Hiking trip

Nora Spiegel
09.04.2018
 
Hiking trip
The railway station in the little village of Lana is filled with delightful chaos. Hiking poles rattle on the asphalt; backpacks are being rummaged in the search for granola bars and water bottles. It is a clear, cloudless late-autumn day, the first one after two rainy weeks. Day-trippers, tourists, families: all are wildly determined to use this last beautiful hiking day to its full potential. At 9:03 sharp the regional express coming from Innsbruck pulls into the station with a hiss. As the doors open, a motley group of hikers tumbles out of the last carriage. It consists of eight young men, several of them bearded, some clean-shaven, all dark-skinned and equipped with backpacks showing the logo of the Tyrolean regional government. They look around, overwhelmed by the noise and all the people shouting things in German and Italian.
“Willkommen in Lana - welcome to Lana!” A little, chubby lady with wild, fiery red curls has noticed the group and is waving enthusiastically. They all gather in front of the white station building and everybody receives a piece of adhesive tape to write their name on with a marker.
“Ich bin Elena - I’m Elena and I’ll be your guide today”, the young lady announces. She talks slowly and loud. Fati carefully blows on his strip, to make sure the letters don’t smudge right away, and hands the marker over to Mohammed.
“Guys, we are here to enjoy ourselves, okay? So if you need anything, anything at all, tell me, don’t be shy! Water, snacks, a break – just say the word, okay?” Everybody nods and smiles, some mumbling a timid “okay”.
---
From the overhead cable car, the people, cars, houses and even the surrounding mountainous landscape are shrinking rapidly. Fati rests his forehead against the window, watching the valley move away, while Elena is explaining in German and English, why and since when South Tyrol no longer belongs to Austria, but to Italy. He already knows this story since he is currently studying for the citizenship test with Julia, his German teacher. Ali from Iraq wants to know if Elena’s grandparents stayed in South Tyrol during the war. Just as Elena is about to answer, the doors of the cable car open.
They are welcomed by a pleasant scent of resin and soil, fresh grass and wildflowers. The trees that grow up here are called larch trees, Elena explains. Their steps across the loudly scrunching gravel of the path break the silence. The further they immerge into the autumn mountain landscape, the quieter their voices get. Fati focuses completely on the rhythm of his steps and the rustling of the leaves underneath his soles. Soon he leaves the rest of the group behind him, at first only a few meters before they disappear behind the last bend of the path. He tries to absorb the silence like a sponge. Campsite, dormitory, shared kitchen, common room – when was the last time he really was alone? He is so lost in his own thoughts, he almost bumps into an older man, who suddenly is overtaking him at a brisk pace.

“Hi there”, says the white-haired man, curiously examining him from the side. “Good day”, Fati responds, hoping the man would quickly pass him and leave him alone in silence for a couple more moments.
The old man, however, had already adapted to his pace, striding alongside him with his hands crossed behind his back. He’s wearing brown hiking trousers, a red and white plaid shirt, in addition to his bushy full beard and an old-fashioned olive-coloured rucksack.
“Visiting the country, right?” he asks, raising one of his bushy eyebrows.
“Yes, and you?”
“Same, I’m from Innsbruck. Do you know Innsbruck?”
“Yes, Innsbruck is a beautiful city” says Fati, trying to pronounce every German letter exactly as Julia had taught him.
“Ha!” You should’ve seen Innsbruck a couple of years ago, before all those foreigners invaded our city – ”
He immediately gives Fati an apologetic look.
“I mean immigrants, asylum seekers, whatever they’re called! Not tourists like you! Tourism itself is certainly a good thing.”
Fati nods.
“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against foreigners, really! They can come here, with pleasure, we have enough work! But they have to be able to integrate themselves, to understand our culture, and to adjust!”
The man looks at him seriously.
“Do you know what I mean?”
“For example to go to the theatre?” Fati proposes.
“Yes, yes exactly! And into the mountains!” the man shouts.
“I like the mountains”, says Fati, “I like the silence and I like nature.”
“I do too! The mountains are part of our culture! That’s exactly what I mean!” the man says contently.
“We also have mountains in my home country. My family used to go on vacation in the mountains, in Maalula – ”
“Really? Where is that, Maalula? In southern Spain?” the man asks interestedly.
“No, in Syria”, says Fati.
The man and Fati are walking next to each other in silence. The gravel is scrunching underneath their soles, leaves are rustling. Fati enjoys the silence.


Translation: Shan Wardell

 
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