Day 53. Pass Hunger, follow Klausberg

There are two roads to Hunger. Only one of them has cherry trees lined up on the left side. The cherries are still green. I take neither of the two roads.

I follow the road to Klausberg.

Captain Klaus, Hohe Wand.

Day 53

Dear all, internet has been complicated the last days and since there is little sun (I use my solar panels to charge my Ipad) and I have been sleeping in the woods (no sockets) for the last nights, I don't have a lot of energy left for my iPad with which I am navigating as well. So I have to keep it short for now otherwise I will get lost, but all is well and the sun is shining today. I'll get back on the road now and will report here as soon as I can. I wrote some nice stories!


Day 52. Lost and found

The road gives, the road takes.

I lost my red iso mat. My seat, my doormat. The thing that keeps my knees dry when am installing or packing up the gear in my tent.

The most modest, lightest and handiest item I carry with me. A souvenir from another walking project.
Too simple an item to be worthy of a proper photo. I searched and I found it hidden behind the sausage made by Schweinz Heinz, the butcher and hotel owner who hosted me in Kirchhain.

I found a thin red bracelet. It is smaller, lighter and more beautiful than the iso mat. But these days a dry bum is more important than a fancy look.



Day 51. Cherries

May 29, 2014

It rained all day, continuously
I lost the thing I call my chair
I walked along busy roads without a bike lane or footpath
My feet got wet
The night was cold, just above zero
And somewhere after midnight, just outside my tent in the wet woods
a big animal passed by
screaming loudly
But in the middle of all this I found a huge tree
carrying red cherries
and every hour of the day and some of the night I ate them
I saved some of the seeds
And I will send them to a small girl who celebrated her birthday on this day
Maybe she will plant them
And maybe 36 years from now, when she will be as old as I am now
She will eat cherries

(todays story is for Esmilda, Julia and Patrick)


Day 50. When roads disappear.

There is an Umsonst Laden in Bamberg, where you can take whatever you want for free. I found a  fancy tie with tiny flowers from Milan and a beautiful book by Peter Handke, the Austrian writer who always seems to be at home in being on the road. This book is titled Noch einmal für Thukydides. There are eleven short chapters, eleven stories about the writer's stay in eleven different places. He writes about eleven different roads.

The last chapter tells about a walk to The Saint-Victoire, Cézanne's mountain. I walked it last year on my way to the Nomadic Village but when the Walker in this story walks it, it is only a year after a devastating fire. The traces are all around him.

This is how he ends the chapter and the book:

Dem durch solche Zerstörtheit Irrenden, Stolpernden und manchmal auch schwindlig Dahintorkelnden wurde dann klar, dass er mit dem Brand der Sainte-Victoire einen Weg verloren hatte; Weg: bis dahin für ihn das einzige Ding von Dauer; das einzige, was sich verlässlich wiederholen liess und in der Wiederholung ein jedesmal auf neue Weise eine seit je vorhandene, doch, ohne das Gehen auf diesem Weg, vergessene Erkenntnis zeigte. Und es wurde ihm zugleich klar, dass er auch all seine anderen derartigen Wege in den letzten Jahren verloren hatte: den im jugoslawischen Karst dadurch, dass er dort nicht mehr der namenlose Geher und Gartengast war, sondern derjenige, welcher ..., den auf den Feldern bei seinem Heimatdorf dadurch, dass dort alle Wege weggepflügt und weggebaggert waren ... Seltsam dabei, dass diese Erkenntnis vom Verschwinden seiner Wege nicht nur begleitet war von Enttäuschung (auch über sich selber), Zorn (auch über sich selber) und Angst (vor der Ausweglosigkeit, vor der Nicht-Fortsetzbarkeit), sondern mit einem Zusatz von Einverständnis.
Einverständnis? Resignation? Wenn aber Resignation, warum dann das Wort "Zusatz"? Und noch ein Zusatz: Immer, auf seinen Wegen alleingehend, hatte er die Zukunftsvorstellung gehabt, da einmal zu zweit zu gehen. Zukunft? Mit Fragen enden.

Peter Handke, "Epopöe vom verschwinden der Wege", p. 37-38


Day 49. Mode macht Mut

My couchsurfing host Susann told me about "Mode macht Mut", Fashion gives Courage. I went there. A big shop with a workshop in the back. Woman with different backgrounds, a lot of them from different countries, are sewing and embroidering cloths and make objects out of textile. They are sold in the shop. The cloths and cloth items they are using are donated. All women have different skills. Some of them have learned old techniques in the country where they were born. They work there to share their knowledge, learn the German language, make connections with new people, be part of society, make beautiful things so they can be proud of what they have learned.
I wasn't planning to talk about my own project there, I was mainly curious about what they were doing, but there was no way around it. I almost spent two hours there, talking to everybody, enjoying the nice atmosphere.

It is a great way of integrating people into a new community. Not asking them to learn completely new things they might not be interested in or good at, but trying to find out what they are good at, what special things they know that for them might not even seem to be out of the ordinary. Give them the opportunity to make things, to feel they are being appreciated, even admired.

The lady in charge asked me If I would be interested in exhibiting my suits there. I would love to! Spend some time in Bamberg, work in the workshop with the people there, maybe even include some people I met on the road.

We exchanged cards. Her name wasn't on it, just the website of the social project Mode macht Mut is part of, www.soziale-betriebe-der-laufer-muehle.de. In the middle of all the conversations I forgot to ask for her name. But I found it on Facebook. It is Wunder. Miracle.


Day 48. In the middle there is no end.

Leaving is easy. It is the moment before that is difficult. When you are still there but your bag is already packed. When you are inbetween. One foot inside the house still, the other across the doorstep. It is a moment only. But it can last forever. When the stay was an extraordinary one. When the people you met felt like friends you have known all your life. When you leave with a smile and the smile says everything. All words are useless. But still you try. You leave some words but what you are really leaving is a part of your heart. And straight after you left the hole in your heart fills up again so it is big enough to leave a part in the next place. Possibly.

I left. I walked. I was in the middle. Day 48. But an even number of days, 96, doesn't have a middle in one day. The middle is inbetween days. Inbetween day 48 and 49. I figured I would be asleep by then. I barely slept 3 hours the night before. And I would walk 38 kilometers today. To Bamberg. To my couchsurfing host Susann.

I walked. And in the middle of my walk to Hohe Wand, Austria, I passed Hohe Wann, a small mountain near the village of Krum.

I walked through Zeil. In the rain. In the middle. And I remembered how once I was asked to think about a title for a song, one of the songs that was going to be on a Cd with music from a friend, a gifted cellist, who had suddenly died of a heart attack. In the middle of his life. On the doorstep of a bright future with lots of beautiful plans. A friend with a huge heart, a friend who had already squeezed three lives in his one life but had energy for another three.

The song I chose received the title "In the middle there is no end".

I walked. I sat down in a busstop and fell in a deep sleep. Churchbells woke me up. It felt like another day but only 10 minutes had passed.

I arrived before dark. I met my host and her two cats. I installed myself. I received a message from the friends I had left in the morning saying they were in Bamberg. My host suggested to invite them over. And in the middle of the night, in the exact middle of my journey, I sat around a table filled with food and drinks with the people I thought I had left.

(today's story is for Tina & Klaus)


Day 47. Time warp

many thanks (and not just for the " tintypes") Clarissa & Peter: http://1851-reloaded.de

I slept in the biggest, softest bed imaginable for two nights. The first night I dreamt I was walking in a big open space, barren, rough. When I stood still for a moment, my feet started to sink into the soil. Quiksand. I was sinking in a pretty fast speed. I shouted but I knew there was nobody around. I realised the chance I would die in the next 15 minutes was quite big. I felt sad. But I woke up in time. You never die in your dreams. During your dreams maybe, but then you might stay in them forever.

The lady who brought me my breakfast told me about an Asian man who rented a room in her house for quite a while. At some point he asked her if she could do his laundry. She washed the few shirts and trousers he had with him, ironed them, but he didn't want to wear the ironed cloths.

Later on I sat outside a cafe drinking coffee, talking to people, listening to Peter playing Ud. A woman sat down to talk to me. I explained about my walk, about wearing the suit, about sleeping in the woods. She asked: "But how can you iron your shirts when you are outside most of the time?" 

In the middle of the night Clarissa and Peter did their magic. They caught my image on a thin metal sheet. Afterwards we talked until the birds started to sing. I wanted to stay awake forever.


Day 46. In a dream.

I arrived in Königsberg yesterday around five. I dreamt. I must have dreamt. I dreamt I sat outside a cafe in the late afternoon sun, drinking cappucino, eating freshly baked cheesecake. A big bouquet of wild flowers on the table. In the nearest building two musicians were playing ud and tabla. I pinched my arm. Nothing happened.

I put out a call for a sleeping place in Bamberg for Monday and Tuesday on the Couchsurfing website. I had never tried it before. I was curious if anything would happen.

I found my room. I saw the big soft bed. I went out for diner. I drank white local wine. I made a walk through town. A beautiful town. I pinched my arm. Nothing happened.

Back in the room I found a message on my computer from an archeology student in Bamberg, inviting me over in the next week to sleep on her couch. She sounded like a nice person.

I slept well, I ate breakfast, on my way to the cafe I saw a space that looked like a small gallery. I looked inside and saw two men and a woman sitting around a computer. They invited me in. Me in my suit with the embroidered QR codes. There was a big cube in the middle of the space. It had a QR code mosaic on all sides. Clarissa walked in. The cube was part of her most recent art project. She showed me a photo of herself wearing a men's suit. She told me she named herself after the blackbird. Van Amseln. We started talking and never stopped. I found out the two men were the musicians I had heard the day before. Peter, the Ud player, was Clarissa's partner. In life and in art. I pinched my arm. Nothing.

Clarissa cooked, we had diner. We made a walk around town, through the fields Clarissa knew every inch of. We talked about art as a gift. About creating a community where you can live and work without money. About their upcoming project and new approach in life where they want to give their art away for free and let people sign a contract which prevents them from selling it. People who would like one of their art pieces can pass it on to somebody else, transform it, throw it away, but not sell it. They want to earn their money through crowdfunding to be able to give all they produce away for free.

Earlier in the evening Clarissa had spoken about a research project in Europe somewhere, where they had turned around the banking system of getting interest when you put money in the bank. Instead of getting more, you have to pay a very small amount for the bank to keep your money safe. The more money you had, the more interest you had to pay. And because people don't like paying, they rather invested in things that would keep their value. They had nice wooden tables made, bought art, invested in renovating their house, the economy bloomed, villages in the same region were interested in trying it out and then the government prevented it by stopping the experiment and making it  illegal.

They invited me to stay at their place the next day. And have my photo taken in their studio where they specialise in old photography techniques, making wet plate colodium prints. I didn't pinch my arm. I knew nothing would happen.

At night I got a message from my upcoming host in Bamberg. I had written her I was spending some time with two artists in Königsberg. She asked me to say hello to Clarissa. I had never mentioned Clarissa's name though. But sometimes the world is so small I can hold it in my hands.

I pinched my arm hard. It didn't hurt.

I went to sleep. I didn't dream.


Day 43. People on the road

The tractor engine woke me up. I got out of my tent and saw him leave. I had wanted to talk to him but he arrived late, just a little after I arrived and I needed a silent evening. I thought there would be an opportunity to talk in the morning but there wasn't. I wondered where he was going, where he had come from. Who he was.

Usually I am the one drawing the most attention on a campsite but this time I didn't. He drove a baby tractor, pulling a small wooden house on wheels. He was just in time to catch the last bit of evening sun. From the other end of the field I kept an eye on him. He was reading. He hung out his cloths. When it got cold he moved inside, he lighted a small lamp, when I walked to the toilet I peeped inside. It looked cozy.

I packed my things and left. Just outside the campside I saw another strange vehicle. A sporty bike without a saddle. The peddals going up and down instead of round and round. A step machine on wheels. The people in this street must be wondering what is going on. First the baby tractor, then the saddleless bike and now me. All within one hour.

I walked in the direction of Bad Neustadt. An old man walking in the direction I had just come from stopped me. He asked the questions. The where and how and why. He told me he once walked from his house, not far from here, to Santiago de Compostella. When he returned he didn't know what to do with his life. Returning is hard.

I walked on and was stopped again. A fast woman in pink on skates stopped to talk to me. She lived in Bad Neustadt. She had been there all her life, fifty something years I guessed, she had been thinking about moving somewhere else often but never did. Sometimes you just stay. She told me she had seen me and my cart last Saturday, not far from Fulda. She was very sure about it. But Saturday I hadn't been walking. I had been in a kinesio taping course at the Schwarzerden Academy. Strange.
We heard a cuckoo not far away and I told her I hear a cuckoo almost every day, it feels as if it is one and the same bird following me. "Hearing a cuckoo is a sign of wealth," she said,"Might be real richess or mental enrichment. You must be lucky." She got back into full speed, we would meet again later she said. I was puzzled for a moment but she explained that she was skating up and down, like she did almost every day. And indeed she did, maybe half an hour later, passing me by fast, waving and wishing me good luck. I followed her with my eyes and saw her passing another person further down the road, walking in the same direction she was heading. It looked like the man I talked to earlier but I couldn't imagine it, since he had been walking in the other way. Still the closer I got, the more details seemed to be the same. The black trousers, light shirt, white cap, small posture, glasses. Had he been walking a small circle? Had I been talking to the fast pink lady longer than I had thought? Time can work in strange ways.
When I passed him, I raised my hand and wanted to say something but he had turned into another old man after all.

Bad Neustadt. Another cute beautiful city. I continued through smaller villages until it got later. Until it was time to find a place to spend the night.

I like searching for the perfect place to secretly camp. The perfect place is different every day, depending on the weather, amount of people in the area, the plan for the next day. I usually don't drift too far away from my route. Around seven I start searching for a good place along the road I am walking. Usually something catches my eye and I walk there. Today it was a big pile of wood next to the woods but when I got there and entered the trees I was invaded by musquitos. My second try failed because the farmer, who owned the field I was about to pitch my tent, drove by when it was starting to get dark and chased me away. Nearby I found the perfect spot. A beautiful house in a small clearing in the same woods, covered in spider webs. Nobody had been there for a long time. I camped behind the house, sat on the porch for a while, looking at the stars.

(today's story is for Saskia van der Wiel)


Day 42. The same day.

Leaving. Walking. Arriving. Same every day. Different every day.


Day 41. An old secret.

I almost forgot about it. I am carrying an old secret. Today Hannah asked about it. She had seen a photo on one of my blogs. A small round box. When you shake it, it makes a sound. Something is inside. But sometimes you shake it and there is no sound. Sometimes it appears to be empty. Schrödinger's cat, somebody suggested a while ago.

I found the box in a dumpster last year when I was in the Nomadic Village. I never opened it. But many people have tried to guess what is inside. Somebody even dreamt he opened it, but the content was disappointing.

I like seeing people deal with the secret. They shake it, softly, strongly. They listen carefully. Some have theories about what is supposed to be in a box like this and why somebody would throw it away. Some are really sure about what they think is inside. Every time I see people deal with it, a part of the secret is revealed to me. But I am looking into another secret.

I took the box with me on my walk. I will carry it to the Nomadic Village. Maybe I will open it there. Maybe not.

Today I watched three girls guessing. Claudia was the first to know. She was quick. She shook the box. She thought it was a dice. She didn't hesitate. First impulse. Ready.
Hannah was slower, more contemplative. She turned it around slowly, again and again. She held it close to her ear. She tried to imagine it. In the end she decided it was a ring. Silver coloured with a silver stone. I could see she saw a clear image in her head.
Caro held it now and then, seemed to forget what she was holding in her hand. I asked her twice what she thought was inside but she couldn't give me an answer.

(Read more about the box and its secret HERE)

(todays story is for Serena Chalker)


Day 40. The writer and the walker fight

Did I walk today? 

I walked through the day.

To the restaurant to eat rhubarb pie.
Back to the house that has been my home for the last four days.
Into the garden to drink some wine.
To the restaurant again to have diner with new friends. They brought their notes. They had been studying all day. Psychology. We ate too much and quoted Abraham Maslow afterwards. "Erst wenn wir satt sind und sicher sind, verlieben wir uns." I embroidered his pyramid, the hierarchy of needs, on my suit.

And now I walk through my walk, I think about what happened in the last 40 days, but it is too early to stand still, to realise what I have brought into motion.

Last year I walked 40 days and it was perfect. For a long time, even a week ago, I thought 96 days would be too long. It was hard. The first three weeks I thought about quitting every day. I never seriously considered it though. It was hard but beautiful. And at some point something changed. It was when I started to make friends. When I decided on staying from time to time. The staying never made the leaving difficult though. When you leave, you can return. You can carry your memories and they keep you warm, they feed you, they protect you.

There isn't enough time to write, to embroider my stories. The walking, meeting people comes first. Where at home I can work in the middle of the night when necessary, during the walking I can't. Too cold, too little space. It is like Maslow says. You don't get anywhere when specific needs aren't fulfilled.

I often think about a quote from the documentary about W.G. Sebald titled "Patience". "If you allow yourself to become a writer, the catastrophy will be like an avalanche, whereas if you keep walking you might be ok."

In the last days the writer took over. He had to. But every day they struggle, the writer and the walker.

The walker comes first though, even though the writer can write without the walker. He writes differently then. He walks in his own head, he walks in circles. The walker walks in all directions.

A journalist from Sweden wrote me an e-mail the other day. He is writing an article about walking for the Dagens Nyheter, the main morning newspaper in Sweden. He wants to do an interview with me. There will be an interview with Frédéric Gros as well. He is a French philosopher who wrote a book about walking, explaining why going for a walk is the best way to free your mind. In an article about him I read he doesn't have time to walk though, because he has to write.

I wonder if I could do this without writing down my stories. Maybe that should be my next challenge. Or I could start now.


Maybe soon. Maybe after I wrote down that Susan Porter, with whom I walked in Stoke-on-Trent last spring, asked me to think about walking when being in a wheelchair today. I did. It is hard to imagine it when you are standing on your two feet. I remembered a friend who has been in a wheelchair all her life writing to me about a friend of her's who said "walking is overrated". I don't think it is. But I do think walking can be much more than moving around standing on two legs.

I should write more about this subject. But not now. 


(today's story is for Susan Porter)

Tying the days together

Every day I collect pieces of thread, ropes, strings, rubber bands and I tie them together in the order in which I find them. Every knot a story. Every line a piece of the road.
Spheres, globes, condensed days.

Somebody suggested they might be ramblers rosaries.


Day 39. Kinesio Taping

I am staying at Schwarzenerden, an academy for ergotherapy and fysiotherapy, in the Rhön mountains, 20 kilometer from Fulda. The main building was designed and built by Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus. In the morning I was introduced to kinesio taping, a "taping technique that is designed to facilitate the body’s natural healing process while providing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body’s range of motion as well as providing extended soft tissue manipulation to prolong the benefits of manual therapy".* The teacher explained how it isn't just functional, helping your body, but that it is art as well. When you see what
it looks like, these coloured stripes in specific shapes taped on your body, you know what he means. It made me think of Henri Matisse, his works with colourful cut out shapes. And Versace did a show ones with models wearing this tape. Men in suits, colour patterns peeping out under their sleeves.*
Amazing to realize I only ended up here by coincidence because I was thrown out of my apartment in Fulda. Bad events not seldom lead to good events.

The girls I am staying with are being trained to become proper physiotherapists. They arranged for me to get a small introduction into kinesio taping.

In the evening I discover they are already master pizza bakers. We eat them outside in the garden, overlooking the beautiful Rhön.



Day 38. The suitcase

Relax. Reorganise. Rethink.
Pack my balls.
Send them over to Austria.

I dragged a 5 kilo box through Fulda for hours.
For some reason no post office could send it off.
Either they were closed, their computer system broke down or they didn't do international packages.

The lady behind the counter in the bookstore in the train station converted my box in a suitcase so it was easier to carry.

I had a good time.

An empty handed walk through the castle gardens with Caro. Claudia kept an eye on the suitcase in her cafe. She brewed me a develish cocktail afterwards. El Diabolo. She believes in angels.

Being driven home. My feet at rest. Growing roots.


Day 34, 35, 36, 37

Day 37. Sometimes the worst is the best that can happen to you

I had booked the small apartment the day before. 3 or for 4 nights. I needed to warm up, catch up on my writing, do my laundry, answer e-mails. The apartment was lovely and close to the center. The man who owned it was strange though.

He showed me the room, then accompanied me to the supermarket. I was slow. He left. But when I came back he was standing in the door, waiting for me. I took my big bag with groceries upstairs. I heard an alarm somehwere. "Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep". Two minutes late I heard it again. And two minutes later again.
I searched the apartment, couldn't locate the sound, went downstairs, the man came up, removed the smoke-alarm to change its batteries, thinking he had solved it. He didn't return but the beep was still there. I fetched him again. He searched the apartment. And suddenly, it was eleven already, it stopped.

When I woke up next morning at 9 it was there again. I waited. At 10.30 I called the house owner. He suggested I would leave and search for another place. I had unpacked all my things, done my laundry, bought supplies. I told him it would be somewhat complicated. He said he would be back at 1 'o clock.

At 11 the beep stopped. I decided to make a deal with the man. Pay a little less and take whatever inconvenience for granted. But when he returned he exploded before I could even say anything. "Didn't you pack your things?" he said. "I am leaving in half an hour, I expect you to be gone by then." I looked around me and knew there was no way I could pack everything in half an hour. I tried to explain to him I had been moving every day in the cold until now and really needed to stay foot somewhere, even if there was a beep. When I told him my laundry wasn't dry yet he got even angrier. "Laundry? You can't do your laundry in this place. What are you thinking? Where is it?" I told him it was not much, a few small cloth items in the bathroom and before I knew it he had marched over to the bathroom and was staring at my wet underwear.

I realised it was wiser to leave. He asked for my passport to write down my information. He told me he didn't trust me. I gave him my passport and he left. He didn't return. I send a quick e-mail to a friend telling him where I was. I wasn't afraid but it is better to be cautious in a strange situation.

I packed my things. I left some of the food behind. It was too heavy to carry. I had no idea what to do.

The information office wasn't far from the house. The lady there told me there was a big fair in the city and it would be hard to find accomodation. The only thing she could offer me was an expensive hotel room for one night only. And a booklet with all the accomodation in town so I could call around. Try something far away from the center, in one of the neighbouring villages was what she recommended. I looked at my cart, all my bags, the groceries.

First things first. Sit down. Breath. Drink some coffee.

There was a cafe next to the information office. I looked inside. It looked nice. I dragged all my things inside, ordered a cappucino. The woman who brought me the cappucino was curious about my story. Before I knew it I had made a new friend. And had found a place to stay as long as I wanted. Claudia showed me a photo of the house where she lived with some other students, 20 kilometer out of the city. A school for ergotherapy and physiotherapy. I could use her room. She showed me another photo.

And so I put my things in her car, drank coffee with a friend of hers, wandered around town, returned, drank white wine, was driven into the countryside.



Day 36. The guardian angel

I walked to Lauterbach, a charming small city. I met a female knife smith, Mechtild Wienhold, meister Messerschmiede. She ran a small shop, selling knives, doing restauration work, taking orders for hand crafted knives. She showed me some examples of the knives she had forged. She was one of the last master knife smiths. She loved her work. Her long hair had the colour of fire

I continued to Fulda. At the side of the big road I saw a four leaved clover from the corner of my eye. Every day I find lucky clovers. I collected over 50 already. I don't know if it is lucky clover season or if I'm just lucky. I never found this many. Or maybe as a kid. But not in such a short span of time.

I saw another one and another one and I bended over with my cart still connected to my waist, picking them, looking for more. Suddenly somebody put a hand on my shoulder. "Are you ok?" a low voice asked. I looked up and saw a man in a suit. He was wearing a tie as well. He thought I had fallen over. I showed him what I was doing, I thanked him for being so kind to check on me, I handed him a lucky clover but he said he didn't need it. He turned around and walked away in his suit. A light grey suit with a thin white stripe. A pink tie. Further down the road, at the other side, I saw an empty car. He must have driven by at a fast speed, seeing me from the corner of his eye, just like I had seen the four leaved clover. He took the first opportunity to stop, cross the busy road, walk back to find me unharmed, happily adding some more luck to my collection.

I wondered if I had just met my guardian angel.

I walked on, Saint Boniface, the fourth Ice Saint, accompanied me. It was his name day. At some point it started to hail. I wore my rain gear the biggest part of the afternoon.
I was surprised to see a sign with "Bonifacius Route" at some point. And even more surprised when I arrived in Fulda and discovered that his remains are in the middle of the city in the big kathedral. I would visit him tomorrow, with Kalte Sophie, Cold Sophie, the last of the five Ice Saints.