6 Mar 2009

The Alps and the Northern Italian country-side

Posted by walterheck

After leaving my sister’s place, it was time for a quick dip in Northern italian culture. Luckily, there is a highway leading straight from Geneve to Torino, crossing the mighty Alps and digging underneath the Mont Blanc through a long tunnel. After walking out of Geneve, it took me a while to get a ride. This was teh first sign that this was gonna be one of those days, I should have realised then and there..

One of the challenges of hitching between places with different languages is always: in which language do you write the name of the city you wanna go to? Do you write the last town in the country you are in now, or one of the first towns on the other side of the border? People are just as often scared of people not speaking their language as they find it exciting. A very good compromise is always to write the name of a place with an international spelling on your sign. In this case, ‘Mt. Blanc’ seemed to do the trick: it forms the border between France and Italy and everyone knows where it is.

One thing that suprised me abotu the Alps was that I didn’t find them as amazing as I used to. This is mainly due to being in Alaska, where you are much more in the wilderness. Here, especially in the higher areas, all the valleys are filled to the brim with houses and industry. In Alaska, scenery is about the same only without the civilization. An interesting experience though.

Hitching up to the tunnel was quite tricky already as the highway in the mountains doesn’t really have very nice places to stop a car at. I made it eventually though, and a woman was nice enough to give me a ride to the other side. Driving through the tunnel I quickly remembered the time I hiked a 7 km long tunnel in Norway. Not the best experience as you might remember 🙂

On the other side, trouble continued: I was dropped off in a place with very little traffic so I decided to start walking. Little did I know there would be no suitable place there either, and it would take me until after the first town (a 6km hike down the mountain) to find a decent ride again. Even that took me through national routes instead of through a highway though, so I lost a _lot_ of time there.

What made it all a lot better though, was my quick realisation that I was _really_ traveling again. Up til now, it had all been through known territory in countries where I speak the language. I speak no Italian, and teh last time I was there was with school when I saw little to no culture outside a staggering amount of churches (yay for catholic high school 🙂 ). A while back I read somewhere that the challenge of traveling only remains when you keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. I once again realised how true this is.

With a lot of detours and interesting rides (including a guy that was annoyed that I wanted to fasten my seatbelt while he was driving 160Kph with one hand on teh steering wheel) I finally managed to arrive outside Ivrea, where my path lead off the highway for the last 20 Km up to the village I needed to be in. It was already getting dark and it was way later then I expected to be there, considering it was barely 200 Km from geneve. I sent a message to my host Lupo and continued hitching. I was picked up reasonably quickly by an interesting couple of which the guy had lived in 4 different places in Holland and he was playing Cradle Of Filth. Normally not my favourite music, but considering how shitty this day had been, it was nice to blow off some steam and any kind of metal music would do 🙂

I finally arrived in the village and immediately got along with my host very well. Lupo is a very cool, older guy who is very interested in Native American culture. He told me about his beliefs and the things he had accomplished with and through some of the various rituals. He had been to Sundance, he had done several sweat lodges and even 3 or 4 vision quests. He doesn’t eat anything for the 72 hours surrounding full moon every month. the list goes on. This might sound crazy to some of you, but it was actually very impressive and Lupo was clearly very in tune with himself.

The following morning he showed me around the village he lived in and the towns in the surrounding area. I was once again very lucky to stay here, and be completely submerged in small town Italian culture. The village he lived in was very old, and his house was actually within the walls of a 14th century castle. The village was beautiful, at least to me as a person who is not used to the building styles used in Italy. Afterwards, we looked around towns in the surrounding areas. We also went up to a monastery on a hilltop, providing a magnificent view: the high alps as a backdrop to a softly flowing hilly landscape with pittoresque small towns in the front. Downright amazing!

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3 Responses to “The Alps and the Northern Italian country-side”

  1. that sounds fascinating… i am jealous and thankful you share your adventures… just wish I was there too!



  2. “One thing that suprised me abotu the Alps was that I didn’t find them as amazing as I used to. ” Goddamnit, you’re just spoiled rotten aren you! Lucky bastard.



  3. “yay for catholic high school” Well, you should have just gone to Budapest with the rest of us , we drank lots of culture there!