I need to write, I have been thinking German for the past four days to such as extent that whilst I was passing through Brussels I was speaking, well trying to speak, French whilst thinking in German.
Thinking one language and speaking another whilst not being native in either is disconcerting, well for me at least. Being European is a strange experience as well, being with my German ‘in laws’ and then going for a walk in the Netherlands (about a 20 minutes drive from the border town where I was) is novel, then trying to order food in German, Dutch and/or English. My Father-in-Law speaks Plateuch – or ‘Plat’ for short – which is a mix of Dutch and German with English Grammar.
The trip was a partial Christmas present for my partner, I had persuaded him to do a marathon trip involving being awake for 36 hours, unbeknown to him I had travelled the previous day to meet him of the train – the moment was priceless.
Travelling over on Christmas Eve I began to be amazed, as I am always amazed, by the re-enactment that takes place of the nativity, people crisscrossing the country, dragging bags, children, presents, clothes, and no doubt food . People crowding onto the roads and trains (and of course planes) to be with friends and family. I think it is utterly amazing that the exodus goes on year on year.
The trains to Germany – Eurostar from London to Brussels, Brussels to Amsterdam by THALYS and then IC train to Bentheim, were fairly deserted, everyone had presumably gone over the weekend (though on the Continent seems to be phased). I couldn’t help but think about the stories each person had, the reason to be travelling on Christmas Eve. Families got off at Schipol to fly home, to be with family, a group of Chinese people got on, all going together for the holidays; Antwerp a businessman got on going to Amsterdam and was going to learn Dutch in the New Year. The Steward on the train greeted his colleague with three kisses, one on each cheek and two on the first one (it is very geographic how many kisses you give, and where you start!)
At Amsterdam a gay couple kissed as one of them stepped off the train, I caught snippets of their conversation as I followed them down the stairs to change Platforms, the train had got in early, they off to town. I couldn’t help but think their meeting encapsulated the magic, the holiness, of Christmas. The miles travelled to be with someone special,
After Hengelo the train was empty apart from me, the Train Manager gave my Tickets a brief look as he flew though the carriage, 20 minutes later I was at Bentheim Bahnhof (though technically it is a Hauptbahnhof) a few people scatted on the Platform outnumbered by security staff.
Ringing my partner, who had started his j journey a couple of hours previous to my arrival in his home town, was surprisingly easy, keeping out of earshot of his Sister and Father.
It was the perfect start to Christmas, a lazy relaxed train journey, a warm welcome on a cold night, and the hatching of a big Christmas Day surprise – it could not have been more special. but even as I sipped my Rum I knew people were still travelling through the Night into the Christmas Dawn.