Updates: Looking back at these pictures of when I was 17, I realize that this was my first big jump into the unknown, and I definitely already had the right attitude towards adventure… I’m actually really proud of it!
I was in the car with Charlotte, Ebba’s mum. It was dark and there was plenty of snow on the road. We were on our way back from Sweden to Luxembourg after having a nice and relaxing holiday there. But we got caught in some snow storm, and had to slow down massively especially as at times we could not see the road because it was covered in snow. There was this song on the radio that I heard for the first time them, and that I kept singing it in my head for the whole trip. The song is: “I’ll kill hell” from Soko. We finally got there at about 2-3am.
After a quick sleep I went on Google Maps, and wrote down the cities that I needed to go past in order to get to Zurich (Switzerland), packed a few things in a (way too small) bag and left. There was snow at the sides of the road, and I was riding a pink fluo race bicycle. Not good combination safety-wise but amazing fun-wise. It was my first bike trip ever. About 10 days beforehand I was at school in Luxembourg, and while looking at a map I thought that Zurich didn’t look that far away. So I told everyone that I’d go there cycling. I mean, 500km, 4 days, it’s only 125km/day.
At Remisch, just at the border with Germany, I could not carry the bag in the back any longer. And I didn’t have a rack or anywhere else to put it so I just somehow placed it on the handlebar. I went past loads of forests and a big natural reserve called Saar Hunsrück, and that night I made it to my first stop, Saarbrücken (Germany).
I used Couchsurfing (a website on which you can find people to sleep for free at their places), and slept at Eddiens. We watched Sin City, and had a good laugh. The following day, I set off southwards, across the remains of abandoned factories dating from the Industrial Revolution, and crossed plenty of old rails. I also slightly modified my itinerary to go past this other natural reserve, crossed the border into France, and felt like I was on top of the world, crossing borders at my wish on my bike.
I arrived to Strasbourg, and went around the beautiful city. The cathedral is really imposing, but there is something really relaxed about the city. It’s a bit like Edinburgh in the sense that it is not overcrowded, and that places have a particular meaning. I used Couchsurfing again and slept at HC’s, on some giant mat on the floor after eating some pizza and meeting the first hitchhikers I’d ever met. Although I never heard from them again, they were a huge influence on my future trips. I asked them if it was tough, and they said that they just stuck their thumbs up and the rest just came to them. Awesome.
Day 3 was mostly along the Rhine river, enjoying the landscapes and occasionally straying away from the path to go into small roads. At some point, just before crossing the border back to Germany, the road ahead was completely inundated. It was supposed to be a really short and easy route until my next destination, but somehow I got there after dawn, and I remember seeing the sunset while cycling on a major road after ditching the abundant cycle paths. But I managed to arrive to Freiburg, a student city.
I got picked up by my Couchsurfing hosts and had an amazing dinner that they’d cooked for me. They also told me that the route that I was planning to take was through the mountains, and that some roads had been closed up and that it would definitely not be a good idea to go that way. I replanned the itinerary and had a comfy warm night at home far away from home. I had the choice between stopping by Basel, or going past it all the way to Zurich in one day. Deep inside, I knew that although it would be a long journey (170km), I chose the latter option. My favourite part was upon entering Switzerland. The villages were clean, neat, tidy with swiss flags all over, and in the background after the wide shiny river lied the snow covered mountains.
I biked through a part of the “Black forest” natural park, and had to climb some hills and mountains up to the point where I’d be surrounded by snow. But at other times I would enjoy cycling past a green meadow surrounded by hills or more mountains. Everything looked beautiful there, and there was far more unspoiled nature that in the previous days. At some point near Zurich, I was exhausted, and had to stop for a while. But eventually, even though my knees, Achilles tendon, shoulders and neck hurt, I made it! I had a quick look around the very hilly city, and then went off to Wicher (Couchsurfing again) to leave my stuff before we went partying. We met some other Couchsurfers and some of his friends, and we drank quite a bit. I mean, everyone seemed to be buying me drinks as a reward for my efforts, and it would be unpolite to say NO! I remember the story about the Couchsurfing experience that one of Wicher’s good friends had had while on a bike trip. He slept at a girl’s house somewhere in Poland, and they 2 got on it. So he stayed a few more days, but he still wanted to continue his bike trip! But the girl would not allow him to leave! One morning after something like a week, he left, and the girl wrote a “extremely negative” reference on his profile which said some really crazy unacceptable stuff even mentioning his mother. Luckily a moderator or administrator asked her to take away those “over the top” parts and the end reference looked something like this: “He stayed at my home for about a week, and he left in the morning”. “Extremely negative”. It was a fun evening, and on our way home we walked past the red light district, which was OK but nothing comparable to Amsterdam.
Finally, the day after I took the train home back to Luxembourg, going back over some of the places I’d cycle through. I was so proud of myself, and happy I’d made something categorized as “impossible” by many of my “friends”. Back at school, I was a fucking legend.