Have you ever explored Europe by train?
Trains are a fascinating and relaxing form of transportation. Exotic accents tease your brain with possibilities. Any one of the passengers could be a protagonist steeping in a mysterious plot.
The train stops to pick up new passengers who walk the aisles of the train, eyes assessing empty seats and the strangers seated next to them. One man stands out; he’s disheveled with a scruffy beard, smelling like he hasn’t seen a shower in a week. You keep an eye on him, hoping he doesn’t slip into the seat next to you. Instead, he takes an aisle seat beside a man wearing a suit and polished shoes, reading a newspaper.
Wait! Did Scruffy just pass a note to The Suit? Your heart skips a beat. You whip out a pencil and notebook, scribbling furiously before the thoughts pass with the changing scenery.
Exotic scenery. Revealing awe-inspiring architecture, dark alleys and beautiful rolling countryside.
Dark, grey clouds grow overhead, finally bursting, and the rain pelts down on the train while you gaze out at the bridge connecting Buda and Pest, sitting on opposite sides of the Danube.
Possibilities brew in your head. Residents peddling handmade tapestries cover up with plastic garbage bags taped together. Tourists run for cover and you follow one as long as the train allows, craning your neck to see him dart into an enormous dark church.
The story brews, grows, and the sun finally breaks through the clouds, freeing a bit of optimism for the protagonist, who gradually comes into focus.
I’ve ridden that train–perhaps sitting beside you. We’ve traversed western Europe and criss-crossed the U.S.A. many times over, meeting interesting people, marveling at what man can create, shaking our heads at the motives that ultimately bring them down.