When I can, I am using Instagram to post pictures and brief commentary although that has been sporadic as well. I hope to do more beginning today. The slow internet connectivity has been frustrating. However, If you have not yet signed up for Instagram, and I hate making an advertisement for some kind of social media, but please do. It is Simple and Clean and Effective. You will probably want to use it for your own purposes as well at some point. I will be posting pictures of my most recent travels there.
However at the moment I am surprised that the WiFi connectivity is very good so I will continue to babble and hope not to bore you.
As most of you know, after I finished my amazing Ridgeway National Trail hike I skedaddled up to Oxford, then to Scotland. I was so enthused and entranced with Scotland that I stayed for some extra days. However, the weather on the island of Skye was challenging and because I was stationed so far away from everything I decided to not go hiking as I desired to do. That was disappointing. I had a most delightful visit, though with bus drivers and locals and I so desire to go back to Skye, if nothing else to listen to the deep mix of Scottish / Gaelic brogue. “Aye! Aye! I so long to hear your poetic words.”
So, as I left I had no plans and decided that perhaps it would be a good time for me to work my way to Germany to visit some lovely friends. In the meantime, I had found out that the Unitarian Church in London felt like they could not host the dream workshop that we were hoping to offer because so few people had signed up. That was disappointing of course but it allowed me time to continue to do some amazing explorations. Thus my trip to Germany.
This Sabbatical trip has been full of the normal and abnormal experiences of me getting lost in city after city, trying to find my way back to where I started, and also experiencing amazing synchronicities of grace that mysteriously confound me. One such example was to keep missing the bus in Skye to get me to Glasgow. When I finally did catch the bus, the bus driver was quite arrogant and frustrating. However for some reason he and I begin to hit it off. I must say it took my humorous diplomacy to finally connect with him. After that, I was a part of a wonderful and beautiful conversation between he and one of his friends who was a passenger on the bus. And they became my guides to the intricacies of the world of Skye. I so miss that conversation.
When I finally got to Glasgow, 7 hours later, and had decided to take the train to London, most of the train personnel told me that there was no way I could catch a train until the next morning which was about 6 or 7 hours later. However, as I kept politely talking to various people one of them pointed out to me to go talk to one of the conductors on the waiting London train. Not only were they gracious and kind, but I found out that I could actually get a sleeper car for that night. It was a little pricey but worth the 7-hour train ride. And certainly more enjoyable than waiting in the train depot for the next 7 or 8 hours.
So on the way to London I also began to investigate how to get to Germany. I had originally thought I could get to Germany via the train from London on to Paris and beyond. However, because I’m naive and also spontaneous on this journey and did not make any advance plans, I begin to find out that that idea was probably not going to work. However, once again by talking with various train people I found out what was possible. I suppose it was my naiveté and also a little bit of gusto on my part, but I went to the pricey business and first class office of Eurostar rail company to talk to them about how to solve this problem. The main reason I did that is because they were so nicely dressed and fancy looking and no one was in their office (-: So I figured, what the heck? The worst they could do with this strange hippie looking guy would be to kick him out. However, they were super kind and they began to problem-solve with me. They did confirm that it was not possible for me to take the train from London and beyond at this point.
But what these lovely people did for me was to say, you need a travel agent. I haven’t used a travel agent in years. But at that point I thought sure why not? They took the time to Google the nearest travel agent and referred me to them. Now, finding that travel agency was a challenge because it was located on the second floor of a building that had no identification signage on the outside. So it took me contacting two Bobbies and various other people on the street and other businesses who finally knew where the travel agency was. When I finally got to the floor of the travel agency I made some silly comment about, “boy! you are hard to find” and one of the agents jumped up and laughed and said “and we are worth it!” And they were. TEB Travel of London, and Maria in particular, were amazing! She took nearly an hour working out ideas and plans about how to get me to Osnabrueck Germany from London. Rather than go through all the funny and maybe even silly ideas I had, she finally said, “Royce you are going to fly from London to Amsterdam and then you will take the train from Amsterdam to Osnabruck”. Ha! No kidding! Maria took charge! Go TEB Travel!
Maria got me on the next flight that afternoon on EasyJet. It is truly the cattle car of jets. It is cheap! No offense to cattle and no offense to cars. But the jet DOES fly and it did get me there in 90 minutes. So, I spent two days in Amsterdam. Maria had booked me in a boutique hotel near Center City. So I got to wander around and enjoy visiting the historical sites of Amsterdam. Beware of bicycles and bicycle lanes! Nuff said.
After that amazing city, I took the train to Osnabruck and spent a lovely time with friends. Due to their family commitments, I only stayed 2 nights. In less than 48 hours, my lovely friend educated me on this beautiful German City of Peace and also some of its tragic medieval history.
So, since the dream workshop in London was canceled, I had basically an extra 8 or 9 days to continue exploring the world. What shall I do? Well, my friend in Germany and my son who lives in Singapore, sort of unintentionally conspired together to encourage me to go to Italy. Again, to make a long story short, through their help and coaching, I am now dictating this travel post from Florence.
In a little bit I am going to get lost in the City of Florence and hopefully find my way back to this little hotel. Tomorrow I will take a tour, official sights of Florence tourist tour, which is a first for me and a concession!! to conventional travel(-: to want to make sure that I see some of the beautiful historical sites of Florence. My primary desire is to see Michelangelo’s Statue of David. After that, all of Florence is simply going to be added Beauty. BTW, let’s get proper here and honor the correct name of this city, Firenze!
The reason I chose Italy though was to try to accomplish one great last hike! I have found on this trip that I’m not just a sightseeing kind of tourist. But I need to stake out a small space of a place and to experience that small place with intimacy. For me, the last several years has been to do that through my running and hiking. Through that kind of experience, I feel like I can connect more intimately in a kind of meditative prayer through the experience of running and hiking in a particular location. And something just as important as the running and hiking for me has been to informally connect with the people of these spaces and places. The combination of hiking and running and conversations with others adds to the deep sacred experiences that I have had.
So my primary goal is to get to the beautiful and amazing Cinque Terre, the Five Villages of the Earth. Some of you have perhaps already visited these beautiful villages. I have only recently heard of them. However, I thought what better way to end this part of my sabbatical then to experience an amazing and arduous hike in the Five Villages of the Earth on the coast of Italy.
Yes, you should join me!! Please!
Check out Instagram, for more pics or just get the heck over here! https://www.instagram.com/roycefitts2016