Small Town Girl: Travelling by Train

by - 12:53 PM

I always liked to think of myself as a person of the world. Because I've 'been to places' and 'seen stuff' and 'done things'. So why was I so thoroughly terrified when I had to travel by train all on my own? Probably because I actually am a small town girl, used to cycling and walking, not chasing after leaving trains or running from creepy dudes on the subway.

I made a schedule to replace the person who usually comes with me
My first trip by train was a real adventure to me. Usually someone's with me who knows their way around the public transportation system way better than I do. I trust that person with my life, I'd follow them to the end of the world, even all the way into Mordor, just because I don't know which bus to take. You can see how troubling it was for me to go out on my own, all the way from my peaceful little home town up to Rotterdam's Central Station and then on to Groningen, a city in the north which is considered the far end of the world to most people from my town.
But I made it, I didn't even loose my dignity by chasing after a subway that was leaving at the very moment I stepped out of the bus. Instead I did the grown-up thing to do: I got myself a newspaper and read it. But only the comics, which didn't made it such a grown-up thing to do after all...

Then, after a quiet ride on the subway, I had to get out and get into another one which would bring me to Central Station. Panick! Alarm! Hopping off one line and onto the other was something I had done once, back in December, with my parents, but that didn't make the prospect less scary. It would be a real accomplishment to get lost on Beurs station in Rotterdam, but I can get lost on the way from my bedroom to the toilet (FYI: down the stairs that are straight in front of my bedroom, take four more steps and you're literally in the toilet bowl).
I avoided getting lost by loosing the dignity I had so carefully preserved when getting off the bus; I saw a flashing sign with 'Rotterdam Central, leaving in 0 minutes' and made a run for it. The gods were with me that day. I caught the tube and arrived safely at Rotterdam Central - 50 minutes before my train would leave...
See, it does show my train after all
Those 50 minutes felt like a decade. I was so worried about missing my train that I checked every sign twice, just to make sure there actually was a train going to Groningen. Then I had to check them a thrid time, because my train wasn't on any of them!
Turns out I was just too early to see my 7.05am train on a sign that only showed which trains were leaving until 6.54am... Anyway, I don't know how I did it, but I found the right train. And that's where the journey really began.

It takes almost three hours to travel from Rotterdam to Groningen. Along the way I've seen a lot of people come and go. People on the train seem an entire different species. There's just so many types. It didn't take me long to realize that a nervous seventeen-year-old was one of the less remarkable types you can meet on the train.
There are parents with noisy children who go and sit in the quiet areas anyway (but you'll forgive them, because their children are so cute). But those people are better than the grumpy alcoholic who makes the entire compartment smeel like beer. And what to think of the hostile reader? Yes, hostile readers do exist. There was a college guy sitting opposite of me who was reading Game of Thrones. I wanted to ask if he liked the book, but he almost growled at me when I looked at him. Maybe because my interested face looks a lot like my creepy face... which looks a lot like my normal face...
But no matter what type of person is sittin next to you, they're all trying to avoid eye contact. The readers are obviously at an advantage. There are also people who avoid making eye contact by staring out of the window at the extremely diverse Dutch landscape. There are two rules for Dutch train views:

  1. The farther north you go, the more horses you'll see.
  2. North, east, south and west al look the same: grassy polders filled with cows
All the same is staring at the dull Dutch landscape my favorite way to avoid eye contact. It is by any means better than the passive-agressive staring others prefere. It seems paradoxal, but it actually works. Unlike staring out of the window, for there's always the threat of making eye contact through the reflection - even more akward and feared than normal eye contact.

So I sat in the train for hours, curled up in my cornerm trying to become invisible. My suitcase was blocking the chair next to me and I felt terribly guilty about it. Not that I could do anything about it; I was too small to reach the luggage compartments.
it was a very uncomfortable ride. I felt my heart stop every time the train stopped, because I was so afraid I'd forget to get out of the train in time.
But I safely arrived in Groningen. And you wouldn't believe how proud I still am for travelling across the country on my own, for the very forst time!

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2 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Wow, that sounds like a great experience. I've only been on a train once and it was the worst travelling experience of my life. I ended up with a fever when we reached our destination and forced my parents to drop returning by train and take the plane instead. Trains! Never again o.o

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    Replies
    1. It really was. Stressful and awesome at the same time. I totally understand you don't want to travel by train again, I feel the same about boats ;)

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