A 6am start in Chur to revisit the Cathedral and just try and imagine. By seven school kids are passing in clumps and couples and solitary singles. Does Swiss school begin at 8?
The walking out of a town is always full of details, those of the Beiderman-Klass who live in the periphery houses, or the smarter apartment blocks. Soon enough these have faded, to be replaced by river side factories. I’m using my analogue BFlat walking app today. Which means sticking close to the no-hill zones of the river, even if that means proximity to railway tracks, autobahns and factories. Tom is always saying that journeys are ten miles, which is almost never right – today I’m going to walk more like 18 by the time I am sitting in the Hotel Bambi, right in the centre of Bad Ragaz – and away from the fancy Five Star spa places and the casino.
As ever there are more fabulous stratospheric buildings on hills, they must have made their impression on Tom. Chur was around 2,500 people when Tom passed through; now it is a city of 30,000, capital of the Grisons. In fact when Tom hits Bad Ragaz, our destination today, he says it is his first stop in “Switzerland”.
But Bad Ragaz, for its beauty, is a nothing much happens place. When I collapse sweating at the refined Cafe Huber, the Ladies Who Spa move their chairs slightly, as if frightened of catching something.
The last part of the trail comes off the Rhine through a tended park in which each flower and tree has a label. In nice Swiss typography. In the middle of small lake is a floating artwork, a bunch of naked men. Later in Beatz, the bar for the people who don’t go to The Pub, a guy says: Bad Ragaz is always having art experiences, and there’s work all over town, they never take it away.
It is a measure of the busy nature of Bad Ragaz that I’m asked to pay for my room in cash the day before, because there won’t be anybody there in the morning. The winds start up and beer mats and napkins fly off down the high street towards the thermal baths.
In Beatz I meet the guys and a couple of their girlfriends. None work in Bad Ragaz, they travel to other towns. Michael starts his shifts at 6am, he’s a controller in a factory that makes the machines that make solar panels. The machines are exported to Asia, the panels made, and then sold back to Europe. I start at six so I can finish at three, he says. You know, have some time to do stuff.
But everyones agrees there’s not much to do in BR. Most people went to Chur, for the festival. It wasn’t as good as a few years ago.
Michael’s going with his girlfriend Lisa to Biarritz tomorrow, for a week of surfing; when he was a kid his family took him to Italy, over the mountains. It was so cheap. A couple of years ago he worked for nine months in an Italian town, but after work the men only wanted to chase women and talk about cars. He came home.
Lisa says that when her dad was young he bought a VW van in Bad Ragaz and drove to India. He didn’t smoke though, he still insists. When the Alllied Forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 Lisa’s father said: “I’ve been there, they are proud people, it will never work. The Afghans will win.
Another guy at the table tells me about the Heidi tourists, often from Japan, who fly and bus in, check out the Heidi Trek and then zoom off for the Matterhorn – that’s Switzerland.
Another talks about the “outsider towns” full of foreigners; that’s often where the work is.
The boyz wander off for a this or that, and we have to go inside by ten: the indoor smoking laws were passed only two months ago in Switzerland and Bad Ragaz does Bad Neighbours, they don’t like people on the streets. Nicole the owner has to shepherd the boys inside. Soon enough everyone’s left: there is early work in the morning.
I walk home to Bambi in windy silence. And set my alarm for dawn. I am the only person in the building.