The call of the east

The next few posts here come to you from my travels through Dresden and Leipzig. I am finally taking the chance to adventure around Berlin’s neighbours before the end of my time here. Or at least, I will do the minute this seemingly endless train journey is over.

Holiday time has started, and thus everyone is travelling somewhere; evidently however we have all chosen the same train. In Berlin Hauptbahnhof I marched past endless empty platforms with a few relaxed-looking people casually boarding before my platform finally came to view. It was as if this particular train was the only one on offer heading out of a town recently sentenced to a fiery nuclear death by hostile aliens. The carriage I am in is packed to the brim, humming with the iPod ‘tscktsckysck’ of Interrailers and thick with the overpowering stench of my neighbour’s polish salami.

Travelling through Germany by rail is a fascinating opportunity to get a good look at the real scrub of the land, its farms and untended landscape. It’s an amazingly flat country, for a start; you can stare out over miles (kilometres over here) of completely smooth fields and wind farms until you really do find yourself yearning for just one little hill or mound or, hell, even a knoll would do. Sweet mini villages pop up, where the roofs are lumpy and the gardens have miniature windmills on display. For the most part, though, it’s just vast empty expanses of fields, so flat and wide one can see the exact silhouette of clouds on the ground as they pass the sun.

It’s always enlightening to see a place from a train or a plane. Germany’s distinct flavour is a brown-green quilt of patches, as if someone had cultivated patches of moss in between cereal bars on a tray. England is a bit more densely packed and fluffy, with knobbly hills and far more motorways slicing up the countryside.

It’s hard to explain the way I feel about travelling; on the one hand I reminisce about past trips with the kind of fond nostalgia that usually accompanies honeymoon anecdotes, while on the other hand the actual process of travelling tends to drive me to into a frenzy of frustration, rage and confusion. Apparently there are many who enjoy spending hours on trains lodged against a fat man’s soft shoulder. Apparently there are people who relish wrestling with maps double their own height or having to swallow a dry croissant for breakfast every single day. This trip will hopefully not be one of the ragey ones, but given that I’ve been on this train for a half an hour now and no-one on it has the foggiest if it’s even going to Dresden or not, signs are not looking good. But I’ll tell you more when I get to Poland.

Rose T