Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Medieval shoes sewn in turnshoe method

Tools for making shoes: awl, pliers, nails and hammer
Let's take a closer look on the most important part of a Pilgrims gear - the shoes. I made them by using the turnshoe method. That means to sew them from the side which will later be inside and then turn them inside out. Therefore uppers and sole are nailed onto a piece of wood called last. The sewing is done in saddle stitch manner, meaning to use two ends of the string at once. The strings are made from flax soaked in bees wax and fir resin. They are tapered towards the end and have boar hair at the tips, so they can easily be pushed through the holes made with an awl.

Sewing uppers and sole together in saddle stitch manner. Holes are pierced through the layers of leather by an awl, then threads are lead through by boar hair glued to the tips instead of using needles.
Piercing holes through the leather of the second sole for attaching it onto the shoe. Samething is done on the first sole.
A second layer of sole is sewed onto the shoe.

At first the string is loosly lead through all the holes and then gets tightened afterwards.

Pair of shoes in medieval turnshoe method with leather soles.
All the seams disappear inside the shoe. They have to be hammered carefully to make them flat and avoid blisters.

Let's take a look on what happend to these shoes while walking mainly on asphalt and gravel:
It turned out, that most harm was caused by gravel, while the shoes where wet and therefore soft. The right shoe took less damage, because I hurt this foot and put less weight on it. Around 250km seems to be the distance, when soles should be replaced. Then the shoes would be pretty much like new. I am convinced, that shoes in medieval times didn't wear out that fast as mine did. First the ground was rather softer than nowadays. Second they could probaly take better leather than me. Unfortunately I couldn't choose from which body part I took the leather for the soles and it was rather from the belly than the neck. Third this was just the fourth pair I did, whereas medieval shoemakers were professional craftsmen, who sophisticated their skills by making hundreds of shoes.

Besides that I can tell, that walking on modern streets with that kind of shoes might likely harm your feet. It turned out in MRI-observation by my doc, that the repeating shock of hitting the street brought my right foot into a first state of fatigue fracture. That was the reason why it was swollen all the time. When you walk on hard ground without damping in your shoes, your feet have to cushion all the weight. I'm convinced that feet are made for this and are capable of doing so. So I took one year of training in advance to walk whithout damping inside the shoes. As it seems this wasn't enough. Now I have to avoid walking for a few weeks.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Equipment of a 13th century Pilgrim

This is what I took with me for the pilgrimage:
My attempt to represent the equipment of a 13th centurys Pilgrim.
First column:
A broad felt-hat (302g), a linen undergarment (218g), a rope as a belt (40g) with a leather pouch (86g), a big linen sheet 1,5x1,75m wraped around the hips like a napkin called braies (352g), a belt from nettel cord and leather straps (40g), a pair of hoses cut off before the feet (152g) and a pair of leather shoes sewn inside out with leather heels and soles (640g).

Second column:
Raincape from loden and woolen cloth called pelerine (1125g), hollowed squash called calabash (110g), forked hazel stick (368g), madder red woolen tunic (496g), leather bag containing all my modern things (258g), knive, strings, threads and needles for repair.

Third column and far to the right:
Sleeping bag from wool and linen (1635g), small linen sheet  0,7x0,7m for wrapping food (210g), additional pair of shoes for replacement (768g), another big linen sheet 1,5x1,75m used as a bag (346g) and a thin woolen mat (570g).

This makes around 8kg in total without water and foot. That's not too much for a hike and a lot of it is always ditributed around my body and not really pushing onto the shoulders. The heavy things are the sleeping bag and the mat, which are rather my invention than actual medieval equipment. Anyhow I didn't find any depictions for that, but the raincape was definetaly not enough to keep me warm. Possibly medieval people were just physically more used to live outside than me.
It turned out, that the other pair of shoes could have been replaced by new leather for the heels and some shoemaker tools to save weight. Also the small sheet of linen was rather unnecessary. Therefore carrying two big sheets of linen was quite usefull, so I could always wear one, while washing the other. They dry within two hours.
It should not be forgotten, that the equipment weights a lot more in wet condition, because almost everything soaks up some water. I wrapped sleeping bag and mat into a bundle and kept it under the raincape. There it never got fully soaked in the medium rain and short thunderstorms that I was suspended to.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

The end

Since more than six days I have been walking with a swollen foot. Getting started in the morning was quite painfull, and though the adventures during the day could easily distract me, I could clearly notice it again in the evening. Now I feel, that the time has come to stop walking for a longer period and this means to interrupt this journey. Meanwhile I stopped some cars and a truck and safely hitchhiked back home to Germany.
Though the "Wanderlust" in me grew stronger than before, I don't even feel disappointed that much about the end of the journey. Nevertheless I hope you do. ;) I only passed about 1/4 of the distance to Rome, but I got so much closer in achieving my personal goals. My main intentions was not just to know, but also to feel, what it means to be a Pilgrim: to be suspended to the weather, to the roads and circumstances, to strengthen body and soul, to limit myself to a small amount of things, to never know what a new day will bring and to withness the neverending kindness and help of the various people, that I met. I am so gratefull for that and this injury made me even learn more about myself, than it would be possible without it. If I will continue this oneday or start again? This question is best answered with the song of The Wild Rover.
After 278km: The heels of the leather shoes need to be replaced soon. The feet show abraisons and some healed blisters from the first days, but the right foot is swollen.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Day10: Sterzing - Franzenfeste (28km)

Yesterday I took a day of rest. That helped a lot to recover my sunburned skin and my lack of sleep, but it didn't change anything with my right foot, which is still swollen. So during walking I tried to change a few things to make it more comfortable. I even walked barefoot for a few kilometers. I was quite glad to have put my shoes back on, when I almost stepped onto a little snake.
Walking through the valley turned out to be more complicated as it seemed, when there's a highway, a busy car-road and a railway, too. The best option for hikers was basically the cyclists-route, but it was interrupted every few kilometers. When I suddenly encountered a construction-site and had to walk back for two kilometers it was just strenous. So again a distance of actually 20km turned out to be 28km for me. Another day passes by and I remember the funny conversation, that I had with an Italian cyclist in the middle of the car-road, where we really shouldn't have talked for so long.
A little snake on the trail.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The route

Some historic routes from Augsburg to Rome.
As a Pilgrim on the way to Rome, you can not expect the great infrastructure with signes and accomodation, that is existant on the way of Saint James to Santiago de Compostella. Since all the roads lead to Rome, it's pretty hard to find the right one. So I took inspiration from recordings of travelers in medieval times and ancient routes. I will follow the Roman road called Via Claudia Augusta, that connects southern Germany and nothern Italy until Schongau. There I will switch to the Hauksbók-route, wich is described in an Islandic manuscript dating from the 14th century. It will lead me across the Brenner Pass to Brixen. The next etappes will be Bolzano, Trento and Verona. All these steps match with the route of Albert of Stade, a 13th-century abbot from Hamburg. From there I will try to find my own way across the Po-valley to get onto the important Pilgrim-route called Via Francigena. It represents the way that Sigeric the Serious, the Archbishop of Canterbury walked in the 10th century, but is probably much older. I hope to find well marked ways and also other Pilgrims there. Closer to the end, it will hit the routes of other historic persons like Martin Luther and Johann Wolfgang von Göthe.

Day06: Ettal - Mittenwald (31km)

I made friends with the monks and they even wanted me to stay for another day, but the road was calling me so loud, that I even had to skip breakfast.
As I went south, I painfully realized, that it's now getting more and more important to consider the slope while choosing the route. So I climbed a hill on a steep path, but half way down again I was rewarded with a breathtaking view onto Farchau, Burgrain and Garmisch-Patenkirchen and all the mountains behind them, including Germany highest: Zugspitze. 
In Garmisch  I stopped for lunch, then climbed up to Wamberg (1304 m), just to realize, that I would rather prefer the hard cyclist road in the vally than hiking more hills.
Down there to my joy I found the marks of the route Via Romea again. There the outher layer of one of my shoe soles was about to fall apart, but I didn't have time to fix it, because rainclouds were moving faster. It was kind of boring and exhausting on that road, until I met some funny young men in strange blue trikots with hand-pulled wagons. When I asked them, what they were doing, they shared their food with me and explained that they are on their "Tour de Bier". I wasn't wondering too much about that. Welcome to Bavaria! So I finally got rid of the weight on my back by putting everything onto the wagon and then helped them pulling: win-win-situation. We had a good time walking through the weak rain. When we said Goodbye, they even insisted on supporting me with money for food.
I had another two hours of walking in the rain  until Mittenwald. Parts of the way let along the ancient Roman street, still impressivly visible by traces of many wheels in the rocks. I reached the supermarked in time to get suplies for tomorrow, when all shops are closed. Then found a protruding roof outside a church, where I can sleep.
View onto Farchant and behind it Garmisch-Patenkirchen
The ancient Roman street next to Elmau

The finalists of the Tour de Bier 2016

Day09: Matrei - Sterzing (34km)

This is madness? This is Brenner! To cross the pass to Italy, I followed the official pedestrians- and cyclists-route Nr.33, which is also part of another Way of Saint James. It was mostly a regular lane, but for parts of it, I was forced to use the narrow car-road with lots of cars and me dangerously trapped inbetween the guardrails. So I rather prefered to walk on the other side of the guardrails, but there was only little space to the side, where I'd fall 2m down into a stream. I asked an old lady if there is another way and she neglected. Later, when I had another look on the map, I noticed some other possibilities, but still it is crazy. It's not a bad idea to do the part from Steinach to the border line by car.
However I reached Italy - at least officialy - the people still speak german a lot. All of a sudden, there were nice new cyclist-roads and after a long, hard hike on asphalt, I finnaly made it to the lovely city of Sterzing.
Walking along the car-road from Stafflach to Grieß am Brenner.

No matter what you do - there is alway someone more authentic than you.