Sunday 29th October


The Gard de l’Est is my favourite of Paris’ railway stations because of the desitnations on its departure boards: Strasbourg, Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna… and even, with a change of trains at the border, Moscow. This evening I left Paris on the first leg of another trans-European journey: to Romaina and back by train. It was five o’clock by the time we pulled out of the station on the Orient Express from Paris to Vienna.


The first few hours of travel were quiet and I dosed off as we pushed on east. Around 10pm we crossed the Rhine and continued into Germany. I tried to find the man with the trolley so that I could buy a sandwich. The conductor pointed to the cabin door on which I should knock. Just before I did knock, between the drawn curtains I saw a hand slide up a bestockinged leg, accompanied by shrieks of laughter. When I did knock on the door, the laughter became muffled and after some delay the door openned to reveal a sheepish looking man and woman sitting on either side of the compartment with the food trolley between them. I felt guilty for disturbing them especially since none of the food was vegetarian so I couldn’t buy anything anyway.


Back in the carriage a baby had been crying for some time, clearly not impressed by its mother’s best efforts to amuse it for the past hour. I retreated to the vestibule with the girl in the adjacent seat to gain some respite and to play a bit of guitar. No sooner had we started singing a song from the backpacker’s cannon of standards (surely a Beatles number. No tell a lie it was Mamas and Papas) did the mother and baby come out as well, followed by a little girl. The children where thrust into our care and their mother went into the toilet. I carried on playing guitar and the crying stopped. Evidently relieved, the mother took back her kids and returned to the carriage. Suzanne got off the train at Karlsruhe sometime in the middle of the night. When I returned to my seat, the cease-fire between mother and child seemed to be holding and I was able to go to sleep.