The holiday itself began on a Monday so we travelled to London on the Sunday afternoon. The Virgin Trains East Coast on board staff were excellent as usual and we enjoyed smoked salmon sandwiches, crisps and biscuits on the way to Kings Cross. Wine is not included in the complimentary refreshments at weekends, but I bought Prosecco from the cafe-bar to get the holiday off to an appropriate start. From Kings Cross it was a stroll along the Euston Road to the Ambassadors Bloomsbury hotel which had been booked for us, and needing no further refreshment after Sunday lunch and the light meal on the train we were able to get to bed early ready for the morning's excitement!
|Eurostar E320 awaiting departure at St Pancras|
|Eurostar light breakfast|
|Thalys sweet snack|
The check-in was busy and the waiting area well-filled with people waiting for the 08:31 train to Amsterdam as well as our train, and when the Amsterdam people had gone up to their train people started arriving for the following Paris departure. It is a huge waiting area but Eurostar's trains are the longest in Britain and take a lot of people, so they need a lot of space.
Our packed breakfast, together with coffee purchased from the bar in the waiting area, occupied our time until our train was announced and we made our way up to the platform. I was delighted to see that the train consisted of one of Eurostar's new E320 sets which I'd never used before. The comfort and facilities lived up to expectations, and as we sped across Kent we were served the Eurostar light breakfast which, added to the corn flakes and yogurt from the hotel box, meant that we were well fed for the start of our holiday.
At Brussel Zuid we changed to the Thalys high-speed train to Cologne, with another included snack, this time with wine, and then at Cologne caught the ICE (inter city express) train to Berlin, a new route for us, a new type of train and, most importantly, a new destination. No included refreshments on this part of the trip but as dinner was still some way off we bought wine and cake to ensure we were not ravenous on arrival at Berlin. This was not an especially fast part of the journey, although speed did pick up a bit on the high speed line after Hannover. We arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the new triple-decker central station recently built to provide a fitting railway station for the reunified capital, and were taken by coach to the hotel, the Maritim, an enormous establishment near the Tiergarten. Dinner was served soon after our arrival and we slept our first night of what was to be an interesting tour of some hugely significant historic capital cities: indeed, I thought as my mind drifted, we were already in our third capital of the day!
|Replica on the site of Checkpoint Charlie|
|Looking down to our platforms at Berlin Hbf|
Of all the places we visited on this trip, I think it is Berlin and Vienna to which we must return before too long. Has anyone any comment to make on Berlin?