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So, Christmas is fast approaching; December is almost upon us! Having taken a break from our usual December activities (spending every waking moment rehearsing for the London Gay Men’s Chorus Christmas Show), it seems that we can enjoy the run-up to Christmas for once!

Tomorrow, I set off by train for Cologne to explore the city and the many Christmas Markets there. Later in the week, I take the sleeper to Vienna where Brett will join me to sample the Austrian pre-Christmas delights. This will be our first attempt at “budget” travel, so a certain amount of thought has been going into the preparations.

Unlike regular backpackers, we’ve booked well ahead of time; transport and accommodation have been reserved for a couple of months now, partly because I’m an obsessive planner and partly for the practical reason that we have a fairly tight schedule and don’t have the leisure gap-year folks enjoy to take a later train, or wander around to find an available bed at the last minute.

One issue I overlooked though, was luggage; on doing my trial pack I discovered that I couldn’t get everything I was planning to take into my Osprey backpack. Although only 35l it has the volume to cope with everything (just!) but the rigidity and bulk of things such as my laptop and DSLR camera necessitated a last-minute rethink. As a result I’m carrying a 65l Gelert kit bag (which I’m not entirely convinced I’ll be able to get onto EasyJet as cabin baggage for the return flight!) It has shoulder straps and a passable waist-belt, so it’s usable as a backpack and has ample room for all my gear, albeit a bit haphazardly.

Well, all part of the experience, I suppose. Onward…!