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I do not know either how you crossed the water that some still call the English Channel (as if water, endlessly running as it does between the poles, could ever belong to anybody…) It is true that sometimes people hide themselves in car boots and under lorries when they try and smuggle themselves into Britain. Maybe you did that too? And maybe you had an easier go of it because everybody was looking the other way: for people trying to come in rather that out.

So there you are: in a country called France. You may have visited before, with your parents or your school. Maybe it is true what they say and that the people there smell and mostly eat cheese and drive very fast in very small cars, but by then you already find suspect a lot of what they taught you. Anyway you will not stay long enough to find out. You must go East and not waste time: there is a long way to walk.

First, you will cross into Belgium. A small country but densely populated where it is hard sometimes to hide. People in this place – for Belgium is more a place than a country – eat mostly chips and drink beer. A bit like home really, even if you do not understand their language, and if they, somehow, seem happier there. But, even on foot, Belgium is soon left behind and now, just ahead behind Luxemburg – which was always more of a city than a country – looms Germany.

The Germans work in steel and iron, and they speak loudly. But by now you have learned not to pay attention to the fact that you do not understand the language and that you need to start to understand people. Do not be afraid! The road is long still, and crossing Germany will take several weeks – it is a big country. So do not hesitate to ask for food or shelter : here they are kind-hearted, for all their strange ways and their horrific history, and they will feed you sausages – of which they eat prodigious quantities.

Next comes Poland and by then you have been walking for quite a while and are starting to get used to it. Used to sleep in bushes by the roadside, often, and to wash in streams, sometimes. You have learned now that washing is important, and so is keeping your clothes relatively clean : people ask fewer questions that way. Each morning, you look to the rising sun to find the East before getting on your way. You are something of a seasoned traveller now, and it does not take you long to learn the few words of Polish you need to ask for food as you pass through towns and villages. It does not take you long either to wonder what these people used to eat before they invented potatoes.

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