Posts Tagged ‘europe’

Some Books 2/2

August 15, 2009

Books

So you see how there are two photos above? And how on the right there a three books photographed on my desk and the one in the left photo is on it’s own? That’s what happens when someone moves your things in a hostel while you are sleeping and you don’t check the whole room before you leave because it’s 6am and you are rushing to the train station. Douche.

Smile When You’re Lying” by Chuck Thompson shows what can be described as the unpleasant side of travel. Not having been able to read the whole book I cannot vouch for it’s overall awesomeness. But if you pick it up I guarantee you wont be disappointed by the first half, I will certainly be buying it again to finish reading it. The problem with Europe, at least book wise, is that most countries don’t speak English and by association don’t read in it either.

This makes tracking down a good book in English, to replace the one you bought in England and forgot in Amsterdam, a challenging task. After visiting what seemed like a dozen bookstore, whose English sections were comprised of copies of Lipstick Jungle and Twilight, I had begun to accept a book-less future. One rainy evening in Berlin, while searching for what would turn out to be an amazing Thai restaurant, I walked down a staircase and into heaven. A bookstore with half of it devoted to this wonderful language called English. Dostoyevsky, Joyce, Bryson all waiting for a new home. That is how “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck ended up spending the final weeks of my journey by my side.

“East of Eden” revolves around love and the wide range of characters show the emotion from all angles. Like other Steinbeck books “East of Eden” is full of twists and turn, sometime ending well, but mostly resulting in tragedy. If you want a tale of adventure and a character study, this is it.

“It doesn’t matter that Cathy was what I have called a monster. Perhaps we can’t understand Cathy, but on the other hand we are capable of many things in all directions, of great virtues and great sins. And who in his mind has not probed the black water?”

John Steinbeck

On Trains

June 30, 2009

Train© Eugen Sakhnenko 2009

I’m convinced trains are the greatest form of transportations. You get on and your good to go. You can read, sleep, listen to music, write, do almost anything really and all you need to worry about is getting off. There are also the large windows and the varying landscapes passing you by. It’s not only a great way to see a country, but also relaxing and conducive to thought. The only trouble with trains is, getting to them.

When my plane landed in Paris I had absolutely no clue about where to go. All I knew was that I had a ticket for a train that left in an hour, a train that was nowhere insight. It was about six in the morning and the airport was mostly empty. It’s a gorgeous airport by the way, Paris CDG, even as we were taxiing it looked great through my percentile of a window. It’s modern, in a clean minimalist way, and uses a lot of glass, concrete, and wood, and is slightly under lit. It reminded me a bit of the AGO. I found an information booth and perhaps the most bored employee I have ever seen.

Asking for directions in English, in a foreign country, is always at least a little awkward. You don’t want to sound as if you assume the other person speaks English, when in fact you are assuming that they speak English. The result is that you start off speaking slowly in a slightly hesitant manner, anxiously looking for a sign of understanding. If such a sign presents itself, you go into regular speaking mode, using sign language to fill in the blanks. So in this manner I asked for directions to the train station and received a yawn in response. Then a puzzled look came over the woman’s face as I handed her my confirmation printout, pointing at the train portion of it. In the end the directions I received were “turn right and walk for five minutes”. A fifteen minute walk and I was at the train station.

After talking with three different people and waiting in three lines, I had my train ticket. Here is where I learned lesson number two, arriving early for trains is pointless. Unlike flights, trains, along with their track number (or letter), are only displayed a few minutes before departure. For those of us inexperienced with train travel this results in wandering the station, looking for a train that will be displayed long after your patience runs out. Knowing this, I ordered a coffee, and waited for my train to arrive.