Brian from Hertford
Brian's an elderly English chap whom I met on the train from Amsterdam to Berlin today. He's a real character: for the few hours that we ended up sitting together, he started chatting away about all sorts of things, from international politics to the nature of women. He's a great-grandfather, who has family scattered all over Europe (and the world), and who's been a bachelor since his wife passed away several years ago. He's amazingly pro-active for his age, and is obviously "the rock" of his large family. He lives in a small suburban place near London called Hertford.
Brian was the main event of my day today, most of which consisted of the long, 6½ hour train ride from Amsterdam to Berlin. This morning I said goodbye to Amsterdam, and to Bob's — it was an uneventful farewell, since the place was stoned as usual — and I hopped on the InterCity direct to Berlin. The train was long and boring, but it went smoothly: we cruised without incident through the Dutch and German countryside; the train walls provided protection from the miserable European winter weather outside; and the border crossing was such a non-event, that I basically blinked and I missed it (borders... Europe has borders? :P). You wouldn't even know you're in a different country, were it not for a change of languages in the PA announcements ("Dutch, German, English" became "German, English"), and for the commencement of the frequent friendly announcements saying (in perfect English): "thank you for travelling with Deutsche Bahn, goodbye". Also, I saved quite a bit of money today, as the journey was completely covered by my Eurail pass, and as the ticket would otherwise have cost me over €100. Trains are bloody expensive around here!
I made it to the brand-new Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central station) by 5:30pm, where it was already pitch-dark and quite cold. I had little problem getting my head around the city's simple and extensive metropolitan train network: all I had to do was hop on the S-bahn for 2 stops, walk a few blocks, and I was at my hostel. I swear, they really do make backpacking just a bit too easy around here.