I’m finally on my way to Slovenia! This is being written in a cafe near the main station in Munich, with me feeling a bit bleary and cradling a double espresso, my bags safely stashed in a locker at the station.
I arrived on the night train from Paris, which was a fun experience. I was surprised how full it was, but then when there is a service that good that enables one to escape the hell of flying, why wouldn’t it be well used? It was a pretty decent night’s sleep on the top ‘couchette’ – a kind of miniature bunk bed about eighteen inches under the ceiling, though the grumpy French man in the middle bunk under mine was snoring like a Harley Davidson.
Train travel like this makes me remember how set apart Britain is – by the Channel and by language, which lead to the illusion of separateness, and a kind of aloofness. After stowing my stuff in the cabin, it was clear that six people into one 1.8-metre space wouldn’t go, so I wandered off to find a seat in an old-fashioned compartment, where five of us – an Austrian woman, a Frenchman, a German couple and me – talked idly in a mixture of English, French, German and badly broken Swedish (between me and one of the Germans, whose English wasn’t up to much) – but the one thing that this experience shared with similar ones I have had in the past was people’s surprise at hearing an English person speak another language.
Later in the morning I am catching a train that will go through the Austrian Alps and down into Slovenia, where on arrival I’ll be met by Breda, who is the cause of this trip and whom I have written about before. I’m going to be two weeks in Slovenia, and I haven’t quite figured out an itinerary yet, though on Saturday a very kind man from the museum at Klagenfurt, who’s called Paul Angerer, is going to come down to Domzale and collect me, and take me to the site where my grandfather arrived as a POW, more than seventy years ago. As for the rest of the trip, I’m hoping to visit a friend in Serbia if I can work out the transport (it’s a lot further from Slovenia than I had thought), I will definitely visit Trieste in Italy, which is tucked into the underneath of Slovenia, only a short distance from where I’ll be staying. And I hope also to do some hiking in Slovenia, which is a tiny country packed with mountains and magnificent things to do outdoors.
So the planning is going to take place on the train; the last two weeks have been so hectic that even getting down to reading my guide book has felt too tiring. But that’s no bad thing; sometimes having no plan, and following your nose, is a really good way to relax. As is staring out of a train window, contemplating an Alp or two.