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Stories from a cyclist #1

From Rotterdam (NL) to Kefalonia (GR): 3,500km Solo on a bicycle.


On Saturday, April 24, 2021 I departed on a trekking bike from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Kefalonia, Greece. Goal of the trip: sustainable move to Greece, where I want to build a future with my Greek girlfriend Katia. It would eventually be a great adventure of more than 7 weeks (average: 70 km/day), all during COVID times.

What started as a joke…

What starts as a joke in April 2020 in my cousin’s garden, quickly leads to the rough outline of the route at the kitchen table with mom and dad. The idea is to leave the Netherlands via the Maas and follow the Rhine from Cologne in Germany to Basel in Switzerland. Via the Gotthard pass and the northern Italian lakes I cycle straight through Italy and then cross the Adriatic coast via Brindisi to Greece. I quit my job in sales, find a meaningful cause to, ship my personal belongings to Greece, and purchase a bike and the necessary camping gear. The countdown now begins.


The joke now turns into reality...

And then it is time for the adventure to begin. I say goodbye to my girlfriend Katia, my family and friends. Two friends are cycling with me until the border with Germany. It's a crazy idea to cycle to Greece and it is impossible to imagine it properly. The planned route is only a guideline. But that tension in the body for what's to come, that tension is what I quickly become addicted to.

German Pünktlichkeit

While in Germany, cycling is going well with a wind mainly from the North-East. After a few cold nights in the Netherlands, I cycle along the banks of the Rhine with my running coach, Arnold. It’s flat, the weather is perfect, a clear blue sky and a breath of wind. But the German Pünktlichkeit throws us off guard. Hotels, campsites, Bed & Breakfasts, restaurants and almost all shops are closed. It’s April 2021 and Germany is still in lockdown. What weird this all still feels. We decide to camp into the wild in a beautiful nature reserve in Mainz. I wake up at half past four in the morning with my head soaking wet from dew, I realize that it is wise to leave early, because it is not allowed to camp here in the wild. After a quick breakfast we clean up our tent camp and pack all our belongings. There is no indication that we have spent the night in this beautiful place in nature and while I think about it, a forester is standing in front of us. We manage to save ourselves half by saying we are lost as we are running away.


The Via Francigena

During my cycling trip to Kefalonia I cycled a lot on my own and I can recommend that to everyone. You are on your own and therefore are forced to solve problems by yourself. It gives you peace of mind and time to think about life. Personally, I prefer cycling with acquaintances. You then go through experiences together and that makes it unforgettable to hear those stories at a party years later and to laugh about it. May 15th I will leave alone. I’m in the North of Italy. The night before I meet a young Italian cyclist Féde in the hostel. He is cycling solo to Rome, but via an alternative route that he is very enthusiastic about: the Via Francigena. With grandpa he packed his bag and prepared his bike for departure. We start talking and decide to cycle to Rome together. The Via Francigena turns out to be an adventurous route on dirt roads, along rivers and streams, vineyards, beautiful, typical Tuscan villages and further through the interior of Italy. When we go for lunch in the afternoon with Féde's brother and cousin who are cycling along that weekend, he gets a call that grandfather passed away. He has to cry. We cycle to the next train station 40 kilometres further and the boys take the next train home. I finish the journey to Rome via the Via Francigena alone and when I arrive at the city campsite near the Vatican about two weeks later, I am still thinking of Féde.