The injured and the fear of flying

Mathias is 54 years old and has never been on an airplane. He feels ill as soon as he gets close to the gate in the airport. – Maybe one day some sort of medicine can cure that anxiety but for now …, Mathias told me in German, while lightly squeezing his throat with his left hand. And then he broke into a laughter suggesting several years of smoking.

So he takes the train from Berlin every time he goes to see his girlfriend in the Swedish town Gothenburg. They visit each other every sixth week, and while she’s on an airplane for fifty minutes, he spends a whole day both going there and coming back. Usually it’s a little less, because he takes the direct route, which includes the ferry (“I like the ferry because I can smoke whenever I want.”) but this time there were several hundred euros to be saved if he went via Hamburg and up through the Danish mainland. I suggested that 13 hours on a train sounded like the perfect cure, but he just shook his head.

I was on the train because of my weak, s***** leg and so we met. On the line going north from Flensburg to Denmark. Mathias had a backpack full of beers and a head full of ‘that reminds me of’ stories. I was never offered any of the former but got plenty of the latter, and this meeting of two lone travelers, seemed like the perfect alternative to being on my bicycle when crossing the border back into Denmark.

Mathias warned me about taking the train from the Spanish-French border to Lisbon because it’s full of party kids; he only uses cash because he doesn’t want the government or banks to know, whenever he buys beers, liquor or whatever else; and in the 1990′s he was fined the equivalent of 900 euros for driving drunk on his bicycle in Berlin.

Licorice is not “my world”, he replied when I offered him the classic Danish Ga-Jol. But I kept on offering him this salty little licorice, and eventually he gave in. He liked it so much, I gave him a whole package. And he was reminded of yet another story.

- In Berlin, when we experience a little moment of something nice or pleasant, we say it’s ‘gajol’.

Nice one.