In 1978 Herzog had published a short book, Vom Gehen im Eis (Of Walking in Ice) that had particularly impressed Chatwin. 'At the end of November 1974', Herzog wrote in its preface, 'a friend from Paris called and told me that Lotte Eisner was seriously ill and would probably die. I said that this must not be, not at this time, German cinema could not do without her now, we would not permit her death. I took my jacket, a compass and a duffel bag with the necessities. My boots were so solid and new that I had confidence in them. I set off on the most direct route to Paris, in full faith, believing that she would stay alive if I came on foot.' Herzog set off from Munich and arrived twenty days later, exhausted, to sit by her bedside. Lotte Eisner made a recovery and lived on until 1983.
I have created a map that tries to give a visual impression of this elemental journey, through snow and ice (white), rain and water (blue), mist and fog (grey) and the occasional burst of sunshine (yellow). You can click on each square for a short quote from the book and imagine them read in Herzog's familiar voice: 'The snow lies wet on the fields, darkness comes, all lies barren...' The black circles record the places he found to sleep: a barn, a stable, a few inns, abandoned buildings and empty holiday homes. It would of course be possible to derive many alternative maps from the text, marking, for example, moments of physical pain and exhaustion, or fleeting, strange encounters with Herzogian characters, or those points in the narrative where the account of his walk dissolves into descriptions of dreams.
'A rainbow before me all at once fills me with the greatest confidence. What a sign it is, over and in front of him who walks. Everyone should walk.'
- Werner Herzog, Thursday 5th December, 1974