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A city that often sleeps; Start of the week.

Byline: by Bob Cypher

THE young woman adjusted the massive haversack on her back and stood on the railway platform.

She looked at the sign above her head. Yes, this was it. She had arrived at the main railway station in the city she had always wanted to visit.

She had heard so much about the country and this city. It was, she had been told, a friendly place to visit. A lively city with lots of good things to see, do and experience.

And from this city she could move on, explore, investigate and experience more.

The young woman was on yet another adventure of an adventurous year.

She had said an emotional farewell to her parents who, justifiably, were anxious about their precious daughter travelling the world.

But they didn't want to clip her wings. They wanted her to experience life. She kept in contact with them through numerous e-mails sent from youth hostels and internet cafes en route and even though she had only a smattering of knowledge of the language used in this country she was looking forward to learning more during her stay.

Like most travellers, she reasoned that her first port of call would be the Information Centre that most - if not all - cities have.

She approached the ticket barrier and, using her limited knowledge of the language, asked for the Information Centre.

The ticket collector waved an arm in the general direction and she hitched up the heavy rucksack into a more comfortable position and followed his directions.

She walked out of the station concourse and scanned the buildings in front of her. A signpost in the unfamiliar language seemed to indicate she was on the right lines and after walking through the early evening gloom for a further 100 yards, she eventually saw the familiar "i" sign on the other side of the road.

Crossing the busy thoroughfare, she reached the door to the Information Centre, pushed and discovered it was locked. She looked at her watch. It was 6.30pm. The rain was a little more insistent and she looked at the sign on the door. Even with her limited knowledge of the language she could see it closed at 5pm.

Panic rose momentarily. She had little knowledge of the language, she didn't know anyone in the city. She was tired, she was hungry and she was worried about where she was going to sleep that night.

Not the best of welcomes. Not the best way to impress the visitor or encourage them to stay and explore the land and spend their money.

Who could blame that young woman if she were to return to the station and catch the next train out? Who could blame her if she were never to return?

The above is not a fairy story. It is a true story. And there is a lesson to be learned for any city wishing to show a welcoming face to visitors - and therefore potential sources of revenue - 24 hours a day, seven days a week and at least 364 days a year.

Especially if that city has aspirations to be awarded the accolade of being European City of Culture.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 18, 2002
Words:531
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