Despite a relatively heavy night the night before we still maintained the pace. It was clear that this trip had a huge focus on whistle stops in famous cities and sampling the famous culture and food of that famous place.
I feel as though I am skipping over the car journeys despite them being a huge and memorable part of the trip. There was lots of singing involved and many entertaining conversations. Car journeys to random places will never be underestimated again.
When we did arrive we had the novelty of having an afternoon to spend in the city. We immediately headed towards the Beer museum (which turned out to be bar full of different beers). He decided to sample all of the beers on draught (of which there were 30). We ordered them 10 at a time and made our way through them quickly at first, and then quite slowly.
As if everything caught up on us we ended up napping back in the hostel before preparing for dinner and drinks. We went to a restaurant we a Eastern European ambiance and ordered another Czech beer with some Goulash (even though it’s Hungarian I didn’t feel as though I was cheating).
Despite our clearly tired eyes we decided to proceed into the night as normal. We were confident that with Prague’s reputation for beer we would not struggle for somewhere to play. However, after a couple of stops in bars we were told that we were in Prague on the wrong night. We decided to head to a bar near the hostel for a couple of night caps and have a light one.
All was going to plan until we got back to our hostel. It turned out that we were sharing our room with 4 American girls heading out to celebrate their last night in Prague. they encouraged us to join them, so we did. We ended up in a nearby club which featured next to no one and the girls were slightly irritating (it appears beggars can be choosers). Had we been in a better state we may have stayed a while longer, but we didn’t even have the desire to finish our beers. Instead we were in bed before 1:30 and got a good 7 hour sleep before the next leg of our adventure.
It was then time to leave Prague and the Czech Republic and begin our journey back west, once again via Germany. It was my job to steer us out of Prague which initially seemed a difficult task. However, as with many things on all of my travels, we luckily some how ended up on the right road towards Berlin and the journey quickly fell into place.
Some of the driving experiences on this trip have been fantastic, not least driving around the windy rods of the Alps. Yet, driving on an Autobahn is something else. I had the freedom to drive at a sped I felt fit. Since we wanted to get to Berlin quickly the pace was quite rapid, hindered only by the relentless rain. That said, I was still able to overtake a police car whilst travelling at over 100mph. This is not perhaps the most mature of accomplishments, but in a holiday where ‘box ticking’ has become synonymous I felt as though it was an opportunity not to be missed.
As we approached Berlin the efficient German signage disappeared and we didn’t know if we had totally missed the capital city or not yet approached it. As it turned out, and confirmed by a German woman in an Ikea car park, we were actually in Berlin. With a little bit of driving we found ourselves at the Reichstag. We drove towards the central station where we had decided to get the underground to a decent area of the city. We struck gold when we saw a construction site with the company name of Dean and James’ work. It’s gave us a car park for the night.
We got the train to Savignyplatz in Charlottenburg. We were told this was the place for ‘good timers’. We felt this was us. When we arrived we quickly found a nice hostel where we got given a room to share between us. We prepared to go out for dinner and ended up on a street famed for its bars and restaurants. We had some dodgy fajitas. Perhaps not eating the native food of the land had bad karma.
Still after dinner we went to a couple of bars where we made friends with 3 lovely Australian girls before ending our night in a German discotheque. In fact, it was more like morning by the time we got back. Dean got his currywurst fix on the way back.
We were all in agreement that the Germans seem to do everything well. their roads are good, their people are nice and their beer is fantastic.
The end of this fabulous trip was now in sight. But spirits still hadn’t dropped. We now had a huge drive from Berlin to Amsterdam for the final big night of our trip. Despite the distance we managed to cut our trip to 6 hours, which meant we shared the drive to 2 hours each. We had been quite good at keeping to this (unless we had a mission in our head, such as my desire to get to Berlin from Prague). It seemed that we prepared less and less for every journey. It’s is perhaps stupidity, but could also show our developing skills foe European road maps since we always found our destination.
When we arrived in Amsterdam I was surprised to realise how vivid my memories were of my previous visit. I really love Amsterdam.
Once we had booked into our room, which happened to smell of weed, we got ourselves freshened up like many of the nights beforehand. What was different about this time was that we knew we were heading into our last night. Thus, we quite nostalgically played some poignant tunes which we all sang along to. It was at this point of reflection that I think we all realised how well we had played the last 10 days and how it was a shame that it was coming to an end. We had ticked a few boxes.
This time we headed out for a celebratory steak (which was a massive meat feast) before walking around the Red Light District. Dean was initially horrified by the women seeking themselves from the shop windows, but that changed after a few pints. Naturally we headed to a peep show and went in experienced a few of Amsterdam’s selling points. Eventually we all ended up in a good bar just outside of the centre. Here, being more jolly that ever we enjoyed ourselves until the early ours of the morning. At one point a Lithuanian girl showed an interest in us. However, we decided to dance the night away to the cheese that was playing through the speakers. It appeared that by paying her no attention she became more intrigued by us. Perhaps this is a tactic we can use in future.
Despite losing James to his bed at about 6am, myself and Dean still felt we had one more box to tick. We, quite irresponsibly, got into an illegal taxi where the man turned up some drum and bass. We ended up cruising around the streets of Amsterdam whilst raving with a Dutchman in his car. In truth, it was a great decision to take the dodgy taxi. In fact, I’ve had a few good taxi rides in recent trips.
We ended up walking around the Red Light District looking at the ladies of the night and even chatting with some of them. It wasn’t until 8am that we realised the prostitutes were probably a box that doesn’t need to be ticked. This was especially true when I realised I would be registering my children in 24 hours. We slept for a few hours before it was time to make our final leg home.
Despite only a couple of hours sleep it was Deans turn to drive. It quickly became apparent that he wasn’t quite ready to drive. He soon got over it.
Our journey back to Calais was going to be tight time-wise so we set off with the intent of arriving just in time for our scheduled ferry. It seemed as though we had just about enough time to make it.
All was looking good until we were running low on petrol. It seems that Belgium enjoys putting scores of garages together but 100s of kilometres away from each other. We just about made it to a garage just outside of Brugge. We took the opportunity to grab some food from the ironically named fast-food restaurant ‘Quick’. Here we waited about 10 minutes for our take-away and paid an additional price for mayonnaise that we hadn’t asked for. What made the place most comical was the amount of paper bags we were given. It was a strange place, and it cost us valuable time.
It was now my task to get us to the ferry on time. Despite driving at uncomfortable speeds I was only able to get us to the port 2 minutes after we were supposed to depart. This meant we had to hope that we could jump on the next one. The next one happened to be in 3 hours. Since we all had work in the morning, this was a hammer blow to our desire to have a mince evenings rest.
Still, we managed to kill the time listening to the Arsenal game on the radio before we eventually boarded the ferry.
As soon as we got on the ferry, armed with pillows, we found a lovely spot and slept. I think I slept the whole journey. It was only now that we could see the toll the trip had taken on our bodies. Had we been running on pure adrenaline until now?
James was to complete our final drive once we docked in England. We had regained our spirits and once again reflected on everything we had done. We confirmed that we have had an unforgettable experience together over the last 10 days.
Strangely we passed James’s parents on the motorway as we approached Crawley. At this point We had to say goodbye to James and drew the curtains shut on our trip. He had certainly brought a lot of fun and enthusiasm to the trip. I had enjoyed his company and it was strange to say goodbye to him. this meant that it remained just me and Dean in the car….not quite the same.
We completed the last 5 minutes of our journey together. At around 9pm on the Sunday night before work we had made it. A sense of achievement was felt by us both. We really had succeeded in a 10 day tour around Europe and we had done it well.
Despite our tiredness we were more than happy to stay up and share some stories with our fantastic housemates and others who had gathered in the living room. It was great to see everyone again and felt comfort in being home with everyone.
So that was it. We had arrived home. The last 10 days have been fantastic. We have so many people to thank, not least those that put us up in their fantastic chalet in France. We also have to thank luck for guiding us to some brilliant places with little preparation. I do, however, think that the amazing time that we’ve had is mostly due to the continued high spirits and positivity of the 3 of us. I have to be quite soppy and thank both Dean and James for being such great company and making the whole experience unforgettable. That’s enough of that. Back to work.