Peace, Love, Health and Joy! These are what we wish for every one of you during the whole year 2007! On October 31st, Jean welcomes his daughter, Ã‰lisa-Jane, at the airport in Hamburg, Germany. It is their first meeting since his departure in August 2000. The Following week is entirely dedicated to reunion between father, daughter and son, with the addition of Laury, eldest of Jeanâ€™s two granddaughters. They do explore a few parts of this wonderful city, but Lauryâ€™s small legs quickly get tired of walking so they spend long moments simply conversing peacefullyâ€¦ there is so much to tellâ€¦Â
Back in Berlin on November 8th, Jeanâ€™s schedule is loaded: meetings at the Canadian Embassy, visit of a museum for children, interviews with the press and the radio. For a few days, he is hosted by Martine LefranÃ§ois who works at the Canadian Embassy and emails me: â€œAs I am from Quebec and that I do have many CDs of Quebecois music, I filled his ears with it! From Garolou to Sylvain LeliÃ¨vre, Beau Dommage, Harmonium, Gerry Boulet, etc. More, we even watch the DVD of â€œC.R.A.Z.Y.â€, a Quebecois movie that you surely know about. This movie really touched his heart! We spoke a lot of Quebec and of our respective lives. During his stay, he told me that he would now begin to walk more quickly for his return, because he is in such a hurry to see you again, to live his Quebecois life and learn all that happened during his long absence. I certainly hope that I did not make him too nostalgicâ€¦â€ On November 13th, Jean leaves Berlin, accompanied by Claudia, a German woman whom he had met in Costa Rica, in August 2001. They walk together till Golssen.Â
The inhabitants of Dresden, that Jean reaches November 18th, are really nice!!! We had received several emails from this city offering him room and board! Dresden is a beautiful city where it would be nice to linger, but the wwwalk must go on and he crosses the border of the Czech Republic on November 22nd. Martina and Michal who have been following his trek for a few years already host him very cordially as well as another Czech family. The Czech capital offers an incredible treasure of architecture that miraculously escaped the destruction of World War ll. From the â€œgolden cityâ€, he emails me: â€œPrague is a magic city! But without you by my side, it is impossible for me to appreciate its romanticism as much as it deserves it!â€ Petr Michalek and Jean first met in South Africa in 2003 and on December 8, 2006, they meet again in the south of the Czech Republicâ€¦ meeting organized by Petr who was following Jean from his Web site. What a small world we live in!!!Â
Peter Weissenhofer sends me photos of Jeanâ€™s visit to the Canadian Embassy in Vienna. He informs me as well that they organized a visit to Austriaâ€™s biggest international school where the walker met more than a hundred students who were fascinated by his project and his adventures! Austriaâ€™s biggest daily ran a full-page online article and two Austrian TV stations shot short films and made interviews with Jean. A two-day detour in Bratislava, Slovakia to promote his walk and Jean crosses the border to Hungary. I was sorry not to be able to join my walker for the celebration of Christmas and the New Year, but his sonâ€™s presence by his side from December 24 to 29 comforted meâ€¦ A generous Hungarian, ZoltÃ¡n Garadnai, met Thomas-Ã‰ric at the Budapest airport and drove him to his father in Tata where he had stopped his steps. They remained in Tata for two days and then moved to Budapest by train. They explored the Hungarian capital during three days and Thomas went back to Germany. For Christmas, Jean received a present of very comfortable shoes from Holland. After his sonâ€™s leaving, Jean went back to Tata by train and then walked to Budapest.Â
Hungarians are of an incomparable cordiality! January 4th, Jean confers a presentation of his project and his goals to the pupils of a secondary school in CeglÃ©d. Then, as his walk reaches 40,075 km in Hungary and that this number represents the circumference of the earth at the equator, ÃrpÃ¡d SzabÃ³, a trekking enthusiast, organizes a fantastic celebration! On January 6th, about fifty people meet in Abony to undertake with Jean a walk of 25 km that will bring them to RÃ¡kÃ³czifalva. Those who wanted to walk a shorter distance join the group in Szolnok at noon and the organisers as well as Jean are surprised to note that about a hundred people wait for them to complete the circuit. One of the organisers, LÃ¡szlÃ³ Papp writes to me:â€œDue to the short time to organise the event, we were expecting about 60 participants at most! We had only 10 km to go. The atmosphere was fantastic! Children vied together to push Jeanâ€™s chariot and people along the road were encouraging and cheering us. Around 2 p.m., we reached RÃ¡kÃ³czifalva city limits. Incredible sight! A huge crowd was waiting for us! The town crier, dressed in 18-century military clothes, was telling the crowd of the event, children were waving placards of welcoming while the people was applauding and waiving their hands. The representatives of the national medias were present as well.
Then, our mayor, Mr. Lajos TÃ³th came to meet Jean, heartily welcoming him and inviting him to step into a cement frame to preserve his footprints. Later, we will make of our village a pilgrimage place for walkers, runners and cyclists. After this short ceremony, the walkers (about 200) went to the village Community Hall while people lined the street standing in front of their house, most of them trying to shake hands with Jean. In the Community Hall, there was a press conference where Jean answered the reportersâ€™ questions and while he was doing so, he was presented a certificate attesting that he was henceforth a ” HONORARY CITIZEN” of RÃ¡kÃ³czifalva! What a surprise and what emotion!!! The secretary of the Foundation of the Students of RÃ¡kÃ³czi was also surprised when Jean officially handed her a check coming from money collected during this public walk. These moving events were followed by a reception during which Jean gave interviews to different TV channels and radio stations.Finally, the ceremonial dinner with the participation of those who took part in the organization started at 7 p.m. We ate delicious food and drank good wine until about midnight! The following day, after breakfast, we went to the local radio station for a chat. Later, the mayor took us to see the new educational park that consists of a huge area of flood-plain territory alongside the Tisza River where nature-lovers can study typical species of our region. Some more visits followed, then after lunch, Jean, ÃrpÃ¡d, the mayor and myself went to walk the 11 km that Jean had omitted January 4th, prior to his arrival in Abony.
Monday January 8th, after a short conference at the local elementary school, Jean pursues his road toward Szeged.Well, thatâ€™s all about that brilliant weekend! I am happy to have made the acquaintance of your wonderful husband. He is the kindest, the most generous and most patient man I never met.”
On January 12, Jean is invited for conferences in secondary schools of Szeged and to ÃrpÃ¡d who traveled to join him in this city, he hands out his worn-out shoes as a souvenirâ€¦ in return for brand new shoes! His old shoes will be exhibited in RÃ¡kÃ³czifalva next to the slab of cement containing their prints. On January 13th, Jean crosses the border of Serbia and he arrives in Belgrade six days later. Sheer luck is sticking to him as winter has been very kind up to nowâ€¦ but who knows if the mild weather will continue to bless himâ€¦ On the phone, January 20th, he tells me that Serbian welcome him with a lot of warmthâ€¦ so much that it is difficult for him to leave the following morningâ€¦ He also informs me that he changed his route. He fears that winter might catch up to him and wants to hurry to reach the Aegean Sea. Therefore, he will not walk through Bulgaria but rather through Macedonia and then Greece, following the Aegean Sea all the way to Turkey. In March, I will fly off to meet my beloved in Istanbul!Â
Till next timeâ€¦ LuceÂ
Note 1: Do not forget to click on the links (text underlined and/or of a different colour). You will find photos there!