There are obviously going to be unexpected delights on a trip that covers as many thousands of miles as this one. Today we had two.
The first came after we’d passed through Dresden on the way to Prague. The landscape, which was positively Virginia Water between Berlin and Dresden, suddenly became something else, as sandstone walls rose up on either side of the Elbe, pocked with beautiful chocolate-box houses, many of which could only be accessed from the river.
This was Bohemian Switzerland, a valley running across the German-Czech border, twisting through the area Shakespeare would have called Bohemia. It was exquisite.
The view was made all the better by the place we watched it from – the restaurant car, the second unexpected treat of the day.
A proper restaurant car! With table service and ? la carte menu and frying pans instead of microwaves. The car had enormous panoramic windows looking out over the Elbe valley. I had some really good writing-related news today (more of which another time) and toasted it with Czech beer as the coniferous forests rolled by.
I watched a guy on a motorbike riding with no hands in front of an abandoned factory in the woods. At the top of the tree-lined valley sides were lonely communist-era housing blocks dropped down into the woods like a production of A Winter’s Tale by Milton Keynes Borough Council.
We’re now in Prague for a few hours before we get the midnight train to Vienna. But we’ve kept the train theme – taking a tram nod a funicular up to the top of the hill above the river. I’m writing some of this in the Black Ox below the beautiful monastery. The beer is almost as good as the view. Almost.
We spent last night in the Singer 109 hostel in the old East Berlin, with blissful indulgences like clean sheets and hot showers. Before leaving this morning we wandered around between the Reichstag and the Chancellery, nearly getting run down by a John Deere tractor laying down a red rope for a visiting functionary. In Germany, if a job needs doing, nothing gets in its way.
Tomorrow is Vienna and Bratislava. And on we go.