Friday, March 28, 2008

Go Zimbabwe!

Tomorrow is election day in Zim. Zanu PF, Mugabe's party, have been promising people farms and jobs for votes, and targeting the limited food aid (needed because they've ruined agriculture in a country which used to export surplus food). There are two alternative candidates to the hated Mugabe, though cynics suggest that Makoni, one of the two, may have been introduced by Mugabe to split the opposition vote. Read more here.

I sincerely hope that Mugabe is booted out and replaced by Tsvangirai, as Zimbabwe is one of the richest and most beautiful countries in Africa, and it is tragic that Mugabe has run it into the ground. Unlike refugees from other countries, who flee and never go back, everyone I've met from Zim is just waiting to return to their country, and indeed they'll be needed to rebuild and restore what used to be known as the Jewel of Africa.

Tube Strike
London Underground planning a 3 Day Tube Strike from 6th to 9th April. The London Underground Song (NSFW).

And on a lighter note..
Radio 4 news reader Charlotte Green had a giggling fit in the middle of the news this morning. Have a listen, it's really quite amusing!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Getting Back into the Swing of London

This evening I went for a run with Lewis, my youngest brother. I think I last ran about two years ago! I'd picked up some gear this afternoon from Lillywhites (now owned by dodgy Sports World International) - including some Reebok trainers - any company that sports the Union Jack on their products wins points from me - Karrimor is another soft spot.

The run we did was the standard one from here (West Hampstead) - down past Swiss Cottage, around Regents Park and back. My knees are not good! Anyway, felt good to be doing some exercise - when you're travelling you often lose weight because of unappealing or lack of access to food, but you don't get fit as the most effort you have to go to is lugging your pack about. Back in London it's more just excesses that are to blame for piling on the pounds. Now where did I put that Badger "Hopping Hare" ale I found in Sainsburys..

Things noteworthy in the news - China has unblocked BBC News from the so-called Great Firewall. A real sign of progress this, although I did receive an email from a friend of mine in Chengdu, and her stance on the current situation with Tibet and the Dalai Lama was interesting - one of us is being spun a strange angle on events, and I suspect it's not me! At least with Tibet there is international interest and support for the pressure being brought upon China to stop human rights abuses there,

unlike Taiwan, where recent local efforts to conduct a referendum on whether to join the UN (something that China says will trigger war between their countries) were condemned by the US! Taiwan, a vibrant successful democracy, exactly what we're trying to achieve in the Middle East, but instead because of kow-towing to China we're busy disowning them (and kicked them out of the UN in the 70s when we decided China was more important economically). What hypocracy and double standards (plus ça change, eh?)

Exciting things going on: Method Man and Redman playing Shepherd's Bush Empire tomorrow night. Will I get tickets? Err.. probably not. Will I be in a state to attend after tonight's run and helping out at Interform tomorrow? Certainly not!

Apparently Ken Livingstone, our dear London mayor, and his officials clocked up more than a million airmiles last year, visiting, amongst others, Venezuela, Cuba and India. So much for the congestion charge being an environmental effort. Anyway, Boris is now the favourite,

and as a cyclist gets my vote - did anyone else notice that the new rules on polluting cars seem to put the threshold just above Ken's car. Coincidence, surely?

Strictly Come Dancing's Anton Du Beke has said all fat people should be shot. Nice.

Icelandic band Sigur Ros are playing at the Way Out West Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, 8th-9th August, along with Franz Ferdinand and Flaming Lips.

Anyone want to go? Does clash with the Great British Beer Festival though, that week is going to be complicated!

The Stag and Dagger Festival will be playing on May 15th in London. 14 UKP gets you a ticket, and you pop around town to any of 15 different venues depending on what takes your fancy. Confirmed acts so far? Archie Bronson Outfit * Hot Chip DJs * Ed Banger Records * A Trak * Filthy Dukes * Goyte * Das Pop * Booji Boy High * Greco Roman * Bang Gang * the cocknbullkid * Kid Harpoon * The Mike Strutter Group * Jimmy Edgar * Cheeky Cheeky & The Nose Bleeds * Modular * Young & Lost * Kill 'Em All * Allez Allez * Adventures in the Beetroot Field * Fluokids * Harmonic 313 * Magic Wands * Skull Juice * Casper C * Bumblebeez * Moshi Moshi party * The Pan I Am * The Shoes * Example * Ok Tokyo * Telepathe * Zombie Zombie * Quiet Village * The Invisible * Wave Machine * Semifinalists * The Displacements * Lovvers * Primary 1 * Magistrates * George Lamb * Natty * Operator Please + more acts still to be announced. Moshi Moshi Party swings it for me!!

And for the summer.. Marble Hill, Twickenham. Last year it was Sia leading Zero 7, the year before Royksopp, the year before Lemonjelly. Can these guys do no wrong?

They're not on the English Heritage website yet, but the 18th and 25th both sound quite exciting! T'Pau! Don't push too far.. Your dreams are china in your hand! Here's the line-up:

Saturday 11th August - Lemar and Beverley Knight
Sunday 12th August - The Four Seasons and Fireworks spectacular featuring Chloe Hanslip.
Saturday 18th August - Party! At Marble Hill, featuring eighties superstars Bananarama, Belinda Carlisle, Midge Ure, Altered Images with Clare Grogan
Saturday 25th August - The Music of Motown - Dancing in The Streets
Sunday 26th August - Last Night of The Marble Hill Proms featuring special guests Natasha Marsh and Alfie Boe

And not forgetting our European friends.. there's an extremely exciting festival in Arras in France 4-6th July, the Main Square Festival. Radiohead, Chemical Brothers, 2 Many DJs and Sigur Ros playing! Now looking on the map, Arras is not altogether that far from Calais.

I sense a plan coming together..

Next up in London for me - Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the China Design exhibitions...

Not enough time for life in this place! London Town, it's good to be home...

Au contraire - first the World, and now London..

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Crawley Boys

My brothers:

Lewis (20), Alex (26), Jonathan (Hedge) (26) and me (29)!

It would seem I came back a bit too early from abroad. It's been snowing, raining, dark, cloudy, windy. The weather is terrible in the UK now! Here is a shot of the moody weather over the mud flats at Whitstable from my family's house. The tide is out and you can just make out Sheppey Island on the horizon:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Normal life resumes, or does it?

The journey has ended but the lifestyle not - as I'm homeless and jobless, I'm currently living out of my backpack and crashing with friends and family. It doesn't feel like I'm home yet. I haven't reclaimed my possessions. I'm still in my travelling clothes, although I've picked up a suit ready for interviews.

It's great to be back though, and London is as fabulous as ever. Some observations:

If you're in any doubt as to how much you love London, stroll the South Bank of the Thames from Waterloo to Tower Bridge at night, when London is lit up, bridge after bridge spanning the low chilly waters, reflections everywhere in the wet pavements.

St. Paul's Cathedral without scaffolding! People jogging, suits quick-walking home, beggers begging, the riverside full of life. Passing under Blackfriars I reread the descriptions of the Frost Fairs they used to hold on the river in winter when it was frozen over. Perhaps they'll come again with global cooling (last two months have seen biggest global drop in temperatures since records began).

Walking across Hyde Park in the evening, biting wind blowing across but thankfully no rain, dark but with an orange glow in the sky, trees spaced, shadowy figures marching back and forth with scarves wrapped tight.

From Russia, the exhibition at the Royal Academy, is nice, but far too busy. This is the problem with blockbuster exhibitions, especially when held in relatively small galleries. Worth going to but don't even think about it at weekends or in the evening. And you have until 18th April.

The tube is as horrible as ever! As I'm pay as you go Oystering at the moment I'm doing lots of walking and buses, which is fine. Walking is the way to see London. Pippi and I walked from Gloucester Road to High Street Kensington, passing through Kynance Mews and many of my favoured living spots. Someone win me the lottery!

Mawar Malaysian restaurant in Edgeware Road has shut (poor hygiene the rumour goes), Phene Arms is still closed, Nami's flower shop next to Beaufort gone, Sandwich shop in Gloucester Road no longer discounts their sandwiches in the evening, Barkers has become a swanky food shop a la Wet and Wild, Westbourne Grove closed for under-road construction. I'll cope somehow though! Although I will need a new florist, any suggestions?

So primary focus is still flat. I need somewhere to live. I started off looking for a one bedroom or studio place, but have decided that for my price range there are nothing but grotty options in my preferred areas (W2, W8, SW7 etc), so I've resigned myself to flatshares, which isn't necessarily bad, just a gamble in terms of who you end up with.

Only the nice bits

Looked at a reasonable place on Edgeware Road, dangerous close to the Carpenter's Arms yesterday but the bedroom overlooked the road. Literally. Fine for winter with the windows shut, but the summer would be six sleepless months; I know, I've been there! So the search continues..

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

End of Trip Summary

How long and where?
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is no intent on arriving – Lao Tzu

My Heathrow Express ticket

I left London on Friday, 20th October 2006, and so, today, on Thursday, 13th March 2008 it will be 511 days on the road! I arrived into Venice by ship on the 500th day, and was just leaving Easter Island for New Zealand this time last year.

The countries I have visited in order: UAE, Mauritius, Egypt, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Tahiti, Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, India, Nepal, Tibet, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Vatican City, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, UK!

In doing this, I have counted that including connections I have taken 75 flights! Time to get planting trees. In total, I have been to 64 countries around the world. 36 more for the 100, how on earth do people do it?!

Favourite Country:The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, without a doubt. If anything, having seen the world, and much of the good and great that the Empire brought to all in her wings, I am more proud than ever before of England and our sister kingdoms under the Act of Union. Rule Britannia!

No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. – Lin Yutang

The variation in hair:

The Clean-cut look, dipping in the Nile

The Fisherman look in the Patagonian Channels

And finally, the Afro in Rome

Pubs to be visited on my return:
As HW Tilman often quipped, there is no scenery that would not be improved by the inclusion of a good inn in the foreground!

When asked what I miss from home, friends and family aside, I would say good ale, my music collection, my bicycle and the multi-cultural food mix of London. For beer, one of my on-going quests in London is seeking out nice pubs that would please an old man like myself. The following will be high on my list of places to revisit on my return:

Carpenter’s Arms and Mason’s Arms, Marble Arch
Spaniard’s Inn, Hampstead
Old Tea Warehouse, Aldgate
Ship and Shovel, Charing Cross
Phene Arms, King’s Road
Eel Pie, Twickenham

Most Beautiful Girl Countries:

In no particular order:

Brazil – girls in Brazil are on a different level – girls who in the UK would be supermodels, or at the very least have people tripping over in the street, in Brazil just stand at bus stops with their supermarket plastic bags, or just potter about. Just a regular Brazilian girl!

Ethiopia – pipping Mozambique to the bedpost just before I left Africa, Ethiopian girls are truly beautiful. I even met a Chinese guy who thought they were amazing, and you don’t often meet Chinese guys who are into black girls, believe me! Ethiopia seems to have solved the “big bottom” issue that much of Africa suffers from, plus they’re really really pretty girls.

Korea – especially Seoul. This was a new country for me – I knew lots of Japanese people, but Japanese girls tend to be a bit more quirky and wacky, whereas Korean girls lean to a more classical chic conservative look – think Italian girls vs French girls. I of course prefer more ladylike look, and Koreans have it in bundles, long black hair, big eyes, fashionable clothes, though the word is that once you marry them you’ll never see them again, culturally Korean girls apparently don’t expect to have to see their husbands, as they should be working 20 hours a day!

Nepal – I was surprised not to find many Indians that attractive, but it’s different in Nepal, where the girls tend to be small, tough, perhaps a blend of Indian and Chinese, and very pretty, especially those in the mountains with their rosy cheeks and ponytails.

And so in the end.. of course I return home single as usual!

Top Crime Spots:
Johannesburg, South Africa
Everywhere else, South Africa – first attempted mugging of my life just outside Cape Town station!
Rio (City of God), Brazil
Lima (Old Town), Peru

Overall though, I’ve felt safe in 99% of the world. As long as you never go to Johannesburg, you’ll be fine. Don’t ever fear travelling!

Professions Listed at Pointless Checkpoints:
Used-car Salesman
Lover, not a fighter

Things lost along the way:
The penknife Jina gave me (J-A)
Two pairs of Boots sunglasses
Travel alarm clock
Corkscrew (well, confiscated by airport security!)

Things worn out or broken:
Sony DSC-P200 Camera
Panasonic Lumix Camera
Sigma 28-300mm lens
Canon 50mm fixed lens
(are you getting the theme here? I don’t recommend taking expensive camera gear on an extended trip like this!)
Two phones!
Main pack rain cover x2
Crocs shoes
Karrimor Walking Boots
Another corkscrew
And I suspect almost: Canon EOS 400d!

Most valuable travel companions:
Laptop, without which this blog would not exist
iRiver N11 mp3 player with BBC Radio 4 podcasts
Rum Doodle by WE Bowman
Rohan clothes
Karrimor pack
Shaving oil (packs small!)

Next holiday Plans (no, really!):

Fox Cottage in Aldborough, Norfolk, UK
Three Men in a Boat Trip on Thames
Senegal and Mali
Diving the Red Sea, possibly off Sudan or Eritrea
Gotland (Sweden)
New York (it’s been a while)
Nepal EBC (Everest Base Camp)
Iceland (Northern Lights)
Libya (Leptis Magna)
St. Helena (to visit my old boss Vince)
Iran (when it’s a bit warmer than now)
Kazakhstan (Borat!)
Caribbean Islands
Mt Kenya and Oldoinyo Lengai Volcano

Extended Trips:
Silk Road Trip
RTW Sailing Trip
Central America (Columbia, Venezuela etc)
West Coast US (roadtrip?)
Chicago to New Orleans (Blues roadtrip?)

Top Food Countries in no particular order: Thailand, Korea, China, Malaysia, Burma (Shan), India (anyone sensing an Asian theme?!) and Italy!

Sichuan food, yum!

Worst Food Countries: Indonesia (fried, oily, dirty), Botswana (fast food only!), Easter Island (disappointing seafood), Chile (Bland steaks with potatoes and pasta, twice a day)

Since I’ve Been Away:
Chucky, Supi, Chris Pepper, and goodness knows how many others have married (am I getting to that age?!)
New 20 pounds note introduced in the UK
Grandma Daphne’s had no shirts to iron!
Smoking ban in public places has come in, thank goodness!
We have a Scot in charge of the UK, their takeover is almost complete
Westminster City Council launched the "SatLav" mobile phone service which alerts people to the nearest public toilets. Texting the word "toilet" to the number 80097 apparently prompts a quick-response text with details of the nearest facilities and their opening times.
Hedgy’s bought me a house, thanks Hedge!

Money Left:
Not enough for a Zone 1 Tube Fare without Oystercard! I need a job!

In Conclusion
I conclude with a late poem by St. John of the Cross, which I picked up in the introduction to the late great Eric Shipton’s Six Mountain Volume, quoted here in the translation by Roy Campbell:

The generous heart upon its quest
Will never falter, nor go slow,
But pushes on, and scorns to rest,
Wherever it’s most hard to go.
It runs ahead and wearies not
But upward hurls its fierce advance
For it enjoys I know not what
That is achieved by lucky chance.

And in thanks to,
My parents and family for bringing me up to be someone so happy and confident
Rob Meredith for nagging me repeatedly into doing this trip
Andre Leigh for sending me from COLT with such good faith
And finally for the countless acts of selfless generosity experienced along the way, in every corner of the world, which renew one’s faith in humanity.

Finally, I am bound to point what is essentially obvious but often shelved from the forefront of our minds: One never knows when or if you’ll have these wonderful opportunities, so I say to you in Gordon Rodway’s imperative: Travel!

Eurostar and London

Today is the day! I’m coming home, after 510 days on the road. So, from well-organised clean Köln Hauptbahnhof, I take the nice German ICE train 16 at 8:44am to Brussels Midi, crossing the border at Aachen, and arriving at 11:01, giving me an hour before my Eurostar to collect tickets. London in the afternoon..

Brussels Midi station is a complete mess, and it takes me almost the whole hour I have to connect to pick up tickets and get on the train. UK Immigration was a particular chore. It’s good to have things to moan about again!

The ticket

The perfect place to have a coffee in Brussels before heading home..

Here we go..

What a tourist.. photo of the train!

The ride isn’t very exciting, Eurostar economy is much worse than TrenItalia or DB, cramped, no power, looked dated etc. And the new route into London isn’t as exciting as expected, its all underground! New station is nice though.

London St Pancras!

Pippi, who is my cousin for those of you who didn’t know this (!), meets me and buys me lunch before it’s back to Tom’s in West Hampstead.


Met Line home. I’ve forgotten how to use the tube, I nearly jump out at Baker Street.

Life is back to usual

Tom welcomes me with a choice of beer or tea. After a cup of tea (of course), its time.. to the pub!

Small Beers in Cologne

So, R464 Express train at 9:16 to Munich, passing through Domazlice, George’s hometown, across the border, Schwandorf, and to Regensburg at 14:47, where I will change to ICE26 to Dortmund, hopping off at Cologne. I have a bit of a panic before the train pulls out, as another train pulls out at exactly the time ours is supposed to, then we leave twenty minutes late. I’m glad I went for this choice of trains, as the alternative was two changes each with about five minutes connection time, which was never going to work!

For most of the journey a pretty German girl in my carriage occupies my attentions, along with the Torygraph and snoozing. We pass through Plzen, the home of pilsner beer! I’ve visited with George many years ago, but was possibly more hung over than I’d ever been before in my life, so wasn’t especially keen on a brewery.

At Regensburg, I spend the hour’s wait looking about the shopping complex adjacent to the station, with a slice of pizza and a 2 euro 50 phone call to Ralfy – the damn T Mobile phone refuses to return any change. IC26 train comes in at 14:33 – German high-speed trains are very sexy, though the Czech booking lot have managed to reserve me a non-existent seat, rather unhelpfully.

The train whizzes up through Nürnburg (Nurenburg), Frankfurt to Köln (Cologne), arriving at 20:05. On board it’s smart, clean, busy, there are power points, in-seat entertainment, and they hand out Journey Plan leaflets listing the route, what trains you can change on to at each station, map of the train, etc. I work my way through an impressive number of King of the Hill episodes!

At Cologne, Ralf picks me up at the station and we head back to the his place which he shares with his girlfriend, Ilka. He’s well-stocked for beer, and we do our best to finish it!

Breakfast the following afternoon!

The gothic Cologne cathedral is the obvious sight, towering high above the city from its position next to the main station and so we have a walk around it inside. Gets us out of the rain if nothing else.

Supposedly the Three Magi (Wise Men) are somewhere in here. Not that we can find them. It does have some spankingly good stain-glass windows though,

the only brightness in an otherwise very simple but big cathedral – much like Canterbury Cathedral in my home town.

We then head back to a coffee shop to meet Jens, another former colleague from COLT in the UK who is now working for a small security firm here. I detect some tension in poor old Jens than Ralfy and I, not having worked for a year and a half, seem to be missing! Coffee over, we walk back to his office, he grabs his things then after a quick game of table football we head off to a traditional restaurant bar called Früh.

It’s noisy inside, but upstairs we find a table, sitting next to a group of Chinese who eat continuously the whole time we were there, an impressive feat!

Ralf and Jens

The beer they drink in Cologne is called Kölsch, which is also the name of the local dialect, so the joke is that Kölsche is the only language you can drink. They drink it out of small glasses, but serve them fast, so you end up drinking vast quantities!

They also serve up good hearty German nosh.


They keep track of how many beers you drink by scrawling notches with a biro on one of our beer mats. We have 34 beers in Fruh before heading off to the next bar!

By this stage, Ilka has joined us too, and after a bite, we head off to another place, one of her favourite bars.


The next bar is called Low Budget. Classy!

But actually inside it was nice, friendly, and had a barrel of tequila on the bar to which we availed ourselves, in addition to the small glasses coming at our table as if we were in a factory with the end of the production line being our bellies! Ilka’s friend Ina joins us, and we end up at her place, though by the end of the night, I was dozing off. Still, the training programme for my homecoming drinks is going well!

Next day, the weather is miserable, and after having breakfast mid-afternoon, we do precisely nothing! I do blog, and call up Inland Revenue demanding my tax back from 2006! Tomorrow morning I’ll take the train through to Brussels and straight on to the UK. The end of the Travel Blog, hallelujiah! I received an email from my brother Hedgy saying he'll see me tomorrow in the pub and how strange it was to be saying that. For you and me both, Hedge!

Sacher Torte and a Brewery in Prague

With Pippi gone, we enjoy a somewhat leisurely start, and again head down to Termini to dump our bags. Now we stroll from Termini down Via Cavour, passing Santa Maria Maggiore and heading to Capitoline Hill. You get a bit blazé about large historical buildings in Italy, and especially in Rome. Of more interest is Cavour 313, an old enoteca, where we stop for some lunch.

They’re nice and the food and wine is all great, plus the girl steers us to a local pale ale instead of letting us have Peroni, which always will raise someone in my esteem!

At the bottom we have the Palatine ruins on the left as we run along the Forti Imperiali road

The forum, the tomb of Romulus, all the good stuff that they missed in the rain yesterday. We reach Il Vittoriano Palace, completed in 1935,

built to celebrate Italy’s reunification and in memory of King Emanuele II. It’s nicknamed the birthday cake or typewriter, and some jestingly suggest it should be pulled down as it’s over the top, but I can’t see this happening! Mussolini used to keep office in one side of it.

We head up to the top,

where three palaces form museums, and buy some postcards before popping back to the Colosseum for last photos of Rome.

Tube back to station, passing our favourite advert – the Tezenis girl, who appears all over the city

A quick beer in Moka Café as Dad and Lewis’ train is soon. Dad buys me a Telegraph, not noticing that it’s the same one he bought yesterday. Ah well! I suddenly think - why am I downing my beer? I’ve got hours to wait, my train is at 7:10pm! Dad and Lewis head off on the 16:22 to the airport, I’m left to wander about the station,

Strange train

looking for a post box. Tourist information give me back directions so I end up going several blocks away when there’s one inside the terminal, but, ah well, all time killed. After a fine day, there are evil clouds gathering, it looks like the rain is coming back with avengeance, and I see it on the display boards as trains start to be delayed.

Evil clouds gather

To Vienna and Hotel Sacher
When my train finally appears on the board, I head down to Platform 8 and find it’s a Vienna – Monaco service. Strange, I suspect they split the train somewhere, as I can’t believe that’s a sensible route to take. (Update: Monaco is Italian for Munich, slightly confusingly, but makes a lot more sense from a train route perspective).

My carriage is a modern DB (German) sleeper carriage, clean and well arranged, with a couple of flaws.

Firstly, I’ve paid for a four bed room (80 euros). I assumed this would mean more space. The reality though, is that they’ve provided a six bed room and have (presumably) limited the passenger numbers. My fellow passengers are supposed to be embarking at Florence and Venice. The issue with this is that I’ve been put (and the pretty conductor girl says I can’t move) in one of the two beds that are at the top, inches from the ceiling, so I keep bashing my head. Furthermore, the beds are nowhere near long enough! It must be about five and a half feet, and you lose some of that because of the curved roof, so there’s no way I can stretch out. Not comfy!

But I still manage to sleep, and wake up to us rolling through beautiful deep valleys with snow-capped peaks above us and little Austrian towns, their houses with steep roofs suggesting plenty of snow can be received here. The chap next to me, an Austrian, says they didn’t get much this year around here. He also says that in the old days (I didn’t try to define the era) they used to hop off the train at this point (we’re high up above the valley) and sky down, beating the train as it does a long loop to a bridge further along then doubles back.

Breakfast is brought to us about an hour before arriving into Vienna - tea, two raison buns and some jam. We’re five minutes late apparently. I have 11 minutes to connect at Vienna. No more delays please!

We arrive into Wien (Vienna), and I can’t find my train, panicking till it occurs to me that I’m looking at the date numbers, not the time, I’ve got an hour. Should be enough, I dash in with tram and subway to Hotel Sacher, behind Opera, and pick up a Sacher Torte for George and Jitka. I also grab a “For one” mini-cake, before taking Tram D back. My train awaits, and I share a six-seater carriage with an old German chap. I try my cake, and after three bites I’m full, it’s so rich, goodness me!

Prague with Jiri and Jitka
George, my Czech friend from school and his wife Jitka are waiting for me at Holesovice Station, luckily we’re only only ten minutes late or so arriving, and together we tube and bus back to their house, where I enjoy a Pilsner Urquel in a branded glass.

Jitka admits that the other one is in use as a vase at the moment, disgraceful! We head out, first at my request to U Pinkasu, a restaurant bar that I never fail to visit in Prague, near the bottom of Wenceslas Square. It’s a bit touristy, but in a good way, has a nice atmosphere, and if it’s warm enough has a garden area at the back of a church with the benches between the stone pillars.

to Prvni Novomestsky Restauracni, aka New Town Brewery (in Vodickova Street near Mustek). When we arrive, I realise that I’ve been here before, with Lucy a few years ago. Still, it’s a brewery, in we go! Beers up first of course, and we have pretzels, from hooks hanging on the table, then tripe soup and pork with dumplings and zeli (cabbage).

Good traditional Czech food, washed down with the in-house brew.

I’m staying at his house tonight, and we compare Mexican photos before hitting the sack.

In the morning we head out in the glorious sunshine, and Jitka sends me off to the tube, on the way telling me that George is going to a spa treatment tonight where you are exposed to -150C! Surely not healthy?! Tube to Hlavni Nadrazni, the main station, which is being redeveloped and is a bit of a mess and so even more confusing than usual. I eventually find somewhere to buy a ticket, which costs me about 3,000 Czech crowns (what on earth is the exchange rate?!) and we’re off to Germany!