I have 12 followers for the entirety of this 16½ day rail-road journey to salvation. We don’t quite have one representative from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, but we’ve got 2 Germans, one of who doubles up as a Yank, an Indian, an Irishman, an Italian, a Bulgarian, one Yorkshireman, and the rest are English. I’ve vetted each and everyone of them, in most cases over a period of between 10 and 30 years, and can be quite confident that not a single one is of sound mind. As proof of this they’ve each stumped up the opening £25 or so for our first booking, which was for Venice. We also have 2 cameo appearances for the Nordic section, and one for the Bernina pass. So 16 people involved in total, and 13 for the full 360°.
As if I’m bringing you any news here, Venice is stupidly over subscribed with tourists, whilst hosting a bewildering array of highly suspect mid range hostelries replete with mould, mosquitoes and bed bugs. As such, finding a hotel for under 50 English spondoolies a pit that wont eat you alive was looking a tough ask. I thought September for next July would be soon enough, but the little place I had earmarked was booked out already. I was starting to panic as anywhere half decent was either way north of the 50 quid mark and thus contravening the “we’re staying in hostels and on trains luv, you dont want to come” story that we’re all peddling to our loved ones, and/or only doing 3 nights minimum stay. Until I found what, for a group of middle to late-middle aged blokes, has to be the ideal haunt for the night. The Domus Civica is, for the duration of the academic year, a hall of residence for Venice Uni, ladies only. In the summer they’ll take all sorts, even railway enthusiasts. And at about £25 each it’s a steal for a non-carnivorous slumber option.
I have today just re-examined the entire route again using this years timetables. There have been some slight changes, almost all of them in our favour, and no serious problems detected. We have an extra half an hour to ease our few hundred metres to the Jet d’Eau and back in Geneva, and everything else is as near as no different. And I’ve added a countdown widget to the margin.
I am now sorting out some of the loose ends regarding picnic provisions at those stops which are most important. Brussels was never an issue, it’s teaming with places to buy things to eat on trains. We now have a plan that will allow us to get what we need and feel like we did some of Brussels in the process. Zagreb wasnt on the list of important picnic stops, but it should have been. We wont get much chance to eat till we get to Venice that evening. So we are now forced out of the station to the early morning central market.
Brussels is our first point of call and a key point for getting the picnic larder up to scratch on our initial shopping trip, and also to stock up the GCERC cellar prior to heading for the arctic circle. We need chocolates of course, and the fancy place to purchase these is in the Galeries Royales, which will be akin to buying sweets in Burlington Arcade. I intend to get a box at both Corné and Neuhaus. After leaving the south end of Galeries we are virtually in the Grand Place. Walking out of the west side of the square, take the second right into Rue de Tabora and there is the following suspicious looking sign ahead of you.
It looks like a peep show I know, but in fact it’s A La Bécasse, one of the Belgian capital’s hidden gems of beer consumption. We’ll be able to consume moules and unpasteurized ale there. On exit, continuing down the street we have a bakery called La Wetternoise, a fromagerie called P’tit Normand, and across the road a charcuterie of the same name, and next to that a Nicolas boozerie. And barely 50 yards away there is a Delhaize supermarket to get the fruit and salad and anything else needed to kick the pantry off.
Copenhagen have just opened a superb solution for our second picnic stop. I was intending to have to do all this at Meyer’s at Magasin du Nord, Irma supermarket at Nørreport and the Lagkagehuset bakery near the main station
Until they built this, the new Torvehallerne market at Nørreport
This purpose built, posh picnic and fancy walking lunch procurement option, just opened in Israels Plads near Nørreport. It’s got just about everything we think we could need and a whole lot we didn’t know we did.
Dolac market in Zagreb has emerged as an important spot to stock up at. Cevapcici (the local version of mince kebab involving lamb, beef and pork) in lepinji (a kind of nan), corn bread, orange and fig jam, and wild boar pate are some items from the shopping list I’ve complied. We only have about 2 hours in the Croatian capital (assuming the sleeper from Split is just half an hour late) but that should be enough to make it the 900m to the market, buy a picnic, and get back. The trams in central Zagreb are actually free, yes FREE!. Though someone still told me to get cabs.