We had many unforgettable encounters on our way. Often they were only brief moments of a friendly smile that welcomed us, or encouraging words that gave us new strength for the way. We struck up conversations with many local inhabitants; we never knew the names of most of them, yet received a lot from them.
Throughout the whole journey we were able to enjoy the hospitality and support of people on the way – from Mario, for example, our personal city guide in Belgrade, from an old peasant woman in Macedonia, who let us get refreshed at her well, from Bayram, who supported us in Turkey with a tractor while we were searching for the ancient city of Derbe, and from people who came to our help at the right time. We not only slept in parish houses and monasteries, but almost even in a mosque once – finally we found lodging in the house of a 100-year-old woman. We drank a glass of çay together with a hearty peasant family somewhere in the Turkish remoteness; had stimulating conversations with locals in tea houses; were invited to an evening Ramadan meal in a mountain village; were handed one or two schnapps by Orthodox priests; spent a few days with an Austrian commercial attaché in Damascus and much, much more. We found friends who accompanied us a part of the way (even a four-legged one who even escorted us for weeks), came upon people who curiously asked us about our route and often incredulously nodded when they found out about our far-off goal, and had many good discussions. Naturally, there were difficulties sometimes, for example, when assiduous law officers wanted to demonstrate their power. But most of the time we encountered helpful colleagues – policemen.
All along the trail we were allowed to experience that it is not a question of religion or origin whether one approaches another with an open mind and heart. Friendliness and humanity could be felt in all of the countries, regardless of religion or nationality.
As different as the countries and the people were – on foot you are no stranger, and one thing was valid everywhere – the language of the heart!