The new tour started at the Holy Ghost Bridge. Venice, a beggar on a bridge. A gambler, an adventurer, a chap who took his chances, even to the extent of becoming a beggar. Nothing could have stopped me from giving the man a few coins, as his luck seemed to have run out. Bending over the bike towards his stretched out hand, the stand started to give way and I got a bit too close to him. He suddenly grabbed hold of me and pulled me closer and closer until the smell of his breath almost made me faint. He tilted his head and his sly eyes stared at me. »George,« he said and, after a long pause, in a voice that sounded almost angry: »so you came back?«. The coins dropped into his hand, and I flinched in shock.
My name isn’t «George«, and I must emphasize that he was a very drunk, very lonely and very unfortunate beggar. As I searched my bag of change for more coins, I found a bank note and gave it to him. His face was completely blank as his hand placed it somewhere deep inside his waistband and reappeared empty. He took a conspiratorial look around and mumbled: »Greta«.
Above the horizon I saw three Alpine mountain ranges, some of them covered with snow. The coasts were lined with wide bays and beaches, peninsulas with lots of space between them and rocks rising up out of the gleaming surface of the water. Up country, they rose up abruptly to form high mountains.
A wild and great island, a continent in itself, with Alpine mountains that require power and stamina if you want to traverse them by bike. But if you go for the adventure, you’ll experience a Mediterranean world full of simple beauty, you’ll pass by lavish chestnut and olive groves, meager rubble deserts and karst landscapes, and push yourself uphill until you hit the unexpected cold temperatures. You’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded by snow, driven by the wind like a mountaineer conquering inhospitable heights, and you’ll yearn desperately for the warmth down in the valley with its orderly stone walls, the scent of herbs, and the roar of the ocean that you can enjoy with a glass of wine in the beach tavern.