Gary Bolstad: Day to day, town to town: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM_ZnOJ7EuM
Having been raised in the post-war period, collecting always has been part of my lifestyle. “Being complete” is what a collector’s heart strives for – though this makes sense only, if one chooses an overseeable topic. I began with stamps and coins like every boy of my age: but there were continuous new editions – never could my collection become complete. Then I discovered mountains. I was fascinated by their sheer height, and standing on top, being the highest, became the focus of my aspirations as long as I could drive my own height record ever higher. I barely reached the summit of Aconcagua; and failed on Pik Lenin. My frontier was set at 7,000 m. Higher was impossible. What should I do to find, at last, a finite collection topic, a playground for the rest of my life?
Quite simple: It was all about setting boundaries to my mountains, and since I am European I do this best in Europe:
Highest mountains in Europe
could be my project, but this appears too ambitious for me, so I better confine this to:
Highest mountains of European countries.
Europe covers – depending upon how you count – almost 50 independent states; this, however, is not enough for my taste, so I finally call my project:
I am going to climb every highest peak in each European "independent" country.
This nicely adds some colonies and dependencies, many autonomous regions and even states lacking international recognition, states without a territory, areas not clearly allocated to a state, emerging states, customs-free zones, neatly marked off enclaves, exclaves, shunting assets, joint and oscillating sovereignties, even a country lost under the sea-level. Europe is a colourful patchwork carpet, but: What is this “EUROPE” at all? Where does Europe begin, where does it end? What is this: a STATE? And finally: What is a MOUNTAIN? What does the word “HIGHEST“ mean? What does “ALTITUDE” mean? Measured from where?
My project “Peaks, Poles and Paragraphs“ – Europe 135 times seen from above – this becomes clear very quickly, has only marginally to do with mountain climbing. We will come across, on every step, magnificent mountains and hilltops, sure, but rather will we stumble upon the helpless attempts of man to stabilize a state in a terrain with border markers, poles and monuments. Elaborate treaties accompany this, although history tells that states and borders are nothing definitive. Correspondingly, the Highest ones of a country are this only for the time being: Once Zugspitze has been the highest German – 1871 – 1886, then it was Kilimanjaro for a while – until 1919, then Zugspitze again – until 1938, followed by Grossglockner – all the sad way through 1945, to return to Zugspitze again. Completely arbitrary.
And of course “Europe“ also includes Holland and Denmark, let alone the wide, flat East. There the motto is FIND rather than climb, and a sense of sagacity is in demand, rather than staying in tread. I will climb volcanos and “clamber“ in a hotel, will deal with oil drilling platforms in their form of state-like creations, will investigate mysterious middle-age petroglyphs that served as signposts in an operetta principality, will leap upon loading ramps in Hamburg harbour, and enter a rock inmidst the Atlantic – never will the Highest of Europe bore me: yet, they are not always “real” mountains, often only highest points of little hills.
Ten years of my life will I be on the road throughout Europe „Searching for the Highest“. Boundary-less summits will I sense, and dull imbecility alike, of a continent that does not know what it is and wants to be. To reach my destination I will set my foot on mountains which have seen hardly a mountaineer before, and will delve into depths which a mountaineer would never touch – will I have found the HIGHEST at the end? And what does it all mean?
This in short is my project for early retirement. 135 singular targets will I have to meet, 135 times stand on top, 135 times write about and finally – the most difficult challenge – assemble 135 individual chapters to a lose whole, taking care that every chapter can stand alone. The „œuvre“ remains an anthology of strange splinters, bound together into 20 volumes or consecutive in 135 single CDs. To get a feel for this large enterprise I recommend you start with a well affordable, selected CD and go from there.
More about the WHY? My hobby is entirely useless. Neither do I earn anything with it, nor will I have an add-on cognition. Like with all collections I have to deliver everything at the end of my life. Yet it is unique: Never before has somebody designed this project in such a magnitude. In my own uselessness I am therefore absolute top, the Highest in myself.
My project keeps busy, dispels boredom, makes me unconscious to the fact that everything we do as humans is aimless right from the beginning. How can I have thoughts like that in view of a blooming mountain meadow, in view of a flaming sunset, in the ecstasy of a summit hour!? Never in life was I so busy, never in life also with objects such beautiful – this is the meaning of the project.
How about following me? Just get on your feet and make it happen: You can do it, too!
List of the highest peaks of "independent" countries in Europe
Chapters of the book and CD series "Gipfel und Grenzen - Grenzenlose Gipfel"