Friday, 23 June 2006

Waking up in a new country

Waking up in a new country can be interesting.

Not always. Waking up in a Holiday Inn anywhere is pretty much the same. Breakfast is the same, CNN is the same, even the furniture is the same.

But sometimes waking up is different. I remember the first time I stayed in Oman, and the muezzin woke me just before dawn. The day is still - the sun is not up, nothing is moving - and into this stillness breaks the call to prayer. The day doesn't start the same way there that it does here. It starts with a mindfulness and attention that we might well emulate, Muslim or not.

That's a deep difference. There are smaller differences too. In Austria and Slovenia I remember the coffee - thick with robusta beans, more bitter and electric than the more usual arabica. And sometimes with evaporated milk, sugary and thick. Not the sophisticated cafe au lait I'm used to.

Or in France, drinking my coffee out of a bowl, not a cup. It's amazing how different that seems to make breakfast even if the bread and jam is the same I'd have in England. Though I do notice France is less dominated by strawberry jam. And of course marmalade is unknown here.

But I suppose my favourite way of waking up in a new country is the sleeper train. I used to take the late train from Gare de l'Est to Munich, sleeping my way through Eastern France and southern Germany, and up in time for a fresh roll with honey, and a big mug of coffee, before arriving at Munich about nine o'clock in the morning. That's a civilised way to travel. And through the night, rocked by the motion of the train, dimly aware of the rural stations we're rolling past...

Waking up in a new country is always good.

1 comment:

  1. Very amazing site! I wish I could do something as nice as you did...mary