Days 11 and 12: Munich

Yay! Oktoberfest. We went out on the first night to an Oktoberfest-style beer house in the centre of town. Needless to say that we got way too drunk trying to teach E and the Americans sat next to us how to flip bar mats, and then play “shove ‘apenny”.

The British were clearly leagues ahead of the other nations in the beer mat flipping stakes. We rocked.

Next day we visited the Deutsches Museum (their science and technology museum). Lots to see and it would’ve been an ideal hangover cure if all the German school pupils weren’t in the museum with us.

Then onto the Bierfest proper. After a very quick ‘cultural’ walk around we found somewhere to sit. Got chatting to the others around the table and lots of table dancing and singing ensued.

R and me tried to then get on a fair ride, unfortunately it had closed and we found ourselves trapped with the power off and the shoulder restraints in place. Queue lots of panicking Germans trying to figure out how to release us.

Needless to say they did, and we’re now in Amsterdam.

Days 9 and 10: Vienna

Boring. Go somewhere else.

However, their cake shops are good. They have some old buildings too, and a really big “castle” with grounds we explored.

Don’t bother with walking up the spire of the cathedral, having ascended the 350ish steps, we found that it was covered in scaffolding and we couldn’t see out. (Of course, some might say that we could have seen the scaffolding before we went up, but we didn’t).

Munich, here we come.

Days 7 and 8: Zagreb

Zagreb is a great place – a neat, tidy, friendly city with loads of outdoor bars and pubs. Lots of trees, little pollution and the sun made this a great break from the smoggy Belgrade, and cold Sofia.

Arriving at the station there were no ‘Information? I give you information – very cheap. Where you go?’ people, and even a cash point. (Other countries please note – when international travellers arrive you should either – a) force taxi drivers to accept smelly socks and a cheeky English grin as currency, or b) put a cash point at the point of entry).

Anyway, having visited the sights of Zagreb (the Museum of Art and Culture, the opera house, the cathedral) we got down to some serious drinking and people spotting. Late night Zagreb doesn’t appear to exist – everything closes at 1am (although, oddly, the trams are 24hr).

The further west we go, the richer the countries become, the better the train service and the friendlier the people are. I’m typing this in Vienna now, and E is getting agitated so I’d better go and see some sights. 2 Days here visiting the sights, museums and cake shops.

Days 5 and 6: Belgrade

What a journey. 11 hours on a train. The customs and border patrols into Serbia, although apparently unarmed, were still sufficiently scary looking to drive the fear of god into the women clothes traffickers.

Still, the scenery en route was pretty spectacular in places with big cavernous gorges cutting through high mountains. It’s obvious that Serbia is much richer than Bulgaria as soon as we enter – the train track improves and we go faster, the cars are much newer (this century!), and the people and clothes are less rundown.

Having spent the morning picking up E from the airport and then wandering around Belgrade we’ve only seen one sign of the recent war, but otherwise the city looks much like most european capitals (albeit with a huge pollution problem).

Off to find the party river boats tonight, and possibly see some sights if we don’t stumble across too many bars on the way. Tomorrow Croatia and Zagreb.

Days 3, 4: Thessaloniki and Sofia

After a 5 hour train trip to Thessaloniki from Athens, punctuated with various games from our travel compendium, we found a bar on the waterfront and had our first beer of the day. As our connecting train to Sofia (Bulgaria) wasn’t for another 5 hours, one beer quickly became several more. In summary, Thessaloniki was a great place for bars and shopping but not so great for visitors.

Our connecting sleeper train to Sofia left at midnight and once we got over the shock of the pre-WW2 accomodation (and smells to match) we got our heads down for the night. The train had other ideas, bouncing us violently about in our bunks to wake us up conveniently for our 2am and 3am passport control sessions. Back to sleep at 4, the train went on go-slow all the way to Sofia where we arrived 2 hours late.

Sofia is quite surprising. It’s definitely the poorest place i’ve ever visited and now our Greek guides have left us, the language barrier has risen. Thankfully the word ‘beer’ appears to be ubiquetous so we’re not in danger of drought and with 0.5l beers costing around 50p we’re not in danger of becoming skint. That said, we did find cheaper beers when we stumbled into a British embassy party and had free beers. Only 2 though, don’t want to outstay our “welcome”.

Off to a proper Bulgarian restaurant tonight, 10 quid a head i’m told for 4 courses. We have to make the most whilst stuff is cheap – Western Europe is coming soon…

Days 1 and 2: London to Athens

3am start. I didn’t know that time existed. Odd to be sharing the first train of the morning with the partygoers heading home.

Arrived in Athens refreshed for having a Batchelors Cup-a-soup en route. Very hot, 30c. Put the regulation sandals, shorts and shades on – i’m officially a tourist.

Visited the Acropolis very dusty, very hot and very incomplete. I think that summarises Athens.

12 hour train journey to Bulgaria tomorrow so we’ll be learning Bulgarian on the train and playing Chess/Cards/Sodoku.