A first draft for the route.

Those who know me well, know that I am a rather spontaneous character. However, quite embarrassed about how little I know about my home country, I have now roughly decided on a route, which is of course subject to change. I would be more than confident to plan each stage ahead in summer, but this is winter, with short days and unpredictable weather, which might delay me significantly. There will be roughly 8hrs of daylight to ride, plus possible time with lights. Considering the singlespeed option, I am planning not more than 100k a day at the moment, which is already rather ambitious. Those who have ridden in winter might know that long coffee breaks are not a good decision, as they might warm me up quickly, but leave you even more freezing on the bike afterwards. So the plan is to get on the bike in the morning with sunrise, and then keep cycling until the final destination for the day, and then sample stuff from the local Christmas market or cheese fair.

Also there is another reason for this trip. I have been living in both Scotland and New Zealand since roughly 4 years. I had three amazing Christmas trips in New Zealand, which compensated me for not being able to spend it with family and friends. Strangers became friends on the road, and made those trips very special. Coming back to Germany in November 2010 ended in a shock for me. In the end of January I left my home country rather unimpressed and decided to live in Scotland again, as it is second to none for the kindness of it’s people, as well as their adventurous spirit and love for remoteness. I left with a very bitter taste in my mouth. Despite having spent most of my life in Germany, it was not at all the place that welcomed me (despite family and some friends). I had to find work, which proved to be a major challenge. In New Zealand and Scotland my skills were valued, in Germany the most common question in interviews was ‘why do you want to move back to Germany then?’. I had to justify returning to the place I grew up in and felt more than a stranger rather than somebody who claims this country his home.

But I realised I have not yet given my home country a chance to prove it’s a nice place with welcoming people. The time is now, after having discovered almost every corner of Scotland an New Zealand on two wheels. It’s time to discover more of Germany, to be a tourist in the country I grew up in. Please look at the route, and let me know if you know any people along the way that could host me for one night. This trip is not just about the bike, as Mr. Armstrong would claim. Cycling will be a big part, but I am also looking forward to chat with people, meet old friends, and maybe trigger some change in me and others. Christmas is a great time to do that, even if it does not coincide with summer as it did in New Zealand. It’s a wee bit more unpleasant to cycle.

So for the planned route. The first leg will take me down the eastern coast of Scotland and England. Starting in Edinburgh (or Stirling) I will head to North Berwick and cycle down to South Shields, to board the ferry on 13 Dec. With approximately 230km this will be one of the most challenging bits of the trip, as I will have to race the clock, the ferry won’t wait. With three days I should have some time left in Newcastle, as I studied in nearby Sunderland in 2003, and haven’t been back ever since. With the ferry leaving at 17.00 I will have a good break overnight before arriving in Amsterdam the next day.

As I have not been to Amsterdam before, that will be my only full city day, and a good chance to rest a wee bit. It’s also a good buffer day, as there might be bad weather approaching, in which case I would use this day to head off already. From Amsterdam the plan is to cycle another 120km to Nijmegen and meet the Rhine on that day. From there the route will take me down the Rhine to Cologne, I am planning to arrive in Cologne on the 17 Dec. The place to stop in between depends on my progress on those days, in average the distances planned range around 100km a day. From Cologne I have 5 days and about 400km to get to Ilmenau, in the beautiful Thuringian Forest. A possible route might be this one, however this is flexible at the moment. I have to avoid major mountains, as the whole attempt only cycling with one gear is a brave one on it’s own. Regardless, there will be some challenges ahead, especially the last bit will be tough, as I know the roads around Ilmenau very well. I will fix the route on the places where I could stay, so yet again I am open for suggestions!

The final leg will be cycling another 5okm to Erfurt on 23 Dec and another 92km onwards to Schwobfeld on 24 Dec in time for Christmas eve. If all goes well and as planned I will be looking back to 1100km in 14 days, on a singlespeed bike in winter. Now it’s time to put the finishing touches to the trip. if you have people on the way, that could host me and my Swobo of a night, please comment here, or email me at markus (dot) stitz (at) web (dot) de.