MARK HILL - writer guy

MARK HILL - writer guy

Drinking my way across Europe


I've discovered that steady, careful measured drinking is the best way to make long train journeys fly by. It's better than reading, listening to music or fantasising about the girl two rows up in the ever so subtly undersized tank top. Ever since Antwerp where I cleverly rejected a 4.30 euro English newspaper in favour of a 4.95 euro small bottle of whiskey, I haven't looked back.

There are a few things to know about drinking on the train.

Avoid beer as the alcohol volume is so low that the sheer weight of carrying the stuff will break your back. And it's incredible how little juggliing it takes to fizz the stuff up and how many hours of sitting in the can it takes for the stuff to settle down.

Wine is easier but unless you're very clever, you're likely to attract unwelcome looks from fellow passengers and rail staff. It's generally legal to drink on trains, but you do want to get along with the locals. If you do bring wine make it expensive stuff. Drink it from a proper glass. Drink it along with fresh bread and a small but discriminating selection of fine local cheeses. If you do, you'll be okay. You may even make friends with the attractive divorcee in 37F. But that's the only way. Any glugging out of the bottle or pouring into a plastic travel mug just won't cut it.

There are two methods of train drinking that work like a charm.

Firstly, simply decant the better part of a bottle of whiskey into a plastic drinks bottle. Try to choose a coloured bottle or a bottle from some drink the approximate colour of whiskey. Failing that, use a bottle from at least four countries and three languages ago. Just make sure that you don't end up trying to pass off a dark amber liquid in a clear plastic bottle marked "Fresh, All-Natural Pure Clear Spring Water."

The second option is the cheap Sangria readily available all over Europe. It comes in 1.5L tetra boxes and weighs in at 7% alcohol, making each box the booze equivalent of a bottle of strong red wine. To the casual observer, the gaily coloured bunches of oranges and grapes on the label suggest fruit juice. Once on the train where scrutiny is tighter, follow up your first few glugs with a slightly pained expression then a quizzical frown as you desperately search the box for an English translation of the ingredients list. A Gallic shrug followed by a deep mouthful should do the trick. From then on you can while away the hours getting quietly pickled secure in the knowledge that your fellow passengers are all thinking "Silly foreign twit. He doesn't even realise it's not fruit juice."

Picture above: all set for the morning train to Geneva.