The name Andrew Berg keeps coming to mind.
It’s kind of a stretch, really. But there is an analogy. Returning from our first trip overseas, Italy was our choice destination. With Alaska as our main reference, we knew we wouldn’t want to cover too much land in one trip. You just can’t get it all in. So we focused on one country, one part of that country, and just a few places therein. We chose Rome, Vatican City, Cinque Terre National Park, Florence, and Tuscany.
When in Rome, the takeaway is how old one city’s history can be. This stayed with me. I just couldn’t grasp the idea of ruins and artifacts that were thousands of years old.
As we went on to hike the 5 coastal towns of the Cinque Terre in the Northwestern Italian Riviera, I had time to think. My mind kept trying to understand this country’s display of “old”, and kept comparing it to “old” at home. In Alaska, our historical places that are being preserved for future generations are one hundred years old, if that. The Andrew Berg cabin is a prime example. It is an historical Alaskan trapper’s cabin that was moved from its original wilderness location near Tustumena Lake on the Kenai Peninsula. It was carefully taken apart, log by log, moved, and restored at the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to be preserved. It displays the lifestyle carved out of the wilderness here for survival in the early 1900’s of the Last Frontier.
Moving inland to Florence, Italy, we took an authentic Italian cooking class in Manuela’s home with two other couples. We visited the Uffizi and Academia museums, and walked the city’s small side streets. The buildings were huge and old, and the passageways for people were tiny and busy. I learned a cappuccino is never ordered after lunch, pasta is always served al dente, meals are never eaten while multitasking, and olive oil should always have a harvest date.
Italians are very proud of “zero kilometer” agriculture, meaning all of the food is directly sourced from their own local farms and vineyards directly to the table. I noted how similar this is with Alaskans, because the majority of Alaskans still hunt, fish, gather and grow. I feel proud of harvesting our fish, wild game and berries from our wilderness, and growing our own garden and greenhouse veggies. Not to say it is easy… the work and art of preserving these for the winter then follows. We finished canning, pickling, brining, smoking, and freezing for last winter. Maybe we are close to a “zero mile” cabin life! Unlikely though, since I work at the grocery store pharmacy. Still, neat!
From here we decided on a small castle town in the Chianti region of Tuscany, called Monteriggioni. We hopped off a local train and walked a few miles along a foot path in pure quiet… something we now knew we missed. As we walked, the castle came in to view. It had freshly rained. The night was foggy and mystical, with sunny pastel days. This is how I have always pictured the Tuscany region. The castle dated to the early 1200’s, with medieval histories of constant fortress building and rebuilding from protecting against invading neighbors. My mind again wanders to Andrew Berg. He would have had no neighbors.
Homeward bound from here, our travels started with our countryside walking path back to the small train, changing to the large intercity train, then to the Rome airport, continuing on to New York City, then across our continent to Seattle. From Seattle we fly to Anchorage and drive 3 hours to our little cabin in the woods. Perspective hits me again when I get home and think about how our land was raw when we were first building on it… much more recent than even Andrew Berg’s cabin.
Having now been overseas to experience what “old” really is, I feel proud of being part of a history so new. Our history here is built on the Alaska Native history which may just outdo that “old” history over there. Even more intriguing!
All of this travel, hiking, backpacking, airports, bus stations, train stations, hotels, beaches, countryside, castles, ruins, language barriers, weather, and terrain brought my attention to the versatility, minimalism, and taking for granted what tied it all together… one pair of shoes.