Hobbled in Ulm

January 22, 2012

For the past two weeks I’ve been laid up in Ulm, on the outskirts of Bavaria, suffering from Achilles tendon strain. It dates from the sudden steep hills of Baden, when I pigheadedly continued walking despite a nagging pain in my ankle, which increased in jolts and jumps until I was practically hobbling. Luckily I found refuge with exceptionally lovely people who didn’t mind me sitting around  rubbing ice on my feet all day, necking ibuprofen, growing my beard and generally feeling sorry for myself.

It’s been an anxious, frustrating time, but at last I’ve reached the point of no pain, and I’m setting out again tomorrow. The German healthcare system is amazing — I’ve been given free ultrasound therapy and acupuncture, and have been fitted with an ankle support and custom-made insoles for my boots. The most important thing, of course, was simply resting up. And it taught me a lesson I needed to learn: pain is a message — don’t ignore it!

Pain is almost entirely absent in Paddy’s account of his journey. Now and then he mentions being tired or sore, but that seems to be the extent of his suffering. Either he was uncannily fit (and I’m not forgetting that he was 12 years younger than me when he did this — that’s 12 years of bad habits he had yet to accumulate), or, as I’m starting to suspect, with a time-lag of several decades, his memory edited out the bad parts and retained the happier ones… the rolling in haystacks with peasant girls and smoking cigars with counts. This is the kind trick that memory plays, mechanically rose-tinting the past. I’m sure when I look back on this, it will be the same.

It seems appropriate, at least, that I commenced to lame myself while inadvertently following the Bertha Benz Memorial Route from Bruchsal to Prorzheim… the route that marks the maiden voyage of the world’s first car. In the birthplace of the automobile, a healthy walker is a fitting sacrifice. More to come on this topic soon, in another article for Dark Mountain… until then, I’ll be walking on, and listening to and learning from any pain.

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3 Responses to “Hobbled in Ulm”

  1. Nathan said

    This is a comment made in ignorance on your personal lifestyle but in A walk in the woods bill bryson comments on how our culture is no longer a walking culture whereas Padfys world was.

  2. nickhuntscrutiny said

    Yes, absolutely. Walking — when you do it away from ‘designated zones’ like hiking trails — really makes apparent the degree to which our landscape has been modelled and designed to serve the needs of the car. I was especially galled by one section near the Rhine where walking became almost entirely impossible — my choice was walking on the verge of the autobahn (illegal) or scrambling at 45 degrees along a rubble-strewn river bank (extremely difficult). I’ll be saying more on this subject in the next Dark Mountain post.

  3. proverbs6to10 said

    Reblogged this on Patrick Leigh Fermor and commented:
    The rigours of the road are taking their toll on Nick. He makes an interesting point that we never hear about Paddy encountering such issues (and rarely are these things mentioned in the SOE stories we read). Whilst we may be a little ‘softer’ these days, I suspect that similar injuries may have been encountered but perhaps were not considered important enough to mention. To me all this is fascinating and I like to know about the strains, and the aches, and the blisters!

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