Friday, 17 May 2013
Black Sea or Bust - Getting to the Beginning
To get Doris on the same 7.01 Eurostar as me I had to check her in with Goods Despatch the night before but I was assured that she would be on the same train. I love travelling by Eurostar. It normally means that you are going somewhere interesting to do something interesting. At the very least wherever you go and for whatever reason at some point you will have a decent dinner.
At The Gare du Nord there was a drama. The attendant had told me that Doris would be in the compartment between coaches 9 and 10. When I went to retrieve her but the cupboard was bare. There were two Eurostar ladies with me and I could tell by the glances that they exchanged that a) this was not an unusual occurrence and that b) the outcome was unlikely to be good. Was Doris still in London or worse was she speeding towards Brussels? The ladies directed me to an office in a far flung corner of the station yard and then they fled. But all was well, in a shed by the office there was Doris. She had been put on a train the night before.
My next connection was with a TGV to Strasbourg from the Gare de l'Est just a few hundred metres from the Gare du Nord and I had two hours to kill so set off more or less at random until I came across the Canal de l'Ourcq and I cycled north along the tow path for a few miles, a canal ride is always a pleasant jaunt.
The one thing that must strike any Englishman travelling by train in France is just how empty it is. So it was on the TGV to Strasbourg, there were endless vistas of rolling agricultural land without a single house, farm or other sign of human habitation in sight. It's hard to think of any location in England where this would be the case. At Strasbourg's smartly facaded station I had only ten minutes to wait for the next connection. Doris and I sidled across the German border on a two car commuter
train. Then there was a sinuous train ride up the valley into the Black Forest finally arriving at Donaueschingen at 650m above sea level, the source of the Danube.
My hotel was exactly what you would expect it to be and holding fast to the first rule of travel I left to find somewhere else to eat. I decided to go traditional and go for a German protein rush dinner, pork, mushrooms, spatzli and vegetables, all inundated in cream sauces. Of its kind it was good but if I were to eat this every night I would be at risk of death from constipation before I leave Germany's soil. The waitress, who may have been called Mitzi, was charming and at the table next to me three elderly couples were playing cards. One couple had neglected to bring along enough pairs of reading
glasses with them so as each hand was dealt the glasses were passed back and forth so that they could check their cards.