Europe N to S: Onward (11/9/16)

Today’s Miles: 16.8

Total Miles: 2,693

Near Winnigsen, Germany – November 9, 2016

The bus rolls to a stop in central Hannover. I rub at my eyes to wake up as I stumble off and wait for the driver to hand me my backpack from underneath.

The first days in my friend’s Warsaw apartment had slid by fast and easy. I spent most laying on a couch and editing video clips of the trip. Looking back, I couldn’t believe how beautiful the Scandinavian mountains had been, how the sunsets lingered for hours, how the earth seemed to stretch forever.

But those days are gone.

The driver hands me my pack and I slide it on. Sunrise hasn’t begun, but the city’s electric lights are enough to walk by.

The streets feel empty in the early morning. The handful of us that move about can’t fill the wide avenues and sidewalks meant to hold hundreds. My steps seem to echo through the open space. 

I can’t lean on mountains and sunsets anymore. The trail is a new challenge now, flat roads and small towns, farms and forests, bike paths and city streets. I need to find the joy in them that I once found in the glacier-carved north.

A trash collector hums down the street. Its brushes spin as it sucks up garbage and leaves clean pavement in its wake. Its exhaust steams in the cool morning air. I cross an intersection and my eyes catch a bit of snow clinging to a van’s roof.

I wonder where it came from. Had it snowed here while I was gone? After a few days, my friend’s couch was no longer luxury, it was only comfortable. After a few more, I missed the trail. Only then did I buy a ticket back. I didn’t think much would have changed. 

I find another bit of snow almost melted away along the sidewalk. Then a bit more hidden along the edge of a building. There are patches everywhere once I look, lingering in the corner of a park, still clinging to a rooftop’s edge, building up as I rise away from the center of Hannover.

By evening, I’ve reached a low ridge, covered in snow that grew from a patchy mess to a blanket of white as I walked. Trees bend low under the weight, their branches pulled downward. The air feels crisp and frozen. The ground crunches under my feet.

I walk into it, my breath steaming, my clothes a bit of color against the black and white of bark and snow. The world has changed. The hills, the dirt, the trees I used to know are gone, replaced, turned into strangers overnight.

I pull my jacket tight, slip my hands into gloves, and feel my heart pumping warmth through my veins. My fingers numb and ache, the cold chewing at them, but my heart keeps pumping, promising it won’t let them slide away.

I start to walk again. To stop moving against the cold is to die from it and I refuse that path. 
Winter is here and it’s scary, but I will walk anyway, I will fight on to the south, to better days, because I know the truth of it, I know that spring always comes, that winter never wins all, that you must fight on until it breaks.

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2 thoughts on “Europe N to S: Onward (11/9/16)

  1. Hello Mr. Alvarez…

    Mrs. Bellflower and Mr. Miller with our weekly “Alvarez Adventure” discussions. We fell behind because of other school stuff–sorry! We got back into where you have been traveling by going back to episode 5 of your videos and going forward from there–we LOVE your videos, particularly the one with Theodore (we think you should write a story about Theodore) AND the one where you are eating a whole box of ice cream. Did you really buy TWO BOXES?? And eat them ALL? We still have other episodes to watch this Friday.
    Thank you for answering our questions about the solar panel for recharging and about your shoes needing replaced. Also, we now know about your tent because of your video about setting up and taking it down. Your Dad said he would come in to set a tent up and we sure hope he can do that. Mr. Miller thought maybe we could get inside to see what it is like to be in a tent for 24 hours when it is raining.
    We are writing more questions for you and they will be sent next week. We hope you don’t get too cold when you are crossing the Alps. Mrs. Bellflower showed us where the Alps are and we are wondering how you are going to climb them. Mrs. Bellflower told us about a family who crossed the Alps during World War Two to get away from the Germany army.
    We have a picture of our class for you. Mr. Miller said he will send it in an e-mail to you.
    Good bye for now. Please stay warm. Happy Trails, Mrs. Bellflower’s 3rd grade class.

  2. Certainly enjoying your Journey, your an amazing young fella and keep following your dreams🙏🏼💞 Sharon from Quesnel, B.C.

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