I left my hotel in Prague on Sunday morning and after a few confused circuits of the city centre escaped north to get some value from my Czech motorway "vignette". I drove to Usti nad Labem (Usti on the Elbe) to have tea and buns with blogger, journalist and businessman Tim Worstall, who is spending some time there on business.
My friend in Germany had already advised travelling via Usti and Dresden to add some picturesque interest to my journey north. The weather was perfect so I enjoyed the scenery with the roof down and arrived in a very jolly mood.
I rolled into the square where we had agreed to meet and was promptly greeted by Tim who had heard Speranza coming. She is not suitable for stealth work but sometimes that comes in handy. We didn't even need to use the self-descriptions we had emailed to identify each other.
Tim and I knew each other only from our blogs. Our business histories are very different, but occurred in some of the same places so we had a lot to talk about. Our paths probably did cross - literally - from time to time, but never figuratively.
Had I not retired from political blogging, it would have been a great opportunity to get tips from a master of the genre. As it was, I just enjoyed chatting with him in the Czech sunshine. He's a nice guy as well as - as I already knew from his blog - a wise one.
Then it was on to Dresden, a city I had never seen before. I had been strongly advised to talk a walk by the river, so I did. It was the wrong time of day for photography but I had distance to cover between these pleasurable episodes so could not wait for better light.
It's a beautiful city in a distinctive Germanic way and I think I might have liked it as much as Nuremberg, if I had time to get to know it. I liked the modern architecture too, though I am sure the Dresdeners wish that room had not been made for it in RAF Bomber Command's drastic way.
Then it was on to Berlin, where I was to stay at the house of an old friend and former client I had not seen for a decade. He and his Polish girlfriend, whom I also knew from our Warsaw days, made me very welcome in their home on the South-East side of the city. It's an area formerly populated by the elite of the East German Communist Party and the Stasi. They are in the process of moving house to another such area and we drove over there to take a look. Each is on a different lake and surrounded by forest. Both had a very country feel and reminded me of Konstancin, near Warsaw, where some of the Polish Communist elite had their homes. Say what you like about those equality-mongers, they knew how to live.
After a couple of nights in this Soviet-era rural idyll, I set off this morning for a long - and as it turned out - tedious drive. It's hard to be bored when driving Speranza. She is excitement on wheels. But so far from maxing her out at 312kph on the autobahns today, I spent hours in traffic jams, threading my way through multiple sets of major roadworks or dodging the spray thrown up in heavy rain. Not quite the fun I had hoped for, but I have now arrived safely at my overnight stop in Eindhoven. I am staying in a B&B attached to a horse riding school. It is a converted stable with the original stone floor and wooden partitions - and my wash basin is an old water trough. it's quirky and fun and I like it.
All the pictures of my tour so far can be found here. I have dispensed with the Tom Paine Flickr account as - now that I don't have to worry about offending certain of my old firm's clients - I have no reason to conceal (not that it was ever concealed from anyone who asked) my real identity.
The updated map of my progress is here.