Kings Cross, London. We got Eurostar on a Saturday morning, early enough that we had to pay the pub in advance to open especially and make us breakfast. We went to Brussels and had lunch. There was beer and cheese. Much, much cheese.
But, no time to hang around. We had to get to Amsterdam, ready to meet a man our leader - Lester - had spoken with on some rail forum. The bloke delivered us a bag full of beers in the 20 minutes or so we had before going to our accommodation: an overnight train to Copenhagen.
My glasses were less thick-rimmed back then, but my hipster credentials weren't in doubt due to the trilby I wore all my waking hours. I loved that hat, almost as much as Lester loved this Spelt.
We got to Copenhagen late, putting our onward journey in danger on just the second day. Three hours in the Danish capital turned into 15 minutes, so without respite from the rails we headed to Gothenburg, glued to my phone both for progress reports on what would prove to be Andy Murray's first Wimbledon victory but also arrangements for meeting up with two new joiners at Oslo, hours later.
At Oslo we didn't even leave the station – in fact, not even by train, since uncommonly high temperatures melted the rails and caused yet another delay, albeit one only Mike and I knew about because we stayed up drinking way longer than everyone else.
At Trondheim we crossed the platform and took over half another carriage, relentlessly heading north. Some of us were wondering just how much more north there could possibly be.
The answer was "a lot". The train finished at Fauske, at which point we got on a bus even further north, for like 4 more hours or something including a boat across a fjord, until we reached Narvik. The photo behind this text was taken at, like, 1.30am or something. Cloudy yes, but dark no.
Here we stayed on terra firma for the first time, way inside the arctic circle. We had a train to catch in the morning, as well as "fat 'Mickey from Snatch' impressions" to do.
We went south, and south, and south. A train from Narvik to somewhere in Sweden, onto an overnight train to Stockholm on which we spent a long time talking to an idiosyncratic local girl.
At the capital, an acquaintance of mine met us in the morning rush hour just to hand over a couple carrier bags of Guinness with Hebrew lettering on the side. Oh, and we also picked up the small matter of two immense fishy-cheesecakes: smorgastata. Mike had McDonald's for breakfast.
Back to Copenhagen on yet another delayed train, this time we really did miss our connection. Bugger. We sorted our tickets for the next Hamburg service. Mike had McDonald's for lunch. We got a train that itself got on a boat. Victory!
Hamburg was not our destination for the day; that would be Berlin. But we had a little while between trains. Mike had a McDonalds for dinner.
Another night in a hostel, with a doppelganger at breakfast and about an hour to spare for tourism. My first proper hangover of the trip was cured in the buffet car to Prague, where alongside the river we were served cheap beer in glass and food on proper plates.
Felt pretty good once we got to Praha, even better once we'd gone up a funicular railway, sat in a brewery, and had a cracking meal outdoors. Across that famous bridge and back to the station, it was around here I gave up trying to learn how my camera worked, while Mick lost his.
Our overnight train had been of Hungarian provenance and would indeed take us to Budapest if we wished. But hang on, there are two other capitals to visit. An hour and half in Vienna around breakfast time, and 10 minutes in Bratislava where this photo was basically our only proof we even visited the country.
But things are close together around here and we were still in Budapest by lunchtime, enabling me to absolutely lose my shit at discovering a Manowar-themed cafe-bar.
Some other stuff probably happened - lovely food and drink, amazing views, the Danube - yeah, whatever.
The two of our number who'd joined in Oslo - Albert and Mike - disappeared today, Albert in Berlin and Mike in Budapest. A beer before the evening departure on our night train to Brasov in Romania: things were about to get rowdy rowdy.
The bar car - a fully fledged pub on wheels - was smoky and loud. There were power cuts. People played mandolin songs. The train crew got wasted with us. It was beaufitful carnage.
No-one wanted to go to Brasov. Literally no-one. Rather, we wanted to stay on the train all the way until mid-afternoon in Bucharest, by which time the pounding in our heads might have stopped.
In the Romanian capital, the architecture was as brutal as our hangovers had been.
We wandered around until finding somewhere who'd serve the 8 or so of us at a single table. We had beer and food, but it didn't feel like there was much point carrying on after how good the previous day had been.
That night we got "the Russian ghost train", a service we had tickets for but seemingly appeared in no timetables and may not even exist. But it did, and maybe it would provide a calmer night than the previous.
A bus ride took us across the border into Skopje, Macedonia, which provided bad kebabs, a hundred mosquito bites and a desolate main station. What appeared to be a train to Serbia arrived, much to our relief.
Then it started to get special, and I mean special. Switzerland know how to do trains, and we got a succession of them – starting with one which spirals its way out of town before going straight out through a mountain.
We reached St Moritz, via some sections of track where we were above ski lifts. It was relentless pictureseque, not to mention a bit cold. We ate, constantly, from the enormous amount of posh delicatessen food purchased back down there in grumpy Rome.
After so much ascent we obviously had to descend, by other remarkable railways, en route to our night stop in Zurich.