By Arachne

One million metres

A few more stations today: Brussels to Frankfurt to Nürnberg to Cheb to Prague, not counting the very many where I didn't get out. That thousand odd kilometers cost me 553 Czech koruna (€21). And my senior railcard isn't even valid here.

I spent most of the day, with my camera twitching at my feet, in a comfortable seat by a picture window, gazing covetously at bold shapes in green and earth with parallel line after parallel tractor line etched into them, all neatly outlined by pale grey tracks. Or at reflections of spindly trees in irrigation ponds; or the elegant curve of beige reeds marking a stream; a forest of poles waiting for the summer netting; the aluminium domes of some agribusiness; a vast field of wind turbines; the Rhine, the Main and then, between wooded hills, up the Pegnitz until it turned into a stream; tiled steeples; half-timbered cottages; clumps of mistletoe in the spring-green trees on the bank above me; enormous woodpiles; heaps of pallets; stacks of beer-crates…

I crossed two national borders, marked by nothing but invisible cooperation, and I lamented ‘belonging' to a place where the mentality is shaped by a salt-water moat and a deluded sense of history.

And now that it is dark, I have been out walking in Prague, fairytale pretty and unrecognisable (unsurprisingly) from my last trip 25 years ago when dilapidated buildings were being done up on a large scale. Now they are full of shops selling chocolate and crystal. Homelessness is here too; I have never before seen people begging as if praying – kneeling, head on the pavement, hands outstretched holding a cap or paper cup. Until the police move them on, that is (extra).

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