27 August 2013


When I was growing up and imagining train travel it always looked quite glamorous.  People might bring rolling luggage on an airplane, but train platforms were full of trunks and formally dressed bellhop like men carting everything around.  People took your ticket as you entered and bowed to you and you nodded haughtily back because you were on a train and you would go sit in your compartment and revel in your own luxuriousness.  In general, it all looked like this:

So beautiful.  So Edwardian.
My first real train experiences came in England and later in the states.  In England most of the trains we were on were either local or short trips on the national rail.  Most of the trains double as commuter trains and they're industrial and efficient and the only hint of old-school romance comes in the form of a train worker who comes around with a cart every now and then selling drinks and sweets.  (It's as close to Hogwarts as I've ever been - that and going to Christ Church College.)

My train experience in America was the Christmas my parents decided that it would be totally rad (and cheap) for me to take Amtrak home.  "It'll be fun!" they said.  "You'll be with friends!" they assured me.  "22 hours isn't THAT bad." they promised.  So I agreed (what choice did I have?) and met the train at the station at 4:00 AM (aka. the deepest butt crack of dawn.)  The train was a whopping 45 minutes late as I recall - and should have been our first hint that we were going to be on that train for way more than 22 hours.  Train travel in the western US is a joke at best.  Signs in the cars were made using cardboard and sharpie.  The dining room at our disposal served microwaved hot dogs and was positioned in a room that looked like it probably housed several rapists.  To make things even more exciting, I was sitting next to a friend who was literally a week away from proposing to his girlfriend.  I've never tried harder in my life not to touch someone accidentally while sleeping next to them.  Many many long hours later, I got off the train and vowed to get a flight home, even if it meant paying extra money.  

Before going to Germany this summer, I had high expectations of train travel.  I had heard that the German rail system was amazing.  My experience with trains in England compared to the states was enough to convince me that I was about to have the train experience of my life. This ended up being rather true. . .only maybe not in the way I anticipated. 

Picture this: 

1. Hotter than normal summer. No air conditioning.  Windows on the train are locked.

I have no tolerance for people who have air conditioning capabilities and don't use them.
2. Crowded train - standing room only. 

3. Men in lederhosen and/or football team t-shirts (two different occasions, y'all.  This happened twice.) 

No, not like this.  This would have been adorable.
More like this, only on a train.  A crowded one.
4. Lots of beer.

Seriously.  I think this is an accurate representation.
5. And, on one occasion - you combine this with a loud, portable boom box playing "American Idiot" on repeat with increasingly drunken voices that occasionally shoot into horrible sounding falsetto.  Also group team cheers.  And lots of German swearing that I understood about half of.  (Why is it that the vocab words that stick when I study another language are the bad ones?!)


Suffice it to say that if my love life weren't enough to convince me that romance is dead, then a four hour train ride with loud and drunk football fans was enough.  It's stuff like this that keeps me single. It's stuff like this that makes me hug my car a little tighter and blare the air conditioning until I freeze.  Stuff like this that makes me profoundly grateful that I had a mother who taught me manners and how yelling loudly in an enclosed space is annoying and you shouldn't do it.

Thank goodness Europe looks like this:

Or I'd never travel.