner we find a Turkish-run net café, where the printer bears bad news: we’ve missed our connection to Vienna. F**k*rse! In small panic, we envision a night in Cologne and a day’s delay to the mission. We run skelter-helter back to the station to plead with the train people, and find an Info Man in a toy hat who tells us, calm as a stamp collection, that it’s not problem and we can get next train (sic and sic. Bruxelles was a brief bit of communication ease because I speak French. Now though, we’re in foreign lands where neither of us speak the tongues. From here to Cairo and back, we’re depending on everyone else’s English, useless tools that we are.)
Phee-yew. Another hour to spend in Koln, then. We notice now that the Buddha garden is in fact an advert for a garden show of some sort –Bonsai trees from 40 euros. Food, let’s get food. Aus again, in the shadow of the church where a drunk homeless man slumps with a friend, slurring German. Funny, I didn’t imagine destitution could take place in German, neat and precise language. We find a kebap haus (Turkish-run) and eat its wares back on our platform, wary of missing another train. The other passengers are characters from the Matrix, black-clad against a grey grid of arched glass ceiling.
Spectacular ceiling, we say as we board the train. We pull out of Koln over a bridge, where thousands of padlocks and metal hearts hang from a grille that separates the tracks and the footway.