I always love trains but I am never really sure why.
I think it is in the way you move forward with trains. Each train has its own track. When you are on a train, you might see another train travelling in the opposite direction now and then, often near a station. But you rarely see another one overtaking you on the same direction. You are hardly in a race with other trains.
Also, train tracks are often built on rather remote areas, you don’t see car travel alongside you that much either.
So even if your train goes as fast as 500 kms per hour, you are almost never the one who races. You are inside a carrier, being relatively still. There is no rush. And I hate being rush. When I am on a train, I can really lean back and relax. Even inside the most chaotic trains I’ve taken, I found peace.
When I lived in England, I sometimes took a train as early as 5am to go as far as 300 km away for an interpreting job at court. The empty train station was always very cold in the early morning, because not many people were there to help heat up the chill air in the wide open. I’ve liked it though. As long as I was wrapped up, I could enjoy the freshness of morning dew. Then I would got on the train, pick a seat by the window and wait for the sun to come up.
When I backpacked through South East Asia with my now fiancé, we once took a train from Bangkok to a province at the border with Cambodia. It was full with farmers going to markets and back for trading, workers heading home in Cambodia, and backpackers like us.
We were crammed in a corner by the carrier’s door, on the floor. The air was hot and the floor was sticky. The train made huge noises whenever it started again. And it stopped multiple times for more people getting in. Basically, it was nothing like the Quiet Zone on a Virgin Train down London. But when the sun set above the heads of the crammed crowd, it was so red that it brought with it a sense of solemnity.
After more than two months travelling around South East Asia, I brought my then boyfriend back to Hanoi, my hometown on a night train from Hue – the ancient capital chosen by the Nguyen dynasty. It was on February. The train rolled into the new capital at the early hour of the morning. Soon the radio started to play a classic about Hanoi’s winter. I was home once again. The first light just arrived and I was on the brink of tears. The train slowly shook its way into the station.
Fasting forward two years and a few months, we were on the train from Amsterdam to Berlin. It was a seven-hour journey, more or less. There was no breath-taking scenery. It was a dull mid-may day in Northern Europe when the summer has not yet arrived. That means cold and grey. The landscape was filled with either grass field or patches of small trees. There were some nice views but far not often enough for a seven hour journey.
However, we had wine and each other company. We leaned back and watched a movie about Berlin from the old days. We enjoyed the ride pretty much regardless. Maybe it’s about the train. Maybe it’s about the wine. I will never know!