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A New Adventure: Home to Athens (via the Marathon)

A New Adventure: Home to Athens (via the Marathon)

After a great adventure by kayak across the whole of Poland last summer, I am itching to get back on my bike for a new adventure. The bike allows for a much faster speed and easily accessible hot food along the route!

I have always wanted to go to Marathon, Greece and run the original 25 mile route from Marathon to Athens that was taken by an ancient greek messenger. From where I currently call home (Katowice, Poland), there is a very interesting route, passing (albeit briefly in some) through 11 different countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and finally Greece).

Katowice to AthensThis new adventure is approximately 2200km, just like the London to Auschwitz bike ride. However, this new journey appears more hilly, especially the second half. London to Auschwitz took 25 days, but I did stop off at a lot of sites to explore and I didn’t push the cycling too much.

Now the question is “when?” As a freelance software developer, I live in project work, and I am hoping to forge a gap in the projects within the next few months of winter.

Why do it in Winter? Why not? Adventure!

The cold of winter can be overcome with more layers – and actually, extreme minus temperatures are too cold to snow or rain, saving you from becoming damp. The difficulty with winter comes when you only have 8 hours of sunlight as you do here in Poland now. Fortunately I will be heading southwards and so the days will be getting longer as I go – in Athens right now there are almost 2 hours more sunlight a day and the temperatures are in the teens – warm enough for tee shirt and shorts!

I am looking for people (who might know people) along the route who I could stay with or at least meet for company. If you know anyone directly, or friends of friends, please do put me in contact with them! Failing that, I was planning on finding hostels/hotels that will no doubt be relatively cheap in this part of Europe. I haven’t brought myself to the idea of camping wild in winter on a cycling trip yet!

Similarly, if you have visited this part of the world before and have some recommendations, I would appreciate advice! The UK Government website suggests that all of these countries need NO visas and are all perfectly safe, apart from a few countries that might still have active landmines.

London to Auschwitz: WWII Liberation Cycle Plan

London to Auschwitz: WWII Liberation Cycle Plan

A couple of years ago I went on a trip to Eastern Europe to do two things.

  1. To experience the places that we have learnt about from history lessons and to visit possibly the most famous concentration camp: Auschwitz
  2. To trace back to my great-grandparent’s generation (on my father’s mother’s side) to their home expected to be in Chernigov (just north of Kiev) in the Ukraine

This trip was extremely emotional and incredibly valuable to me; so much so that I have tried to convince everyone I know to go and visit a camp to experience it first hand. It was also potent to me that my family (and hence my existence) had escaped these places shortly before the atrocities started (they all moved over to England in 1909).

Two years on and I am still moved by the trip; I have found myself taking many opportunities to learn more about the Second World War. It fascinates me that not only is it so recent and so close to home; but also that this sort of war will likely not happen in anywhere near the same way with the power of recent weapon development (e.g. lazer guided long range missiles). Yet still the terror of genocide appear to still be happening around the world; history always appears to repeat itself.

Being a keen long distance cyclist, I have decided to take a trip across Europe following a liberation path from London (and Westminster where the decisions were made to invade) down to the Normandy D-Day landing beaches, across to Paris, along to Luxemburg, into Germany via Frankfurt, across to Nuremburg where the trials after the war took place, on to the Czech Republic close to Prague and finishing in Poland just past Katowice and before Krakow in the well known largest concentration camp of World War II: Auschwitz. The whole trip is about 1350 miles (over 2000km) and I am planning on taking 4 weeks over it.

London to Auschwitz Cycle Map

A few people have mentioned that the trip will be emotionally tough given the subject matter of the route I am interested in following. I would, however, like to take a positive spin on everything, and instead of being so down about the tremendous suffering and death endured, I plan to be excited that I am following a route that many soldiers would have taken to help rid the world of evil and put a stop to these atrocious things. Still it will no doubt be tough at points.

I will be starting the trip in the first week of October, as Europe heads out of summer and into winter… I’ll be more than happy to see any left over sunshine but am expecting the majority of the trip to be very cold. This means extra clothes and extra weight to carry, but I’m sure pushing hard up the hills will at least warm me up a bit!

I am planning to take my work (and heavy laptop) with me, hence my pace will be relatively slow; nonetheless it will give me a great chance to experience each place I visit. Since taking a slightly slower pace, I hope to have time at the end of each day (or maybe during the day) to write a small diary entry that I hope to add to this blog. Not only that but regular rest days to recover and reflect (as well as do any work needed).

Loaded Bike

Also I am going to film my experience on my GoPro2 HD and put something together at the end to document my experience. I did the same thing with my three day trip to Penzance recently; and hope to have edited all the footage together before I head off (but time is running out quickly as I leave on Sunday, just 2 days time!). Hopefully people will enjoy my content that I hope to be slightly more than mostly cycling and complaining about hills!

p.s. please feel free to send me messages on Twitter or Facebook (dezzymei for both) to keep me entertained, or if you have any friends along the route who might be friendly and/or accommodating, or if you know any interesting facts about WWII!