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Day 3b: Copenhagen to Stockholm

October 25, 2014 Leave a comment

I bid goodbye to compartment-mates at the Copenhagen Central Station and they wish me the best for my long journey.

There is a lift down to the Left Luggage facility at the Meatpacking District end of train station. Payment by coins and you get a large plastic token in return.

The City Night Line was delayed by an hour so i have only a little time to spare before the train to Stockholm at 1629h. Just time enough to revisit old haunts:

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Paté Paté in Kødbyen. Delicious food for a stomach that hasn’t had a proper warm sit-down meal in more than a week. Free wifi. Cheerful obliging waitstaff. Plugs in walls. Clean toilets.

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Democratic Coffee in Københavns Hovedbibliotek. Drop Coffee. La Marzocco.

UntitledPaludan Bog & Cafe. No, not that bog. A visually lovely book and coffee/tea/repast pairing.

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bicycles! bicycles! bicycles! bicycles hanging by walls, bicycles posing in front of shops, bicycles casually leaning.

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The Danes love their hot dogs and apparently voted DØP the organic hot dog vendor at the foot of the Round Tower as the best in the business.

UntitledTo save time, I get a picnic for the train from Andersen Bakery opposite København H instead, and a large bottle of Cocio chocolate milk to go along. “Best hot dog in Copenhagen!” says the man beside me approvingly.

Day 2b – 3a: Amsterdam to Copenhagen

October 25, 2014 Leave a comment

UntitledAmsterdam Centraal Station. The relevant board says the 1901 City Night Line sleeper CNL40457 leaves from this platform, but appears to be going only to Prahn. These two Germans explain that sometime during the night, the train will divide – one part to Prahn, one to Berlin, and one to Copenhagen. One of them is a deadringer for the Girl-With-A-Dragon-Tattoo. They offer me a “goouummy”.

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The train attendant explains that although there are six-beds in my compartment, a maximum of 4 will be used at a time. My bed is on the top and must be accessed using the ladder from under one of the bottom bunks. i make my bed with the bedsheet provided, and toss on the pillow and blanket. There is ventilation, temperature control, the option of florescent or dimmed lighting, curtains, and a lock for the door. There is a also friendly atmosphere and time is easily spent bantering with the two English boys in the next compartment. The train attendant offers to get my mobile charged in one of the washrooms and locks it in for safety.

UntitledAt Emmerich, just on the German side of the Netherlands-German border, serious German policemen board the train. They open every loo door and finding one of the washrooms locked, unlock it with their keys. I hurry down the corridor, only to have a torch shone in my face:
“Is this your phone?”
“Why have you locked it in the washroom?”
Two compartments down from me, i hear them ask someone for his passport. He and his baggage are taken off the train. The English boys stand on the platform watching and banter about the reasons for this.

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Two guys join me in the compartment in Germany. One is Danish but lives in the United States. The other is a German who works in Copenhagen.
“Why do you have an American accent?” I ask the first.
“Why do you have an English accent?” he counters.
The German speaks of Danish politics and how he dislikes a politician who is trying to keep “foreigners” out.

Along the corridor, we hear rumours that this is the last CityNightLine sleeper from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. All around Europe, the tracks are falling silent at night.

UntitledFrom the architecture, we could tell we were now in Denmark.

Untitled*Earworm for the journey: Stuart Townend’s Singing Hallelujah from his The Paths of Grace album.

Day 2a: Hoek van Holland to Amsterdam

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Jolted awake by a member of the crew pounding on the door: “Time to go! Time to go!”

Hurriedly pack and wash, and take an elevator to deck 9 where there is a gangway to the Hoek van Holland terminal. Immigration takes one look at my burgeoning bergen and asks for evidence that i will be leaving the Schengen Area at some specific date in the future.

“So where are you going?”
“Amsterdam.”
“And where are you going after that?”
“Copenhagen.”
“Ok…and where are you going after that?”
“Stockholm, then Riga, then…”
“Are you saying you are travelling the whole of Europe in a few days?”
“Yes.”

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On the track outside the Hoek van Holland ferry terminal, i meet a nice Malaysian couple attempting to get to Amsterdam as well. The trick is to get the train to Schiedum Centraal (“Sprinter Rotterdam Centraal”) and then take a connecting train from Platform 5 to Amsterdam Centraal. Love the double-decker concept.

Left Luggage, Amsterdam Central StationLeft Luggage in Amsterdam Centraal Station is operated by credit card. Credit cardless types ask fellow travellers to pay for them and then refund them in cash. Because of a flaw in the process, it is important to check the locker number on the printed barcoded receipt – a German family accidentally pay for my locker.

AmsterdamFinally, Amsterdam, the city built on stilts!

Canal in Amsterdam
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Canals, canals, canals!

Then, there is looking the wrong way. Not recognising tram tracks. Almost being run over by a tram. Almost being run over by a tram, then immediately almost being run over by several bicycles.

Bicycles. Dutch-style bicycles, of course. Dutch-style bicycles with wooden fruit crates, or with baby carriers. Riding bicycles with a brolly in one hand.

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cheese for tourists, sausages for tourists, flower market for tourists, dressing up for tourists

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paintings of canal houses, porcelain miniature canal houses, postcards of canal houses, Oud Delft pottery that look like bad copies of Ming vases

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UntitledPipe Museum. P.G.C. Hajenins’ mix-your-own baccy. Weed. Coffeeshops. Weed-growing starter kits in the flower market. Spacecakes. Locals insisting that weed is for tourists. Weedsauce for your fries.

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Manneken Pis frites. Eating hot crisp fat frites in the steady drizzle.

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Lanskroon – “the best stroopwafel in Amsterdam”. Their cat comes straight up to me and starts nuzzling incessantly.

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Sweet Cup Cafe. Microroastery. Giesen roaster. Chefke the Bassett waiting for the last member of his pack. Indie-coffeeshops as third places for communities and staging posts for travellers. Specialists. “You don’t want to smell my Kenyan? Don’t you like my coffee?”. Providing counselling for aeropress angst. “We only do single origin coffees. Those people who blend are trying to hide bad coffee or making the price lower.”

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Chocolate milk and a ham-and-cheese croissant and some hagelslag chocolate sprinkles for a picnic for the train. From Albert Heijn after i draw a blank at HEMA.

Day 1 of London to Singapore Over the Surface of the Planet Earth

October 23, 2014 1 comment

London to Singapore over the surface of Planet EarthWho knows the minds of men? Not the men themselves, obviously.

At 1900h on a Thursday in October, i find myself in a flat in Bermondsey, the Shard framed in my bedroom window. Inside the room, a bergen is stuffed full of tokens of my life in London, and i am rushing to catch the 1932 Abellio Greater Anglia from London Liverpool Street to Harwich International.

Bergen packed!Somehow, i will be travelling from London to Singapore, without getting on an aeroplane, over sea and land, by ferries and trains.

But first, i stop to hoover the room for Ben who will be moving in on Saturday.

This is the contents of the bergen:

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i am incredibly thankful that Bus 47 arrives 2 minutes after i scramble to Jamaica Road, and surprisingly for that time of the evening, we encounter no traffic jams.

1932h Abellio Great Anglia from London Liverpool Street to Harwich InternationalA few minutes to spare, my bergen and i locate a seat each on the 1932. Finally resting a little after the mad sweaty rush of the day, i find my mobile contains photos of people in the church office waving and shouting goodbye and farewell texts from my RML group and other friends.

My nose starts to bleed.

People in the twin seats facing us stare embarrassed at their newspapers.

At Harwich International, we turn left up an escalator and a disorderly queue forms. There’s an x-ray machine and plainclothes police. We collect our room cards and trundle up the gangway to the Stena Line. Quite a number are using the Rail & Sail Dutchflyer Service from London to Amsterdam.

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There’s a telly and free wifi, a towel and bedlinen with short dark hairs of the previous user. The bathroom is spacious enough and the shower dispenses hot water with good pressure. After a good half hour of listening to people wandering past my cabin speculating on where their own might be (“the numbers are ascending here…”), i leave to chat with several Filipino crew before tiredness drives me to a hot shower and a dreamless sleep.

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