Hot and bothered

I get to Copenhagen in good time, snag a sort of dinner and then try to find the night train to Cologne. Nothing on the screens. Info desk tells it will arrive at track 7, just go there. There's a local train there—will my train come in just after it? But why isn't it announced on the screens? Possibly the tannoy calls may say something, but the sound reproduction qualities are such that I find it impossible to understand them even when they (presumably) are not in Danish. In addition, shouldn't there be more people milling around, waiting for the night train? I am struck by a thought and ask a nearby railway employee—apparently I am supposed to get on this train and go to Odense, where the night train will pick up its passengers. No explanation of why this is or how this was supposed to have been communicated to the passengers. I jump on at the last minute, rather miffed, I had looked forward to a quiet compartment of my own by now rather than a crowded car (seemingly) full of children in high spirits. Then comes the announcement that we will soon be arriving in Odense and passengers with Eurocity so-and-so should change here—given in Danish only. Still, even the Portuguese-speaking ladies get the message, since everybody start taking down their luggage from the overhead racks and preparing for disembarkment.

In Odense we wait uncertainly for a few minutes before the train arrives and I can finally get my quiet compartment. I feel tired and decide to retire immediately. As mentioned before, folding out the beds requires a special key that the car attendant has, but I study the construction and a couple of seconds of work with the Swiss army knife brings down the bed. Several hours later the attendant comes to fold out my bed and is surprised and embarrassed to find me in bed already.

Though not quite asleep. Advertisers like to write how night trains gently rock one to sleep so that one arrives fresh and ready for a new day at one's destination. The truth in my experience is that one is rudely shook about all night in a bunk that's really too short for comfort and then one has to get up before dawn to be deposited in a city where nothing is open yet.

At least there are showers on these trains to freshen you up, but somebody seems to have fallen asleep in the shower compartment; after watching the red light for twenty minutes I give up.

Cologne. Quick change to the Thalys for Brussels. The Ardennes are as pretty as ever, I'll have to go there some day. In Brussels the train makes a stop at Brussel Noord and we are told that those who wish can get off there. I decide it will make a change from Bruxelles Midi, so I hop off. I exit the station to find I apparently have ended up in the/a red light district—there is a shopping window with a couple of half-naked ladies half-heartedly wiggling about right in front of me. At nine in the morning? Well, it's of course good if the ladies get to keep office hours…

I instead turn right and quite unexpectedly find myself in the Botanical Gardens. I've always been fond of botanical gardens and this is a nice oasis in Brussels—or would be if there wasn't a major throughfare and several construction sites next to it supplying a deafening noise to the park.

The day soon turns quite hot as I meander through the streets, a cool museum would be just the thing. I take aim at the Musée de l'air, walking through a sweltering Parc du Cinquantenaire, but am sadly disappointed: the museum is closed on Mondays. Even worse, across the court yard I see the posters for a Franquin exhibition, that closed the day before… This is the final straw, I trudge up to my hotel and have a cool shower.

In the evening dinner with the people I'm meeting. Yeah, it's all engineers, we all withdraw to our rooms by 21. I try the TV and get a scandal story about the mismanagement of Her Majesty's Prison Rye Hill. I wonder a bit if the main problem is that it run by a private company, or that it has to be run on such a low budget that nobody could do it right.

And then the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech. There is probably a lot to be said about that, but that will have to wait until we know what actually happened…

1 comment:

Martin said...