Sun 23rd June.
I studied graphic design at uni and in many ways you could say that this was the kindling that would start the fire of my ongoing curiosity about Switzerland. All the best and most iconic designers came from there and in the last 100 years Switzerland (and Germany too) has played a crucial role in the development of modern graphic design. For many modern designers, you could say it’s a design mecca.
Today the design that comes from Switzerland has something different about it. For one it feels cleaner or more neutral perhaps. They have always maintained an analytical approach that prioritises attention to detail like few others in the practice.
I had always wanted to see what it was in the country that produced these thinkers and standards in aesthetics. I was also interested to learn more about being neutral in the war and why they were out of the EU. As if this wasn’t enough, it was also home to the greatest and most elegant man in Tennis, Roger Federer.
Now I would finally see this country and hopefully unearth a few personal mysteries.
The heat in the morning was stifling. It was only about 29°C but occasionally while in Marseille I struggled to breath due to the humidity.
I said goodbye to the people I’d met there and wished the American girls well on the travels. Re-entering the hellish city with a fully loaded bike was something I had feared since yesterday. I left with plenty of time spare and got to the station on time. Manoeuvring around a busy station with a clumsy bike was as frustrating as you could imagine.
I booked the tickets and with time to spare, sent a few emails letting my friend Matt in Geneva know when and where I should meet him. I bumped into the American girls again at the station and had coffee with them before they departed for Italy.
The train up went through Avignon into the everlasting green scenery of France. I looked forward to having nothing to do and getting some reading down, but as with all train rides I couldn’t help but gaze out the window for extended periods of time.
At Lyon, I had two hours to kill. I left the station and snooped about the streets, not wanting to go to far so I could get lost, I wanted to take in a tiny part of this city, I would later discover was France’s second biggest city. Back in the station I was happily waiting for my train in the suitable area. Connections between trains here were much longer than in England, so there were designated sitting areas (like in airports) for passengers waiting for connections.
The time came to wait on my platform for the train. I waited and nothing came, there were minutes to go before the train should leave, yet no-one was around. I checked with a member of staff on the platform and I had to go to platform ‘I’ not ‘E’. The French pronounce their E’s as English do their I’s hence the mixup. I now had about a minute to get to the right platform with the bike.
A crushing sense of disappointment and fear came over me, as I previously had a blotchy record of making train times. I panic going full steam through the busy station, then rode the bike up to the platform and down to where the train was.
Absolutely certain I would miss it and have to reorganise everything, going through arguments at offices and more ticket payments, I made it. It was a huge relief and I was furious at myself for the confusion. Two hours to kill and I still almost miss the train.
When I got there I went through some kind of customs in the train station, although nothing was checked there were officers and a few people were taken aside for inspection. The station was big and there were several entrances, but after some flurry, I found my friend of seven years outside a shop.
We hugged relieved to have found each other, I studied my setup surprised by how little the was, then we headed back to the flat where he was staying.