I arrived in Belgium with my backpack. No hotel reservation, no plan. Just to hitchhike to China in a relaxed manner. I met a boy playing didgeridoo on the street. Mirko Bozzetto. I asked him about accommodation and he introduced me to his friends. A group of musicians crafting the Australian instrument from wood with crystals embedded inside to increase the vibration. I tried didgeridoo healing, where someone plays the instrument overtop of crystals placed on the body. Very interesting. We went to the outskirts of Brussels to play music, sit by the fire, and converse with a unique crowd. Time passed, maybe a week, maybe two.
I decided to continue, I went first to Munich, then to Berlin. I had an old friend, a polish actress, who was living in Berlin at the time. I decided to visit her. She was staying at Shake Circus. A theatrical group living in an old train station. The site was shared with catholic nuns. I liked to contrast of this funky stripped circus tent with old wagons parked about, psychedelic decorations, stage props and the occasional nun meandering about. The religion of circus. The inspiration for one of my later paintings.
Winter was approaching, I decided to go South. Anyone who has ever traveled like this knows that winter clothes are heavy. Migration is preferable to heavy coats, and socks are just annoying.
I passed by Zurich, I heard of a squat there. The Binz. A glorious juxtaposition of old construction materials, recycled wood, and street findings. The common room was painted in dizzying zebra stripes. It was November. The wood stoves exhaled smoke from the pipes. It was beautiful and the company was real. I stayed a month.
I went to Vienna, I met the owner of Cost Nix Laden. A store where all of the merchandise was free. You could shop for clothes, shoes and hats and never open your wallet. I loved this idea. In the world so much is wasted. The capitalistic system promotes disposable goods to keep itself afloat. Why not reuse these items? I stayed in the back room of the store some time. The company was a unforgettable group of travelers, Egyptian musicians and artists. We cooked and ate together.
I went to Innsbrook Austria, I was tired after hitchhiking all day and waiting for cars. I decided to take a nap by the river. Two men approached me, one of them was the world famous body painter Johannes Stotter. He invited me to see his studio. I later traveled to Northern Italy to stay in his family home with his assistant. She was a beautiful cherry blonde girl, we went for walks in the mountains together. An antique village house in Vipiteno.
I went to Trieste, to Slovenia, then Croatia. I heard of a squat in Zagreb, Medika. An old pharmaceutical factory inhabited by a rare group of multicultural talents, outcasts and artists. There were five concert rooms. Weekend concerts included every genre from dubstep to heavy metal. Hundreds of people filled the factory. The facility was a school and held workshops for everything from fire spinning to aerial silks.
I appreciate these centers that break away from the traditional views of education. In modern society most people think education must come from an institution. We forget how much we can learn from each other. In Zurich also there was a free language school. With many people from different backgrounds living together it is easy to find teachers in a variety of tongues. Education has now become another business. Most students in the Universities strive only for the diploma, Ive spent seven years in Universities, but I learned much more from experience.
I continued south to Turkey. I heard of a place called Olympos.
All of this trip was made with out a phone or any technological device. I printed an A4 paper map from the internet cafe of each country to know the location of the major cities. All accommodation was found by speaking to people. I stayed in a hotel only a handful of times.
Olympus was a magical place. A quiet village on the coast. I rented a house, I cooked everything on the fire. Tea, meals, everything was prepared over open flames. In the evenings I would put potatoes in the coals to have them ready for the morning. My neighbors knew about local medicinal plants and I learned a lot from them. The magic properties of stinging nettle and the traditional Turkish recipe for stinging nettle soup. I had a field of it behind the house and the market was quite far away. Many days I ate only stinging nettle and rice.
A fantastic plant beneficial for the respiratory and circulatory system. I also learned of Salep, the most delicious food Ive ever tasted. Tubers from the orchid genus Orchis. While it is a traditional winter drink in Egypt also, it is not the pure form. The milky beverage found in tea houses in Cairo is heavily mixed with other ingredients. In Olympos at the local market they sold the tuber itself. I would sauté it, boil it, every way it was divine.
In turkey I began painting again and working with paper mâché. I made many masks and paintings. It was here my interest with masks and symbols began. I began research of different ancient symbols and kept a small book with me at all times to record them. I hoped to find similarities between different cultures. This was my motivation for traveling to so many places. To find a common thread that binds all of humanity.
I planed to continue moving in the spring. To the mystical destination of china.