Tea on the Train

Traveling by train has been a symbol of adventure and, in some cases, elegance, especially when taking tea during your trip. While train travel in the U.S. has declined, it is still strong in Europe. The Orient Express, for example, was started in 1883 and still runs, serving tea to its passengers.

My European train adventure wasn’t the Orient Express, as much as I would have loved to have traveled where Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, solved the stabbing of a fellow passenger while the train was snowbound on the tracks. Instead, it was the result of being in one place when I needed to be in another. I was with a group visiting Prague, Czechoslovakia, a year or so after it broke free from the USSR. I got called back to Frankfurt to attend to an urgent personal matter and, since I couldn’t take the group’s bus back there without stranding the group members (obviously!), I hopped on a train. It was an experience to last a lifetime.

There are definitely times in life when the process is as important and often as enjoyable as the end result. For example, the first Thanksgiving dinner hubby and I prepared for family members was almost more enjoyable than the meal — and, no, not because the food tasted bad (it actually was very good, if I do say so myself), but because the experience was so enjoyable. We explored the process of prepping and roasting a turkey, peeling and then boiling and mashing the Yukon Gold potatoes, putting together that standard green bean casserole, and so on. Who did what was determined sort of ad hoc and worked out smoothly.

So, how does this relate to train travel? Well, there’s travel where you get from Point A to Point B and the most exciting aspect is succeeding in getting the head of the person next to you moved over to the shoulder of the person on his other side without waking him. There’s the kind of travel where you watch out for other cars while checking your speedometer to make sure you aren’t exceeding the speed limit too much and trying to take a sip from your travel mug that you’re not sure you tightened the lid on when your cell phone rings. Then, there’s train travel, European style.

From the moment I boarded the train in Prague to the moment it stopped in the Frankfurt station, I felt cradled in an atmosphere where even the simplest comforts took on new meaning and seemed even more comfortable when attended to by a dedicated staff. The cushy seats, the view of the landscape gliding by, the rhythmic sound of the wheels on the tracks, the murmur of the conversations of the other passengers, and the experience of taking tea in the dining car — all combined to make me wish the trip would never end.

In the dining car, I shared a table with an older woman who was traveling to see a newborn grandson. We chatted across a table outfitted with a clean white tablecloth and sipped from porcelain cups a tea that was steeped in shiny teapots. They had offered two different teas. I had chosen the Earl Grey, which was my favorite at the time, and my teatime companion was having the Ceylon. I had ordered cheesecake, decadent but worth every calorie-laden mouthful. We spoke in English only, my German not being as polished as I would have liked and her English being fairly fluent. Before we knew it, the tea was gone (I had had three pots full) and we were hearing the call that Frankfurt was about 10 minutes away.

Time flies with smooth, speedy trains, good conversation, and lots of tasty tea.

Want your own train adventure? Check the Rail Europe Website for how to get tickets (they recommend you buy them before you get to Europe). Then, get ready to “ride the rails” European style and take tea with a stranger who could be a grandmother, a journalist writing a story, or a businessman going to visit a manufacturing site his company is wanting to buy. The conversation and the tea are both sure to please. Enjoy!

Don’t miss A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

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