Sun 12 May ‘13 – day 1 The doors of the Eurostar close and the journey begins. We are off out of the station and then it is a sharp right hand turn around the old gasworks before diving down into a tunnel. The train whizzes past the Olympic Stadium before emerging out into the waste lands that border the Thames, past the car factory at Dagenham and just as the QE2 Bridge comes into sight we are down into another tunnel as we head under the river and into Kent where the train is up to maximum speed as it makes its way across the Garden of England heading for the coast.
Over the Medway bridge and then alongside the M20 and just 35 minutes after leaving London the train slows down (slightly and for safety reasons) before entering the Channel Tunnel.
As we emerge into the bright sunlight the French Eurotunnel terminal is to the left and in the far distance is Calais. Back to maximum speed before a short stop at Lille Europe and then we are on our way again. Shortly after the station the line to Paris heads off to the right and we head left towards Brussels Midi where we arrive right on schedule.
My hotel for the night was book by Anne and my only specification was that it had to be near the station; the Ibis was literally across the road from the south entrance and was a good place for the first nights stop.
Mon 13 May ‘13 – day 2 After a very good night’s sleep and a first rate breakfast it was a short walk back to the station although the weather forecast did not bode well. While waiting for the train doors to open I had a chat with a retired couple from Australia who were travelling around Europe using a Eurail Pass – it’s always interesting to talk with fellow travellers and listen to their experiences.
On the European legs of my trip I had booked the train tickets on-line via the Deutsche Bahn (DB) website as soon as bookings opened (90 days before travel) and so got some very good deals.
The DB ICE took just 1 hr 50 minutes to get from Brussels to Köln and I just sat back in my 1st class seat and watched the countryside go by. Across the Meuse just after we left Liege, which is the first of the big rivers that I will be crossing. A short stop in Aachen and we arrive in Köln where I am changing trains with just time to nip outside the station and have a quick look at the Dom (cathedral).
Now it’s off to Berlin a city I last visited in 1989, the weekend after the Berlin Wall came down, so it should be quite a contrast. As soon as the train left the Köln Hbf we crossed the Rhine, so that’s another major river crossed off the list.
The DB ICE trains are clean, reliable and fast and while we were going through Hanover it was lunchtime, so I went to the restaurant car and had a good meal while watching the countryside go by. The weather forecast was correct and it’s raining, heavily at times, but inside the train it is warm, dry and as someone else is doing the driving I can have a beer with lunch. We pass the massive VW factory at Wolfsburg and then just after Magdeburg we cross the Elbe near the meeting point of the Allied forces at the end of WW2.
The train arrives at the Berlin Hbf and I take a taxi to the Ivbergs Premium Hotel where I am staying for the next 4 nights on B&B terms. Once I have unpacked I go for a short walk in order to get my bearings and then it’s time for dinner and an early night as I’ll be up early to start viewing the sights.