Prayer, not announcements, moved the service from one section to the next. So, after singing some praise choruses (in Polish), people stood to pray one after the other. Then they sang hymns, after which Gene preached. The pastor recapped Gene’s message, and then someone prayed again. I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said, but I could hear the passion in people’s voices. And I thought about what heaven will be like – people of every race and nation praising God together around His throne. What a thrill that will be someday!
After church we caught a train headed to Slovakia. We shared a six-seater berth with a couple from Poland who chatted between themselves for the entire six-hour trip to Krakow. The train rolled mostly through farmlands. One thing that captured my attention was the brick or concrete apartments standing less than 20 feet from the tracks. How would you like to live beside tracks that carry trains to and fro all day and night? I just can’t imagine it being a quiet place, but I guess the residents get used to it. If they can’t afford their own land or residential house, they might have no other choice. I also saw many abandoned concrete buildings with windows broken or roofs destroyed. Again, I wondered what stories they could tell if they could talk.
When we arrived in Krakow, we got off the train for a two-hour layover. Thankfully an IM missionary met us there and helped us navigate that experience. She took us to a nearby mall where we could eat supper as there was no restaurant car on the train.
My oh my, this was no ordinary mall. If Carol hadn’t met us, we would have stayed in the underground train station without knowing that above us lay a fancy three-storey shopping bonanza that stretched in every direction with no end. On the third floor we found a food court with everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken to Subway to middle eastern cuisine and Polish menus. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” I figure. So I enjoyed a meal of boiled potatoes and pork with a hefty side of sauerkraut. Mmmmm, good.
At 10:30 we boarded another train and set out on our overnight ride to Kosice. We’d reserved our tickets too late to get a sleeper car, so we had a six-seater berth again. Thankfully we had the berth to ourselves. In fact, we had the entire car to ourselves. Sleep was nearly impossible, though. I think we made 16 stops along the way, and several times the conductors rapped on our window and asked to see our tickets. When we crossed into Slovakia, the train stopped for about 35 minutes to allow the border guards to check for passports. “Canadian,” one commented with interest in his voice as he showed our passports to two other guards. Then he hustled off to other duties, leaving his cohorts to deal with us. Another guard marched through each car with a German Shepherd dog – sniffing for drugs, possibly. No one spoke English, and we spoke not a word of Slovakian, so we can only guess re: what was going on.
The night was a long one – especially because it was very cold in the berth. Apparently the heat is turned on from a main source only when the train authorities think it’s cold enough to warrant it. And this wasn’t a night that warranted it, in their opinion. Brrrr. I obviously didn’t bring warm enough clothes with me for this trip. If we ever have to travel this way again, I’ll pack lightweight blankets and inflatable travel pillows. Live and learn.