Day 1 – The journey begins!
„Early three o’clock I stole myself from Karlsbad, because otherwise I would not have been let go. The society, which liked to celebrate the twenty-eighth of August, my birthday, in a very friendly way, probably acquired the right to hold me by doing so. I threw myself all alone, grabbing only a coat bag and badgers‘ satchels, into a post-chaise and arrived at half past seven in the morning at Zwota, on a beautiful quiet morning of fog. The good sign seemed to me. I hoped to enjoy a good autumn after a bad summer.“
– Goethe, 3 September 1786
05:18 a.m., Erzingen – Zurich
So my adventure starts in a train of the Swiss Federal Railways. Underestimating the already mild temperatures, a light sweat film had already settled on my forehead when I walked from home to the nearby station, whereupon I stowed my Ziphoodie again.
A short night this morning awakened me with the certainty of being struck by tiredness at noon. A mixture of today’s dream images, the scene of awakening, anxiety, anticipation and unfounded worry left me only about two hours of „sleep“. The morning farewell from my mother was one-sided and emotional. My younger brother’s face also suggested that everyone around me seemed more nervous than I was.
All my nervousness, which had previously expressed itself only in brief episodes, was discharged last night in a final bang, which today makes me overtired, but lets cool minds flee from native climes.
What my spiritual ancestor still needed five days for around 1780, I now cover in less than eight hours. Modern times are truly characterized by fast-paced life.
06:33 a.m., Zurich
Our bright fixed star now stands in the sky and illuminates a white speckled blue. Summery feelings have me firmly under control, while Zurich radiates an atmosphere of eternal autumn. At least the station.
Railway stations generally have something repulsive about them. Metal, tangle, concrete, pigeons, dirt, stress and noise. Nevertheless, they are my gates from place to place. I ride the steel horse on fixed tracks until it’s time to change saddles. After two shorter rides, a longer stage to Innsbruck is on the agenda. My first visit there.
Now I race towards Austria. Before me sits an Indian family and beside me a Chinese trio. For Goethe it was still national borders that were decisive for meeting native speakers of other nations. Very few could travel. And not everyone who could took these strains upon themselves. Today, a modern person defines himself to a large extent by how many national borders he has already crossed. The fact that problem-free travel is possible for many people today is beautiful. However, everything has its downside.
On my right, the blue expanse of Lake Zurich stretches out. A foretaste of what awaits me in this warm country.
08:35 a.m., Bludenz.
Surrounded by wooded hills, a carpet of clouds has loosely covered us in the meantime. Grey and green alternate wildly here, while lost clouds hang here and there on mountain ridges. I use this stage to add everyday things to my Italian vocabulary. After all, my study of the Italian language should be pursued with zeal from the very first day on.
09:18 a.m., St. Anton
The cloud cover increasingly loosens up and the sun bathes the picturesque landscape in a clear light. Mountain, hills, valleys, trees and in between little houses and huts of the residents, who cuddle up like ants.
The short blackness, when we drive through a tunnel, resembles a scene change of a play. With each scene the area becomes more alpine, the mountains steeper, the view deeper. Dense, almost urban settlements alternate with areas that are loosely covered with wooden huts. Rivers and roads bore through stone, houses hide everywhere on hills, behind trees and rocks.
09:45 a.m., Ötztal
Always accompanied by an ice-blue river, the trend continues from the ever steeper mountain massif. The loose cloud carpet holds itself constantly. In a few minutes we reach the next stage: Innsbruck. There I have about one hour. Maybe it will be enough to take a quick look at the city, which is supposed to be very beautiful.
10:40 a.m., Innsbruck
A short walk away from the station was enough to show me that nineteen kilograms on my back make a short detour impossible. After a few hundred meters I had to readjust the straps of my backpack. Nevertheless, I went round aimlessly in order to slowly get used to the weight. Now I wait at the station for the next stage.
11:30 a.m., Innsbruck – Bolzano
My natural feeling for error potential and my healthy distrust saved me from the first big faux pas of the still young journey. According to my mobile phone ticket, the train in which I am now sitting safe and sound is leading from track 2. So I sat, struggling with growing tiredness, at the platform which I just mentioned.
Still ten minutes until departure, no trace of the other passengers and the scoreboard: blue. In order not to fall asleep while sitting and because of the described emptiness, I used the remaining time to consult the electronic departure display. It should be noted that there was never a track on the printed timetables, which had previously caused confusion.
Anyway, it turned out that I had been waiting on the wrong track. The departure platform was finally track 7. Praising myself for my paranoia, I shuffled that platform where passengers were already waiting for me. Now it goes over the Brenner to Bozen. Green meets high above on blue, white lined by clouds on the other side.
Goethe gave various considerations on how mountains, clouds and weather are connected. Now I am not a meteorologist, but he was not completely wrong. Mountains play a role. However, his theory that mountains have a fluctuating attraction is a little off, albeit creative.
With large windows on both sides we now walk on iron wheels over forest and meadow, mountain and valley. By „we“ I always mean me and the other passengers in this train. In contrast to my predecessor, I make faster progress, but share my carriage with numerous fellow passengers.
This iron carriage also has these small sections in the wagons where conversation with strangers is almost inevitable. Practically, I sit alone, so I can relax in my thoughts.
12:48 p.m. Innsbruck – Bolzano
Now sleep has overpowered me. So far I have spent the ride dozing. A delay of a counter train forces us to an unscheduled stay. So we are standing in a station which I cannot assign.
Bolzano directly in front of us, I am still late in the end. But I already announced this in a message to the staff in the hostel. What is a train journey without delay? As a customer of „Deutsche Bahn“, arriving on time seems to me like a paranormal activity and a dimensional leap in one. The good? After all, I can’t miss a connecting train.
Like dear Goethe, I now strongly hear the bilingualism of South Tyrol. Signs are bilingual and Italian singing sounds from a train compartment. The conductor, brown-fired and with his grey-black bald head combed back, gesticulates wildly, the people generally have a southern appearance. This entanglement of Austrian and Italian in language and people is a real joy to me.
We have just received the announcement that we are waiting for the train driver who is sitting in a delayed train. So a delay in the hostel is inevitable. I can only hope that my reservation will not expire.
1:27 p.m., Brenner.
The journey continues. I should be in the hostel in thirty-three minutes. The first test of my travel happiness. The loud dialogue, which echoes through the corridor in lively Italian, shows me again: if someone should speak Italian too fast, I absolutely have to slow this person down, because otherwise I understand very little.
Goethe the old genius knew Italian fluently even before his arrival in Tyrol. My first contact with my fatherland makes me painfully aware of what a shamefully lazy student I am. Be it as it is. Even cold water is only water and so I pinch my cheeks together and disappear.
The loudspeaker announcement in Italian now marks the language border for me. As far as I have understood correctly, and I hope I am wrong, we have a delay of 70 minutes. So I can talk of luck if my bed is still there.
„Now I finally saw the valley in which Bolzano lies, in high sunshine, after driving north again for a while. Surrounded by steep mountains, which are cultivated up to a considerable height, it is open towards noon, covered by the Tyrolean mountains towards the north. A mild, gentle air filled the area. Here the Adige turns again around noon. The hills at the foot of the mountains are cultivated with wine. The vines are grown over long, low arbours, the blue grapes even hang gracefully from the ceiling and ripen in the warmth of the nearby soil.“
– Goethe, Trento, 11 September 1786, early.
05:20 p.m., Bolzano
It’s a beautiful city. Since my arrival, I have been on the road almost continuously in the city centre and the periphery in order to get an idea of the conditions. The city looks like a miniature version of a thoroughly Italian city.
Bilingualism is on the one hand always a surprise, on the other hand simply wonderful. And the women… Italian and Austrian beauty mix here, in a southern climate and a scenery as in the heart of Italy. It may be due to my mood, but even the less beautiful women here seem anything but unsightly to me, beyond that they seem to be the exception.
But one after the other: my arrival at the hostel went smoothly despite the delay. The accommodation is more than I expected, which makes the price fair again. The nice girl at the reception gave me the golden tip for the Batzenbräu Brauhaus, where I am at that moment.
The wheat beer is excellent. The beer is brewed in this inn. Also the food should be good, of which I will convince myself shortly. A constant smell of fermented hops plays around my nostrils, which gradually ignites my hitherto unnoticed hunger.
The inner courtyard of Batzenbräus is a welcome shady place, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, although nothing is really far apart here. I am curious to see if my extended walk has already provoked the first sunburn on my cheeks.
This is the english translation of the article:
Italienische Reise – Teil 2
by Marco Lo Voi