March 15, 2010


On the train from Koln to Munchen (Munich), everything is round, glass or sliding, and the seats are office-issue blue. As I move through the carriage, edgeless glass panels swish out of my way. People sit in curved glass cabins, unspeaking, while the speedometer on their digital screens shows 230 kph. The air feels trapped. I’m relieved to see a girl cross-legged on the floor of the vestibule, knitting with plastic needles, although she doesn’t return my smile.

I’m still more relieved when we arrive at Munchen with an hour to spare- I swear the train hisses as we alight. The Munchen we see is an amalgam of Eastern tower blocs, neon hotels and old, big buildings, and we’re looking for beer. Billy imagines a wooden beer-hall full of clanking tankards, but all we find is a vast Platz, a tram interchange and a big, purple-lit bar where three people instantly recognise us as outsiders.

“Are you Irish or English?”, an Irish one said, her face loose from drinking. We sit to drink our giant pints with her group, who are all amazed we’re travelling overland. “But why don’t you just fly?”, the drunk one’s sister asks, and doesn’t really catch the purpose, calling us tree-worriers or something similar. This is how we learn to be quiet with our passions- it gets tiring pushing at prejudice all the time. But things have changed in recent years; Martin -the bloke in the three- seems to get the point, and is interested in the idea of travelling light. All three of them work at the European Patent Office, and Martin has a son called Micah. We tell them, and trot back for our train to Vienna, past old men coughing fag smoke at the station doors.

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