The last day pretty much consisted of walking endlessly along the streets of Rome. The main street to be correct. There were only fifteen kilometres left but it felt like a lifetime. I didn’t actually take photos because I was trying not to be run over by cars and to not get lost. Apparently, within the district of Rome, the destination of this pilgrimage, the eternal holy city, there are no signs for pilgrims anymore. Well, there are some, every once in a while. Very helpful. You got to fight your own way through the urban jungle. Which we did, not without getting separated though. At Monte Mario, a nature reserve, i.e. park, we find each other again and enjoy a final break with the first view onto Rome.
The internet is being stupid, so I cannot upload more photos. I’ll do so tomorrow morning.
Anyway, when we are finally reaching St. Peter’s Square, it starts raining. What craziness. It’s like the perfect welcome to the end of a long journey. We can’t help but to laugh. We make our way around the square passing the dome, to find the Swiss guards shielding the Vatican from stupid tourists and other evil. We are allowed to pass, having to leave our knifes with a police officer. Inside, where hardly any tourist gets, we receive our credentials. They are beautiful. The whole things is totally incredible. They even want to take a photo of us inside the walls in front of the building. Must remember to check the Vatican website… Then about thirty cardinals make their way out of the Vatican, taking selfies on their smart phones and photos of us. Therefore we dare to ask some of them for a picture with is too. As I said, all of this was so surreal. Totally awesome, no question. But… Did this really happen? To me? It’s unimaginable! Unthinkable! Unbelievable! I’m sure it will take a while for this to settle and to reach a certain level of reality in my mind. I did it! I walked to Rome. I loved it, I hated it, I was full of joy, in so much pain, in high spirit and ready to give up so many times. Like a roller coaster, up and down and all around. And somehow, during this ride, I reached my destination.
This is a great and an important experience. You learn so much about yourself, about the strength within you that you never knew of. In everyday life, not many times are you challenged to grow above yourself. Here, you do so every day. You can’t walk on when you reach your bed in the evening. Yet, every morning, you get out of this, more or less comfortable, bed and put on your shoes. Your pack your bag and start walking. Again. And again.
Thinking about walking 1200 kilometres, it seems impossible. But you need to learn to only look at today’s goal, the very thing right now. If all you do is live the moment, you can reach every destination, every goal. And, for myself, I learned that it’s ok not to succeed. I want to, don’t get me wrong. But I have come to allow myself to try without having to be successful. Which actually helps, because it does take away some of your fear. And once you’re on the road, you basically keep running anyway. Of you don’t make it to the destination, well, try again, if you think you can do it afterall. Or do something else, if you’re willing to accept that this simply wasn’t meant for you. In my opinion, both options are valid.
This time, I did it. But I had a second motif to succeed! As you know, I walked to Rome in order to raise money for humanitarian aid in the near east, where people, at the moment, do not have the choice of doing something else if life doesn’t ease them. I took you with me on this journey to share my joy and my pain. Taking this hardship onto myself is all I could do at the moment. If you think this is worth something, it would be absolutely fabulous if you could donate some money for my cause. If you don’t have much, give one cent per kilometre. That adds up to 12 euros. If you can spare a little more, feel free to do so. Check the “How to donate” tab for more information. If you need a tax receipt, feel free to contact me (in advance!).
Thank you all for being part of my journey, for listening to my short stories, my joyful expressions and my whiny complaints. Thank you for walking with me and giving me strength. We all need support from others every once in a while.
Love from Rome,
We are now in one of the suburbs of Rome. Yes, I nearly made it! 15 kilometres left. Tomorrow I will finally reach my destination. I cannot actually believe this. Despite the imagined impossibility, I’m so glad that finally I can stop walking. My body aches in so many places, I don’t even know how to describe it anymore. And still, there is a part of me that’s kind of sad that this journey will be over tomorrow. It’s so simple if all you have to do is get up in the morning and walk. Then find a place to sleep and food. Take a shower… However, I’m really glad to finish too. And I’m looking forward to spend some time in Rome.
Today was the last day walking in a natural landscape. And it was so very beautiful. We finished with a supermarket dinner which we had in the gardens of the convent we’re staying at. It’s a nice, quiet and calming place.
What a beautiful day. Alina, Jesper and I start walking in the fog once again. I refrained from taking more of the same pictures. We made the first ten kilometres to the next town without a break having a nice conversation and some peaceful silence. After a warm tea and some food, we do another ten kilometres until we reach Bolsena. I loved walking today. It was a beautiful walk and I was very happy again. Also, the black clouds were in front of us and Alina and I wanted to reach Bolsena before the rain started to not get wet again today. And we did. Standing in front of the doors to the parrocchia the water starts falling. We just make it inside. When the sun comes out again, Alina and I go for a swim. Afterwards I climb back up to the castle and go to the beach once more. This city is truly beautiful. What wonderful day, to be finished with a massive Italian pizza with Markus and his father who has joined the walk in Radicofani. Perfect.
Yesterday the boys and I started early to go to Monteriggioni which is an old village up a hill and then walk for ages, coming by a pretty cattle and stopping at a rest place for pilgrims to get to Siena, a very beautiful city along the way. The walk was long but doable. As I said, I’m kind of getting bored with the walking. I have to admit though, that the landscape is beautiful!
We manage to do 14k before the first break which then last for over an hour. It’s ten o’clock by then. When we continue walking, the sun has come out and it’s boiling hot. The landscape is beautiful, no doubt, but I do reach my pain limit and find myself wanting to simply lie down in the shade and never get back up again. I keep walking however. Why? I guess it’s just common sense, knowing that you have to reach that place where you can shower, eat and sleep. Eventually we separate because everyone has their own speed. And after only three minutes of a stop I set out to do the last rice kilometres of today. When the sign appears saying that there are only two left it saves my life. I can’t begin to explain how tough tidal was for me. Maybe it’s just a mental thing, but u really didn’t want to move anymore. I did, none the less, and I ended up in this really beautiful place, where they provide you with everything you need, including food. That’s the thing. I suffer. And I hate it. And then I get to a place unknown that really blows my head of, and everything is forgotten. I’m happy again. And I know, somehow, I’ll survive another long day like this tomorrow.
Halfway! I seriously cannot believe that I managed to walk half of the kilometres to Rome. I am very happy to have done so indeed, because it is an encouragement that is needed. Today I couldn’t help but be tired of walking. Nearly four weeks on the road, walking with my backpack and sticks every single day, it gets boring. I mean, seeing new things everyday, staying in a different place every night really is amazing. It’s simply the fact that I’m continuously doing this, especially the walking part, that bores me a little bit. I’m good though.
Günter is leaving us tomorrow morning to go back home and continue his walk next year to finish in Rome. He will be missed! We had so much fun together… Jesper and I are emotionally preparing for the hills (I was told they are no mountains at and altitude of 1200m…) just ahead of us. It’s going to take three days to get through. I hope I’ll make it. My heel was ok today. My shoulder made it too. They are both painful but in an endurable way.
This morning we had a great breakfast then walked uphill for the first time in a week, and passed some locked gates in the middle of nowhere.
After yesterday’s dinner and a cosy big bed my day was good again. I’m very grateful to the lady at the hotel’s reception. Amazing to meet great people.
They even take us to Fidenza the next village on the way in the morning so that we don’t have to walk the same way twice. Fidenza has a pilgrim’s office where I got a current list of accommodation and a new credential. There is also a very impressive, guess what, dome.
We go for a coffee and meet Jesper, a guy from Switzerland who has started walking a few days ago in Piacenza and is also headed to Rome. It’s his birthday today. He’s 27 now. We decide that there isn’t more to see in Fidenza and keep walking. On the way, you’re allowed to laugh, I trip over my shoelaces and fall kind of onto my backpack. My shoulder is stuck in it somehow and dislocates half way. It dies pop back in, but hurts badly. Nice old ladies come by and bring ice and arnica. We take a break. My knee is scratched too. But then I manage to put the backpack back onto my shoulder…
Afterwards we hang out at the one trattoria in the village. Lo Scoiattolo, the squirrel. We have coffee and birthday-cake, which we don’t have to pay for, and then dinner later on. The owner also offers a round of Nocino, a liquor made from nuts with cinnamon and sugar, that’s typical for the region. Great! Sweet! Sharp!
It’s been a fun day although my shoulder is still hurting and I can’t lift my arm properly. But – my feet didn’t hurt today. Think positive.
Vivere militare est. Living means fighting, as my friend’s tattoo says so nicely. Tell me about it!
We have a very good breakfast at the parrochia in Montale and decide to call the location for tonight before setting off so we don’t have to go searching for keys again. The person from the abbey in Chiaravalle is particularly unfriendly saying she doesn’t have any beds tonight. They have six. We doubt that there are so many pilgrims in one place, but what can we do. We try to rearrange our walking schedule and call the parrochia in Fiorenzuola, the village before that. They are fully booked. Seriously? At the original destination, the palace that had once belonged to the abbey has been turned into a great hotel. After having the wrong number we finally find a phone number to make a reservation. It isn’t cheap, but we’re happy to have a bed. So we start our walking along the street. Today, we pick less comfortable but a little shorter route because we have pity on my feet. Which is a good choice! Because in Roveleto we find this gem: an absolutely gorgeous church!
I feel inspired by all this beauty in so many ways. My thoughts are upside down and I am so very happy. We walk on to Fiorenzuola and after a little while my feet start aching badly. It’s like someone’s poking swords into them. First the foot, then the heel. And then that sharp pain goes into the shin. Lovely. I make it to Fiorenzuola and we take a little break. Six more kilometres to today’s goal. They are long. I can’t help but to think that I will get to stay in a great palace when I have never felt less like a princess. Finally, we arrive. The hotel is closed. Has been for two years. Who the hell did we call this morning? We try our luck to see if the abbey will let us in after all, since we’re pilgrims and they are the church and all that. We encounter one of the monks while trying to make our way through cars and tables that are being set up. Apparently they are having a party tonight so they aren’t taking any pilgrims. (We knew there weren’t six pilgrims in one place at a time!!!) Ok. But, since we’re here now, isn’t there a way to give us two of those empty beds? There isn’t! Seriously!!!! I get so very freaking angry! They are having a party so I don’t get a bed? How is that Christian??? Well, we should have called is the monks answer. Grrrrr! It would have been Christian to let us in and invite us to their stupid party! That’s what I think!
We call the hotel again to understand the confusion. They used to have two hotels, one of them the one that’s now closed. This one is quite a bit back where we came from. But they will pick us up! For free! To help out!!!
I can’t fight the urge so I make my way into the abbey to find that holy m*f* to tell him what I think. Not because I need to get it out, but because I think someone should tell them that their behaviour is everything but what they pretend to be. After going through a thousand doors, I find him. I cry, because when the adrenalin of my anger kicks in, that’s what I do. And I tell him, in English, which he understands, that this is not Christian and that he of all people should be helping out those in need. He says, I should have called. I try to explain that that’s not the point. But he just waves me off and turns away. I’m not sure if he thinks I’m crazy or if he just doesn’t give a sh*! Well, I have made my point! These open doors are closed to us it turns out. I’m so very disappointed in the church once more.
In the meanwhile the shuttle of the hotel has arrived and a very nice guy picks us up. It turns out the hotel is back in Roveleto, the place with that beautiful church. It makes me happy. Seems like it brought me some luck. I have now taken a bath, yes, in a bathtub. I feel relaxed while still unable to believe. Should it be that as a result of my pilgrimage to Rome I will leave the church?
I want to point out at this point, that I have encountered so many friendly, helpful, loving and caring people in Italy who make me love this country a lot and show me that true Christianity, the kind that is based on Jesus’ ethic of love, still exists in the streets. And I’m happy to know. There have also been nice parrochias providing well for pilgrims (like the one last night). But apparently not every church person feels that life is about giving. “Do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind.
Today life was a battlefield. I’m glad to say, I made it through and came out on the happy side again. Stay strong! Keep smiling!
It’s my birthday today. I’m now twenty nine years old. Still not thirty, that is. So all day, that’s what I celebrated. Firstly by walking via streets and paths along railroad tracks to Miraldo Terme, which we shouldn’t have passed. Again, like so many times before the track has been changed and poor little pilgrims have to walk extra kilomtres. That’s already annoying in general. Today, however, it’s even more so, because we left late (since I had to check my birthday messages) and don’t have much time to be at the river Po at noon to catch the ferry. We do believe that the guy will wait some minutes for us though. So we make our way through bushes and fields, including a fair amount of churches, along a beautiful castle (which I decide to move into) in Chignolo Po, and finally onto a dam. The whole path there has been newly built especially for pilgrims. It looks amazing.
We are twenty minutes late and he, the private person who offers this service, didn’t wait for us afterall. Eventually we manage to reach him via phone and he tells us he’ll be there at 4pm. It’s 12.30…. So we wait…
He finally picks us up with his friends on board. It’s not a ferry btw but a small ship that races across the river to the other side in about five minutes. I mean seriously, he couldn’t fit that in at 1pm? Anyway, I read a book while waiting so never mind. We arrive to something like a party and are offered beer and also cake when they hear it’s my birthday. We get the stamp and move on.
The restaurant for the second stamp of today turns out to be the same thing. Shame. I’m a little disappointed. Hours of waiting, no real ferry and just one stamp so far…
We walk on past tomato fields to Calendasco.
The hostel doesn’t seem to be what we thought it was either the room is VERY basic and the English dude doesn’t seem too nice. More African refugees here btw. It’s so strange how you hear in the news that they are in Italy but only realise they really are when you get here and see them. I hope they’ll be well. We try to find a place to eat but everything is closed. Well. It’s Monday. I should have known. A guy we ask offers to drive us to a trattoria and the menu is amazing. We have too much food and too much wine. We then walk the 1.5 kilometres back to Calendasco. We try to hitch but no one stops. Instead they turn on their brights and speed up. Great.
We return to our hostel. Enea the English (son of the) owner has done our laundry, with a mashine, it smells so nice and clean. But it isn’t dry so he offers us a beer while waiting. He drinks with us. After learning it’s my birthday he decides it’s necessary to drink more. He even brings out tiramisu as my birthday cake. So we keep on drinking beer after beer. Apparently they have to take in the refugees. It’s their second round and this time it’s much better. One of the former refugees is now his kitchen aid. Enea says he’s a good guy. I think he made the tiramisu. Well done. Thanks!
Finally we have to go to bed. Taking our fresh clothes with us. I’m happy. It’s been a great birthday on the road. Thank you Günter and Enea. Tonight was awesome. All the best to all of you too.
My feet are in a lot of pain by the way. The tendons are blue and swollen. Not a good sign if you ask me.
Today’s journey went mostly via streets through many little villages with all bars closed since it’s Sunday. I don’t get it. Shouldn’t all the bars be open on Sundays because there’s nothing else to do? Anyway. So we walked out of beautiful Pavia (so sorry to leave…) and basically followed road after road, having little breaks and finally finding a bar in Borgioioso, which is 17 of today’s 27 kilometres. We get tired to be honest. I don’t get these people walking a minimum of 30km per day. It’s too much! For me at least. (Not meaning to be disrespectful!) So after 17 kilometres we’re tired and just keep walking on. Once more we are being eaten alive by the mosquitoes and stop at a nice fountain for a second coke just before we arrive at today’s goal. That’s another thing. Usually I never drink coke or any other kind of sugary water. Here, every day, it’s nearly essential. Maybe due to all the walking I need the sugar. But a cold coke on the way feels like heaven. (Dear Coca cola, you should sponsor me for this ad!) After another short walk we arrive in Santa Cristina. The Oratorio is fine although the showers are cold. Very glad I’ve been walking through the heat all day… We meet a Canadian couple from Quebec and have a beer and then dinner together. I get to practice my French again and even manage to communicate with that very own accent. The evening is good although the food doesn’t fulfil it’s usual Italian standard. (Maybe we shouldn’t have gone to a restaurant owned by Chinese people, being in Italy and all. But since it’s Sunday and the village is tiny, everything else is closed.) I’m tipsy after half a litre of beer and a quarter litre of bad wine. So off to bed it is. It’s my birthday tomorrow. I’m turning 29. But I guess I won’t make it to midnight… I get to be on a cool ferry tomorrow though and get to collect three amazing stamps instead of one. Yes, life of a pilgrim is very modest. I’m looking forward to my birthday on the road tomorrow. Sleep well.
My dear friends, I’m in love! With Italy, its people, its food and especially Pavia. But I’ll start with last night…
We had dinner at a hotel because everything else was closed due to the bank holiday. That hotel took in about ten refugees from different African countries. And although the food wasn’t amazing, I was amazed by the owner doing this. I couldn’t concentrate on our conversations much because I couldn’t but think what it would be like, if the situation in your home country was so bad you had to flee, risking your life, leaving behind your friends and family. And then you’re in a country who’s language you don’t speak, waiting for a permission to work when there aren’t many jobs anyway. No, I can’t possibly imagine this. But I felt that I really wanted to help. This fundraiser, raising money for people in the Middle East by taking the chore upon me to walk over 1000km, is something. I’m sure that more can be done. But for me, it’s a start. And I am very much looking forward to doing my masters degree I peace studies, commencing in October. I know, for once, I have found my way, my purpose in life.
The next morning we went to the hotel again for breakfast and I started talking to a young guy from Nigeria who’d like to come live in Germany if he can. I gave him my contact details and promised to help if I could. For him, just getting my number, he said, gave him hope again. I think, having that hope, he already made a big step. And I’m glad I could be of help with this.
Off we went on a long trip along the street. Jean-Luc is far ahead of us in no time. There is a path along the river, but apparently quite a few criminals operate in that area so you’re adviced to take the road instead. We do.
A while later we arrive in Pavia. We’re staying in the parrocchia di Santa Maria in Betlem. It’s all newly renovated, clean, light and totally amazing. We are being met in early again and are ready to go explore the town by 1.30pm.
Most of all, I liked the university. It was founded in 1361. I got a thing for old universities. They feel like places with this amazing energy of the accumulated knowledge throughout centuries before us. For me, I have the impression that I can go in there and soak in this knowledge. I need to even. There is so much to know in the works, I could study forever. And I guess, in a way, it’s what life is about anyway. Lifelong learning. This uni feels special to me. I have a hard time leaving after walking through nearly every corridor and want to come back one day. Who knows…
After having seen nearly all of the town, we run into Jean-Luc and meet with him again for dinner. Penne allo scoglio. Yummy! Another perfect day in pilgrim land.
(Achilles’ tendons are still bad, but who wants to complain after a day like that!)