Home from Europe

Wheat field and red poppies – Slovakia

We arrived home in Canelo Saturday evening after a long flight from London to Tucson with a lot of catch up work to do with this blog. My best intentions are in place so hopefully I can do that over the next couple of weeks. Before I write anything about our workshops in France and Slovakia I want to extend a huge thank you from Athena and myself to all those who made our Europe trip possible. Our trip was effortless when it came to our transportation, accommodations, food and entertainment. It could not have been the same for our hosts, it took an incredible amount of work on their part to make it all happen. An extra dose of thanks goes to Lars Keller and his partner Jo Morandin from Denmark who coordinated all the workshops in northern Europe. The same holds true for our individual workshop hosts – Sven and Helle Alustre of Estonia, Barbara Jones of England, Zuzana Kierulfova of Slovakia. Andre de Bouter and his wife Coralie hosted our workshop in France and shuffled us from Venice, Italy, through the Alps to their home in Angouleme, France. They graciously extended themselves well beyond any of our expectations. And then there were numerous others who took care of us between the different workshops. Rather than trying to list them all here I will talk about them in future blog posts.

Kalin with Alice in Trnava, Slovakia

For us it was the kind of trip that will ideally happen more than once in a lifetime. We had the privilege of experiencing something that is rarely experienced when traveling as a tourist. Rather than simply visiting places, we shared people’s lives, their families, their cultures and their homes. Because we were with them for short periods of time, we were given a very concentrated dose of the best things to visit and see, the best things to eat, basically, the best of treatment possible in every respect. Almost unbelievably it all happened without our having to think or plan. Half the time we worked and taught, the other half we spent visiting different locations and traveling to our next location. It was nothing short of truly marvelous, a somewhat indescribable blend of work, teaching, vacation and photojournalism. In retrospect I would not change anything except for a little longer rest period between workshops. And that would be a “maybe.”

Dinner with Michael von Rieth and his wife Tanya just outside of Hamburg, Germany along with Athena, Thierry Soubrier and Julien Nourey of France.

One thing that still remains in the forefront of my mind is how effortlessly we were transferred between hosts. We were picked up from train stations, ferries and airports as well as delivered to the same by people we hadn’t known before. We traveled by plane, ferry, train, car, even by horse and wagon. I mean how much more could one expect.

Our ride to the train station from the German eco-village Sieben Linden.

Traveling through northern Italy, Athena in the back of Andre and Coralie’s Eurovan, Kalin, Antonin and Rumi to the rear.

We spend a great deal of time at our home in Arizona and maybe because of that we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the global strawbale building network. This trip reminded us of what an amazing phenomena it is and the many wonderful people that our part of it around the world. It’s what made our trip possible. Who would have thought that back in the mid 90s that there were a pair of books, Matts Mhyrman and Steve McDonald’s “Build it with Bales” and our “Straw Bale House” would have helped fuel such a phenomena. And I guess I can’t talk about those books without mentioning one of the more amazing people I know, Lloyd Kahn, whose 1973 cult classic book “Shelter” included a section on “Baled Hay” construction – www.shelterpublications.com Because of these wonderful people we were able to return home very grateful and very different people than the ones who left Arizona two months ago.

Dordogne region in France.

During our trip I don’t think there was ever a point that we tired and thought of home until maybe the very end. We became completely immersed in each of our workshop locations and then in a flash, before we could think twice, we were relocated in a totally different environment. There was a constant input of new information, sights and people to meet. In seemed like we met more people and made more friends in that brief period of time than we had in years before. There is no way that words can convey that depth of that experience. But there came a point when it started to become clear that it was almost impossible to take-in any more before assimilating all that we had experienced. We were full to the brim and with that, we returned home with the daunting task of completing the writing that started on this blog by describing our travels and work through Germany, Slovakia, France and Italy. But as the now popular French saying goes, “Yes we can!”

Ice cave in the Alps near the border of France and Italy.

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One Comment

  1. are comments on? or is the rest of the world missing this?

    Such a great meetup, a classic 'starting point' in a new twist on life for you.

    I lived in the midst of that Europe for 8 years once. It was enough too.

    You should write about some of the gadgets and clever widgets you ran into… save the re-cap for later. I'm all ears.

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