As you may have gathered, I like travelling by train, especially night trains. The advantage is that it is much more comfortable than plane travel (unless you can afford business or first class). The potential disadvantage — if you're travelling alone as I am this time — is that you spend the evening and night in a compartment with three people you don't know. Who's going to bore the arse off you? Who's going to have stinky feet? Who's going to snore all night?
Well, on last night's train from Paris to Madrid I ended up sharing with three guys from Austria (their two friends were next door). This time, luck was on my side: charming young men all of them! They are on a trip around France, Spain and Italy before going (back) to university in September.
They very kindly offered to share their stash of beer. Then we went to the bar and had a few more and talked about the similarities and differences between our respective countries. Typically, they all spoke English very well, which is fortunate as my German doesn't go much further than Wo ist der Bahnhof, bitte? or Ich habe zu viel Arbeit und kein Geld! They had very few problems with vocabulary, though they did ask me for the word for one of their holiday souvenirs: a plunger! They had bought it to unblock the toilet in their rented apartment in Paris. Apparently it had saved their stay from disaster on more than one occasion so they are carrying it around like a trophy for the rest of their trip. I presume they washed it carefully.
We parted company for dinner; I went alone to the restaurant car, while the guys stayed for another beer. I had a chicken salad followed by a tuna steak, accompanied by a glass of cava and a half-bottle of Rioja. I finished the meal off with a glass of brandy and hit the sack shortly after midnight.
This morning we travelled together from Chamartín station to the centre of Madrid and said our good-byes near Puerta del Sol.
I thank them for their company and wish them well for the future.