Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back on the Road

As ArtMill was nearing its conclusion, we were beginning to feel both exhaustion and necessity to find our next destination. Luckily enough, Barbara, ArtMill's founding director and resident mama bear, invited us to stay on after the camp for as long as we needed to recuperate and coordinate the next leg of our trip. It was a huge relief, and we ended up spending a few great days with ArtMill's only remaining human resident, Maggie. In our last days at Červený Mlýn, the three of us managed to work on some art, make leather-bound notebooks, swim in the lake, take a mud bath, cook improvised feasts, witness the most mystical (misty) sunset of our lives, and visit the nearest town to stock up on staple foods (you know, nutella, chocolate, and cookies and stuff) for the trek ahead.
Feeling rejuvenated and ready to make our way down to Italy, we woke up Tuesday morning and began walking to the nearest village of Hradešice where we hoped to send off our (completely oversized) box of forest skulls. One can imagine we were elated to find that the post office was closed and we were stuck carrying the box with us as we tried to hitch a ride to Horažďovice. Needless to say, the first gentleman to pick us up warily asked us about the contents of our parcel before allowing us to pile in (we didn't say "a bunch of skulls"). He was so nice as to drop us off just outside the post office so we could send them off, and after doing so, we walked to a nearby junction to try and hitch a ride to Plzeň. After only ten or so minutes, we were picked up and on the road, and in under an hour we found ourselves at a bus stop on the outskirts of the city.
After arriving in Plzeň, we decided to try our thumbs for a ride to Nürnberg, but after three hours of no luck we made our way to the city center. There were a few beautiful antique shops, unfortunately closed, and the usual Art Nouveau facades characteristic of cities in the Czech Republic.

We had heard that there was one place in the city that served unfiltered and unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell from the tap, and after two buses and a tram ride we ended up in the right neighborhood. The beer was all the better after the long day of travel, and we stayed at the pub for a while - Roy answering e-mails and researching, while Catherine made some postcards and sketched. At half past nine we realized we should probably start looking for a place to sleep, and left the pub for a long walk to the city outskirts where we hoped to pitch our tent and get a few hours of sleep. Unfortunately, we didn't account for the distance and unwittingly ended up trudging through miles of Plzeň's dodgier neighborhoods. It was midnight before we had reached the city's edge and found a forest deemed safe enough to shelter us. We made camp in the pitch dark, and laid down for the intended five hours of sleep. Roy didn't sleep a wink, too overcome by protective urges and the unanticipated. Sunrise couldn't come soon enough.
When it did, we packed up our staff and made our way to the interstate's on-ramp in hopes of better luck for a ride to Nürnberg. After a couple hours, we decided to get a jump start and hop on a train bound for München. Once there we set down our bags in the hostel and decided to the explore the neighborhood. Both of us were somewhat freaked out by the city, which seemed imagined by Walt Disney - full of happy, healthy families riding their bicycles on immaculately kept streets. Also this:

Needless to say, with our grunginess and travel-worn faces, we didn't fit in. The following morning we immediately set out for the nearest junction (moving even faster than when we were fleeing Plzeň's forests) and enthusiastically held up a sign for Rosenheim. After not long at all, and a number of passing Ferraris, Bentleys, and Porsches, a gentleman from Rosenheim pulled over and offered us a lift in his luxurious (most importantly, air-conditioned) SUV. We were there in under an hour, all the time spent chatting with our ride-host who encouraged us with his opinions about the pursuit of happiness. He mentioned that even though he could make much more money elsewhere, he wouldn't leave Rosenheim, because it offered all of the things in life that made him happy - family, hiking, heritage, and natural beauty. It was refreshing to see that even in such a capitalistic environment, money was not his top priority.

Ecstatic at the beauty of Rosenheim's proximity to the Alps, and enlivened at our good fortune, we decided to make a try for a ride to Innsbruck - across the border in Austria. The wait time was even less than in München, and a generous man with a warm voice and kind eyes pulled over to offer us a lift. Another hour and a half of driving through magnificent views of the Alps and we found ourselves in Innsbruck's city center. It was there, after a quick conference, that we decided to catch the next train to Verona, Italy. Where we only managed a few hours of day-lit exploration before our next destination.

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