Monday, March 15, 2010

Fes at my fingertips

Ok, it's time to move on. Next stop - my favourite city Fes.

I’ve taken the Marrakech-Fes train 4 times already, it’s always been consistantly late. The official travel time is 7 hours, but in reality it’s more like 8-9, depending on your luck. I usually buy the ticket to the 1st class compartment, with 7-9 hour train ride you learn to appreciate the lack of excessive foot traffic. 1st class compartments are for 6 people, the ticket is around 270DH, if i’m not mistaken. If you want to sit next to the window, specify when buying a ticket, seats are numbered. There are trains to Fes in every few hours. Most comfortable is to choose of course an evening train, you can sleep the bigger part of the trip. On the other hand, a day train allows you to enjoy the sometimes-boring-sometimes-interesting views of passing landscape:

This time i shared a compartment with a French family. They were lugging around some serious gear. By the time i got to the compartment, they had hawked all the overhead luggage compartments with their bulky 8 suitcases, leaving me no choice but to put my backpack on the floor by my feet. They then spent the majority of the trip whining to each other how my bag doesn’t let them stretch their legs. Luckily they got off in Rabat.

The 1st class compartment has 6 seats, 3 on each side. So when you’re alone in the compartment, you can easily sleep almost at full length. The trouble is, that when a blonde girl is alone in the compartment, it attracts all kinds of unwanted helpers and companions. Every once in a while a guy would come in and sit, usually trying to make casual chit-chat. Sometimes there was a real language barrier but usually a pretend one - me talking back in Estonian: „Vabandage, aga ma ei oska inglise, prantsuse ega ka araabia keelt“. If there’s a choice between talking to the 40+ men or trying to catch some sleep, the decision isn’t hard. In any case, all those sudden visits always end the same way – the conductor comes in, checks the guy’s ticket, tells him that this is not his compartment and kicks him out. Muahaha!

In 2008 when Ylle and me made this trip, we took an evening train. And since the compartment was empty, we went to sleep, each on either side. At some point enters a guy. We don’t know if he has a ticket or not, so Ylle zips up her legs so he could sit. The gentleman kindly offers Ylle that he can hold Ylle’s legs on his lap :). Right, of course. Soon enough, the conductor made his rounds again and threw him out of the compartment, but the similar scheme repeated few times more later. The compartments don’t have curtains, that would take care of the unwanted attention problem.

A fair warning about AC: train compartments are also heavily air conditioned. Sometimes you can choose the AC speed yourself, older trains don’t have that option. All in all, it can be very cold in the compartment and i remember very well when me and Ylle were huddling under our towels, because we didn’t have anything substantially warmer with us. 8 hours of huddling can get you pretty sick by the end of your trip, so be prepared.

Train station in Fes is a shed, the new one is being built. It’s going to be one unearthly beautiful building once it’s completed, i’ll tell you that. When you arrive in the train station, taking a taxi is pretty much your only option. Fes has metered taxis and they are cheap, so go forth and have no fear, my fellow travelers.


Elderly local couple from one of my eralier train ride
He liked very much Karl Fazer's chocolate that we were passing around in the compartment. He also got rather excited about one of Estonian's little delicacy's we had with us: cranberries in powdered sugar. He couldn't figure out what was the berry inside.

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