The steepest part of the walk up to the ridge of the hill was over and done with right at the start of their walk, and the rest was pretty much flat all the way, with an occasional incline here and there.
The rock shielding the church to the north east could be seen in the distance, but from where they were walking nothing could be seen of the village itself. And once the apartment building disappeared out of sight behind them, the port and the control tower of the airport in the distance to the east of them were the only reminders of the civilization that they were a part of.
The walk was invigorating, and Bjorn took great pleasure in feeling the rays of the sun hit him on his back.
"It's not a bad place, is it?" Bjorn asked emphatically.
"No. Not at all," Ante agreed. "I used to go for walks here with my grandparents as a kid, you know."
"Good memories, huh?"
"Yeah. Summer up here can be pretty special."
"So, where did they live?" Bjorn asked, mildly curious.
"I'll show you. We actually drove past it on the way here."
"Yeah. It is now occupied by this Gus guy. He has turned the living room into a store front for his guns."
"The gun shop used to be your grandparents' home?"
"And your grandparents sold their house to him?"
"No. My grandmother died a few years back. And we sold it to Jan."
"And he has sold it on to Gus?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Or he is renting it out to him."
Bjorn looked over at Ante to see if he was displaying any sense of regret, but could not decipher his expression.
"So, how does that make you feel?" Bjorn inquired. "Could have been cool to have that house now, with the village coming back to life and all."
"Yeah. But we didn't know that back then. Back then, nobody lived here except during the summer. It was like a summer house, and was hardly used at all. This place was pretty much a ghost town back then, and Jan was the only one interested in buying the property."
"You think he knew about this project even back then?" Bjorn wondered.
Ante did not answer right away.
"It's hard to say," Ante said thoughtfully. "But I don't think so."
"I don't think this project was planned like years in advance."
"You don't? Why not?"
"Because... Well... It sprang out of a random constellation of circumstances."
"No one was planning this thing back then. What made this happen was more like an accident. It was all about the port to start with. Then they opened the iron mine, and then there was the idea of this asylum center."
"And what's random about that."
"Well... If it was planned, wouldn't there have been other offers for the house than just Jan? Wouldn't other people be interested in buying up all this cheap land too?"
"Not if it was planned by Jan."
"Sure, why not?"
"Well, that's just nonsense. The whole project is a collaboration between Pedro, Mons and the foreign minister. Jan was just a lucky bystander."
"Yet, he seems awfully chummy with Pedro."
"Okay, so maybe Jan was in on it too. But they weren't planning this like years in advance. How could they?"
"So, why do you think Jan wanted to buy your grandparents' place, then, if there were no plans to do anything with the village?"
Ante was again silent for a while, figuring things out for himself.
"Because," Ante answered while still thinking. "The village always had the potential to become something. Jan was betting that something would happen, something good. And right now, it seems like his bets are about to pay off. But that does not mean that he knew exactly what would happen. All sorts of things could have happened. But with a port and an airport and even an abandoned mine and factory in the area, a revival has never been totally out of the question. And so he placed his bets accordingly. Maybe he had some vague plans relating to his casino. But even that would not have been more than a vague plan since the law allowing him to open it was not even proposed back then. And this is much bigger than his casino anyway. This is a huge thing happening here, and I seriously doubt he had it all planned out when he bought my grandparents' house."