INTER-RAIL FOR IDIOTS

by Frankie Fraser

7. Lost in Lugano

 

Germany is my next destination. I don’t want to go to France, because this is an English person’s idea of a holiday when one is not flying, and I want to confound expectations. Besides, I’ve travelled in France before when I was 19 and went to follow a band called the Hitchcock Blondes on tour, which ended at 4am one morning in a Paris graveyard drunk at Jim Morrison’s graveside (n.b., not really, I might be romanticising it a bit). In any case, the Italian heat is starting to get to me and I really need to get out of Como.
    I could still make it for the night train to Gottingen, but for some reason I decide to go back the exact same way I came to Lugano instead of the route recommended by my all-knowing Sammie laptop that comes everywhere with me.
    So I miss my connection and have to stay in Switzerland for a while, having no Swiss money and not a clue what to do.
    There’s a festival on here in Lugano, and the kindly blonde woman at the tourist office tells me that Jose Gonzalez, the Heartbeats singer, is giving a free concert in the town tonight. This is about the only thing I’ve ever heard of anyone getting for free in Switzerland, aside from maybe the view and an empty pocket. As there’s also a conference in town, however, all the hotels will probably be jam-packed. I consider it and ask the desk lady if she’s going.
    ‘I’ll be there,’ she replies in perfect English.
    Swiss women are by far the best looking so far. Maybe it’s something to do with all the money floating around? Switzerland is full of millionaires. If they're not happy with the ones they've got, I imagine they just buy new ones.
    I’ve nothing against Swiss people, but I don’t know what language to speak to them (as most have French, German and Italian but not necessarily English), and not having any Swiss money is annoying. Now I know how other Europeans must feel when they come to the UK - but to be fair, my country isn't stuck in between two other place that you actually want to visit. I walk down to the banks of lake Lugano (which is apparently dead and in the process of environmental re-generation) in a mood and have a picnic of things I stole from the hotel breakfast – whereupon I nearly choke to death on a piece of stale bread while everyone around ignores me and goes about their business.
    I’m starting to get fed-up with Switzerland. Behind me a stage is set being up, and I see a silhouette of a figure, who might be Jose Gonzalez, talking to a sound man while all his pretty Swiss fans are already drunk gathered at the bar. I suddenly realise that I’m not all that big of a Jose Gonzalez fan. I only know one Jose Gonzalez song, and he didn’t write that anyway. I also realise that if I don’t leave tonight it will mean a twelve hour train journey the next day.
    Not much of a choice at all. The funny thing is, looking back on it now I wish I’d stayed. Sometimes it’s the things you miss that stay with you. 

 

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