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Train Journey - Part 1
To travel from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt, one very good way is the
EuroCity(EC) train service that transits every two hours. From Dusseldorf
you pass through Duisburg to Cologne, and then to Bonn, Koblenz and Mainz
to Frankfurt. That afternoon,in early November, I was taking the EC
leaving Dussledorf at 3.28 PM, passing through Bonn at 5.14 and reaching
Frankfurt at 7.08 PM.
I had come to Dusseldorf for a trade show, and as always happened to me
at the railway station when I was on my own, I was starting to wonder if
this would be my lucky day.
I liked travelling by German trains for two reasons. One was of course
the comfort, speed and the lack of crowds, and the second was my search for
the "stranger on a train" fantasy. I had been unable to shake off this
fantasy ever since I had read Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying".
So, as usual, when the train arrived, I boarded the coach and started
walking down the corridor searching for a compartment which had a woman in
it. It was fairly crowded that afternoon, and I had to cross two coaches
before I found a compartment that had only one and a woman in it. In a
German coach, till very recently, there were six seats in every
compartment, three facing each other. The compartment can be closed by a
The and the woman were occupying the window seats, and I took the
empty corridor seat opposite the woman. The curtain on the corridor window
was open, and I could see the countryside going by in the reverse
The was busy writing a report of some kind in a proforma. he was
completely busy and did not look up. The woman took out a pack of
cigarettes and lit up. I realised I had got into a smoking compartment by
mistake(I stopped smoking years ago). She looked at me out of the corner
of her eye with something a brief smile, then went back to a magazine she
had in her hand.
I studied her, first covertly, then quite openly. She had brown hair
pulled back and held in a ruffle, spectacles, and was dressed in black
stretch pants, very tight the way German women like to wear them, topped by
a loose blue turtleneck sweater. It was pretty warm with the central
heating, and I thought she must be uncomfortable in her sweater. The curve
of her hip on the crossed leg looked slim and shapely, and I began to be
glad that I had chosen this compartment.
I stretched my legs out in front of me, and tried to relax. I'm fairly
tall (6 ft) and I need leg space and a comfortable backrest. I looked
around at the sides of the seat to find the backrest lever. I looked up
and found her smiling at me. She said something in German. I speak a
little German, but not enough.
"I'm sorry" I said in German."I speak only a little German. Do you
speak English?" (my standard line!)
"Yes" she said with a slight laugh."I was telling you that that the
lever is under the seat" And so it was. I worked the lever and stretched
out a little more comfortably.
She was still smiling, and picked the packet of cigarettes up and
offered it to me.
"No thank you" I said."I don't smoke. Not any longer"
She started to laugh.
"But you have come into a smoking compartment"
There was nothing to say except to brazen it out.
"Yes.' I said. "I do that often"
"And why?" she asked still smiling.
"I like to meet interesting people when I travel. I find smokers to be
much more interesting."
"Why is that"she asked.
"Because smokers are people who have let themselves try something new.
Non-smokers know only how to follow other people's rules. I've been a
smoker myself, remember."
Part 2 and thereafter coming soon. Please email me your comments and
feedback at email@example.com