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Published: August 13th 2008
"You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself. You learn to watch other people, but you never watch yourself. Because you strive against loneliness. If you read a book, or shuffle a desk of cards, or care for a dog, you are avoiding yourself. The abhorrence of loneliness is as natural as wanting to live at all."
I belong to that category of men who spend most of their lives reading, yet in this journey I hadn't almost been able to hold a book in my hands. Yesterday then, lying on my hostel bed while the rain outside was providing to make the green Switzerland even greener, I bumped into this beautiful thought of Meryl Berkham, a pioneer in civil aviation in the first half of the twentieth century. I stopped for long time, with my index finger marking the end of the last sentence, like those Christopher Columbus statues all with their index finger pointed towards the Americas.
Travelling by bicycle is maybe just another way to strive against loneliness, and perhaps it is not mentioned by Mrs.Berkham just because in 1936 no one still
used it as a long distance way of transport. Yet it is true, in the many hours of solitude and kilometers, I've observed and mentally recorded aesthetic and behavioral details of all those whom I had the chance to interact with, but I've never looked at myself. Each of us is like a scale: weighing everything and everyone but unable to weigh itself.
Then again, "the others" have a key role in this trip of mine (and in all previous ones, actually). Literally. I've established a travel budget of 20€ per day. Nothing if we consider prices of the countries I'm travelling through. Hence I need the cooperation, the disinterested help of foreign people that in the vast majority of cases I've never seen before, nor will probably meet again. In these first 19 days of travelling I've paid for accommodation in just three occasions, other three times I freely camped in lands that were probably private but definetely welcoming and for the remaining 13 nights I was generously hosted by local people. And only with two of them -Silvia in Castelfranco Veneto and Masismiliano on Lake Constance- I was already friend before I occupied their houses with little
Whenever I plan a new trip, every time that my nomadic imagination traces lines to be followed on maps and atlases, someone recommends me to be careful because the world is full of dangers. These are always people who "the world" haven't ever discovered in first person, so they are giving on opinion on something totally disowned to them. As if a vegetarian in a restaurant would reccomend to a fellow customer to order his steak well done. To all these people I'd really like to show, at least once, this brilliant side of humanity born where there are no preconceptions and mistrust.
This doesn't mean you'll create some sort of feeling with everybody you meet, inot at all. Not always you are able to understand what pushes someone to act or think in a certain way. In Zürich, for example, my occasional room-mate was a redhead, small, fully figured Canadian guy, 25 y.o., freshly graduated in mathematics. It was, needless to say, the backpacker prototype, who buys the Lonely Planet and follows to the letter advices and warnings. He had the very American habit of talking at a volume higher than well education would reccomend (low
self-esteem?) and a conversation most monotonous than a snails race. He told me that he has been travelling around Europe for 10 weeks and that he had already been in 11 countries. Pause to let the news arise my interest and enthusiasm and that instead I used to pray: "Lord, don't let him list all the places he has visited!"
"... And then I was in Paris, then in Amsterdam -hey man, I fuckin love Amsterdam- then in Belgium, in the north ...". At a given point he stopped his soliloquy to ask where I was from. And there I was slow. I should have said something like Serbia or Lithuania, instead I said Italy and then again I prayed: "Lord, don't let him list all the places he has visited in Italy!"
"... Rome, Florence, Naples, Cink Terre. Have you been to Cink Terre?"
"Because that's the typical place where to meet all the sheep of your tribe" or at least so I had wanted to respond. Instead, I invented a really implausible one: "Never got the time, you know, work...".
He endeed up by saying that he had seen enough and it was finally time
for him to be back to "real life". Sad indeed!
The sporting side of the adventure is going well. In Tyrol I took more rain than a tropical plant in the monsoon season. The day that from Landeck I was climbing towards the Arlsberg Pass, gateway of western Austria, it was raining buckets of water. It was so much that I could not see because of the too much water in my eyes. The road kept constantly going uphill and at a given point I was reached by a couple of German cyclists. We pedalled together for a few kilometers and we reached a fourth cyclist, also German, somehow older. The rain kept coming down, the road kept going up. We finally arrived in Sankt Anton, an intensely touristy little town where every second house seems to be a guesthouse. The four of us were obviously due to climb the Arlsberg, but in similar weather conditions I didn't dislike the idea of a shelter and a hot shower. I suggested to the others to stop and search for a room for the night. Nobody accepted. They had planned to climb up today and so would have done, rain (and
maybe snow on the top) or no rain. I'd also had the same plan, but I'm good in making compromises with my pride. Later on, in the warmth of an Alpine chalet, I watched on TV the cyclists at Tour de France racing along the sunny roads of Provence and thought about the three Germans out there alone against the frost and the mountain.
The day after I climbed the Arlsberg too. And it was sunny. And the mountain was there and was in no hurry. Nor was I.
July 21st: Sankt Anton - Arlsberg Pass - Vaduz (Liechtenstein) 83 Kms, 4h29', 18.5 Kms/h
July 22nd: Vaduz - Arbon (Switzerland) 75 Kms, 4h20', 17.3 Kms/h
July 23th: Arbon - Rheinau 89 Kms, 5h07', 17.4 Kms/h
July 24th: Rheinau - Zürich 50 Kms, 3h00', 16.6 Kms/h
July 25th: Zürich - Saalhöhe - Basel 111 Kms, 7h08', 15.6 Kms/h
July 26th: Basel - Geiswasser (France) 56 Kms, 3h00', 18.7 Kms/h
July 27th: Geiswasser - Strasbourg 88 Kms, 4h45', 18.1 Kms/h ITALIANO
La versione italiana di questo blog si trova sul sito Vagabondo.net
Link: Cavalcando Ronzinante III: Strasburgo (Km 1534)
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; mem: 1.8mb