*Please note: the following is a stream of consciousness written on wet rainy day when plenty of cake and caffeine had been consumed.
Over the past 8 months I have been travelling Europe and the austerity stricken lands of the United Kingdom. I have seen fantastic cities, historical landmarks, tasted delicious foods and beers – yet when visiting these places it can sometimes feel like a cold interaction, faint understanding and underpinning of what really makes the place be what it is; and of course you can never really understand the underbelly of a place unless you are in situ for long period of time, but the “contiki tour” lifestyle of walk, see, beer, photo, beer, walk, see, beer, food doesn’t unturn the ‘realness’ of a place.
After leaving the oasis, nay, the halcyon city of climbing and fun which was Sheffield, I began travelling eastward. A hilarious bungle with trains through France and Belgium followed (where two other Australians and myself navigated a treacherous delay in connections and angry conductors – a story for another time). Eventually, I arrived in the progressive city of Amsterdam. In totality it’s difficult to some up a major city in just a few words, and generally they indure from something of an image problem based on stereotypes and generalisations. However, the adjectives typically used to describe Amsterdam are more accurate than most. It is simply a beautiful city, though in my short stay I uncovered hardly the surface of what made the city tick. This was the same in my stay at Berlin; historically immense and utterly hip, yet other than a catch up with Sophia – a local who I met in travels many moons ago in Mexico, I really didn’t stray far off the tourist path, and didn’t feel connected to the city itself. Don’t misread my comments as being sultry and insipid – as my time has been joyous, though I have learned that the best vehicle for travel is climbing – I gain more from places sharing in my passion with those that live in those places. You gain a sense of place, connection and most importantly, build community in the space of hours.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – Berlin
The last two weeks have been proof to my theory; after meeting with my German friend Juls in Düsseldorf and exploring the Rhein River and surrounds (Cologne, Bonn, Petersburg etc) we headed to Belgium and the fantastically idyllic climbing area called ‘Roche de Freyr’ – Belgiums most important climbing area (and probably only). Here the grades were stiff, the limestone polished and the position over the River Meuse, immense. During my time with Juls she mentioned an Australian climbing friend of hers was staying in Bavaria in the Frakenjurra – the mecca of hard German climbing. I had previously been thinking of heading to the French Alps toward Chamonix, and the Frakenjurra really wasn’t on my mind – but the idea of having a solid climbing partner instead of bumbling around France, I jumped on it. I have now been in the Frakenjurra for just over a week, and have been staying at a quaint climbing hostel called ‘Die Intensive Station’ – which I highly recommend if you ever come! I have been immersed in the bavarian lifestyle and met many of the Frakenjurra locals. I feel more connected here then any big city; I feel earthed and apart of the community. Maybe this is just part of my genetic make up, or leans towards the enjoyment I find in climbing? Yet, when you belong to a community, you gain a sense of place which is something I really struggle to find in Hostels in big cities around the world, especially when travelling solo. After living in Sheffield for 5 months, the same emotions were apparent. Being part of a community, particularly a climbing one, I felt grounded, connected and at home.
Amsterdam in bloom
I think what I am trying to summarise and imply in my endless jargon is that being part of a community, be it on a global scale or on a smaller neighbourhood level; makes you feel apart of something special and gives safe platform to share a passion that others may not see as worth while. Climbing is a global community that in reality, is extremely small. There is a shared passion for people to succeed and enjoy there time climbing, which can be shown in differing ways. It could be as simple as an act of sharades giving a little beta on where the best routes are from a non-english speaking local, a willing yell of ‘venga’ from a strong spanish climber you’ve never met as she watches you completely crux out on your 28th Redpoint burn or listeing to a heightened tale with post climbing beers about how his ankles nearly grazed the ground when the supposed ‘bomber’ nut blew when he fell at the crux. It is a community I am very happy to be apart of, as friendship, kindness, encouragement and generosity seemingly comes as part of the bundle. And for all the kindness and generosity I have been shown in my travels, I aim to pay back 10 fold, back into the climbing community.
Hanging on in – Amsterdam
Looking through the East Side gallery – Berlin
*My next movements are also intwined with the aforementioned ideaology, as I travel to visit an old climbing friend in Munich, before heading to Switzerland and meeting some climbing friends I made in Spain
The Freyr – Belgium
Azhar on belay