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Venice: Elegant Decay

Venice is and has been falling apart. The food and wine in our price range was average at best, but decay makes more interesting photos! St Mark’s Square is amazing, made more so by the three ensembles playing music. They were great but seating nearby is reserved for restaurant patrons with higher budgets. The view from the tower was probably worth the price of admission. We were up top for a bit of very loud bell ringing. We spent a lot of time on these boats. Our guide, Tyler, has made many trips here. Michelle and I just followed.

We toured a church with an “art installation” which was hard to reconcile with the huge canvases by Tintoretto. (I don’t have any photos of his or other canvasses because lighting wasn’t good enough.) Tintoretto paintings are found in many of the churches in Venice. There is a restaurant/bar every few feet. This restaurant was fun partly because the manager is crazy. Scary crazy. W avoided eye contact. But that made it memorable. I’d rather say the food made it memorable. We had excellent Italian food in the villages back up the trail, though. This is a flat floor in a church. Clever!The view from our hostel rooftop. Venice keeps to just a few colors, and these are predominant. Murano, famous for its glass artistry, has a wider range of colors. Burano, not pictured, has lots of brightly colored houses. And hordes of tourists. This is not me, but we kayaked the canals one evening. Pretty cool way to experience Venice, good young tour guide. Did not take a gondola ride. I’m glad I spent time in Venice, and Tyler was a fantastic guide. It may be a once in a lifetime experience for me as there are so many other places I want to go. Our hostel was €100 each for the three nights, so it is affordable. If you don’t mind the bathroom down the hall and no air conditioning!

Italy from 6 feet up at 3 MPH.

I’ve spent two weeks walking in Italy. We have yet to meet an American, and most of the tourists seem to be Italian. So what did we find at 3 mph and six feet up?We found magnificent churches with tall slender bell towers. We can see these a long way off, and the trail invariably takes you to each, We found surprising art, like this old painting of Saint Margarita. She was born in 1247 and is (among other things) the patron saint of single mothers. The church caretaker told me her name, but Wikipedia told me the rest. We found mile after mile of trail and road atop dikes by rivers and canals, where we looked down on wheat and corn and vineyards and houses and back yards.We found the place where Ernest Hemingway was wounded in 1918 as a Red Cross worker in WW I. We found fruit and cheese and bread for trailside lunches at street markets. Sometimes we eat lunch in restaurants but only at the end of a day’s hike. We found that bicycles are everyday transportation. We found Cabernet Franc, which seems to be their favorite vino rosso (and is usually €7.50 a bottle). We found a winery with massive stainless steel fermenting tanks. It is was surprising; I’m used to the small hill country wineries.

We found the Adriatic Sea and an 11 mile long beach of yellow sand with tens of thousands of umbrellas. We found regular people.

We found mile after mile of flat reclaimed swamp land in agricultural production. As scenery goes, it’s boring. Next we explore Venice.

Peregrinating Italy

We spend our days walking the countryside- this was swampland drained by canals a hundred years ago. Much of the trail is atop dikes. At this spot there was a shrine to Mary at the intersection of three roads. Giuseppe Ciganna prayed the rosary there every day for 20 years. In 1510 Mary appeared to him there and told him to build a church there. This basilica is the result. This is clearly a tourist town. As we worked our way downtown one glass of vino rosso at a time we noticed it got progressively more expensive. But scenic We met this local couple and their son on the way. This was the last day of school. Today we will be walking through fields of wheat again. This is ready for harvest, most is still green. Grapes are forming on vines, corn is knee-high.Venice in three days.

Peregrinating Italy: The Food

We have been eating well in Italy. Breakfast in the lodging, lunch trailside, dinner in a restaurant. Pasta with shrimp, mussels, and clams. Watermelon at a vegetable market My favorite wine so far is Refosco, a red. Wine before dinner

Pasta primadoro is my favorite. Quite simple, a tomato sauce.

Pizza is really good here- scratch crust hand made baked in a wood fired oven. Cherries along the trail – out in the middle of nowhere and apparently not harvested. Very tasty. We pick up cheese, fruit, and bread for lunch at village markets. We have decided that “fresh” is one reason the food is so good. Lemon gelato. I don’t often eat desserts, but when I’m walking all day I need the calories.

Gelato is a daily treat. €1.3 each (about $1.50). Beer. That goes without saying. Then bed by sunset. Breakfast is at 6:30.

Peregrinating In Italy: Eat Dessert First

We seem to be running into gelato shops mid-morning. The Via Postumia started in front of our hostel in Aquileia and makes its way out of town through the excavation of the port from the 1st century. The most interesting part of the trail today was along a riverbank. The grass was sometimes taller than me and the only trail was some beaten down grass showing that a person had recently walked here. About 1km. We walked back through the town we had gotten off the train in yesterday. This is only a few kilometers from the coast. We finally got out of towns for a quiet walk in the country. We walked 10-12 miles today, will do same tomorrow. I am still getting up to speed. My feet are tired but I don’t have the heel pain.

We are staying at a fabulous BnB tonight and our host is a pilot- Italian Army helicopters then civil. Very nice space, very nice couple. No hostels around here, but it is still only about €20 each. This is the washing area.

I have been reading this book by Richard Rohr on my journey. I started a spiritual transformation 20 years ago in prison as a volunteer with Kairos Prison Ministry International, which I still am. This extraordinary book fits perfectly into my path, toward growth as a loving person. From today: “God has worked anonymously since the very beginning—it has always been an inside and secret sort of job. The Spirit seems to work best underground. When aboveground, humans start fighting about it.”

Peregrinating In Italy

We decided not to walk the second week of the European Peace Walk and took a bus to Trieste, Italy. Our hostel is along the coast headed out of the city.

We visited this Slovenian park yesterday, walking the four mile round trip from our hostel in Bled.

We had already walked the 4 mile circumference of Lake Bled and climbed up to this castle. So we aren’t slackers. We found this fabulous church on our way back to Bled. The steeple is a stunning dark red, but it was difficult to get a photo. The painting over the altar is John baptizing Jesus. We met two guys who caught this huge carp in the lake. It must weigh between 50-100 pounds. With the gear they had, this was what they were fishing for. The weather was rainy all of our time in Slovenia and we are moving to the better forecast for Italy. Tomorrow we start a walk across northern Italy called Via Postumia, a recently revived Camino trail. We were excited to find a Camino marker! This shell actually marks Via Flavia, which connects with our trail. This Camino is in its infancy and it requires more planning as we go. We have found the next two nights lodging at €20 each per night.

We are aiming for Venice.

Slack packing in Slovenia

Walked 12 miles in the rain. We are still in Croatia but will be in Slovenia tomorrow and I liked the title. Our packs went by hired car with two not-walking Peace Walkers. My left foot plantar fasciitis went away but it started on my right. When I got up Sunday I knew I couldn’t walk. I asked for a ride to the next place and the owners son Nevin was tagged with the job. They all insisted on coffee first and it turned out that Nevin earns a PhD in physical therapy in the fall. He explained the treatment, the stretches, the use of a therapy ball, all in great detail. The next morning I was far better. Today we walked from 7:00 am to 1:30 pm to reach the bail-out point at the Holy Mary Pub, 20 km down the trail. We had walked up and down roads and through waist-high grass up and down hills in steady rain. We ended up drinking beer with a bunch of local guys while we waited for a ride. Pan is a local lager I really like. Communication is difficult but beer is a universal language. Now we are staying in a 450 year old house with a grand piano in the sleeping room. Dinner was fabulous! We ate it all.

This country is quite beautiful and rural. The language is incomprehensible to us but the people are great.

Napping in Croatia.

We took a nap this afternoon on the trail. Very nice! We stopped at a grocery store which sells beer, the village people were drinking beer on the steps and tractors parked nearby and so on. They bought us round two! I’m on mineral water at present instead of beer. And working hard at staying hydrated. It would have been a great photo but I didn’t get it. These farmers were planting celery.

A lot of the walking was on this road. And, a lot was like this. Tonight we are in this nice space: €15 plus €10 for dinner. I was sick last night and don’t have much of an appetite, so I just sampled. It was great! Tomorrow is Krapina, a hard day’s walk. Only three days down and I have already had many amazing experiences. My traveling companions are fabulous. Two weeks to Trieste!

Lost in Slovenia

I started the European Peace Walk this morning from Lenti, Hungary. Within a couple of hours we were lost. The trail guide can be difficult and doesn’t always match up with the red arrows, when there are arrows. A sit-down packs-off confab with the guide,, and a compass resolved it and we got back on track. (Note: we also got lost in Hungary and Croatia.)

The night before we bathed in the thermal baths and had a fabulous dinner. Then breakfast at the classy, small, friendly Hotel Denis in Lintl got us off to a good start.

My companions are Tyler (Eugene Oregon) and Michelle (Calgary Alberta). We all met on the Le Puy Camino in France last fall.

We had this traditional Slovenian fry bread for lunch with a glass of local Chardonnay. The bread is topped with garlic &butter and pumpkin oil & cheese. I got a history lesson from the cookWe walked right along the Hungarian/Slovenian border. The scenery was continuously beautiful.

Go Big or Go Home

I’ve started training for my next walk – here’s the plan: Fly to Vienna on May 18, then start the European Peace Walk at Lindl, Hungary (south of Budapest) on the 22nd. It is about 2 weeks, 330 kilometers, and ends in Trieste on the Mediterranean coast of Italy. Then walk to Venice, about another week. I’m doing this part with trail friends I met in Portugal and France last year. And I’ll make new trail friends.

Then, fly to the port city of A Coruna in northwestern Spain, and walk the Camino Ingles, the traditional route for English pilgrims to get to Santiago de Compostella.  That walk is only 3-5 days (depending on the route I take).  Then meet up with Kay and walk the Santiago -Muxia – Finisterre camino triangle, another week or more. Kay will have just completed the Camino Francais, solo (800 kilometers).

My friend Patricia leaves tomorrow for St Jean Pied de Port in southern France to start her Camino Francais walk, 800 kilometers to Santiago. I have helped her understand the process, make the plans, and provided encouragement; the motivation is all hers.

Patricia is 81 years old and plenty capable of the walk. My only real concern was in her actually getting to St Jean; once there, she will be in the “Camino pipeline.” I’ve convinced her that sometimes she might take a bus or a taxi and that she will always be willing to ask for help when needed. My old navigator from 40 years ago, Tom (California), is starting today from St Jean. One of my friends from Air Force pilot training 45 years ago will be walking it with his wife in a few months.

From the excellent story, “Ego Trip, 40 Days and 40 Nights on the Camino de Santiago” by Paul Granaghan:

I had no doubt when I decided to leave my job: time really is short when compared to death, and once gone it will not come back. You can spend money, waste it, you can give it away; yet there is always the possibility of getting it back again, by fair means or foul. But time is a one way system; it radiates from you like body heat, taking with it your youth, your ambition, your stamina, your courage, and for some it will take with it your mind, your memories, and your dignity as it goes. The time of your life is all you have, and it is not paused when you are at work, or stuck in a queue, or sitting in front of the TV, or hungover, or listless, or at a loose end. Without speeding up or slowing down, it goes, goes, goes. So, if not now, when? I’ve saved enough and have no debts, not even a credit card.  What’s the alternative?

Irish writers! Sigh. I’m not wealthy or high income or rich, and neither is Pat or Tom or most of the people I’ve met on the trail. I’m not in the best of shape, just good enough. My friends think this is something big, and maybe it is.  But is also something most of my friends could do.


Pat and I at a coffee shop talking about her pending Camino. Pat is Going Big.