Eurasia: from Scotland to Japan

Eurasia: from Scotland to Japan, August 2016-November 2016


In the second half of 2016, I have traveled for four months from Scotland to Japan by land and sea on off-the-beaten paths. I have crossed eleven countries including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Southern Siberia, Mongolia, China and built my own way while going. From time to time I have found a way to continue my journey to proceed further using different means, from old trains to buses and hitchhiking. I have seen landscapes, faces and cultures change along the Eurasian continent. I came back so full of experiences that I decided to share them in a book: ‘Oltre e un cielo in più. Da una parte all’altra del mondo senza aereo (‘Beyond and one more sky. Across the world without an airplane’) (Sperling & Kupfer). This is a short story in images and words of that difficult journey whose trajectory is represented above.

Portree, Scotland, August 2016

It was August 2016. From Leeds I had reached the Isle of Skye, the largest island in the Hebridean archipelago, on the west coast of Scotland, with the intention of resting a few days from academic life. The town of Portree, where I stopped one night, is located in one of the many small coves on the Isle of Skye. Its houses climb sparsely along a rocky slope, almost overlooking the sea, and form a compact group of buildings on the top, which is crossed by the island's main road artery. I remember that in the early morning, after breakfast, I walked towards the central square. Along the road, from above, the marina appeared as a graceful semicircle of colored houses overlooking a pool of black ink in which about fifty boats floated. The night before I had decided I wanted to leave for the East. I just wanted to always go on towards Asia, as far as I could, and never take a plane. The prospect of setting out without any preparation, of knowing, of learning and, why not, of unlearning, cast an intense light on everything around me.

A87 from Uig towards the 'Skye bridge', Scotland, August 2016

The next day, while driving on the A87 from Uig towards the 'Skye bridge', which connects the homonymous island with the rest of Scotland, I felt already on my way to the East. In front of me I could see the full length of the road winding to the horizon among the low heather bushes. I would continue to go on forever, I told myself. Where would I end up if I kept driving that road? First in England, then in France, of course ... and then? Heading south meant going towards what I already knew. So why not go east then? I would have crossed all of Central Asia to China ... How? Visions of escape appeared to me: other cultures, other landscapes, other sensations, and another me. The idea fascinated me, but it also scared me. Crossing such a vast territory without any preparation and without an accurate travel plan was really risky.

A87 from Uig towards the 'Skye bridge', Scotland, August 2016

I remember taking some walks in the Scottish headlands. Once I managed to get to the top and a grand panorama of the Hebrides opened up for me. I saw the moors that reached the sea and the lochs, as the Scots call the arms of the sea that are wedged into the coast. That sight reminded me of the words of the Scottish writer James Boswell. Between August and November 1773 he went to the Hebrides with the scholar Samuel Johnson, the subject of his famous biography. The two traveled on horseback across wild moors and stops in huts inhabited by shepherds. Boswell wrote that during their strenuous rides what gave them relief was to reach the top of a promontory from which to see all the ramifications of the sea and the thin strips of land. I have always thought the same: that hostile climate, the whipping wind, the frequent rain are rewarded by the breathtaking beauty of the vastness of Scotland's landscapes with their play of clouds, the dark blue color of the sea, the enormous seagulls flying restlessly and the sea that touches the grass on the shores.

Eilan Dolan Castle, Scotland, July 2016

A cottage in Northumberland, July 2016

Il paesaggio caratteristico del Northumberland è formato da prati verdi, greggi di pecore, muri a secco o brughiere di erica. Questo cottage si trova in prossimità del muro di Adriano.

Hadrian Wall, Northumberland, England, July 2016

Haworth Village, Bronte Country, England, July 2016

The village of Haworth (Bronte Village), UK, July 2016

The barriers of the 'Calais Jungle', France, July 2016

Endless match, Calais Jungle, July 2016

That gesture always the same, Batiovo, August 2016

Mystical continuity, Kiev, August 2016

Human and divine, Kiev, August 2016

At the end of the mass, Kiev, August 2016

Ukrainian Christianity, Kiev, September, 2016

Sunset over Kiev, August 2016

Mountains of heaven, Kazakhstan, September, 2016

Blu waters, Kazakhstan, September, 2016

The larches of Olkhon, Lake Baikal, September 2016

The 'ger' and the 'deel', Mongolia, September 2016

Siberian tundra, October 2016

Return to the iurt, September 2016

The Great Wall of China, October 2016

Limestone towers, Yangshuo, October, 2016

From the Bund, Shanghai, October 2016