The last leg


Coming in to Berlin we visited the soviet monument at Treptow park. We were the first there and as we waited coach after coach pulled in behind us. There were going to be 8 groups all together in Berlin and the convoy had begun in Dresden. The plan was that during the driving tour I would be dropped in front of the supermarket to shop and picked up on the way back, however we had only just hit the city when our way was obstructed by about 5,000 people on bikes who seemed to be protesting something. We took a detour away from the supermarket but as soon as we got to the city center we found more streets closed off and ourselves in a gridlock of confused traffic and bikes. We gave up and apologizing to the passengers said that we would do the tour in the morning. We were still stuck in the confusion for a good 20 minutes after that but we got back to the hostel about 5pm. Dinner was at 7 in their restaurant and we met up with all the other crew who had also turned around on their driving tour.
Bike Jam

After dinner Erin wanted to show us a cool bunch of clubs in the industrial area nearby but we had to wait till 11 to go or nothing would be happening. We drunk and talked smack in the hostel bar until it was time, then rugged up, but still nowhere near warm enough, we walked down the street to the club. The industrial area was basically a heavily graffittied and abandoned looking area where the streets were dark and muffled bass came through boarded up windows. The place we were going to specifically had a jazz night on. The walls were graffittied with crazy and imaginative images and the seats were mismatched. The band members had names like Tibolt and Mattais and were older and looked like hip cats. Unfortunatly I could not get into the jazz music and it wasn’t too long before Zsolt and I were walking home. I had said to him and Erin that I would be up the next morning for the driving tour where we could once again try dropping me off at the supermarket. They said no no no, this is your chance to sleep in so we will do the tour and come back and pick you up and we will all go shopping together. I thanked them very much for that treat.

So the next morning I got picked up about 10am and we went to the Metro supermarket. 3 other coaches were already there shopping and we had fun with them, seeing what the others were buying and what fun stuff we could get. Things like dates wrapped in bacon and fortune cookies can really make a picnic lunch.

Berlin was COLD

Back at the hostel Erin and I made munchies packs for our guys to eat whilst they are in Amsterdam. They are crammed full of sugar which brings you down from a high, I take care of my guys! I skyped dad for a while before people got antsy for something to do and we caught a coach in to the city to go shopping. We 3 with Andrei and Leish had lunch in the food court and shopped for boots and chargers and prizes. The rest of the day was quiet. Spent in our dark room, Erin napping whilst I entertained myself on the internet and did some accounts. Dinner was down in the restaurant and we met our passengers for the nights entertainment of a pub crawl. We were having a scribble party for ours where if our passengers turn up with a white shirt, we provide the markers for everyone to write messages on one and other. It’s never long before rude and inappropriate messages start turning up, everyone is a teen with their mind in the gutter at some level. It was so so cold, the whole day but especially that night. The crawl takes us to 3 different pubs and then to a club that is right opposite the hostel, a convenient place to roll home from.

“Berlin, Poor but Sexy”
It has begun

Erin and I didnt spend long at the last club and were in bed and asleep by 2 to wake up for 6:30 this morning to begin our biggest day of driving. The scenario today is that the drive from Berlin to Amsterdam is 600km, the longest drive of the trip. We are trying to make it to the cheese and clogs shop before the other 7 coaches, so we can get through, set up camp and make it to an earlier Sex show tonight. There is a bit of politics going in to this because we have it harder because we are staying outside the city and need to be dropped of, but some of the hotel trips are also staying a little way out and have to catch a ferry in, so who should gets the good timed sex show? The race is on. All 8 trips left somewhere between 7 and 8, there is no point in us all going at the same time as it will only get congested when we stop at service stations, and if we all show up at cheese and clogs together we will just have to wait anyway. About 11am we got stuck in traffic. We might have gone 10km in 2 hours, I don’t know but it was bad. We decided to stop for lunch (where we saw 4 other coaches) and when we got back on the road the traffic had dissipated. We still haven’t had great traffic though and at this point we are postponing cheese and clogs until our departure day so that we can make our 9:30 sex show.

Just try and overtake our coach!
We got in to camp at 7:15 and had to do a quick set up so we could go straight in to town. Zsolt had run out of driving hours so we caught the tram in which is not far at all. From there it is a lovely stroll down to the red light district. I find the reactions of people really interesting here. One of our girls asked (of the girls in the windows) ‘Can I look at them or is that rude?’ I remember thinking the same when I first came here, not sure of what the protocol might be. But they doing their job and they expect to be looked at. It’s general human protocol, don’t be rude or lewd or disrespectful. Smile and don’t screw up your nose, and above all don’t take photos!

The sex show was it’s usual mix of hilarity and shock. Yes there is live sex on stage between a real life couple, and yes there is audience participation during some of the acts. No matter how many times you say this it still surprises some people. Erin and I took a night time stroll afterwards before heading back to camp. Amsterdam is a beautiful place at night, all the warm lights from the houses are doubled by their reflections in the canals and it is such a busy city that there is always a comforting throb of activity happening around you.

Amsterdam

Our last breakfast of the trip was pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and then we went straight in to the city for their bike tour. Erin and I left them to it and hid in cafes whilst it drizzled outside. Amsterdam is almost always raining but it is also the master of 4 seasons in one day so I was sure our passengers would have some moments of sunshine during their day as well. We were spending time in the cafes because we were waiting for a particular piercing parlor to open up, when it did we had a consultation with a guy so pierced and tattooed and scared that he looked like a movie prosthetics model. He was also to hungover (his words) to deal with our questions and concerns and so handed us over to a colleague. For all Erin’s concerns the process took all of a minute and we were laughing as we walked out of the shop with ears throbbing. The icy wind blowing on them was appreciated.

Just a little bit worried 😛
Our Amsterdam souvernirs

Back at camp we finalized our accounts and slept until a huge thunderstorm woke me late in the afternoon. Our cabin was shaking with the force of it all and I found out not much later that the passengers had had to take shelter in my cook tent as their own were not up to the task.

The Sea Palace in all her majesty
Fabio loves chinese!

That night was the big finale dinner. We were off to the Sea Palace, a floating Chinese restaurant up near Centraal station. Dinner here is an all you can eat feast of Chinese food and our guys really went to town on it. A wise move because from there we went to a river cruise  with an open bar. At least their stomachs were lined. Our guys thought critically about this bar business and captured the table that was so near to the bar, they didn’t even have to stand up to get a re-fill. Thinkers.

Last dinner together
Cole could barely stand upright in the boat!

We had a good cruise, dancing, singing and making speeches and ended up in Leidersplein at a bar that Erin knew that had a live band playing (this girl knows all the hot spots!) They were playing old bluesy classics and had us up and dancing. Chris and Jess who had left the trip in Rome landed in Amsterdam that night and met up with us at the bar which was really cool as they had been missed. It was one of my favorite nights in Amsterdam

Canal Cruise

The last morning I would get up with the group had the most spectacular sunrise. Some days I think ‘wouldn’t it be nice if my job included some sleep in’s’ then I realize that I get to see things like this, and start each day with breakfast in the fresh air. How good is that? Drinking my tea watching the fog rise off the river next to my tent made me think of all those breakfasts I had in a windowless office lit with fluorescent lights 2 years ago and I gave a little thank you to the forces that led me here.

Worth it

Our only stop on this drive was at cheese and clogs where the passengers see just as it sounds – cheese and clogs being made. The farm is right on a canal and smells and sounds like cows. How authentic 🙂
We got to Calais at about 2.30 and waited for the 3.30 ferry, kicking the soccer ball around and eating all the leftover snacks I had. Final hugs and photos were taken and Zsolt and I waved goodbye and drove back north from where we had just come from.

Soccer at the docks

As we drove we de-briefed. We talked over the highs and lows of the trip, what we had learnt from it and what we would change. We laughed about our favorite moments and sincerely wished that all trips could be this easy and fun! The 3 hours drive back flew with such good conversation flowing and by the time we had unloaded all the cooking gear and cleaned the coach it was 8 and we went home to cook dinner for everyone.
This trip was a brilliant one, and as always, it is the people that make it. Crew and passengers, so thank you to all you guys who were involved and made it a treat to be on.
Keep travelling and keep your eyes open.
Gemma xx

These guys
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