When I first thought about this trip, I am not sure exactly what made me decide on Berlin as the destination or even why I wanted to do it. I guess I was inspired by Mark Beaumonts television documentary of his navigation of the world. After returning from my first expedition to the Cascades area of the USA, this seemed like the next trip which I wanted to do.

I knew that I didn’t want to do it alone though, in all honestly I wasn’t the best on a bicycle back then so spent most of a day and night in a pub with a friend. After a suitable amount of alcohol had been consumed I thought it would be good to spring the idea of the trip onto the target and I got a slur which I think was an acceptance so started the planning in more detail.

Navigating in London, not much fun!

As this trip was meant to be a bit of fun during the Easter break, I deliberately tried to do as little planning as possible. I simply went to google maps and clicked on Calais and did the old ‘directions from here’ and then clicked on Berlin and did ‘directions to here’. I believe the distance it said was 564 miles, I added 100 miles to this as we wouldn’t be using the fast roads and this was as technical as the planning was. When the day came to set off, we had to rush from our homes in Dorset to get a ferry to Calais with bicycles. Trying to navigate London on a tight schedule was one of the hardest moments of the trip!

For navigation, I printed out four A4 pages with little maps on with some key towns and the like. We were supposed to be following a route but this was as good as it was going to get! Arriving off the ferry at 02:30 in the morning was great for us. We were pumped full of adrenaline and couldn’t wait to get started. I noticed there were a lot of funny looking characters around Calais at this time so we pedalled off into the moonlight trying to find the start of our route. We were wide awake eventually stopped cycling at 05:00 to pitch a tent in a random field out of view of the road. It is tough to find a better feeling than sleeping when you are wild camping. Knowing you have found a tranquil perfect spot, metres away from a busy road or civilisation is a wonderful feeling.

Location of second night's wild camp outside Brugge.

Managing with three hours sleep we set off at 08:00 full of energy and were fuelled by French pastries at the supermarket near where we camped. Who said the organisation was bad?! By the end of the day riding through agricultural France we ended up crossing a border and were into Belgium and put up camp just outside of Brugge on a cycle path separated from a main road by a river. Although we were in full view of everyone, the area seemed pretty safe and it was a comfortable nights sleep knowing we had got out of a country in less than 24 hours.

The next day, we again rose early and decided to go hard and get into Holland. This was done without much effort really. The ground was pretty flat and the miles were pretty easy going. The beauty of cycling in Europe is the abundance of smaller roads with little to no traffic made for cyclists. Upon arriving in Holland, the scenery didn’t change much as it was still farmland and much of the same, however I knew we would be hitting Zealand soon enough, the area of Holland on the west coast where there is the collection of islands.

Some hard navigation, called for a map!

For me, this was probably my favourite time of the trip. The scenery was beautiful, often cycling with a beach in sight and the long beaches and plentiful cycling tracks were a great way to kill the miles, although some of the coastal breezes were hard to take. The wild camping was also great fun. We managed to find a gem of a spot just metres away from the sea where it was a total forest. This was such a nice secluded area we even decided to make some food on the stove, a rare event with so many European bakeries about!

Following the coast of Holland up to the city of Den Haag, it was time for a change of course and we followed the roads inland towards Germany and east to Berlin. This was tough sometimes with navigation. Big cities are a nightmare to navigate on a bicycle. So many roads going out of a city but it’s hard to make sure you have the right one and don’t end up on a motorway.

Hiding the tent. Do we fit in?

Another problem we faced was poor timing and arriving in the big student town of Munster just as the light was disappearing. After getting through the suburbs and into the centre, the light had all but vanished. Our tiring bodies wanted to sleep and we didn’t have a clue where we were going in the dark. In the end we got vague directions from a man in a petrol station and followed them along a road which led kind of out of the city. As the road got more busy we didn’t want to risk it being a motorway in the dark so decided to stop for the night. We put up our tent behind some trees in some grassland, however in the morning it became apparent that we were opposite a block of flats on a street corner just behind some trees and were pretty visible. Good old early starts though, the joys of getting up at like 05:00 is that you go to bed when it’s dark and rise before everyone.

The rest of the cycling was pretty much straightforward and we enjoyed the trip thoroughly, a day when we were plagued with punctures and running out of options was saved by a lovely German family who were proud that we had just entered Bavaria and offered us beer, inner tubes and a garden for the night. They even offered us showers however I thought this would be cheating, and the beer was already on my conscience. They did everything they could to help us which was awesome, even when we told them we would be leaving early in the morning. A Continental breakfast had been left out for us which was very kind and we wrote a letter of thanks before setting off. Finally arriving in Berlin in 9 days after a total distance of 900 miles; slightly more than the estimate. The weather was perfect and the beer in Berlin made up for the miscalculation in distance.