Diary of an Expat, Part 48
Train travel, Eurofurence
So I wasn't in Berlin today. Instead, I went down to Magdeburg, which is in the next state over, because there was a furry convention there (oh, for those of you who didn't know, I spend a fair amount of my free time kicking around furry fandom).

Long-distance rail travel is one of the best things in the world. A €40 ticket is good for you and up to five other people, and you can take it as far as you can in a day, and then all the way back. This is pretty dope.

Trains operated through Deutsche Bahn, at least, are fast, clean, and on-time. I am writing this on my way back from Magdeburg, and I have not actually had my ticket checked, but this process if it occurs will involve a conductor checking to make sure you have valid fare — in the same fashion as any other train, except over longer distances.

When you do this, you also get to experience the lovely German countryside, in particular those places which seem to have been created as photo opportunities for renewable energy. Last time I left Berlin, it involved rolling past a sea of sunflowers, whilst in the background a series of wind turbines spun lazily. This time, instead of sunflowers it was photovoltaics, which I guess is pretty much just an evolution on the concept.

THe German countryside is really, really lovely. In late August / early September, it's lush and green, and the greenery reaches up to entomb the old wooden buildings and farmhouses that Germany's travails have left behind. It's picturesque, in a way; really, it reminds me of growing up in rural Oregon, which has a similar "the achievements of man, going back to nature" vibe to it.

There are direct trains between Berlin and Magdeburg, which run fairly regularly, and then some indirect trains that run all through the night. So to clarify, it is entirely possible for you to decide that you want to go to a town fifty miles away at two in the morning, and Deutsche Bahn will grin and cheerily tell you where to get on.

Fun fact: One of the transfers I am taking involves a train whose destination is listed as being "to Schiphol," the Amsterdam airport.

So that's cool. The convention was pretty cool too — I only stayed for a day, which is in any case enough time to relate a few major differences between Eurofurence and American furry conventions, which are generally my stomping grounds. Such as:

  • American conventions start on Friday, occasionally Thursday, and run through Sunday. Eurofurence starts on Wednesday, and ends Sunday, with people getting in Tuesday some of them and leaving Monday. This is what happens when you actually get vacation.

  • Things are a lot more laissez-faire, though. I was trying to register, and me and my friend were told that the registration attendants would show up "when they feel like it," which is a far cry from the choreographed, disciplined staff at American conventions, who communicate by walkie-talkie and look like police agents.

  • Panels run longer, and the audience seems either older, or better-read, or both. Both of the writing panels I went to today, by different people, placed a strong emphasis on participation and feedback from the audience that is a hit or miss thing in the States (I personally do not really believe in it, so I could be biased)

  • The parties are omnipresent and apparently run into "the wee hours of the morning," where "wee" is "6 or 7," which for five nights in a row is pretty crazy, but then

  • It's totally kosher to bring a glass of beer or wine to a panel and kick back with it whilst listening to the panelist, which is something that American conventions need to get on accepting right the hell now

Other than that, it's more of the same, which probably means that people are more or less the same everywhere. Quelle surprise.

Either way I'm insanely tired, so I'm going to catch some sleep on the train. Get back at y'all next week.
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