13. the night train to Florence

we took the night train to Florence
a twelve hour journey

the train stopped
it was still dark
I looked out my window
heard people talking
saw the cherry of a mans cigarette

they were on strike
we were near Venice
I was concerned
no worries she said, it was common

three hours later the train started moving
how bizarre

finally the next morning
we arrived in Florence

12. au revoir

there was a farewell party
a basement pub
german food, wine and beer
served around one long table
family style

blithe man on the accordian
german folk songs
memories of my dad

before our train to Florence
we got a sandwich from the bakery
fresh hard roll with salami and cheese
we packed it for our trip

au revoir
goodbye to her French family
whisper cheek kiss right, then left
again whisper cheek kiss right, then left

note to self
mouth kissing is not included in the French salutation
awkward

image

 

11. the plan

I was completely exhausted
having not slept much on the train

she visited a friend that night
I crashed

she had two more days of school
I wandered Vienna alone
beautiful gardens

the family she stayed with was French
they graciously welcomed me in

we talked about where we would travel
being a German Swede
I favored Germany and Sweden

note to self
Sweden is in Scandinavia
a different country than Switzerland

she suggested Italy
she was there on spring break

we decided
Florence, Rome, Sorrento and Paris

I would drop her off in Paris

image

10. the train to Vienna

day turned into night
people came and people left
the sound was hypnotic
ta-tum, ta-tum, ta-tum, ta-tum

I couldn’t sleep
night turned into day
ta-tum, ta-tum, ta-tum, ta-tum
I had to brush my teeth

hauled my luggage to the toilet
warm water and a small metal sink
barely enough room to wash my face

looked at my watch
still hours away

finally the train pulled into Vienna
got off with luggage in tow
I started to recognize fragments of German

found a cab
showed him the address to her school
in minutes we were there
I had just enough schillings to cover my fare

she was surprised and excited to see me
I was two days early

9. a touch of class

the compartment was cozy
big cushy leather reclining seats
friendly travel mates
and a window seat

it was perfect
that is until the conductor came by
I was sitting in first class
my ticket was coach
he made me leave my cushy seat

I got off the train
luggage in tow
started down the platform
way down the platform

showed my ticket again
still more down the platform
finally I found coach
and after being in first class
it kind of sucked

stowed my luggage
tried to get comfortable
the seats were hard
it was going to be a long day

8. Calais, France

once ashore
we pressed on to the train station
down a flight of stairs
and up a flight of stairs
me and my luggage were ready to part ways

when I finally made it up
I stood before not just one train
but row after row after row of trains

how was I ever going to find mine
no one spoke English
if I got on the wrong train
I could easily end up in the wrong country

so I took out my ticket
and started making my way down
at each row I stopped and showed my itinerary
until finally I got a nod

relieved, I hopped into the first car and stowed my luggage

7. over the water

I was expecting to be on the train non-stop for the next 24 hours
It wasn’t even two hours and the train came to a complete stop
everyone on the train disembarked
I sat there for a few minutes and looked out the window
clearly there was nowhere for the train to go
it looked like we were in a shipyard

grabbing my luggage I followed the crowd
where were we? Dover

note to self
there is a canal between England and the rest of Europe
we would be taking the ferry
fumbling for my ticket I managed to make my way onto the ferry

how was it, that on the train everyone spoke English
yet on the ferry, I couldn’t find a soul to communicate with
I had not the slightest clue what they were saying, where we were going,
how long it would take to get there, or what to do when we got there

the ride was about three and a half hours
I stood most of the time as there were not a lot of places to sit
most people were standing around talking and ordering food and drinks

finally we got to our destination
the maritime station in Calais, France

6. lost on the underground

I started getting confused
was I even on the right train
did I miss my stop
panic slowly stirred in my chest
I could be on this train all night
I froze and couldn’t move
how long would I be stuck on this train

a young man approached me
he must have read the fear in my eyes
he asked me if I was lost
I handed him the flyer
I should have gotten off two stops ago

he offered his help
cautiously I accepted
I just wanted a place to drop off my luggage and sleep
he carried my luggage and helped me check in

we grabbed a bite to eat
he took me back to the train station
I purchased my ticket to Vienna

he showed me Big Ben and Buckingham Palace
took me to my room
and arranged to pick me up in the morning
we were going to spend the next two days together

I couldn’t do it
it was out of my comfort zone
I just wanted to get to Vienna to meet up with my friend

the next morning I showered and left early
I found my way back to the train station
exchanged my ticket to leave right away
found my way to the train
and settled in for the long 24 hour ride Vienna

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

 

Victoria Palace Theatre

Victoria Palace Theatre

 

5. Victoria Station

the train from Gatwick to Victoria Station
took about thirty minutes
would have been a long way to walk
especially with two suitcases, a carry-on bag and a purse

I peaked outside the station
the size of the city was overwhelming
how would I ever find the youth hostel circled in my book
the map was barely two inches square

someone handed me a flyer
directions to another youth hostel
it was affordable
a destination with clear directions starting on the subway

how hard could it be
I purchased a ticket
got on the underground train
and watched for my stop

4. Gatwick

well there I was in London
so I thought
I had picked up my bags
passed through customs
got a stamp in my passport
and walked out the glass doors of the Gatwick Airport

hmmm there was no city
I had sort of expected to just walk out
and be in London
went back in and found a place to sit down
the luggage was already heavy
I was exhausted

realization set in
I was completely alone
didn’t even have a way to call my dad
even if I did, what could he do
I was half a world away

went up to information to ask how to get to London
she mumbled something
it was clearly in English
I didn’t understand a word

excuse me
she repeated herself several times
frustrated, she pointed to the right
I understood the word train

I found my way to the train station
and bought a ticket to London