INTER-RAIL FOR IDIOTS

by Frankie Fraser

4. Swiss Cheese

 

"I am up in the clouds and I can't come down"

 No, it isn't Skyrim

 


I like to imagine that these mountains are the remains of cities, pyramids, from thousands of years ago, before The Flood that were compacted and squished into muddy lumps. But of course geologists tell us they are just volcanic rock that must have been pushed up by the collision of continental plates long ago, hollowed out into vallies by the passage of time and glaciers during long ice ages.  The surprising thing being: Switzerland doesn’t have many earthquakes.
    The Swiss are prepared for every eventuality, though - since the 1960s, they have apparently built enough underground fallout shelters for their entire population - which is presumably what you do when you have too much time and money on your hands. I have never actually been able to ask a Swiss person if they have a bunker in their basement, as I have never met any who would give me the time of day, but I suspect many of them do.
    The mountains and lakes appear as you leave Zurich and head south along winding routes, each bigger than the last one trying to outdo each other so that you want to take out your camera and snap compulsively like a mad Japanese tourist. I saw little shuttered houses, a stream flowing into a waterfall and a mountain goat under dry stone walls that tessellate along the hillside like the work of forgotten giants. Although some of the walls seem to have mortar between them, some of them don’t and are held up purely by the many-angled stones relation to each other. I saw pure water flowing in mountain creeks the colour of sapphire. Although I was very tired, it was difficult not to want to stay alert and drink it all in.
    The agent in the railway booking office in Amsterdam had stitched me up and put me in a sleeper on the way here with two Koreans, who snored loudly and listened to incomprehensible radio programmes on their iPhones all night, along with an elderly woman who filled up the car including the doorway with her luggage and kept waking up to complain loudly about nothing.
    There was a museum in Zurich of Swiss culture, but I didn’t fancy cuckoo clocks so I jumped straight on the train headed for Lugano. The guard was a pretty, polite blonde who made a change from the kind of gruff ticket inspectors I was used to in “The Yewkay.” Soon I would be heading south where snow-covered peaks shone in the sun up above me...

 

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