In Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point on the European continent, Joaquim, a former navy captain inspired us to create our own journey.
From people power in sunny Slovenia to all that is wonderful about Italy (even if cloudy) but also
some truly sombre moments: during week 3 Luisa and Louis covered 600 kilometres on both sides of the Adriatic. They met amazing people who strive to make tomorrow a bit better – some of them on an adventure themselves – discovered the complex history of mosaics, travelled back in time to a low point in Europe’s history and were confronted with the ugly truth of man-made pollution. And they ate a whole lot of awesome Italian food!
In Koper, Slovenia, Louis and Luisa went for an exhilarating bike ride on the Route of Health and Friendship, the main green route in Istria. Their guides were two European Solidarity Corps volunteers from the local youth centre. “A bit like Erasmus except you work”, as Louis remarked, the Solidarity Corps is an initiative that matches volunteers aged 18 to 30 with projects that benefit communities around Europe. Social work, rebuilding schools, helping asylum seekers and much more besides, the Solidarity Corps has plenty on offer.
By the way, the cycling path had been recently fixed based on the suggestions of a group of young
people. Talk about the power of participation! The initiative had come from PiNA, an NGO that
encourages people to think, talk to each other and act to tackle common issues.
After a very musical four-wheeled ride around the Gulf of Venice, Louis and Luisa had a blast in
Bologna, Italy, enjoying its lively atmosphere (not to mention its Italian-ness) and great
conversations with the locals.
In Ravenna, Luisa and Louis got to put their artistry and their patience to the test at the Mosaic Lab, guided by the wonderful mosaic artist Anna. Luisa was the more excited of the two to start with, but Louis caught the bug soon enough and seemed in no hurry to finish his masterpiece.
The following day in Marzabotto, Louis and Luisa were nearly overwhelmed by the shocking history of the place. What is now the Historic Regional Park of Monte Sole was in 1944 the site of Second World War’s largest civilian massacre in Western Europe. It is now a place of memory and reflection – but also of learning from our collective mistakes. The Park hosts a Peace School with an international programme in non-violent conflict resolution, the respect of human rights and the art of peaceful co-existence.
At the PERCEIVE project Louis was impressed by how passionate the researchers were about their job. Which is: to investigate Europeans’ feelings about their continent! They are also trying to figure out if their European identity, or lack of it, has anything to do with their awareness of EU action in their region.
And then finally it was time for action. Our would-be superheroes were off to save the planet! Or at
least one coastline, and with the help of Matteo of the project MEDSEALITTER, and with a view onto the ultra-picturesque Cinque Terre. With Matteo – who is trained in how to find plastic inside fish! – at the helm of their speedy dinghy, Louis and Luisa engaged in some competitive plastic trash spotting and learnt the magnitude of the problem: it’s big.
All too soon it was time to say thank you and good-bye Italy! Next up, France!