I am in Milan! I am sitting in the kitchen of Mirko, my couchsurfing host, looking out on a cold but clear winters day. This has been an unexpected element of this tour – making use of the amazing platform that is CouchSurfing.com. While most of the venues that I will play on tour offer a place to stay, some don’t (like the place where I played last night) and I also have a handful of nights where I don’t have a show booked. Being on quite a tight budget – the main financial aim of the tour is to cover the car rental, petrol and road toll costs – spending €30/40 a night on accommodation is not really ideal. So I have dusted off my old CouchSurfing account to wonderful effect.
A few years ago, at the suggestion of my friend Mara, I set an account up and hosted a few people in my home in Joburg and met a few others that were passing through town and looking for a friendly chat. Since I haven’t been home for more than a few months at a time over the past couple years I had become less involved but I remembered this could be an option when I was making the plans for the first leg of my journey from Berlin to Olten in Switzerland. The total drive is 913km so breaking it up seemed to be the best bet – if only I didn’t have to spend too much on a place to stay. Hooray for couch surfing.com!
I looked for someone who was offering a bed in Nuremberg, which is roughly halfway along the route, and was invited by Jessica to stay with her and her great big friendly labrador/great dane/something-else-I-can’t-remember mix Wilson. We had a great chat about our respective travel experiences and were then joined by her neighbours (two Spaniards and German) for a great hot bowl of soup over which we stumbled, with good humour, through a conversation of various degrees of German, English and Spanish.
The experience was good enough to settle me on this mode of accommodation for the rest of the trip. I am now sitting in Mirko’s kitchen (who has been an equally great host) in Milan. I will look for the same around Amiens and Lille where I will have a few free days in the middle of the tour and chance to explore the area a little bit.
From Nuremberg I left for the Coq d’Or in Olten, Switzerland. I’d played at Coq during my tour in the European summer. I had made good connections with the Nils, Daniel and the rest of the crew there and I was really looking forward to the return. As it happened, a double booking meant that I was playing on the same night as the club’s annual art auction where they invite locals artist to contribute pieces which are then sold off under very festive circumstances.
My show was divided into half a set before the auction and a half a set after. The first half went down very well but everyone’s concentration was gone by the time the auction was over and so the second set was mostly lost in the general chatter and vibes of Friday night. The auction itself was great fun. I didn’t really understand the specifics of each sale – and I was too nervous to bid for anything lest I find out later just how much money I owed – but it was great to be in the crowd for what was a fun and rambunctious community event. The rest of the night as spent hanging out with the Coq personnel and watching an improvised jazz-rock-electronica band that had been put together for the evening. They were playing in the larger, subterranean part of the club that I had not previously known existed.
Waking up the next morning I was greeted by the Coq’s morning team with a great coffee and croissant breakfast…and a sizeable shock: When getting ready to leave for my next stop I realised that I had made a dreadful error in that I had confused the town of Freiburg (a handy 121km from Olten) with the town of Freiberg (a less than handy 765km from Olten and almost all the way back to Berlin). It was 11am and if I left right away and drove non-stop I would make it just in time for my show. This is exactly what I did. I made it to the venue with 30 minutes to spare, played the show, went to bed almost immediately after, was in my car by 8:30am the next morning and then drove drive the 884km all the way back past Nuremberg, through Switzerland, to my next show Milan.
This was not, to say the least, the best 48hours of my life, but the show in Freiburg went really well so it was definitely worth it. From what I could pick up during my very brief stay, Freiberg is really pretty medieval town near Dresden, with buildings and cobbled streets stretching back 800 years and surrounded by farmlands in which I had gotten a temporarily lost the night before. I played at a really nice little venue called NotenDiele which is mostly the headquarters and practice space for a local a cappella group. Tim, a member of the group and my contact for the show, was a great – and very understanding – host and it would have been really cool to have had a bit more time to hang out after the show rather than rushing off to get some much needed rest.
The drive back, in its own way, was also worth it. Having had a good nights sleep I was much more relaxed than on the previous day and so I could fully enjoy the endless series of snow covered landscapes, climaxing with the magnificent peaks, lakes and tunnels of the Swiss alps. Then, upon reaching Lugano near the border of Switzerland and Italy, the snow abruptly disappeared and the sky opened up for a golden sunset. Yeah!