train trip

K. had to give a talk in Frankfurt so we went along for the train ride. Malli’s enthusiasm for trains cannot be over-stated. He knows all the train varieties by sight: trams, u-bahns, s-bahns, “double-decker trains” (Deutsche Bahn regional trains) and “airplane-trains” (Deutsche Bahn Intercity-Express trains). We rode an airplane-train to Frankfurt.


I had some flashbacks to 1993 when my sister and I backpacked by train around Europe. We used to plan our routes to take advantage of overnight trains so we could save the cost of a night’s hostel bed. We also used to fill in our Eurail passes with erasable ink to extend the life of a 10-ride ticket. This trip wasn’t quite like that. We bought our tickets and paid a bit extra to reserve seats and we rolled our suitcase on board instead of lugging a sweaty backpack. But some things were similar. I remembered to stuff a few plastic spoons into our bag for yogurt-eating on the go. I brought a jack-knife. In 1993 I was a picky eater and scoured Europe for rare jars of peanut butter which I carried with me and spread on baguettes with my jack-knife because I didn’t yet like cheese. In 2009 I’m traveling with two less picky eaters who are happy to eat cheese with their brötchen but who do require that their apples be both sliced and “naked” (ie: sans peel). Jack-knife again.

In 1993 I didn’t travel with a sally-rag because they hadn’t been invented yet. They were invented in 1997 by my mother, after whom they are named. A sally-rag is a small piece of cloth. A handkerchief, perhaps, or a swatch of fabric from, say, an old sarong. Visiting me in Malawi in 1997, my mother always had one. When we traveled around the country, the uses for the sally-rag multiplied. Wipe off a dirty bus seat. Wipe off the top of a pop bottle you’ve just purchased through the open bus window. Collect eggshells from hard-boiled eggs procured by the same fashion and later shake those eggshells out the window too. Thin, small, versatile and quick-drying, the sally-rag does it all! By the end of the first leg of our Malawian journey, my friends and I were all carrying one. On the Frankfurt journey, my sally-rag held apple peels, provided a clean(ish) surface for picnic lunches, and, when wet with a few drops from the water bottle, wiped an astonishing amount of chocolate ice cream off of Malli’s face, hands, neck, collar, shirt and pants.

Malli enjoying the view:


Frankfurt Römer (city hall):


There was a band playing in the square. So we listened to oom-pah-pahs and ate giant soft pretzels with the beer-drinking crowd. How German is that?


Cool u-bahn entrance. Akka was concerned about the people in the sinking building until we showed her it was a staircase:


Turning the hotel luggage rack into a bunk bed (no, we didn’t make them sleep there):


Back to the train station to catch the airplane-train home to Berlin:



5 responses to “train trip

  1. Wow, the memories! I just packed a bandana for my Okanagan trip – forgot we’d called them ‘that’!

  2. Alice Birnbaum

    OMG, I can’t believe you outed us on the erasable ink! Damn you’re good on the memories. I still carry a sally-rag on every outing.

  3. Alice Birnbaum

    Great photos. I LOVE the one of Malli (and K. – come one, he was just as engrossed) watching the world go by.

  4. Great photos. Milo loves trains too and we are novice trainspotters at our local station. Milo can tell you which trains are going to London and which ones are going to Banbury.

  5. Hey, I was backpacking in Europe in 1993 too! We should compare trips over drinks when you get back.

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