In retrospect, politics aside, the year 2010 has earned high marks on my personal Richter scale, with numerous highlights and shattered cycling records, in distance, total vertical elevation and weight loss. Yes, by the end of my Tour-de-Water, more than twice the distance of the Tour-de-France, I had lost eighteen pounds. Where as the year before I got my kicks on Route 66, this year my cycling journey took me across the ocean to discover the less traveled roads of Europe. This self supported, carbon neutral pedal powered cycling tour of duty, mostly solo and partly with my blue planet friend David, turned out to be another amazing, adventurous, and at times challenging journey of a lifetime.
The voyage started out in the rain from the familiarity of my childhood neighborhood near Amsterdam and returned there on a hot summer day some ten weeks later. The route connected the dots of over fifty major municipalities via bicycle lanes, brick and cobble stone city streets, dirt and country roads and main and minor highways. I biked along the shores of the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Adriatic Sea, Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, and the English Channel. Further inland the route followed the river Danube from Austria to Croatia and at times traveled alongside the rivers Elbe, Weser, Vltava, Drava, Lubljanaca, Arne, Garonne, Loire, Seine, Maas and Rijn, on their way north or south to an ocean or a sea.
For accommodations we tried park benches, playgrounds, beaches, camping sites, secluded parking lots and mosquito infested cow pastures. In Hyeres, France we stumbled upon a small yet quiet park with a seemingly welcoming thick grassy lawn, but learned a valuable lesson when the sprinklers went off at two in the morning and chased us soaking wet to dryer grounds and onward to a less hostile environment. By four fifteen in the morning we found a cozy resting place on a scenic outpost overlooking the beach. In Holland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia I arranged “sleepovers” hosted by warm shower friends, an e-network of global cycling enthusiasts, opening their doors to traveling cyclists. In France I found refuge in chambres d’hotes, youth hostels and an occasional bed and breakfast.
Day-trips through Copenhagen, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, Budapest, Zagreb, Florence, Arles and Bruges were rich in history, art and architectural masterpieces, and the scenic landscapes of Schleswig Holstein, Bohemia, the Apennines, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, French Riviera, and Brittany were a feast to the eyes.
Along the way, in Mauthausen Austria I paused to pay respect to my grandfather and the many holocaust victims that perished there, and later on in Belgium and France remembered the fallen heroes of the battlefields of Normandy and Flanders Field (where poppies blow. between the crosses row on row. – by John McCrae). And did I mention the tantalizing fruit of the vine wine tastings in Germany and Bordeaux, France? The gelatos and paninis of Italy, creperies and pattiseries of France, beer and pommes frites in Belgium, Dutch herring and cheese pancakes, Czech and Hungarian goulash, and last but not least all the exquisite home cooking and the variety of beers, brewed to perfection in each of the thirteen countries?
It has been a great year, and a blessed journey, with wonderful people all along the way and across the hundreds of kilometers, who supported and reached out to my Blue Planet cause and me. I feel fortunate and am grateful for that. Thank you, Dank je wel, Merci beaucoup and Danke schon!