I set off this morning with three new friends from Belgium and Holland – Rene, Walter and Stephen. Stephen is the youngest and works on the docks at the port of Antwerp. Walter is the oldest at 65 and just retired. Rene is a former infantry officer in the Dutch army. Rene was quite the runner until he burned out at age 50. He was ranked in the top 10 in Holland in the 400, 800, 1500 and the marathon. That’s quite the spread. They are all very strong hikers.
At one point Stephen asked me if Tennessee was a Republican or Democratic state. I said both and that West Tennessee generally Democratic but that East Tennessee was Republican.
A political discussion ensued. He said that Europeans generally preferred the Democrats because they wanted to be more like Europe. I didn’t think it politic to tell them that many of us don’t want to be more like Europe, thank you very much. Instead I explained that West Tennessee had been a plantation and slave-holding economy before the civil war and therefore was aligned with the Confederacy, but that because of geography and topography East Tennessee was not well suited to an economy based on slave-holding and therefore was a hotbed of unionism during the civil war. I explained that this history contributed to the current split. So, I told him, tongue firmly in cheek, that he no doubt identified with the slave holders. He responded that we are all slaves to the government now, to which I replied that was precisely what many of us were trying to avoid.
We then moved on to more important topics such as the weather, as it was beginning to rain again and we needed to stop and put on our rain gear.
Today proved to be a fine piece of exercise. We did about 15 1/2 miles with about 4700 feet of elevation gain. We crossed two passes and it was quite cold and windy.
We stayed at the same hotel. Again, no one here speaks English, which is different from my experience in other parts of Switzerland. My German is limited and rudimentary, but getting better out of necessity. Fortunately, my friends can translate for me when they’re around.
We said goodby to Marion this morning. She was breaking today’s route into two days, so we won’t see her or Haley again.