More than a month has passed since I left home.
Although I had already taken that step more than five years ago and I knew how much that “act of courage” had changed me, given me and made me happy, I felt a certain nervousness. I was more nervous than five years ago. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the general situation, which is rather unstable and tense. Or maybe it was because I myself was unwilling to give up certain comforts and stability … I mean: living as a nomad in an off-road vehicle … I promised myself to always be brutally honest with myself and if it doesn’t work (even with/for Dimitri) to not force things.
I only spent a few days in the Ticino and Graubünden Alps. Absolutely beautiful places but the roads are very busy and you don’t get that sense of ‘wilderness’. In Ticino I had asked a gamekeeper if I could stop in the forest. “Are you alone? No, problem. Only in summer we don’t allow it’.
I placed myself in a really lovely spot, when … rubbish, nappies in plastic bags and toilet paper everywhere. Is it really so difficult not to leave a trace? The behaviour of these pigs also affects good campers … I was so angry.
In Italy I didn’t see much of the Dolomites. Fog, pouring rain and wind. I know the region a little and I was ready to use the camera as never before, but nothing. This is why not so many pictures in this post.
Even at night it was not easy to find a place to sleep. The season for many camping places was practically over and they were all closing down.
A group of campers suggested me to spend the night at Hans’s farm in the Alto Adige. “It’s a beautiful place with a wonderful view and Hans is soooo nice”. And so I did. Hans was really lovely, with his light-green smiling eyes. I immediately felt welcomed.
“Hans I have a cat, is it a problem?”. He became serious. “Uuuh yes, it’s a problem.” I laugh, thinking he was joking. “Blacky has already killed several cats. He just can’t stand them” and points me to a beautiful Labrador with shiny black fur and sweet eyes. “That sugar candy is a killer?”. “Yes. You can stay, but – and he stared straight into my eyes – take care of your cat. I really don’t want it to die”. OK, no, no, no. None of us needed that “stress”.
I asked him if he knew where in the area I could stay for the night without running into trouble or bothering anyone. He rubbed his chin: “Mmmm … you could ask Ube … we call him Otzi” he laughs. Otzi? The only image I associate with Otzi flashed in my head. Yes, exactly this image:
“Oh poor guy? Is he sick?” (what an idiot I am). He laughs: ‘No no, he’s just very “special” … you will see. Do you see that building up there? Drive there and ask for Ube”.
I was almost nervous to meet Otzi. A boy with incomprehensible pronunciation babbles something to me. “Wie bitte?” He pointed me towards a jungle of bushes. A voice rised up: “Who is looking for me?” and there he is, Otzi.
A man about my height (160 cm), ice-blue eyes, a beard and thick grey hair. On his head a leather cowboy hat. He wore a waistcoat made of many pieces of leather. His jeans were covered in a layer of dirt. And the thick hands, also dirty, were those of someone who had worked hard all his life. I immediately understood what Hans meant. Ube is not just “special”. Ube is a real character. The look was that of someone who had seen a lot. Proudly he showed me where and how he lives. In symbiosis with nature. The yurt (his house). The mud oven. The tea ‘veranda’. Figures carved in the wood. The cornfields. The geese … He allowed me to stay on his huge estate, in the forest.
“What do you do for job?” he asked me. “I am a geologist”. His eyes lighted up: “But then you know how to find water!” … and here begins the circus.
“Well, yes, geology also deals with water – hydrogeology.” I replied. “Come with me! Come!” said to me and he took me to the middle of a meadow: “Here there is something! Do you feel it?? Go like this!”. He spread his arms out with palms facing the ground and started moving around very slowly. “Do you feel it?”.
At that very moment I understood what was happening. Laughing was out of the question. He was extremely serious and I really felt bad about ruining his enthusiasm … so I imitated him. Me and Otzi. In the middle of the meadow, probing the ground with the palms of our hands. “If my colleagues could see me!!!” and I concentrated not to laugh. “Do you feel the energy? Or maybe you need the stick?”. I was dying inside.
I tried to be as gentle as possible: “Ube, I’m sorry but I don’t feel anything. I think you have to be very sensitive for these things.” He didn’t gave up: “Come here! Feel! Do you feel it?” … I moved my hands around “Mmmm no. And you Ube, do you feel it?”. Silence. “No I don’t feel anything either” and we burst out laughing. “You know Ube, I’m more into “rocks” than hydrogeology”. I could see the disappointment on his face but in a certain way I saved the situation a little.
He told me many stories. About wars. Of Russian prisoners. About his family. He desperately rummaged in a box. “Here it is! Look. That’s me”. He was so proud. “I used to dress up as Otzi on special occasions in the village, more for the children, you know?” The photo depicts a younger Ube, dressed entirely in skins and furs adorned with accessories and tools like those found on the famous mummy … Otzi. Ooh Otzi, you really did my time in Italy.
Stef, Popone and Otzi