Helsinki to Basel in 55 hours, via Stockholm, Copenhagen and Germany in 9 trains and a ferry. Days 32 to 34 of KK 2019. Had to get to Switzerland and then Venice by day 35 to catch the Swiss alpine trains and then the Orient Express. The funny no visa by train rule in Belarus meant fashioning a northern arc through Scandinavia and then cutting through Germany to Basel.
A long way round, it had its silver lining : seeing Helsinki, a breezy 17 hour ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm with their stunning archipelagos, a 6 hour transit in Stockhom that gave just enough time for a stroll in the Old Town and a visit to the Nobel Prize Museum. Overnight in Copenhagen, then zipping through Germany from Hamburg, through the Ruhr Valley into Mannheim and over the Swiss border to Basel.
The perfect Stockholm day was supposed to end with a slick 5 hour direct train to Copenhagen. As all travellers know, thats when Murphy or whatever its Swedish equivalent strikes: a 9 hour misadventure instead, 4 trains zigzaging on regional tracks, as fire raged in the appropriately named town of Hasselholm. Ironic that for the preceding 32 days accross rough terrain in Asia, Siberia and Russia, we had zero disruption; all trains left on time and on day 33 in the developed world… we had our 1st day of delays and disruption! The 2nd irony was it also took day 33 for the first close encounter of the rude and unpleasant kind after I told off a loud young Muslim Somalian sister on her phone to respect the quiet zone of the Swedish train;… she just grew louder complete with the requisite four letter words! 😂😭 Oh well, there we go, a turbulent upside down world in microcosm in a Swedish rail carriage where 3rd world trains are on time (as Swedish trains fail) and Somalian sisters curse (while Asian and Russian gangsta types behave well!)… Cue thoughts about the travails of rail privatisation (Sweden went private while the ever efficient Deutsche Bahn and Swiss SBB remain firmly state owned), the pink health of German industry and difficulties of immigration and integration for the EU. Still, it wasn’t too bad is it, rich world problems mostly! Alhamdullilah. #kretapikir 🙏🚂🗝️
104 Pall Mall, London. Day 40 of 77 of Kembara Kretapi 2019. Alhamdullilah, to mark the halfway point that was reached on day 38.5, somewhere on the Arlberg Pass between Innsbruck and Basel on the Orient Express, we had a wonderful lunch with family and friends. The venue was quite appropriately The Reform Club in Pall Mall. It is of course immortalized as the place where Phileas Fogg placed the wager of twenty thousand pounds to go Around the World in 80 Days in Jules Verne’s famous book.
Thanks to the guests who made time to attend and share this joyous occasion with Mas and I, and especially to Pooma, as a member of the Reform Club to make this happen! We read from the opening lines of the 3rd chapter of Around the World in both English (by Tasnim) and the original French (by Pooma), from copies of the books from the club’s own library!
We also read from the famous opening paragraph of Paul Theroux’s classic account of Asia and back by train, The Great Railway Bazaar, the book that planted the seeds of this Kembara almost 40 years ago. Alhamdullilah, a special thanks to Kak Zaila and Abang Ezani who had me as their tenant in Colindale (3rd last stop on the Northern Line, Edgware branch) back in the early 80s, a period that permanently infected me with the wanderlust virus … hitchhiking and taking trains over thousands of kms around Europe and America between 1980 and 1983. I read GRB at 19, reread at 39, and InsyaAllah will do it and more before 59!
Syukur, Alhamdullilah; 40 days, 42 trains, 26,837km, 17 countries, 33 cities, 14 assorted cars, taxis, buses, ferries, tuktuks, trishaws and so on, first half of KK2019 has safely concluded. We look forward to the second half commencing Sunday 25/8 InsyaAllah. 🙏🏽🚂📖 #kretapikir