As I sit at my desk, the seemingly imminent collapse of capitalism has caused my already receding hairline to accelerate. There’s now genuine concern about some of our more southerly adventures. We’ve already lost the Friendship Train between Istanbul and Athens. We gained the Bernina Express over the Alps as ample consolation for that while still keeping within the 15 day “some people actually have jobs to do” requirement. Avid readers will have noticed this week that we’ve been told by our man in seat 61 that the Bulgarian railways don’t have any spare sleeper cars “till at least the end of 2011” for the Balkan Expresi which takes us from Istanbul to Belgrade. How many blinkin’ sleeper trains run through Sofia ? you might wonder . Or perhaps you don’t wonder, but I can tell you that it’s 2, including ours. I can’t believe there are more people wanting to pay more to go from Sofia to Bucharest than from Istanbul along the Orient Express route to Belgrade, so I reckon the last serviceable set of sleepers went into the coach works this summer and havent been seen since. There are some couchettes on it, and this can be at the rustic end of our eclectic European rail travel smorgasbord, but what really worries me about this train is that it’s got 2 hours spare to hit the target else it all goes tits up and we end up spending 3 nights in hotels and miss Sicily and probably most of Italy. Getting any kind of real data about this train’s behaviour is going to prove difficult but is essential if we are going to risk it.
News just in from our man in Sofia is that Bulgarian Railways have just cut 150 trains. I doubt this is one of them as this train goes straight through, but it’s not a good sign.
Thought for Food
Through having a good pick over the route again it’s clear that we have huge chunks where we will have little or no chance to gain much more than an egg McMuffin if we havent been keeping stocked up. The Scando section and the Balkan Express are both parts where we’ll need a good 48 hours worth of munchies in the lunch boxes on leaving Copenhagen and Istanbul. If we’ve got more than a couple of hours in a place then we shall naturally have a proper sit down somewhere as well as doing some standard photo shoot tourist stuff. But there’s not a lot else to do on a train other than eat, drink and go to sleep, so I’ll be making sure we’re fully equipped on all fronts.
So there’s 2 points I need to make.
Point 1. You’re all in my picnic club. I’ll be bringing a bread knife and board and we’re going to be serving up sarnies from as many ethnic origins as is feasible. £10 a day might be over kill, but budget for that for at least 10 of the 15 days (the others will be more expensive as we’ll be dining out). I’d like at least one other volunteer for the role of Joint Chief Breadmeister who will bring along another knife and plastic chopping board. Everyone else should bring two decent sized tupperware vessels, and 2 shot glasses (one spare).
Point 2. As a result of point 1 (see above), you might like to come up with suggestions for what you’d like to eat, or at least what you’d like your tenner spent on. I’ll be fleshing out a food by city page over the coming months, please contribute. Add your comments to this page https://gcerc.wordpress.com/food/