our flight to amsterdam went off without a hitch. 7 hours, typically dwarf-sized* leg room, ok food, and an early arrival. we wandered around the city for a couple hours, caught the train to cologne, tried to enjoy the sparkling christmas market around the cathedral but by then were too drained and dispirited by jet lag and a run in with an unscrupulous train official who overcharged us for things. when it came time to get on the overnight train to warsaw we were good and ready for some shut eye. alas, it was not to be...
the overnighter to warsaw had, by far, the most comfortable seats of any of our modes of transportation, including actual leg room for people with actual human sized legs, seats that reclined in a way that wasn't merely frustratingly perfunctory but actually fairly close to horizontal, and a width that allowed for untucking the elbows from their chicken-like position mandated by air travel. in a word: perfection.
unfortunately, the train also came with a drunk, high, exceedingly chatty, enthusiastically friendly, highly philosophical, and really loud dude, who immediately took a major liking to mr. monkey and promptly changed seats so he could more comfortably regale us with tales of his drug use and transport, theft techniques, and various family dysfunctions. it would have been entertaining for about 15 minutes had we not been on the road for well over 24 hours at that point; as it was, except for moments of peace when he went out for a smoke or a drink, it was exhausting. mr. monkey, never great on the instinct of self preservation front, failed to adequately feign sleep. worse still, he gave dude the sort of verbal cues normally missing from any conversations with me, i.e. "really?", "huh!", "he did what?" etc. which kept the conversation flowing. i managed to sleep a bit, but not nearly as much as i needed to.
eventually i did fall asleep until the train stopped for a longish time to get cars detached, attached, and otherwise seen to. i woke up, saw that we were in a big shiny station that looked like an american mall, saw that it was berlin, and promptly fell asleep again. 20 minutes later i woke up at another lengthy stop, looked outside and saw it was berlin-wiener-schnitzel. several small stations later, came another stop: berlin-schlauch-und-scheiße. feeling like we'd passed into an alternate universe that was all berlin all the time, i woke up for reals and started checking out the names of places we passed. berlin-schaf-wurst followed. then berlin schadenfreude. then berlin-schmutzig-löffel. then the train kept moving for so long that i fell asleep, secure in the knowledge that berlin was now gone for good. surely an hour later, awake again at a large station, i turned to mr. monkey and jokingly said, i wonder if we're still in berlin, ha ha, turned my head to look outside and saw a huge sign: berlin lichtenberg**. this was enough to shake my equilibrium so much that i fell asleep again - after all, if we were in the twilight zone, i may as well be rested.
we made it out in one piece, got rid of our travel companion (he got off 3 hours before us, assuring us at least a tiny bit of peace and quiet), had breakfast in the dining car, and arrived at our destination. we've been giving away furniture and things at breakneck speeds, seeing and being seen by friends and distant family, sorting the belongings of the dead, facing our own mortality and eastern european plumbing. i feel i may make it out alive.
*whatever the politically correct terminology is these days. short people? little folk? i really don't mean to be offensive, so let's just assume i'm talking about the dwarves of fantasy. ya know: can't tell the men from the women, great love of gold, really handy with an axe, huge beards, ok? ok.
** if you haven't already guessed, only this last name is a real and actual place. the rest i may or may not have made up. after all, i don't really speak german.