22nd September 2016, the big day had finally arrived.
I took the train from Ely to London and met Herbert at King’s Cross. We crossed the road to St Pancras and booked ourselves into the Eurostar departure lounge.
The train left the station at 3pm and was a bit of a disappointment. No working wifi, no plugs for phones, just a crappy old school British train experience. Never mind, it didn’t bother me that much as I was far too excited to worry about such matters.
We arrived in Brussels at 6pm with 20 minutes to spare before catching the Cologne train. It would have been nice to have had a little bit longer so we could grab a beer, oh well.
The journey to Cologne was uneventful, we ended up chatting to a German businessman who advised us to ‘think global, drink local’, or maybe it ‘global thinking, local drinking’, one of the two.
We arrived in Cologne at 8pm.
Arriving at Cologne was thrilling. It really felt like we had arrived in Europe proper, heartland Europe, the Europe of my romantic imaginings.
We rushed out of the station and into the Gaffel am Dom, a restaurant/pub located just across from Cologne cathedral.
The place was busy, a wonderful blend of busy waiters, cheerful punters and the smell of delicious food. We stood around looking for a table, unsure of the protocol, until saved by a friendly waiter who deposited us at a table.
First off was beer, obviously, and then another. Ordering was easy, sausage and fried potatoes? No problem!
The big surprise for me was the coleslaw. I detest coleslaw back in the UK, foul stuff indeed, but this was sublime, consider me a convert to German coleslaw!
We ploughed our way quickly through the meal, much to the amusement of an elderly couple on our left who kept on giving us the thumbs up. Herbet chatted to them in his German, we were all full of big smiles.
Leaving the restaurant we had an hour to kill before the sleeper to Warsaw. So, we purchased a couple of cans of German beer from a kiosk and knocked them back on the steps of the cathedral.
The Warsaw sleeper left at 11pm.
Neither of us slept very much. For me, it wasn’t the couchette, that was just fine, it was the the thrill of being on the sleeper, watching the tracks go by as we sped through Germany and across the border into Poland. Okay, the noise didn’t help much, nor did the rocking and shaking of the train itself. It didn’t matter though, just being there was all I needed to keep me cheerful.
We shared the couchette with a friendly Polish woman off to visit her elderly father in Warsaw. She spoke good English and we spent the morning happily chatting about this and that.
The train arrived in Warsaw at midday.
We were hungry, as usual, so went off in search of lunch.
After half an hour of trudging through the backstreets we came across the Mała Gruzja (Little Georgia) restaurant where we enjoyed some excellent Georgian cooking and a bottle of local vino.
On the way back to the train station we admired an imaginatively named off licence.
Back in the train station, Ukraine!
We found our seats on the train and settled back for the three hour journey to Kraków.
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