Ode to Backpacking Europe

by Earthbook

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Years in the making; a chronological insight into my wife and I's 21 day excursion through Europe. Acoustic and lead vocals recorded live into a single track, minimal manipulation, guest vocals by Kyla Gorey.


released September 3, 2016



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Earthbook Toledo, Ohio

Earthbook is an expression of years spent journaling, traveling, describing, inspecting, & dissecting life on Earth. Combining non-traditional song patterns with the pursuit of artistic & purposeful lyric & poetry writing, Earthbook provides the opportunity to offer personal illustrations of my experiences on Earth; a planet which is encountered incomprehensibly different by each of us. ... more

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Track Name: Ode to Backpacking Europe
35 and 50 liters; 40 pounds: 5 days of clothing, plastic bags surrounding knowing this is all we’ll have for 21 days. 3 weeks we spent backpacking on the landmass past the Atlantic on 2 weeks of planning. You could say we were unprepared, but we met some friends there; some new, some old, all generous and eternally helpful. Then we rode the rails from Germany, Belgium, Switzerland to Italy. We walked miles of mosaic floors, cobblestone streets; and opened doors and bottles. We ate in restaurants or on the street or in grocery stores. We carried our hopes and homes, we packed our lives and brought back more.
Track Name: Ode to Germany
Hallo Deutschland. Wir wissen nichts von deinen worte (Hello, Germany. We know nothing of your words). Yet we’ve come for 5 days and can’t communicate. I expected to not be phased by social interactions, but I got red-faced. Frozen up, what am I supposed to say? “Es tut mir leid. Sprechen sie English?” (I am so sorry. Do you speak English?). Hallo Deutschland. Mir helfen die geschichte zu verstehen (Hello, Germany. Help me to understand your history). We’ve been here for 5 days and still can’t comprehend why exactly Berlin looks so new, the memorials and wall stretching through. We indulge in hot mustard, wurst und bier (sausage and beer). Und versuchen zu verstehen, was hier passiert ist (and try to understand what happened here). Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland. Sie waren gut zu uns (Goodbye, Germany. You were good to us.)
Track Name: Ode to The Rails
We relied on the tracks to travel over the black lines drawn of maps in-between Germany and Italy. We’ll be riding the rails until we fly back to our country. Most times we’d sit, but on crowded cars we would get kicked out of our seats by reservations which put us on our feet or in aisles or on the floor if there was no opening. When we got off at the wrong stop we’d correct ourselves and get back on the next one. Out the windows we’d watch what we’d miss go by and try to grasp where we came from and how quickly we’ll show up at our next location, a place with new culture and tradition.
Track Name: Ode to Belgium
We sat on the steps inside the train next to other travelers with no seat to claim. We rode into Ghent, Belgium alone, to be welcomed into two strangers’ home. They took us to dinner and then city center with Trappist beer resonating on our tongues. We were amazed by the city and thankful for the weather. We picked from a list of homemade Belgian liquor that we couldn’t read. The old man never spilled drop. Don’t pick it up; lean to the table and drink.

Then we visited Antwerp early the next day. We ate a waffle sandwich, explored the city streets and stopped in the cafe. We returned to Ghent and got lost going home on the last bus out of town. We got off and walked back; we were late for dinner, but our hosts were gracious and poured another round.

Our last day was in Brugge, but we couldn’t seem to loose the unending crowds of people until our hosts showed up and led us to hidden features like a nun’s secret cathedral. We strolled the canals, ate chocolate and drove to our final dinner together. There were windmills on the walk, lemon-mint tea before bed, a taxi in the morning, Switzerland is next.
Track Name: Ode to Switzerland
Starving beds: Skeleton frames; our bodies lifted above strangers; we’re all foreigners; same place 8 heads, one room, 3 continents. 3rd country in, one to go. From ancient cities to glacier centered mountains above rolling green hills and scattered swiss chalets. First we hiked 27000 vertical feet from Lauterbrunnen to Murren, then we jumped off waterfalls and slid down glacial river walls, then we rode up Harder Kulm, made a salas and admired views. We ate salami and fresh baked bread all the time, drank 2 frank Spanish wine and looked at the sky. Then it was time to go; already 4 days past. We know we may never return to where the water flows slate blue and cold. I’ve never seen a landscape quite like this. it’s always been a place i’ve dreamed of visiting and here it is: Switzerland.
Track Name: Ode to 25 Hours and 55 Minutes in Venice
We hop off of the train to Euro restroom charges again. We’ve reached new ground with a lack of direction and 3G down. We retrieve our address and are told which way to go, but water taxis are crowded and slow. As we inch through flooded streets we see a sea of unending people. We see no room for us. Down narrow streets like cattle chutes, we walk in line to find our bed, then check in and get ready to do it again, but to our surprise the labyrinth walls now look down on no-one; a loss of life brings its breath back. Pastel stones standing strong in canals. Islands of alleyways bound by bridges. Beauty astounding. Intriguing surroundings. We see the night fall down. We see the lights reflecting on what should be ground. We share wine and talk while violins walk by, spend the night walking patterns in the dark; we can’t walk to far.
Track Name: Ode to Italy
Switzerland to Italy: we’re almost done, but still have 7 days. Our last country, 4 cities: canals, the beach, pizza and history. Crossing country lines; architecture flips like a dime while the landscape continues by undisturbed by changes in culture and currency, governments and culinary staples like they don’t exist at all. We spent 25 hours and 55 minutes in Venice, but there’s already a song dedicated to it.

Termini Station sucks: busy even at night, hassled by passerbys. "With any luck we’ll get to where we’re going without getting mugged," was our first thought. It looks like a dirty New York, but in the dark it seems scarier because we don’t speak the language just English and minimal Spanish. Two American-trained brains in a foreign land. Until the sun bleached the sky and American-internet fears are set in perspective, were we able to examine the city without exaggerated subjective assumptions. The history here is uncomprehendible; ruins here and there. The food was fantastic. The Vatican was intricate and massive. Two Americans in a foreign land. It was unbearably hot. The baths were cool, but unable to cool you off. In the Pantheon we saw Raphael’s tomb and the column to God. This city’s a maze. No trust for tourists; we ran from scams our entire stay. We met our New York/Berlin friends, ate gelato, drank wine on the steps. Four American friends in a foreign land.

Then we took the train from Rome to Naples/Napoli. We got four hot seats, a window screwed shut by a broken toilet and loud company. We walked through the market, smelled fish heads, saw toys for cruise ship tourists. The city was dingy. We ate the rumored best pizza in Italy.

From there we catch a bus that drives an hour against mountain side cliffs with a driver who was hard to trust. We hiked to our place with a mountainous view; excited to be with friends and excited for the waves tomorrow too. We found a beach the next day in Amalfi that was a long walk until the 400 steps down to the rock tumbling sea. We collected stone, glass and tile. The water was so clear and a peculiar shade of green. We sipped absinth and cringed to its warmth and alcohol content and swam in the saltiest water in the rain. I was floating 20 feet above the sea floor soaking in the sun. The beauty of the scenery was well worth all the steps back up to the street. We drank prosecco to hydrate and ate an awesome dinner and played charades. We drank wine and played games and laughed until our friends; they went away. Then spent our last day relaxing with more prosecco and less limoncello and caught a bus back to the train. We missed the ferry by five minutes. I can’t believe our trip is almost finished. First stop Rome. Next stop home.

One more sleep at a Rome BNB in a nice man’s apartment near Termini. We pack our bags one last time and sweat all night ’till our early alarm.
Track Name: Ode to Going Home
This is our last walk to the station. These memories are sacred; I’ll die before I let my old brain erase them, but for now it’s goodbye. We’re going home; back to Ohio, back to Toledo; having had experiences I had only dreamed of. Thank you for this opportunity to see the world. We carried our hopes and homes, we packed our lives and brought back more.