Monday, September 30, 2013

Moving Right Along

My last post about what to carry when traveling reminded me of another aspect of moving about the planet with baggage; that is, how we do it by train.

When I first came to Kent State University back in 1947, the main means of getting here involved a rather long session with trains. I left Springfield, Ohio, in the south central part of the state via the New York Central line. In a little town in the middle of nowhere, I got off that train and had to wait for two hours in an old wooden train station for the Erie line, from Chicago. It pretty much took all day. Car transportation wasn’t much better, even if I were lucky enough to catch a ride. I think  I was the only person from Springfield going to Kent State at the time. This was before Eisenhower and General Motors took over the country and replaced all the two lane highways with the super highway system we know today. I tried the bus once, but it was full of Appalachians headed for the tire factories in Akron, complete with whiskey bottles in brown paper bags. So the long train trip became my transport modus operandi for four years, by which time I was thoroughly sick of trains.

It wasn’t until I began traveling abroad that I fell in love with trains. I love the Victorian architecture of stations in England, places with names like Victoria, King’s Cross and the venerable Paddington. It was at Paddington where I met a man who had been a clock keeper there, who talked about the thousands of children being evaluated to the country during WWll, and how heart-breaking it had been to watch the parents saying goodbye to those children. The train station at Windsor is fit for a queen, one of the most elegant looking depots I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to the little station used in the Harry Potter films, when I took a steam-train through the moors in Yorkshire, years before those films were made.

When my friend Susan and I took the train from Munich to Florence, we passed through the Alps, covered with snow. We shared our compartment with a Greek businessman, who, of course, had relatives in Cleveland. He talked about the traffic rules in Athens, where one is allowed to use a car only every other day. He got around that by having two cars so he could alternate each day. The issue around this was the pollution’s effect on the antiquities of the city, so he wasn’t exactly doing his part.

Speaking of a compartment, that’s another thing I enjoy. It’s like.  being in one of those great thriller films, where the person across from you may be a spy or an escaped murderer.

On long trips, there’s the dining car, where you can enjoy a meal with constantly changing scenery, from snowy Alps to palm trees at Lake Como. From open country to the sooty backs of old faded brick buildings as you come into a city. I think it is a more active from of transportation. You’re not driving a car, but you are absorbing all sorts of sights, sounds, smells, atmospheres. You’re grounded, not aloft, attached to the earth and moving along it.

After a flurry of traveling abroad for over ten years or so, I have not been thee for a while and I do miss it. It’s a combination of age and hip replacements, I don’t have the stamina I once had for al the walking (once you get off the train), but I am so glad I have had the chance to enjoy and appreciate the fun and excitement of train travel.


1 comment:

Expat Hausfrau said...

Beautifully written, and I cherish the memories of your European travels here as well! I still think the image of you arriving by train in Kent in 1947 is hopelessly romantic and cinematic!