Saturday, September 19, 2009

Running away: Gozo, Malta, 2007

In October 2007 I spent a week on the island of Gozo, in Malta, as an editor-in-residence at the Gharb studio of artist Norbert Attard. Parts of Gozo were settled as far back as the Bronze Age. The island is reputedly where, after the Trojan Wars, Ulysses was shipwrecked in a terrible storm. He was rescued and nursed back to health by the goddess-nymph Calypso, who lived in a cave in the hillside overlooking the bay where he was washed ashore. She must have decided he was a pretty good catch, because for seven years she prevented him leaving to return to his wife Penelope who was waiting at home in Greece. Calypso promised Ulysses eternal youth if he would marry her, but he was pining for his Pen and turned her down. Zeus finally stepped in and ordered Calypso to release Ulysses, and he took to the seas again. After some more adventures, he was finally reunited with Penny. I had two runs while on the island. The first took me to the dramatic coast, past fields separated by crumbling stone walls. I felt a little vulnerable in such a deserted place. You could have tracked my next run, through the sleeping village and on to the outskirts of the main city of Victoria and back, by the sound of barking dogs.

Tour du Mont Blanc, 2007

For my first-ever trekking holiday, I completed the two-week circuit of Mont Blanc, which has been described as ‘probably the most dramatic walk in Europe’. It was hard going at some stage on most days, and for most of the time on a few days. Basically, the walk links the seven valleys that surround Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, so we ascended/descended, or descended/ascended, up to three times a day, apart from our three rest days. The scenery was spectacular, with peaks, glaciers, mountain passes, forests and alpine meadows, and everything in-between. The trails attract a lot of day walkers, and are well supplied with refuges. We would greet oncoming walkers with 'bonjour' or 'buongiorno', depending on whether we were in France, Switzerland or Italy on any particular day. I managed to do a surprising amount of shopping in villages en route and even won an award for my high-altitude knicker-shopping abilities.

Running away: Zurich, Switzerland, 2007

In September 2007 I spent a couple of days in Zurich prior to flying to Geneva to join a two-week trek around Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak. The town is very pretty, and a delightful place to explore on foot. Early on my second morning I ran an out-and-back course for 75 minutes alongside the River Limmat, in search of where it entered Lake Zurich. I wasn’t able to find the lake (how does one lose a lake?), but I did find a delicious cherry pastry at Bahnhaupthof railway station afterwards, which I ate on the way back to my hotel.