Last night we had our first experience of an overnight sleeper train.  We were travelling from Amsterdam to Prague on the City Night Line Service.  We had booked a cabin for 2 with an ensuite.   I had always had a hankering to go on a sleeper since as a child I saw Roger Moore in “Live and Let Die” throw Tee Hee Johnson out the window of one.  I was quite happy not to throw anyone from the train, but the idea of a sleeper always seemed quite exotic.

It arrived at Amsterdam station spot on time (it’s run by a German operator, what do you expect) and we climbed into coach 171 (literally climbed as it was a really steep step.  Karen nearly didn’t make it with her case).  The Steward helped us find our way to our cabin.  It was actually designed to accommodate 3 people, but they had just got 2 beds out for us.
We flopped onto the lower bed and began trying to work out what did what.  We quickly found the bathroom with its toilet, tiny shower  wash basin which swivelled to be either above the toilet or in the shower, depending on what it was that you were doing.  (It would appear they didn’t expect you to be using the shower whilst washing your hands and sitting on the toilet.  They has obviously never come across my uber efficient morning routine!).  Karen found what appeared to be a wardrobe but couldn’t get it open.  (Turned out it was door to the next cabin).  There was a step ladder to the top bunk but a distinct lack of table.  We also kept falling over our cases.  After a few minutes, we came out with a plan of action:

– Get the stuff out of the case we needed.
– Put the cases on top of the bathroom (there was webbing to stop them from falling off).
– Put the bottom bunk back into a seat.
– Try and find the table.
The train pulled out off the station at precisely 19:01 as we began trying to settle in. A moment later there was knock at the door.  It was the steward:

“Ticket and credit card please”
I dutifully handed them over. She handed back the credit card but kept the ticket.”I will take this now”
“OK”With that she was gone.

2 minutes later she was back.”Here are 2 bottles of water”Gone again.

It was when I was half way up the ladder trying to work out if I could do a straight lift  of a 15Kg case from ground level to above my head when she re-appeared again.
“Tea or coffee with your breakfast?
Me “Coffee”
Karen “Tea”
“Red wine sparkling wine?”
“With my breakfast?”
“No, now.  Do you want red wine or sparkling wine”
I then did what most men in my position would do.
“Is it included in the price?”
She gave me that pitiful look as if to say “You’ve paid for a first class cabin, just go with it man”.
“Yes, it is included”
“Oh, I’ll have sparkling”
“And you madame””I don’t drink”
“I’ll have hers.  She’ll have a sparkling wine as well”
Even though she was behind me I could tell that Karen was giving me a look that meant that it would result in her not passing me the next case and I was going to have to lift it all the way myself.

The  steward left us again.  Next we put the bed back to a seat and we sat down to relax.

The Steward was back with 2 small bottles of wine and 2 plastic glasses.  It was at this point I wished I had the app that takes a picture of a wine label and then tells you all about it and how much it costs.  I think they actually pay people to drink this stuff and not the other way around, but hey it was free. Karen had one of the waters and glared.

We searched high and low for a table but couldn’t find one, so I wrote last nights blog sat on the floor using the other seat as a table, drinking cheap wine and watching Holland turn into Germany.  It was really rather nice travelling through places we had heard of but never been to; Dusseldorf, Cologne and Dortmund.

Eventually we decided it was time for bed, so we put the bottom bunk back up.  We then found the instructions about how it was forbidden to change the bunks and that we needed to call the steward.  Oops.  Too late.

We turned the light out and settled down to sleep.  Well we tried at any rate.  When the train went around a corner I slipped to the bottom of the bed, or slipped to the top if it cornered the other way.  I needed velcro pyjamas.  Then there was the man snoring in the next cabin, plus the frequent smoking breaks which meant that we stopped and the train and platform became a hot bed of activity.  We did get some sleep, but not a lot.

The next morning I clambered down from my bunk.  The train was slowing down but we were still a good hour outside of Prague.  I sat on the end of Karen’s bunk and opened the blind to admire the Czech countryside.  Alas, the reason the train was slowing down was because we were entering a station and so instead of being greeted by beautiful rivers and forests, I was met by a line of commuters waiting for the 8:29 to Prague Central.  They in turn were (all be it briefly) faced with a bleary eyed, fat, naked English man.  I closed the blind and vowed not to open it again until we were clothed.

We breakfasted in the next cabin (the snoring man got off at Berlin) and arrived not exactly refreshed, but happy.  Then we had to find our apartment…but I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow.

Today’s cake was Chocolate Caramel Cake.  A bit on the heavy side, but not overly sweet so not too sickly.  Recipe below.

 

 

 

 

Transport Tally

Cars x 1
Plane x 1
Train x 2
Bikes  x 1
Trams  x 1
———–
Chocolate Caramel Cake
For the cake
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons boiling water
175 grams butter (softened)
175 grams golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
200 grams golden syrup
200 grams self-raising flour
4 tablespoons milk
100 grams chocolate caramel bars
For the icing
100 grams chocolate caramel bars
50 grams butter
2 tablespoons milk
100 grams icing sugar
Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan oven/gas 4.
Butter a 20cm round cake tin and line the base with baking parchment. Mix the coffee and cocoa in a cup, add the hot water and mix to a paste.
Put the butter, sugar, eggs, syrup, flour, milk and cocoa paste into a bowl and beat until smooth. Break the caramel bars into sections and stir into the mixture.
Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top springs back when you press it lightly.
 Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out, peel off the lining paper and leave to cool. To make the icing, break up the caramel bars and put in a pan with the butter and the milk.
Gently heat until smooth, stirring all the time, then remove from the heat and stir in the icing sugar (dont worry if it doesnt dissolve immediately, just keep stirring).
Leave to cool until it thickens enough to leave a trail when you lift the spoon.
Put the cake on a serving plate, spread the icing over the top, then leave to set.
Recipe courtesy of http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chocolate-caramel-cake-3072

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