Euro Love Train part 3 Amsterdam to Berlin, 15th July 2018

Deep breaths. Deeeeep breaths. You'll have to wait until the next episode to find out why. In the meantime, let me see if I can recall what happened yesterday.

Right. Yes. That's it: I woke up in a shitty hotel room in Amsterdam, yes. It was about 6am and sleep had done nothing to dull the personal fail of the previous afternoon and evening. Jumping onto Facebook messenger to see what had become of the non-Cinderellas, I see messages from as recently as 4.30am – not in an "I've just woke up early" kind of way, rather "well that was a good night". I don't seethe with jealousy, I don't wish everyone else had been as moody as me, and I'm glad my mood wasn't contagious.

My mood wasn't getting any better, mind. The shower in the bathroom was shit. I had no desire to kill time hanging out in such a crap room so I decided to get to Amsterdam Centraal much earlier than required for our 0858 train. After much internal debate about how best to get back there I think fuck it, I'll walk. Checking out of the hotel I go to reception except I don't because the door is shut/ajar with a "we'll be back soon" notice on it. I don't have any patience to wait longer than the 5 minutes or so I give it so I just fuck off, meaning they get to keep the €10 deposit I left for a TV remote control I never used.

I hate the noise of my wheely bag on cobbled or bumpy surfaces, basically anything outside of an smooth airport corridor, so I carry it again. There are few people on the streets and it's not crazily hot so the walk isn't so bad. Come 0730 I'm at the station, wondering if I can sit down and write the previous day up.

I can't, because on Facebook I learn that everyone else is en route and I am, by virtue of being the most keen, now in charge of buying booze. Nothing is open at this side of the station so I wander through the Ij Passage and, oh, there's a river. I almost stayed over there in a nice chain hotel. Wistful sigh.

There's a supermarket, Albert Heijn. I already have 3 bags and don't really see how I can also buy a couple of carrier bags worth of booze, but as if by magic John shows up looking to buy a lighter. I say I'll get one for him if he can take my suitcase and go wait with Lester. Then I buy 12 or so beers, and a lighter.

At the end of the corridor is where cabs drop people off, apparently. Mark and John are with bags and soon enough Andrei and Andrew turn up, instantly dumping their stuff to return to Albert Heijn and buy food. Arithmetically we realise 12 beers is terrible for 9 people on a 6.5hr train ride so I return to the shop and buy another 18 cans, split equally between Amstel, Heineken and Grolsch. Y'know, to fit in with the locals.

I've also bought fruit salads and raspberries, figuring that perhaps the odd bit of non-bread/meat/cheese might do our bodies a favour or two. Lastly, we buy pastries and "panizza" – panini pizza – to satiate our immediate hunger. Down at this part of the station there's only 4 or 5 of us; the Berliners are elsewhere and Ed is away on his own. I am seemingly the only person that isn't ruinously hungover. The earliest anyone else got to bed was, like, 2am.

We know our platform, we go to our platform, there are about a thouand people on our platform. The top of the escalators exerts a significant gravitational pull such that no fucker wants to stand anywhere except in its immediate vicinity. We try and fight our way through to get to the part of the platform we know we need to be at, but then the train comes in and all fucking hell breaks loose.

Staff tell us the first class compartments are back the way we came, which they manifestly are not. In fact, the first class compartment is at the very very end. It is segregated into a series of 6-seater cabins, and the 9 of us have seats spread between three of them: all of one, 2 in another, 1 in another. At the end there is no locomotive, only a mesmerising view of track going away from us.

Lester wants to regale our cabin with music which doesn't go down well; after an aborted attempt to listen to radio 4 which, of course, was just people talking about Donald Trump, a more generally agreeable soundtrack is curated by Andrew. It becomes less agreeable when Simon, Mike and I start to sing along with Level 42.

This is our only train for the day, a long ride from Amsterdam to Berlin. Everything is settled. Time to have a drink and some cubed cheese, methinks.

Very few people want beer. I get re-stressed while writing up the previous day, and that definitely puts me in the mood for a drink. Mark also wants some; virtually everyone else is still disgracefully hungover, half of them sleeping. If only 2 or 3 of us are having booze then suddenly the 30 I bought seems much less sensible; it's not 3 per person, but 10-15 each. Oops.

After a while everyone is perking up, plus easily goaded into toasting our latest border crossing (even if we did fail to buy any Dutch genever with which to do so). When a few of us decide that yes, now is the right time to try the amazing 16% imperial coconut porter which Andrei ferried all the way from Portland, OR, Mark absolutely insists it must be drunk from shot glasses. Not a single person agrees, all just wanting to sip from the bottle. Undeterred, Mark pours his into a glass and instantly spills it.

Discussing the remaining intermediate stops, I catch someone out when I refer to Berlin Spandau as "the home of ballet". Somewhere along the line we go through Bünde which markets itself as "city of cigars", and in a similar vein Ed tells us the Jägermeister factory isn't too far from our route and that there's a drink called "Smoker's Cough": Jägermeister and mayonnaise. I don't know how I feel about this, except for "tempted".

Many announcements are made imploring interrail ticket holders to fill out their damn tickets properly, and for anyone onboard without a reservation to fuck off because we're full. A couple of kids fall asleep in the vestibule at the very end of the train near the loo, next to which is a triple language "in case of emergency sign". The English text includes no exclamation points, whereas the German and French versions finish most sentences with them. Who's going to remain calm if you're told "Remain calm!" rather than merely "Remain calm"?

The last 3 hours or so of the journey are spent entirely congregated around the 6-seater cabin, with 3 of us in the corridor. Everyone is drinking, and Mike even reveals a secret weapon in honour of the 5 of us who'd come down from Holyhead on Friday: Penderyn Myth welsh whisky. Iechyd da, again. There's more cubed cheese, and more again, to the point where far from being bored I've become such an addict I don't know how I can face any cheese that isn't cubed in future.

At approaching 3.30pm we're pulling into Berlin Hauptbahnhof, one of the most haupt bahnhofs in Germany. Lester's "I am in no fit state and will yield to everyone else" statement regarding how to get to our accommodation is swiftly replaced with "but we can get two U-bahns!". NO-ONE else wants to get a U-Bahn; three Ubers it is.

Our AirBnB is quite a way away. Did I forget to mention? Early on Saturday evening Andrei had got a notification out of the blue that the place we were going to stay had cancelled on us. No reason given, just "fuck the 9 of you, you've nowhere to kip". Remarkably he'd managed to rescue the situation and find another 9-bed flat with 24hrs notice but had he not, fuck knows what we'd have done.

Unfortunately, and kinda expectedly, it was miles away, not only from the Hbf but from anywhere useful. Admittedly there was a licenced kebab house on the ground floor but otherwise it's just a residential area with nothing to attract tourists. The flat iself is fucking huge, with 11 spaces to sleep across queen beds, single beds and sofa beds. There's a fridge freezer and a dishwasher and laundry and it's a great place to do all that stuff that needs doing. But a bunch of us have a passing interest in watching the World Cup final, starting around 20 minutes; we quickly devolve into "we want to stay in here" against "we want to go out" gang warfare.

I'm in the second group, with Gareth, Simon, and Andrei. There's a park just up the way that might have a bar in it; it doesn't. There's a bar up the way that might show the game; it doesn't. There's another bar further up the way called "Sports fan bar" and it does! It is a smoky shithole full of pool tables and dartboards and terrible beer. The barman is friendlier when asking if we want a second beer than the first. France vs Croatia is OK, and the locals definitely support the Croats because everyone's shouting "scheisse! Scheisse! Scheisse!" when the French score.


At the end of the first half we fuck off, intending to go to the nearest off licence - which is a petrol station - but instead watch the second half in the kebab house. Croatia's second goal is very funny, but virtually no-one is pleased with the end result. Back upstairs we partially reconvene; Lester wants to just keep sleeping, and Simon and Gareth are hungry enough to go out immediately for beer. The other 6 of us discuss plans for the evening. Ed has a friend and we are heading out, doing overly complex things with the GVB app to buy e-tickets for the metro in order that we can go from neary Blissestrasse U-Bahn to a recommended kebab house for good Turkish food.

Every entrance to Blissestrasse U-Bahn is closed except the one that's far enough away it might as well be the entrance to Berlinerstrasse U-Bahn station, so we ignore the former and go to the latter. Here we're on the U9 but that's OK; we've recently learnt, while trying to use closed entrances to the nearest convenient station, that our original choice of restaurant is closed down anyway.

A few stops later and we're in a busier, more commercial part of town. Walking past a few eateries we reach our second choice silver medal restaurant; it is also closed down. By now the Schadenforeman is off the charts and I'm letting out high-pitched "hee-hee" laughter like I'm Michael Jackson except more alive and less ... wrong.

Ed's mate arrives and tells us there's loads of other cuisine, but our hearts are set on kebab so back we go to Bogazici, except with more diacritics. Upon sitting down, we're all told just how bloody tired and fucked up we look.

Most of us order the "Donnerteller", which is not marketed as a Versace product. It's a plate full of donner meat and sauce and rice and vegetables and it hits the fucking spot properly, unlike the warm bottles of Efes beer which are shit.

Back outside we want some outdoor beer if possible, so two of us order Ubers which race each other to pick us up three at a time and whisk us off to Tiergartenquelle, a craft beer place just opposite Tiergarten (duh). After way more confusion than necessary we discern that we're allowed to sit outside of one and inside the other, but not inside the first or outside the second. Whatever. Beer arrives, as does another Uber with Gareth, Simon and Mark. We're complete again!

Ed wants to question us all: if you could be the winner of a single sporting event of your choice, and you could dictate the manner of it, what would you do? Win the Tour, Wimbledon, the world cup, etc? Various answers are given, with - to my mind - a surprising amount of focus on being the Billy Big Bollocks performer of a team, e.g. score 5 from right back in the world cup final. I completely wouldn't want that at all, I don't want to be carrying a team nor some Ronaldo-esque cock. No, my answer is that I want to win the 100m final at the Olympic games in about 8 seconds, doped up to my bollocks and caught out and plunged into ignominious disgrace a couple of days later.

One more beer. Let's just have one more beer. So we do have one more beer, and then a couple of ubers back to our flat. By now I'm properly merry drunk rather than exhausted drunk, and me, Simon and Gareth are laughing like madmen about awesome films, plots, and titles. I am very giggly while recalling that bit in Machete where Danny Trejo escapes the hospital by jumping through a window and abseiling with intestines. Haha! Also I still love the name Half Past Dead.

The Berliners, being Berliners, are leaving us in the morning. I convince them to have a nightcap in the flat and we're up gone midnight. There are a multitude of deadlines amongst us, from Gareth's 7am to Simon's 5pm, with those of us doing the full circuit getting a train at 10.30 or so from the hauptbahnhof.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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