Onward, onward! Today we take the last train on our journey, from Paris to the city of Berlin. While this is a departure from our ever-westward travel, we’re meeting our dear old itinerant friends Cindy and Eric, whom we last saw in Hanoi about six months and half a world ago!
We first stop by the local bakery for a bundle of morning pastries to add to our pile of gifts, stuffing them into a spare shopping bag we picked up at Maison Georges Larincol. Then it’s off to the train station to find our train and pick up our tickets, a slightly more complicated process than normal because we’re crossing a border. Still, it’s a breeze when compared to flying.
Once on the train, the familiar flow of scenery past our window and people in the aisles begins. There are short bursts of cityscape strung with thick trellises of telephone and electric wire and dotted with concrete train platforms, followed by long stretches of pasture and woods in the French, then German countryside. The transition between countries is once again seamless, noticeable only by the change of language on station signs.
The flow of people continues as well, French, Germans, and other Europeans getting up and disembarking, boarding and sitting down in recently vacated seats. The only unmoving group is a Muslim family, clearly tired and stressed from travel. The mother desperately tries to handle three children and quell their hunger with cheap, off-brand crackers. She spanks one of them for getting too rowdy and the child wails.
We doze and nearly miss our stop in Berlin, waking up just in time to dash off the train with our backpacks. When we gather ourselves on the platform, we realize we have left the bag of pastries on board! They’re gone with the train, alongside my warm wool leggings I’ve used for the last year. Easy come, easy go.
The Muslim family also got off with us, and they adults are all now hugging a couple who were waiting on the platform and crying. The children just stand around, confused.
Berlin is colder than Paris, so we walk quickly, catching the local metro to a small suburb where our friends wait for us.