The road to Istanbul is paved with currywurst

Click to follow
The Independent Online

So the big divorce road trip has started. The Joly road trip #Istanbulorbust is under way. We caught the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland on the beginning of "what I like to call a carcation". Yes, we went on the Stena Line ferry, the one I do the ads for. It was rather fun seeing other passengers spot me on the thing. I think they assumed that, as part of my ad contract, I had to spend my life on the ferry giving other passengers the thumbs up in my driving gloves. It must have been a bit like spending the night at a Premier Inn and finding Lenny Henry in your bedroom – maybe a little less unnerving.

In Amsterdam, we felt the sun on our backs for the first time this year. We took the kids round the sights: The Torture Museum, The Museum of Prostitution, the Red Light district, The Bulldog Coffee House for a spliff-rolling masterclass … it's been a real education for them, and I can guarantee that they will never forget Amsterdam. We did pop into the Van Gogh Museum but the "Sunflowers" were on loan to the National Gallery in London, so we did my favourite thing in art galleries – we stared at a fire extinguisher, lost in deep thought and admiration, until we were joined by others who started to do the same. It never fails.

Then it was on the road to Berlin. The joy of Germany, I told my kids, is that there is no speed limit on the autobahns. I had to correct this after my third speed-camera incident before Hanover. This myth is obviously just that, a myth, and I plan to sue Jeremy Clarkson for propagating it. It did, however, allow me to see what my souped-up Land Rover Discovery could do and I got some admiring glances from BMW and Mercedes drivers. I was flying the flag as I approached Berlin. I really wanted to do the Bowie walking tour but the family vetoed this and we went to the Currywurst Museum instead …

Last time I was in Berlin was 1992 and the city has changed beyond recognition since then. Old East Berlin is far more interesting than the posher western side and a bit of a delight to a Dark Tourist like myself. Checkpoint Charlie impressed the kids when I explained what it was all about, but they were less interested than I in staring at old bits of the Berlin Wall.

Then it was off into Bohemia, headed for Prague, where I was once a diplomat and lived for a year. Then it was a magical city – unspoiled, raw and beautiful. It's still beautiful, what you can see of it behind the human walls of tour groups and drunken stag parties. In a subtler manoeuvre than in 1968, the Russians have invaded again. This time, however, it's not tanks rolling down Wenceslas Square, it's groups of thick-set drunken Russkie men bouncing from one strip joint to another high on the arrogance of new money. They are unspeakably rude and treat the Czechs like serfs. I'm sure Prague is doing very well financially but somewhere along the road of democratic freedom it sold its soul.