This is where the magic happens, here at the Grand Union hotel in Ljubljana.
Every year, virtually all train operators (RU) and infrastructure managers (IM) meet twice a year at the FTE (Forum Train Europe) to negotate the paths between two or more nations.
With the help of the harmonisation system PCS, all involved parties meet in a marathon of meetings to hammer out the fine details about times, stations, allocation of capacity and just about every other issue you could imagine when it comes to fitting long-distance services into these often busy networks.
Of course this could all be done bilaterally or with the help of Skype, but what you quickly begin to realise is that the FTE is really about this large family of professionals connecting Europe by train.
Most of the professionals who come to the FTE have been coming for years. Despite the nitty gritty of path requests and making sure all the times are correct, really the FTE is about maintaining the relationships between all the various parties. With a caucauphany of languages and the broadest spectrum of cultures (From Denmark in the north to Serbia in the east and Spain in the south), you see that despite the differences we may have as RU's, we're still connected by the trains crossing the borders.
The bond between the Dutch and Belgian railways and Thalys is especially strong. The dinners and stories about train journeys decades ago are still the stuff of legend. There's a lot of laughter and a lot of catching up and when a colleague leaves, the speeches are heartfelt.
As the week winds down, I've seen firsthand the dedication of these hundred professionals, working to "keep connecting Europe by train", as the retiring man who built the Thalys timetable in 1994 so eloquently put. Despite it all the differences on each side of the border, the railways still connect us all; it's just on us to make sure that it stays that way - and continues to get better.