Solipsism and Me

Idle reports from an idle fellow

An Expedition into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1)

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mapofnortherneuropeClick on the above map and consider. As you can see the most direct route from London to Vilnius by train would take you through Brussells and Warsaw and then either across Belarus or by snaking a little further North directly into Lithuania. Sadly however, though it has been promised for some time now, there is currently no direct rail link, and travel via Belarus remains complicated. There is however a third way, not so well advertised, by means of the daily ferryboat across the Baltic from Kiel to Klaipeda (not marked on my map, but it’s Lithuania’s only seaport): which proves to be very agreeable if you are not in a hurry and the weather is good.

Day 1

We left Oxford around lunchtime on Sunday, and made the entirely familiar, not to say boring, train journey to Brussells, arriving in good time to enjoy an entirely unexpected fun fair located directly outside the cheap hotel I’d randomly selected from the dozens around Bruxelles-midi. Here’s the rather dramatic view from the 6th floor.

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The fun fair is behind the row of caravans. Glancing down there, the first thing we saw was a strange amusement which seemed to consist of placing children into inflated floating  pods:

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Otherwise, Belgian funfairs seem to be strong on deep fried food, (I rather enjoyed my beignets de framboises – real live raspberries wrapped in dough and deep-fried but Lilette was unimpressed). There were scarey roller coasters and pop music as per St Giles Fair, but also child-friendly real live pony rides, archery contests, ancient machines for trying your strength or measuring your passion, and similar atavistic delights.

Almost anything you want, covered in batter, deep fried, and sprinkled with sugar

Almost anything you want, covered in batter, deep fried, and sprinkled with sugar

 

 

Real Ponies!

Real Ponies!

Test your Passion Machine. We don't need one.

Test your Passion Machine. We don’t need one, thank you.

Really scarey rides for people with strong somachs and a serious death wish

Really scarey rides for people with strong stomachs and a serious death wish

 

If you can't talk nicely...

Be nice, or go away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards we strayed into a street full of Moroccan restaurants, just as dusk came and they began to open up for the benefit of those observing Ramadam, and even us too. And so to bed on the 6th floor: a good start to the holiday.

Day 2

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Sausage Break at Frankfurt hauptbahnhof: entirely appropriate.

After an entirely unmemorable breakfast, we headed back to Midi station, fighting our way through hundreds of other holiday makers, backpackers, screaming children, etc. to catch the 1030 ICE train into and across Germany. Which was, of course, just like every other ICE train I’ve ever caught, i.e. (depending on one’s mood and how late it’s running) restful, sybaritic, or really rather boring. It got less crowded after Koln, and even less so by the time we got to Frankfurt, where we were able to enjoy a protracted sausage break waiting for ICE 74, the train that goes all the way from Zurich to Kiel, and which was running about 30 minutes late. I wish I had something interesting to say about these magnificent white trains that just zoom across Europe, quietly announcing their speed and the stations they pass through on monitors at the end of each carriage. Sitting in the gros raum comfy chairs, with wifi and regular offers of drinkable coffee and refreshments (I recommend the eintopf) in real white china from impeccably turned-out wait persons, as the countryside hurtles past the window it’s easy to get blasé about them. Which one should not, as they are a splendid achievement.

ICE 37 arrives at Frankfurt, only 28 minutes late

ICE 74 arrives at Frankfurt, en route from Zurich to Kiel, only 20 minutes late

And so to Kiel, the main port of Schleswig-Holstein as any fule kno. Our hotel, the accurately named “Basic Hotel” is just a few minutes walk through the horrible modern shopping centre which seems to be the main feature of downtown Kiel, the rest of it having been presumably flattened during the war.

Burgomeister and friend

Burgermeister and friend

Bags having been dumped (second floor no lift, but a nice big bed, and good wifi) , we walked across town, following the indications of the handy tourist information leaflet. This being Germany, the tourist information board knew exactly what we wanted to see: lots of European shops, weird statues of former notables (notably former burgermeister Asmus Bremer), and a lovingly re-created alter markt with its own brewery, the renowned Kieler Brauerei. At which place,  (this being Germany), I felt obliged to consume beer, along with matjes herrings and potatos but Lilette had more sense. And so to bed.

Part Two is published on my new Medium blog

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Written by Lou

July 30, 2014 at 16:03

Posted in Biographical

Tagged with , ,

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