This blog post I write in a beach restaurant on the Greek Mediterranean. And because it's over 40°C hot here right now and I can hardly think straight, here are just a few keywords and plenty of pictures of the last weeks.
Countries since the last blog post: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece.
-Germany is a very "comfortable" country by bike.
-Berlin is worth seeing
-Dresden I liked almost better
-Prague is probably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but not recommended on Saturday afternoon of a long weekend (unless you like gigantic crowds of tourists)
-Czech Republic, for the first time since Finland half an eternity ago, I climbed something that was more mountain than hill.
-Otherwise, the Czech Republic was so unspectacular that I have almost forgotten a lot of things...
-Vienna is beautiful
-It's great to sleep under the bridge in Vienna during thunderstorms:)
-There are in my opinion more beautiful cities than Bratislava.
-The Tatra Mountains between Slovakia and Poland are beautiful!
-There I climbed the highest mountain of Slovakia (Gerlachovsky Stit, 2654m) and of Poland (Rysy, 2503m) with a mountain guide in one day, but the tour became a bit too long for the mountain guide :)
-In Slovakia I worked a little bit in a pizzeria one evening, could eat for free and stay in a hotel.
-In the first 10 minutes in Hungary my sunglasses were stolen.
-The highest mountain in Hungary is quite unspectacular, but the capital Budapest is even more beautiful!
-Romania surprised me very positively! Beautiful landscapes, incredibly friendly people and numerous really worth seeing places...
-The road quality in Romania was worlds better than expected, but the street dogs were as feared the pure horror!
- A highlight in Romania was definitely the drive over the Transfagarasan Highway - known in certain circles as the most beautiful road in the world...
- And also the highest mountain in Romania (Moldoveanu, 2544m) was definitely one of the most beautiful country highlights so far!
- I saw a bear and passed it by 3 meters :)
- To call Bucharest "beautiful" would be a lie, but "interesting" is the city for sure
-Poverty, which is found in many places in Romania, has engaged me more than I would have expected...
-Bulgaria I was just passing through to get to Turkey. Will be back to the country soon though.
-Turkey is an incredible country!
-8 nights I spent there, on 7 of them I was invited!
-Turkey also has a lot to offer on a culinary level. I tried a lot of Turkish specialties.
-You can get a kebab there for the equivalent of less than 1CHF. And with a little luck you get food poisoning for free...
-If you combine food poisoning with sunstroke, it becomes rather unpleasant...
-But I'm feeling better now.
-Istanbul is a very lively, beautiful and interesting city!
-In Istanbul I was ripped off by a scammer :(
-When the temperatures don't drop below 25° even at night and it's swarming with insects everywhere, sleeping outside is quite exhausting...
-The sea in Greece is beautiful!
-Olympus (2918m) is one of my favorite mountains!
-On the Olympus I met Toni from the Tyrol. He is 66 years old, cheese master and has never been traveling in his whole life. Since he was a child, he has dreamed of Mount Olympus because that is where the gods are at home. So he recently sold a few cows and drove with the money through the whole Balkans to Greece to climb Mount Olympus in 4 days. A wonderful story!
-It is quite hot on the road at 40°+!
-Athens is a great city!
-The vast majority of people here in the south are incredibly friendly and the food is excellent!
After more than 30'000 kilometers through 36 countries in almost exactly 5 months I am quite tired by now and I am looking forward to arriving back in Switzerland in a few weeks - probably between the end of July and the beginning of August! Until then, however, my journey still leads me criss-cross through all Balkan states to Croatia and from there then still on the highest peaks of the Alpine countries:)
When I was still wandering around somewhere in Lapland in snowstorms at the beginning of May and could hardly brush my teeth in the morning because toothpaste, drinking bottle and pretty much everything was frozen, I had slowly had enough of winter! From Finland I came for obvious reasons not via St.Petersburg (Russia) to Estonia, but with the ferry directly from Helsinki to Tallinn. In the Baltic States I finally found spring. Since I was increasingly on highways and expressways on the road (the offer of alternatives was very sparse!) and the landscape was pot flat, I have in between also times more than 300km a day unwound. In Latvia I was only a few kilometers from the Russian border, but my biggest problem was another: dogs! Already in the first night in Latvia I was barked at and growled at by such a beast in my sleeping bag for over an hour. An absolute horror scenario, since dogs are pretty much my biggest concern on this trip anyway. And if you think that you get used to being chased by barking monsters 5-10 times a day - about every farm - you're wrong. This is just traumatizing! And so the 310 meters high national peak of Latvia was not so easy to reach... All in all, however, a dreamlike country, with many forests, endless meadows and a fairy-tale capital!
In Lithuania, the road conditions finally got better again, but not my ideas... The highest mountain of Lithuania - itself with 293 meters height actually no big deal - is only 2 kilometers away from the border to Belarus. And so I thought, if I am already here, then I can go and have a look at it, just the border of course. To keep the story short: I took a picture of the monstrous barbed wire fence there and promptly all the surveillance cameras turned on me. Who cares if they see me, I thought to myself...? Anyway, a short time later I was arrested and taken to a military station that looked like a movie from the Soviet Union! Since everyone spoke only Russian, I didn't quite know what was going on, but at least it had a power outlet, so I could even charge my cell phone there. After a few hours, I had to sign some foreign language documents, delete all the pictures, and then I was allowed to leave....
Maybe not the most glorious idea of my career as an adventurer, but if you can't find the adventures on the 300 meter high peaks of the country, then you have to look for them elsewhere
In Poland I was surprised by the impressive contrasts, the ugly ghettos, the modern skyscrapers and the beautiful old town of Warsaw. And I also liked Berlin quite a bit.
Now, for the first time since Stockholm 6 weeks ago, I took a rest day and switched to summer gear. Now I am definitely ready and motivated for the last 10'000 kilometers!
...away from home. At the highest mountain in Finland, I have reached the northernmost, most remote and farthest point of my journey. The last days and weeks through Lapland in the north of Scandinavia were hard, cold, wintry, windy, wild, lonely and at the same time just beautiful!
I had adventurous days in the highest mountains of Norway, Sweden and Finland, saw many trees and lakes (always interesting!) and was quite often invited by people! :)
But now I'm glad that my journey takes me back south and hopefully into the summer. In the next 7 weeks I'm driving all over Finland, then zigzagging through Eastern Europe down to Turkey and from there over to Greece and I'm looking forward to warmer days, new countries, foreign cultures and all the adventures, experiences and encounters that are waiting for me there...
It's been way too long - 5 weeks to be exact - since the last blog post. There was just always so much going on, so I hardly got to write a few words here. In any case, in the meantime I've been back to 11 countries, many interesting cities, beautiful landscapes, met new people, enjoyed good food and actually experienced almost too many things to share everything here. So here are just a few highlights, facts and figures of the last 6 weeks:
- 7'540km in 38 days
-13 countries (My favorite country among them: Scotland)
-Many cities (My favorites: Paris, Killarney, Galway, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Gent, Brugge, Antwerp, Luxembourg, Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm and many more...)
- Stunning landscapes (My favorites: The wild Atlantic coast in Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District National Park in England, the impressive cliffs in southern England or the endless coniferous forests in Sweden
- Hugged the ground 3 times with the bike (1x of it not out of joy, but because a cat had to cross the bike path in the night exactly at the moment I was there 🤕)
- ignored too many red lights to count :)
- Been invited 6 times.
- Forced to use 6 ferries
- Spent 25CHF for overnight stays
- Showered in every second country :)
- Climbed 9 country peaks, only 3 of them above 1000 meters
- Had 3 flat tires
- Bought 1 new cell phone, because I broke my indestructible outdoor cell phone already on the first day
- Didn't eat a single chocolate bunny, but ate more chocolate, waffles, sweets and coke than in my whole life so far :)
- Overall just had a fantastic time out there again :)
Now I'm staying for 4 days with my family in Stockholm, enjoying a few quiet days with them in the really beautiful capital of Sweden, trying to solve all my problems and recover a little, before my journey continues on Sunday again through Norway and Sweden to the far north and then via Finland towards Eastern Europe...
All in all, I've made about half of the total distance now, about 18'000km are still ahead of me and if everything goes reasonably well, I'm quite optimistic that I'll be able to make it to all the remaining countries before I start my ETH studies in September! :)
And HERE a short radio report from the SRF Regionaljournal!
Just over a week ago, on Saturday 12.03.22 I started the last stage of this Bikepacking Europe project. And even though it was not my first big departure, it was once again hard for me to say goodbye and leave everything behind. Luckily, though, it didn't take long this time to get into the right mode and find my rhythm. In this first week I already crossed 5 countries, and not only the landscapes, cultures, weather and food were extremely varied, but also my sleeping places. Forests, bus stops, harbors, meadows, basketball courts, camping kitchens, it was all there.... Accompanied by Andy, Peter and Nico I went from Lucerne via Basel to France and then on my own to Paris, where Charles (I met him in Porto in December) showed me around the whole city and invited me for the night. The ferry brought me from Dieppe to Newhaven. It continued across southern England and Wales before I arrived in Ireland in the meantime. Beautiful coastal roads along the Atlantic and wild mountain landscapes give me a wonderful time here. Now it goes on for me to Northern Ireland, Scotland and then via England and Wales back to the mainland.
My exact route: CLICK!
Actually, I should have been traveling to new countries somewhere at the other end of the continent already long ago. However, a couple of broken fingers prevented me from resuming my Bikepacking Europe project back in January. Instead I should stay at home until April and let my hand heal. But that was a bit too much for me, so I got back on the saddle in mid-February and set out to find the most beautiful cities, beaches, villages and landscapes in Italy and, as an additional mission, tried to find the best pizza in the country.
In 13 days I cycled through four countries (Switzerland, Italy, Vatican and San Marino), climbed 2 highest mountains (Vatican State and San Marino), visited three capitals (Vatican, San Marino and Rome), covered 2350 kilometers and 30'000 meters of altitude, slept mostly outside and found probably the best pizza in the world in Rome.
A few highlights were:
-The first sunrise at Lake Lucerne on the bike (after a much too long injury break).
-Ticino (which is almost as beautiful as Italy)
-Como (there is also bad pizza)
-Milan (already on the first day)
-Genoa (and having reached the Mediterranean Sea on the second day)
-Portofino (and spending the night under a boat in the local harbor because it rained)
-Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean (with the many beautiful colorful houses, completely without tourists)
-Lucca (the beautiful city where you can ride a bike on the city walls)
-Pisa (and the leaning tower, almost without tourists)
-Florence (the beautiful capital of Tuscany with the impressive Duomo)
-Tuscany (with the countless rolling hills and vineyards)
-Siena (a beautiful city in Tuscany)
-Viterbo (another beautiful city with not much to add)
-Rome (with a spontaneous private tour, see exciting insights and best food from a real hellebardier from the Swiss Guard)
-The Vatican (and the visit to the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, the highest point of the Vatican)
-Spoleto (very beautiful city)
-Assisi (very beautiful city)
-Perugia (very beautiful city, capital of Umbria)
-a beautiful sunset on the highest mountain in San Marino (Monte Titano, just 739m high)
-a night on the beach in Rimini (after the second pizza in the restaurant the owner gave me a homemade panetone to take with me)
-Ravenna (very nice city, unfortunately it rained)
-Venice (with the endless alleys and canals, on a rainy morning completely without tourists)
-when someone who saw me camping in the countryside called the police, who alerted the landowner to my presence and he then wanted to give me honey and olive oil (very sympathetic farmer, very unsympathetic person who called the police)
-Verona (very nice city, in the middle of the night)
-Lake Garda (biggest and most beautiful lake in Italy with many wonderful villages and the best ice cream)
-Madonna di Campiglio (in the middle of the night)
-Passo di Tornale (with lots of curves, in the middle of the night)
-Val di Sole (wonderful mountain landscapes, unfortunately in the rain)
-shortly before midnight at -18°, wind gusts over 100km/h and fierce snowstorm on the Bernina Pass (rather uncomfortable, not recommended...)
-the subsequent invitation for a warm night in Pontresina (in the basement of the restaurant, almost like in a hotel)
-the adventurous ride over the snow-covered Julierpass (rather uncomfortable, pass rides with the road bike are rather not recommended in February...)
But finally all the beautiful, perhaps less known places in between, the incredibly tasty food everywhere, the spontaneous invitations, all the lovely people when the sun came back after the bad weather or the fact that there were hardly any tourists on the road.
Once again I came home with the realization that the simple life on the bike is incredibly profitable and enriching on so many levels.
Now I'm trying to get my hand completely fit again, to do and prepare everything that is still necessary, to plan and organize, to optimize my material even more, to stay a few days in Saas Fee and then to tackle the remaining 40 countries in March highly motivated in 5 months. If everything goes reasonably well, I am firmly convinced that I will be able to do all the countries before I graduate.
As always, the best way to follow my adventures is on Instagram, where there are daily photo and video updates.
Actually, right now I should be cycling through Sicily in the sun, maybe even in shorts, discovering new places, swimming in the sea in between, having adventures, sleeping under the endless starry sky, meeting people, expanding my horizons, enjoying Italian cuisine, satisfying my curiosity and thirst for adventure, or in short: simply making dreams come true.
Instead, I'm stuck at home with 3 broken metacarpals. During my "short" Christmas break, a skiing accident that could hardly be more unspectacular was my undoing. The hand was patched up with screws and plates, the healing process is going well so far, but it will probably be spring before I'm back in the saddle. A painful fact. But in the end everything happens for a reason and maybe it just had to happen.
The time I have now I will use as productively as possible, keep fit, plan, organize and prepare the further course of the project, optimize my material, try to improve my skills in terms of photos, videos and social media, or think about my future after the project.
The most important insights / what I learned:
Live in the here and now, don't let the past drag you down and just let the future come to you.
- "It's going to be OK" is always true :)
-Be friendly, smile a lot, have positive thoughts
-Don't force anything, go with the flow
-Don't worry more than necessary
-Accept the things you can't control
-200km per day by bike is quite exhausting :)
-An average of 5-6 hours sleep per night somewhere outside is rather little :)
-Europe is quite beautiful, especially by bike
-I am stronger than the wind :)
-You can very well live mainly on kebab, bread, chocolate, biscuits and coke :)
-If you keep all your bike clothes on to sleep, you'll be ready faster in the morning :)
-If you never put up the tent, but just sleep somewhere outside, it's even faster :)
-If you also do without the inflatable mat and sleep with the sleeping bag directly on the ground, however, it becomes rather uncomfortable. Not recommended.
-The increase in performance due to the sawed-off toothbrush was not quite as great as hoped :)
-2 pairs of socks are more than enough
-11 days without a shower is rather long. Not recommended.
-6 weeks without exercise before I set off was the ideal preparation. Training is overrated...
-It's totally okay if you don't know anything about bikes, you just have to make sure nothing gets broken :)
-Bicycling somehow doesn't really get you anywhere with your choice of studies...
-When you're back home, you realise how cool the whole thing has been so far. That's why I'll soon be moving on again towards Italy, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Eastern Europe... Daily updates, pictures and videos will be back on Instagram as usual!
Until then, I wish everyone a great start to the new year and look forward to many more unforgettable adventures, experiences, emotions, encounters and new places to share with you. See you soon!
What a ride. The last kilometres of this 7'500km "warm-up lap" through 7 countries were just incredible. After Valencia, I did a short 300km day and was then invited by Johnny in Barcelona shortly after midnight. His hospitality was simply unbelievable, he cooked for me, did the laundry and I was able to take a shower at his place. Small detail: That was the last shower until I reached Switzerland... In Andorra, I was greeted by a considerable amount of snow. Admittedly, this small country doesn't have too much to offer, but I won't soon forget the day I spent in the mountains of Andorra. After just 3.5 hours of sleep in the snow, I crossed the entire ski area of Arinsal, followed a long and wild ridge and was almost on the summit of Comapedrosa - itself the highest mountain in Andorra at 2944m above sea level - when it became just too tricky and too risky for me. The place in question was incredibly exposed and icy - so mistakes were absolutely forbidden... In the mountains it is enormously important to find a good balance between "never give up" and "not too much risk", so I turned back with rather mixed feelings. A little later, however, my guilty conscience got the better of me, I felt that I couldn't just give up, so I turned back again. Somehow I managed to pass the tricky part and shortly afterwards I was standing on the roof of Andorra. An unbelievable feeling. I hadn't had anything to eat or drink for a long time, so the 6-hour descent in waist-deep snow was rather exhausting.
Back in France, I was treated to breathtaking roads, lots of sun, the sea and numerous wonderful towns and places - Aix-en-Provence, Saint Raphael, Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Monaco, or Menton, to name just a few - on the beautiful Côte d'Azur. In Monaco, the highest point is just 170 metres above sea level and therefore hardly worth mentioning. With a heavy heart, I left the Mediterranean and the almost summery weather in Imperia, Italy, behind me and continued north via Turin and the Simplon Pass back to Switzerland. The last few kilometres were hard, I just wanted to get home, so I just reeled off the last 500km in one piece...
Somehow I came home healthy, happy, really tired, but rich in memories, experiences, adventures, encounters and emotions. Now I'm enjoying a few days here with the people I've missed so much, a warm bed, a full fridge and without much exercise before I go back in January.
In the next few days, there will be a more detailed blog post about these first 7,500 kilometres.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my friends, sponsors and everyone who believes in the success of this project. Without you, this whole thing would hardly be possible!
Pictures say more than a thousand words, so here are a few impressions of the last few days. For daily updates, pictures and videos, it's definitely worth following me on Instagram or Facebook as well....
Merry Christmas and a good start into the new year!
Adventurer and athlete, soon bikepacking through europe, climbing the highest mountain and visiting the most beautiful cities in every of the 47 countries!