Word and photos: Franzi Wernsing of Tales on Tyres @talesontyres
The fabric of our t-shirts feels stiff. Four days of dirt and sweat are worked into the sun-bleached threads. The salt-crusted lines on the back, remind us of one of those fashionable tie-dye patterns. And without even having to look into a mirror, we know that the rest of us can't possibly look much better. Our legs are bruised and muddy, our hair messy and our faces burnt. We're somewhere in the south of France, squatting on the ground in front of a tiny convenience store, having lunch. Not like civilized people would, but instead with the food spread out on the ground in front of us, stuffing our faces as if we have lived off of only wild herbs and edible grasses for the past few weeks.
The ones of you who travel in similar manner probably know the irritated side looks you sometimes get in this kind of situations from people passing by. However, the citizens of this particular little village didn't seem to mind the barbaric scene but instead kindly wished us a 'Bon Appetit'.
To be honest with you, we didn't expected that at all, like the many of the other unexpected things we experienced in the past month while traveling across Europe. After returning to Germany from riding our bicycles countless miles across foreign lands and continents, we knew it was finally time to explore our home turf. In the past years, we had always been more drawn to those places which made us leave our comfort zones and those that forced us to step out of the culture bubble in which we were born and raised into. We had never really considered staying home and riding our bikes around Europe.
When we left in early May, our expectations for the trip were quite low as we already presumed not to find anything comparable to the vast, exotic and marvelous places we had already seen. We were pretty sure that the Alps would feel insignificant to us in relation to the high plateaus we had cycled in South America. Little did we know...
The owner of the small convenience store welcomes me back in with a smile as I return to buy another round of food for our sprawled lunch. While I streak through the aisles of his shop, he tries to start a conversation with me, pointing at our loaded bikes leaning against his shop’s window. But it is completely in vain, as the four years of French classes I took in high school are long forgotten. When he realize, he only shrugs with his shoulders: ”No English” he explains and somehow he manages not to make me feel bad but more like that we’re equal.
Europe is small, crowded and full of surprises. Its regions diversified, uncomparable and charming. Always with something new to explore or something old to rediscover. Borders in Europe feel less political but instead as if they're framing pieces of art. The rustic espresso bars in Italy. The well-maintained Alms in Switzerland, where the host not only speaks three different language at once but also offers solid route advice and homemade Schnapps. France of course, where no town can go without a artisan boulangerie and patisserie. That's what we have seen so far from this continent and its only a fraction. Still, this has already totally swept us off our feet and crumbled most of our presumptions.
During our little break, a bunch of dark clouds have sneaked up on us. I can smell the approaching rain, can already hear the thunder roaring in the distant. Heavy afternoon showers are common, especially in this years hot and dry summer. We don't mind them and jump back on the bicycles.
That evening we eat dinner in front of our tent pitched on an empty field, watching the clouds wandering across the sky. We wonder why we previously never considered traveling across Europe. Were our previous travels the needed foundation to find beauty at home after all those years? Could we have possibly enjoyed it as much as we do now? Is it necessary to be able to compare the places we explore now to the places we have already been to judge their grandness? We try to find an answer, share ideas and thoughts but for now we can't come to a conclusion because it's impossible to rewind time and forget already made experiences. And maybe nothing would really change if we would because in the end what matters is that we’re here now and that it feels damn good to be home.