F.I had no money for the couchette car with the bunk beds that could be folded down, let alone for the real sleeping car, which in my imagination was equipped with duvets and a night porter. But I was in love with this boy in Milan, and to make the most of my time together, I drove at night. The express train didn’t even cost an intercity surcharge. On the outward journeys I didn’t shut my eyes because of the palpitations. On the way back, tears dripped into my diary until, exhausted, I began to pull out the seats to find the most comfortable sleeping position possible. D-trains were mostly empty at night, and the flat leather cushions pushed together almost in the middle of the compartment.
If the seat opposite was free, you could lie on your side with your knees bent. If there was more space, you folded up the armrests and stretched out over three seat cushions. Later, when the love for the Milanese that remained for Italy passed, the spectrum of my experiences widened. Once, on the way to Tuscany, a man was in my compartment and we drew the curtains in the corridor windows to lie down together and kiss a little.
I felt incredibly bold and self-determined, Tinder was far from invented. Another time, on the way to Venice, I woke up in the morning to find my little backpack stolen. I carried my money and passport in a waist belt under my T-shirt, but the diary, addresses, my favorite pen, the toiletry bag – just gone. That didn’t shake my naive trust in the night train. When I doze off on the ICE today, when this gentle whirring envelops me and freedom and security merge into a dream, I forgive Deutsche Bahn even their stupid bucket seats. (sha.)
Wonderful rattling and shaking
Alfred Polgar divided night train travelers into two groups: some sleep better when the train is moving, others when it is stationary. On tiptoe, he wrote, sleep is approaching: “But the rattle of the train drives him away again.” It was exactly the other way around. If the train was moving, I felt rocked to sleep, if it stopped at a train station, I was wide awake. And the night train from Frankfurt to Warsaw stopped at quite a few stations and there for a long time. We did not experience a bad “rattle and shake” like poor Polgar once did, but our nocturnal journey was still a journey through time.
The train and staff were Russian, the conductress spoke no other language, but her robust nature turned out to be spot on for the situation: With a targeted forceful grip, she managed to unfold the jammed bunk in our compartment and dispel the worry that someone would have to stand. However, I wasn’t quite happy to give her our passports and tickets overnight. But everything went well, the children found it exciting and adventurous and had a good rest in Warsaw that morning. Unlike me; the stops and the effort not to crush the toddler next to me were a bit much. Basically, however, I love night train journeys, just as washing clothes in the machine is my favorite housework: You get ahead, but you don’t have to do anything yourself. (jöt.)