I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Supersize Mike

I hate alarms. No way was I going to set one, even though it was less than 4 hours from lights out til departure. Sure enough I was up and about before 6am, just before we pulled through the airport station before Stockholm Central.

We had 2 hours here. No tourism, but a lot to do. We had not one but two smörgåstårta to pick up, plus an emergency shipment of beer and squeezy cheese from a contact of yours truly, non-Swedish Paul the fellow AFC Wimbledon fan. Like some vision of pure loveliness, Paul had pitched up on Facebook at the 11th hour to volunteer a delivery. The Swedish beers were welcome - thought, truth told, no-one was particularly excited until much later in the day - but I was especially grateful for the can of Guinness. What a hero. Later I noticed it had a script on the side I didn't recognise. Hebrew, apparently. Why Hebrew on a Swedish Guinness? Anyone?

A few of the group fanned out to source breakfasts, some to McDs, some to coffee shops, etc. The main pay dirt was collected just minutes before we headed to the platform for our Copenhagen-bound train.

Smörgåstårta is the mother of all seafood sandwich cake things. Expensive and extravagant, they feed 12 people, though some would say 24 (and some would say 6). And yeah, we had 2 of them. No-one was amazingly enthusiastic about them, but the first one was dished out nonetheless. I liked mine, despite a fairly brutal exhasution-and-beer hangover. Wrote a blog post, kept track of data, ... this was yet another nondescript Swedish journey, We set off in tipping rain and things barely improved. Scratch that, things got worse - within about 3 stops we'd lost 10 minutes, and within 6 we'd lost enough time that our connection was looking unlikely, It was only meant to be 21 minutes, but we were 35 minutes behind by the time we crossed the border.

So, we missed our first train of the trip. It had to happen, I suppose. But this at least gave us some of the time back in Copenhagen that we'd lost through the Sunday near-miss. Unfortunately we didn't get any proper time back, as we had to spend the whole 90 minutes first attempting - and failing - to get new reservations for the 1544 service, and then planning our strategy for vestibule or bar encampment. Te train was full - our tickets let us on it, but in no way would we be able to get a seat.

Lunch (more McDs for some) and beer had, we piled on. 5 of us packed our bags and selves into the buffet car and the other 7 grabbed individual seats here and there. We bought Weiss beer and it set off.

This train was going on a boat.

Let me say that again. This train got on a boat. We didn't get on a boat. The train did. Then we got off the train. On the boat. And then we were on a boat which had a train on it, crossing be Baltic Sea for 45 minutes - international waters, celebrated and punctuated by a dark haired Norwegian girl; the second, and almost offensively superior, Smörgåstårta; and a trip to the duty free shop to buy 48 tins of dirt cheap lager. All this while on a boat. With a train.

I'm not sure if I'm getting my message across clearly enough, so I'll try once more: this train, the actual physical carriages, got on and off a boat, starting in Denmark and leaving in Germany. It was just awesome.

Mind you, it was lucky we (all) got that far. Soon after departing Copenhagen, the ticket inspector had come through. We're using interrail passes, valid on almost any train in Europe, but one of the conditions of use is that you have to keep a diary of the services you board. Not a sleep-deprived alcohol-fuelled blog of a diary, but a written record of the dates, times, start and end points, on the sheet attached to the pamphlet your ticket is stapled to.

Everyone had said that you only really need to care about that when you reach France. The most minor of run-ins had occurred in Oslo but other than that, it didn't seem that you had to be super-diligent. That all changed on the way to Roedby, This inspector through a wobbly at Mark, our skipper. He hadn't written the train down. Oh no, oh no oh no oh no. Said the conductor: YOU MUST FILL THIS OUT. IT IS A CONDITION OF YOUR TICKET. I WILL CHARGE YOU SIXTY EUROS. I READ IT OUT ONCE. I WILL NOT BE BLAMED IF YOU DID NOT LISTEN TO ME, Then he turned to the barman and had a large rant, obvious from the sound if not the language, about us bloody tourists (Mike actually understood it, and translated when a safe distance was made). The one part I did understand was the loud, exasperated JESUS CHRIST at the end. We actually avoided the fine, but Mark pegged it through the carriages warning the others to fill their forms out. Eesh.

A friendly Dane commuter told us that was this conductor in a good mood. Bloody hell.

We made a dent into our new cheap beer en route to Hamburg. I spotted the business/first class section of the train, which looked astoundingly nice, as good as many airline seats. Made a mental note to try this one day.

Hamburg station had us for an hour. A gorgeous building, it looked spectacular - inside - in the twilight, with the colours from the trains and adverts really making a vivid scene. I took a photo and made it super-extra-vivid with an injudicious application of the DRAMA filter. Go me?

Mike had a McDonald's.

Mike had had a McDonald's earlier.


So let's get this straight,

Mike had McDonald's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 3 meals.

Breakfast in Stockholm. Lunch in Copenhagen. Dinner in Hamburg.

McDonald's in 3 different countries in one day. This is precisely the sort of preposterous behaviour which makes me glad I'm wearing a hat, 'cos it needed doffing,

Hamburg to Berlin in 2 6-person compartments, a short journey. We discussed dark tourism, which led to a somber moment. Hmm. The first moment of non-levity that was conversational rather than situational. Never mind.

We got to our hostel just after midnight. Much higher standard than I expected, we had 3 dorms between the 12 of us. Showers - previous, glorious, life-affirming showers - were had, and then 3 of us went for a night cap with an ex-colleague. Bed at 0230, but a huge lie-in awaited: the next train was at the ridiculous hour of 1246. A full morning without trains, Withdrawal symptoms seemed likely.

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