By dint of living in Alsace, I often didn’t measure my chance. It was normal for me to take the bus from Strasbourg to Kehl in Germany just to buy cigarettes, eat ice creams or go grocery shopping. As a kid, it didn’t feel extraordinary to go to Basel’s zoo in Switzerland and spend entire days in the Baden-Württemberg’s swimming pools. There was nothing unusual for me, my friends, and my family in spending a few summer days having fun in Europa Park (a huge attraction park, located in Rust, Germany). But when I casually mentioned these stories to my friends from Japan, New Zealand, and Taiwan, it was always fascinating for them, this easiness to cross borders, to go to another country. For islanders, there would always be boats, planes, and journeys to go abroad. Since I came back, I tend to be more grateful for those border-crossing experiences, and I expect to make the most of it!
Backpacking for Dummies
In the end, my night was very relaxing. The hotel’s bed was as comfy as a fluffy cloud and the ladies at the reception desk made me smile this morning with their cheering. They seemed genuinely admirative of my journey and it feels good sometimes to remember why I got on my bike to travel Alsace (because 1. Why not? And because 2. I feel like doing quite a few little crazy things in my life before I die). I ate as much as I could at the hotel’s breakfast buffet and even put a few snacks in my pockets for lunch. I feel definitely more serene and energetic this morning to go back on the road.
After a yummy breakfast shared with my friend Christel with some chocolate cake left by Valentin the previous night, I’m back on the road! I cycle in Neudorf, my former neighbourhood, quite nostalgic, but with a strange feeling of not completely belonging there anymore. After all, that neighbourhood has changed a lot, it got a bit gentrified, and what once felt familiar is now mixed up with the foreign. Is it how it always goes with the places we used to cherish? The filters of the past can’t quite overlap the actual sceneries. We play the game of the 7 differences, with some eagerness, but also a bit of nostalgia, isn’t it? What’s left of our memories when the architecture is changing? Is there any memory set in stone?
Last year, end of September 2019, I cycled around my home region of Alsace (France) for a week. I started in Wissembourg, at the extreme north of the region, and cycled down to Basel in Switzerland. I cycled about 400km in total, on three different Eurovelo routes, I crossed two borders (Germany and Switzerland) and relaxed in three different spas along the way (because why not?) and, obviously, I experienced different weather conditions.
Right after the lockdown -which ended up around June 2020 in France- the mailboxes of Mulhouse were filled with letters from Abd Al Malik, in partnership with the city concert hall La Filature. In this letter, the famous French singer/rapper/poet/writer who grew up in Strasbourg, was calling us to write back letters. Letters addressed to Mulhouse, our city, to tell her about our lockdown since the city had been the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in France last February. Everybody here knows someone who has been infected, hospitalized, or someone who has died… Everybody here knows someone who was in the first line, care and health workers, cashiers, transportation workers.
Everybody here has known about fear.
This blog, my blog, is already 5 years old. I posted my first article on June 10th 2015 and it was about the Working Holiday Visa. 11 days later, I was landing at Tokyo Haneda Airport in the middle of the night. And followed one of the most unlikely nights of my life.
Here I was on the road. The adventure had just started.