Reluctantly you leave Copenhagen after dinner, you just tasted it but fell in love with the city. Night falls as you arrive in Rødby, at the boarding area for the Germany ferries: it’s just half an hour journey on some kind of floating mall, you don’t even realize that it’s moving. The only passengers are four German truck drivers that lay numb on the sofas, while your kids storm in the tax free shops shrieking like monkeys each time they bump into an Haribo dealer. As the ferry arrives in Germany late at night, a creepy fog rises from the sea: clouds thick as cotton wool floats in the dark, reflecting the lights of the few cars passing, such a spooky atmoshphere… You are forced to stop, it’s really too difficult to drive. All around the van it’s impossible to see anything, so you put the kids to bed and fall asleep thinking about that Carpenter’s movie.
You leave early in the morning, you have to drive for a lot of miles. Once you drove in the Swedish roads, driving everywhere else feels like being stuck in a traffic jam; but actually the traffic flows quite easily, while you travel across Germany. You all listen a Radio Drama inspired to Salgari’s novel “Yolanda, the Black Corsair’s Daughter”: your son Mitia is an enthusiast fan of Salgari. You don’t understand a fuck of the plot, but who cares: there’s this lady, obviously beautiful and kidnapped by Spanish soldiers, and the pirates make a mess chasing them all across the Caribbean to set her free. The pretty lady is dubbed by an Italian actress with a sexy voice, that continuously sighs thinking about her beloved Captain Morgan; maybe a little too much, sometimes it sounds like a porn movie radio drama…
It’s night when you arrive in Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauer, where you stop following a friend suggestion: you pay a tribute to Italian emigration in Germany cooking spaghetti all’amatriciana, that your kids devour in a blinking of an eye. Before you go to bed you have a surreal chat with an old toothless man that cleans the public toilets: he speaks only German and insists on telling you the whole story of his juvenile trip in Italy. You don’t understand much of German language, furthermore you have to deal with his toothless delirium pronunciation, you understand only that he enjoyed a lot Modena but then something happened and he found himself cleaning the toilets in Bavaria. All the rest unfortunately is lost in translation.
In the morning you have a walk on the medieval city walls and then in the centre, a real Bavaria jewel. You have breakfast in a Konditorei hosted in one of the many colored marzipan houses, and then hang around.
You find out that Rothenburg is famous in the world not only due to the folkloristic character of the “public toilets toothless mythomaniac”, but also for the Christmas decorations shops: by the way, this is the real Santa Claus city, not Rovaniemi! After an hour wandering around Käthe Wohlfahrt you feel close to a sugar shock with all this Christmas stuff, definitely out of season. This year it’s like that: with Rovaniemi and Rothenburg you celebrate Christmas in August, then you will celebrate mid-summer in Christmas. Picnic with lemonade, sandwiches and cold beers in the park, even if it’s -7°. Everyone is invited.
You leave Rothenburg doubtful. It’s gorgeous, for sure, perfectly preserved and really pitoresque. But. But there’s something you don’t feel comfortable with: maybe everything it’s too perfect, clean and tidy that it doesn’t feels really ancient. Or maybe is the way the cashiers look at the foreigner tourists that fill their bank accounts. That gaze, just above their clean and polished glasses, the same gaze they probably aim also to those unbearably barking Yorkshire dogs. You don’t know, but this postcard Germany is light years far from the one you love. Bavariais beautiful, but it’s not for you: it’s a place that probably is loved by those petty bourgeoises from Northern Italy. You prefer Berlin and Hamburg, with their run-down public housing, noisy coffee bars, dirty U-Bahn and open minded people, yet a little bit weirdo. Radical chic? Ok, hurray for the radical chic, then. Hurray for radical chic Germany.
You turn on the Volkswagen engine, there’s the last stretch: crossing Austria and its Alps, carfully displaying the road tax vignette on the car’s windscreen. You’re not in Sweden or Denmark anymore, there’s the police crouched under each overpass that checks each car passing. Really: you saw two officers standing next to a POLIZEI car and moving their head frantically from left to right in the desperate attempt to control the cars running at 100 mph, so comical. You pass beyond the Brennero, and there you are, back in Italy.
You exit the highway at Rovereto, and descend the Garda Lake until you reach that village facing the lake with the mountains behind. Here there is what your kids call “Casa” more than any place you have ever been living in. The “home” feeling is something impossible to control, you should know it well, being an architect. It’s not just a matter of choosing the right materials, lighting, furniture and tissues that allows the changing of the perception of “home”: it is something more complex, based on instinct, and that takes time to settle. It is made of warmth, protection, light; of kitchens full of drawers and shutters hiding treasures that can be eaten and obscure kitchenware; bookshelves chaotically overloaded; bathroom where the steaming hot water roars filling the tub; posters of exhibition you never visited and pictures of places you’ve never been, but you feel familiar; wardrobes filled with strange clothes that nobody ever wears; books about unintelligible things left opened on the bedside tables; dusty attics where you can hear the sound of raindrops falling on the roof shingles, and where sometimes toys and comics that you lost long time ago magically reappear. And finally scents, because it’s the sense of smell that irrationally seals the deepest emotional bonds, with homes as with love.
Your parents, priceless resource and shelter for your kids forever and ever, are waiting for you. You can rest just a couple of days: Sunday evening you say hello to the kids, that will remain here for another week, and leave for the last travel with the faithful Volkswagen.
As you drive along the A4 highway under the cloudy sky, don’t ask yourself what will this travel leave in the eyes and in the heads of your kids: you won’t be able to know it, not now. Don’t even ask yourself what has left in you, or if you learned anything. It’s not important. Stop trying to find a name or a sense to whatever you do, or happens. What matters is that you lived this thing: the meaning will come on his own, later.
The forest is inside, by now.
Milan – Rovaniemi – Milan, 30/7 – 22/8, 2015