I’m currently reading Nick Hunt’s fantastic book Walking the Woods and the Water, a beautifully written re-tracing of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s epic walk from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul – albeit in a very different age. Leigh Fermor is one of my absolute favourite writers and people (I do plan to write a longer post on exactly why his work has meant so much to me and countless other wanderlusters in the near future) and I wanted to share a quote from Hunt’s version of the journey that particularly resonated with me. He’s just entered Bavaria – a land dear to my heart – and describes the experience of crossing the unassuming border into Austria:
Austria lay down a nondescript road that looked like it could only end in a suburban cul-de-sac, but brought me instead to the green Saalach river, where nothing stirred but a ginger cat picking its way across the bank.”
This sentence conjured up so many echoes of my own time living on a nondescript border with Austria, reached by its own footbridge over the Saalach’s mother river, and its own precocious ginger cat that patrolled the borderland. Perhaps there are hordes of them across Europe – feline guardians of an increasingly integrated continent. Perhaps it’s the same cat zealously making its way up the Salzach’s tributaries in the way that Leigh Fermor and Hunt and countless travellers before them have traversed lands guided solely by a river. Or perhaps I just need to step away from the travel literature for a bit.