[note: I’ve been reading the German original]
The story: in the early 2010s, German TV journalist Dennis Gastmann decides to walk from Hamburg to Canossa in Northern Italy.
Gastmann, who is probably best known for working on satirical shows that use humor to reveal misgivings in society, walks through Germany, France, and Switzerland before reaching his destination, the Castle of Canossa.
Canossa means redemption
When someone chooses Canossa as a walking destination, the word “redemption” is in the air. The historical Walk To Canossa happened in the 11th century, when Pope Gregory VII and King Henry IV had a massive argument that lead to Henry having to apologize by traveling to Gregory’s residence in Canossa. Ever since that day, walking to Canossa really means: looking for redemption.
Dennis Gastmann, chasing the absurd
Gastmann’s account of his own walk to Canossa is fun. His writing style is humorous and charming, and, being a casual walker, he isn’t too stubborn to refuse a ride when the going gets rough.
One thing that struck me as odd, however, was the abundance of the absurd. Gastmann seems to have a carefully planned route that will lead him to some of the more entertaining places on the way:
- He visits the headquarters of the Jehova’s Witnesses.
- He takes part in a survival training.
- He hangs out at the stock exchange in Frankfurt.
And that’s just to name a few. To me this felt a bit forced, and I was wondering if it was due to Gastmann’s career as a TV journalist.
more fun than King Henry
But there is also a more quiet, contemplative side to Gastmann’s writing. It’s when he talks about his own feelings and thoughts, and it reminded me of Hape Kerkeling‘s writing.
So where is the redemption in all of this? It might be between the lines. To me, the truth about this book isn’t in its title, but rather in its subtitle. You’re not going to find excessive amounts of soul searching, but rather a young guy who is looking for an adventure.
who might want to read this
Gastmann’s feat of walking to Canossa is alright. His storytelling is awesome, his writing style is humorous, and the insights and observations he shares are pretty good.
If you liked Hape Kerkeling’s walk along the Camino or Nigel Barley‘s tales from Cameroon, then this one might be just right for you.
Also read: Matsuo Basho, for an account of a journey that goes with the flow.