Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein - My 48th, 49th and 50th countries
Published October 23, 2023
I kissed my cat and I kissed my dog, 'love you, back soon', I hugged my mum, she had just recovered from COVID and I had been taking care of her while my dad was away.
I stepped out into the night and got in the car. Qiuet, England, Fall.
Across the street from the bus station, I took a photo of my dad in the car. Something told me I should. He has driven me back and forth a lot of times from airports and yet I don't think I've ever taken a photo of him like that.
I left the car when the gleaming white National Express coach pulled into the station.
I was met by the driver, "London?" he asked, "Yeah." I replied.
He said he had to go to the depot and refuel, but would be as quick as he could. I walked back over the road and got back in the car. Why not take the passenger then instead of having to drive back?
Maybe it was policy, maybe it was an intellectual oversight...
Stansted has become an office of mine over these last few years. The cheap flights to Europe, oftentimes departing from and arriving there. It's not my favourite airport. But if you get to know it, it reveals its secrets - where plug and USB sockets actually work (the vast majority of them don't), the seating area downstairs that's always quiet, the best toilets, the coach station waiting area that's far better than staying with the packed hordes until security opens at 3am.
This stay was no different to any of the others. The usual wanderings.
The airside Burger King opens at four.
I chose a plant-based whopper for breakfast. I felt like eating beef but I didn't want to go back and eat it again. COWS ARE OFF THE MENU. It was a tasty alternative. I was happy about that.
On the plane a potato of a man, a coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing potato of a man was sitting next to me.
Execute them! The state needs to execute them!
If you do these stupid, inconsiderate things that effect human beings in public, you should lose your right to life. It's rare to travel and not come across these people, this trip had several. It's not the sophistication of psychopathy, it's not the impulsive hilarity of sociopathy, it's mindlessness, unthinking bodies who get to share the air. Capital punishment. Some test to weed them out is needed, we can test multiple times, in multiple ways, there can be swift appeals.
But ultimately, several weeks, maybe months after the process begins, those found to be this type of person, must be killed by the loving hands of the law.
I fly so often and I'm so used to the routine safety of flying through the air that I find myself excited when the possibility of danger enters the picture.
'Oh, this might actually crash' I said to myself, as the plane jolted violently from one spot in space to another. We were going fast, the movement of the plane was erratic, the ground was near. A rough landing, no blood.
I stayed in the little airport all morning and into the afternoon, before walking the few mintues to the Ibis across the street. I fell straight asleep.
In the morning I flicked through TV channels, conducted sensitive high level international business, ate some Mentos and a lion bar, came all over the sheets, showered and then left.
Windy, cold, fuck. This city was windy, cold, fuck.
Fuck. Windy, cold, fuck. This country, windy, cold fuck.
The only MUST SEE! (a term I despise) thing about Luxembourg was a balcony that people online kept referring to as 'the most beautiful balcony in Europe', from the pictures it looked nothing of the sort. A bang average euro backdrop. It was indeed a bang average euro backdrop. 30th, 40th most beautiful balcony in Europe >>> ???, maybe, maybe, just.
I walked the streets of Luxemourg which were a lot nicer than the balcony, saw the big flag and a far more beautiful view of the city with a railway bridge. Then walked to the glass elevator connecting the top of the town to the bottom.
The bottom of the town was like a different city. A village, dark river, the large span of the red bridge cutting through the scene. Fallen orange crispy leaves. I liked it.
I took the glass elevator back up to the top and found the red bridge, walked it and then took a bus back to the airport to charge my phone and take a shit.
Free public transport opens up a city so much more. It's not about the money but the sense of ease, of welcoming, every time you see a bus you think about jumping on.
Luxembourg does well with the details. The touches!
Luxembourg puts effort into welcoming it's visitors and making the lives of its people happy ones. Is it a 10/10 country? No. Is it one of my favourites? No. But, is it up there with the most liveable, the most caring, yes. I wouldn't mind returning.
As the cold October night fell I made my way to the train station.
In the waiting room - the only place in the building not exposed to the elements - I spotted a man by the door (the only entrance and exit) looking all shifty. A telling mix of nervous and excited. He was Muslim, he was brown, but racism wasn't the reason I stood up and left. It was calculation. With Gaza being pummeled to dust, of course blind-rage retaliation across the world was likely coming. And someone who matched a Palestinian description acting like that in a crowded place, in a western capital. Of course you leave, if you don't there's a chance you don't get to leave, there's a chance you become sticky bits on the waiting room floor.
I bought some snacks and went to the platform...
As the train hurtled towards Germany I fell in and out of sleep to a chorus of inhales through the severely blocked nose of someone somewhere.
Koblenz, Germany, 1am. I'm shaking in the cold air. The train is 35 minutes late. Men and women smoke on the platform. I remember when I used to do that. I walk to the big blue screen and turn around and head back to the mildy less freezing open glass seating area. After a struggle and many shivers the train arrives.
Switzerland has an old feeling to it. That nineteenth century Victorian feeling for some reason. Smoke and soot. Dirt on gold.
Zurich had little to do or see to be honest. It was pretty and the lake was immense and a happy place. The swans were probably my favourite part of the entire capital.
I got my footage and took my photos, and searched online for anything worth the walk outside the central area. Couldn't find anything, everything with any potential, ultimately proved lackluster with further digging.
So I went back to the lake and played with the swans and had a picnic.
In the afternoon I checked into the hostel, climbed into my hole and fell asleep.
I woke at around 4am, glad I got a full sleep from the afternoon into the next morning. I felt tired still, but knew my body had recovered from the long day.
I wrote up to here of this blog post... and then took a shower and left for my trains to Sargans.
I sat on one side and then the other, each time the scenery would switch. After a few of these switches, I picked the table up and slammed it against the wall. Fuck this game. I went to the train door and got the real beautiful footage and photos of Switzerland I wanted.
I got off the lime-coloured bus (Liechtenstein really likes lime, many things were coloured lime) early at the southern village of Balzers and walked into a churchyard, I ate a Lion bar and celebrated entering country number 50!
I sat on a wooden bench and ate some fluffy white AMERICAN bread.
In Vaduz (pronounced FA-TOOTZsss) I went straight to hiking up the castle, which disgustingly is not open, the prince or whatever still lives there and keeps it all to himself, cunt, dingo cunt.
I kept singing as I walked the shimmering gravel. Singing and humming and having a gay old time. My 50th country!
Back in town, I saw everything else I needed. Not a bad little place. Not a bad little country.
In the hostel, they had laid out an individual piece of ovomaltine chocolate on each bed. It was so sweet. I was the first to check in, so I went from bed to bed and collected them all up and ate them.
A few hours later the six-person dorm started filling up. I only liked one of the rooms five other occupants, an American from Texas, an ex-Lockheed Martin guy who had manners and a thoughtful conversation style.
At one in the morning, I woke up to eat a snack and take a tablet.
I returned to the room but couldn't fall back asleep. I hate hostels, especially the bunk bed, no privacy kind.
At 3am, I picked up my stuff and moved to the empty dorm next door. On check-out I again stole the supply of ovomaltine.
The morning was misty and the country empty.
I jumped around Vaduz on the buses. Number 11 one way and Number 11 the other.
For breakfast, I walked into a black cube of a McDonald's and ordered from the screen. Minutes later the manager came running over, the McDonald's menu on the screens was not the menu being served.
After a brief period of being a panicky cunt, she ran back over with my refund in cash. I spat on the floor as I left. A national disgrace. A disgrace to the nation.
I decided it was a McDonald's thing and not a Liechtenstein thing.
On the final bus back to Sargans, a little girl stepped on board looking genuinely devastatingly heartbroken. I'd never seen anything so sad. Her sister tried to console her and her mum or big sister did the same. The emotions of animals and children are golden, pure. They're amazing to see.
I had time to admire the peace of Sargans train station. I walked the tracks. Stared at the mountains. And scooped up a Swiss woman.
I met her by the toilets. I leaned in for a look at the robbery, it was one euro, or one franc for the product of pissing and shitting in a public toilet bowl. I laughed in disgust.
"Sorry." She said in her Swiss German accent.
"Hmm..." I replied.
She had strawberry blonde hair, the kind of hair that could be classified brown one day, blonde the next and even ginger on another.
Small talk turned to le rizz
and away we went.
Her apartment. A grey cat. A ticking plastic clock.
We had sex on the kitchen floor.
When she sat up and got on her knees to take it from behind, pink imprints of the tiles remained on her arse. And that image remains in my mind.
She came and I didn't, it usually takes hours of fucking before I unload. I'm not complaining.
"Nine minutes until my train." I said, as she lit a cigarette.
I threw on my boxers and jeans and headed out the door with a kiss and grab. What a nice way to spend an hour on a sunny afternoon.
Zurich Airport has no damn reason to be this big and this fancy. But it is. It also has a few infuriating things that almost ruin it, but only almost.
At border control, the Swiss officer, looked through my passport, eyes widened at all the stamps. Examining each page and each destination. Not in a 'better take this guy for interrogation' kind of way, in a 'wow' kind of way. I liked that.
Before the plane pushed back, the captain came on with an announcement, 'In Gatwick a storm's blowing through' he said.
The scruffy Swiss man in the window seat drank two beers in quick succession. The plane wandered the dark skies in search of England.
As I reread some sections of a book on Donald Trump, excited for the storm, tired but not dead, I rolled my head around the plane. I stopped when I saw a beautiful woman. The kind of girl people start wars over, knitting a yellow scarf a few rows back.
The plane smashed from one dimension into another. A mother a row back and to the left screamed at every violent throw while her two boys let out wooooosss.
The plane landed heavy and slid to a stop in the lashing blue London rain.
Three more countries done.
I much prefer the quick trips now. The quicker the better. My Balkans and Slovakia trip just a few weeks before was quick - seven countries in 15 days, 19 days overall. This felt even more rapid - three countries in four days.
There's still a place for the long, slow travel, but when you get this much done in such a short period, you return a mix of colours, sights, smells and sounds, of landscapes and people all smashed together and flung apart, it's a psychedelic cheating of the laws of time and space that I really enjoy.
48. 49. 50. DONE. DONE and DONE.