Day 111: The Five Nation Pub Crawl

21.04.09: Wow! I mean, really, wow! Today really started last night when I was met by my top chums from the old school, Lindsey and Michelle, in Euston Station. We only had twenty minutes before my train left for Liverpool, but they bought me a carrot cake and a coffee and laid out the welcome mat for me. I was home. Back in the UK, back in the UK. My train pulled into Liverpool's Lime Street Station at 10.20pm and the welcoming committee was amazing. About thirty of my mates, plus my mum, dad and brother Alex, all cheering and waving flags (thank you Steve!) for my arrival. It was just awesome. I was shaking - like a teenager waiting for a phone call from someone they fancy the pants off. LIVERPOOL !!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO! We headed inevitably pubwards and before we knew it we were back…

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Day 112: Belated Birthday Brunch

22.04.09: I awoke in my old bedroom, mid-morning. A rather strange sensation, I have to say. Is that it? Is it all over? That was easy! Oh, hang on... rub your eyes mate, you've still got a LONG way to go. This is merely a pit stop, and the ultimate goal of all this - to see my girlfriend Mandy again - is still a long way away, calling me to the antipodes via Europe, Africa and Asia. I could hear that my brother Mike and his son Matthew had already arrived to see me, as well as my auntie Dorothy and my cousin Yvonne (Leo the Webmaster's wife), so I dragged my carcass out of bed and got showered and dressed. My mum had made (a damn tasty) lamb roast for lunch and very soon it felt like a typical Sunday meal at the Hughes…

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Day 113: Odyssey-a-go-go!

23.04.09: A day which, upon reflection, was as perfect an ‘Odyssey' day as I can imagine. I arrived in Brussels in the wee small hours, just in time to catch the first train to Luxembourg. Do you want me to tell you something interesting about Brussels? Well bah! I'm not going to, I can't, there isn't anything. But my inter-rail pass kicked into gear and I plan to spend what it cost in the first 48 hours. As the greatest man ever once said, Time Is Relative, that is, time runs at different speeds for different people (usually depending on the force of gravity, but bear with me). Time for me has now slowed down to a crawl. Getting just a few hours of sleep a day will do that to you. The days seem endless and night is just an obstacle to be overcome, there…

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Day 114: With Ruthless Efficiently

24.04.09: It would NEVER happen in the UK. Let's face it, it would never happen in the US either, but I have my faith in Sweden. If anyone can do it, Sweden can. What on Earth am I on about? Allow me to digress... Up and at 'em! At 7am I was just about knocking the sleep out of my eyes and before you could say ‘cripes'! Jens was running me into town to catch the 08:23 to Oslo, via Gothenburg in Sweden. Now like I say, it would never happen in the UK... I wouldn't be going all the way to Oslo, lest not forget that I only need to step foot in each country, not go and give its most famous monument a dirty great kiss. So my plan was to get off the train in a place called Halden, just over the Norwegian…

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Day 115: The Floating Valhalla

25.04.09: I'm never going to get any sleep, am I?! Cursed! Cursed I am to spend this month wide awake like a teething baby. Ah well. I somehow managed to struggle free from my bunk after a microscopic amount of shuteye; and furthermore I managed to jump in a taxi to the port for the crack o' dawn ferry to Finland. Talk about 24-hour party people! The Finnish and Swedish onboard had turned the ship into a floating Valhalla for the sole purpose of getting as drunk as humanly possible. The cabin corridors looked like student digs and reeked of booze. Everyone who attempted to speak to me fell over before they could finish their sentence. Most of the people on board hadn't even got off the boat when it got into Stockholm - they were just going to Sweden and back to get rotten and…

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Day 116: Arrested Development

26.04.09: The boat over to Tallinn was quick and easy and got me in to the capital of Estonia in fine fettle just around noon. I grabbed a cab across town (and what a marvellously delightful town it is!) and jumped a bus to Narva, on the Russian border. Here's the plan... I don't have a Russian visa, so I can't actually go into Russia proper, but what I can do is go up to the border and talk to the border guards, and then I'm technically in that country, yeah? Er... no. The border post, and there was only one, was on the European side of the river. Fences, CCTV and border guards standing all around. This was not going to be the cakewalk I expected. IDIOT!! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Russia! Putin! Gulags! The KGB! So I had a gander at a map on…

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Day 117: Kettles Of Fish

27.04.09: I emerged from the coach in the wee small hours to find myself in the rather attractive town of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. I was busy trying to suss out how I was going to get into Belarus (avoiding all the tomfoolery of yesterday) when I ran into none other than Lynn Robinson, my ex-girlfriend Michelle's mum! She was in the coach station getting a bus to the airport. What are the chances of that? Well, statistically speaking, pretty damn high. In fact, considering the number of people I know, times the fact I am travelling for a full year, I think the chances of me running into somebody I know are probably one in one. But that doesn't stop it being really cool! Anyways, we unfortunately didn't have time for coffee as her bus was due, so I headed off to the Belarusian…

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Day 118: Er, Anyone seen my bag?

28.04.09: Today should have been a breeze - well timed connections marked my passage through Poland. My coach arrived half an hour early, so it wasn't even a rush to the station for the first train to Bratislava. I hopped on board - oh wow! It was one of those old fashioned ‘The-Lady-Vanishes'-type trains where you sit in sealed off compartments facing three strangers. Yey! Only I had two strangers, Iva and Monica, and they were the best kind of stranger - ie. Bubbly, lively ones with nice eyes who laugh at my jokes. Iva was from Croatia, but living in Vienna and Monica was from Poland. So I sat with my captive audience and entertained each other as we passed effortlessly through the Czech Republic on the way to Slovakia. I had just finished reading ‘White Tiger', the winner of last years Man Booker prize…

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Day 119: Carlos The Jackal

29.04.09: After all the excitement of yesterday, I slept like a baby. By that, I mean that I woke up every two hours and started screaming. Although my laptop and camcorder were safely by my side on the train to Budapest, the charger for my camcorder and my spare battery were not. And I had about 20 minutes left of power. This would not last until next Sunday. It would not last until the end of today. I arrived in Bucharest around lunchtime and headed to the coach station. A political rally was taking place in the park between - I gave it a wide berth. I've never been one for mob mentality; I prefer to operate under the radar, subverting people's opinions by means of stealth, cunning and outright ridicule. The bus took me to the town of Galati on the border of Moldova and…

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Day 120: The Doctor Will Sue You Now

30.04.09: The lovely girl in the hotel reception made me a packed lunch and before I knew it, I was on the 5am train back to Bucharest. Once there, I went on a MISSION to find a charger for my camcorder... and it was mission successful! Got to drive past Ceausescu's ridiculously big palace in a taxi - yep, it's kinda ridiculous, but I guess I've got some begrudging respect for the fact that the bonkers mad dictator what got shot on Christmas Day, didn't go for your typical concrete shopping-mall affair that Eastern Europeans seem to love even more than us idiots in the West. Righty-right, onto a train and got to spend the day in a carriage with a Romanian guy called John who was on his way to Athens. I, on the other hand, was on my way to Thessaloniki in Greece, passing…

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