From Amsterdam we took our first long distance bus in Europe. Although the trains are fantastically connected, they are actually pretty expensive (another good thing about traveling by bike – it’s cheaper!). The buses seem to be for tourists so stop less and are often direct, even if they are less comfortable. The bus from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, where we were heading to stay with Bryony’s friend Rohan was actually faster than the (cheap) train. After a cramped 5 hours we arrived just before 10 at Frankfurt central station. We had directions from Rohan to take the underground to a stop near her house, but we didn’t realise that you had to take another underground to reach the right line! So we spent about an hour wandering around in the tunnels beneath the central station trying to work out where we were going. The central station is not the nicest place to be late at night – there were so many men, lots of drunk/high people and a very strong smell of urine. As soon as we got away from the central station the whole place seemed a lot nicer.
We were pretty late arriving at Max and Rohans, but it turns out we were actually an entire day earlier than they expected. Luckily Rohan is a very good friend! We spent 5 nights with Rohan and Max exploring Frankfurt and catching up. Max was born and raised in Frankfurt and very proud of his city so pointed out all the things we needed to do and took us out for dinner to a typical restaurant and made sure we ate typical Frankfurt food like hand cheese (James liked it, Bryony thought it smelt like a shearing shed). We visited our first Christmas market in Frankfurt and drank warm mulled wine amongst the Christmas lights and stalls selling decorations, food and winter hats. We also visited the Christmas market at the EU school where Rohan teaches – one of the ones where the kids all make crafts and then the parents come and buy them.
James got in touch with Luke, an old friend who was an exchange student at his high school and went out for an evening with him and his friends while Bryony got properly caught up with Rohan. She and Max are heading off on a big world adventure in June and if anyone feels like reading about more adventures they are keeping a blog called Travels of a Bookpacker.
On our final night Rohan and Max planned a raclette evening. Luckily most of the guests couldn’t come because the raclette machine had some kind of electrical fault that cut the electricity to the house when it was switched on. Even with Max and James’ combined efforts we couldn’t get it to go so resorted to oven baked raclette instead.
On the train to Berlin we were the most wholesome couple and got a few curious looks/comments with James working on some cross stitch and Bryony crocheting hats. In Berlin we met up with another of Bryony’s good friends Nicole (aka Wali) for a Christmas market extravaganza. We ate plenty of sausages, drank lots of gluwein from strange shaped mugs and admired all the Christmas lights and decorations.
While in Berlin we met up with James’ cousin Sydney who is American, but living and working in Berlin. She took us on a tour to some different suburbs and to a fantastic Turkish restaurant called Azzam for dinner (but failed to mention that we really didn’t need three meals between us).
With Wali we spent one whole day walking around some of the big landmarks in Berlin including the Brandenburg gates, Jewish memorial and Checkpoint Charlie. We spent about 3 hours inside the free museum ‘Topography of Terror’ which was very informative, but had an overwhelming amount of information. It would have perhaps been better to visit on a couple of occasions to digest all the information. We finished the evening in a fun pub with beer prices that adjusted based on the number of people buying them (like a stock exchange). When we got back to the hostel we had a flurry of messages from friends making sure we were okay – a lorry had driven into one of the Christmas markets. It isn’t a market we visited, but the atmosphere would have been the same, so I can imagine how horrendous it would have been to be there. We both messaged our parents to let them know we were okay before they heard about it.
We had to wake up very very early on our last morning in Berlin to catch the train we would spend the next 12 hours on to reach Slovenia. We only changed once in Munich and carried on with an Austrian train all the way to Jesenice. We reached Austria in the afternoon and loved the trip winding through the mountains and past dozens of small ski resorts. It all went smoothly except that none of us knew what a through train was and we had to hastily relocate from the front of the train to the back when we realised that we were in the part of the train that would break off and go somewhere else. During the last leg we met a German cycle tourist on his way to Ljubljana to ride over some high passes over Christmas. We were somewhat envious of his freedom, but mostly glad that we would be spending the holidays somewhere cozy.