Finally, 3000 kilometres

Florian (left) and Timo, both students international studies, will cycle from Leiden via Calais to Lesbos, where many refugees arrived.

Timo Schmidt and Florian Volz are cycling through Europe to meet refugees.

Tuesday, June 7 Nine months of preparations enabled us to finally turn our idea into real-life kilometres on the road: 3000 of them, to be more precise. Our vision to spend our summer engaging with the refugee crisis and informing others about our experiences started to become reality as soon as we left my house in the morning. The kick-off point was the Peace Palace, such a symbolic international significance. A few close friends of ours awaited us for some last-minute advise and some long goodbyes. “Use sunscreen”, “Be safe”, “See you in eight months...” were just some bits of the conversations that were going on.
First stage of the route took us to Rotterdam. Only when we arrived on the Erasmus Bridge - 27 kilometers later - we started to realize for the first time how much willpower would be necessary to travel across Europe. And unlike the vast majority of refugees, some of whom even walked in pursuit of a safer life, we had bikes. How were they able to manage such a trip full of hardships and how much suffering would one have to witness to build up the drive to walk the distance we were about to attempt by bike?

Wednesday, June 8 In Rotterdam, we were able to spend the night at friend’s place , where we were treated with one last amazing breakfast before we becoming dependent on whatever discounted products we would find in local grocery stores. Then we were off to cycle the first half of the 150 km to Brussels, the capital of Europe. We made 80 km until our muscles decided that they needed some well-deserved rest. We put our tent right next to the street in a little forest.

Thursday, June 9 Another 70 km of cycling brought us across the Belgian-Dutch border and into the beautiful Brussels. On the way we not only got lost for the first time due to road construction but Timo unfortunately also cut his thumb pretty badly while making some adjustements to the bikes. With combined First-Aid experience and some bandages we continued the trip and were happy to arrive in the Belgian capital soon after.

Friday, June 10 We first took our video equipment to the European Parliament where we had an appointment at the European Council for Refugees and Exiles with Senior Project Manager Elona Bokshi. One of the main points she raised in our conversation can be summed up in her own words: “We are not solving the issue if we are closing our borders… or if we are creating this fortress of Europe.”

Saturday, June 11 Due to us staying an a hostel and thus having internet access, we used our day going through film material, updating our website and answering e-mails. We also managed to get a local contact in Calais, where we will start heading to tomorrow morning. We are very curious about the people we will meet there and the stories we will encounter.

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