(The first train – we had a two-seater version of this arrangement. Can you see the coat hooks? The power sockets? The adjustable seat lever? The folding table, concealing a little rubbish receptacle?)
We have arrived in Krakow! Our train journey from Prague was brilliant. There were three trains journeys to be precise. The first one was like going by plane, the old-fashioned kind of going-by-plane. With free bottles of water and free newspapers. Yep. And the conductors wore nice uniforms and rolled little overnight cases behind them when they got off the train. There were hooks to hang your coat, adjustable seats, power sockets and free wi-fi. The tea-trolly had Starbucks coffee and green tea.
(That was a different train, going to Budapest – and that’s the dining car. See the cute globe lights? I don’t think we had a dining car.)
We settled down for the three-hour journey coding, crocheting and reading. The names of the places were a little confusing as was our ticket but the journey progressed and we began to understand more. Like the booklet provided on each seat as we arrived onboard. It was completely in Czech but eventually it became clear that it was a timetable for the train and any connections we might need to make. At one point there was an announcement in English and Czech but all we could hear was …delays due to technical problems on the line… We did wonder what delays? as the train was travelling at 160km per hour (did I mention the signs proclaiming station names and speed?) is it possible the train could go faster? Anyway, the specified time to disembark arrived and the train stopped at a station with a name very, very like the one mentioned on our ticket, so we gathered our things and got off.
(Told you we had Starbucks!)
Then we saw our conductor, I was about to give him a friendly thank-you-wave but he was looking very worried and moving very fast in our direction… and we were back on the train faster than you could say, the wrong station! Back on the train now we wondered if we might miss our connection to the second train, as there was only a ten minute difference between arrival of this one and departure of that one. As we descended, at the right station (Ostrava Hl. N.) our conductor was helping a lady down from the train but he stopped long enough to look me in the eye and enunciate very clearly, go up, platform 1. while nodding towards the stairs. Long story shortened, we made it, that train was delayed too.
(Our compartment on the second train)
This second train was more old-fashioned, there was free water and even juice but no wi-fi or Starbucks. It travelled slower than the first one, but, as there were no displays I can’t be specific about the actual speed. Also, we realised there might still be a chance we would miss our next connection so we were a little less relaxed than we might have been but it was a very comfortable train. We were lucky to have our little six-seater compartment to ourselves so we could spread out our bags and food supplies (apples, seeds, nuts, biscuits, free water) all the way to Katowice.
(That’s the conductor on the phone, she had a little compartment to herself where people bought their tickets. And past her there’s the driver’s window and the tracks beyond)
Our next train, the one that would deliver us to Krakow was the most relaxing, not because it was new (it wasn’t) or because it was fast (it wasn’t) or because it had wi-fi (it hadn’t) or because it had more free water (it didn’t.) I think I was relaxed because it was familiar. It reminded me of the Dart. An older version of the Dart that was red and had a conductor and travelled as far as Cork. It had the same seats, the ones you’re not supposed to put your feet on? But you feel drawn again and again to putting your feet on them? We resisted. I have identified my two favourite things about this train: 1. the windows – they slide down to open so that you have half a window full of air coming in – it was very warm. And 2. the train driver kept his door open the whole time so you could see the tracks. I like knowing where I’m going. That’s probably my third favourite thing, I definitely knew where we were going this time.
(We probably wouldn’t be needing the Hammer of Safety because the windows were already open and big enough to climb through, but I like that we had one. It feels like a metaphor for something bigger. Already, I like Poland)
Krakow is waiting, Mairead.