The Polish Express

One of the driving forces behind inter-railing is the freedom. A single ticket provides you with a sense of freedom, which you inhale at each train station, each platform, with the flickering screen displaying destinations within your reach. When I set off inter-railing with two friends this freedom was on our minds, however our maps marked with our planned routes were in our pockets.

Sitting on the bus we realised that missing the previous bus would result in an overnight delay of fourteen hours in the train station at Ljubljana. Lake Bled where we were departing from had intoxicated us, the rustic village, the beautiful lake, the surrounding jagged mountains, time became of less relevance, now we would be missing our perfectly timed train to Krakow. When we made it to the station we approached the platform, and noticed that a train was in position. Out of pure luck the train had been delayed and we jumped on board to commence our thirteen hour journey. After finding seats we became acquainted with two Polish men and a woman. They said they were going to Warsaw, a further four hours north of Krakow, worried we were on the wrong train we asked a train worker, who shrugged, when our new friends questioned him in Polish, his reply was still a shrug. We began to play our game of 20 questions, where the person in question had to be someone encountered on our travels. “I’m unfriendly and don’t know how to do my job, who am I?”
“You’re that train worker.”

When we learned that the train defiantly wasn’t going to Krakow we became flustered as our planned route was now completely thrown off. However Boro, our new friend, shared with us his philosophy, which was (replacing one “f” word with another) “Forget the plan.” Boro was very distinctive, his hair was matted with dreadlocks, his arms were decorated in numerous tattoos, some he explained were Led Zeppelin lyrics. His English was perfect as he spoke with a somewhat American drawl. It was also at this point that Boro found our incompetent train worker and tried to bribe him to get us alcohol from first class. Alcohol was the new plan. He agreed, however moments later he arrived back telling us the carriage was inaccessible. Once again we played, “I’m crap and can’t get anything right, who I am?”
“You’re that train worker.”

After a few hours of Boro regaling us with his life story, while his friend inexplicably kept doing headstands, we pulled into Katowice, which our other Polish companion who had remained relatively quiet throughout the journey informed us that she was nearly certain that if we got off we could get a connection to Krakow. We took her advice and sure enough we made it there. We experienced the true nature of inter-railing at this point on our trip, the freedom which is lusted for, the desperation for alcohol and we also gained a new philosophy, “Forget the plan”.

S McAteer

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