20/09/2014

Tying the days together

I  walked from Amsterdam to Austria in a three piece walking suit. 1364 kilometer, 96 days. Every day I wrote a story. Every day I collected pieces of thread, ropes, strings, rubber bands and I tied them together in the order in which I found them. Every knot a story. Every line a piece of the road.
Spheres, globes, condensed days.

(Somebody suggested they might be ramblers rosaries.)

Today the balls are on display at Schmiede, www.schmiede.ca. I walk around in my suit. It has stories embroidered on the outside. Find me there and I can tell you more. Or stay here and read.




16/08/2014

A soft armour

It is the simplest thing I can think of. And the simplest things always make the most sense. It is easy. You open your door, you close it behind you. You take your house with you and you walk. Your body moves through the world, becomes part of the world and your steps connect all the moments you find yourself in.

Where do you come from?

Every day they ask the same questions. I always look for different answers. A simple "no" isn't enough. Amsterdam. Austria. Anywhere. Always.

I always wear a three piece suit. Traditionally it is called a “walking suit”. A three piece walking suit. I call it my soft armour. It keeps me warm, safe, sound, it opens doors. It is my uniform, my costume, my house. It has many pockets. It is as comfortable as any outfit I can think of. I use it to collect stories in.

The suit is my interface between the worlds I move through. Between the land I walk, the body I walk it with, the place people refer to as “the real world” but which I consider to be just as real as the other world I move around in, the ephemeral world wide web. The stories I encounter, hold in my hand, find a new home there.

Where are you going?

I try not to know. This suit, my fifth one, brought me to the Nomadic Village, a two week artist settlement in the east of Austria. A 1364 kilometer walk from my doorstep in Amsterdam. 96 walking days. Every day I am performing my life. Every day I am living my performance. Every day the world is new. I don't know where I will lay my head in the evening.

Every day brings new encounters, new landscapes, new stories. I write them down on my solar powered iPad. Two embroidered QR codes on my trousers and my jacket link to my weblog. At the same time I embroider the stories on the outside of my suit. Small drawings and texts. It reads like a book. The people on the road read my story. And while reading it, they become part of it. Like I become part of their story. And that story is the most important one. The one that leaves no visible traces.

One day I walked early along the Danube. A man on a bike passed me and stopped to talk. Shortly after another man with a dog joined us. The man with the bike went on and I walked together with the dog owner until he had to turn left to return home. I continued until I heard a voice from behind and a man in a canoe said "There you are! They were talking about you in the village where I just came from!" We exchanged our stories and while talking, another man passed by and sat down on a stone to listen to us talking about how you create the world by moving through it. He was on his way back to the village where he lived. He just listened for a while and went his way again. Probably to report what he had seen on the road. A woman in an embroidered suit with a walking cart talking to a man in a canoe about slow ways of moving through the world, through your own life.

Where do you come from? Where are you going? How many kilometers do you walk every day?

The two questions most asked are basically one question. Yes, I am lonely. But not more than I am at home. Not more in cities than I am in nature. Not more among people than I am among trees. So I answer " no". I meet so many people on the road. Some of them become friends for life. But I always carry my solitude in my left pocket. I cherish it. My courage is in the right one. I don't have to search
for it. The question most asked is whether I am not afraid. I never hesitate answering that one. Not
when I am walking, not when the world is carrying me.


(On this blog you can read the report of my 96 day walk and my stay in the Nomadic Village afterwards. From there I walked to Vienna where the story continues, where I will think about all that has happened and prepare my next steps.)







11/08/2014

The Lost & Found Collection


I left Hohe Wand, put on my suit again, walked to Vienna to spend two weeks in the city before walking to the west of Austria to meet up with some Nomads at a project called Schmiede. I wondered if it would be a good idea to continue wearing the suit in the city or if I should find a solution like I did in the Nomadic Village where I asked all the Nomads to bring me one cloth item. I figured something would come up. The city would give me an answer.
I hadn't expected it so soon. I walked into the city, to my friends apartment, found a big box with slightly bruised fruits in front of a closed grocery shop, carried it along, arrived, settled in, went on a walk to tune in and look for the moon. Twice I bumped into a big cloths container with cloths lying on the floor next to it. I made a wild selection and found two books there as well. One is titled "Fahrwind". Stories about going and arriving. Thomas Bernhard, Robert Walser and Bohumil Hrabal among others. The other is titled "Kleider und Leute", "Cloths and people", about the history and psychology of cloths.
If I hadn't been there myself I would have thought I'd made this all up.
I washed the cloths and decided to wear them in the time I am here. I titled it "The Lost and Found Collection". Cloth might be added, have been added already: yesterday I found a white top, on the sidewalk not far from a laundromat, still smelling of fresh washing powder.

Every day I will walk around Vienna in an outfit from the Collection. Yes, the story continues.




05/08/2014

Push play


I live in a villa these days. It suits my suit. I feel at home here. From my terrass I can see the yellow spots in the grass where only last week my neighbours were living, when I was still situated in downtown Nomadic Village, in a red bus named Lufka. When Lufka left with its owner, when all the Nomads had left, I moved uptown. But without a downtown there is no uptown. Without neighbours there is no village.

During these last weeks Herr Drama interviewed people about the meaning of a village. What makes a village a village? What does it need to deserve the name village? I answered "people". Although most villages have a church and a cafe, they aren't necessary. The minimum you need is a couple of inhabited houses. And for houses you can read mobile homes. I don't know how many houses you need to form a village. Is two enough? Is that why I left my tent in the middle of the field? So this might still be a Nomadic Village? A mobile villa and a tent? Two inhabitants even though one of them, Gerhard, the man who made the villa, isn't there?

I don't know. And it doesn't matter. Not today.

The villa ran out of gas so I installed my outdoor kitchen. A titanium lightweight woodstove. I hardly used it on the road, because I either tried to be invisible when camping in the "wild", or I wasn't allowed to use it because the campsites have strict rules about fire. The villa ran out of food too, so I walked to the nearest grocery shop. Well, walked ...... there is a reason why this place is called Hohe Wand, High Wall. The shortcut to the nearest village means climbing. So I didn't buy any eggs or liquids in bottles. And I managed to bring almost everything safe back home. On my way up I collected wood to do my cooking. And when I found some big tasty beautiful parasol  mushrooms I wondered why I had bothered to go all the way down. There is plenty of food around.


I started reading Johan Huizinga's "Homo Ludens". The great Dutch historian who was one of the founders of modern cultural history was one of my heroes when I studied history. It makes sense to reread him here and now, moving around with the ghosts on the field, wearing my tail, the tail that was custom made by our Nomadic Village tailmaker, tail-or Michi, Frau Drama, dragon mother. Being able to play is one of the fundaments of the Nomadic Village, we take our play serious and because of that it turns into something valuable, we learn from it, it makes us free, it helps us to step out of our ordinary lives and look at the world in a different way, make changes. And indeed Huizinga writes: "Here, then, we have the first main characteristic of play : that it is free, is in fact freedom. A second characteristic is closely con­nected with this, namely, that play is not "ordinary" or "real" life. It is rather a stepping out of "real" life into a temporary sphere of activity with a disposition all of its own."

In his introduction he writes "Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play."

For me it is essential to play. To take my playing seriously. To feel at ease climbing down a mountain in a three piece walking suit, wondering if I should have worn my tail as well. Carrying around a small box with a secret inside, a box I found at a dumpster a year ago while staying at the Nomadic Village in France, a box I haven't opened yet but gives me an insight into peoples' minds whenever I ask them what they think might be in the box. Dressing up in cloths that aren't my own, African dresses, army trousers, a shirt that could be worn by a Californian private detective, cloth items handed in by the Nomads after I asked them to bring me a cloth item so I could be a collection of their tastes and stories.

Maybe the highlight of my stay in the Nomadic Village this year was when I constructed a fake camera to use as a prop when we were doing a re-enactment of the final performance we all worked on, the performance during which my camera was coincidentally thrown down the cliff (a story I will write down some other time). In order to find the camera, I made one with the same size and weight. I used a cardbord tea box, filled it with stones and wood until it had the exact same weight as my camera, wrapped it in red tape so it would be extra visible and attached two straps, one for my camera and one for the camerabag, white straps out of old curtains. I threw it down the cliff at exactly the same spot in exactly the same way it was done during the performance. The search team at the foot of the hill did find the red dummy camera but my expensive Nikon never showed up.

I am sad about the Nikon but secretly I like my new red camera more. It stores images in a unique way. When you hold the red box and look carefully at something, it will stay in your head forever. Or in other parts of your body. You have to make sure you look carefully though. Like you have to remember to put a film or a sd card in your camera. Otherwise the image will be gone forever.


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25/07/2014

Questions

New questions arise. What is a village? Are we really nomads? And does it matter? Are we in need of new words to describe what we are doing? What is it that we are doing? And who are we?

On the road, walking 1364 kilometers in 96 days to get here, people kept asking me the same questions. Where do you come from. Where are you going? Aren't you lonely? Aren't you afraid?

There are many answers. And we try to live the questions to find some answers. That is why we are here. That is why we are doing what we are doing. That is why we fold boats out of newspaper, sew tails, bake bread, film each other, do yoga, go on walks to collect mushrooms, sing in a choir, do dishes in a muddy field, build a library, exchange information, knowledge, jokes, laughter. That is why we cook together, prepare a performance together, build instruments, dance in the rain, stand in line for the coffee.

We don't go anywhere. We are here. We come from the same place. And we aren't afraid.






17/07/2014

Nomadic Village. Back to the foot of the mountain



I started a snail farm, I planned a library, I began preparations for a tea house (house = van), I made a museum for the things I found on the road, I started a fashion collection with cloth items that had been brought for me by all the nomads, I baked bread in the mornings, went to the yoga classes, talked to everybody, explored the woods, my rooftop terrass, signed in for paragliding lessons, thought about becoming responsible for the waste collecting so the good stuff could go to the piglets. I ordered a tail, started decorating my new red house on wheels, tried to continue embroidering my suit, tried to remember all the people I had met on the road, tried to write new stories, ignored my e-mails, started to become worried about the future. I heard myself say to people "there are only 1,5 week left". Three days had passed.

I crossed the mountains only to create myself a mountain. Sometimes I'm a fool.

While walking, leaving and staying was the same thing. It was easy to stay and easy to leave. But then I arrived. I reached my goal. And the staying became more important than the leaving.
The planning started, looking ahead, thinking about all the things you should do, could do, want to do. All the things I had postponed during the walking.

Although I had practised staying while walking, and sometimes even stayed somewhere for 3 or 4 days, I fell in some old trap straight away here. I wanted to do everything. The leaving became a threat.

That is when I put my suit back on again. My soft armour. The trousers, vest and jacket that I had been wearing for 96 days. The suit I had taken off shortly after I arrived and exchanged for a new wardrobe of cloth items brought to me by people from around the world who travelled here to find kindred souls. Another project to add to my list, but a nice and easy one. I had sent an e-mail around to ask everybody to bring me something to wear, anything, so I could become a collection of the nomads' tastes, wrap myself in the stories connected to their cloths, be safe and inspired in a new way.

I received a cardigan that had belonged to a mad woman, trousers that had been part of a military uniform and were worn by somebodies father, a favorite dress in which you could either consider yourself the most beautiful woman in the world or not care about anything and wear while jogging, brightly striped socks, a necklace given to somebody by a friend on her 16th birtday, a hawaian style
party shirt, a top to wear while dancing under a disco ball, an african dress, sweaters I could hide
myself in, the latest London fashion item and much more.

The first day, Tuesday, when soldiers camped next to our field, I wore the officer's trousers with the red stripe on the side. I combined it with the London armless shirt, black with white letters, shouting LOL. Yesterday I used the white trousers that seemed to be perfect for the yoga class and afterwards changed into a green summer dress with a striped tie in case anything official might happen. During the day I tried to bring some order into my own chaos, climb my own mountain of things, but a sad feeling had crept in and I found myself staring at my suit from time to time.

Apparently it was time to get back in the suit again. So I did. And it was good. And when I woke up this morning I was still wearing it. But it was a new day. A different feeling. Five thirty. Time to bake bread. I got up from my red couch, in my red van, from under the blanket with the red roses and I found the warm, red, knee long dress from New York that had been bought there by an Austrian woman on a trip celebrating her 50st birthday. A red woolen dress, white flower, a hot oven. A weird combination. I waited outside the kitchen for the dough to rise and watched the sky turn red just before the sun became visible. Shortly after a little girl jumped out off a caravan and ran across the field carrying an umbrella in all colours of the rainbow. She stopped in front of a tiny dog and asked him if he knew what colour it was.


green tea bread, rosemary and pumpkin seed bread, muesli bread, hungry nomads after yoga, running,   short night with small kid or long night with deep talk


13/07/2014

Day 96. Home

I arrived early in the morning. I sat down in the middle of the field. I heard somebody cough, birds flew by, a door opened and a cat jumped out of a bus, a kid mumbling in a caravan. Slowly the village was waking up.

Home.


11/07/2014

Day 94 (2). Letting go


It feels like an anti-climax. Having almost reached the end of my walk and being stuck at a campsite because it is raining, sitting unadventurously inside the campsite restaurant drinking coffee and Grüner Veltliner. Yesterday evening, in the toilet building where it was warm and where there was electricity, I tried to replan my route in a satisfying way after I saw pictures of the route I had planned to walk. It showed people hanging from almost vertical mountainwalls and ladders. Looking more closely at my map I also discovered that the markings for "mountain bike trail" are similar to the ones for "only for walkers with mountaineering experience". I had already wondered why there was a mountain biking trail in the middle of the mountains.
In fact I started a mountaineering course when I studied in Weimar but I don't think I can depend on C. when it comes to climbing. And another important factor for changing my plans: the mountain hut where I had planned to stay was open until yesterday but is now closed until the end of July.

I stared at my map for hours, tried to work out every possible route that isn't the quite easy one along some villages and wouldn't take more than a day but it seemed to be impossible. I like impossible, but after my last mountain hike I became a bit more cautious. Especially since the weather isn't too good these days. What to do? Yesterday evening I decided to wait for the next day and see from there.

Today is the next day and the rain keeps me here. It feels as if I reached my goal already. At first this thought made me sad, but sadness is a good emotion, one I learned to appreciate during the walk. Maybe I shouldn't worry about making my last days spectacular. Maybe I did indeed arrive already. Maybe I did every day.

I had planned to arrive at the Nomadic Village on Sunday evening. This Sunday, July 13. It might be an even bigger anti-climax. The big football finale. The most important thing on earth .....
When I read a Nomad's message saying that she wanted to be on time at Hohe Wand to watch the football match I wondered if I should change my plans. Arrive Monday morning instead. Or Sunday afternoon. It makes me question myself. Do I want an audience when I arrive? Is it important? Last year, when I arrived at the Nomadic Village in the south of France, I hadn't planned anything, I walked all day through the mountains, a difficult walk, a beautiful walk and when the evening fell I could see the village of Cuges les Pins already but it still took a long time to walk there. Before I arrived at the field where the nomads had gathered I sat at a bench in the center of Cuges for a while to land. Then I walked into the Nomadic Village where everybody had just finished their diner and was still sitting at the flying kitchen tables. I think they applauded but maybe it is a false memory, I am not sure. What I remember clearly is an enormous big bear, leaning against a tree inbetween the tables. I am sure about that. And how I seated myself and ate and everybody went back to their conversations and suddenly I was part of a group and how easy and normal it felt.

For a while, thinking about my arrival this time, I told myself I would like a welcome like last year, an audience, not necessarily an applause, I don't care about applauses but apparently I do care about being seen. And maybe I should, as a performer, but I also want to be a performer who shouldn't.

When I started to think about arriving, I thought diner time would be the best time for a proper welcome, last year it was a coincidence, this year I could plan it. And since it would be a pity to wait until Monday evening, even though more people would be there, reading that a lot of people would be there on Sunday evening already, I planned my arrival for Sunday evening, not too early. Ninish maybe. I never thought about football of course.

As always, circumstances force me to look at my own motivations and question them. Yes, I should care about an audience, calling myself a performer but my audience is there all the time already. All I need to do is be there. Somewhere. And the arrival has happened already. It did every day.

So let's just leave tomorrow if the weather permits it and see what the road brings me on my last walking day, days, one, two or three. Listen to my gut feeling, not to my ego. Follow my feet, talk to people, arrive when it is time to arrive. It can't be planned. Not when I am serious about what I am doing.


"So I lift from my shoulders the burden of time and, at the same time, that of the performances that are required from me. My life is not something that we have to measure. Neither the jump of the deer nor the sunrise are performances. Neither is a human life a performance, but something which grows and tries to reach perfection. And whatever is perfect does not accomplish out performances: what is perfect works its way quietly."

(Stig Dagerman, from "Our need of consolation is impossible to satisfy.")


(today's thoughts are for Anne and Geert, I promised them I would walk with them through the mountains and I can't keep my promise but the intention was there and the mountains are there, they are all around the campsite, it is situated beautifully in the middle and my longing to be there, to walk there  might be more important than the real walk would have been)

Day 94. A phone call

Lying in my coffin shaped tent, impossible to leave because of the rain. Thinking about On Kawara who died yesterday, reading Stig Dagerman's beautiful and haunting text "Our need of consolation is impossible to satisfy". Staying or leaving. Staying as long as he was writing, leaving finally because he considered taking your own life is the only freedom you have as a human being. Listening to Björk again who sings about throwing small things from a mountain top every morning to feel safe living up there.

For the first time in 94 days my phone rings. I answer it. It is Sissi, the pilgrim I met yesterday on the top of the Kieneck mountain. She is on her way to Mariazell through the mountains, a famous pilgrim trail. She talks about some things she read on my blog just now. She is waiting for the rain to stop too.

We talk for a while and wish each other a good day. When I put down the phone the rain has suddenly stopped. But only for 10 minutes.

09/07/2014

Day 92. The fox

Enzianhütte. 1107 meters. I sit still all day and look outside, waiting for the Snow Mountain to show its peak. But it won't all day. To the left I can see Hohe Wand, High Wall. If I close my eyes I am there already.
In the evening the fox returns. He sits in the kitchen window and stares into the dark. He doesn't mind us talking. He leaves again without making a sound.

I look at the salt stain in the shirt I wore yesterday. There he is.

08/07/2014

Day 91. Going up.


It wasn't until the last two kilometers that I started to think about leaving C. behind. The first time the thought crossed my mind was when the path was overtaken by a cloud. I had seen the sunny sky turning into a cloudy grey mass getting darker and darker, getting closer and closer but with only three kilometers to go I was hoping to reach the mountain hut before there would be rain, or worse, thunder. It was much steeper than I had thought. Or maybe I hadn't really thought about it. I had given myself plenty of time, 7 hours instead of the 4 it usually takes to walk this trail but there were parts where I had to drag myself and C. ahead by holding treeroots in the path, or carrying the cart over big rocks or trees that had fallen over the path. Three times I thought the climbing had ended but after a few meters it began again. Taking three steps and sliding down two, taking breaks every ten meters, making sure to drink enough water, being happy everything that entered my body meant less weight to carry. Sometimes I got too hasty and I fell, realising I should be carefull, breaking a leg wasn't a smart thing to do.
It was crazy. in the beginning, with "only" three kilometers to go, I imagined how I would sit in the warm hut eating something with meat and knödel, writing about how I had thought about leaving C. behind. It wasn't a real thought yet. It was only a thought to start a story. But when after one kilometer the small path was still going up and I started to get really tired and a bit worried about the weather, the thought became real. While walking I sometimes thought about the Saint Exupery book I read a few weeks ago, in which he describes his own walk through the desert when he had crashed and a friend's even worse survival walk through snowy mountains, walking, dragging himself, crawling for days on end. I told myself I wasn't in such a bad situation and there was no way I could leave C. behind.
At some point I thought I should be almost there but when I checked my Ipad maps there were still 1590 meters to go. And I was still going up. It started to rain softly and it was harder to see the red and white signs on the trees. I didn't want to loose time getting myself and C. into raingear, maybe when it would start to rain seriously. But when it did, later, I didn't have the energy to do the reorganisation it requires. I just put my jacket and some other things hanging from the cart in one of the big blue plastic bags I carry around for that purpose and I put on my raincoat, not bothering about my trousers. The wind was starting to get violent.
The trail was sort of flat for a short while but just when it started to pour it went up again. I didn't care about the rain, I only cared about the climbing. The thought crossed my mind I might really not be able to reach the hut without leaving C. behind.

When I finally reached a field where I saw car tracks but still no sign of a hut, I wondered if it was really the right direction. It was still raining like crazy and I was exhausted. I could only take a few steps at the time. The path through the field was going up. It was slowly getting dark. Past 21.00 already. I wanted to know how far it was, if it was the right way and I managed to find a little bit of shelter behind a big tree so I could look at my digital maps again without getting my Ipad too wet. 390 meters. 4 minutes my Ipad said. Haha.

I think those last 390 meters took me half an hour. It wasn't that steep but my legs refused to move. Somewhere in the middle I had to take a serious break again because I felt I was about to faint. I ate some dried fruit and I searched for the banana I knew was hidden somewhere in my bags, I drank the last water.

The hut was there. I still managed to drag C. up the stairs. It was warm inside. People were talking to me and I even managed to answer. I ordered meat with knödel and sauerkraut, I took a shower that must have been the best shower I had in years. The most expensive one too, €3,50, but I would gladly have payed € 25 for it. My meal was served but I couldn't eat. I put most of it in the small plastic container, now lidless because the Pielach rivergods had taken it when I washed my things while staying in the hunters cabin a day earlier, but in the middle of the night, when I woke up around five, warm and comfortable, I ate it and I thought about how the day had started, I had almost forgotten about it. The lady at the bookshop in Hainfeld who kindly gave me the detailed walking map I wanted to buy, because she admired how I walked my road, especially as a woman. The cafe where I ate chocolate cake to celebrate Kara's birthday, last year's youngest nomad and this year present in the Nomadic Village again. The cafe where the owner loved my jacket and carried it around to show it to her other customers. When I left she gave me a chocolate heart with the text "you are a sweet person" in German. The man who told me a story about a bear to take with me. It seemed a lifetime ago.

(trail from Hainfeld to Kieneck, passing the Araberg. I started the day at 387 meter high, finished at 1107, Enzianhütte, from where you can see the 2000 meter high Schneeberg and Hohe Wand, my goal)



(Today's story is for Kara, I hope her life won't be anything like the walk I made today, although it shouldn't be too easy of course. I wish her the happiness I felt in the cafe in the morning and the feeling of having achieved something in the evening, the love of the people that were on my road throughout the day and a few of the hardships I encountered during my walk, because they are good lessons and make life extra beautiful afterwards)

Day 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91













07/07/2014

Day 90. Sidestep


This is a strange sidestep from my slow journey. Today I have a deadline. I have to send in a proposal for a residency I would love to be part of. It is called Performance as Process and that is exactly what I am doing right now. But because that is exactly what I am doing right now, it is almost impossible to write an application. I found the time to think and write about it, but there are strict rules concerning format I have to follow writing it and on my tiny iPad it is hard. I spent hours finding the right apps to fill out pdf forms, make multiple page pdf's from photos, make e-mails containing more than 1 attachment, spending hours downloading the apps and figuring out how they worked. I realised I did bring my perfect documentation files on a stick but it doesn't work with my iPad and out here it is hard to find a proper computer to work on. I managed to put something together but it isn't perfect, I couldn't get the image quality the way I wanted it and I didn't manage to put in text with my images. Well. That is the way it is. And I figured that, since I am in the middle of my 96 day performance, this struggle is part of my performance too, so I should write about it and of course I hope the selection committee will read this and appreciate my writing an application for Performance as Process being part of my own performance as process.

This morning I will finish it and send it of. I never wrote an application in a stranger situation. Last night, day 89, I walked until late and found an out of use and unlocked hunter's cabin in a perfect location. The entrance to the ladder was hidden behind some bushes and there was a stream running behind it so I could wash. It was hot inside, all the windows were closed and the floor was covered in dead moths.

It is situated high up in the trees, right now it is noisy because the wind is strong and branches scrape along the outside walls. There is a window in every wall and last night I saw the small village of Willendorf bathing in the moonlight from one of my windows. Maybe the name rings bells, like it did with me. Yes, the Venus of Willendorf was found there, one of those beautiful stone female figurines from the paleolithic age. Apperently these days you shouldn't call it a "Venus" anymore: the nickname, urging a comparison to the classical image of "Venus," is now controversial. According to Christopher Witcombe, "the ironic identification of these figurines as 'Venus' pleasantly satisfied certain assumptions at the time about the primitive, about women, and about taste." (from wikipedia: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Willendorf). I find that nonsense. They recieved this name, let them keep it.

The cabin is almost big enough to stretch myself out in from one corner to the other. There is a chair with a pillow and I am sitting on it now, writing this so I can add the link to my application, send it off and quickly get back to the walking. Although it would be a perfect place to stay all day and write, to look out of my windows. There will be a thunderstorm tomorrow though and I have to get moving. Only a week left. Being slow can make time go fast.

(I suspect I've been too quick in my conclusions. Apparently there are more villages called Willendorf in lower Austria. This might not have been "the one" after all. But anyway. It did make me think about the Venus.)

06/07/2014

Day 89. Saying goodbye to a river

I left Melk and Knut the Icebear. He was working today. Which ment asking people for money. He would work hardest around seven when he was hoping to win this week's Lotto jackpot. "I will look for you if I won a million," he said, "I'll send the police around with megaphones, shouting "Monique, where are you?" Or I can rent a helicopter and look for you myself."

I said goodbye to the Danube. A new road was waiting for me.

Another hot day. I walked another Radweg, the Pielachtalradweg, through Spielberg, Loosdorf, Obergrafendorf. Not far from the small village of Willensdorf I found another hunters cabine. It was next to the bike trail but hidden well. The cabin stuck out of the treetops, that is why I had noticed it, but the entrance through the bushes to the high ladder was difficult to find.

There was a stream next to it. A huge tree shaped like a seat in front of it. I dragged C. up the ladder. It is somewhat complicated always but there are straps on the back so I can carry the cart like a backpack.

It was unlocked. It hadn't been used for a while. It was hot hot hot inside and the floor was covered with dead moths. There were spiderwebs in the corner but once I opened the windows, one in every wall, removed the moths, it was quite comfortable. There was a small bench and a chair with a pillow. A door I could lock from the inside. A river I could wash myself and my cloths in. Beautiful views to all directions. I could see the moon over Willendorf from the east and the north window, the fields from the south window and the river Pielach that gave the bike trail and the valley its name, from the west window. It was small but almost big enough to lie down in, putting my head in one corner and my feet in the other. It was defenitely one of the best places I had stayed in until now. Not the most comfortable one but it had been a long time since I had a place really to myself. In hostel rooms you have to be in time for breakfast, check out before 10 when you're lucky, when you're couch surfing you have to take your host into account, in the fields or woods you have to make sure nobody sees you and you can't really stay for two night in a row. Here I had everything I needed and the freedom to do what I wanted. Ah, how wonderful to be so happy with so little.

When I get home, wherever that is, I will build myself a treehouse. Or I will find one somewhere and call it home.

05/07/2014

Day 88 (2). The return of Knut the Icebear


I didn't feel like walking up to the giant benedictine monastery but it seemed strange as well to finally be so close to it (I saw it often from a distance, driving to Slovakia) and not at least see what it looked like from the outside at close range. The campsite where I stayed was also the Fährhaus, the place where the big tourist boats, doing a slow Danube cruise would stop over for the night and spit out the crowds of Americans, Japanese, Australians, Europeans to walk up the monastery steps and pay the € 10,- I couldn't afford.

Maybe this is a good moment to talk about money. Especially since by the end of the day I would unexpectedly meet Knut the Icebear again, who really doesn't have any money, apart from some days when he is lucky. Today was one of his lucky days.

I am not poor. I have a bank account with enough money to pay the €10,- for the Melk monastery entrance fee without hesitating. To pay for a hotel in Melk and a diner somewhere. But on my walk I only use the money I received from people who want to support me. When I left I had € 1204, not much, but I figured money would come in during the walk so I counted on € 15 a day for 96 days. By now I received € 1796,50, which means € 18,71 a day. I managed well. Partly because there were many people on the road who gave me shelter, food, coffee, books, maps, partly because I slept outside or in abandoned places and bought most of my food in supermarkets. There were quite some proper meals in restaurants too, glasses of beer at the end of a long walking day, the occasional hostel or cheap hotel. Some of the money, gifts, things I needed on the road I received came from friends and relatives, but most of it was donated by strangers. Now and then somebody from the USA, New Zealand or Sweden would put €10, €20 sometimes even €50,- in my PayPall account. They must have seen my blog through their friends' Facebook pages or read the article I wrote for The Dark Mountain Project. Sometimes people on the road gave me money. Payed for my meal. Didn't charge me for the accomodation. I sometimes asked for a discount but usually I just told my story and people would give. In Melk I asked though. And I used the word pilgrim.

I hadn't planned to even try to go inside but when I was there I thought it was strange that it wasn't possible to enter the church through the proper door, only through a small door at the side where you could walk some meters to a fence blocking the way to the church proper. You could do your prayers in the corner and leave.

Don't get me wrong, I am not religious and I don't want to pray. I am not a pilgrim in the religious sense of the word. But I have been thinking about this word a lot. When are you a pilgrim? Why do
People who are not relgious at all and have money and got themselves a pilgrim pass to make the walking easier have a right to use specific cheap accomodation and somebody walking the world slowly, taking the time to talk with people about important subjects, trying to share as much as possible, give attention, doesn't? And what if you are a "proper" pilgrim and you want to visit the church in the Melk monastery? You have to pay €10,- or stick to the corner designated to people who don't want to or can't pay.

I decided to see what happened if I explained about my journey, using the words pilgrim and artist, telling I would like to see the monastery from the inside but only had €18,- a day. So I did. And got a discount offered at first. € 5,50 is still a third of my daily budget though. So the kind woman behind the desk made me a guest of the house. But not without saying she hoped I was honest. I hope I am honest too. I think I am. I do my utmost best to be as honest as possible.

It was quite overwhelming, all the gold and glitter, lots of mirrors, Benedictus wanted you to look at yourself. His words were everywhere, done in an artistic way. I wondered what happened to simpleness and soberness.
The library was amazing, these old libraries always are. I wanted to open the books, but of course you aren't allowed to do that. Understandable. The church was the last building in the route. There were two catacomb saints, who were given to the monastery as gifts by two different persons in the 18th century. Their skeletons were beautifully dressed. They were on display in a glass sarcophagus, Clemens and Friedrich.

In the gardens a similar display of mirrors and words. A nice herbal garden where I laughed about the particular part where they were cultivating nettles. It had a wooden sign, explaining what they were and what use they had. I bet the gardener spent a lot of time removing them from other parts of the garden they liked better.

The campsite was busy when I returned and although the field was huge, people must have thought my particular spot, where I had been on my own in the morning, was the best spot. Some tents were almost glued to mine. I escaped to the Fährhaus terrass where I heard somebody say my name. It was Knut the Icebear, the tramp with the bike, carrying around his tv, the man who called himself a nomad and whom I had given some money in Grein. He had been lucky today. He had played the one armed bandits in the Casino and had won. He bought me a big glass of wine. He was at the campsite, he had installed his tent. He told me he had his kitchen corner, his reading corner and his bedroom. I saw the tent later on. It wasn't as tiny as my tent but it was hardly big enough to stand in. In Grein we had talked little. I hadn't liked his negative stories about foreigners and his ongoing rattle about how unlucky he had been in his life but it was a strange coincidence to see him here again and being on your own on the road it is nice to be recognised. I was curious too. Despite of his continuous complaining he had something sympethatic. I wondered what he had been like before he started moving around.

Apperently he always wandered around in the same area. He had been on this particular campsite once when there was a lot of snow. I guess that is where his nickname came from. He said they were already waiting for him on the other side. It sounded as if he was on tour. But he would be in a house from September on, at least until spring next year, maybe even for a full year. "My manager arranged it for me," he said. Later on he gave me his manager's address, in case I wanted to write to him. And he gave me his future one. A chalet next to a castle in Attersee am Attersee. "Villa Orleans". He drew the castle and the location of the chalet and told me there would be room for me if I needed a place to live. He wrote his info on a piece of paper he had torn out of a book. It was under the printed line "Das Leben ist doch schön, dachte er und atmete tief ein. So schön ... so verdammt schön." (Life is beautiful he thought and took a deep breath. So beautiful ... so damn beautiful.)

He ordered us another drink. He payed. He promised me he would make me coffee next morning. He didn't, he forgot. But he did come over the next morning early to wave me out. "It always hurts to say goodbye" he said.