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02 February 2010

Fernweh Moment / "Marauding & Pillaging Northern Seas by Heated Public Ferry" / Kindertrain / Harwich (not Harwitch!) / Bob's Birthday: 5 February

Click image, which will almost certainly get larger and more detailed and informative.

northWEST corner of France -- the train from NL to Calais. Embarrassed that I got my compass mixed up, it was the middle of the night, and I was ... all doped up on Diazepam.
One train trip south to Calais, somewhere in Belgium a sleeper coach caught fire, and ensued the Mother Of All Chinese Fire Drills, with fire trucks, ambulances, and a ceaseless choir of the comings and goings of those Euro-sirens. On the platform of a station no one has ever purposely stopped at, police and railroad personnel herded us toward (what AMTRAK euphemistically calls) Alternative Ground Transportation (a bus).
On the platform a uniformed conductor was distraught, wandering around in circles, and kept muttering, to no one in particular:
i have been with the railroad for twenty-five years nothing like this has ever happened to me i have been with the railroad for twenty-five years nothing like this has ever happened to me i have been with the railroad for twenty-five years nothing like this has ever happened to me i have been with the
I went up to the poor man and asked: "Was anyone hurt?"
Other than a little smoke inhalation, nobody was hurt in the slightest.
I stared at him very seriously: "Then you did your job perfectly. You are a hero. Thank you very much."
It startled him and seemed to bring him back to the Land Of Consciousness. He quickly became an effective Conductor again, and helped herd the passengers toward their Alternative Ground Transportation awaiting in the parking lot, and I even thought I caught a tiny smile of professional pride on his face.
Please do not tell Europe this, but since I first set foot on it, I regard the continent as my private personal Toy Train and Ferry and Subway system. Buying a train or a ferry ticket in Yerp to get Somewhere Else in Yerp is probably the happiest and most thrilling thing in my whole life. (Sex is okay, but can't measure up to buying a train or ferry ticket in Europe.)
I am being extremely evasive about The Dark Times (CH, as always, chose to just skip them entirely), and the confusion -- that can't possibly be the correct word -- it had infected in my mind before ever I set foot in Europe. To the attention-grabbing percussion of two atomic bombs, The Dark Times ended two years before I was born.
btw wish me a

Happy Birthday
on 5 February,

I am Aquarius -- the restaurant placemat says I am idealistic, Utopian, a dreamer, loveth all humankind, hath big troubles focusing on Just One Human At A Time, impractical, bordering on Useless. This sounds more like a psychiatric diagnosis than a horoscope, but that's what the placemat says about Aquarius.
I recently cranked up a very interesting correspondence with a quite amazing young woman -- I ain't tryin' to pull nothin' nasty here like all other Pig Men, it's just transatlantic chatty -- but it had to do with her very important part, a half-century after all the trouble ended, in The Dark Times.
For starters, she exists and can send e-mails back and forth because one specially-chartered Euro-train took about 200 doomed children from Prague to England weeks or days before The Shit Hit The Fan, and one of those children was, or subsequently became, her father.
The last leg of the Kindertrain was the ferry from Rotterdam to Harwich. I love that ferry, anyone who crosses the Channel / la Manche on an airplane is a Foole. But I'd never wondered about its past, about its history and importance, it seems so out-of-the-way and unimportant a ferry -- and passenger ferries themselves have declined in importance -- which goes back and forth between Rotterdam and Nowhere UK. I certainly never imagined that anything of startling importance had ever occurred at the Harwich ferry terminal.
In one of my e-mails I mentioned Harwitch, and how much I loved the ferry. The other night on TV I was rudely upbraided -- of course it's not witch, it's wich -- Anglo-Saxon for a sea salt industry on the coast. I don't know if they still make sea salt there or not.
Not too long ago the secret part of the Kindertrain -- and almost all of it had remained secret, confined to whispers of family lore -- became public, and Very Big News. For the 50th Anniversary, they re-assembled a train nearly identical to the stock of the Kindertrain, packed it full of survivors and children and grandchildren of survivors, and it pulled out of Prague and crossed Europe for Rotterdam. Then they all transferred to the Harwich ferry.
Here in Smileytown, Indiana, it is very difficult to imagine, to see a mental image of the Slaughter of the Innocents. Do you know The Coventry Carol? It's the oldest Christmas Carol still sung in English. It's not about snowmen or the reindeer.
I have trouble getting a mental image of the Slaughter of Mature Adults or Young Adults, even if the slaughtering is largely consentual. I'm an Army vet from one of those verkakte wars, drafted, I served with The Remington Rangers -- barracks slang for Typists. Often in air-conditioning.
Perhaps CH should consider changing its motto to: "Suppose They Gave A War, And Nobody Came." Nobody's using that in recent years, they could probably buy the copyright cheap. I've seen worse bumper stickers.
I recently read that Finland and Albania hold the unique distinction of being the only willing allies of the Third Reich whose Jewish communities grew, rather than shrank. Neat trick! I've been to Helsinki, sort of by accident, highly recommend it, friendly people, completely incomprehensible language, quite startling architecture (check out The Train Station by Eero Saarinen's dad). Next stop: Tirana!
Anyway this woman grew up to tire of university and fly instead into the skies as the world's most accomplished ultralight / microlight / parasail / etc. yadda pilot. Sometimes she stands around an egg clutch while migrating geese hatch, they imprint on mom, and a month later she takes them for their first practice formation flight, they follow mom's ultralight everywhere, and a backwards-pointing camera films them.
So now I must apologize for butchering the spelling of the magical town of Harwich.
I have a dream that someday I'll have talked and trained and ferried around enough to make good sense and comprehension of The Dark Times.
Nah. Not going to happen. Nobody figures this out, or if someone does, nobody believes him/her. One of the leading and most impressive hers was Hannah Arendt, and I don't think she really thought she had a lock on TDT either. But she had a lot of great gossip and insight.

I am having a bigtime Wanderlust event -- which Wikipedia informs me is better rendered as Fernweh (literally "an ache for the distance"). So I am having a Fernweh Moment. Specifically I dream or lust for a strange voyage -- a Viking Voyage, but with central heating and heavy drinking in the bar -- across the North Atlantic, island-hopping on public ferries from Denmark or Scotland to the east (wrong) coast of Iceland, thence by 9-hours of Alternative Ground Transportation around the Ring Road to Reykjavik.
I want to hit the Orkney Islands, the Faroe Islands, and if such links exist, the Shetlands, the Hebrides. I've wanted this trip for a decade, it kept getting postponed, and in the interim many of the North Atlantic ferries have gone kaput, ca n'existe pas no more.

This is constricting my Fantasy badly, but probably if I get to go at all, One Heavy Drinking Dry Heated Viking Voyage from Cold Wet Rock to Cold Wet Rock closely resembles them all. Even with this constricted voyage, I will get to hear people rapping in Faroese. Faroese are the only people on Earth who can eavesdrop on Icelanders and grok what they're talking about.
There is a way to start with the Rotterdam-Harwich ferry; Schiphol is my fave whomp-ass airport, and if I have to take a nasty terrifying flying cigar tube to get to Yerp, it's always a pleasure to kiss it at Schiphol. From Amsterdam to Rotterdam, to Harwich, fun trains to a dot in Scotland called Thurso, stagger a mile to the ferry port at Scrabster, short ferry to some place in Orkney, whence everything dead-ends and I must retrace lots of steps to keep getting to Iceland.

This should be lots of fun, if I don't drown or plummet off a missing railroad bridge, or careen off the Ring Road in my Alternative Ground Transportation.
Now I have to try to lure some pals out for my Birthday Party, which I shall design as a Loud, Bright, Fattening & Unhealthy Celebration to give the middle finger to Winter.
Bob the Viking

"Marauding & Pillaging Northern Seas by Heated Public Ferry"


patfromch said...

A few years back CH played the Faroer Islands in a World Cup qualifying match which was broadcasted live on TV. We won, of course. The most interesting thing in the following clip is not the game itself, but the stadium and the surroundings.... (at one time in the game we were actually able to see the atlantic ocean and had a laugh, unfortunetly not in this clip)

Good on ya, have a word with Mrs Rumpole and get that trip going. And don't forget to come over to central Europe and say g'day

Vleeptron Dude said...

Wow! Danke! So far that is the nearest to the Faroe Islands I've ever been -- and might even be the first time I even saw video of them.

I complain about winter Cabin Fever -- imagine Winter Cabin Fever on the Faroe Islands!

patfromch said...

I was also sick and tired of rain, darkness, snow and subzero temperatures. So I went to Oz where it was 40+ C, had a beer and jumped into the pool.

As for the weather in Torshavn, check this

and a webcam from german television station ZDF

I just remembered that one of me mates has family up there, maybe I'll ask him about weather conditions and such

Vleeptron Dude said...

What SEEMS to have happened to the North Atlantic island-to-island public ferries -- ten years ago there were lots of them going everywhere -- is that they weren't making money, so the routes closed down. Now only Denmark thinks it's important to schlep people and goods from Denmark to the Faroe Islands and thence to the former colony of Iceland/Island.

Good (and very pretty) movie with a background of Denmark, its welfare state, and its colony in Greenland: "Smilla's Sense of Snow" -- a very unusual murder mystery, the book got lots of attention and praise.

Well anyway if this trip happens, it looks as if it has to start on the west coast of Denmark if I want to get to the Faroe Islands. But I REALLY want to see the Ring of Brodgar in the Orkney Islands too!

Don't worry, I'll get to CH too, I got to see the Klee Zentrum. Excelsior!

ferries said...

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