Obsessed megalomaniac invaders, that's who used to cross the alps.
There was Hannibal, determined to conquer Rome with his army of elephants. The poor things were from Africa and not meant for winter trekking. He started out with 37 elephants and made it to Rome with 3.
And there was Napoleon, who, at least in the paintings, crossed the alps with panache, probably with a personal stylist to get his whole look just-so.
Historically speaking, no one was crazy enough to cross the alps unless he had to, as part of his grandiose plans to take over the world, or to get some goods to the other side of Europe to make a fortune.
Marc's doing it for fun. Because one day a couple years ago, he came across the blog of an old man who was hiking the GR5 Trail from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean, and his imagination was captured.
He's hiking 200 miles of French Alps in 15 days, with his brother Peter for the first six days, and alone for the rest. Because he considers that kind of thing a good time.
The plans have been in place for a long time now: I thought that if he went right at the time I was finishing up my dissertation, it would be perfect! I would stay home with nothing better to do than work, and he would go have his adventure. But as the day of reckoning drew nearer, I started declaring to Marc, "bad plan! bad plan!" Because
1. I didn't want to do that dang-blasted dissertation.
2. I didn't want to be so terribly alone for 15 days.
3. I wanted to go eat baguettes in France, too.
It wasn't looking pretty, folks. But then, a couple weeks ago, I gave a paper at a conference in York (up north). Marc came with me and we stayed in a convent -- the world's oldest living convent! Since being a nun isn't the most fashionable thing to do right now, they've got a lot of extra rooms, which they open to visitors. And luckily for Marc, my imagination was captured while we were there. The life of a nun! How fascinatingly serene, quiet, and slow. I started imagining what it would be like to be a nun for a short time. Lo and behold, I had two weeks of solitude and study coming right up!
And so begins our 15 days of extremism. Me, alone with my dissertation by day and the castle fields in the evening. Marc, with the French Alps and the pack on his back.
He doesn't have 37 elephants or a personal stylist. In fact here you see everything he took. He did stuff like cut the handle off his tooth brush to save weight. See his puny little foam pad? He actually cut it in half too. And it was only at the very last minute (and at my insistence) that he packed soap. One fragment of a soap bar will serve for washing his body and his dishes. Only when I found a tiny tube of toothpaste did he agree to take that. And here I sit in my quiet luxury of home. I'll post any interesting updates from him as he passes over those 200 miles, and can pass on any messages to him when he calls once a day. Just in case you have any philosophy or botany questions that just can't wait...