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Pursuing the Via Claudia Augusta to Italy

From Augsburg we ride in convoy south

guided by maps and cryptic words

with logos and arrows discovered on posts,

pedalling down gravelly tracks

and smooth sealed cycle paths,

then onto the bounce and bob

of cobbles and stones

with one eye grounded and one

free to roam the drifting scenes.

Here we path-find beside a stumbling

grey milk river, the full flow showing

that rain preceded our spell

of bright and blue,

past hard graft stone walls

and the soft of sunflower fields,

the pink and red of window boxes.

We try to not get too hung up by

crucifixes that abound in fields and towns

and onion-topped churches with their

garish murals, beautiful and horrific,

preferring the toll of bell-clangs

that dong the hour along,

marvelling at the faith and fears of

those who built castles on rocky crags

overlooking fertile valleys

that we are not the first to invade.

This was a via of empire expansion

and for us, new horizons

as we cycle past vast orchards

with regimented rows of apple trees

upright as Roman columns,

under massive granite brows that frown

on our straggled caravan

as these mountains would have towered

over foot-sore soldiers of that

ancient empire, over men who had

no coffee, ice cream or strudel,

nor green arrows on posts to guide them.

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