I recently received the European Peace Walk (EPW) guidebook for 2017. I know I mentioned ages ago that I was going to do this Walk – a 500+K walking trail through six European countries – Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Italy – over three weeks. It seems a bit daunting, given the current state of my overall fitness. Some days involve 30K hike between sleepovers and the most I’ve done so far is about 16k or so. Anyway, I don’t begin until mid summer – July 04, – so I still have a few months to get up to speed.
I’m really looking forward to this – it is going to be both an adventure and a bit of a learning curve – grappling with languages I don’t know – I only have a smattering of German and Italian, spoken, respectively, at the start and end of the journey, and no idea of the cultures, history, topography, everything.
Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia didn’t exist as separate entities when I was in school and when the Balkans began its tragic breakup after the death of Marshall Tito, I was no longer living in Europe and the events passed me by, for the most part. Since its debut in 2014, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the EPW now passes through Slavic, Teutonic & Romantic cultures, a route only made possible by the geo-political collapse of the region’s former Democratic, Communist and Socialist political allegiances. As recently as 1989, the EPW would not have been feasible, as Europe was still divided into the above contrasting ideologies and its borders and peoples were firmly closed. Now, it is possible to have breakfast in Hungary, lunch in Slovenia and sleep that night in Croatia! So an exciting learning curve there, getting to grips with the tangled histories of the region – I think Bismarck once referred to the Balkans as “the sick man of Europe” – and that, along with the dourness I associated with the former Iron Curtain countries may have contributed to my former lack of interest in the area. But now? Rolling countryside, originally populated by Celts before they (were?) moved on in their endless migrations and then there is the wine and food of the different regions. Can’t wait!
It’s kind of exciting to know that I will have to be totally alone, solely responsible for my own safety and enjoyment in exciting and new environments. I think the whole journey will be a mixture of ‘down-time” and reflection – perhaps not as spiritually reflective as on the Camino, – as well as a physical challenge (in between wines, beers and exciting food) as well as meeting and communicating with locals along the way as well as the 9 other walkers who begin on the same day I do. I suppose both the EPW and the Camino bring people together to share common experiences as well as to learn about each other’s differences and I think this might well embody the ‘Peace’ aspect of the EPW.
Anyway, I have already started planning and preparing,and that’s half the fun, isn’t it?. I bought a new 30 litre capacity backpack, a good pair of walking shoes – not boots – shirts and jackets and pants made of modern textiles which “wick” the sweat away from the skin while at the same time keeping me warm in cold weather and cool in hot. We’ll see. I want to travel really light, total weight, including my bag, should be no more than 10Kg. I’ll have to start carrying the bag when I walk soon. So, that is my current curve – start walking more in this Perth summer heat and build up to at least 20 – 25 k a day so that when July rolls around I will be in some type of fit condition to actually enjoy the walk and the surroundings. Wish me luck!