A Cycle Journey to the Edge of Europe
In the spring of 2013, I hopped on a bicycle and spent nearly three months pedaling to the North Cape in Norway, the northern edge of mainland Europe, and back home to Belgium.
When someone asks me how it was, I never know where to start. Do I start by explaining how it felt to be on a bicycle all day? Or should I say something about the Arctic? Or talk about crossing the North Sea on a cargo ship, or about steaming through the Arctic Ocean on a cruise ship? Or maybe about the phenomenal natural scenery in Scandinavia?
This book covers all those questions and many more. This is an account of a journey that lasted 85 days and took me through nine countries and past more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) of the most beautiful landscapes, impressive seascapes and unique cityscapes.
It’s the greatest trip I’ve ever been on. It was so memorable that I had to write a book about it; a book titled Sunglasses and Reindeer that includes my personal philosophies, thoughts and troubles from the road, cycling tips, descriptions of towns and landscapes, and local history.
Also make sure to check the photos behind the story in the North Cape Cycling Adventure gallery.
The trip was divided into four stages, roughly of the same distance. This helped me to stay focused by having something to work toward to: Stockholm, the North Cape, Oslo and home.
There is a difference, though, between the first two and last two legs. The way north to the North Cape felt like a “mission” or “expedition”. The North Cape was a goal and I was extremely, maybe even almost maniacally, focused on getting there. Every day, I chose to ride on the shortest and fastest roads, or at least try to. There were few stops; I didn’t linger in places; and there were no detours.
Once I reached Europe’s northernmost point, on one of the most challenging, yet best days of my life, the journey became more of a cycling holiday. I allowed more time to enjoy all the natural beauty around me, traveled more by public transport and made a gigantic detour across England.
The weather played a big part in how the journey turned out. Even though the way north was surprisingly sunny, it was also chilly, rainy, and even freezing at times. Going south was warm, even hot at times, and sunny almost every single day, which was glorious.
In a nutshell, going north was a chilly cycle expedition and going south was a pleasant cycle holiday. And that’s great. I’m glad it wasn’t the other way around.
Those 85 days flew by. I wasn’t bored for a single second on the road. There was always something to do, in the morning, during the day and in the evening. Things had to be planned, I had to keep myself fed, directions had to be found, the bike had to stay clean and well-maintained, clothes had to be washed,… The list goes on and on. There were moments of stress and serious worries, as well as plenty of complaints, but those were definitely outweighed by countless moments of sheer happiness, utter joy and plain fun.
The North Cape Cycling Adventure round-up page has much more detailed information on this trip.