July 10th 2009.
And finally we're off. After months of non-planning - we have decided not to have too much of a timetable and just go with the flow - we're about to climb onto a Eurostar at St Pancras heading overland (and under sea) for Scandanavia. We've got 6 months off work, and are travelling light with just a rucksack each. Oh, and as recommended by Stephan Fry (but not Sue) that most advanced of modern multi-media communication devices, an iPhone - what more could a man want?
Norway is the first main target but via Copenhagen for a couple of days. In just 135 minutes, we're in Brussels and then boarding a German high-speed train for Cologne. They are so sleek and futuristic looking that with the addition of a few heat-resistant tiles at the front end, aim it skywards and you feel it could easily break free of the earth's gravitational pull and be expanding its network to neighbouring galaxies. "Vorsprung durch technik", as they say in Germany. And National Express can't even make a go of it to Edinburgh.
Another 2 hours later and we're in Cologne. Time for supper then we bord the night sleeper for Copenhagen. We're sharing a couchette compartment with a French couple. She lives and works in Frankfurt, he in Amsterdam. They meet up at weekends to go places to have fun. Sue thinks it sounds like a good arrangement.
If you've never been on a sleeper train, it's quite an experience. Somehow the cacophony of noise as the bogies cross over countless points and the buffers buffet against their counterparts on either side combine with the unpredictable lurching of the carriage to lull the traveler into some sort of fitfull sleep. Until, that is, the nightcap which seemed like a good idea before bedding down produces the inevitable premature wake-up call. Then it's like a game of hide-and-seek as you try to make your way to the nearest servicable toilet. Then as you make your way out again, you realise that you can't remember the number of your compartment and don't they all look exactly the same, especially in the dark. This is becoming more of a ghost-train nightmare! If only I'd thought of taking my iPhone and its GPS navigation system with me.
We wake in the morning to the sight of Danish wheat fields. The carriage attendant tells us we've lost the Restaurant Car somewhere in Germany (?) but he rustles up a coffee and bun each from his kitchenette. Just 24 hours after leaving home, and we're pulling in to Copenhagen Central. Much more satisfying, in a masochistic sort of way, than arriving by air. You definately feel you've travelled, even if as though through a hedge backwards.
Copenhagen immediately feels very relaxed and laid-back - very few cars and everyone on bikes (see photos). With its small streets and intersecting canals, it can be a bit confusing for visitors at first. This is when I used the opportunity to impress Sue with the virtues of the iPhone's afore-mentioned GPS navigational system. "You see all you need to do is open up the 'Maps' application from the Home screen, then get it to find out where you are, then under 'Directions', tell it where you are looking for, press 'Route' and, depending on the strenghth of the 3G connection, within a few seconds, you'll have the pathway marked out for you on the map in front of you and with written directions to boot!" But I'd lost Sue ages ago. She'd got bored waiting, asked a passer-by and was already half way down the street! Drat, and double-drat!
Next up, Oslo.