As a traveller who doesn’t drive, I’ve spent a lot of time in train stations. They can be magical places. Full of joy and anxiety, dirt, dirty people, pigeons, pigeon shit, excitement, excrement, bustling, rushing about, grab a coffee, grab a bread roll and some cheese, find your platform, lose your ticket, buy some tissues, find your ticket, have your bag stolen, sleep on a bench, stare at the clocks, have your heart broken, and feel it mend again.
Except for Sydney’s Central station. What a dismal place indeed.
If you find yourself, as I did this morning, with 30 minutes between trains, there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do. Oh, you could tap of and go to the coffee cart. Splash out on a $4 latte and a $5.50 chocolate muffin. You could stand in the kiosk and gaze at the shelves in despair, as I have many times, staring at but not wanting either ice cream nor chips, your only options. Muttering under your breath, as you quietly starve, and your stomach rumbles in accompaniment.
No supermarket, no bakery, no bookstore, no bar.
Oh yes, you’ll protest, but you could go downstairs. Yes, true, but if you don’t know it’s there, it’s not easy to find. And then you’re faced with a length of bad take away joints, with barely a hygiene rating between them.
And, did I say, no bar?
Once, C and I were leaving Naples on a late bus. The bus station is in the middle of nowhere, in the suburbs. Nothing round about was open. People were asleep in their high rise flats. The station was full of the usual sorts you find there, desperate, lonely, homeless. Yet even here, there was a brightly lit van selling freshly made food and little tins of beer.
That’s civilised, that is.
Improve your game, Sydney Central Station. Improve your bloody game.