WHY can’t I travel like all humans? Something always has to happen. Either I have half an hour inbetween my connecting planes, and the first one is 29 minutes late, or I get stuck at the border, or else I miss the transport altogether. The “best” memory is returning from a US internship / summer institute in August 2004 and leaving for a DAAD-sponsored German course in Frankfurt… the same day, within a 2.5-hour gap. I was like, Privet, mamochka, kak dela, get me a taxi quick, off home, repack the suitcases in a record 30 minutes, get back on the same cab and rush back to the airport, elegantly waltzing into check-ins 15 seconds before closure. Mum was literally holding at her heart.
Even better – back from a summer school in Prague in August 2003, the bus gets hopelessly held up at the Czech-Polish border, I miss the connecting bus from Vilnius, get off at Kaunas, take a taxi to the Latvian border, catch the bus, get into Riga 2 hours before my ferry to Stockholm, repack within 20 minutes, stress out at Latvian traffic jams, get the right ferry, and finally fly out to my holiday in Norway from Sweden. Nice holiday in the end, but I had to sweat for it.
And, third time round, I have messed it up. My plane tickets for Milano from Frankfurt were booked nicely in August, everything planned, travel guides on Italy read through, all connections sorted. Perfect. I arrive at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof in time to wave goodbye to my airport coach. Hello? The coach company changed its timetable two days before, and I have not noticed. The next coach is in one hour, and I might just be lucky to catch the plane. I give it a go, eat up my fingernails on the way to the Frankfurt Hahn airport, bump the airport doors open, run, sweep off obstacles in the form of young families with children and Turks with tonnes of luggage, storm the check-ins, but they are closed. Too late! The Milano plane will be leaving without me.
I call the hotel in Milano for cancellation, but they are keen to charge me anyway. This is getting worse. I have a nervous breakdown on the way back, call my mother and tell her how much I hate Finland (need a scapegoat desperately). Back at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, I suddenly get an idea. What if?.. At the counter, Ich möchte gern wissen, ob es immer noch Nachtzüge nach Mailand gibt? In half an hour, the lady says, but you need a reservation. Any cheap tickets, I ask, thinking about those 29 EUR Sparnacht offers. Oh no, she says, this is far too late, but she will check anyway. Oops, one bargain ticket still left. Ich nehme es, I scream. The Germans at the counter laugh in a very good-natured manner. I want to sing. Milano is near.
I could add the details of waking up on the train a few hours later, asking myself where I was, seeing the “Lugano” sign outside, patting the Swiss customs dog looking for drugs, and glaring at the Swiss Alps from the train window. Wonderful views and great experience of travelling to Italy overnight. Enough to say, however, that I made it to the hotel, met my friends in Milano, walked for hours and hours in the driving rain, took pictures, and, surprisingly, made it in time for my returning plane back to Frankfurt. What is next?
Another small detail worth mentioning though is a wonderful young Englishman I met on the bus to Bergamo airport. Tim, you have changed my entire perception of native Bristollers. Never again will I call them snobbish! Accept my repentance.
p.s. How could I ever forget my departure from beloved Helsinki?…