I love trains. Not in a trainspotter kind of way. I just love a train trip to reset my mind between destinations. I love listening to music, watching the people get off and on, and having a little snack. When I’m in the Netherlands, I love getting a little vending-machine liege waffle before I board.
All of that excitement happens for me regardless of if I’m in a historic station or a mid-70s monstrosity.
But OMG–speaking of liege-ness–how much do I love this place?
This photo is part of Travel + Leisure’s 2010 Design Awards–you can see a full writeup of the Liege-Guillemins High-Speed Railway Station here. Personally, what I like best about it is how skeletal it is. (This station would go well with Alexander McQ’s skeleton luggage I still covet.)
While we’re on the topic of trains, let’s talk about Google Map’s new Moscow-Vladivostok virtual train journey.
I’ll wait. I highly recommend setting the background to the reading shown below.
So, three things I like about this.
First, I like that for all the promo-copy about the beautiful rivers and natural features, the video has loads of times showing what’s often the reality for train trips: halfhearted graffiti, apartment skyscrapers, dreary parking lots. These are beautiful too, because they are authentic, and because they aren’t what you see at home. Even if they’re ugly, they’re a sign of newelty. (Of course, I have a skewed view of beauty, as shown by this previous post, “The World Is a Beautiful Place.“)
Second, I like previewing the trip. I use Google Street View this way sometimes. For a trip to Chicago, I looked at the L station and visually scooted from my arrival to my destination. I had never been there before, but when I walked this same trip–bags in tow– in real life, I experienced a sort of comforting deja vu: Oh, there’s the drugstore. Turn left here.
Third, I love that they include a Russian reader in the sound options. It reminds me of my friend Miriam, who is Russian. Everyone loves to hear her speak in that language, boyfriends especially. They wanted her to whisper sweet nothings in Russian and eventually, she just ran out. She started describing what she had for lunch, what she wanted to wear the next day, and plots of movies she had seen. I’m thinking the Google designers might have felt the same way about the mother tongue.
So hooray for spectacular experiments, taking risks, and trying out new things, both in the physical and digital world. Especially when trains are involved.