Aside: Sauntering in a new city

pic of graffiti & church
“I must walk more with free sense”, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal

“It is as bad to study stars and clouds as flowers and stones. I must let my senses wander as my thoughts, my eyes see without seeing.

What I need is not to look at all, but a true sauntering of the eye.” 

I’ve been tempering my wide-eyed tourist gaze with some “drifting” – walking without having a destination in mind in order to savour the mundane ordinary spaces in between the obvious tourist hotspots – taking time to let the poetry of this place rise to the surface.  

pic of busI’ve been meandering down strange alleyways, looking up to see the lie of the sky as well as down at the lie of the land, and peering through gaps in fences.

pic of gap in fence

This ‘sauntering’ helps me absorb the multiplicity of layers of history & geography & politics that old cities are built of: in this respect Kyiv feels like Lahore – both have been places of trading and passing through, of siege and conquest and occupation since ancient times. As someone who’s easily distracted, my solo journeys over the years have often had a quality of meandering to them: following my nose, or my ears, rather than a map, has led me down some intriguing paths… and though they’ve usually started as solitary pleasure they rarely end that way.

I discovered artist/walker Phil Smith’s wonderful website  where he explains the concept:                        “ By whatever means are necessary, it is the struggle of the differences against the big sameness (dressed in oh so many colours, of course). And those means may be entrepreneurial, may be trespass, may be poetic, may be effete, may be abject, may be disarming, may be perilous, may be made at a cost, may be invisible, may be best unspoken of for the time being, may be both naïve in hope and canny in practice. 

Phil is also the author of the Counter Tourism handbook – which you’ll be able to obtain if you follow that link above – “Beneath the simple sounding stories in the Visitor Guides and behind the locked gates marked Private there lies a multitude of inconvenient stories, hilarities, wonders, extremes and outrages…”



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