Tag Archives: photos

Writing Home to Myself: Sending Diary

There were a lot of times when I was travelling I wished I was totally free of humanity; with no relations to worry about, or worry about them worrying about me; but family is good in other ways, and has benefits such as being a base. The way I travelled back in the 1980s, before all the portable and online technology of today, I may not have kept a diary together, and been able to write the book I did.

First Batch of Diary

The arriving in Rome day of my diary, scanned into a couple of posts ago, was the last of 17 pages of what I think was originally a notepad I sent home to myself from Rome; containing my journey hitch-hiking from west Wales via Belgium, France and northern Spain from August 25th to September 16th, 1987.

Here’s a scan of the envelope, with the postage wrong in typical traveller style:

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I don’t know what the situation is now for long-term travellers, I guess most just do it online, but back then you usually relied on getting your mail sent to ‘poste restante’ at post offices around the world, providing a post office address that you planned to visit in a couple of months.

Rome Photos Built on Fantastic Day

This post is dedicated to a fantastic Italian woman from Milan, and a nice one from Reggio Emilia, and the good Italians I’ve met on my visits there and elsewhere, as well as my fellow campers at Camp Nomentano in 1987!

There’s an old saying that goes something like ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’; but I sightsaw it in a day; well, enough for me, although I probably only saw a small amount of what there is to see, and that from a just the surface category.

A Canadian traveller staying at Camp Nomentano reluctantly went sightseeing with me, showing me around, as he’d already done it. It was an amazing day, with lots of stunning sights on a hot sunny day. We also went to see the busking team at their regular slot. I took three photos: of the Colisseum, St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and the Altare della Patria ([alˈtaːre della ˈpaːtrja]; English: “Altar of the Fatherland”) [Wikipedia], having to now look up the latter.

Heavy Rock Videos and Road Trip Music Spain to Italy in 1987

After an eventful time in northern Spain my last day was a good one socialising with a fellow worker-traveller in Figueres, home of Salvador Dali. The first day’s diary below covers that. I then hitched across the south of France into northern Italy, where the hitching was good, and the Riviera cliffs to beaches scenery even better. I spent a night sharing a room in Nice with another hitcher I shared a lift with, after his suggestion. I briefly stopped in Pisa and Florence, before reaching Rome, told in the second day’s diary below. The whole journey’s told in my memoir, The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller. If you want to see the diary days in-between these two, please request.

Scorpions and AC/DC in Spain, 1987 Hitch-hiking Lifts

I didn’t take any photos in Spain or collect any memorabilia, apart from a couple of pesetas; I probably would have in Barcelona, but as my diary extracts show, my lift took me straight past it. I kept a coin or two; or note if that’s all there was, as in some countries; from each country. Here’s a photo of the two peseta coins I kept:

Hitch-hiking in Northern Spain

As my diary extracts show, hitch-hiking in northern Spain (Basque region) was difficult, but the lifts were eventful when they happened. Some Germans lifted my mood playing the Scorpions, and a local put AC/DC on.

The German ‘Scorpions’ lift, walking above Zaragoza and arriving in Figueres (I found out while there it was Salvador Dali’s birthplace: the museum was closed as it was a Saturday!) all made it into my fantasy fiction travel around Europe to Google Maps original concept XaW Files: Beyond Humanity book; cross-referencing through time and writing genres, via the motorways and crossroads of my mind; neurons of memory and creativity perhaps travelling from different parts of my brain, and meeting at the greenYgreyesque corpus callosum.

The Zaragoza to Figueres lift started off a spaghetti western storyline in Chapter 6 Episode 18: ‘I had felt shimmering significance in Figueres, time distortion in Barcelona and at a crossroads in Zaragoza.’ I had made it to Barcelona in 2013.

The German Scorpions lift was referenced in a fantasy storyline with the real Scorpions singer Klaus Meine, twisting it around to him having read my memoir, which is of course separate to the greenYgrey trilogy: ‘Klaus was very understanding about it, and gave me a lift to Hannover, his home town, which was on my way west. He played the Scorpions’ Worldwide Live album on the way, which is one of my all-time favourites. I told him I’d referenced a couple of Scorpions songs in the opening paragraph, and he said that was a coincidence, because our drive reminded him of one in The Guns N’ Roses Worker Traveller.’

My 1987 Diary 

Here’s my diary recording my brief time in Spain. I had intended spending longer, but as I write in the diary, the hitching wasn’t very good.

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In 2005, after a decade in further education I became Dr. Marc Latham, the Chav Philosopher; possibly Blighty’s best value and poorest doctor of philosophy. My memoir, poetry and fiction books are available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marc-Latham/e/B004SP40J0/

Paris, 1987, Eiffel Tower Experience Monumental!

Although travel for the sake of travel was the main reason for my first travelling experience thirty years ago, I wanted to see as much of the world as possible, with significant world sites second only to beaches at the time; I originally only planned to do Europe and North America, a hitch-hiking sojourn ending in L.A., then buzzing with my favourite rock and metal music. So reaching Paris after a few days was totally uplifting and quite mindblowing, especially as the sun was shining hot summer heat. It would stay mainly sunny for the rest of my trip over the next month, until reaching Athens at the end of September. Here’s the photos I took in Paris, from and of, the Eiffel Tower:

This memoir was published as The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller, and like Marc Latham’s other books is available to buy or borrow on Amazon and some great big bookshops.

Historic Travel Document (for me anyway!): First Currency Changing Document in Lille, France

I know there are lots of nice places in Belgium (especially for art and history, such as shown in the In Bruges movie), but I was glad to get out of there after my first day on the continent. It had started well, with a lift from Ostend port to the edge of Brussels, but it was raining all the time there, and it was ages before I got a lift. I later pitched my tent in a field, which flooded after more rain! So I was glad to get into France, which had been my initial first destination before being offered the return ticket to Ostend.

I took my first photo in Lille, featured a couple of blog posts ago in the first of this series looking back at my first travel 30 years ago, and also made my first sterling to foreign currency transaction; in the pre-Euro Europe. Here’s the receipt:

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I know countries’ borders are only on maps, ground and water, and not in the weather; and was probably due to it being another day rather than country, but it did dry up in France, and Paris greeted me with hot summer sunshine. More of that next time…

My first travel memoir, The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller, was published by Chipmunka, and I have since written several more, available on Amazon.

Appetite for Destruction Before Leaving Blighty Nearly Thirty Years Ago

I think the first stamp is when I left the U.K. on August 25th, 1987 but I’m not sure. It fits in with my departure date, so probably is. There weren’t many stamps after that, until I got to Greece at the end of the continental Europe journey just over a month later.

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Keeping a Diary to Write like Kerouac

I kept a diary on loose paper at first, before buying exercise books along the way. I posted them home. Here’s the first day and its eve, when I wrote of listening to Guns N’ Roses’s Appetite for Destruction (30th anniversary tomorrow!) before leaving:

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Here’s an exercise book from later in the trip, where I reference Ozzy (Diary of a Madman), Anthrax (NFL: Nice F***ing Life) and Lynyrd Skynyrd/Blues Brothers (Sweet Home Alabama or Chicago) and proclaim my ambitions to write a Kerouac On The Road (updated to the highest musical level by Guns N’ Roses’s Appetite for Destruction, following other street living songwriters such as AC/DC, Van Halen, Rose Tattoo and Motley Crue) style memoir (I’ve Lived It So You Can Read It).

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My first travel memoir, The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller, was published by Chipmunka, and I have since written several more books, available on Amazon.

Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction Always One Month Ahead: Passport to France

When I decided to finish this blog off to commemorate 30 years since my travels started last week I didn’t know Guns N’ Roses were planning a thirtieth anniversary event for Appetite for Destruction. Today I read they are playing a special AFD gig in the Apollo, New York on Friday July 21st to mark its 30th anniversary/birthday on Planet Rock and Classic Rock. Best of luck to the band and fans for that… will Izzy and Steven be there… hopefully!

Passport and France Photos

When I left home and travelled to the European continent a month and four days after AFD was released I had a passport from 1982 with the photo of me as I was then: a typical young rock and metaller with hair down to shoulders and a denim shirt:

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After hitching from the Belgian coast via the outskirts of Brussels I reached Lille and took my first photo of my travels in its main central square. The blog continues after the photo, which includes a big space below it from the scanning:

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My first travel memoir, The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller, was published by Chipmunka, and I have since written several more, available on Amazon.

I’ll continue blogging my travels, which greatly influenced my fantasy travel trilogy pioneering the new concept of writing fiction from Google Maps and web information.

First Travel Departure 30 Years Anniversary Next Month

Travel 25 years has become 30, with a trip to the beautiful Baltic last year to complete my 12 years – marathon every 3 years until 50 – ambition in riveting Riga, Latvia, continuing to enchanting Estonia (Parnu and Tallinn) and holistic Helsinki, Finland; articles published on TravelThruHistory and available from the above links. I’ve also been on trips around the U.K., from Abbey Wood in Kent to John O’ Groats on the northern tip of Scotland and the U.K., and hobo hiked around Yorkshire and Cleveland.

Hobo Travelling Trip Down Memory Lane… Coastal Path

In May I recaptured some of the ethos of my first trip by hiking and camping from Scarborough to Withernsea through Hornsea (about 55-60 miles over three days). Some of the secluded beaches were particularly reminiscent of some of the European deserts if I ignored the sea to the side (seeing Hornsea’s Marine Bar in the desert was like a movie mirage!); while being able to dip into the sea and waking up to the rising sun reminded me of times living on the beach. The birdlife on the chalk cliffs and stacks from Bempton to Flamborough Head looked truly world-class.

Last month I did an even longer walk from Helmsley to Scarborough (about 90 miles over four days), seeing some nice dales scenery, especially around Hawnby, and walked down the Cleveland Way coastal path from Saltburn-by-the-Sea; a picturesque coastal town like a bigger version of the more southerly villages of Staithes, Runswick Bay and Robin Hood’s Bay either side of Whitby.

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Secluded beaches above Scarborough were a great way to finish the walk on a sunny Sunday, and the town had great food and drink to replenish and refresh (UNESCO site(s) of future after Lake District celebrating award on weekend!?).

 

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Robin Hood’s Bay sunset on last night of my hike.

Guns N’ Roses Reunion Trip down Memory Lane… Balmy Day

My visit to Abbey Wood campsite, an idyllic green space replete with wild parakeets in the trees, was to see Guns N’ Roses at the Olympic Stadium, London, with Duff and Slash rejoining last year for their current very successful world tour. The gig reminded me of Wembley Stadium in 1991, which was also hot and sunny.

I was just getting to know Guns N’ Roses’s Appetite for Destruction this time 30 years ago, and it provided the main soundtrack to my travels.

 

I left on August 25th, 1987, and I’ll hopefully complete this site’s backwards chronology working to that date this year in 2017. My first eleven months journey was originally just supposed to be around Europe, but extended to the Middle-East mainly through a desire for more sunshine warmth over the winter; with tourist sites a secondary factor.

It was immortalised in my memoir The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller, published by Chipmunka, realising an ambition I’d had since reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road: to travel, keep a diary and write a book about it.

The Guns 'n' Roses Worker - Traveller

That fulfilled my writing ambition, but I’ve continued writing for a decade; fulfilling no more ambitions, for there were none; but creating some new concepts, supporting some good causes and improving my writing.

My name is Marc Latham, and I’m still alive. My story is true, and I’ll prove what I can to you…

Saint-Malo, France and Dolomites, Italy Articles

Hope you’re enjoying autumn/fall in the northern hemisphere, and spring/summer in the southern. Sorry I haven’t posted any new poems on here for a while, but I’ve been focusing on a two-years X Files comedy parody prose and poetry fantasy travel around Europe by Google Maps project I’m serialising over at the Writing and Poetry greenYgrey blog.

Plus the photos from my earlier travel are old disposable camera standard, and need to be scanned, so it’ll be quite a lot of work, and the quality won’t be great.

Saint-Malo, Brittany and Normandy, France Article

My Saint-Malo to Mont-Saint-Michel, Brittany and Normandy, France travel article remembering the D-Day landings in their seventieth anniversary year is now up on Go Nomad. It has a sacrifice theme inspired by this video’s contents:

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Italy Dolomites Article and Photos

I last posted on this blog about Tromso, Norway in 2007, and was recently reminded that I’d written an article for TravelThruHistory about my previous travelling trip to that, which was to the Dolomites, Italy in 2005. I reunited with a platonic friend met in Uganda’s Kibale Forest in 1998.

Here’s the article with most of the photos:

DEATH AND DOLCE IN THE DOLOMITES

Before I ascended into the Dolomites, if somebody mentioned Great War (World War One) stalemates I would only have thought of the Somme, Ypres and other mud and blood filled fields of northern Europe; if someone talked about Great War weather-induced injuries I would presume they were referring to trench-foot; and if they recounted the horrors of Great War winters my mind would visualise soldiers crawling through freezing rain or knee-deep in stagnant water.

Yet here I was, in a cramped machine-gun post 8,000 feet up on Lagazuoi in the Italian Dolomites, where ninety years previously the Austrians had defended their Alps front line against Italians who had joined the war on the side of the Entente Powers (led by Britain and Commonwealth countries, Russia and France) against the Central Powers (mainly Germany and Austria-Hungary). The gun was pointed across at what had then been Italian positions; they only seemed a stone-throw away, although there was a hundred foot drop in-between.

Lagazuoi could be enjoyed in the summer sun, but temperatures were still cool to say the least, and in winter it can drop to -30c (-22f); so in the trenches of the Dolomites it was blizzards and frostbite that were the main weather concerns for the Italian and Austrian troops fighting doggedly in the tunnels and peaks of the southern Alps.

The Dolomites were formed 200 million years ago out of the primeval ocean, and the highest peaks now reach 12,000 feet. They take their name from French mineralogist, Déodat de Dolomieu (1750-1801), who discovered and defined the unique composition of the stone which gives it a lighter colour than most mountains.

I had travelled up to the Dolomites from Reggio Emilia with a local friend I’d met in Africa seven years before. Reggio is the main town in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, and is a bastion of socialism in a country divided between politically polarised regions; streets are named after left-wing legends such as Lenin, Marx and Che Guevara, and there is a statue in the town celebrating the partisans who fought against Mussolini in World War Two.

We travelled north by train, via Bologna and Verona to Brunico. The Bologna train had been packed with people heading to the coast at Rimini; I’d apparently picked an inconvenient time to visit Italy, as the country largely shuts down in August for a national holiday.

Sun-kissed vineyards and farmland provided the vista until Verona, and then mountains began to dominate the horizon after that; many featured majestic medieval castles that offer clues to the region’s importance as a trading route, and the wealth and prestige it has brought. The temperature had been about 40c (110f) in Reggio, but as we started winding up into the Alpine landscape temperature figures halved and there was more cloud.

When we arrived in Brunico it looked and sounded as if we’d crossed into another country: red and white flags abound, the architecture is typical of the central Alps, and German is the primary language as it is in Austria. This is because the region, South Tyrol, was Austrian until the Italian push into the Dolomites during the Great War. As part of the 1915 treaty that brought neutral Italy into the war it was agreed that they should have some Austro-Hungarian regions after the conflict. Although parts of the treaty could not be kept, South Tyrol did become Italian in 1919.

From Brunico we took a comfortable bus along country roads that provided great views of lush green valleys and high mountain peaks to the village of Pedraces in the Badia valley for a couple of Euros. We stayed at the Pension Armalia, which was clean and friendly, although the staff didn’t speak English; luckily, my friend provided translation and did all the organising. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price, and provided enough for the day; they were not used to catering for vegetarians so it was mostly egg and cheese dishes for me, but they were always nice and filling.

On the first day we bussed it into the bigger village of La Villa, where there is a good tourist office. It was there that I first saw the leaflet for the mountain-top Great War Museum: it looked intriguing and declared itself unique. Three days of hiking amongst impressive peaks and Sound of the Music style meadows later it was time to take a trip back in time to the Great War.

We took a bus into La Villa again at about 9am, and then another bus to the ski lift station at the Falzarego Pass. The second bus journey took us to the end of the mountain range that framed one flank of the valley, and when I realised where we were going I was overjoyed; I’d wondered what lay beyond the high natural wall that dominated that side of the panorama, and now I was about to find out. As we wound our way through mountains, forests and Lake Valparola to the 6000 feet Falzarego there were magnificent views down the valley all the way to Pedraces.

The ski-lift carried us up an additional 2000 feet in altitude, and combined with the wind chill from being on top of an exposed peak it made a noticeable difference to the temperature. I didn’t think there would be much natural life at that altitude, and was therefore surprised to see a flock of birds fly high above us before turning en-masse and heading back down towards the valley below. We made our way over to one of the many crosses that appear on prominent peaks across the mountains in the region, and could see a couple of small lakes further into the range; mountains dominated the horizon for as far as the eye could see.

Leaving the exposed peak and passing the 360 degree reception centre we started to view the open air museum as we descended on a steep and narrow path. The path seems to be the one used during the Great War, as the preserved living quarters and positions of the Austrian troops defending the Lagazuoi Peak are accessible from it as you walk.

The soldiers spent two winters guarding the rock in the freezing cold, and it was easy to imagine how relieved the soldiers must have been to escape a third. There were separate quarters for the officers and men, with neither looking comfortable; the only preferential benefits for the officers seemed to be a little more room and a desk. The machine-gun post was claustrophobic and cold, and if you add on the freezing temperatures of winter and being fired at by snipers and heavy artillery then it must have been quite close to what I’d imagine hell would be like if it did ever freeze over.

After leaving Lagazuoi we made our way down a track at the bottom of no-man’s-land; looking back up at the Austrian positions we could view them almost as the Italians must have done. All of a sudden the Austrian experience didn’t seem quite as bad, as I’d have preferred to be looking and firing down than up. However, the Italians did have the advantage of launching surprise attacks at the Austrians by tunnelling into the mountain.

The closest I came to relating to the sound of explosions that had disrupted the harmony of the Dolomites ninety years before was being awoken one night by the loudest thunderstorm I’ve ever heard. Before that I’d been thinking how easy it looked to just hike up one of the beautiful peaks. Like war, mountains can look easier to survive than in reality; and when you combine them together, they can provide one of the toughest tests of all.

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).