I’ve just finished a book, Road Trip with Rilke Round Switzerland, due out on 28 June 2023. It covers some 200 places.
Now I am challenging readers to visit as many of them as possible and post selfies on a special website as evidence.
An annual award will be given to the hikers, bikers, train or car trippers who have achieved the most.
The visits will be graded from the most obvious places, such as Castle Muzot or his tomb at Raron, to rare places like church of St. Pierre-de-Clages or the Hottingen Club, which will be credited with more points.
Another unique feature is that when you are standing in front of a place or spending a night at a hotel he stayed in, you can share the moment with Rilke because, from the book, you can read the letters he wrote there.
Many of the partners involved in the Road Trip with Rilke will have a memorial corner with a display of books and other mementoes, so that people learn more about this life-enhancing poet by following in his footsteps around Switzerland.
I discovered to my delight while writing the guide that a tradition had evolved of a pilgrimage to Raron’s Rilkedorf to place a bouquet of white roses on Rilke’s grave. It began over 30 years ago when German Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited his grave on 14 April 1989.
The book is part of a project to roll out an English-focused programme as Rilke is very popular with anglophones. More books are published about him and his poetry in English than in German.
Rilke was also featured in the Disney movie Jojo Rabbit, which won an academy award in 2020. (It includes Rilke’s letter ‘Requiem from a friend’ and the poem “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. / Just keep going. No feeling is final.”)
Both the Oscar winner for the best adapted screenplay, Taika Waititi, and Lady Gaga who has a Rilke tattoo on her arm, will be invited to the celebration. The singer’s Rilke tattoo is on the inside of her left arm, close to her heart.