The weather becomes grey as the train speeds through France. The frost-tinged gold of the English fields has given way to deeper browns and greens, and dark clouds hang ominously in the sky. A little further on and the hum of the train's motors and whistling of the air around it is joined by the soft patter of rain as droplets are streaked across the windows. The further the train gets, the wetter the landscape seems to become. By the time we reach Belgium, the sky looks positively evil.
The train approaches Bruxelles Midi/Brussel Suid now and the sky is beginning to clear at least slightly. Brussels is of course known as the heart of the EU, as well as for having a statue of a boy urinating (the Manneken Pis). The EU side of things is probably of more relevance to this site - since 1989, the formerly divided Europe has become increasingly united, something which Germany has been keen to drive forward.
The Eurostar arrives at just before 11:00 Belgian time. With plenty of time to spare before the connecting train leaves, there's a chance to wander round the station a bit. Top on my list of priorities is finding somewhere to recharge the laptop, as the last few hours of activity have really eaten into the battery life. Unfortunately the data connection has been non existent between the time I entered Belgium and now (I'm actually posting this from just east of Liege). The only other option for internet access in the station seemed to be a fairly pricey wifi hotspot with a minimum period of 24 hours. Though I've often thought I should spend more time in Brussels, I don't fancy spending a day sat in the station with my laptop cheekily plugged into a power socket which seems to have been left free by the removal of a vending machine. So, sorry to anyone who's been sat there on tenterhooks waiting for updates, I did my best!
Now, despite still being in Belgium, I'm already on German soil...or German carpets at least. That is, on one of Deutsche Bahn's ICE (InterCity Express) International services:
At the moment this one just runs between Frankfurt am Main and Brussels and Belgium (they also have ICE trains running to stations in France, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark), but Deutsche Bahn seem keen to take advantage of new EU legislation next year, which will allow them to run services to London St Pancras.
Next stop, Cologne!