Obligatory Zonking

We all need a bed in Narvik

The Narvik campsite has these chalets. http://www.narvikcamping.com They are ideal. Everyone is going to want to zonk out for at least a couple of hours after 3 or 4 in the morning if not earlier. You will have been traveling till 11pm on a bus.  So several chalets will need ordering. I’ll ask them about when we should do that, but you’re going to have to commit i.e. pay for the huts, well in advance. This alone should shake out the ditherers.

I can’t make Summer Solstice

And neither can one other parent, so we’re probably going to have to push back into the summer hols, most probably the first 2 weeks. It will still be 24 hour sunlight in Narvik.

Sorry Germany

We’re going to have to do Brussels and Amsterdam. I’d left them out as the sexy red TGV style “Thalys” train that we’d catch wasn’t available on the rail pass, But sod it,  it’s a real nice train. See the man in seat 61 http://www.seat61.com/thalys.htm. I’ve also realised we can leave London a bit later at just shy of 11am, have an hour and half in Brussels, then catch the same Thalys to The Dam. Paris gets 6 hours on the way back. So that’s now 16 capitals you get to actually touch down in. Only in Bucharest do you not have time for a bite and a swig, 3 other drive through capitals in Sofia, Zagreb and Bern, and the missing Berlin, i.e. 20 countries. Oh! and Turkey,  21 countries.

As a result, Germany is now down to an 18 minute train change at Hamburg in an evening.

To do Berlin you would get in late in an evening on the way coming south, and the next train out is at something like 5 in the morning. So this could be a further excuse to have a night off.  It might work out different if we went anti-clockwise, but I think the arctic is such a high point in the trip that we need to do it early, not at the end, so I haven’t even bothered to work it out in reverse.

This is a lot harder than India to work out

I’ll handle the booking technicalities, or at least there’s a select few who need get involved in all of that.  I haven’t totted up the precise mileage yet. We seem to be spending a lot more time on trains, that will certainly be going a lot faster than the Indian ones, but we do have a lot more changes. The only way of doing the rail mileage, short of actually following the track, is to estimate using road distances. I get an impressive figure of well over 18,000 rail kilometers that way, not including going to Pozzallo or Cascais, so a lot more than India.

We’ve about twice as many trains, and probably a dozen or more companies to deal with. India was a one stop doddle to book. The complexity of the route planning and ticket purchasing is therefor on a different planet to the India trip. I’m going to have to come up with a complex set of booking instructions which you are all going to have to follow independently.

I have had people telling me that this kind of trip isn’t unique. When we asked Shankar if he’d ever had an itinerary like the India one he said that he actually had. It was a trainspotter who was making up a route where he was almost constantly moving. But he was just one guy, and it was probably a trip that few of us would want to do, or be able to remember much about later if we did. The only comparative expeditions I can find invariably involve 12,000 km of the trans sib.

Requests For Comments

Where I need as much input as possible is in the fine details of where to get supplies and sustenance at a number of critical short stops listed below. If you know about any of these places, whether you have any intention or not in coming on this, please give me your advice.

I have a plan for Narvik and the journey up there, also Istanbul. We’ve had some input for Lisbon, we (I) certainly need to have a go on this funicular tram. Also Venice, where we certainly need to get the boat bus down to St Mark’s from the station.

We are going to have to do a lot of picnicking on trains, so prior knowledge of nearby delis and super marches, and coffee places of character (i.e not Costa or the like) in the places listed below would be useful. We also need food and drink suggestions, and where to get hold of fine examples of either, for all of these.

Paris We probably need a convention point near Gare du Nord if we have anyone joining for Paris-Paris. I’ll stick more time in the schedule which is way too risky, so getting the Thalys at extra expense up to Amsterdam will give us that.

Amsterdam, what’s the dutch official drink other than advocaat, gin ?.  We’ve only an hour here, we’ll get the 14:25 out of Paris.

Copenhagen, breakfast option, and then a picnic for the afternoon and evening, possibly going on into the following day. Also any hard liquor supplies for the next 3 days.

Trondheim. We have very little time here, so whatever the station has to offer we’ll have. But I need to check out what the eating situation on this train is. if it’s minimal then we’ll need to have a hamper full of stuff on leaving Copenhagen

Fauske. What ?, you’ve never heard of it ?!.  I’ve got details of where there’s supposedly a supermarket. We’ve got an hour and a half here before getting the bus up to Narvik, where we’ll arrive round about 23:00. We’ll need this supply situation guaranteed as we’ll need further picnic stuff worked out for another 24 hours.

Narvik. We may be able to get stuff in the morning before getting the 09:20. I’m sure there’s some cured fish that we’ll all have to confront. We are all going to want some amount of sleep, so these huts will need booking. If you are coming as a twosome and want one of the twin cabins then I would imagine you’ll need to book well in advance.

Boden. We’ve got just under 2 hours, 3 till 5 in the afternon, so should be able to eat a hot meal here.

Stockholm, 3 1/2 hours starting at 6:30 am. We need a picnic good enough for 24 hours.

Vienna, Almost 3 hours from 9 in the morning. Picnic not essential provided Hungary will not leave us hungry. Something Danube oriented would fit nicely as we’ll be following that river all the way to Bucharest.

Budapest. Just 2 hours. We will definitely need a decent picnic sorting out here, and some plum brandy, preferably home made. I have a contact, well I did, and his home made was immense!.

Istanbul. I’ve got this hostel thing where we can rent a mini dorm or two, we are here for 14 hours so too long to tramp it all day. The tourist thing is two mosques and a the most amazing get lost bazaar on the planet. Finding an eatery is hardly a problem, but suggestions most welcome.  We should stock up on baklava and anything else non perishable. I guess we’re on the ouzo here, we’re north of the Bosporus :).

Belgrade, 1 hour, bread and cured pig, and more polinka.

Ljubljana, get what you’re given in the timescale, but if there’s a good bakery right outside the station it would be handy.

Trieste, I’ll want to dip my big toe in the Adriatic here, the station is on the shoreline. I plan to do ceremonial toe dipping in the Amstel, North Sea, Baltic, Danube (Vienna), Danube again (Budapest), Bosporus, Venice, Mediterranean (Siracusa), Atlantic.

Venice. A bit like Amsterdam from a tourist point of view, you just walk out of the station and let it happen. We’ll need a decent sit down meal.

Rome, should be able to get a decent night time picnic in our hour here, or a decent takeaway.It’s after 8pm though so not sure when the delis shut in summer in Rome.

Siracusa, 5 hours here, or 2 f you are mad enough to go to Pozzallo. We need a plan, possibly including a communal room for bag drop.

Tirano. We wont have enough time in Milan to get the days essential pincinc sorted, so we’ll have to do it here. It’s a small place, I’ve been, but I’d still like to know exactly who where and what I’m doing here else we’ll be hungry later. We need a full 24 hour picinc working out. The swiss schedule might look hair raisingly tight, but trust me. You can trust swiss trains. But we just wont have any time for getting supplies, and in any case that’s one thing the swiss don’t do too well.

Barca, 5 1/4 hours. 9:45 till 3 in the afternoon. We have serious on the ground contacts here so I await your suggestions. We will definitely be wanting to pig out at a proper table at this stage.

Madrid. 2 1/2 hours only, but enough time to do some more pigging out on tapas.  It will need to be < 1km from the station.

Lisbon, Almost 9 hours, including getting to Cascais and back.  I need to take a look at the tram map and see how we can elegantly do everything.


7 thoughts on “Obligatory Zonking

  1. some more info from memory about Lisbon – trains to Cascais leave from Cais do Sodre station, which is a bit of a transport hub (tube, buses and boats). it’s down on the banks of the Tagus, which you might also want to dip your toe into. the boat terminal has left luggage I think. there’s an Irish pub nearby which serves ropey Guinness, we should definitely avoid it.

    not been to Amsterdam for a few years but I have a nagging recollection of some decent cheese and meat vendors within walking distance of Centraal, away from the red light. I’ll see if I can dig up a reference.

    • Lester says:

      We are going to need to really stock up on booze and bites ready for the scando loop. so non perishables at Brussels, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are vital and need careful prior analysis. Andrew and I once visited a chocolatier in Lille called Au Chat Bleu that was truly divine. I’m sure Brussels will have something similar. Part of the obligatory kit list will be two shot glasses (one spare!), and at least one person as well as me should bring an extra bread board and knife.
      The Balkan section, namely the Bosfor Ekspresi down from Bucharest and the now highly suspect Balkan Ekspresi back up to Belgrade via Sofia, the existence of their sleeper carriages, and their punctuality, plus reliable block booking, is causing some concern. I’ll trust the connection down to Bucharest to be OK as it’s Hungarian and I’m relying on some Germanic influence on it. But the train back up to Belgrade could really bugger us up. It would mean making camp in Belgrade, losing the run down to Sicily, but there’d also be another night to kill, somewhere between or in Venice, Milan and Tirano.

      • Lester says:

        Great, be on the lookout for interesting bars, bakeries, delies and chocolatiers in the station/grand place area. they are quite French there, Andrew and I also had snails in Lille at a Leffe fast food outlet, seriously. Abbey style McDonalds.

  2. Lester says:

    correction, if we missed the train out of belgrade we’d be looking at 3 nights in total to kill, which would be something of a bummer, not least budget wise. There’s just shy of 2 hours leeway, we could get to Rome the following day/night actually, but it would mean sleeping in seats, and missing Venice altogether also.

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