Trains (Mostly) Planes and Automobiles Part 3 136

It is good to be joined by Niels Ladefoged on this tour. Niels was the Director of Photography on the film Ithaka, and as such a fly on the wall of the Shipton/Assange family for two years. But his commitment to Wikileaks goes back much further. He is a very helpful and calming influence to have around when facing a crisis like a stolen laptop.

It is a crisis. I have much important data stored on a copy hard drive, but that was made some time ago and much else has been lost. I do not maintain sensitive material on the laptop. But the risks of identity theft and the danger to my own access to all kinds of different accounts is very real.

Fortunately Sunday 27 November is a rare day off on the tour. The hotel does not do laundry at the weekend, and Germany allows workers a rest day on Sunday in a way that has been forgotten in the UK – so laundries are shut, and so are laptop shops.

There is another peculiarity. The laptop appears to have been taken out of the laptop bag, but the fairly large sum of cash in the bag was not taken. However what has also vanished is my heart medicines (Apixaban and Digoxin for the medically minded), which were in their boxes and kept in my laptop bag in a ziploc sandwich bag.

By one of life’s peculiar little coincidences, Niels, who arrived on a different train from Erfurt, found his vital prescription medicine had disappeared from his luggage the very same day. So we both need to sort out our prescriptions.

The day is spent in several return trips to the railway lost property office and in making a police report. The lost property office counter alternates between a man in a peaked cap who ignores you, and a woman in a peaked cap who yells at people to go away.

In the police station I am taken upstairs by a very earnest young policeman with a fashionably sparse beard, who speaks excellent English. He takes all the details and determines exactly where I was sitting, which door I exited the train by, what I was wearing and what route I took to the hotel. He says he will look at the station CCTV cameras. There were none on the train.

I tell him I am dubious that a thief would target such an obviously old and cracked laptop. He said he was not at all surprised. Thieves board the train at the station just before Frankfurt and walk up the train. They would take the laptop from its bag in a second, without looking at it.

He said it was not unusual for thieves to take the laptop and not the bag. He smiled at my concern about identity theft, saying that was not their level at all. The policeman seemed genuinely eager to get on to the CCTV footage and start lookiing for the thief.

This left me more open to the idea it was just a random theft, but I had seen nobody moving through the train as he described, and the very few people left in the first class compartment all looked entirely respectable.

In the evening Niels and I went to the old town of Frankfurt, of which there is not a great deal. It is not a good city to spend a Sunday. Everything seemed to be closed. Eventually we found a very local restaurant, where the waitresses wore what looked like football socks over their jeans.

The restaurant was splendidly decorated for advent, with what seemed like half a forest festooned in great boughs all over the place, through which peered the light of big chunky red candles. The place had plainly already survived hundreds of christmases without burning down, but I have no idea how.

I ate roast ham hough with sauerkraut and pan fried potatoes, washed down with a shared litre flagon of local wine. The crackling on the ham hough was superb. We felt a lot better after this, and asked the waitress for a local schnapps. She brought something really sweet and horrible with an alcohol soaked apricot in it. We drank it for research, and even ate the apricots, but I don’t recommend it.

Niels (at this point I shall blame him) then asked if they had a schnapps more like Danish schnapps. They brought us a couple of glasses of Korn. We knocked them back and agreed they did not seem like spirits. No burn and we guessed 20% alcohol. They were only 40ml measures, not 50ml.

So we thought we should have two more. That went quite well so we decided to repeat. After we had knocked back six each, we looked at the bottle and saw it was 32% alcohol. We thought it might be sensible to stop at this stage, but unfortunately the waitresses started to give us free schnapps.

It would have been rude to refuse.

This did not really help with the aim of forgetting my troubles and relaxing. I slept very badly, fretting over my missing laptop. The next morning, I had still lost my laptop and I now had a headache.

I also felt a terrific guilt – which I do most days here – at enjoying myself whilst campaigning for Julian, while he is in terrible conditions in a maximum security prison.

I got up, showered and shaved and went laptop shopping. This was quite fun. It soon was obvious to me I could not afford one as good as the one I had lost.

In the end I chose an Acer Aspire 5, with Intel i5 (the stolen one had i7), 8GB RAM (compared to 16GB) and 512GB SSD (compared to 1TB HDD). Even so this cost me 770 euros. But it is a slim and elegant thing of beauty.

It is a 17 inch, like my old one, but when I slotted it in to my old laptop bag it really came home how radically slimmer it is, taking up far less space. It is also a great deal lighter.

Having got through the dash to Slovenia, I was now hoping for a period of much more sedate rail journeys. Our itinerary today 28 November was just 11:53 ICE 623 Frankfurt to Munich, arriving 15:09.

The train left on time and sped along at great speed. Nothing seemed untoward, until a man in red uniform walked through the train announcing that the cafe was closed due to a power failure in the kitchen.

Then about 20 miles after Wurzburg the train slowed to a crawl, before finally coming to a complete halt, next to a yard full of rusted excavation equipment. There it stayed for about 45 minutes. An announcement was made that the line was blocked.

Fifteen long minutes later came another announcement that we would go back to Wurzburg, before proceeding to Munich by a different route. So we headed backwards, very slowly, for about ten minutes, before stopping in front of a different yard, also full of rusting excavation equipment.

It was like watching Scrapheap Challenge without the contestants.

Eventually we started to crawl along again, through Wurzburg station and out the other side without stopping. We picked up speed, heading away from Munich. Then another halt for ten minutes, then the train started running in its original direction once more.

Reaching Wurzburg for the third time, the train halted in the station and everybody was told to get off. Another Munich train was expected the other side of the same platform in five minutes.

A platform change, to one substantially further away, was announced just as the train pulled in to the station. Everyone went running off down the stairs with their luggage.

The last second platform change is the favourite game of German Railways.

We had come in on a huge train – two ICEs joined – while the one being changed to was a great deal smaller and arrived already full. We therefore decided to let it go, as there were now three more Munich trains showing as queued up over the next twenty minutes. We got on the first of these, which was comfortable, and arrived in Munich about three hours late.

Ithaka was being shown in the quirky little Werkstation Kino in a courtyard basement. The local organisers were very enthusiastic, and all sixty seats were sold out. People were being turned away. I introduced the film with two brief observations.

Firstly, I pointed out that the CIA had the spy videos of Julian’s meetings with his defence lawyers. Secondly they had all his legal papers, seized when he was removed from the Embassy. There are two parties to the extradition proceedings, the USA and Julian Assange. In any genuine legal proceeding, where one party had stolen the legal documents of the other and spied on their legal conferences, the case would be instantly dismissed.

Plainly the so-called judicial process is a farce, a piece of political theatre.

Niels and I then adjourned to dinner in another very local restaurant in the same building. One of the peculiarities of the “cinema” was that the public entrance was sealed by a very heavy steel door. It was completely blank on the outside and could only be opened from within. This is locked shut during performances, to the bemusement of latecomers.

One lady had driven from Austria to see the film but arrived too late. She joined us for a pleasant meal, and absolutely insisted on paying. Niels knew her as a long term supporter.

Niels is Danish and therefore very low maintenance – give him a plate of rotting fish with a couple of raw eggs on top and he will be happy for days. He explains to our chairpersons that you pronounce his surname, Ladefoged, by not sounding the d’s or the g. If you want to try it at home, I suggest you try making the noise of a vacuum cleaner blocked by a sock.

Niels is a compulsive photographer, as a fortunate result of which this narrative is now superbly illustrated.

Talking to activists after the film, we learnt the inevitable cause for the ruination of Germany’s once legendary railways – privatisation.

Privatisation has been carried out on the British model, with the track run by a private entity and different operating companies running their rolling stock on the track. This has been an unmitigated disaster from day one.

In a refinement of exquisite stupidity, the private network company is responsible for rail maintenance, but the government pays for any rail replacement needed – which is an incentive not to maintain. The activists in Munich explained this as the root cause of the increasingly frequent line closures and derailments.

We were staying in the Moma1890 hotel in Munich, which was really pleasant. We had two days there, which gave me a day to set up my new computer, and to go and see a doctor for a new prescription, as did Niels. Unfortunately the hotel did not do laundry, and an unpleasant odour was beginning to emit from my luggage.

We visited a small winter market behind our hotel. It was delightful, with lights twinkling brightly in the bitter cold and little santa clauses on bicycles zipping around on cables stretched between the trees.

The gluhwein was very welcome, sweet and strong and tasting as though the wine was drinkable per se. It was a very resonable 3.5 euros for a 200ml glass, and for just 1 euro more you could add an extra shot of spirits.

Niels has a theory that adding enough shots of rum to his gluhwein would counter the sugars. I have a theory that adding enough shots of brandy to my gluhwein will counter the sobriety. We both test this.

You pay a 3 euro deposit for a delicate frosted glass with an etching of a stag. I would like to keep mine, but the thought of carrying anything else in my luggage dissuades me.

We found a nearby tapas restaurant for dinner, and discovered such a very good wine that it is best to draw a veil over the rest of the day: El Canto de la Alondra, Ribera del Duero. You can’t say that after you drink it. Lots of forward fruit for a Ribera del Duero but still very soft and full.

The next day 30 November was a straightforward journey, EC114 at 13:32 from Munich East to Stuttgart, arriving at 15:59. The train arrived about one hour late in Stuttgart.

All but the facade of Stuttgart station has been demolished and the entire railway area is being “redeveloped”. Currently you leave the station on a snaking elevated runway above the building site, with MDF floors. It is a 800 metres walk along this from platforms to taxis.

As I was trying securely to balance my laptop bag on top of my wheeled luggage, Niels pointed out to me that there was a velcro strap on the back of the bag, specifically for that purpose. I was amazed. I have had that laptop bag for seventeen years and never noticed that strap. It has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles with me, all round the world.

The bag was given to me by Alex the Geek, a supporter of my anti-war candidacy against Jack Straw in Blackburn in the Westminster general election of 2005. Alex had a little computer sales and repair store in the town.

The bag was already second hand in 2005. It is very well constructed with industrial strength zips, clasps and fabric. It has about eight separate compartments, and the main area for the laptop is enormously wide, because in those days laptops were enormously wide.

Often on short journeys I use it just as a travel bag. It has an airline luggage label flapping from the handle, which for years has resisted all attempts at removal. It now had my slim little Acer tucked safely inside.

And it has a velcro strap to attach it to my luggage handle!

Niels has taken upon himself the role of Passepartout, having plainly been briefed that I am hapless. Even with his help, having to cart the luggage over the vast redevelopment was a real struggle.

We are very often not seeing the best of the cities on this tour. We arrive at the railway station, usually about dusk, and generally stay close to the station. The cinemas tend to be in the same central area.

Certainly in Stuttgart, from station to hotel to cinema was just horrifyingly ugly. Neither poor nor derelict, quite the opposite. Brash, tasteless. and soulless.

Plainly the railway area buildings just demolished all had to die, as they committed the unforgivable sins of not being of grandiose scale, and of being designed for human use. Nothing else I saw in Stuttgart fits that description.

There was an excellent turnout in Stuttgart and very active hosts in a very good cinema. We were buoyed by the news that five major international media groups, the original publishing partners for the cablegate leaks, had come out strongly calling for an end to the persecution of Assange, in the interest of protecting press freedom.

The real joy of this trip is the people we meet. In every venue there are fantastic local activists, who organise vigils, petitions and other actions for Julian. Many have street stalls on a weekly basis.

I am sorry we will not be visiting Aachen, where a lady held a “Free Craig Murray” banner in the town centre, every Saturday of my own imprisonment. That banner was given to me by German activists at the “Hands around Parliament” event for Julian. But I am meeting hundreds of equally doughty souls.

In Stuttgart the event is hosted by Pax Christi and die AnStifter. They were organising a major human rights festival, “30 days in November”, and this was the closing event.

After the screening and talks we went for drinks and snacks with the organisers. All the events have different local organisers and we do this almost every day. I apologise for not noting and acknowledging every one individually.

The next morning we journeyed on to Wiesbaden. I post this picture of the Stuttgart station departures board to illustrate what I have been saying about German Railways. You can see from the station clock top right the photo is taken at 11:23. So every single train on that board is late – the departure times range from 10:51 to 11:11.

That is absolutely typical of Germany’s privatised railway.

Our itinerary this day, 1 December was 11:37 IC 2312 Stuttgart to Mainz then 13:29 SBA35836 Mainz to Wiesbaden. Hurray! We were on time!.

The train to Mainz was not busy, and very comfortable to write on. Here I am working, with my elegant new laptop and my beloved old laptop bag:

The train from Mainz to Wiesbaden was a little commuter hopper, full of young women and their children, and a great deal of laughter. Wiesbaden appears effectively a suburb of Mainz.

Wiesbaden is very lovely. A spa town, it has natural hot springs bubbling up in various parks and hotels. It is difficult for a British person to criticise German cities for ugliness, the UK having been involved in their destruction, but much of Wiesbaden either survived or has been sympathetically restored.

The facade of my hotel, the Schwarzer Bock, had been restored with studious attention to grim ugliness, but there were some surviving details on the lower two floors from the original hotel, including much of the spa pool area.

Goethe had stayed in this hotel for a cure, and so had Dostoevsky, who had lost all the money for his European tour in the casino. He wrote up the experience as a novel “the Gambler”, in which Wiesbaden in Hesse is called Roulettebad in Hesse.

I am afraid the hotel is now run by Radisson Blu and is pretty prosaic. But Wiesbaden had plenty of evocative architecture,  and is plainly very wealthy. Wilhelmstrasse and the streets off it are full of very expensive shops selling top range products.

There are designer furniture shops, designer curtain shops, designer handbag shops. I saw a shop selling nothing but very expensive garden furniture, and another just selling those kind of stupid and pointless objects interior designers love to shove down next to coffee tables. Driftwood painted gold, peacock feathers in improbably shaped vases, roller skates painted electric blue with crystals round the top.

Plainly Dostoevsky was not the only person in Wiesbaden with more money than sense.

It is not generally recalled that, when Cumberland won at Culloden, most of the cities of Scotland were held down for the English by garrisons of mercenaries from Hesse. Cumberland actually disliked the Hessian officers for treating their adversaries according to the rules of war and refusing to commit atrocities.

Almost certainly, all of the Hessian officers occupying Scotland would have been familiar with Wiesbaden and would have walked around the very streets and buildings I walked around now. Doubtless some of them had stayed at the Schwarzer Bock.

I wondered how seriously Hessian archives had been searched for letters home or diaries on their time in Scotland, or what published memoirs there might be. I made a note on my new laptop to pursue the idea next year.

The cinema was beautiful, an art deco marvel. It was also very large, holding over 500 people, so though around eighty came, they did rattle around a bit. It did get fuller than this picture taken before the start, but not enormously.  Now you get to see what Niels looks like.

There was a dead air around Wiesbaden after the meeting, occasioned I think by Germany being knocked out of the World Cup that evening.

I had bought a new wheeled case at Niels’ suggestion, to replace the rucksack I had been struggling with. I found two wheeled cases much easier to manage, and with my laptop bag now velcroed to the handle of one of them and Niels to assist with lifting when needed, my luggage problems appeared to be over.

2 December we had a comparatively easy itinerary. 12:26 ICE 1651 Wiesbaden to Frankfurt Airport, 13:09 ICE 610 Frankfurt Airport to Bochum arriving 15:09.

Bochum was the first destination on our tour that I had not previously known even existed!

The trains were on time. The change at the airport station went smoothly, but the train from there was very packed. The luggage racks by the door at the carriage ends were overflowing with expensive looking bags and suitcases. We squeezed our luggage into any available bit of vacant floor, and then put my laptop and Niels camera bag into the overhead rack above us.

The rack was made of glass, presumably purposely so that you could look up and see your bags through it. Given recent experience, I repeatedly looked up and saw the comforting sight of the green and white baggage label attached to my laptop bag, pressed against the glass.

And then I didn’t.

Shortly before we arrived at Bochum, I looked up again, and it just was not there. It was gone.

I was stupefied. Niels went running down, collecting together our other bags, then looking for my laptop. I started asking everyone on the coach if they had seen the bag, or seen anybody take the bag.

To be fair, this got a much better response in Germany than it might have done in the UK. Virtually everybody stood up and started rummaging around. One large man was particularly helpful and started moving off and getting people searching in adjacent carriages. But all for naught; nobody could find anything and nobody had seen anything.

We pulled into Bochum. Niels stood preventing the door from reclosing while we searched, which got the railway staff involved. In the end he got off with the luggage while I stayed on the train and continued the search until the next station.

At Dortmund I had to give up. A second laptop in five days had been stolen from me.

I returned on a local train to Bochum. I had lost not just my laptop, but a lot of important tickets, receipts and documents in the bag, plus – and this is crucial to me – my reading glasses.

When the first laptop disappeared, I concede it was possible a thief had quickly taken it from the bag, not noticing how old and beaten up it was.

But I had not removed my new laptop from the bag during the journey, and there was no way of knowing a laptop was in there at all. It was next to Niels’ much more valuable camera bag, which was untouched.

The whole carriage was flooded with luggage, presumably because it came from Frankfurt airport. The racks at the carriage ends were overflowing with expensive luggage, right next to the doors, away from their owners and very easy to steal at a station.

Why would a simple thief instead take my beaten up bag, from right over the head of its owner?

It plainly makes no sense at all.

We headed into Bochum as the night closed in.


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136 thoughts on “Trains (Mostly) Planes and Automobiles Part 3

1 2
  • Jimmy Riddle

    OK – I confidently expect that the two laptops are in the hands of MI6 or the CIA. They’ll plant something on it and then accuse you of something nasty (for example – they might plant an image of Lady Dorrian scantily clad and then accuse you of being a pornographer).

    • Paul Mc

      It makes sense now. They stole the first laptop, put the image of Lady Dorrian on it, and the screen immediately shattered. That’s why they had to steal the second laptop.

  • yesindyref2

    Interesting. Firstly if you were being targetted by security services they wouldn’t need to trail you or travel with you they’d just locate you via phone or laptop location, backwards frm your known online haunts.

    But on the other hand you don’t look like a local, you have a fair rake of luggage, chances are you’re travelling with some expensive gear, so you’re more a target for casual theft than an obvious local going to work with a briefcase full of important worthless documents, or a guy off to stay with his kids or friends. If you’re first class chances are you’re well-heeled. So a laptop is likely to be expensive, and perhaps other stuff in there too, specially with an old large case. Someone walking up the carriage steadying themselves with a hand on the rail each side is quite normal even on a smooth train, and et voila. Gone in 60 microseconds.

  • Horst

    In Frankfurt you probably have tried the famous Apfelwein, a kind of German cider. The schnapps served by the waitress is called a Mispelchen. This drink is only popular in and around Frankfurt/Main and made out of a Loquat fruit which is put in Calvados. Apfelwein is popular in South Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. “Mispelchen” is very typical for Frankfurt, you won’t find it in other regions of Germany.

  • Funn3r

    It’s a bad idea to travel outside the UK without travel insurance. Even to EU countries where notwithstanding Brexit there is still some ability to share their equivalent of the NHS if you sign up for the free GHIC card. For an experienced traveler such as yourself Craig I am surprised that you do not have travel insurance. Or maybe you did; if so then claim for your stolen laptops.

    • Pears Morgaine

      His household policy might cover the lost laptops, mine has an ‘all risks’ clause that is valid anywhere in Europe. Medical insurance is another matter and with Craig’s pre-existing conditions he’d be unwise to travel without it; problem is if you do have pre-existing conditions it can become expensive.

  • frankywiggles

    Do not rule out it being German spooks. The German state delights in harassing and tormenting prominent advocates for Palestinian human rights.

  • Ric

    Two laptops stolen in two days would have smoke pouring out of most people’s ears. Certainly my ears!

    Maybe the local Germans heard Craig’s Scottish accent and decided he was English, and atonement must be paid for the Brits blowing up Germany’s NS2 gas pipeline?

    Maybe that extra velcro strap should be used to lash the computer bag, to Craig’s body?

    Just wait until winter sets in and there are 30 million Ukrainian refugees, standing on German rail platforms!

  • uwontbegrinningsoon

    Mr Murray. A couple of points.

    1. If you are aware of the Organisation CAGE you will probably understand that the state, inter alia, gaslight individuals . They operate to undermine and ridicule. If they can harass and create paranoia then that is a good outcome for them. If they do not employ the best computer hackers then they have access to them through universities and companies like Google. If there was anything sensitive on your computer and they wanted to know about it then it is not hard for them.

    2. The Supreme court considered your appeal to be without merit. Why was it astonishing to Dunlop that the ECHR also considered your appeal to be without merit? Is there something about the European court which is so different from domestic courts? I would hope your final payment to your legal team reflects the one or two line case dismissal judgement. I would be asking for reduced fees.

    • AlexT

      Well think what you want to Craig and his blogging but I’d say it plainly obvious that his case had merit on various questions being raised, such as the definition of a journalist, the protection of plaintifs in court vs the right/need for public court hearings, selective enforcement of laws to please the narrative of the Scottish government or technicalities such as being condemned for a crime your weren’t charged with.

      Now it might be that the ECHR would have concluded that on all these counts the judgements as passed where correct but it would have required an explanation of the judicial reasoning, which would have been IMHO rather challenging (but very important in case law).

      Much easier – if cowardly – not to take the case at all

  • yesindyref2

    Righty, thinking while doing a boring job.

    YOU are a conspiracy theorist, ex-FCO, done time, and on a trip round Europe meeting people and giving speeches.

    THIS happened 3 days ago:

    Germany arrests 25 accused of plotting coup


    … which has long been in the sights of German police over … conspiracy theories.

    While it’s unlikely they thought of you as a suspect, they may well have been interested in your contacts.

    Just another possibility.

    • yesindyref2

      Mmm, it is a possibility, and your thefts could have just been an unhappy investigtative coincidence.

      Investigators are thought to have got wind of the group when they uncovered a kidnap plot last April …

      Three thousand officers took part in 150 operations in 11 of Germany’s 16 states, with two people arrested in Austria and Italy.

      Bases in the states of Hesse [capital Wiesbaden], Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria were all inspected for possible use after the government was overthrown

      Ah well that was tea, nearly time to do some work again 🙁

    • frankywiggles

      How come attacks by establishment simps are generally so laughably feeble? My suspicion is it’s because deep down they do recognise the character of the self-servers they’re simping for, so their heart is just not in it.

      • yesindyref2

        I don’t actually understand your comment, it’s a dialect I’m not familiar with.

        But if you think that having your laptops nicked would be any less disruptive and invasive, because you coincidentally got caught up in an operation, considering the tens of thousands of conspiracy theorists, than if you were targetted because of a close association with Assange, I would suggest you’re mistaken.

        Conspiracy theorists were starting to be targetted BEFORE the German arrests.

  • Giacomo Poma

    “the very few people left in the first class compartment all looked entirely respectable”.
    Typical British Upper Class comment :-)))


    • SleepingDog

      @Giacomo Poma, indeed, something an old duffer out of an Agatha Christie might say, unwisely. I watched the recent 3-part documentary on Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley and in one episode detective character Miss Marple (a super-sharp well-travelled old lady) talks about what her ‘feminine intuition’ really is, a kind of accumulated skill at pattern-recognition honed over her lifetime. The sort of pattern-recognition that keeps you from making the same mistake twice, I suppose.

  • amanfromMars

    I trust in Global Operating Devices that everyone taking time out here, and perusing commentary on this Craig Murray blog realise that the abiding permanent problem difficulty that quite rightly, absolutely terrifies corrupt establishment hierarchies/oligarchies/fake democracies, are not simply the singularly targeted voices of honest investigative journalism and popular reasonable dissent but much more the freely available Wikileaks model of its uncensored and spontaneous presentation making it impossible to hide and effectively deny uncomfortable and deadly facts/truths/actions known to have occurred and/or known or suspected to be planned for in the future …. and which coercive and perverse systems administrators would much rather have preferred to remain a widely unknown top secret.

    The immortal enemy for such systems administrations are not the messengers, it is the explosive spontaneous unfettered means by which both simple and complex honest facts for presentation to universal audiences is supplied and delivered …… untainted by any foreign party editorial bias.

    And try as one might, with all of the might universally available, that will never be confined and silenced in a Belmarsh or Guantanamo Bay like facility.

    More Wikileaks model presentations very soon very quickly generate an unstoppable better educated alternative hive mind movement that can very effectively demonstrate a remote autonomous command and relatively anonymous overall control of future direction and action leverage …… which given the present dire straits state of everything today, is a very good thing ….. and thus highly commendable.

  • M biyd

    I met my partner whilst she was studying at the University of Dundee as part of an inter university exchange with Mainz. We used to travel to her home town outside Duesseldorf using the ferry from Rosyth. It’s painful how all of this interconnectivity is all gone thanks to Brexit.

    What I find even more painful is the extent to which the ties were historic and not confined to the Hanseatic ports or the trade guild areas.

    If you have the chance go to the old gericht in Duesseldorf and seek out the war memorial to the Duesseldorf rechtsanwalt killed during world war one and you will be surprised by the number of Scottish surnames.

    The big shock to me was that the Germans, like the Poles, celebrate Christmas on the eve of Christmas not truly on Christmas Day.

    • Luke R. Onn

      Eh – the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry stopped because of Brexit? Try it stopped because it always struggled to get business (years before Brexit), had to be reduced from passenger and freight to freight only, was stopped entirely and then re-started, had its frequency trimmed at various points and then ceased after a vessel fire proved the final straw for a habitually loss-making operation.
      I can understand your mistake as I assume you were quite naturally distracted by the prospect of overnight floating haughmagandy with your lovely German girlfriend!

  • Peter Mo

    On the subject of planes. I hope Craig has a take on the new Lockerbie development. I am thinking the US after investing so much into blaming Libya now want a trial where evidence comes out Libya had nothing to do with it and blame it on Iran.
    After following the court cases its obvious al-Megrahi was a victim of miscarriage of justice.

    • Stevie Boy

      Justice and the USA are not happy bedfellows. There are so many examples of the endemic corruption of the US justice system, a system that appears to be driven entirely by politics and money. Lockerbie is just another example, and it makes sense to be suspicious of what the real motives are.
      That said, Iran always had more motives than Libya (flight 655).

      • Peter Mo

        The way the Americans participated in the Lockerbie trials is proof Julian Assange will not get a fair trial. The closed mindedness and tunnel vision of both UK and US justice practitioners is astounding.

  • Wally Jumblatt

    “no belief should be so firmly held as to lead to persecution of those who reject it”
    Bertrand Russell (philosopher)
    – re-told by Robert Maonle

  • Robyn

    After common sense anti-theft precautions, my number one travel tip is – buy a ‘spinner’ suitcase. It takes hardly any energy to manoeuvre, even with your laptop/hand luggage sitting on top of it (attached via the strap on the side of the latter.) Spinners are not expensive and your only regret will be not buying one sooner.

  • DunGroanin

    ‘We lie, we cheat, we STEAL’
    (Especially laptops ?

    CIA are on trial about their illegality on Assange.

    Let’s not forget that Germany is a country that has been under Occupation by invading military forces since WW2. Only half of it was de-occupied by one of the victorious armies , the other half didn’t and actually extended into that deoccupied part. Then even further east to where we are on the cusp of a history repeating Balkan fuse being lit. The FUKUS are all over it as leeches sucking the life blood out of the German population 75 years after that victory. I would be surprised if the foreign spooks were NOT targeting this odyssey.

    The shock early demise of the woke German footballers must be settling down after not having had the pleasure of kicking England out again on penalties, the French getting that pleasure this time.

    No cctv on trains?? Wtff?? Petty Crime has pretty much disappeared from U.K. public transport and is easily captured on a plethora of public and private cctvs, replacing the Bobby’s on the Beat; also easily highlighting when a major crime is NOT caught on multiple recording devices – cough Skripal cough.

    A bleak picture of the German landscape and efficiency. I have never been, so don’t know the difference over the last 40 years since the ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’ days.
    Is it now the new Sick Man of Europe?

    We in Britain are certainly heading back to these austere days. As a political choice. Having been dumbed down in the intervening decades with a loddsamoney culture, and mass propaganda to turn us into another decrepit state of the US oligarchs.

    Neither can the rest of Europe which has just undermined our energy security , 7 fold in Germany is the latest number. That won’t make energy intensive infrastructure tasks easier.

    Hope CM returns home with health intact , it is not great travelling nonstop with such stress in such a climate – as I’m sure JA would want him safe.

    I seem to manage largely without a laptop or computer when travelling or day to day as the marvel of smart phones and thumb typing seems to suffice for most tasks except spreadsheets!
    Not particularly tecchy but time to move over to the most easily manageable choice? Plenty of innovation coming out of the East.

    On which note – has the change of ownership at twatter had any bearing in the shadow banning that has been noted by CM? And what is the opinion on the change of the scapegoat management at hq whilst seemingly leaving in place all the spooks in the top positions?

    All things are related and Assange is the key. May he soon be free and his prosecutors riven.

    • Stevie Boy

      Yes, Germany like Japan is still an occupied state fully under the control of the USA. Once they get a foothold it’s almost impossible to get rid of them – like herpes !
      RT has an excellent article on the corruption of the German security services by the USA and how the Nazis never really went away. It’s perversely funny how much of the american dream was directly built on the back of the third reich.

      • Coldish

        Stevie Boy,
        thanks for the link, but I can’t get RT in Germany. I recall foreign minister Baerbock, at the start of the Russian invasion, saying that Germans needed to be protected from Russian lies.
        Best regards,

    • John Kinsella

      You mentioned “Plenty of innovation coming out of the East”.

      What Eastern countries are you referring to?

      And what innovations in particular?


  • Squeeth

    “In a refinement of exquisite stupidity, the private network company is responsible for rail maintenance, but the government pays for any rail replacement needed”

    Not stupidity, corruption.

  • Paul Tucker

    A wonderfully witty, enjoyable and very interesting account of your trip, Craig. Your thoughts about and descriptions of parts of Europe I’ve never visited gave me a vivid impression of what Germany, Croatia etc are like nowadays. Also good to read accounts of alternative lives in those countries. Really sorry about your laptops – it does sound unlikely to be random theft. Really appreciate your successful blending of personal anecdote, thought and reportage. Enjoy your xmas and take care of your heart!

  • Jams O'Donnell

    I may sound like a smartarse, but I would never put a laptop or camera bag or anything else of value anywhere but wedged between my feet when travelling anywhere.

  • Tatyana

    Hello, I drop in to find out how you are here without me? And I wanted to make sure that my account is not being used by anyone else 😉 .
    How are you guys, is everything okay? Special warm greetings to the moderators team.
    Merkel’s confessions about the real purpose of the Minsk agreements have caused a storm here. I see the owner of this site is just traveling in Germany, perhaps there is first-hand news about this?

    • Pears Morgaine

      Yes how dare an impoverished country threatened by a much more powerful neighbour actually buy time in which to bolster its defences. The cheek of some people!

      • Stevie Boy

        Yes how dare an independent, sovereign country threatened by a war mongering gang led by a psychotic regime, who aren’t even their neighbours, actually object to the genocide of a peoples and direct military threats to its sovereignty. The cheek of some people!

      • Bayard

        English comprehension was never your strong point, was it? Perhaps if you’d paid a bit more attention at school, you would realise that what is being objected to is not the buying of time, but the methods used to do it.

        • Pears Morgaine

          Are you complaining that it was unfair? Of course launching an unprovoked invasion, looting, murdering and raping the population completely OK and above board.

          • Bayard

            I see that logic isn’t your strong point either. If The West hadn’t deceived Russia about the Minsk agreements, there wouldn’t have been an invasion. In fact, there is a case to be made that the invasion was a direct result of the deception of the Russians, so, not unfair, just evil.

          • Pears Morgaine

            Zelensky has tried, there have been face to face meetings with Putin but throughout it all the Russians have continued to pour weapons into the disputed regions. The last meeting was in January 2022, all the time Zelensky was trying to talk peace Russia was preparing for war.


        • John Kinsella

          Do you really believe (and expect us to believe) that the Little Dictator (Putin) is blowing the **** out of Ukraine to protect the Russian speaking/identifying people of the Donbass?


          • nevermind

            do you really believe what you are told? Still proffering a fake narrative John K.?
            Is it the media or your mediocracy or are you paid for this deranged support for NATO highjacking peace?

          • zoot

            if he is neither ukrainian nor russian yet only offers opinions on this subject (and incessantly so) what does it suggest?

          • Pears Morgaine

            No clearer indication that people know they’ve lost the debate than when they have nothing but ad hominem and personal insults.

          • zoot

            right. so you’re permitted to call anyone who questions the official narrative a putinbot or tankie but no one can mention the elephant in the room. seems reasonable.

          • Bayard

            JK, I very much doubt Tatyana expects you to believe anything except what you read in the Irish equivalent of the Daily Mail.

          • Bayard

            Zoot, them’s the rules. Don’t worry, no one takes any notice of idiots who use words like “putinbot” to describe people who disagree with them. If they weren’t allowed to use terms like that, you wouldn’t know who they are. You might even think they had an opinion worth reading.

        • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett


          I note what you and Kissinger have said.

          But despite what Kissinger proposes I simply see two warring factions holding irreconcilable positions.
          On one side Russia has annexed territory and I can’t see it giving it up.
          On the other side Ukraine wants return of the seized territory.

          Add to that the fact that Ukraine wants to be a NATO member and Russia insists that such membership would present an existential threat.

          Raw power may end up deciding this one.

          P.S. Kissinger outlines Ukraine peace proposal — RT World News

          • Tatyana

            I’m not ready to talk about territories before we talk about people. So I think that first – the people and their rights, and only then – the territory.
            And if Merkel held the same opinion, then there would be no war. We would have implemented the Minsk agreements back in 2014, would have stopped all hostilities and would have finally given unfortunate people the right to decide their own fate.
            Kissinger offers roughly the same thing, only he again focuses on territory. Honestly, as if the manager of the menagerie allots animals their habitat. I don’t want to participate in this.

            And when I see “return” the regions to Ukraine, I literally get goosebumps. Seriously? Return so that Kyiv continues to bomb them? Who in their right mind would voluntarily hand over people to execution? I have no words.

            I won’t even repeat that faith in some kind of agreements, in the impartiality of international organizations has simply evaporated. And this, by the way, is an extremely dangerous situation. Russia no longer trusts anyone. Nobody’s words matter anymore.

    • Tatyana

      Look, I found a magic button! My appearance triggers the entry of all the same usual nicknames with the same set of slogans! Wow!
      The system is quite interesting. May be used it for the sake of lulz, of course, if I don’t get kicked out for trolling 🙂
      Which one of you guys is rummaging through my YouTube account? Oh, okay, rhetorical question, you can’t say it.

      Re. Minsk agreements.
      There’s a video of a man lying in a trench. Grenades were dropped right on him, from a drone, and the soldier threw them away with his hands.

      Rustam Hudainurov, 127 batallion, Donetsk.
      He is ukrainian, and his Kiev government tries to kill him. That’s what your “Minsk agreement” is about.
      Buying time, you say. Impoverished country you say. Defence. You also say something about the cheek of some people?

      • Stevie Boy

        Tatyana, your views and opinions are always welcome. Good to have you back.
        With regard to certain trolls who operate here, I always follow the advice of a colleague, who said: “don’t argue with crazy people”.

    • Coldish

      It’s good to hear from you again, Tatyana. It has been suggested that, back in 2014 and 2015, Merkel, who was involved in the negotiation of the Minsk agreements, may have been genuinely trying to arrive at a peaceful solution. Against that, she seems subsequently to have done little or nothing, in her capacity as guarantor, to get the agreements implemented. And now she says it was all a sham.

      • Tatyana

        Coldish 🙂
        minor but important addition:
        in September 2014 a ceasefire protocol was signed. The signatories were the then President of Ukraine and the heads of the then Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, as well as a notable Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini as the OSCE representative.
        Do you know why they were able to sign such a protocol on the cessation of hostilities then? Because earlier in the same 2014, in June, the “Normandy format” was created. By the way, on the initiative of the then President of France, Monsieur Hollande.

        so Frau Merkel is just one of a number of liars who pretended to be “making efforts to achieve peace.”
        In this line of high-ranking liars you may find Sigmar Gabriel, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Heiko Josef Maas, Olaf Scholz for Germany. Then, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Laurent Pierre Emmanuel Fabius, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Macaron for France. When Mr. Murray posted a blog on OSCE reports, I recall I visited the website and found some interesting persons there too.

        • Pears Morgaine

          A Normandy Format meeting between the four countries’ (France, Germany, Russia & Ukraine) representatives was held in Paris on 26 January 2022 followed by a telephone conversation between the French and Russian presidents on 28 January. The representatives of the four governments confirmed their support for Minsk II and committed themselves to resolving existing disagreements. They supported an unconditional ceasefire, and supported strengthening of the 22 July 2020 ceasefire, independent of their disagreements about implementing other components of Minsk II. A followup meeting was planned to take place in Berlin a fortnight later and another was planned for March.

          Military build up for the invasion began in March/April 2021 which means the decision to invade was probably taken sometime in 2020 if not earlier. So all the time Russia claimed to be supporting ceasefires and resolving disagreements over Minsk II they were preparing for war.

          Remind me again; who are the liars here?

          • Tatyana

            You miss the point and you pick the facts.
            Normandy format started back in 2014, to settle the INNER Ukrainian conflict. The conflict between the government of Ukraine and its own regions.
            I guess you are not good in Math, so you may like to use a calculator gadget to figure out the 2022-2014 period. Or, you may ask me to do it for you.
            It took 8 years. All these 8 years Kiev bombed Donbass and Lugansk. 8 years of lies, Germany and France and Kiev and EU and OSCE pretended to work on Minsk agreement, while helping Kiev with weapons. Buying them time to get stronger.
            I dare say, February 24 was an inevitable outcome. And, on top of that, now we hear from the TV screens, we have had to start it sooner. We have been too naive to trust, we waited for too long, we could have saved more lives if we have stepped in back in 2014. That’s a point in a reasoning like that. Crimea. It didn’t turn in a bloody mess like Donbass.
            I’m glad to have someone specially dedicated to me here. and even two. and I guess may be more. this adds to my self-esteem 🙂

          • Pears Morgaine

            Most of the casualties in the disputed regions occurred in the first 2-3 years, of the 10,000 or so combatant casualties half were Ukrainian so this idea you’ve been fed of Ukraine subjecting the civilian population to endless bombardment with impunity is incorrect. Let’s also not forget that Russia was training and supplying separatists with weapons so they can hardly complain about Ukraine also receiving arms.

            As you say it was entirely an internal affair and Russia had no right to invade. By even the most conservative estimates many more people have been killed in the 300 days of this invasion (that was only supposed to have taken 10) than in the previous 8 years of conflict so how can you say it has saved lives?

          • Bayard

            “Most of the casualties in the disputed regions occurred in the first 2-3 years, of the 10,000”

            So, we are supposed to move on now, are we? The fact that people were still being killed in the Donbass, by what you claim is their own government, is OK, because it wasn’t as bad as it had been? This is the same government which is being held up as a beacon of democracy that we should support to the tune of billions of pounds/dollars, is it, the second most corrupt government in Europe and ranking 117 out of 180 in the world?

          • Tatyana

            People of this type do not have sufficient flexibility of thinking and are not able to realize the enormity of their views. I don’t blame them for being like that, but I am very sorry that they are like that.

            People with more developed intellectual abilities are able to conduct a thought experiment, replacing “Donbassians” with “Jews”. An easy way to test yourself for normality and humanity. The example of the Jewish people is taken because it is the most vivid image in post-WW2 world..

            If, after such a thought experiment, you shudder, then everything is in order with you. And if you calmly perceive thoughts like “10,000 Jews killed are an insignificant loss. The West was right in arming Ukraine against the Jews. Russia should not have intervened to protect the Jews.” – well, then you are who you are.

            If you start arguing that the murdered Jews cannot be compared to the murdered residents of Donbass, then I have bad news for you, too.

          • Pears Morgaine

            Too right Russia should not have interfered. Let’s turn that one around and pretend that some hot heads in a part of Russia start a revolt and the US/UK or whoever provides them with weapons and training. You wouldn’t like it.

            There was no genocide going on in the Donbas, less than 30 civilians have been killed each year since 2019.


            This is 30 too many but I’m still keen to understand how this war, which has so far certainly killed 1,000 times that number, possibly 10,000 times, can be justified as necessary to save lives!

            I see Vlad has admitted that the situation in the illegally occupied areas is ‘extremely difficult’, more worryingly he’s called upon the FSB to step up surveillance of Russian society, this shows he’s not happy about how things are going on the home front. It sounds like Russia is going back to the bad old days of the KGB and the Stasi, if you’re not worried Tatyana you should be.

            I wasn’t aware this war was being fought over corruption. If it is then Russia ought to get it’s own house in order first, it IS the most corrupt in Europe and rates 135th out of 180.

  • jens schellhammer

    Dear Mr Murray,

    the German Railway system has been suffering for years, it’s been in shambles for years, but I don’t think it’s as much of a clear cut case as those activists told you. The DB is supposed to generate profits; it’s treated like a private company but is owned by the state (major stakeholder). The tracks are not privately held, they are government responsibilities (sort of, it’s complex). But private companies can make bids to operate on these tracks. Strangely enough, the regional train (NRW) most on time is run by National Express (in my opinion). …

    I read two of your books, which I think of as the “Africa Duet”, and the book about your time in Usbekistan (which really made me ashamed of Germany – in that no one in the German press ever acknowledged your findings, how in cahoots we were ); note to myself: “I wondered how seriously Hessian archives had been searched for letters home or diaries on their time in Scotland, or what published memoirs there might be” – would like to access the letters/communications from the embassy or soldiers who were stationed there at the that time.

    I like reading you (profoundly), your turn of phrase etc.

  • nevermind

    Good to hear from you Tatyana, hope you and yours are well. The Minsk agreements were never much amplified by the western media, usually a sign that they are not sincere enough to change their long preparations for this ugly conflict. NATO is making itself obsolete by turning into Americas attack dog, not a good sign.
    credit to Merkel the scientist for finally coming clean.
    Enjoy the return of light this Wednesday and the following festivities.

  • Fat Jon

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    If the security services are not able to remove you by suicide or an unfortunate accident, they will just try and mess with your head and show you just what they and their psychopathic sycophants are capable of.

    What they want is for you to become ultra paranoid, so much so that you to cease trying to expose their lies and corruption.

    • Bayard

      “What they want is for you to become ultra paranoid, so much so that you to cease trying to expose their lies and corruption.”

      What would be more likely is that the aim is for Craig to appear to be ultra paranoid, so that his attempts to expose lies and corruption can be dismissed as derangement.

      • Fat Jon

        If the psyops people are that keen on laptops, maybe we should all buy cheap laptop bags on Ebay and stuff them full of any old garbage we might want to get rid of, then post them to MI5 and MI6 HQs. I’m sure they would love scanning them all, just to keep them busy.

        I tend to get very childish in the run up to Christmas.

  • craig Post author

    Like everybody returning home to a young family after a month away, particularly just before Christmas, I have been overwhelmed by domestic obligations. Will hopefully post today.

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