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Archive for the ‘In-between/Zwischenräume’ Category

Amazingly, it seemed I was going to arrive in Barcelona more or less when I had told Hortensia, the mother of a good friend of mine and my hostess during my stay in the city, that I would arrive.

As I pondered this with no small satisfaction, I noticed that the bus had slowed down, and that we were in what appeared to be a small city. This, I thought, must be Figueres. The bus circled about through the extremely narrow streets for around twenty minutes, giving me an opportunity to gain a first impression of this new environment. Figueres appeared to be a medium-sized city, with a centre full of shops, restaurants, and hotels, all of which (except for the hotels) were closed for the night. The signs were virtually all in Catalan, rather than Spanish, as is often the case in Catalonia. Fortunately, I had at least a decent reading knowledge of Catalan.

Even more fortunately, virtually all Catalan speakers are bilingual in Spanish. While I had never before been to a country in which Spanish is officially spoken, it is essentially my second native language, one I often find easier to speak than English. My Spanish is decidedly Latin-American in flavour, an improbable mix of Venezuelan, Chilean, and Mexican. I was rather excited at the prospect of being in a place where everyone spoke it.

Meanwhile, the bus had at last come to a stop at what appeared to be the city’s bus station. It, too, was dark, with the exception of a kebap window in the back. My stomach, which had lapsed into lethargy out of sheer exhaustion and despair, began making demands on me with a newfound vitality. Alas, it was going to have to wait yet longer, as we only had a few minutes to get the Figueres railway station.

Everyone else seemed to know where they were going. I decided to take the optimistic view and assume that this was because they did in fact know where they were going, and that they were going to the same place I was.

On our way, which was fortunately quite short, we passed through the Plaça de l’Estació, which must look quite striking by daylight. On the end we first entered, there was a well-maintained playground, which was deserted, of course, at this hour. The centre of the square was occupied by a stately palm tree, with a trunk at least three feet thick. Were it not for the complete lack of light, I would very much have liked to photograph it. From here, the station was clearly visible and only about 100 feet away.

The Figueres station was a small, quite tidy affair, staffed at the moment by a single fiftyish man behind a Plexiglas window. After my experience in Perpignan, I was positively ecstatic that, when asked for a ticket to Barcelona, he actually gave me one (for only €10.00). not only that, but he actually knew what platform the train was leaving from, and was kind enough to let me know – in a rather friendly tone – that I would have to run to catch it, as it was leaving in less than five minutes.

I did not need to be told twice. I took my ticket and my luggage, which was getting heavier by the minute, and ran to the platform. Fortunately, this did not involve hidden doors, long flights of stairs, or any of the other dubious pleasures I had encountered during the last 24 hours.

The train to Barcelona was a sleek commuter model, only a few years old. Upon getting aboard, I was quite happy to see that it was equipped with vending machines for snacks and drinks. My stomach approved grudgingly, as if to say: Am I to understand that there will be no chicken kebap with hot sauce and chips on the side?

At least there was no trouble finding a seat. I stowed my things quickly, and eagerly returned to the vending machines. I selected whatever seemed the most substantial, though I no longer recall what it was.

This is because, whatever it might have been, I didn’t get it. Instead, the vending machine returned my coins, rather stroppily, it seemed to me.

Dejected, I returned to my seat. Evidently, there was to be no snack for me on this train. This news I took with a surprising degree of aplomb. If there’s one thing you learn from Perpignan, it’s resignation.

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Perpignan is for fuckersThinking about it, “fuckedness“ is truly a matter of degree. In the two days between starting my trip from Erlangen to Barcelona and my first full day there, I had ample opportunity to experience various degrees.

I experienced the first degree of fuckedness – where you`re fucked, but don`t realise it, or things can still be fixed fairly easily – at about 9 AM at Gare de Lyon in Paris. After staring at the table with the listing of all of the departing trains and not finding mine for about 20 minutes, I went to the information desk, where I discovered that the train had been cancelled, and I would have to wait for another one at 10:20 AM. This did not seem so bad. I could relax a bit, check my e-mail, and experience the joys of sitting still for a bit. I didn`t have to be in Perpignan, by the border with Spain, until around 5 PM. This cancellation was a blessing in disguise!

Unfortunately, however, I ended up having to run after all, because my train to Montpellier was leaving from a track that was rather far away from the rest of the tracks, almost hidden, and it took about ten minutes to find it. Even so, I found my reserved first-class seat, which had a point for my computer, and a window clean enough to take pictures through. The trip was comfortable and blissfully uneventful.

The second degree announced itself in Montpellier. There was one train leaving for Perpignan, the French town on the border with Spain from which I intended to take a train to Barcelona, but it was one of France`s high-speed TGV trains, and required reservations. The queue at the ticket counter was at least a hundred people long, and my only way to get to Perpignan in time was leaving in ten minutes. Despite there being six windows open, the queue didn`t seem to be moving at all. I looked at the people in front of me, and briefly, but seriously, considered knocking them out of the way one by one. Of course, they had no way of knowing that they were standing between me and my last hope of getting to Perpignan today, but fuck ’em. I did, wisely, reject this option upon realising that several of them could easily kick the shit out of me, and that an arrest would likely further delay my progress towards Perpignan, and ultimately Barcelona. (more…)

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There are about 500 pictures to go through, so for now, just a few of my favourites:

 

The first stop - Köln (Cologne)

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