Start 7 juni (4th of May 2012)
Welcome on our hiking-blog. On Thursday 7th of June we leave in the direction of Rome. If everything works out as planned then the whole trip will take us about four months. We will make a weekly report during our journey.

Route (14th of May 2012)

The plan is that we start on the Grebbelinie-trail from Amersfoort to Rhenen (a historical route along a water-defence-system, developed in the 18th century and which still played a role in the 2nd World War). From there we reach the German border via the Linge-trail. In Germany we follow the E8 (hiking trail through Europe, ending in Istanbul). Near Würzburg we leave this trail (also along the biking trail Liebliches Taubertal (“lovely Tauber-valley”) and continue on the Romantic Road. The area has a lot of castles. This used to be a trade route in medieval times. We continue on the Via Claudia Augusta. This route was originally developed for the Roman army to improve the passage over the Alps.
This brings us to Trento, where we continue for some time along a bike-trail, here and there deviating from the trail to walk along the river Adige. This brings us to Bologna. Before reaching Bologna we first reach Verona, where we hope to meet Sr Maria Luisa, a dear friend whom I admire for her work in South Sudan. She worked for several years in a remote hospital in really difficult circumstances with full dedication. We will walk from Bologna to Firenze on the Via degli Dei (the path of the gods), a beautiful trip through the mountains. We end our trip with the most beautiful part, in the trail of St Francis, from Firenze via Assissi to Rome, where we hope to finish in the Frisian Church (La chiesa di Santi Michele e Magno). This church was originally built in the 9th century as a haven for Dutch pilgrims, especially from Friesland. Since 2004 the church again has a Dutch chaplain (after an absence of 550 years). We will be there somewhere in the first two weeks of October. That is, if all goes as planned…

Map (16th of May 2012)

Showing our beginpoint with a blue dot.

Maxim (24th of May 2012)

The one who travels on foot, gives his soul the opportunity to come forward, and gets the chance to hear about the meaning of his existence…

And we thought we were just going for a walk…

(thank you Arrie)


Stamp and blessing (4th of June 2012)

Last Friday we met Father Tuan at the Holy Spirit Church, here in Amersfoort. We asked him to put a stamp in our pilgrim passport. He asked us about our plans and gave us several stories and a blessing as inspiration. It is a beautiful stamp. You can see the shape of a heart, which also depicts Maria and the child. There are further three stars for the holy trinity and seven stars for the sacraments. During our journey we hope to collect various stamps as memory.

Pleisteren (13th of June 2012)

First thanks to all who have sent us good wishes through mail, by phone, in person or via the blog. It is great to receive so much warmth, especially since we have not achieved anything yet…
That it is a bit funny that you walk through woods while singing, is only noticed when suddenly a cyclist passes by with a big smile on his face. So there is lot of cheerfulness. It already started on day 1 with the farewell by our neighbours plus Carla, Jaap en Claire. On day 3 we were collected by our friends Arrie en Lex in Herveld. At their home in Renkum we watched Holland-Denmark and where we enjoyed their care and have rested well. On day 4 we arrived in Groesbeek where Albert’s mother lives. Later we were collected by niece Karin. At her home we had a lovely dinner (thanks also to Frank) and we played a ballgame with Ida. Finally we went to the house of Uncle Henk and Aunt Toos where we spent the night. After a good breakfast it was time on day 5 to leave the Netherlands and cross into Germany.
How does one feel when it starts to rain when you enter somewhere to drink some tea, when it is night, when you sit in the bus… It is a wonderful feeling that there is rain everywhere except where we are walking… On day 5 it started to rain just when we wanted to leave. But even before we had actually left the house the rain had almost stopped. While walking we are of course confronted with the result of the rain: puddles and mud.
This morning we collected a stamp in Xanten which is an old roman city in Germany. Before we started walking we did some shopping. We are now in Alpen, a city about 10 miles below Xanten.
In between the daily walks we are “pleistering”. Last sunday we discussed with Arrie en Lex about pleisteren: temporarily break a journey to eat and to rest. And so we move from pleister-place to pleister-place.
So far we have walked 175 km without problems in a beautiful environment. We had planned a bit less. The extra kilometers are partly caused by walking some distance in the wrong direction?!?
Above you can see some pictures to get an impression.

Dagprogramma / daily program (20th of June 2012)
Greetings from a youth hostel in Aachen. First thanks to everyone for the responses and encouragements. Tomorrow we have planned a quiet day (only 10 km) because we first want to do some shopping and sight-seeing in the centre of Aachen. We are now two weeks on our way en have sofar walked over 360 km. Our GPS every day keeps track of the distance we walked and the time it takes us from start to finish. Those data we enter everyday into the iPad by typing. The GPS also keeps track of the route we have walked. We save that track everyday so that later we can put these all together.
Our feet look well! Great thanks to Wiepke, our pedicurist, who has taught us over the last year how to prevent and treat foot problems. She also has given us all sorts of material of which we make use gratefully. Till now we only have small issues, like a small irritation on the back of the foot and a small blister at one toe, but luckily no problems that hinder us during walking. Also knees and other joints keep well.
The route we follow (E8) is beautiful, mostly murrum roads through woods and agricultural areas. Till today the route was fairly flat. We are now close to Vaals and the height differences are increasing. We enjoy the cows that follow us curiously, the butterflies in the fields, the birds that are singing and suddenly a deer crossing the road in front of us. At one of the farms where we stayed we were just returning from our breakfast when a goat was born. We like the simple rythm of our walking days. The hectic life in the Netherlands already seems far away. We also enjoy the responses of the people we meet. Like yesterday when a gentlemen got off his bike in front of us. He wanted to know where we were going and what our final destination was. He was full of admiration, wished us a good day, jumped on his bike and said that he was going straight to his wife to tell her about out our trip. Or, like the two ladies of a bakery shop who were stunned at first and later enthusiastically kept on waving when we left. There was also a woman who called her husband “come, come, have a look at them” when we were about to leave their home. Especially when we wear our red raincoats over our heads and over our backpacks we attract a lot of attention. It looks like December, said one man on a bike, apparantly thinking about two lost Santaclauses.
How do our days look like?
The days start early at 6 a.m. with showering, packing our bags and making some notes. Usually we have breakfast at 7.30 and around 8.15 we are ready to go. The breakfast is always well taken care of with small breads, eggs, yoghurt, juice, fruit and often we can take extra breads for our lunch for free, plus a plastic bag to carry it in. Usually we have a first short break after about one hour. And later it depends on what we come across. The best mornings are those where we find some coffee and sometimes with German “Kuchen” (something sweet that fills our stomachs nicely). We usually have lunch in the woods around 12.30. There are so many nice benches and picnic tables we come across. Once we had lunch in a Konditorei because of the rain, that was also great. Till now we still met only very little rain. Only last Saturday we walked from ten in the morning till 2.30 with our raincoats on. Sunday morning it still rained a bit when we started, but after twenty minutes that had stopped. After lunch we usually rest shortly after every hour till we arrive, which is usually around four. The rest of the afternoon is for showering, washing cloths, do some sight-seeing, drink something, write in our diaries, study next days route, arrange accommodation and finally go somewhere to eat. Till now for some reason the italian restaurants are favorite. The pasta always tastes well after a nice walk. Most evenings we go to (deep) sleep between 9 and 10. We end with greetings and some pictures.

Route 14-20 juni (25 juni 2012)

Eiffel (27 juni 2012)
Today we had a short walk of only 16 km to Rolandseck and we stay in Bad Godesberg (Bonn).
We try to keep the rhytm of our guide book with the directions, because it makes it easier to organise the places for the night. Today we started the second part of the E8. The coming week we stay in the neighbourhood of the Rhine. In the three weeks sofar we have walked almost 550 km, to be precise 25,9 km per day. This includes 3,3 km daily that we walk extra to and from our “home” and the extra distance needed to get back on the right track.
The weather remains excellent for us, not too hot and hardly any rain. Our feet are still fine. Ineke had some problems with her heels. This morning she saw that the inside soles of her shoes were deformed because of the heat and the moist. She now uses her old inside soles again and she is fine again.
Last week was tough. We walked some days through the Eifel, a beautiful route almost totally
through the woods, agricultural areas and murrum roads. We went throug some lovely places like Simonskall and Bad Munstereifel. Also the views are stunning. The area however is rather uneven. Many times we were going up, then going down again. The height itself is not the issue (500 met), but the continuous climbing and descending is tough. Let’s assume it is a good exercise for what is yet to come. At some places the descends were quite steep and these are not among Ineke’s favorites, maar after some initial hesitations she got the hang of it and in the end she sang during her way down. She knows a sheer endless number of songs, where Albert sometimes tries to sing along, but in most cases quickly turns to humming along.
Last Sunday we arrived tired (after 33 km) at a youth hostel in Bad Münstereifel. The last part was very steep upwards and it rained. We rang the doorbell, but nobody opened. We didn’t know what to do, so we kept on ringing for some time. We had a phone number but this was connect to an answering machine. So what next? Back down the mountain and look for some place in town? We decided to wait a bit. After fifteen minutes Ineke suddenly saw someone in the building. When he opened he appeared to be a Dutchman who was told that he would be the only guest in the building. After some searching we found the telephone number of the manager. Luckily we got him directly at the phone and he promised to be there in thirty minutes to sort things out. It appeared that our booking was entered on a different date… Adri, who walks from Assisi back to the Netherlands was so kind as to share the little he had (one bread roll and some cheese and lettice). Later the manager gave us a card with the number of a pizzahut so that we could order three pizza’s. How lovely that, even in the middle of the woods on a hill you can order pizza and get it delivered within fifteen minutes! So, in the end everything was well.

Labour agreement (4 juli 2012)

In the mean time we have walked nearly 750 km in four weeks. The landscapes have been beautiful and ever-changing. Last week we walked through the Rhine area and we have started on the Hunsrück. This area has endless vinyards and in the evening we enjoy the lovely local wines. In the past weeks we have seen how the grane is ripening, how the maize is growing and how the cherishes scream from their trees “pick me!”. The landcape along the Rhine is classicly romantic. The small cities against the hills are really beautiful to watch. We never knew how beautiful Germany is.

Some days ago, while Albert wanted to go on for some time, Ineke said that she was entitled to at least thirty minutes of rest, according to the regulations of her leave. (there is dutch joke of words involved that is not easy to translate). The normal labour regulations do not apply any way because we have walking weeks of over 50 hours.
Last Sunday we arrived totally exhausted at a guesthouse, at ten to seven in the evening, after a long day with a final climb from 200 to 500 metres. There were indeed here and there some route-signs painted on a tree here and there, but the road uphill was full of mud and bushes, hardly recognisable as a road,
The day before yesterday we missed the correct route for the umptieth time… If that happens because of missing route-directions then you accept that as part of the challenges, but if it happens because we have misread the directions then it is quite annoying.
Yesterday we entered a village called Stromberg and we asked directions to a lady who had just stopped mowing her lawn. She gave us directions and we talked a bit about our journey and her plan to travel to Israel. Thereafter we followed the route she had given us. Just before we arrived at the guesthouse a car stopped in front of us. It was the lady from before who asked whether we had reported already at the guesthouse, otherwise she wanted to offer us accommodation. We would like to have accepted, but we really had made reservations already. Then another car came from behind and we unfortunately had to say goodbye quickly.

The road
In the meantime we have held many smaller and bigger talks, each of us alone, with each other and with others. The world is “small” when you are walking. You arrive, you take care of yourself, you look around. You eat and drink, you go to sleep, you have breakfast, you pack your things and you start walking. We give no attention to world news, no appointments with others, no work and family affairs.
Because it is all so small, everything is magnified. All sorts of behavioural patterns of ourselves and of us together become visible, whether we want it or not. How do we deal with arranging accommodation? Do we arrange this when we have finished walking at the end of the day, like Adri who we met in a youth hostel and who also shared his only piece of bread with us. Or do we want this to be arranged (at least) one day in advance? In other words, how do we deal with our own and each others insecurity. From the stories of others and now also from our own experience we learn that such a long walk has a special meaning that is different for everyone. By making choices on arranging accommodation, on the distance to be covered, on the things you take along, on the time you take for other people, for trees full of cherishes, for a church, for a butterfly. Everyone creates his and her own journey by the choices you make. Those choices are undoubtedly a reflection of oneself. During such a journey you create your own world. If, for example, you are concerned about the time of arrival, not losing the way, the amount of food and water your brought along, etc, then you can be concerned all day long, every day.
The journey is just magnifying everything, because also in real life one creates one’s own world through the choices one makes. It is a special experience to take time to look at these choices and the patterns behind them. Then you meet insecurity, tension, but also creativity, cheerfulnes, strength and trust.

Home again! (11 juli 2012)

Not everyone is aware that we also read our private emails from time to time (, So if you prefer a private response in stead of a public reaction then feel free to send an email.
The journey is quite an intensive experience, the beauty of the landscapes is really overwhelming and the cordial meetings make all the “hard work” more than worthwhile.
The “hard work” is created by the differences in height, the number of kilometres and the soft-mud paths on which we have to work our way up. In the mean time we both have lost several kilo’s. We eat and eat but can’t keep up with the energy used. It is wonderful to be able to eat anything and the more calories the better… A warm shower in the morning is lovely and also necessary to get going…

In the meantime we have reached Bürgstadt after a week of 191 km (in total we have now walked 935 km in 5 weeks). From last Saturday we have reduced the number of kilometers somewhat to have some little more time to look around during the day and in the late afternoon after our arrival. Because of our backpacks, the continuous climbing and descending we walk more slowly than we had thought before (and so our days are a bit longer). It feels good to take it a bit easier. Sunday we have visited Worms, a beautiful old city with a very rich history. On the advice of our guide we have walked only half a day on Sunday. (“My advice: better skip this day. The way through Worms is not particularly nice and also on the other side of the Rhine you will mostly have straight tarmac roads”)
Later in the afternoon we have, for a change, taken the train from Worms to Auerbach.

What is funny, is that we talk all the time about home and coming home when we refer to our next resting place. Everywhere we do feel at home because of the warm welcome, the encouragements, some bread for lunch that, in most cases, we get to take for free. The connection with people makes that we can and do feel at home. The beds and the people are everywhere different, we are the consistent element, next to the familiar content of our backpacks.

For the first part of our trip we did not have suitable gpx-tracks for our GPS, but for some days now we have. This gives additional support in finding and keeping ourselves on track and this clearly reduces the extra distance because of missing or misreading the signs. Still there are surprises, one day the GPS route appeared to be different from the route in our booklet, it took some time before we realized what happened…
Before this journey we said that there are no extra miles, since all the miles are part of our journey, but this generous attitude is difficult to maintain when you are dead-tired and find out that you still have to go on for 5 more miles.

We have added some pictures of the environment. At the beginning of our journey the grane was small and green, last week it was golden yellow and a day later we saw the first harvested fields.

Coming Friday we will hopefully find at the postoffice two new route guides for the next part of our trip: “de romantische strasse” (the romantic lane) that will bring us to the Austrian border. We will stay for one day in Tauberbishofsheim and we will do some shopping and we will send back some stuff that we expect not to need anymore, and perhaps visit the hairdresser.

Druk, druk, druk. Busy, busy, busy! (18 juli 2012)

Greetings to all from Schillingsfürst!
In Bürgstadt we spent the night in the house of a man who rented several rooms. The first thing we noticed was the beautiful garden, not so big. There were several rosaries and rose bushes blossoming. At the door we found a notice that he was working in the garden behind the house. We found him busy clearing a branch from an apple tree that had come down earlier in the day. He had something special, but it was not immediately clear what it was. He showed us our room and the bathroom opposite. He explained how to operate the roof window, asked us what time we wanted our breakfast next morning, told us where we could go for a good and affordable dinner and then left us to rest and to take care of ourselves. Clearly someone who knew what guests like we needed. The room was simple, nicely decorated. When we were leaving to go out for dinner, we found found him working in the front garden. To maintain such a beautiful garden is a lot of work, but he did it with visible pleasure. He had a kind and quiet voice.
The next morning he welcomed us at breakfast. The number of breakfast plates showed us that there were a good number of guests in the house. But he was not “busy”, he just organised. He told us that there was a light rain and that he had just seen a rainbow, like he had never seen before. In the breakfast room there were several pictures of his family. The pictures expressed love. From the pictures it also became clear that his wife had died. He had been a carpenter his whole life, but had also done various other jobs.
Later we realized what made him so special. He gave everything the attention it needed. He did a lot, but he wasn’t busy, busy, busy. He just did it, with loving kindness.
Saturday we had a resting day, our first, in the beautiful Tauberbishofsheim, so we had booked two nights in the same hotel. Friday evening we went for a treat to a restaurant called the Old Tower. We choose a surprise menu with local dishes with a fitting local wine. This candlelight dinner formed the perfect ambiance for the start of the “romantic road”. The waiter clearly enjoyed serving two grateful guests with nice local treats.
For Saturday we had each a whole list of things to do. The funny thing was that by ten we were both back home with everything ticked from our list, including a visit to the local hairdresser, Albert went to Friseur Strubbelkopf (!) and Ineke went to Katrin & Friends. The rest of the day we were free and we used to visit the museum of local history, to take all the time for lunch and go for a Thai massage. The massage was tough, our muscles were pressed and stretched… Afterwards our tired muscles felt as new. All in all it was a useful resting day. The next day we started refreshed, though the rain poured down. During the morning a lady looked at us with pity. When Ineke said with full conviction “The sun will come back!” she was laughing.
In the meantime we have walked for a few days on the Romantic Road. This part of our trip is well indicated, the trails are pleasant and the landscapes are lovely and sloping. In comparison to earlier parts of our trip this is less climbing and descending, so less tiring. Enough time to enjoy what we see and to experience the romantic atmosphere of the landscape, the lovely villages, the beautiful colour houses and even the woods, with their flowery smells. In this part of Germany accommodation is easy to find. We prefer the private rooms because of the more personal contact.

Butterflies. (25 juli 2012)

First we want to thank everyone for their responses. It is great that so many people read and appreciate the blog and also recognise something in there.
In the meantime we have arrived in Augsburg after over 1300 km. At the end of next week we hope to have finished the Romantic Road and will continue on the Via Claudia Augusta. The Romantic Road is a beautiful road with varying landscapes through woods and mountains. We pass through a series of beautiful cities with their own culture and traditions. It is interesting to get to know more of the culture in Bavaria and the importance of traditions. It already starts with the greeting “Grüss Gott”, which confirms the good intentions and gratefulness for what is. The culture is also visible when looking at the festivities for children that are organised at the end of the school year (Kinderzeche) where the children that leave school participate in folk dance and in music band that attract villagers and tourists. The children wear traditional clothes, get an ice cream afterwards and there a lot of proud parents and grand parents who remember the days that they went through the same tradition. We saw such a ceremony in Dinkelsbühl where part of the centre of town was closed off for cars for these activities.

It is remarkable how willing people are to help us find the right direction. As soon as we stop and look at our map somebody will come or a car will stop and ask if they can help. The local dialect is not always easy to follow, but in the end we get the point. It is really funny that, in many cases, people know a shorter route than the one in our booklet. Not all of them understand that we are more interested in a beautiful road than in the shortest one.

In the meantime we have seen a good number of beautiful chapels and churches. In the Herrgottskirche near Creglingen we have seen a really impressive Maria-altar. It is huge and with so many details. It is made by Tilmann Riemenschneider, a man with an fascinating life (an early widower, artist, mayor of Worms, chose the wrong side in the Peasant Wars, robbed of all his possessions, spent the last years of his life lonely). His grave was rediscovered after 150 years and then he was given back his due status. Later we found in the St George Church in Nördlingen another masterpiece made by him at the beginning of the 16th century.

We had expected that this part of our journey would attract more tourists, but that is not true. Only in Rothenburg en Nördlingen it was somewhat busy. Certainly in the woods, the agricultural areas and grasslands we hardly meet people. The last few days we have seen several bikers, but we are mostly in the company of birds, squirrels, deer and rabbits. We also see butterflies. When you walk slow enough they fly in front of you, rest on a small branch and spread their wings to show you their beautiful colours and patterns, and will repeat the same a few meters ahead. When you walk too fast they will avoid you and it looks as if there are no butterflies…

The nights (1 augustus 2012)

Today we have arrived in Füssen, our last station in Germany. Tomorrow we cross the border with Austria and one week later we hope to reach Italy. We are still lucky with the weather. It seldom rains where we walk, and if, then at worst for an hour.

The success of a longer term endeavour depends on the nights. Joop Zoetmelk, a famous Dutch cyclist, seems to have once said that the Tour de France is decided in bed. He referred to the impact of a good night’s sleep on the recovery of the body. The one who recovers best of the yesterday’s challenging stage, has the best chances today.
The recovery depends on various elements. In our experience, the mattresses in German hotels, guest houses and youth hostels are of excellent quality. The pillows are a different matter. You can already see it when you enter the room. The pillow is folded in an arty way. Sometimes a small piece of chocolate has been put on top. It looks wonderful, but you also see immediately that the pillow is too big and lacks ‘body’. You can fold it to sit comfortably against the wall, but just to sleep on it is a different story. We still have not discovered the secret that turns the thing into a suitable pillow for the night. As a result, during the night, we are regularly busy struggling to reshape it into something comfortable. Anyway, we do sleep very well and usually make long nights.

Also this week we made some wonderful trips on the higher mountain-roads along the Lech and one of the highlights was the Ammerschlucht (a canyon) and of course the first sight of the Alps. This area is famous for its cow-bells and the big sloping grass meadows, then, at the back, a range of majestic mountain tops.
The Ammerschlucht is a deep canyon full with trees along the slopes. The river Ammer runs about 80 meters below. The area has a unique flora and fauna and the trail consists of a small path. Some areas are impossible to walk and so they are connected with pieces of wood and about 460 steps. The path goes up and down, along steep descends of 50 to 80 metres, without protection on the side. You just have to walk straight. In our experience it is safer not to look down! To add to the excitement we see warning signs left and right about the dangers and what to do when something happens… Very special is also that, once down in the Schlucht, there is only one way, and that is forward. Also when it means you need to climb kitchen stairs then climb on some wobbly loose pieces of woods over water and another kitchen stairs to get off at the other end… These are the trips where you are somewhat worried up front and where you say afterwards that you would not like to have missed the experience. By the way, during the whole trip in the Schlucht we have not seen anybody.
In the mean time we have finished eight weeks and are now half way, as far as kilometers are concerned. Thursday 2nd of August we hope to reach the border with Austria and then we walk for two days together with Albert’s sister (Rianne) and brother-in-law (Michael).

Language skills (8 augustus)

First of all we like to thank everyone for all the responses and congratulations with our birthdays (7+8th of Aug) and our wedding anniversary (8th of Aug). We are still in Austria, but hope to walk into Italy tomorrow via the Reschenpass.

The Austrian mountain landscape is really impressive. For those who know the area, we have spent nights in Reutte, Lermoos, Nassereith, Imst, Landeck, Ried and are at present in Nauders. We usually walk in the valley or a little bit higher, always in-between the big mountains. These are such enormous blocks of rock that it makes one somewhat modest. Further, we come accross many places where we can fill our water bottles under the encouraging eyes of a beautiful statue of a Saint.

In comparison with Germany we have some more paths with murram, sometimes we follow shared bike+walking paths and sometimes a bit along a road with cars passing by. But there are also plenty beautiful trails in the woods, through meadows and the little extra murram is largely compensated by the magnificent scenery. Some days ago we crossed the Fernpass on the original Via Claudia Augusta. On the top we were rewarded with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. In the valley we saw an enormous traffic jam on the winding roads (first Saturday of August).

Rianne and Michael (Albert’s sister and brother-in-law) are both climbers with experience in the Alps. They have accompanied us on our first days in Austria. We remember especially the talks and the wonderful evening on a terrace with a view of the Zugspitze and some rounds of liquor. Their heroic stories and pictures of the way and down (amidst rolling stones) of the Ups on the day before impressed us certainly. Just as the butterfly that, on the top of the Fernpass, sat on Michael’s hand for almost fifteen minutes.

What else do we notice about Austria? In any case the hospitality and the good humour. For example, when we arrived in Nassereith we were first offered a liquor of apricots. When the women said they had the guesthouse already for 34 years, we told her that we are married for 34 years. She then said, loud enough for her husband to hear, that she “slept with enemy” already for forty years. From the cheerful murmur of the husband we concluded she did not make the joke for the first time. We further met a Belgian bartender who did not stop talking about the beauty of the area where he now lived. Finally he said he would give us some tourist folders (and walked away). Ten (!) minutes later he returned and said: Excuse me, I cannot find them anymore…

Most of the time people laugh when we explain that we are from the Netherlands. Yes, we already heard, is the consistent response, even when we have hardly said anyhting… Apparently our pronounciation and our errors are rather obvious….

In our route guide we find German words that were previously unknown to us. We mention ten below, so that you can assess your competence in walking-German: Bürgersteig, Kreisverkehr, Zaun, Schotterweg, Gabelung, Querstrasse, Gatter, stetig, Schild und Schranke.
Finally, Jorian, congratulations!
Bürgersteig (pavement), Kreisverkehr (roundabout), Zaun (fence), Schotterweg (gravel road), Gabelung (fork), Querstrasse (crossroads), Gatter (grate), stetig (continuous/everlasting), Schild (sign) und Schranke (barrier).

Snow-white and language politics (15 augustus)

Again, this week we have made some wonderful walks to St Valentin, Schluderns, Schlanders, Naturns, Algund, Nals and at present we are in Kaltern. We are actually over the Alps. The walks here mostly go along the mountain ranges with fantastic views of the valley and for days on end views of gigantic apple fields. The fields are in the valley and reach till about 30-40 meters high along the mountains. The apple trees where we look at are not the usual apple trees, this is about intensive apple industry with relatively low apple bushes that carry an improbably number of beautiful apples. And it goes on and on, apple bush after apple bush.

In the guesthouses we usually only have to do with the landlady. Even when you get the husband on the phone he usually quickly calls for his wife. The guesthouses often have a female name (House Erica, House Bianca). Apparently that attracts more customers than for example House Albert.

The landlady in one of the guesthouses talked about her concerns about the amount of poison that is being used on the apples. She did not use the word poision, but talked about ‘chemicals’. According to her it is already a lot less than in the seventees, but still. She used to take her children out of the valley on days that the chemicals were used. Such remarks make you look different at all the beautiful big red and yellow apples.

We knew that in North Italy German is one of the official languages. We did not know how sensitive the issue is. Yesterday we saw a sign “Freedom for South Tirol!”. The day before a little boy said to us in a somewhat angry voice in Italian that we should not speak German (=tedesco). When Albert asked him in Italian how he was doing, he responded, still somewhat angry, that he was okay: “Bene”. A few days ago, close to a lodging address, we asked someone them way in German. The italian guy looked a bit confused and eventually said “Com’è?”, what do you mean? Apparently he couldn’t bring himself to say that he did not speak German. Luckily his wife understood us. By the way, when south tirolans (..?..) talk among themselves we do not understand a comma…

We are now in a real touristic area and on top of that it is the high peak season for some weeks to come. So, the town are a bit busier, the prices are somewhat higher and it is more difficult to find simple accommodation.

On the walking trails it is not much busier than before. On the biking paths it is clearly more busy. Most of the time you see couples, a group of friends or a family. Little children are often carried around in a separate trailer that is covered with transparent plastic. You can see them sleeping quietly or looking around. On the biking trails there are also more facilities: a little shelter for self-service where you can get, o wonder, 10 types of apple juice en we met children that were selling a can of juice for 10 cents.

Bravi! Complimenti! (22nd of August 2012)

In the past week we have walked the last part of the Via Claudia Augusta. From Trento we have gone south and that is also where the real Italy begins, as far as language and culture is concerned. Later we have followed for some days Reitsma’s bikingtrail. This means that we have walked most of the time on murrum, except for some small grassroads and here and there a path under the grapevines. Walking on murrum is more taxing for feet and knees and certainly with the warmth we are alert to avoid problems.

The small valley that we walked through is again beautiful, with proud mountains on both sides. Also here we have tropical temperatures, between 35 and 39 degrees, and that is in the shadow, that we do not always find. In the mornings it is pleasantly cool. Then from 11 the temperature is rising till about 5 in the late afternoon. Then it drops again till around 8, when it is about 20 degrees.

Also when Ymkje walked with us we had a few tough days with high temperatures. Despite the heat these were nice days where had fun and some new songs were added to our repertoire. Each day we try to be home at two, but the walking mostly ends at least an hour and a half later, because we have again planned a bit too ambitious…

Last Saturday Albert bought new walking shoes. The old ones were really finished and the remaining sole was broken. New walking shoes easily become a nightmare on this type of journey, so the purchase was postponed and postponed. Luckily so far no major problems have occured.

We were impressed about the hospitality and kindness in Germany and Austria, but the Italians make it very easy to love them and to feel at home. What we notice is the joviality and enthusiasm.
While walking we often hear people calling out “bravi” and “complimenti” when we pass by. Ineke yesterday received appreciation of a few roadworkers who thought we ware brave to walk in this weather. But, just as easily, we are shouted at by some bikers when we walk too much in the middle of the road.

A good example of the hospitality we saw yesterday when we arrived aft a long warm day at our bed & breakfast address and the landlady offered spontaneously to cook that evening for us. We had found out in the village that the address we were looking for, was higher up in the mountains. So, it was quite a climb at the end of the day and we were fearing to have to go down for some food, and then up again for the night…. In stead we received a wonderful Italian meal with tomatos and salad from their own garden, even a wonderful wine from their own vineyard, a pasta, some meat and an ice-cream for dessert. The fact that Albert manages to keep some conversation in Italian makes the exchanges a lot of fun, although the Italians usually overestimate his skills.

On Tuesday we had nice bed & breakfast address arranged in the morning. When we were nearly there it appeared that a river needed to be crossed…. without a bridge nearby… We could see the village lying on the other side… When we called with the owner she realized that it was too far for us to walk the extra 3 hours (to the nearest bridge! and then back…) in the heat and she offered spontaneously to come and collect us by car. When we wanted to pay the next day for the transportation she did not accept and said that it was an honour to help pilgrims…
She also told us how to find a path along the river Adige to Verona. Unfortunately the path ended two blocks away in the backyard of a nice Italian family… But, anyway a few villages further on we were able to walk for some time along the Adige.

In total we have now walked for over 2000 km. Wednesday (22nd) we spent a cosy evening with Sr Maria Luisa in our little apartment in Verona sharing stories. She gave us some tips on shops that we need. Tomorow we will have lunch at the house for elderly nuns, where she works, Friday we will continue our journey, entering the feared Po-area.

De parles van de povlakte. The pearl of the Po area. (29th of August 2012)

First of all a thank you for all those who are responding via the blog or via mail. We experience them als encouragements! This week we have crossed the Po-area (the flat area between Verona and Bologna) and have now arrived near Bologna. Friday we plan to start with the Via degli Dei (God’s Route), a walking trail through the Apennines between Bologna and Firenze. People tell us that it has not rained properly here since May. Although you immeditaly notice the dryness of the fields, it is surprising how green it still is in many places.
Last week we started with an extra day in Verona where we had a wonderful lunch with the sisters. We joined a good number of the elderly sisters who took their lunch in a big hall. We sat at a separate table with Sr Maria Luisa (who worked together with Albert in Sudan) and with the regional superior of the congregation, who worked for many years in Uganda. Before all started eating our presence was explained to the sisters, most of whom have also worked for many years in developing countries and now have a chance to rest in Verona. Sr Maria Luisa is seeking support to introduce occupational therapy for the sisters.

For most of the people who walk to Rome the Po-area is boring as far as landscape is concerned, but it is at the same time challenging because of the lack of shadow, limited accommodation opportunities, the big numbers of persistent and biting flies and mosquitos. We were prepared, but how do you prepare for temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius? Anyway we tried to start walking every morning at 7, but it was not always possible to have an early breakfast. In the final week before our start from the Netherlands someone sent us a beautiful ‘new’ route along dikes and quiet roads. Since we were still not sure about a good way to cross the Po-area we were quite happy. And indeed the route is recommendable. The advantage of dykes is the wide view and when there is a little bit of wind, then that is the place to feel it. And on hot days some regular fresh wind makes all the difference.

Although we enjoyed the wide views, the flatness and other characteristics of the area, the pearls of the Po were the people with the kindness, encouragements, their help and cooking skills!

And yes, we did appreciate the help. On saturday we found out in the early afternoon, after a long tiring walk in the sun that there were two streets with the same name in the same town and that we were at the wrong address. That little joke took us an extra two hours in the heat… Stefano explained to us what had gone wrong and he was prepared to show us the shortest way to our ‘new’ address.
He sat on his bike and we tried to keep up with the pace. In the meantime we chatted in our best italian… By the way, when he first said that he would come with us, we both mistakenly assumed that he would bring us by car… Step by step we realized that we were not going to his house to collect the car, but would continue to walk…

Sunday we had planned to stay in a hotel in Trecenta. We phoned several times, but failed to get connected. When we arrived it appeared that it was closed for the holiday and would open again the next day… That explained the lack of response. A kind neighbour looked for several alternatives, but in the end he had to give up. It seemed our best chance would be to go back to the village we passed through an hour ago, Baruchella. We did discuss other options in a bar, but that did not change anything. The route back was not unpleasant because it was full of shade. Back in Baruchella we found someone in a bar who suggested a b&b 2 km away and who was willing to bring us by car…

We were kindly welcomed and in the evening we had a really wonderful dinner. A lovely salad, a soft carpacchio, a pasta with a great sauce, some chicken, cake and finally a capuccino. And that for ten euro each… Oh, yes, we also had nice bottle of red wine with it! It seems to happen more in this area that the prices are a bit reduced because we are travelling already for so long…

Dynamic descending, 5th of September 2012

This morning we arrived in Firenze! And later today we visited the language school that Albert attended in April and the trattoria where he always went for lunch (Il Girasole, Via F. Portinari 15). We felt very much welcome!

The last part from Fiesole was only 2.5 hours walking. After the flat area between Trento and Verona and afterwards the Po area, it was wonderful to walk in the mountains again. No murrum roads, only foothpaths and stunning views. In the past week it was luckily also much cooler… and even the rain was a welcome change.

During the week we passed from the tough mountains of the province Emilia Romagna to the more lovely Tuscany hills, with the well-known sloping landscapes and cipres trees.
In the meantime we assume that we are now used to our new shoes. We had less problems than we expected, but we can still see where the blisters appeared on the side of our feet.

Last Sunday we had a tough stage. In the guide book we had already seen the warnings for the stage from Passo della Futa to Sant’Agatha. It was about a very steep descent on wet soil. Luckily it did not rain that day otherwise it would have become a slippery business completely. During such a steep descent you need “counterpoints”, for example a stone, the root of a tree or just a tree to put your foot against to rest and plan the next step. But what if you do not see any counterpoints in the mud and the rocks are covered with leaves? The guide book talked about where possible hold on to branches and what else is available to prevent you from sliding downwards… When you read that the day before then you assume that it will be okay. But once we were struggling to get down safely we wondered what we were doing… By the way, we did become better at controlled sliding down certain bits. We called it dynamic descending (during that day we did not think about making pictures, but later in Fiesole we found a statue that exactly showed how we felt as we came down, see the pictures).

The breakfast in Italy consists especially of coffee and something sweet. No boiled egg, no ham, no cheese, not even a slice of bread as we know it. We very much enjoy the italian kitchen for lunch and dinner. Like with the wonderful lady who last Sunday cooked a great meal for us. Everything from her own garden, biological. It was very cosy to sit at her table while she was cooking for us and telling us about her life.

We are soon starting the last part of our journey, the over 500 kilometers of the Franciscan Foothpath from Firenze to Rome, via Assisi. As it looks now we expect to arrive in Rome around the 9th of October.

Tough home stretch (12th of September 2012)

Last Thursday we had a resting day in Firenze (Florence). That gave us time for a visit to the hairdresser. Nicely seated next to each other our hair was washed and cut. In the meantime we talked about our enterprise. The girl that was doing Albert’s hair was still in training, so the boss finished the work. He cut along a comb, as usual, but just as often he freely made left and right cuts. Now I look like Van Basten, he said and he roared with laughter… Albert’s hair is now rather short, but that was also intended. Also Ineke’s hair is nicely done, so we are ready for the last month.

Afterwards we sent home a package with some guide books and notes to lose some weight for the last part. Further we have visited two Franciscan churches in Firenze, both with an enormous treasure in art and history. In the Santa Croce many famous people are buried (a.o. Dante, Macchiavelli, Galilei). In the Chiesa Ognissanti we found the grave of Botticelli and Amerigo Vespucci, a really beautiful painted cross by Giotto and en special ceiling-painting, that seems to turn with you when you move.

Many people have wished us success with the last part and also we ourselves were thinking of the home stretch. But not anymore. “The last part” are not less than 30 mountain stages and they are quite tough. The past days we have sometimes climbed and descended more than 1000 meters. You really feel that at the end of the day. But then, the views are stunning, we walk through a beautiful environment and in the valleys we cross small streams over wobbling stones.

Sunday morning we had started walking at 7 am and around 8.30 we were in the middle of a tough climb when we suddenly heard unfamiliar sounds and just before us three big deers crossed the road in front of us with great speed. They did not look around. Immediately after another deer came. It stopped at the road side and looked our way. We saw by the enormous jump the deer made that it was freightened and then it disappeared quickly. We were silent for a moment and suddenly we understood why the deer were so scared. We heard something coming again. This time we say two (hunting) dogs with a little bell around their neck who followed the trail of the first three deer.
Because of that bell we could hear how quickly they disappeared into the mountains. It all did not last more than a minute. We waited a moment, but we saw no hunters with their rifles ready.

Since we started with the Franciscan footpath something has changed. We now more often meet other people that walk long-distances. The people here they know about pilgrims. Before we were mostly a strange sort of tourist. Yesterday we saw a house where pilgrims could sleep for free. We passed that house and continued our way to the monastery La Verna. That was another tough climb stretched out during the day, but what a magnificent ending when you arrive in the spacious woods around La Verna and you see the monastery high up on top of the enormous rocks. La Verna is the place where Francis received the stigmata (see internet for more details) and within the Catholic Church it is considered a holy place. In the monastery we had dinner in a big room where we shared a table with a somewhat older Austrian pilgrim (Franz) and a younger Italian biker (Allesandro). We all had enough to share about our trips, very entertaining.

What has also changed is that we are now more aware of a feeling of gratitude. So much beauty as we see, meet and experience. Really no space for dissatisfaction, as wished by our neighbours in the blessing they gave us when we started.

This afternoon, after in total 2505 km, we arrived in Sansepolcro (see map of the Franciscan footpath).

Dogs again. (19th of September 2012)

Today we have arrived in Assisi (the birthplace of Francesco). We plan to stay an extra day to look around in this beautiful town. Last week we have gone from the region Tuscany to Umbria. Again a beautiful area with many slopes and so we still climb and descend several times a day. Gradually we see the colour of the woods that lie against the hills change from summery green to autumn brown.

Last Friday was day 100 of our journey. We celebrated this day together with Mother Nature. It was the coldest, wettest and windiest day till now… We climbed in a soft rain to a rocky path on top of a hill, while the wind became stronger, colder and wetter. Funny enough, we still had a lot of fun and enjoyed the challenges. The clay soil stuck to our shoes and before she knew Ineke lay flat. No problem, only her clothes had become (even) more dirty. When we arrived in the afternoon nobody was home, but on the door we could read “open for pilgrims”. We selected a room ourselves, took a shower and somewhat later our clothes were hanging to dry. Later two recently pensioned men arrived (Roland en Hugo). They had taken the same route, but hard started three hours later and therefore had had much more rain. On top of that they had taken a wrong turn here and there and in their choice of clothes had not prepared for rain…. Not far from the place where we slept there was a shop annex restaurant where, later in the evening, we enjoyed the food available: two fried fresh eggs for each of us, raw ham (directly cut from the leg of a pig!), cheese, pieces of bread, some fruit and wine. The next day we started walking at a quarter past seven in a drizzle, but that only lasted for a short time. In the evening we ate pizza with the same men. They had decided to take the bus that day.

When you walk you sometimes meet a dog. Most dogs are behind a gate and the dogs that walk around freely do not take an interest in hikers. Ineke is not afraid of dogs and animals in general. When she was visiting a zoo as a child, according to her mother, she wanted to enter the space for lions “to stroke the kittens”. This is somewhat different for Albert. He always felt a bit uncomfortable in the vicinity of dogs that bark and jump up. And, to be honest, also in the vicinity of dogs that do not bark and do not jump up. While preparing for this journey Albert concluded that he is actually not afraid of dogs, he only lacked knowledge on how to understand them… He called with a training school of a dog specialist (well-known in the Netherlands) to find out if there was a course to get more knowledge on dog behaviour. Indeed it was there. The course is intended for people who want to start a dog-walking service, but okay, a hiker was also welcome. To cut a long story short, since Albert attended the two-day course he knows exactly what to do not to have any problem with dogs and he recognizes their behaviour (mostly cheerful) and he does not look at every set of dog teeth as a potential weapon to bite in his calves… Really, the funny thing is that the course has been very effective in allowing him to walk without worries.

Friday we start our last series of 17 stages in the direction of Rome. If nothing special happens then we expect to walk into Rome on Sunday 7th of October, exactly 4 months after we started from Amersfoort. But before we are there, we first pass by some well-kept roman churches, we climb and descend around 8 km, we look over the flat area of Rieti, pass by some historic towns built on rocks and gradually the woods will be replaced by olive trees and vineyards. It seems we will keep enjoying this trip till the last day…

Clara and the animals (27th of September 2012)

(Yesterday we had some connection problems, but they are solved now).
Today we have arrived in Don Bosco, which lies at 1094 meters, for us at 182 km from Rome. Last Thursday we stayed an extra day in Assisi to do some more sight-seeing in this beautiful town. Assisi is built on a rock and that means that it is a town with many stairs and several layers, beautiful small passages and everywhere we see flowers, fresco’s and statues. St.Francis and St. Clare are at the centre of attention, both are born in Assisi. The attention focuses on the legends (told in fresco’s, paintings and statues) and to the important locations in their lives (now remembered in churches, monasteries and little chapels). Their core message is about the meaning of a pure, sober existence and about foregiveness.

We have spent that extra day by simply walking through the town and by visiting some churches. Especially the big basilica San Francesco. This basilica has an upper-church, a lower-church and a crypt. We also went with a bus to the Santa Maria degli Angeli, which lies a few kilometres outside Assisi. But we also went to the Santo Stefano (where the bells started tolling on their own when St. Francis died), the San Rufino (with the grave tomb of St. Clare) and the Chiesa Nuova (close to the house where St.Francis lived as a child, of which you can still admire the front door, though it is almost falling apart).

In Assisi we stayed in a B&B named Grotta Antica. The family also runs a restaurant. An elderly lady keeps checking what happens in the kitchen and at the tables. But she leaves the actual management and serving to Daniel, who makes conversation with everyone to practice his English. The daughter of the old lady often sits behind a computer and then she clearly talks to herself. Quite a bunch! The cook clearly enjoys his work. He makes little extra’s that he serves before and in-between the meals.

In the stage on Friday we visited a small monastery where St. Francis often stayed. The monastery is built on a rock and partly carved out of the rock. It was a wonderful stage over a mountain ridge (Monte Subasio) after which we finally arrived in Spello. A lovely town with several art galeries and remarkably many restaurants. We stayed there in a convent, but we did not see any sister.

This week’s course was again very entertaining with beautiful places like Assisi, Spello, Montefalco, Spoleto and Ferentillo, all with their own unique character. Also the parts through the valleys and in the mountains are still a pleasure to walk.

On Saturday we arrived in Montefalco at a church in honour of St Clare, but it appeared to be another Clare (Clare of the Cross, from Montefalco). The body of this Clare is conserved and lies in a coffin where you can see her feet, hands and face very well, although she passer away nearly 700 years ago. By the way, her heart is conserved separately and is kept in a small place nearby.

Sunday we walked to Spoleto, again a remarkable little town. At the end of the Sunday afternoon it looked like everyone was parading in the centre and in the surrounding parks. The young parents proudly showing their child(ren) in a buggy. Groups of boys jokingly trying to get into contact with groups of girls. The busiest places are those around the many ice-cream shops. By the way, these are selling more and more yoghurt-ice and yoghurt-drinks (gelateria e yoghurteria).

Monday we slept in a agriturismo. These are farms with a B&B. In the place where we were on Monday they also kept horses and had several dogs that are used for findings truffles. They also sell fruit and several types of jelly marmelade. It was great to join in the evening the family, some friends and other italian guests at a long table for 20 people. There were several tasty starters, then we got some wonderful pasta (gnocchi). This was followed by pieces of rabbit with green beans and tomatoes and finally a piece of pie. And all these servings were offered more than once. Later part of the group went to the bar for coffee and grappa. We really enjoyed seeing how italians turned a meal with friends into a party…

This afternoon we ate our lunch somewhere in the woods when suddenly out of the blue a big black horse appeared. It stood still, as if he was studying how we responded. After some time it slowly moved into our direction. And a moment later we saw five other horses… It looked as if they were escaped and now, somewhat hesitantly, went out looking for adventure… We made space to tell them they could pass without problems. A few days before we also met some horses, but they were much more nosy and literally pushed their nose against our backpack. According to Ineke they were just cheerful, according to Albert much too intrusive.

Almost there…. (3rd of October 2012)

Last Saturday Ineke’s mother (89 years!) and Ineke’s sister Carla both celebrated their birthday.
We celebrated this in Greccio with twelve gun shots around 10.30 in the morning and later in the evening around 10 p.m. with fireworks. Earlier in the evening the statue of archangel Michael was taken out of the church and was carried in a procession through the village and was safely returned afterwards. The whole village participates in such events, so it was quite busy. Michael is the patron saint of the village and every year on 29 September his nameday is celebrated.
We had a wonderful meal that evening with Franz and Waltraud, a couple from the North of Italy, from the area where they speak German. Because they walked a number of similar stages in the same period we have spent several evenings together. Very enjoyable. Last Saturday we ate in a simple restaurant on the village square where the festivities were going on. We expected a simple meal, but again it was a feast meal. Of all the dishes there was too much and it all tasted wonderful!

Each time we are still fascinated by the view of villages in the mountains that are built against the rocks. Yesterday morning we realized well that we had slept in such a village (Calvi dell’Umbria) only when we descended the almost 600 stairs downwards to reach the valley.
It seems that the stubborn higher mountains have now been replaced with lovely landscapes and hills. It is the beginning of October and it is still really warm. Looking at nature it seems a second spring is beginning. We see crocusses blossoming and the grass is clear green.

Yesterday we came at a place where little streams came together. Because it had rained in the night, the whole road was covered with water (see photo). What to do? One possibility is to take of your walking boots and to go through the water on flip-flops or something similar.
We looked for another passage. We took off our backpacks and a little later we were crawling through some bushes looking for a route to pass the streams. We found an option to cross the water with the help of some branches. We collected our backpacks again and crossed without problems. The slope at the other side was very steep but luckily there was a tree which we used to pull ourselves up. Finally it appeared that we had to pass some barbed wire, but also that hindrance was taken. When we were finally on the right road again we saw several big plastic bags hanging to dry on some branches…. They would have been useful if they had been on the other side. Later we heard from other hikers that everyone had found their own, but different, solution. Nice puzzles.

The landlord of our overnight address yesterday regularly takes pictures of a sundown. From his balcony he has a beautiful view of an enormous valley, where he follows the sundown every day. He knows exactly how long the sun takes and when the colours change. Finally there is only a short period in which you can make beautiful pictures, although it always depends on the clouds (colour, thickness, size, etc.).
He also makes a small series of photos of his guests. At arrival, while having dinner, the next day at breakfast and when leaving he makes several pictures. He later sends them by email to his guests to remember the special stay.

A few days earlier we stayed in a b&b of a lady who also takes photos of all her guests. She keeps the pictures in a box that you can go through to see of you recognize anyone… We did not recognize a single person, but it was funny to see all the hikers and bikers in their colourful outfits.

We are only a few days from Rome… By now we have hiked more than 2800 km. We started with a clear direction, but without knowing where and how the journey would end. It looks now that we are going to make it to Rome!! We hope to arrive on Sunday morning 7th of October at the Frysian Church in Rome. Every Sunday 10.30 a mass is starting that is celebrated in Dutch. We thought that that would be a nice closure.

Then, after a few days in Rome we go by train back to the Netherlands in several steps. On Sunday the 14th of October in the course of the afternoon we hope to arrive at home, after we walked our final stage Scherpenzeel – Amersfoort (18 km), that is the reverse of the trajectory of our first day. Also that looks like a nice closure to us.
Via the blog we will let you know when we have arrived in Rome and later in Amersfoort…

Siamo arrivati! (7th of October 2012)

We have arrived in Rome!! Actually yesterday already. And we were immediately welcomed. We had hardly entered the city when a cyclist in sports clothes stopped and asked us where we came from. And then he congratulated us that we had arrived. Complimenti!

Fifteen minutes later a lady also asked where we were from and when she understood she immediately offered us something to drink.

This morning we left at 7.30 and arrived just before ten in the Church. Several people had adviced us not to walk into the centre of Rome, especially because of the traffic and the smog. We were lucky that today is a Sunday. We have enjoyed the wakening of the city, with a nice sunshine and here and there already a bar opening for some coffee.

At ten o’clock in the church a half-hour lecture started on the history of the church. The church was crowded and extra chairs were brought inside. Mass started half an hour later. Afterwards we talked to the rector of the church and he offered to write a testimony… Somewhat later, after our pilgrim passport fully filled with stamps was studied, we received an official document that confirms that we have walked from the Netherlands to Rome…

We will enjoy a few days here and try to get used to the idea that it’s over, we’ve done it… In exactly one week we hope to be back in Amersfoort. Then we will write a final blog…

Home again 2! (15th of October 2012)

Last Monday and Tuesday we were still in Rome. We prepared our return trip and visited several parks. We also visited the St. John of Lateran, the oldest church in Rome. Wednesday we travelled by train to Bolzano/Bozen. We passed by Firenze, Bologna, Verona, Rovereto and Trento. It was great to see all the landscapes again passing by and to recall the memories that came along. Thursday we went up with a cable car to Oberbozen to walk in the mountainous area nearby, like we did 24 years ago.
Thursday evening we took de train from Bolzano to Münich and from there with a night-train to Arnhem. In that night-train we had booked sleeping places. We slept in a small compartment with three little bunk beds on both sides, with a staircase at the end. We were assigned the left and right upper bed. The room between the bed and the ceiling was too small to sit, you could only lie down. Below there was no space for our backpacks, so we had to take them up… With our clothes on and a blanket on top we tried to get some sleep, which we did, at least more than we expected. When we arrived in Arnhem at a quarter to eight in the morning it was cold and wet. We decided first to get a decent breakfast. Later that day we walked to Renkum and spent a nice evening with our friends Arrie and Lex, where we also spent a night at the beginning of our trip.
Saturday we walked, partly in the rain, to Scherpenzeel, which was still a stage of almost 25 km. That evening we ate at restaurant Het Begin (the beginning) in Scherpenzeel. That was the restaurant where we also ate at our first evening, on June 7th. The owner liked this so much that we received a magnificent bush of flowers when we entered!
Yesterday we walked the remaining kilometers towards home together with Albert’s brother Noud and his wife Wilma, Ineke’s sister Carla and our friend Christine. Later also uncle Ton joined us. In a restaurant 2 km from our home we were warmly welcomed by our mothers, Ineke’s sister Marjon, Marcel, Jorian, Kirsty and Ron.
Around 5 pm we started at our last two kilometers homewards. In front of our door there were welcome cards, some beautiful bushes of flowers and a bottle of wine… We are really blessed with such neighbours, friends and family! We are happy and grateful for all the warmth and appreciation. We also want to thank the readers of this blog. We have enjoyed all the enthusiastic responses via the blog and via email.

In the coming period we will still thank quite a lot of people for their support during the prepartion and also later during our trip. Without that help we would not have accomplished the trip and it would certainly not have gone so smoothly as it all went now. It will take some time before we really will have “landed”, but we still have some good time to do so. Pictures and other information about our journey will, some time later, be made accessible on a website.

Finally. In total we have walked from home to Rome 2937 kilometer. If we would have selected the shortest it would have been around 1800 km. We have chosen to pass through beautiful nature reserves, like the Niederrhein, the Eifel, the Hünsrück, the Odenwald, the Taubertal, the Romantic Road, the Via Claudia Augusta that brought us through Süd Tirol and later we crossed the Apenines on the Via degli Dei en finally the Franciscan footpath along Assisi, Rieti and Greccio. Because of that choice we have walked more and especially we climbed and descended more, but we feel that we enjoyed endlessly the beautiful landscapes and great panorama’s. In case there are people who are also consider a somewhat longer hike of bike journey we have got only one piece of advice: just do it!
Stay well!