Theo Johnson, ‘23
I was pleased to receive your message regarding cycling up the Vârfdrum.
While the Gran Summit—with its advanced and impressive steam powered technology—has offered many a smooth passage from the foot of the mountain to the Herz die Burg Hotel at its peak, the Vârfdrum offers a more beautiful, if slower, path to the hotel.
I know the expedition will reveal great beauties to me that a trip on the Gran Summit would never provide. The Vârfdrum might offer that unique feeling which I, and all men, seek to experience over the course of their lives.
Now, the old road has a wonderful invention called the Swift Word which was used by many travelers to send letters down the mountain. If I should find the Swift Word in proper condition, I am sure to send letters of my travels at each of the four switchbacks along the route.
If there were ever a day to hop forward in the flow of time and forever leave behind my place in the present, it would be this one. The future holds such bountiful gifts that I should not wait much longer.
All the best
I have reached the first switchback after two days of cycling. The image which it has painted for me at this place is greater than any in the galleries of Paris or Vienna.
I watched as the sun dropped over the edge of the earth and splashed a million shades of orange and red into the sky. My heart began to beat in a strange but welcome fashion. Tears began to shape the golden rays into precious crystals that glazed my eye.
You told me when I first arrived in Windl that the sunrise outside the window of the Penthouse Room of the Herz die Burg Hotel is the most beautiful of any in the world.
That may be so, but the one I have seen on this highway has filled my soul with a kind of feeling that I have wanted to feel for a time longer than I might have known. I think it can only be described as unique.
You may receive this message when looking at a sunrise of your own and comment, “a daily occurrence as such should not be referred to as unique.” I can only reply that it was not the sun or the sky that brought out such emotions, but the place from which I looked out upon them.
II. and III.
I am sorry to write that I do not have much to share from my passage around the second and third switchbacks. Somewhere along my second day of cycling, a thick sheet of clouds concealed the beauties that extend abundantly on the one side of the Vârfdrum. In an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile their error, the clouds opened a sphere around me which, in the most torturous manner, revealed only the road beneath my wheels and the nearest side of the mountain. I hope the clouds will part soon.
The clouds parted early on my fourth day of cycling. I quickly found my pedals turning more quickly than they had before. A joy seemed to fill up all the open space surrounding me, pushing out the dark clouds with it.
But, when I came across that steep and tight curve of the fourth switchback, I at once realized the bleakness of the environment which surrounded me. I suppose that, somewhere in the anonymity of the dense fog, the trees had abandoned their posts around the road. The mountain revealed itself in naked truth: a pile of brown and orange rocks.
The Vârfdrum set before me a far different image from the one I had seen on the first switchback. Perhaps she was trying to test me or, better yet, prove to me that there was nothing inherently beautiful about her pathway up the mountain.
The Gran Summit, after all, offered many views of its own views on its faster path to the peak. The Penthouse Suite of the Herze die Burg Hotel boasted a sunset with a million more shades of red and orange.
But there, on the fourth switchback of the endless mountain road, my heart overflowed again with that strange feeling. I cannot describe it.
The strange feeling which I felt on the first switchback I felt again. This proves, indeed, that the feeling is not unique, as I wrote before. I am sure, my friend, that you have felt it many times. But I believe this not-unique feeling is produced by a condition that is unique. A condition that I cannot describe because, if I could, it would not be the right description.
I’m not sure what it is, my friend, but I think it’s quite strong here.