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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
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Reports

Sunday, 16 December 2001
Madrid --> Barcelona (E) photos only

At the moment photos only. Stay up to date with publication of a report through the mailinglist.
After sleeping in at Fran Reneses' place in Madrid, he took me to the parent of his girlfriend Conchi, who live in a fancy apartment in the middle of the ancient town.

Here I was treated with a delicious Christmas lunch and I must say, only Fran was the person talking Spanish-English with me. But eventhough there wasn't much communication between the rest of the family and me, I felt quite much at ease there.

In the evening Fran dropped me off at the train station in Madrid, where I would hop on the night train that would take me to Barcelona.

Unfortunately the people at the ticket desks wouldn't allow me to travel for free with the sponsored Inter Rail ticket that was given to me by the Spanish rail company Renfe. Call it all some mis-communication between the bureau of Public Relation (that gave me the pass) and the personell at the ticket office (who did not know about this card), but Fran helped me out to pay HALF THE PRICE of a complete ticket. He paid 2,500 Pesetas for me, otherwise I would have been stuck at the Madrid train station and I would miss my train.

I was quite embarrassed that he had to help me out with this card-problem and I was quite pissed at my so-called sponsor Renfe. This way I wasn't able to use the Inter Rail pass. If even the people at the station won't allow me on the train without paying at least half the price.

Afterwards I found out, thanks to Wence Bergen from the Norwegian rail company NSB, that I was given a Spanish Inter Rail ticket. And if you are Spanish you'll have to pay half the price of any trip taken in Spain, but I would be able to travel for free in Portugal and Morocco. Somehow I have to get this sponsored ticket changed, so people would understand that I am Dutch and travel with a Spanish card.

The train ride itself started off good. I had a seat in a crappy cabin, stuffed away between seven other passengers. Everything was going okay until the train suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere and the power was cut off. It took me a while to find out (my Spanish isn't that good) that it would take a while before things would get going again.

And slowly it got very cold, there in the complete darkness. The ice was growing on the inside of the windows and a temperature meter proved to me it was -9 degrees Celsius. And that was cold.

To stay warm I walked around through the train, like almost everybody else did, which was quite amusing because my Spanish isn't that good and I bumped into a lot of Spanish passengers while it was pretty dark in the train. And remember, it was 2.30 am at that moment.

I found some other travellers in the dining cabin that fortunately had some light and together with an Australian guy who was travelling through Europe in a few months and a lady from Colombia I was able to stay warm, while playing silly mind games and games with Spanish coins.

After two hours of half darkness and full coldness, the train started riding again. Everybody who could, cheered about it. And I was welcomed in Spain by the local travellers. This was a very ordinary thing for them, but the cold was the free extra thing we all got.

It was after a TWELVE HOURS ride when I arrived in Barcelona the next morning. And I was tired when I got there... God, I love night trains (not!).

Ramon.