At 5 am, my train pulled into the station in Munich. With my boarding pass in my pocket, I found my seat and stopped fighting off sleep. We started moving around 6 o’clock, and by 10 we’d stopped in the city of Strasburg in Alsace-Lorraine, just over the French border.
A few days earlier when I arrived in Munich, I’d learned that no train would take me to Cannes overnight as I’d planned, hence finding myself in Strasburg on the morning of December 7th. Still I intended to get to Cannes that afternoon, stay the night, and leave for Barcelona in the morning. However, in the Strasburg station I learned that I could take an overnight straight to Barcelona, so I decided that, in order to make the most of my adventure, I would leave Cannes unchecked on my list and instead allow myself more time in Barça. And the bonus to my compromise: I’d get to explore the river city of Strasburg.
Unfortnuately, I was tired and suffering a debilitating sinus headache, so I slumped uncomfortably in a plastic chair, drew my hat over my eyes, and rested up for a few hours, blowing my nose intermittently.
Finally, to my readers’ relief, I woke up around 1 o’clock and decided a walk was the best thing for me. Strasburg was a pretty town. If someone had asked me to describe a small city in the Northeast of France, I would have described Strasburg without ever having seen it: brick sidewalks, three- and four-story stone buildings of varied earth tones, churches, streetlamps, some grass, ample trees, and partly sunny skies.
I walked around the streets and squares, no destination in mind, vaguely keeping track of my way back to the train station. I had all afternoon and early evening to spend. I stopped for several minutes when I reached a bridge, and I leaned over the fence into the wind. The freshest air in the city seemed to come from the river. I let it clear my head. I was hundreds of miles from anyone who knew my name and happy to be there.
I continued my pleasantly uneventful walk beneath stone buildings and across a few plazas.
Three hours must have gone by before I consulted my map on the whereabouts of the train station. I still had plenty of time when I got there, so I asked a young woman for directions to the nearest internet café. I don’t remember her face, only that her directions were quite vague, but I had little trouble finding the café. There was almost no one else there as I passed an hour or so with French coffee and a sandwich. I then turned back to catch my train, which left around 9 pm.
It was a restful night, despite having to transfer in Avignon and again in Montpelier. I boarded my last train during what the Spanish call las tantas – the small hours of the night – eager to see the magnificent Barcelona, to return to Spain for the last stop on my Eurotrip. I put my sweatshirt between my head and the window and slept through the last couple hours of darkness, reflecting on where I’d been and anticipating things yet to come.