I get good karma kudos at breakfast, as word seems to have spread that I’m a crazy English walker, and not an investment banker with IPAD fashion accessory. Over fruity fruhstuk I ask Dieter about the area around Ziebelhof. He doesn’t go far, 6 kilometres is far enough – to the supermarket to get food for his guests. He’d like to hunt more, to shoot, but it’s busy being a hotelier. A nod from a male and female biker team, good luck.
See you next time, Dieter says. And hey, next time be sensible.
Bring a car.
And I am walking again. Flat, fields of maize; Lichetenau soon enough, a small town, with active Sunday morning services, women priests again, as I’ll find in Heidelberg too. Sun determinedly out, and Baden Baden not too far away – perhaps 20 kilometres.
I should say, perhaps, that despite the casual insouciance of these narratives I am a bad walker: I get lost all the time. Were it not for the compass cum travel guide that is my IPAD, I would by now be close to the Andes. I am really trying to re-invent myself as an accomplished walker, and I can do the distance, and the hills, but whatever nomadic DNA trace that remains has been systematically eradicated by the socialisation processes of my past 51 years.
I can’t use the sun; I have no in-built radar; or even sense of direction. I do – now as a matter of course – ask the way every time I see someone. The problem is that many of these people also have lost the “walkers” perspective. Later, sweaty and very grouchy, I ask a couple how far to Baden Baden. They say 2 kilometres. In the end I walked 18 kilometres further…Not their fault, but an idea of how distance and our sense of it, has mutated. In cities and towns I am getting a feel for the subtle shifts of meaning and mood; even just a hint of Tom’s time – and by this I mean beyond the recognition of buildings present in 1608, I mean the dynamic of church, bell, marketplace, river – media.
Re: grouchy. I haven’t written about this before but travelling alone does encourage talking to oneself, particularly as the day passes by and tiredness is kicking in and the destination still seems miles away. I have a sort of pornographic/offensive/guttural/ vocabulary, the viler the better to ameliorate the paucity of signs, or the bad advice I’ve been given, or just the horribleness of walking on the autobahn, which I’ve had to do again today for a while. I won’t give any examples, wanting to not be banned from blogging, but the screamed oaths are very satisfying.
Yes, lost again today. Wimbush City Limits. But no Ike and Tina. Oh Lord I know I have often lost my way in the Journey of Life, but get me back on fucking track. The Beemers pass at 160 kilometres an hour, the Beemers and Mercs and Porschsters…and I’m gingerly edging the tall grass alongside, wondering when I will see a sign for cyclists or walkers. When the sign won’t say: Frankfurt 200 kilometres.
The first chills of autumn this afternoon, a little bite to the air. In successive conversations in what I believe to be the hinterlands of Baden-Baden I am told 2k, 2-4k, 5-7k, then 10k. Ten minutes, thirty.
I was three hours and 18 kilometres away still. When I leave Baden-Baden by rail, Tommy sleeping rough for two days before Heidelberg, it takes me three hours to walk, then find, the station – from the old town. Baden-Baden IS Los Angeles.
Crossed with Las Vegas. Or rather Saratoga Springs circa 1955 – when Ian Fleming visited (read Live and Let Die…).
There isn’t a sign that says Baden-Baden ever on my walk there. I encircle, suburb, cut-through, turn back. Find a park – even the Rhine. But old Baden-Baden?
I really do stagger into town, Brokeback Digerati. I walk straight into the first hotel I see, a Radisson, far more upmarket than anything I’ve stayed in before. It is remarkably cheap, given that it has the full monty of thermal whiizzy whirligig stuff. And it was a Capuchin monastery in 1608…oh bingo. It is huge and fin de siecle-ly. I sleep, then go to buy some swimming trunks for the whirlpool thingy. The only ones in the hotel shop are 85 euros. And it is Sunday. I can wait.
Opposite the casino in the showy-off park, a temporary stage. It is the last night of the racing meet, and as the spring meet was cancelled because of bankruptcy, the town is happy. A band called – oh something grim, actually it is Groovin’ Affairs – are knocking out Relight My Fire, Sweet Dreams, Tina/Celene, 80s….80s….80s…
The audience is my age, my people, only with less preposterous haircuts. They fist pump and sing and remember when they were young. A daughter carries out her drunk Russian mom at about 9.40. The curse of casino towns, I guess. I saw this before in Bad Ragatz.
Porsches and Ferraris are not unknown here. And there is a sense, only heightened tomorrow when I’ll read Dostoievski’s The Gambler, set here, that everything – everything – is for sale.
The local brothels take out page adverts in the local tourist literature, here at the Villa d’Fellatio we offer…blah blah. Very blatant, very part of the package. My hotel is part of the Royal Spas of Europe.
And Wayne Rooney has, my IPAD tells, just got caught in the Manchester version of the Villa d’Fellatio.
Now there is a surprise. The bar in the casino, recommended by my hotel, is probably the best example of 1970s sauna chic seen this side of a white flared-jean Belmondo policier. It is truly the grimmest place on earth. I last 3.6 seconds and retire to a MacDonalds for coffee.
It is the only revolutionary act I can think of. Tomorrow: more Russians, Grayson Perry – yay – and tales of the Wags circa 2006….