“5 Questions for” hiking bloggers, Lena & Thilo
– After nature photographer Philipp Daweke and cycling enthusiasts, Bernd and Uschi Biedermann, who have cycled the entire length of the R1 European Long-Distance Cycle Trail, we had the chance to ask two E1 experts, who’ve hiked the entire E1 Long-Distance Hiking Trail together, to answer our questions.
The entire E1: from the North Cape to Sicily as a couple
In early May 2016, Lena and Thilo from Darmstadt took a break from their office jobs to fulfil their dream of hiking the E1 Long-Distance Hiking Trail. After hiking over 8,600 kilometres and spending over fifteen months on their journey, the pair completed the entire trail – from the North Cape to Sicily – in September 2017. What’s it like to spend over a year hiking through a total of seven European countries?
We asked Lena & Thilo five questions about their journey across Europe:
You spent over a year hiking from the North Cape to Capo Passero in Sicily. How do you spend birthdays, Christmas, and New Year on the trail?
Lena: On my birthday, we were already back in Denmark and my parents visited us. Shortly after, at Christmas, we had a visit from Thilo’s Mum and his brother, while we spent New Year with friends on the North Sea, as they had booked a holiday there by chance.
Thilo: I spent one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had in Fjäll in Scandinavia. With a tent pitch to die for – on a lake, with amazing views of the mountains, and double food rations, as we’d be reaching a supermarket again on the next day. The “icing on the cake” was a can of beer, which Lena had found at a hiking cabin and carried through the mountains for several days before we drank it, surrounded by stunning nature and the midnight sun.
In your blog, you write about a gap in the hiking trail caused by a landslide, forest fires, guard dogs that were a bit too eager to do their jobs, runaway horses, bans on camping out, and a heavy cold – what was your biggest adventure?
Lena: The biggest challenges were undoubtedly having to cross snowfields, almost daily river crossings in northern Norway, and keeping your sense of direction in wide open spaces with no markers to show the way. However, we’d prepared ourselves for it mentally, and afterwards, there was a great sense of achievement.
Although it wasn’t strictly an adventure, for me, one of the greatest mental challenges came from the free-roaming guard dogs in southern Italy. In my everyday life, I have quite a lot of respect for dogs, but still…
Thilo: Probably the most dangerous encounter was with two horses in Germany. Lena was almost run over but managed to save herself by bravely jumping into the ditch. It sounds stupid but it could have ended really badly.
Also, during elk-hunting season, walking past lots of trigger-happy Swedish elk hunters was a strange feeling.
In Italy, an Italian said to you knowingly that of course the hiking trails are all overgrown, because they’re only used every couple of years by a tiny number of German hikers. That’s an amusing observation, but it has a grain of truth to it. Are attitudes to hiking different in different countries?
Lena & Thilo: Definitely! In Norway and Sweden, hiking is part of the country (especially over long distances). “Norway lengthwise” (hiking across Norway from the Northern to the Southern Cape, or in the other direction) means something to almost everyone in Norway.
Hiking is also very widespread in Germany, but not so much long-distance hiking as “leisure hiking” with plenty of comfortable stops on the way. At least, that was our impression, but then we were travelling during the winter months.
We found that the Swiss and Danes were enthusiastic pilgrims – during our trip, we met some people who had already completed the Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James, or who were planning to. In the north, Italy is well developed for hiking and there was a lot going on in the mountains (the Apennines) on weekends. From central Italy and further south, however, that was the end of it and none of the Italians could get their heads around our motivation for hiking (lots of people wanted to take us in their cars J). That’s where the quotation comes from, and the trail disappeared completely for long stretches, so that we had to hike along the roads a lot of the time. Only when we reached Sicily were we able to get back on to the E1 itself.
Where did you take the most photos during your journey, and what technology did you use?
Lena: We took more photos in Scandinavia than anywhere else. The wide-open landscapes there were simply overwhelming.
Thilo: Most of the time, I was the one who took the photos – Lena doesn’t really enjoy taking pictures, but now and again she chose to take the odd photo with me. 😉 I shot using a Sony Nex 3 System camera – where I allowed myself to carry extra weight to get better pictures – the quality of the phone camera is simply too poor.
Have you now satisfied your wanderlust once and for all, or are you getting itchy feet again?
Lena: Shortly after we arrived at Capo Passero, we started getting itchy feet again – so that, even on the journey home, we hiked the Alta Via di Monti Liguri and the Gotthard Pass. At the moment, we’re still settling back into our office routine, but we’re trying to get out on the weekends, at least, to keep our wanderlust under control.
Thilo: Although you have to admit, E-Trails 2-12 also sound really interesting! 😉
During their time on the E1, Lena and Thilo not only enjoyed all kinds of exciting experiences and worked diligently to update their blog, Lena & Thilo on the E1; they also took some amazing photos. Although the blog is, unfortunately, only available in German, at least the language of pictures is understood worldwide.
In this article, we show only a small selection of the many photos taken by Lena and Thilo on their journey along the E1. All pictures, from the frosty North Cape to sunny southern Italy, are available at e1-wanderung.wixsite.com/lena-thilo/galerie