Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: travellin

Roccia solitaria

Vicino a Scex Rouge, Glacier 3000, con Yvan, Jean-Thomas, Maria e Quinn, ultimo fine settimana prima della quarantena (8 marzo). Dietro alla roccia c’è un rifugio, talmente piccolo e nascosto che non riesco più a ritrovarlo nemmeno su Google.

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Ganghoferlauf in Leutasch

I spent a weekend with my father between Innsbruck, Leutasch and Seefeld in Tyrol. It felt good.

***

The train ride between Zurich and Innsbruck is spectacular: Zürichsee, Wädenswil, Walensee, Vaduz, Feldkirch, Bludenz, St. Anton (the Arlberg Valley and the Voralberg). It is not the first time I take this train; but finally I take some pictures looking out of the window.

I arrive in Innsbruck in the late afternoon. My father picks me up: we drop our backpacks and drive up to Leutasch to check the ski tracks and get our race numbers. My father had signed us up for the Ganghoferlauf. Despite being being absolutely unpronounceable, this is the biggest cross-country event of Austria. My father had wisely decided to participate to the 25km, supposedly a piece of cake in comparison to the 60 km of the Diagonela and the 70 km of the Marcialonga.

One day before the race, the organisers decide to exclude participants coming from four Italian regions (Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto) because of the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. My father and I do not come from those regions, but I ask him to keep a low profile: Italians do not get very good press these days. Upon arriving to the place where we were supposed to get our race numbers he starts yelling ‘Adele, Adele!’ and runs across the queue to hug a race aficionada he knew. Later he seems to take a certain pleasure coughing loudly and swearing in Italian ‘Mannaggia che brutta tosse!‘. People keep a distance from us.

On Saturday morning we arrive at the starting blocks at around 8:40. We entertain phone calls with mother and friends right before the departure. We play it cool.

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It is a beautiful landscape. The snow is fresh, but difficult to ski. It tends to stick under the wax, right below the skis. On top of the first hill I must to stop together with other participants to clean up my skies. My father does not care much to wait for me: he rolls on, happy as a kid in his ninja outfit.

I chase. I get on the second hill and must stop again. This time, though, I decide to clean my skies a little further on, at the beginning of the downhill. Big fucking mistake. I clean my right ski alright. I am about to clean the left ski, but I realise it is no longer there. It is going down the descent already. What do I do?

I chase it with my right ski on. It is possible, after all.


Alas, I am no Bode Miller. I am too slow. So after 300 meters I stop, take out my right ski, and start running behind my left ski. Now it looks more like this.

Other participants are overtaken by a lonely ski and then by an Italian guy who runs down the hill like a little devil screaming ‘Achtung! Achtung!‘. They seem uncomfortable. Go figure.

I catch my ski after 1 km of descent. At that point, I am pretty much done for it. But I continue and rejoin my father. We roll joyfully to the finish line.


The next day we go for some backcountry skiing to Glungezer Hütte (2677 m). We take a lift in Tulfes (922 m), then start walking in Schartenkogel (2.055 m). It is not much of a walk, but the weather is cold and windy. By the time we get up we are half frozen. The last steps are fun, as you have to hold yourself to a rope. I managed to take a quick shot of my father climbing up. I hold the camera in the wind and the snow. Quite a feeling. We order two memorable soups that I will try to imitate once I am back home and we prepare for the descent. The weather has cleared up. It is now bright and calm. The afternoon is swell.

In the evening we drive back to Leutasch and we land in the sauna, which is wonderful. Also remember to go eating at Weinhaus Happ. Notes for the next time we will be in Innsbruck: di Wilderin and Karwendel.

On Monday we go backcountry skiing again, but the wind is now too strong and we prefer to stop. We visit the Kaiserjägermuseum and the Tyrol Panorama, home of the beautiful Gigantic Panoramic Painting depicted below. These museums are located right below the spectacular Bergisel Ski Jump (I did not manage to take a picture myself, so I am using Michielverbeek’s).

Upon returning to Neuchâtel I am content. I still cannot pronounce Ganghoferlauf.

Grüne Papeterie

Shortly after NYE in Bordeaux, Thomas and I rejoined in Berlin. He was traveling from the South-West of Europe all the way up North to Copenhagen. We spent three days around Kreuzberg together with Anna and Felix (Jonas also made an impromptu appearance). It was grey and rainy, but we had a jolly good time.

If you are in the area, then go to Kvartira 62 for some vodka with pickles before dinner; Gong Gan for Korean bowls with Lego or Schwiliko for Georgian sources made with herbal roots; then head to die Kommune for Turbo Mate and finally visit the Hotel, where you can play team-chess until 2:30AM.  From there, we suggest you move to Tresor: apparently the bouncers have a very loose policy and let everybody in (Alas, we were not). Also, buy some drawing material at die Grüne Papeterie before they close it down and then go for a walk: you might bump into something that strikes you as beautiful. If you have only one museum to pick, then my informed choice would be die Berlinische Galerie – Anna and I were lucky and found a Bauhaus exhibition there.

On one of the pages of my paper I scribbled a little poem: “Silenzio / Improvviso battito d’ali / Uno stormo si leva nel cielo azzurro / Sferragliamento su rotaia“. Then I wrote down a list of ‘Things that make me feel I am in Berlin‘: candles, the s-bahn passing above your head, sneakers, musicians in the street, graffiti, bars that are more like apartments with open doors, a lot of queer and postcolonial books, smell of roasted meat when walking on the street.

Just a bunch of Englishmen

Niccolò chose the place, bargained for the house, and found the motivation to rein everybody in, including those he did not know previously – and there were many of them. Nico, Thomoose, and Tree flew in from Canada. So did Andrew, who landed in Paris shortly after new year’s midnight. Jasper signed in about a week before, just like we had expected of him; whereas Giallu committed in September and never wavered. Erik and Iris drove from Rotterdam. I flew with Arianna from Treviso. And we all met in Bordeaux.

I remember lavish meals, funky games (Les grammes de Bourdeaux), cold hikes around Saint Emilion, impromptu Dixit games, Jasper going blind with a stick, playing limbo with strangers, Chilean dances, Jasper baking bread, Tee making classy Old Fashioned, Giallu dignifying the Mapazzone (stir people’s culinary curiosity and put them to work), Iris’ write-a-poem competitions, melted Mont d’Or for breakfast, scooter hunting and racing on the cobblestones along the Garonne in four teams of two, La Mirabelle and its petrol blue for dinner.

Then Erik, Giallu and all of our two girls left. We made up for their departure going to la Dune du Pilat and taking our traditional January-swim. The title of this post comes from there: we asked a bystander to take a picture of us. She was quite amused and recorded a video instead, commenting at the very start of it: ‘We are at the Dune du Pilat and there is a bunch of Englishmen about to swim“.

Sweet side-memory of that day: the Jon & Roy & Stevie Ray Vaughan playlist.

Pale di San Martino

Partenza da Neuchatel alle ore 14:30 di sabato 28 settembre. Arrivo a Trento alle 20:03. Ricongiungimento con Giallu alle ore 22:30. Riposo. Colazione a Trento alle ore 7.30. Ore 10.00 arrivo a San Martino. Seconda colazione a San Martino per evitare possibili crisi di fame. Funivia per il Rifugio Rosetta. Tosella a metà strada per ovviare al languorino di tarda mattinata. Inizio camminata alle 12:00, con un ritardo di circa tre ore sulla tabella di marcia.

Dal rifugio (2.581 m) prendiamo il sentiero 709 per la trista cima Fradusta (2.939 m) completamente avvolta nella nebbia. Da lì, calata al Rifugio Pradidali (2.278 m) con moto volvente rilassato. Arrivo alle ore 16:00 e salto in branda nel bivacco storico. (Quello nuovo, tutto in legno e vetri, è sigillato ermeticamente). Cena con Costantino e Sandra. Loro sono lì per festeggiare il compleanno di Costantino, a cui piacciono il karate, il tiro sportivo con la pistola, i bonsai e gli infortuni sportivi. A letto dopo esser stati raggiunti da due alpinisti tedeschi poco in vena di socialità.

Il giorno successivo alba spettacolare con sole riflesso sulle pareti circostanti. Partenza senza fretta e con qualche difficoltà nell’indossare l’imbrago. Via ferrata del Porton (un’ora e mezza con scaletta iniziale da brivido) e poi via ferrata Nico Gusella (un’ora e mezza, principalmente a scendere) con passaggio dalla misteriosa Forcella Stephen (2.650 m). Lunga marcia con graduale discesa ed impietosa risalita verso il Rifugio Rosetta, anticipata da un fugace quanto imprevisto ritorno al Pradidali per recuperare la torcia dimenticata in branda. Allungo finale verso Cima della Rosetta (2.743 m) e discesa a San Martino senza funivia, faccia alla bella valle. Ultimo tratto al trotto, approfittando delle piste da sci non ancora innevate: francamente sconsigliabile e possibilmente da non ripetere.

Scattered notes with a Lusitano flavour

Lisbon. 
With Arianna, Flavia, Jonas, Dani, Anna, Joao.
July 25 – July 28

Fact: this is the only European capital on the Ocean.

Bright, bright light.

Alafama reminds me of Bari Vecchia.

Do not wear Birkenstock if you want to go out dancing.
Going on the seaside on a trotinette with Arianna and Flavia is fun.

I do not think I would like to live here: too big of a tourist industry, too narrow and steeps the roads in the city centre, too far the mountains. There are a few really beautiful things about this city, though: many of the inhabitants have roots in Brazil or in Africa; the buildings are colourful, the graffiti are intelligent; the food is good; the prices are low.

The heroes of the tourist industry are poets: Pessoa, Camões, Garret…

Never before in my life have I been offered such an extraordinary variety of drugs at all corners of the Bairro Alto.


Rabo de Peixe, Island of San Miguel, Azores

With Arianna, Jonas, Dani, Anna, Mariana, Matte, Ludi
July 28 – August 5

This is my second visit to a volcanic island this year, third in three years.

A lot of green: reminds me of the West coast of Ireland.
Cyan, azure, white: hortensias.
Some black volcanic stone.
Brown cows and their smell early in the morning.


Notice the big, fast, well-paved roads. Alas, there are virtually no public buses traveling on them.

The Tosanists are photographers working on the island. Their style is unique: through their masterly use of black and white they turn everyday moments into Kafkaesque representations of life.

Simple, square, and colourful houses.
Elderly men idling in the shadow with their cigarettes.
Village bars – crowded already early in the morning – are inhabited by men only.

Books I have read:

  • Antonio Tabucchi, Donna di Porto Pim. Did not quite like it first, then I read it again and I started to understand. I bought a fancy edition in Portuguese in the Livraria da Travessa. I will never read it but it looks cool on my shelfs.
  • José Saramago, Journey to Portugal. Bright idea: feel the journey, forget the names of the places. Alas, way too many churches.
  • Internazionale, Lisbona. I should have read it before, and not after having visited Lisbon
  • The Passenger, PortogalloTakes some time but it is worth the read: go look for the articles on surfing in Nazaré, on African-Portuguese music, on the exodus from Angola and Mozambique to Portugal, on the illegal search for clams in the Tago
  • Autori vari, Poeti di Lisbona. Short selection of poems with the text in Italian and Portuguese.

Madrid

I have been to Madrid over five times now. I first came for a couple of short student vacations sometime between 2009 and 2013. Then Madrid became one of the places that I focused on as part of my Ph.D. dissertation. My friends and local hosts here were Pedro and Andrea. Here comes a list of familiar places, familiar establishments, and places/establishments I am keeping for the future.

Familiar places: La Calle del Doctor Piga en Lavapies; Anton Martìn (mercado, cinema y todo); El Retiro (its small bookshops, lakes, and buildings); El Templo de Debod (sunset and night); Campo del Moro; Calle de la Cava Baja en La Latina; Chueca; Calle Ponzano (Chamberi).

Familiar establishments: La Venencia (sherri and dust); Barrutia y el Nueve (pescado y carne); Mercado de San Fernando (Lavapies, remember that time with dancers inside?)La Azotea de El Círculo de Bellas Artes (quite a view); Vincci The Mint (Gran Via over night); La Burbuja que ríe (Asturian food); El Mercado de San Miguel (market next to Plaza Mayor: pick some salmorejo); Reina Sofía (some extraordinary Pablo Picasso, Salador Dalì, Joan Miro, Carlos Sáenz de Tejada, Pablo Gargallo and great temporary exhibitions: this time around on The Poetics of Democracy Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition with this short, asphyxiating movie, La Cabina, as the main take-away); NuBel; Arzábal Restaurant; Libreria de Montaña Desnivel.

For the future: El Prado; Thyssen; Museo Sorolla, El Matadero, CaixaForum, La Casa Encendida, El Círculo de Bellas Artes, Ocho y Medio Libreria (Plaza de Espana); Libreria el olor de la lluvia (in Lavapies); Libros para un mundo mejor (Chueca); El Lamiak; Bodega de la Ardosa (Malasaña); Librería de Mujeres.

Dialoghi e appunti tra Trento, Roma e Firenze

Una mattina di giugno alla fermata del bus anziano sale a bordo e saluta il guidatore: ‘Wella, direttore!“.

Al ristorante chiedo al cameriere se posso sedermi all’esterno. Lui mi risponde: “Puoi fare ciò che vuoi e io sarò il tuo schiavo“.

Al Giro d’Italia con Alvise, babbo, Giallu e Pietro tra Fonzaso, Croce d’Aune, Monte Avena, Pedavane e di ritorno a Fonzaso. Ci accampiamo con gli amici di Alvise che incitano in maniera indiscriminata spettatori e spettatrici che salgono in bici. Lo fanno sventolando davanti a loro mutandine di donna, sculacciandoli/le con due manine di plastica, versando loro del prosecco: “bevilo tutto!” oppure “e adesso lo finisci!” a seconda del momento.

Croce d'Aunia

Notte fonda al ritorno dal June Ball e trovo il solito fornaio all’opera in una remota bottega di via Boccaccio. Gli chiedo della schiacciata e lui me la regala: ho solo una banconota da cinquanta e lui non ha il resto. Due giorni dopo torno e trovo il suo collega. E’ quasi commosso che io sia tornato a pagare due euro. Loro si chiamano Mario e Sergio.

Francesco, Carmela e Costanza della Boutique della Pasta Fresca si ricordano ancora di me, anche se ci torno solo un paio di volte all’anno. Quando faccio per andare in bagno mi ricordano di chiudere la porta con delicatezza, altrimenti “gliela sbarbo“.

Un giorno cammino per il sottopassaggio delle Cure e mi godo l’Angelo che canta una litania napoletana accompagnato dalla fisarmonica. Sbucato alla luce mi trovo davanti Isah, che non vedevo dalla primavera del 2016. Lui era il venditore ambulante che sostava sempre davanti all’Antico Forno Guasti e con cui parlavamo di Roberto Baggio. Ci riconosciamo e parliamo di Danielo (Dani) e di Daniela (Jonas). Isah è molto contento, anche perché ora sta per partire per il mare dove farà la stagione – vendendo asciugamani. Ci siamo abbracciati.

Fish, moss , sulfur, water, wool

I land in Iceland after having spent one week in Paris. The contrast could not be more striking. I leave chaos and warm spring colours behind and I jump into a pale, spacious, and mostly silent place. Not entirely silent because of the wind that whispers almost all the time.

I have two first impressions of Iceland. The first is the Icelandic accent in English: such a bizarre blend of Greek and Scottish. Not quite what you would expect. The second is the smell and the thickness of the water: sulfur. I have a hard time showering in the morning, although they say it is very good for the skin.

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It is difficult to understand the tourist turn of Reykjavik today without thinking about the effects of cash (the financial crisis of 2008) and hash (the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010). This combination led Icelandic authorities to brand Iceland for tourism, creating a very powerful industry. There were less than 30.000 people per year coming to Iceland in 2008 and there are more than 2 million now. It is a rather appalling tourism: Americans enjoying a prolonged layover on their way back home and rich people. The branding of Iceland is all about white, upper class people enjoying leisure time.

Most of the promotional images about Iceland feature beautiful women (e.g. here). This is a perverse twist in a country that ranks first for gender equality. Indeed, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the fourth President of Iceland, was the world’s first democratically directly elected female president. With a presidency of exactly sixteen years, from 1 August 1980 to 1 August 1996, she also remains the longest-serving elected female head of state of any country to date.

Reykjavik is a relatively big city, with 200.000 inhabitants, about two third of the people who live on the island. The centre (that is, the main street Laugavegur) is completely gentrified and there is a tourist shop every twenty meters. The museums are mushrooming and most of them are rather useless. The buildings are rather anonymous on the outside but often surprising on the inside. The architecture is practical, bright, robust, efficient.

I am surprised to see many cyclists. I remember reading about bike rides in Iceland. I would not want to do it. The roads are mostly flat and extremely windy. Not a good combination. I notice that all the cyclists have expensive bikes and hyper-cool clothing on.

I am lucky enough to arrive during the Keykjavik Literaty Festival. I discover two good writers: Fridgeir Einarsson and Carolina Setterwall. Jean-Baptiste is the house keeper of the place where I am staying. He sticks with me most of the time. He lived in the Middle East for several years and got sick of violence and chaos. He looked up a ranking of the most peaceful countries in the world and ended up in Iceland. He is not the only foreigner. There are many Polish working as cashiers in the supermarkets and many Americans in the tourist shops.

I go the the swimming pool with hot, thermal waters almost every morning: Sundhooll Reykjavikur. I love the Braud & Co. for warm ginger bread. Kex hostel is probably the nicest place for a beer. Kaffibrennslan is the spot to go to read with a hot coffee. Harpa is a wicked building. The Arts Museum has remarkable interiors and good exhibitions. The Photo Museum is tiny. I take away a romantic picture shot by Gunnar Runar Olafsson.

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After three days it is definitely time to drive out of the city. My journey is guided by the spirit of  Gunnar Gunnarsson’s The good shepherd, a book that Leonardo suggests before I venture outside of Reykjavik, and by Giacomo Leopardi’s Dialogo della natura e di un islandese. Christina is the perfect travel companion.

The landscape is rugged. The colours are pale. It is quite obvious that the nature here shapes local music (Björk, Ólafur Arnalds, Sigur Rós) and literature (Halldór Laxness, Jón Kalman Stefánsson). Iceland, in this sense, is a very material place. Fish, moss , sulfur, water, wool. Fair and rugged. In a way, I think the Icelandic landscape fits very well the Zeitgeist of the hipsters, yogis, and digital nomads: it looks pure, silent, natural.

When you are there is actually rather craggy, volcanic. The Icelandic flag has three colours, which are symbolic for three of the elements that make up the island: red is for the volcanic fires, white for the snow and glaciers, and blue is for the skies. In my opinion the island is, most of all, green. I discover that the Norse explorers wanted to keep the island for themselves, therefore they called it Iceland and they called the other Iceland further north Greenland. In fact, it should have been the other way round. Sneaky, deceptive Norse.

It is too late in the season for the northern lights but we see a spectacular sunset I want to remember. It is not only the view all around us, red, wide, glorious; it is also the symphony of the birds, who bid their farewell to yet another day.

Some interesting facts about this place. Icelanders are very practical about religion. They do not care too much and every time some foreign powers forced them to convert they did without too much of a fuss. Until the 1960s black American soldiers were not allowed to stay on the island. It was JFK who mediated a solution. Until 1989 beer was still prohibited in Iceland: nobody knows exactly why. There is still a name committee approving names for kids. All the volcanoes have female names.

Iceland was a hot spot of confrontation during the Cold War. The famous picture of Reagan being summit meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev

The legendary chess match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972 took place in Reykjavik, which was neutral territory between the US and the USSR. After the 1972 World Chess Championship, Fischer went into a period of sudden obscurity and isolation. He did not play a competitive game in public for nearly 20 years. He then re-emerged to play Spassky in a “Revenge Match of the 20th century” in 1992. The match took place in Sveti Stefan and Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in spite of a United Nations embargo that included sanctions on commercial activities. The US Department of the Treasury warned Fischer before the start of the match that his participation was illegal, that it would violate President George H. W. Bush’s Executive Order 12810 imposing United Nations Security Council Resolution 757 sanctions against engaging in economic activities in Yugoslavia. In response, during the first scheduled press conference on September 1, 1992, in front of the international press, Fischer spat on the US order, saying “this is my reply”. His violation of the order led US Federal officials to initiate a warrant for his arrest upon completion of the match. He went to Japan but was to be extradated to the US. The Althing (the Icelandic Parliament) then agreed unanimously to grant Fischer full citizenship in late March for humanitarian reasons, as they felt he was being unjustly treated by the United States and Japanese governments and also in recognition of his 1972 match, which had “put Iceland on the map”. Fischer went to Iceland and lived a reclusive life until his death in 2008.

The outsider steps inside

In my mind, the colour of  Paris between November and March is grey. Then in April it suddenly changes. Spring is a phenomenal season and I love the combination of ivory and cobalt blue.