New to my Solo Interrail series? Start here
I’m going to pick up where I left off last time, after I had just made it back to Zurich station and was now feeling like I was back in civilization having just spent the morning lost in the alps. I sat down over a coffee and wrote postcards to my Grandma and Aunt. This was 2008, a year after the EU smoking ban, which Switzerland was exempt from, so smoking indoors was a bit of a novelty and I did make the most of it (I don’t smoke now so I think I would hate to return to any country without an indoor ban on smoking). I asked two nice backbackers to take my photo with one of my disposable cameras.
From my travel journal:
“Next, I went to the station newsagent and negotiated stamps in German (all credit went to the pan-European phrasebook I’d packed). Next I searched for a post-box.
“Excuse me?” I flagged down a passing man.
“Hey there!” The friendly American accent warmed my soul.
“I don’t suppose you’ve seen the nearest post box, have you?”
“Sure! It’s just out there, on the left. It’s yellow.” He said.
“Thank you very VERY much.” I replied.
“No problem.” He said.
I followed the directions and found the post box just outside the station, then posted my post cards and hoped that was actually a post box (that, or I’d just put them in a used ticket disposal box, but I hoped not because they were nice postcards).
Then I got the 9:00am train to Milan, which terminated at Venice. Depending on what time it gets in, I may just stay on the train rather than aiming for Verona. However, I would prefer to stay in Verona as from there it would be easier to get back to Calais.
What followed was a wonderful train ride through the Swiss alps.
The scenery is beautiful, especially around Zug station – if I ever get a chance to go to Switzerland again, Zug is the place to go! Unfortunately, it also means I have already began using up my 3rd disposable camera – I’ll have to get another couple in Italy. The scenery of grassy fells, snowy mountains and powder-sprinkled pine trees is absolutely breathtaking. It’s much nicer to see the Alps from the ground than in an aeroplane! I’m glad not to have tried travelling onwards in the dark otherwise I would have missed this, which would have been unforgivable.
…I think I’ve just done my bit to ensure the continental opinion of English eccentricity; I took a photo of my compartment (because I’ve never been on a train with compartments before, this is like being on the Hogwarts Goddamn Express), but I waited until the other occupants had moved because it’s perhaps a bit over-zealous even for a tourist.
(a little bit later) As we emerge from the Alps, the architectural style has become markedly Italian, with the arched windows and straight-pitched, less high roofs. We are still in Switzerland, but signs for “ristorante touristes” are at the side of the road which runs parallel with the train track. There is also significantly less snow, but the sky is still that clear, brilliant blue, and the sun feels warm now. I feel less close to the sky again – being on the German side of Switzerland was like standing on a very high plateau, and it’s nice, but I’m glad to be at my normal altitude again. Hopefully it will be sunny in Verona and even more I hope that the tourist office is open so I can find accommodation between now and Tuesday (the Easter weekend is now upon us).”
Changing trains in Milan, I was profoundly disappointed. It was standard tall buildings type of architecture, nothing particularly chic or attractive about the place, it could have been absolutely anywhere. I decided to continue onwards. The next train was, now that I was in Italy, run by Trenitalia. It had dents all over the outside of the carriages and inside, there was no air conditioning, people were just crammed on top of each other. Opposite me, a woman sat down with a chicken in a cage. An actual chicken. It was squawking up a fuss and flapping its feathers everywhere, and she insisted, on this full-to-bursting train, that the chicken needed its own seat, even when a man tried to sit down. This tiny old woman clung to the chicken cage with a death grip and started shouting at him until he left the carriage. I was too timid to get a photo of the ridiculous chicken.
Later that evening, I disembarked at Verona train station and booked 3 nights in a hotel (Novo Hotel Rossi) in Verona, where I decided to remain for the rest of the Easter weekend. Annoyingly, despite it being the Easter Saturday, when everything is usually business as usual in the UK, in Verona, literally everything (apart from one Sushi restaurant) was closed and since I didn’t speak Italian (I do now, this trip is what prompted me to learn when I got back), I couldn’t understand the signs in the shop doors.
I found the aforementioned Sushi restaurant, only to discover that the staff didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Italian, so I ended up trying to order in Japanese. Turns out, only the elderly grandmother could actually speak Japanese but she invited me to share a pot of tea with her after I’d eaten, apparently she’d never met a gaijin who could speak Japanese before. I guess you wouldn’t, living in Verona. I don’t speak very much though (and I sure as hell can’t read it), so she probably found my conversation lacklustre. I’d like to learn more at some point so I can navigate Japanese cosmetics but that’s a bit off topic for a travel post!
Anyway, that was my first day in Verona, and I’d used up over half of my Interrail pass (any 5 days of travel valid for 10 days of travel and non travel), but I decided not to worry about that.
I will continue with my Solo Interrail journey here.
As a side-note, if you are wondering why my posts/response times are erratic, it’s because I’m back to work, now teaching at a facility for children who have been expelled from school, mostly young offenders, which is a very intense job, as well as being quite a drive from my house, and I’m a bit exhausted, but I am interested in everything people have to say still!!