Sunday, 24 June 2007

Over the hills and far away - notes from de Vertalerin

So the Herring has reached Switzerland, where the forecast for the next few days is for heavy rain with snow above 1800 metres, which is the height of the Gran San Bernardo pass, his avenue into Italy. He's now at Sainte Croix, once the world capital of mechanical music. Yes, you did read that right. They probably made orchestral cuckoo clocks.

Unfortunately he has posted his passport back to England with a load of maps of France. What the further consequences of this may be I don't know. They let him into Switzerland, so I presume they'll let him out again. He may have to spend the rest of his life between the two checkpoints at the top of the Gran San Bernardo. He also appears to have abandoned all his washing somewhere en route.

He's been a bit worried about the Jura, looming a little larger on the horizon over the last two or three days, but in fact he's both technically and psychologically better suited to proper climbing than to long, attritional , draggy hills and seems to have felt well within himself when he reached Ste Croix at about five this afternoon. But there's nothing between there and Yverdon, and Ste Croix is a little tourist town stuffed with hotels and baked cheese, so he decided to stop. He has a bed in Vevey tomorrow, and then it's up to the Gran San Bernardo via Martigny.

While searching for the distance from Vevey to the Italian border, I came across something curious and interesting. Roger had considered riding to Campostela; but it appears that he's roughly following a different pilgrim route, the Via Francigena, "the ancient pilgrim route from Canterbury across France, Switzerland and Italy to Rome" and first recorded in 876 AD: http://www.francigena.ch/

There are apparently a series of maps and booklets documenting it- too late now for the Herring - but he can get a parchment certificate from a bod at the Vatican if he has cycled 'at least from Lucca'. I also found the pre-blog account of someone who walked it, though he cheated a little by being Swiss and thus starting half way there, though he makes up for that by crossing from Switzerland into Italy on snowshoes: http://www.francigena-international.org/diaries/Memet_70p.htm

Roger is now on the Via Francigena and will be for at least the next few days. It's extraordinary how the idea of pilgrimage, stripped of religious but not, I think, of psychological significance, continues to draw people. I believe that more people now walk to Campostela than at any time since the middle ages; so many people are now treading the route that they form little bands in a positively Chaucerian manner. All this is stuff we might have found out if there'd been more than the most rudimentary planning, but I offer it now in the hope that, when he sees this, he will get some satisfaction from the historicity of his project.

3 comments:

Albert Herring said...

2469 metres, actually. 1800 only gets me to the tunnel...
Interesting stuff about the Via Francigena though.

Paul de Man said...

Historicity is bunk!
xxx
c

Fishwife said...

You can offer the bike route to the CTC. People just love cycle pilgrimages as de Vertalerin suggests