Let’s turn the clocks back a year. A train to a bus from Neukölln took me to a man named Rolf – a mad scientist I had only heard of – in an empty parking lot on the outskirts of Berlin. He barely shook my hand, opening the passenger door. In a hurried Germanic English, he bubbled over about visiting the Tesla factory, then a local cemetery with some historical quirk, and finally a coffee with his wife. As if we had made these plans and these were normal plans and I wasn’t a perfect stranger from the internet.

I liked him immediately and got in the car.

Hi, it's Michael Saltzman and this is an extension of Pilgrim Road, a newsletter about making pilgrimage. Man, it’s been awhile — I was last in your inbox when we walked the Camino del Norte last May. How is the mood? I’ve got a lil something new for ya.

I produced a podcast called In Situ. It’s a series of binaural, ambient recordings I made on pilgrimage last Spring. Wherever you listen to your podcasts, it’s likely to be: Spotify, Apple, Pandora, etc. And this is where Rolf comes in.

Rolf designs and manufactures very low-production / very high-quality microphones in his basement in northeast Germany. A real-life Doc Brown Deutsch deviation — 60s, eccentric, balding gray hair disordered and windblown, an oxford shirt buttoned cockeyed in the wrong holes, a man exceedingly friendly, totally unconcerned with social cues, brilliant. 

I gave him a few hundred euro and in exchange, he handed me a mahogany wood box with audio equipment I had been tracking down for weeks. A non-trivial amount of research led me to a music studio in Paris where an audio engineer, who had a pair of Rolf’s designs and was kind enough to let me test them, introduced me by email. I flew to Berlin and we met in a parking lot.

And so with these in hand, I recorded In Situ. It’s worth underscoring these mics are slick — they are, as I mentioned, ‘binaural’, essentially creating an immersive, three-dimensional listening experience, like virtual reality for your ears. With a pair of decent headphones, it should transport you. As one listener wrote in:

“It was similar to the experience of slowing down in which time almost starts to have more substance to it. Like you could chew it. The recordings gave me much peace, thank you for sharing. The binaural experience was wild… I kept taking my headphones out thinking the sounds might actually be coming from around me.”


The intention of In Situ was to walk and listen for the moments I felt spoke to pilgrimage in some "authentic" way. And I attended to those moments as they presented themselves, popping in Rolf’s mics (which fortunately just sit in both ears like headphones and don’t make me look like a lunatic), closing my eyes, listening closely, and doing a tiny 5-minute meditation. Those moments became these episodes.

Here are a few of my favorites:

And lastly, if interactivity is your thing, I plotted each recording’s waypoint along the route on Google Earth, making this podcast “walkable.”

Each recording’s waypoint plotted along the route on Google Earth

When should these be used? Well, I guess that's up to you. So far, folks have listened to In Situ in flight, before bed, while walking through the park, and I even had a yoga teacher friend from London play them for her class in savasana. We love it.

However you choose to listen, I hope they drive a sense of presence in your world. Please write to me or consider leaving a review on your platform of choice.

Thank you all for listening,


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In Situ: Sounds of the Way