Oh the journey does indeed matter

My fingerprint tale of woe continues.  Yesterday brought yet another rejection from the California Dept of Justice (American dollar check lacks American street address).  So, instead of maundering on about that, I’ll share a much more exciting story, of how Fred got from St. Andrews to Berlin in 36 hours and 8 minutes…and, yes, Carole, there are pictures.  (Fred has approved my sharing this with you all).

Here’s the set up: every year, between semesters, the students at St Andrews have a charity race that takes them, in groups of 2 and 3, from school to a designated city in Europe.  The point is to get there first AND spend as little money as possible, with all leftover travel money going to the charities.  If you need  details, here’s a website.

And now, here’s Fred’s somewhat breathless account:


Hello! I’m back from Berlin, arrived here around 2:30 yesterday afternoon. 

On Monday morning we got to the quad at 7:30 to get on the buses to our drop points. Anna [his racing partner] and I were dropped with two other groups at the junction of the A68 and A1 just south of Edinburgh. Using our banner and standing at the roundabout we got a ride after only about 20 mins with two RAF pilots driving back south from training near Aberdeen. Sam and Andre had always wanted to pick up hitchhikers and they were pretty sure they weren’t allowed to in the RAF owned car and they didn’t think they’d be able to squeeze us in with all their gear, but they did. They were going to take us as far as the junction of the A1 and the A15 (which leads to Hull) but then they decided to take us down the A15 as far as the Humber Bridge and called their boss saying they were doing a detour because of road works. The dropped us at the bridge. But then a little problem. They told us that Hullhull-bridgewas just across the bridge. We debated whether to try and blag a bus or walk across and decided walking would be fun. Well we got all the way across this bridge (which seemed longer than the Golden Gate) only to discover that Hull was back on the original side. However by that time it was dark and we were too tired to walk back across. We tried our banner again, but there were no good places for cars to stop so there was little hope of that working. We retreated to the nearby town of Barton on Humber which is certainly the dullest town in England. All the buildings were grey, the cars were grey, the sky was grey. The very, very few people who were out were dodgy looking chavs lurking about in corners. It was not a nice place. We had to wait an hour for the last bus of the day to Hull and we prayed that it would in fact come. With luck it did and we got a free ride to Hull station. From there we managed to get a free taxi to the ferry terminal, but unfortunately the ferry company refused to make any concessions further than giving us family discounts, so I had to charge the ferry crossing. We ferry-meal    spent the night on the ship and managed to blag free all you can eat dinner and    breakfast from the crew. After a warm bed and a hot shower    we disembarked around 10am in Rotterdam. We had arranged a ride with an      English businessman on the ferry to take us to Rotterdam and away from the    ferry terminal but he never showed, which turned out for the better. We were able to blag a free ride on the P&O bus to Amsterdam with another group of Race 2 Berliners whom we spent the rest of the journey with. In Amsterdam we were asked about our matching yellow shirts and given €50 by a Dutch lady. We asked a conductor for a ride on a regional Dutch train to Hilversum, the station where we could catch the Intercity to Berlin. In Hilversum we managed to get a free ride as far as the German border where the conductor said there was a crew change and we would have to ask the next conductor if we could continue. In Bad Bentheim, the first stop in Germany, we were sadly denied free passage by the new conductor. We spent 2 hours in the tiny town waiting for the next train during which time we had a genuine German food: chips (French fries)! We decided to write out exactly what we were doing in German in case the next conductor didn’t speak English. He did however, although he enjoyed our rather terrible German grammar. He happily gavewriting-out-the-pleas-in-german us a ride as far as the next crew change in Hanover and was very chatty and gave us free coffee. In Hanover we didn’t even need to ask. One of the lady conductors who was getting off had a few rapid German words with the new conductor who looked at us and went “ja, ja” and waved us back on the train. We got to Berlin about 9:30pm on Tuesday. We had some difficulty navigating the S Bhan to the hostel but the S Bhan ticket saleswoman was very excited to see students who “go study by Prince William” lol. We made it to the hostel at 10:30 and came in joint 6th place out of about 120 groups with finish-line-berlina total time of 36hrs 8mins. We spent Wednesday and Thursday in Berlin and saw Checkpoint Charlie,tourist-in-berlin the Brandenburg Gate, KaDeWe department store, and went up the new dome of the Reichstag. It was all loads of fun and perhaps the worst part of the whole trip was when we mistakenly took the wrong bus yesterday from Edinburgh Airport and ended up on a 2.5 hour 10MPH journey through every single tiny town in Fife. But we did it.

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