Monthly Archives: December 2014

London to Sydney – Homeward Bound

Make no mistake about London – it’s quirky, fun and a city I love. At Trafalgar Square I have no idea why there’s a blue rooster here, but thought it was quite intriguing.

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The Royal Horse Guards with rider-less bikes in the foreground.

St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

On my way to meet up with friends for lunch and a few bevvies.

At Fleet Street, London. The literary figures Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton and Dr. Johnson are all said to have been ‘regulars’.


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At the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese with author/writer Vitali Vitaliev (left), who is another train enthusiast and we chatted later about further rail journeys in 2015. At right is Alexander Boot, one of my favourite bloggers who ‘tells it as he sees it’. Check out his post relating to Sydney’s recent terrorist activity.
I know I’m heading home to a country which has never experienced this type of action before.

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Some things never change, just like I can never pick navy-blue stockings for being black (until it’s too late), I am at times a nervous traveller particularly with long-haul flights. Trying to relax before the arduous flight home with Qantas Airways. Twenty-two hours from gate to gate … Transit time in Dubai is less than two hours which makes QF one of the best airlines to travel with. Three months away will seem like a dream when I return to Down Under.

Not to be disappointed with the Qantas crew going home, they were fantastic and really embraced the spirit of Christmas. Big thanks to Jean-Luc from London to Dubai and Anne and the team from Dubai to Sydney who made the journey home comfortable and bearable.

Visiting Santa Claus in Lapland, Finland.

Heading back towards Copenhagen, Denmark the ICE is just about to be driven onto the ship for the next part of this journey. The fare is included on the Eurail Pass at no additional cost for this particular day’s travel.

The Intercity Express (ICE) sitting tightly on board whilst all passengers must go off the train whereby they can sit and eat, walk around or buy duty free during the crossing. Only need to take personal belongings and the luggage stays locked within.

We’re now coming off the ship and very close to Malmo, Sweden.

Look really cute ‘eh? Glad he didn’t like the smell of my luggage …

I overnighted in Malmo as it was a little too late for another four hours to Stockholm. Here at the station you can watch moving images on the walls and quite intriguing.

Heading through Sweden now and onto Stockholm for an overnight ferry crossing to Helsinki which is where the Santa Claus Express departs from.

Glad I travelled by train the next day – just so beautiful to see first hand.

Snowing quite heavily but it’s not something I see each Christmas and I’m really enjoying the view. Nice and cosy in the train I’ll admit …

Once in Stockholm it’s an easy transfer down to the port on bus 53. The ferry crossing with Viking Lines to Helsinki does not allow you free passage with your Eurail Pass, but it’s a saving of 30% when you book.

Once on board this Santa is into everything; fashion parades, chatting up the ladies, consoling all the crying kiddies and generally having a fab time.

The buffet was just delectable, with so many choices and at 38 Euro exceptional value and included beer and wine. I asked how much wine you could have, and promptly told as much as you like … In Aussie terms, how long can a piece of string be?

Now at Helsinki main train station waiting for the Santa Claus Express to arrive.

The train will let us off at Rovaniemi which is the official home town of Santa Claus. The journey overnight took just under 13 hours and smooth as.

To book the first-class cabins you must use a day of your first-class Eurail Pass and the additional cost is approximately 94 Euro per person based on a twin cabin with private facilities.

On our way and yes I’m snug in bed as it’s snowing well and truly outside.

Superb ride all the way and woke refreshed to find we had arrived at Rovaniemi.


Bus number 8 will take us to Santa’s office at the Village and is where the Arctic Circle crosses through.






I told Santa I’d especially come to visit him and he asked to send Greetings to everyone ‘Down Under’ as he knew it’d had been quite hot there. I also told him I’d be returning home to Sydney on Christmas Day from London as this was now one of the last parts of my trip in Europe.

I now have my official stamp and it’s time to return to Helsinki, but this time I’ll fly to London before making the trek back.

Merry Christmas to everyone and may 2015 be a joyous and prosperous year for everyone. A big ‘thank you’ to all the people along the way who have made the journey one of the most memorable I’ve ever encountered.

Berlin in a Nutshell

Berlin never fails to impress me. It’s from here I decided to stay a couple of days and plan my trip to visit Santa Claus in Lapland Finland.

You can purchase a Berlin Welcome Card with incredible savings for transport and a number of attractions.

At the Brandenburg Gate there is The Room of Silence which is not dedicated to any ideology or religion as anyone may enter to take some time out and reflect and leave aside one’s differences.

Not far from the Brandenburg Gate is The Holocaust Memorial which is reminiscent of tombstones. The sloping ground within is symbolic of the rising upheaval and tumultuous events which took place.

On Stresemannstrasse, there is an outdoor exhibition which showcases some of the various ethnic groups and how they were affected both during and after WWII.



Catching up with long-time ago work mate Belle who now lives in Berlin.

Moving on out and auf wiedersehen on this day. Away I go to Helsinki via Copenhagen, Malmo and Stockholm Sweden with the Intercity Express.

Christmas Markets, Germany

Feeling like Christmas alright … Really there’s just no escaping any of it, but just so lovely to see.

Munich at its best and a favourite with tourists at any time. Christmas just doesn’t feel the same at home like it does here in Germany – now beginning to turn cold and wintery. Brrr …

Any kind of Santa will please most people …

A quick trip to Nuremburg saw bright lights from a distance and people taking in the Christmas cheer.


Here on the Intercity Express (ICE) and returning to Munich from Nuremburg at 280 Km per hour in 1.5 hours! Takes me longer sometimes to travel from the Inner West to the North Shore at home.

And the Mecca of all Night Markets is Rothenburg ob der Tauber with its own Christmas Museum.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – well known for its well-preserved medieval old town; a destination for tourists from around the world.

View from the Rathaus.

All I need now is a glass or two of Gluhwein and I’m set for the afternoon.

Onto Erfurt with my relatives and as always not disappointed though very cold on this night.

One of the largest Christmas Pyramids I’ve ever seen is here in Erfurt. The spinning motion of the pyramid is traditionally achieved with the help of candles whereby rising heat spins the propeller above.

As cold as it was, you can never, ever go past the EisCafĂ© in Erfurt and as we’ve been coming here for years we didn’t miss out.

Venice to Munich by City Night Line (CNL).

City Night Line (CNL) trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn. A wise option by saving the daylight hours and allowing you to rest up, especially if you’ve travelled throughout this region previously.

A three-bed compartment at 55.00 Euro per person is ideal for families. However, you still need to use one day on your Eurail Pass. But the great benefit of departing after 7:00 pm at night you will be able to record the time and use the following day for further travel.
Note: Prices are based on low season and adjustments are made for high season levels. An early reservation is highly recommended.

Second-class seating is comfortable and as little as 12.00 Euro offers value. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if airlines could offer a seat like this? Especially some of those long-haul flights with seating fit for a contortionist …

A couchette with beds for six passengers can be as little as 27.50 Euro per person.

And private facilities for a double will be approximately 75.00 Euro per person. A first-class Pass may only be used to book these cabins. Compulsory reservations are required for all CNL trains. A big thank you to my Conductor Edward who, once had his passengers settled and tickets checked was kind enough to allow me a site inspection of this particular night train. Note to Deutsche Bahn: Keep an eye on this young man as he is a polished professional with a passion for his work.