Tomorrow, August 19, I’ll be restarting a walk across Europe (with some
fuel-powered assistance) that I began in May 2007. 402 years after the
event I’m again following in the footsteps and barge paths, inscriptions
and “inns” of Thomas Coryat, Jacobean oddity, English wit and global
traveller. Tom crossed Europe by foot in 1608; in 1611 he wrote a day by
day account of his trip: I’ll be on his trail for around six weeks. This
time it is the “north” I’m taking on, Switzerland, a touch of France,
Germany and Holland. I start in Thusis, Tossana as was.
In 2007 I made it from Calais to Venice, turned around and crossed the
Italian mountains into Switzerland where, in the spa-cum-casino town of
Bad Ragatz, my beloved Apple gave up the ghost among the drunken gamblers and Lycra’d cyclists. As one point of this journey is to use modern technology to enhance the experience of living Tom Coryat’s walk as closely as is possible, I stopped walking with the death of my computer. So did the Betwixt Europe blog.
It is back. http://betwixteurope.blogspot.com/
Now I’m armed with a miraculous IPad. The wonders of the books in the
Humanities One reading room at the British Library, and the gloved secrets of Rare Books still, as ever, inform my thinking, but this time so do GPS based apps, e-books from Amazon and Apple, and, crucially, the ideas of a history Professor from Harvard.
Dan Smail, the author of On Deep History and the Brain, very kindly wrote
to me recently in response to a question I had about my doctorate. I’m
looking at the way two events of terror were “told”: these are The
Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the World Trade Centre attacks of 2001. Dan
suggested that I start thinking about how I might infer the ways in which
the “aggregate brain” of 1605 is different from that of 2001.
The idea frightens me too. But I’m hoping that walking this half of Tom
Coryat’s route – from Thusis in Switzerland to Flushing in Holland – might
help that process of inferring just a bit. Tom was a post-terror
traveller; now we all are. And Dan’s book was my first e-book for the IPad, so I can just keep re-reading it until I get it.
My route is essentially the Rhine, taking in places including Zurich,
Basle, Strasbourg, Baden, Heidelberg, Worms, Mainz, Frankfurt, Duysburg,
Bommell and Flushing. The full list will be on the blog from tomorrow.
For those who prefer to follow by Facebook feel free to become my friend, I’ll be cross posting:
There will be Twitter too, I fear.
Finally, if any of you know people along the route who are friendly,
insightful, or both, do let me know, by email or Facebook message. In this
era of the frightening Foursquare app, people who know people – to quote
that venerable academic and pan-Europeanist, Barbra Streisand – are the
luckiest people in the world.