Sunday 13 September 2015

Trains of thought

I like trains. Not in a trainspotter type way. Just like travelling on them, like the views they give and that you can get up and walk about if you need to.

Trains were the main way in which we travelled from Budapest, Belgrade, back to Budapest, then on to Prague and Dresden this summer.

I've been thinking a lot about trains since then. The thoughts are not ordered like carriages, but scattered like the clouds that skittered across the hot blue. But I had to start, had to plant the thoughts to see if they'll grow.

Just a few weeks ago we were boarding and alighting trains in Keleti station in Budapest. We were crossing the Hungarian-Serbian border with nothing more than a couple of brief looks at our passports. At all the other borders no one even asked. The small red book I carry just because I happened to be born on a privileged island speaks louder than my character, my education, my wealth. We paid just 15 euros to travel more than 8 hours in a spacious seat from Budapest to Belgrade. All we suffered were hour or two delays, an occasional blocked toilet and the air conditioning not working.

Just a couple of weeks later and Keleti was full of people travelling not for fun but for survival. A couple of weeks later and borders are being blocked, tickets rejected, and ever-growing crowds hunger for shade, shelter and safe passage. We're all wary of thieves, but, I clutched my lightly-packed new rucksack while you clutched your future.

In the Holocaust museum in Berlin we read of the thousands of trains that transported people across Europe against their will and often to their deaths. We asked ourselves how could the world have stood by and let this happen.

There's blood on these tracks for sure. There's blood on hands - but everyone's fighting over Pilate's sink to wash them in - to wash them and walk away.

The trains carry death, carry life and carry 'just because we can'. What sights have the sunflowers seen? What secrets have the wheatfields whispered?

Sunflowers salute their god
Where is yours now?
Scatter the air with gold
Where is yours now?
Stand surrounded by their families
Where is yours now?
In the summer breeze they dance
Where is yours now?

And dream of the future.

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