In early 1988 I was studying hard in my final year at Glasgow College. Throughout these months I kept a copy of the ‘Europe by Train’ at my side. That book took me places beyond words. Whenever revision got too stressful, I would read and dream about visiting these faraway places. Athens, Rome, Stockholm, Venice, Paris and Amsterdam were all exotic to a lad who had only ever been to France before. And then there were places that I knew I had to visit : Assisi, Wengen, Florence, Ljubljana,Pompeii and Patras. Magical names I dreamed of visiting.
At college I had struggled in third year, so much so a lecturer told me I was the last person he would bet on to pass their final exams. Whether he was a master of reverse psychology, or just a prick, I’ll never know but it had an effect. I was going to prove him wrong.
So I worked hard that final year whilst planning my trip. The interrail pass (£140) was for one month and covered all of Europe plus Morocco for some reason. In 1988 the Iron Curtain was still up : Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia still existed and Germany was divided (the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989).
My book also discouraged travel to the likes of Prague, Budapest and Warsaw , describing them as dull. I know, sounds incredible. It did say they were very cheap but under communism there was little for the tourist. Perhaps they were correct. I never went in ’88 but have visited these great cities since.
Then there were all the different currencies : I got deutschmarks, francs, guilders, drachmas and lira for the countries I knew I would definitely visit. No Euro in those days. No cash machines either, I had travellers cheques.
My plan was Paris, Amsterdam, doon to Switzerland to see The Alps, onto Yugoslavia, doon to Athens, Corfu then hop across to Italy. After that who knows – Barcelona or Scandinavia?
But first I had to sit my final exams so lets get back to revising (whilst listening to Housemartins and Freddie Mercury).
to be continued……