Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Getting Back to Britain

The article below was originally submitted to the Daily Telegraph's 'Just Back' feature a year and a half ago, outlining part of an attempt to return home to Britain from Lake Garda.

Scenes of touristic idyll hide the truth of a chaotic and disastrous but fantastic trip.

As the 11:23 to Verona screeched into Platform C of Rovereto station, my brother and I half ran, half stumbled down the platform towards the front carriages, sweating and grumbling as we attempted to drag our impossible loads behind us.

The entire train waited patiently as we hauled our bike bags – enormous floppy rectangles that weighed 20kg plus – cases, and backpacks in. Crashing down into the nearest seat and wiping my heavily perspiring brow, I was already regretting not just taking the taxi to the airport at this point. Still, now we could relax, for an hour or so at least. And we were saving a good bit of money.

One hour and a quarter later, and our growing feelings of discomfort were confirmed when the horrible truth surfaced: we were going the wrong way. “No! This isn't the train to Verona!” said the shocked looking German who I had just asked. “This is the train from Verona to Munich!” I looked at my brother, Ben, in disbelief, as my stomach performed a sickening turn.

Five exceedingly painful minutes later and we were sat at the next station, Campo di Trens Freienfeld, home to a small, ghostly village cloaked in silence. I sat on the deserted platform and attempted to resist the welling up sensation of despair whilst my brother, armed with a phrasebook, bravely went in search of local advice.

Fast-forward several hours later, and we have caught the train back towards Verona, been charged for another train ticket by a none-too-sympathetic guard, dragged our luggage through Verona station, onto a coach, off a coach and across the length of Verona Airport. And yes, we had missed our flight.

The walk back to the airport...

After a lonely meal of half-warm pizza and sickly-rich-yet-dry chocolate cake, we made our way in search of a room for the night. Walking along a deserted industrial estate road at nine o'clock at night, pushing an airport trolley completely overloaded with luggage was one of the more surreal moments of my first trip to Italy. It was a trip that had been plagued by rain, thunder and giant yellow umbrellas, and we had already dubbed it Two Idiots Abroad – but it had now become more a case of Mr Bean's Holiday.

The next day, believe it or not, despite being at the airport for the majority of the day, we almost missed our second flight home due to a combination of confused/non-existent airport organisation and pushy fellow Brits, which left us for 90 minutes in the check-in queue. Dashing through the departures lounge, once again covered in sweat, we made it to the shuttle bus and onto the plane by a gnat's whisker.

In an unexpected twist of fate, we were longing to be back in Britain. In attempting to save about €30, we lost roughly £200 and a day each, but gained an unforgettable experience and a point of conversation for years to come.      

You can read more about the trip here.

Venice - one of the few successes of the trip.

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