In the time of fast way of living and the focus on making money, one young man decided to break the yoke of modernity, to leave his home and set off for Rome, only in early medieval clothing and with limited knowledge of English. The will to live is his weapon, an unbeatable sense of humor is his shield. His name is Karel Sýkora, and this is the story of his travel.
Around one year ago, my mate from Marobud, advanturer and good friend Karel Sýkora (25) decided to embark on a long and hard journey traveling on foot, only in historical costume. After doing his final exams on forging in June 2016, we participated in Viking Age festivals throughout most of Europe. Meanwhile, the plan was set – when “the season is officially over”, he ends with his job, leaves all his property at his parent’s house and sets off to Rome. It means ca. 1500 kilometers or 1000 miles. This incredible plan actually happened and Karel is on his way at this very moment!
The main purpose of all of this is to be free as much as possible, to be your own master. Karel was fed up with a lot of stress and obligations in our modern world, he needed his head cleaned. The second reason is the fact he feels he is getting older each year and there will be no real freedom in the future because of work and family. In his opinion, the way is the goal, he wants to test his experiences and costume in reality and to make some new memories that could be worthy of remembrance. Rome was picked from three different reasons – first of all, it is in the right position, not so far, not so near, secondly, the way is not overcrowded when compared to Santiago de Compostela, and thirdly, many pilgrims in history made a pilgrimage to Rome as an act of faith.
Since there is no other way to became more historically accurate, he decided to take his tablet and to document the complete travel. Besides the tablet, the only unhistorical things were ID cards, money, bottles, glasses, and a hammock at the start of the travel. It is necessary to say that he keeps unhistorical objects unvisible for the most of the travel and he has them only for practical purposes.
The travel started on Sunday, September 11 by the monastery in Velehrad, Moravia, Czech Republic. The plan was and still is to go via Slovakia, Hungary, border areas of Austria, Slovenia and Italia. The way is not given, but it leads mainly by rivers, through forests and national parks with rests at our friends, churches, monasteries, historical open-air museums and kind native. The traveler slept the first night in a house in Archaeological open-air museum Modrá. The next significant stop was Mikulčice by Morava River on Thursday, September 14 and Pohansko by Dyje River the next day. Karel crossed the Czech-Slovakian border on September 16, that means ca. 100 km per 5 days.
Until that time, Karel was barefoot, but he was suffering from lots of small wounds, so he started to wear shoes, which turned to be a mistake in rocky Little Carpathians and on modern roads since shoes are almost destroyed by now. The traveler visited a hill called Vysoká and military area Záhorie with its nice sand dunes. From Sunday, September 18 to Tuesday, September 20, Karel spent his time with our friend Samuel, the leader of Herjan group, in Pezinok, where he recovered a bit.
After that, Karel continued to Danube River that forms the border between Slovakian and Hungary. He managed to get to the river on September 22 and he slept in the protected natural area Dunajské luhy, which is located between two braches of one of the biggest European rivers and is accessible only by a ferry. Karel missed the second ferry to the Hungarian side, so he decided to change the way, go back to the Slovakian side of the river and to continue to the border point Medveďov.
So it happened and Karel crossed the river and Slovakian-Hungarian border on September 24 in the morning. The next stop was the city of Győr. By that time, the travel has already taken ca. 250 kilometers in 13 days. In Győr, he met new early medieval friends – reenactors – and spent a beautiful weekend with them. We would like to thank mainly to Daniel Koncz for taking care of Karel. They held a banquet, consisting of traditional Hungarian goulash and a lot of alcohol, and visited Pannonhalma Archabbey, which was founded in 996. There the party divided, and Karel continued in the direction Szombathely.
On September 26, Karel visited the village Vaszar and was forced to repair the torn strap on his backpack. He moved forward to old town of Pápa the next day.
On September 28, Karel stopped at a campsite in Vinár, where he had a shower and a small rest. Then he continued to Celldömölk and then to the spa town of Sárvár the next day. He was forced to go barefoot on the road for nearly 20 kilometers; as a result, his feet were brushed to the blood. Karel put his shoes on again and enjoyed a Hungarian beer as a small reward. After a small examination of local sightseeings, Karel changed the way and followed Rába River in the direction Körmend. Later that day, he found a lovely place with hay by a small inlet of the river. Karel stated it was relatively cold in the night several hogs visited him. Fortunately, nothing happened.
Friday September 30 was the rest day and Karel repaired his stuff (new wedges in his trousers, some reparations on shoe soles and the backpack), made a new documention of the costume and took a bath in Rába River. On the first October day, he felt the coming autumn and decided to go south as fast as possible, in the direction Vasvár.
The next part of the travel, the crossing of Hungarian-Slovenian border, is not well documented, yet it was crucial for the rest of the journey. It was raining all the time, with windy weather and the constant problems with period shoes. On October 2, Karel reached Katafa and slept there. He continued through the national park Őrségi to Őriszentpéter the next day, but the strap of his backpack broke again and he had to repair it. October 4 was the day of the crossing Hungarian-Slovenian border; Karel crossed it 5 minutes after noon. After a small visit of Romanesque rotunda in Selo, he slept near Moravske Toplice. The crosswind from mountains was so cold he could not sleep well and he run out of hard liquor that he got from Daniel in Győr.
On 5th October, Karel reached Murska Sobota. It was a bit sad day, since it was no longer possible to continue in period shoes. He tried to repair them several times, with no long-term result. It is need to add that shoes were 2 years old before the start of the journey and they were not the best. Even though, Karel showed the hard will when he was able to go 60 kilometers in torn shoes and wet weather. He was forced to buy a modern pair of shoes. It is an important finding – for a long journey, at least two good and new pairs of shoes are needed, a sewing set is good too. Karel visited the local museum with Celtic exhibition and then continued in the direction Ptuj. On October 6, he slept near Gabrnik.
On October 7, Karel visited the town of Ptuj and its castle with armoury. Then, he moved to the monastery of Ptujska Gora and asked monks for asylum. On the next day, he visited ruins of castles in Studenica and Zbelovo and he slept by Dolga Gora. Karel reached Šentjur on October 9, and after he bought some provisions there, he moved to ruins of Rifnik castle and slept in the palace. The Slovenian countryside is woody, hilly and very nice and Karel enjoyed many spectacular panoramas. It is important to mention that the autumn nights and mornings are cold, with the temperature reaching below 0°C. Karel has his woolen sleeping bag and woolen blankets, but he needed to isolate the cold from the earth, so he bought several rugs. This is also an important finding, which will be useful in the following expeditions.
On October 10, Karel passed Rimske Toplice and reached Radeče and Sava River. It was raining all the day, so he was forced to put his hood on. The next day, he moved to Sopota and slept in an old wooden cabin. It was exactly a month from the start of the visit, and Karel said he did not realize the passing of time. On October 12, Karel reached Šmartno pri Litiji and he managed to move to Ljubljana the next day, where he met his friends from archaeological services “Skupina STIK” and “Arheofakt”. Slovenian friends took a good care of him, fed him, showed him an archaeological park and made an interview with him. The interview was published in Slovenian language 10 days later. Karel could rest for two days in Ljubljana, and he continued to Logatec on October 16. By that time, the travel has already taken ca. 700 kilometers (435 miles); it means Karel was in the middle of the travel.
On October 17, Karel visited and slept near a Roman fortress Ad Pirum in Hrušica. He was invited to visit his friend Ivan to Trieste, so he continued to Ajdovščina the next day and he met there Turkish pilgrim which was on his journey for more than a year. At night, Karel slept at the site of another abandoned castle, Turn near the historical town of Štanjel. On Wednesday, October 19, at 2:38 PM, Karel crossed Slovenian-Italian border in Dol pri Vogljah and continued to Opicina, where he met his friend Ivan. Finally by the sea.
Karel stayed in Trieste until Sunday, October 23, when he moved forward. We would like to express our thanks to Ivan Hrovatin for taking care of Karel. The pilgrim slept near San Giovanni di Duino that day. Karel said it is much warmer climate near the sea, but it was rainy as well. On October 24, Karel reached Aquileia, which is the most important pilgrim center in the region. Unfortunately, the basilic was locked, and Karel slept like a beggar by the wall of it. The next day, Karel slept near Piancada. After the crossing of Tagliamento River in San Michele Al Tagliamento, Karel change the way and continued in the direction Caorle. He slept in San Gaetano on October 26. The next day, Karel went through San Margherita to the sea and then continued on the beach in the direction Venice, barefoot. He slept in Lido di Jesolo that day.
On October 28, Karel reached Punta Sabbioni and slept there. The day after, he embarked on waterbus (vaporetto) and sailed to Venice. Venice is a very nice, historical city and Karel enjoyed it, even though the number of tourists and the price of water buses were rather bothering. On the other hand, Karel met some Czech tourists there and other tourists from Italy and Switzerland invited him for a drink. After the visiting of historical center, Karel sailed to Lido di Venezia and slept there. On October 30, Karel continued to Sant’Anna di Chioggia, with two ferry travels between islands.
On the last day of October, Karel crossed Po River and slept in a pine forest near Mesola, inside the Po Delta Regional Park. On November 1, Karel slept on the beach in Lido di Pomposa. By that time, travel has already taken 1000 kilometers. An unpleasant police event happened the next day in Comacchio, and it took the whole day. Generally speaking, Karel was misunderstood for a terrorist. On November 3, he went along the bank of the lake in the direction Ravenna. He slept near Sant’Alberto. Karel reached Ravenna and his friends Michelle and Emanuela the next day. It was a warm meeting; they took a good care about him and Karel was fed and participated a training of their historical group. We would like to thank to Michelle and Emanuela for the care. Karel spent two days in Ravenna and he made some repairs, including the making of pins from copper wire he found. On Sunday November 6, Karel continued to Apennine Mountains.
On November 6, Karel slept in Oriola. The day after, he came to Perticara and ask in a church for shelter. Fortunately, he was offered a warm, dry bed. What is more, he was given a heavy woolen sheet, which showed to be useful during the crossing of Apennine Mountains. On November 8, Karel slept on the peak Poggio Tre Vescovi in mountains. If was foggy, windy and frosty weather, and according to his words, this was the most harsh night on his journey. Yet he survived, and continued to Chiocciola, where he slept on November 9. According to his words, mountains were full of hunters, and that was a problem, because Karel could not find the right way; on the other hand, the water in rivulets was drinkable. On the next day, Karel reached Sansepolcro and asked for asylum, and he got that eventually. On November 11, after some problems with navigation and raining, he slept near Lippiano, heading to see Trasimeno Lake.
As he got closer to Rome, the journey started to be more connected to visiting religious sites. In addition, hoarfrost and dense fogs occured each morning and snow was lying in moutains. For example, on November 12, Karel slept in a small dry chapel in San Lorenzo Bibbiana. On the day after, he passed the lake by and was heading to Perugia. Karel was offered an asylum by a pastor in Mantignana, and he got a supper and hot shower by a community taking care of earthquake affected people. Karel went through the town of Perugia on November 14, and he slept under the supermoon near Sant’Egidio. The day after, Karel visited Assisi, a historical site of pilgrimage. He was offered to sleep in Franciscan college and to visit the mass in the morning; another day with a supper, shower and a dry bed. After the mass, he continued and reached Bastardo. Local pastor could not offer him asylum, but he payed him a room in a hotel. Last 150 kilometers to go.
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