I am in the capital city of Switzerland right now. It is a very old and beautiful city. Mr. Albano Bernasconi lives here. We met in Managua, Nicaragua 1999 and cycled for about 2 weeks together to San Jose, Costa Rica. After Costa Rica, he went to Chile, Japan, Korea and China... He has a nice house and a pretty Mexican wife. I enjoyed to eat and talk with them. I will rest some more for a few days here then go to southern Germany, Lichtenstein, Nortern Italy, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, Lithania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Russia, Ukraina, Roumania, Burgaria, Greece, Serbia, Italy and south of France until the end of this year.
I left Quebec (Canada) in the beginning of July. When I arrived at the airport in Paris, Mr. Jean-Luc Marechal, who is a member of CCI was waiting to pick me up.
He took me to his house by car. Paris was warmer than Quebec. Mr. Andre Coadou who is also a member of CCI, gave me the address of another bicyclist: mr. Heinz Stucke has travelled by bicycle for 43 years and still continues his journey. He is in the Guiness book of worldrecords.
While in Paris, I stayed 3 nights at Jean-Luc's house and 7 nights at Heinz Stucke's apartment. It was just lucky that mr. Stucke was in Paris at the moment. We have met 3 times already on the road during my journey.
The 23th of July is the anniversary day of my journey (I started my trip 8 years ago). Heinz cooked a nice German stew and we drank beer! In the house of Jean-Luc, we drunk nice wine, too. We saw the Tour de France on the 24th of July. It was a memorable day for Lance Armstrong as well. He won "le Tour" for the 7th time! Great!!
I arrived in Geneve on the first of August. Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world. Even an hamburger at Mcdonald's (cheapest food) is US$ 3.00! Claude Marthaler waited for me in Geneve. It was our third meeting. Claude is one of the most famous bicycle travellers in Switzerland. He published 3 books, one of them is a photo book. We enjoyed talking.
I was in the Southeast of France, in "Chamonix" on 5th of August. My Italian friend waited for me. Mr. Svevo is a cyclist and also an alpinist. He brought mountain equipment for me. We met at Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina (6962 m). He climbed to the summit alone which I did as well at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003. He also climbed Mt. Mckinley (6195 m) in 2004. We climbed Mt. Blanc together. We were on top of the Alps (4807 m) on the 8th of August at 9:00 AM. I was very tired because my acclimatisation still wasn't good.
The Swiss summer is nice for cycling except for the rainy days. Switzerland has beautiful mountains, farms and many pretty towns. The people are quite shy, but many people wave hands at cyclists. There were many tourists and the road was crowded with cars. I saw many cyclists, too. Cycling is popular in Europe. So, I enjoyed to cycle. I crossed some passes. It was hard with my heavy bike, but it was a good exercise. I went to Zermatt to see Mt. Matterhorn and also Grindelwald to see Mt. Eiger. Those are quite popular and touristic places. I don't like crowds, but the landscapes are so spectacular! During rainy days, I would sleep under bridges. I could never stay at hotels, youth hostels or even campgrounds because they were too expensive for me.
Even the food in supermarkets is very expensive in Switzerland. I cook my own meals everyday. Normally, I cook rice, pasta or potato. And I have bread and jam. It is hard to survive in Switzerland for poor cyclists, but I have friends in many places. When I visited them, I could take a shower, have better food, a sleep in a bed! I am proud that I have this many very nice friends in many places. Thank you, all friends!
I am still in Basel, Switzerland. Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Some people here are very friendly and they are very hospitable. Thanks to my Swiss friends, I did not have to spend a lot of money. I enjoyed to find my old and new friends and stay with them.
Basel is the bordering city between France and Germany. The Rhein river starts from the Alps, then it crosses through the middle of the city, it then flows into Germany, Netherland and finally the North Sea. The old part of the city is very pretty. There are nice old buildings and streets. Basel zoo is a good attraction. It is not a big zoo, but I enjoyed seeing live animals. There is also a beautiful farm and Pastor's hills around the city.
Switzerland is a very safe country, too. Many people are honest. Especially in the countryside, people are very friendly to other people. Even though I can't understand any of the Swiss languages, I feel the people are friendly. I visited some friends that I met in other countries on the road. All of them are so helpful and nice. Everyone invited me to stay at their houses. Switzerland is an international country. Many foreign tourists visit here and also many Swiss people go to other countries. I recently heard that about 30 percent of all new marriages are between a Swiss and a foreigner. Last Sunday, the Swiss elected to accept eastern European citizens to come to work in Switzerland. They have their own money (Swiss Franc) and they are not a member of the EU. But, I think they will be joining the EU in the near future. I crossed their border with Germany and France many times. They checked my passport sometimes but at other times there was no check...
This is my longest stop, here in the house of Mr. Heinrich Kunz (Henry). We met at Route 40, in Patagonia, South America in March of 2002. Patagonia is one of the most difficult parts to cycle in the world, because of the strong winds. Sometimes I could pedal, sometimes I had to push my bike sometimes it wasn't possible to move at all, depending on how strong the wind was.
I could travel 100 km a day if the wind wasn't too strong. I could move no more than only 30 km on windy days. Cars and motorcycles passed beside me on those days. All of them only waved their hands at me. But at last an old german red Beetle came front of me just before sunset. The car stopped. Henry and his girlfriend were in this car. They came from Basel, Switzerland and traveled with this old car through South America. We talked for just 15 minutes in the middle of the unpaved road in the desert. Then they gave me water and some food. We also exchanged our e-mail addresses. I was hungry and tired at that time. I was very glad to see them because I hadn't had chances to talk to people around there. It was also fortunate because I did not eat enough food during these days because I wanted to save food for the next windy day... We haven't met again in South America, but I always sent my news by e-mail to him by time to time.
I had an opportunity to come back to Switzerland again this time. Henry sent me an invitation by e-mail to come to stay in his house. He is a school teacher in Basel. He goes to school every day. But every evening and weekend he took me to visit his family or took me to some touristic place or to a nice dinner. He contacted newspapers, bike companies etcetera. We went to the biggest bike company in Basel: "VeloPlus". They gave me a new chain, bottom bracket, wheels, pedals, tires, crank, and so on. Total about 500 Swiss Francs (US$ 400)! I was happy since my bike was like new! The outdoor company "Sherpa" gave me good winter jacket. That cost about 200 Swiss Francs! Henry bought new trekking shoes for me and a memory card for my digital camera. A friend of him (Jean-Luc) bought battery charger for me and also invited me to eat Sushi in a very expensive Japanese restaurant! Also Henry tried to do many things for me. The Police gave me some cheap equipment and city hall gave me stamps. My article was published by 2 local news papers in Basel.
Henry made a small slide show on CD. I presented at Henry's school. It was my first experience to talk to many people. 40 Children and some teachers joined me. I enjoyed it. Henry spent a lot of his time and money for me. It is a pleasure to see him again. I got enough energy to continue my journey because of him. Thank you very much, great friend. I will continue my bike trip to meet more nice people in different places! My dream is to make "one million friends" for peace in the world!!
I will leave Basel tomorrow morning. My destination is my 68th country: Liechtenstein, and then on to Munchen, Germany.
It's still winter in Europe. It is not very cold right now and it started raining yesterday here in Basel. Yes, I am still staying at Henry's house since late November. It is my longest stop after Madrid (Luis and Bernard), Chiloe (Miguel's hostal and house), Los Andes (Eric's house), Montevideo (Pablo's house and bicycle shop) and Sao Paulo (Ishida's house).
I am making a DVD with a photo show of my journey. I have already put more than a 1000 pictures on it. I hope to put some more nice pictures. I will show it to local people during the rest of my journey. I will visit Northern Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia, Middle East, and Asia for 2 or 3 years more.
It's my 36th birthday today. It is also the start of Carnival in Basel.
Carnival in Basel is the end of the European carnival season. Some people say: "Carnival in Basel is most special in Europe!". The people of Basel dress in special costumes and walk around the city for 72 hours in small groups. They play flute and drum. They celebrate the start of spring.
It's a special carnival, this year. It has been snowing for a few days and there's already about 30 - 40 cm of snow in the streets. It's been 40 years since that last happened!
My host in Basel, Mr. Heinrich Kunz, is the leader of a small Carnival group. We left his house at 3:00 AM in the morning. There were already many people on the street. At 4:00 AM, the carnival started. It was still snowing at that time, but it wasn't very cold. It was crowded. Many different songs were played by each group and there were many people on the street. It is very different from the carnival in Brasil. But this was also very nice. I have just relaxed for a few hours at his house right now, then we will go to street again. We will celebrate a special year! I hope it is nice year for all people of all natures on Earth.
My stay in Basel has been the longest in my 8 year's cycling trip (until now).
Mr. Heinrich Kunz, who is my host in Basel, threw a "good-bye party" for me last night. Heinrich and his family gave me presents and some money. In the end, his mother started to cry... It is nice to meet great people but it also makes me sad when I have to leave nice friends.
I am in the middle of France, near Tours right now. On April 11th, I presented my DVD show for a full day at an elementary school and at night in a community center in Mardié (near Orléans, France).
The DVD is a compilation of the pictures I took during my 8 years journey and has some music to go with the presentation. I made the DVD in Basel with my Swiss friends. About 200 students and 50 adults enjoyed seeing it. The mayor of Mardié village gave us drinks and snacks.
I volunteered to show my journey to local people. I enjoyed to talk to them and explain many things. I saw many people smile and I enjoyed that. My host and organizer Miss Nathalie was proud of me and she was also very happy it was a success.
I talked about Peace, Dreams, Freedom, Nature, Friendship and so on.
I have received an e-mail from Nathalie:
I had many positive echos about your presentation of your journey, so I send you a few words I heard :
First of all: at school. Children were very delighted with your presentation (the teacher told me that). A mother told me: "this exceptional meeting will stay in their memory", so it may be thanks to your coming to this school that some of the children, once aldult, will think: "there is always a possibility to live my dream". It's a good lesson of life!!
Second, for the night :
"His DVD is super, photos are very beautifull, simple and not touristic"
"I traveled in while staying in Mardié! It was a very nice evening, music, photos... this man is a genious!"
"Daisuke showed us a beautifull example of simplicity, it's a good lesson in our world of consumption"
The mayor of my village (he is a photographer) said: "I'm very proud to have met Daisuke, I would like to have some contacts with him by internet. His photos are magnifcient..."
And me, I encourage you to go on to present your journey. Thank you, Daisuke, to allow me to share with you this moment, it's a very nice memory.
I have fallen in love with Nathalie a little bit. She is so pretty and so very helpful.
I arrived in Munich and I am staying with Bernd now. I have cycled through Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany during the last few months. And I made more friends!
It is summer and very nice weather around here. I hope all of you are well.
I am in Dusseldorf, central Germany. Acutually I did not plan to visit this area but some of my great friends send me invitation e-mails often and I decided to visit this area. I am in the house of the Jordan family. I met Philippe in 19?? in Northern France. At that time I was an university student and cycled from London to Egypt during my 2 and a half month summer holiday. He invited me to stay in the house of his mother in Northern France. He is also a cyclist. He cycled from Paris to Morocco when he was 17 years old. Mr. Jacques Chirac was sponsoring that bicycle trip. At that time Mr. Chirac was the mayor of Paris.
In 1999 we met again, in Dortmund, in Germany. He found an IT job in Germany. He also met his (Chinese) girlfriend. Then we met again 3 days ago. They had married by then and they have a nice boy. During these 6 years, he lost his job 2 times but now he has quite a good job. Life is not easy for him, either. But he has always welcomed me and he also likes to make many friends. So, it is very nice to meet them and I received more of their great hospitality. Of course I hope to host them one day. One of the most wonderful things on my journey is to meet nice friends.
Dear friends, how are you doing? I do not hear from you often - I hope you are doing well.
I am in Bonn, the former capital city of Germany, and also the hometown of the famous composer Beethoven. It is a small town. When the capital moved to Berlin, this city became quiet. Bonn is crossed by the Rhein river and it is a nice town. People of all different races live in this area. It is a very hot summer and it was 35°C yesterday.
I visited my friends mrs. Barbara and mr. Rigobert who I met in Mali (Africa) in 2000 and in Benin (Africa) in 2001. Barbara is a German lady and Rigobert is a man from Benin. When I arrived in Bamako, Mali, Barbara and Rigobert invited me to stay at their house. She worked in Bamako. When I arrived Cotonou, Benin, they were there at the same time by chance. They tried to marry there. It was complicated to marry a foreigner because of the paper work. I stayed in their house some days but I couldn't wait until their wedding because it would have been a lot of days. They came back to Germany in 2001 and they sent me invitation e-mails sometimes. Today, 6 years later, I came to see them again in Bonn.
On the 23rd of July I finished my 8th year of travel and started the 9th. It was also the birthday of daughter Cena, who is their second child. When I pushed the bell of their house, I saw a beautiful white lady and a strong black man and 2 children. The first boy is 5 years old and second girl is 2 years old. They gave me a nice smile! Barbara works so hard everyday and Rigobert takes care of the children. He could not get a good job. He graduated from a German university but he cannot get a good job because his passport is not German (and some other reason). Their life is not easy but they always open their door and hearts to me. They do not change their mind.
Well, such a nice friends put energy into my heart and I can continue my journey without lonelyness. My wheels have already moved 95552 km. Soon I will reach 100000 km!
I will go back to Munich and go through eastern Europe soon.
I arrived in Warszawa 2 days ago. It's windy, rainy and cold these days. It is bad weather for cycling but I cycled everyday for 3 weeks. I slept in the forest even on rainy days. But 2 days ago was my lucky day. I cycled through Warszawa and just before evening, a couple of cyclists called me. They were Mr. Marcin and Mrs. Nana. We talked on the street for about 5 minutes, then they invited me to stay at their house.
I went to the Belarus embassy to get a visa yesterday. I waited for 4 hours, then they accepted my request. I will get my passport back tomorrow afternoon. So, I will stay in their house until tomorrow.
Marcin is a very helpful and powerful person. He does not have a job right now. And he is a very intelligent man. He taught me a lot of the history of Poland. Of course he gave me nice food and spent lots of time with me. He tried to contact newspapers and TV and he tried to find some sponsors for me. The institute of Walesa invited me to visit and they try to contact ex president Mr. Walesa for me. If they success to contact him, I will see Mr. Walesa next week.
The biggest news paper in Poland published my story. The general manager of the national culture center invited me to visit the top of the Polish tower with my bike in the afternoon. The interview with the TV was a success! Many different things happened in Warszawa, and some days were hard, but I enjoyed it very much. Thank you, Marcin! I am very happy to find new friends in Poland.
My next country to visit is Belarus, then Poland again, Lithania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Russia. I hope to find more and more nice people on my way.
And I hope for better weather.
I arrived in Belarus yesterday. I spent US$ 50.00 to get a visa for Belarus.
The people in Poland said: "Belarus is a communist country. Police and military are very bad people. Be carefull!". The Lonely Planet guide book writes that there is nothing interesting to see in Belarus.
Well, I visited this country and I found it a very interesting country to visit. The military and the police are not so bad, and the local people are very friendly. On the road, 3 guys said: "Stop and come here!". They invited me to drink vodka.
I arrived in Brest today. A journalist of a local newspaper invited me for breakfast, and he contacted some cyclists for me. Irena came to see me quickly. She is a teacher at the technical university of Brest. She took me to the World War II-monument and museum. After lunch, another cyclist, who is a professor at the technical university of Brest, invited me to visit his summer house. We enjoyed a cayak tour 30 km out of Brest. Then he invited me to give an hour lecture at the university tomorrow morning. I will present to 100 students tomorrow.
Brest city was a battle field during World War II. More than 2.5 million Belarus people died during WWII. It is a sad history; we should not do it again. The Belarus people know that; but the government is thinking the opposite. The president of Belarus is a dictator. The government wants to be friends with Russia, Venezuela and the Arabic countries. They are against the USA and the European Union. They want to sell weapons and get oil in return. Actually, they have many Soviet weapons. It's against world peace.
So, I will teach the students about world peace during my lecture tomorrow. My visa expires tomorrow. I should cycle 80 km tomorrow afternoon to get back to Poland. I will be busy tomorrow ...
I hope the students will understand my lecture.
I met mr. Lech Walesa at 12:50 yesterday. He is the Nobel peace prize winner of 1984 and he was also the president of Poland.
I met many nice, helpful and honest people in Poland. TV and newspapers published my story often; they like the story of my life. (Watch TV news item, MS Mediaplayer video, in Polish.) It is wonderful. I would like to see more of this country but winter is coming soon and I do not like -25°C. So, I will leave here soon. I want to say thanks to many people whom I met in Poland.
The history of Poland is not a happy one. The Nazis and the Russians tried to take this country. Poland was a communist country until 17 years ago. They have joined the EU but it is still a bit poor. The people would like to travel to many different places but it is economically difficult... I wish them good luck.
I will leave for Gdansk tomorrow morning. My next country will be Lithuania.
I am in Olstyn in Northern Poland. The weather is very nice and I am happy to cycle here. When I came into Poland I had 5 rainy days followed by 5 cloudy, windy and cold days; the weather was not nice. The roads are narrow and asphalt conditions are poor. Car drivers are not friendly to cyclists and there are a lot of big trailers. The first 2 days I was very afraid. I have to always be careful but I cycled for 3 weeks without problems.
When I arrived in Poland, I did not have any friends there, but I always found a forest to sleep in (but I did not find a shower). When I arrived in Warszawa a cyclist called me. Marcin Sadursky, who speaks English very well, invited me to his flat. Marcin is unemployed at this time; 15% (2.5 million) of the Polish people is unemployed.
Marcin is very intelligent and an amazing friend to me. I stayed in his flat waiting for the Belarus visa for 4 days. During my stay, I was interviewed by 3 newspapers and 2 TV stations. Marcin contacted them quickly.
When we were at the national palace, he contacted someone and got permission to cycle inside the palace. When we waited for a journalist in front of the cultural centre, Marvin went inside. The cultural centre is the highest tower in Warszawa. Half an hour later, he came back with the general manager. He invited me to come up for free and with my bike! I told him I wanted to see Mr. Walesa. He took me to the institute of Walesa.
The general manager of this institute invited me for coffee and a talk. Mr. Walesa was in Gdansk and I could not meet him in Warszawa, but thy tried to contact him.
When I left Warszawa, Marcin gave me many of his contacts that were on my way. This week, I met many people who also gave me a place to stay and who gave me food.
Poland has many historic World War II places. I visited some of them. Auschwitz (Oswiecim) was the largest centre where European Jews were murdered during WWII. These death factories killed between 1.5 and 2 million peolple of 27 nationalities, about 90% of whom where Jews.
Warszawa was devastated during WWII, when more than half its population perished and 85% of its buildings were reduced to rubble.
Miedryrzec Podlaski is a small town near Warszawa; 18.000 Polish people live there now. Before WWII 17.000 Jews and 3.000 Polish people lived there.
Brest (Belarus): at least 25% of all the Belarus population died between 1939 and 1945, many of them in the 200-plus concentration camps. Brest was a front line city when Germany attacked Russia June 22nd 1941. Because of its heroic defense, Brest was named one of the Soviet Union's "Hero Cities" of WWII.
Gdansk: WWII started on September 1st, 4:45 AM 1939.
Gdansk is also the birth place of the "Solidarity" trade union, which was the catalyst for the fall of communism in Europe. I met mr. Lech Walesa and Andrej Gwiazda, who were leadres of "Solidarity".
I will go to Ketrzyn tomorrow where I will see Hitler's war time quarters, called the "Wolf's Lair". It was Hitler's main base between 1941 and 1944.
I reached 100,000 km in my 74th country (Lithuania)!
It rained heavily all day today. I did not depart this morning because the rain makes it too uncomfortable. My friend in Vilnius proposed to stay longer. So I am in rainy Vilnius now.
We went to the Trakai castle this morning in his car. I enjoyed to see the beautiful castle in spite of the rain.
I presented for 1 hour to 40 3 to 6 year old children. I taught them several kinds of origami and some Japanese characters. (My friend translated my instructions.) The children enjoyed it.
My friends in Vilnius try to arrange a lecture at the university this Friday evening; maybe I can make a little money. I will stay in Vilnius until at least Friday.
A travel magazine in Vilnius will publish my pictures and my story. I did not ask them for money because it is a small publisher and they tried to help me a lot. Friends are more important than money, don't you think so?
I am in Riga, Latvia. It's getting colder every day. Latvia is in the north of Europe.
Latvia became independent of the Soviet Union on August 21st, 1991 and joined the European Union in May of 2004. There are 2.33 million people in Latvia; 58.3% are Latvian and 29.1% are Russian. The average income is about € 300.00; the minimum wage is around € 120.00 per month.
The main roads are quite good. I saw a lot of cars and quite a few nice ones on the road. It seems Latvia is not a very poor country. The people are shy and closed; nobody tries to talk to me. Is it because they were part of the Soviet Union just 15 years ago? I think the people are somewhat similar to the people in the eastern USA. They do not want to talk to strangers; in supermarkets, nobody says "hello" or "thank you". There is something strange about these people; I am not happy to stay here.
I must wait for 5 days to get a Russian visa, I stayed at mr. Normunds' flat. I met him through the internet a long time ago, but otherwise it is very difficult to find friends here. It is very different from neighbouring country Lithuania; I miss the Lithuania and Poland...
A 20 day Russian visa costs US$ 90.00 and US$ 8.00 for insurance. Tourists need an invitation card (US$ 22.00); US$ 120.00 total for 20 days! I received the visa today; I will leave Riga tomorrow morning. My next destinations are Estonia, Finland and Russia.
I am in Russia right now. It has been raining for 10 days and everything is wet: my tent, my sleeping bag... The first snow fell last night. I will be in Moscow soon but I will return to southern Europe quickly.
I escaped from cold Russia and Ukraine. There was a lot of snow in northern Ukraine and it was only -12°C. Even in my good sleeping bag, it was pretty cold in my tent.
Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, but I think the people are friendlier and more open than in Russia or Ukraine. The weather is also warmer but I should hurry to go south, because it will become cold here soon.
I will go to Bukarest in the middle of November, then to Beograd, Zagreb and Ljubljana in the beginning of December, next to Milano in middle of December and lastly to Basel. If you have interesting information on these places or if you have experiences there, please write me.
I received a warm e-mail from my German friend Ines. I visited her in 1999 in 3 different houses in Germany and in 2005 I visited her in Switzerland. I was very happy to receive her e-mail, I like my friends very much. Thank you, my many friends who helped me on my journey!
Nice hearing from you!! Sorry that we didn't write for such a long time. We've been at holidays and after that it was very busy. We are very happy that you are allright! We hope to see you when you are in Basel. We can come for a visit and you know that you are always welcome at your place. We would like to invite you for Chrismas if it's suiting your plans.
Take care and hope to see you soon.
Ines, Wolfgang and Nele
I am in Romania, the people here are as friendly as they are in South America and I enjoy cycling here (except for dangerous Gypsy people).
The people in Moldova are similarly friendly as the Romanians. On the 11th of November, the mayor of Chisinau gave me a Diploma of Honorary Citizenship. The mayor told me the following:
"You are a great adventurer. I am proud of you and I am happy to have met you. You sometimes cycle in difficult terrain and in dangerous countries and situations. Your journey challenges many people in many countries to be friends and strive for peace in the world. You are as brave as our Moldovan hero mr. Stefan Cel Mare. We give you a Diploma of Honorary Citizenship for your courage. Have a safe journey and we wish you good luck. Signed: The Mayor of Chisinau City, Vasile URSU."
I was happy to receive this Honorary Citizenship from a city with a population of 700,000. I enjoyed my stay in Moldova very much.
Then I crossed into Romania; many people waved at me and greeted me. I am very happy to see Romanian people.
I arrived in Focsani 2 days ago. A spoke in my rear wheel was broken and I found a bicycle shop. The manager of the shop gave me 2 spokes for free! I was very happy. Most Romanian people are poor, but they are very hospitable!
After I fixed my bike, a man and 2 children came. He asked for my nationality; I answered that I am Japanese. He invited me to stay in his house and eat for free. The man and the children looked like Italian maffia, but I assumed they were nice people. I decided to visit their house.
The man and the 2 children took me to the north end of the town. Many Gypsy families live in that area. We went into one of the houses, and the Italian man said in Italian: "You can stay and eat in this house, because they are my friends". The family looked friendly, I went into their house and left my bike outside. They gave me bread and some meat. The house looked regular; it had nice sofas and cable TV inside. The dark-skinned family did not seem poor; the mother and daughter were a bit fat and dressed in colourful typical Indian clothes. They did not speak any English...
After half an hour the sun set and it became dark outside. The man said: "You can take a shower, take off your clothes here and go into the bathroom". I said: "Okay, but I have to take the soap out of my luggage. I will go outside to get it". When I tried to get out of the house, the man held on to me and did not let me go. I thought it was strange. He was gentle before but suddenly he showed his real maffia face. I shook off his hands and ran out of the house. The family had already opened my luggage. "What did you steal?", I asked them. The mother shouted: "We didn't steal anything!" Now she speaks English! I tried to escape. The man tried to take my money and passport from my pocket. Then the mother also touched me and tried to steal. I shook off their hands so they could not steal anything from my pockets. I fled the house.
I was lucky they did not steal many things, especially not my camera. They just stole the gold medal that the mayor in Moldova gave me with the Diploma. They only looked for money and passports.
I was so afraid that I could only think of escaping. The road was dark; after 5 km. I checked my luggage again. Everything was allright. I pedaled more and found a farm with lots of high grass. I pitched my tent there and spent the night, but I could not sleep very well.
Many Gypsies live in every town in Romania. Many of them are a problem as they steal many things...
I am in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. It is sunny and 20°C. It is very strange weather: normally it is between 0°C and 5°C. But it is good for me!
The palace of parliament is a nice place to see. It is the big mama of monstrous buildings, conceived during the height of Ceausescu's communist regime. I will go to see it tomorrow.
I was invited by Greenpeace to stay at their new offices for a few days. I thought the people of Greenpeace were agressive, but I was wrong. Three officers and some volunteer assistants work here. The officers are 23 to 28 years old and they are very friendly and polite. They want to protect the beautiful nature of Romania. Currently, they work on genetically engineered soybean cultivation. (More detailed report here.) I hope they will succeed.
I am still in Bucharest. The income the Romanian people is low but the price of food is almost the same as in western Europe. Although it is a very difficult life for poor people, they remain kind and friendly.
Greenpeace of Romania hosted me for 4 days. The officer invited me to eat, and the volunteer students helped me a lot. Friends of the Greenpeace staff also spent time with me and took me sightseeing in the city. They taught me many things and I enjoyed talking to them. The officer of Greenpeace sent me a nice message:
Hello Daisuke San,
It was a huge pleasure to host you around for a few days and we're happy to be a few of your 1 million friends on Earth. You have made a difference for people you've met here and I would like to share with you a message to be told to all your friends around the world. It's a prophecy by a Cree Indian that once said:
"Only after the Last Tree has been cut down, only after the Last River has been poisoned, only after the Last Fish has been caught, then will you find that Money Cannot be Eaten. "
We wish you all the best
Gabriel PAUN and the Romanian Team of Greenpeace
Greenpeace in Romania
I was interviewed by several national newspapers and press agencies. I liked Romania very much!
I am in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It is normally cold and it snows at this time of year, but not this year. It is strange weather in Europe...
While I was in Bucharest, Greenpeace Romania invited me to stay in their office for 5 days. They are very friendly and we discussed many things. I learned a lot from them. I also was in Chisinau in Moldova where the mayor of the city gave me a Diploma and invited me to stay in a hotel for 2 nights. I was in Belgrade where a tourist organization invited me to stay in a hotel. I talked to 15 newspaper journalists and 3 national TV stations there. Many Serbian people were friendly to me and I enjoyed cycling in Serbia.
It rained all day, yesterday. I was completely wet when I arrived in Ljubljana. A member of the "Warm Shower Bicyclists Hospitality List" was waiting for me and let me stay in their house. I was very happy to meet them and that I got to stay in a warm place with a warm shower and nice food.
Travelling without a lot of money is wonderful. I do not know what will happen today or where I can sleep tonight. It is sometimes very hard, but I also meet nice people. I will continue my journey and I hope to make 1 million friends all over the world.
I will go to Switzerland and make my website during Christmas time. If you have any ideas or want to help make my website, you are always welcome to write me.
If you'd like to have your address on my site, please send me the address of your website.
I came back to Basel, Switzerland last night. I celebrate a wonderful Christmas time with my very good friend Henry Kunz and his family.
I received many letters here. Thank you Toshi, for sending me a new digital camera! Thank you mr. Greinwald and Jean Michel Paoletti, for the nice Christmas card. Thank you Philippe Jordan and Barbara Strick, for mailing me newspaper articles. I also received letters and articles from magazine and newspapers from Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Finland and Hungary. I am very happy!
Many friends and people help me during my journey, so I should send them a Christmas card. But I was a bit lazy in this time, sorry. Maybe I will write you next Christmas...
I will show my small presentation in Paris on the 20th of January 2007 at 6:00 PM.
Merry Christmas have a happy day!
And I hope you have many nice things and lots of good luck in this year.
I came back to Basel, Switzerland on Christmas day (25th December 2006). I was so happy to see one of my best friends: Henry (and his family). It was the second time to spend Christmas time with this family during my journey. People in Switzerland celebrate Christmas and New Year with their family. We ate delicious food and drank some alcohol together. We sang songs and talked until midnight. They also gave presents to each other on Christmas Eve.
I started my cycling from Basel in the beginning of 2006. I went to France, Spain and came back to Basel. Then I went to eastern Europe and Russia, returned to eastern Europe, Italy and Switzerland.
Things are very expensive in Europe, even in Eastern Europe. But I met many nice people and I made a lot of friends. I received a lot of support. Thanks to you, I did not spend a lot of money and I enjoyed my cycling very much without any big problems.
I cycled 105,245 km in 85 countries from July 1998 until today. I still ride on the same Japanese bike (a Flame).
I will stay here in Basel for 2 weeks to prepare my photos, my website, fix my luggage, my bike..
The 20th of January, I will be in Paris, France. I will show my photos and present to 400 people. On March 16th, I will be in Burgos, Spain. I will make presentation and talk to people for about 2 hours.
Then I will head to the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. I hope I have good luck in this year, too.
All the best to you!
The largest bicycle touring club in France, CCI, organises a very nice festival every year. This year, 16 cyclists presented during these two days and more than 400 people attended (each day). For two days, I was the guest of Mrs. Florence Gautier, and I stayed at her house. I enjoyed meeting some of my friends and seeing the presentations.
I presented my slide show (which takes 15 minutes) and next, I answered questions for another 15 minutes. Many people smiled at me and they thought is was a good presentation. I enjoyed presenting.
Mr. Jean Michel Paoletti, a former president of CCI, said: "It was a very nice Festival and many people came. The quality of the presentations is better than last year."
Check the "news" section of this website to see more reactions.
The Carnival in Basel started in this morning at 4:00 AM. It will last 72 hours. It is the end of the Europeaan Carnival season. It was cold and it snowed during the last Carnival but this morning it rained a bit but it was quite warm. Many people gathered in the old city from 3:30 AM. Many people like Carnival and they continue for a long time. Their style changes a little each year but it's still in the traditional way of Carnival.
The origins of the carnival of Basel are deeply rooted in local tradition. The Basel dialect, the things they make fun of (usually local events and personalities), and their own special brand of humour with its strong irony. I saw the vivid colours of the carnival costumes, I heard the stirring tunes of the drummers and piccolo players, and the weird and wonderful 'Guggen' music played by the brass bands.
I joined Henry's group and walked around town with them. Our group is only 4 persons, who play piccolo and walk around the old city. They wear special costumes and masks. Their family, friends and many tourist followed us. We saw many other groups playing different songs. It is a very simple but nice carnival.
An hour ago, we came back to his house. We will sleep a bit, and then we will get out on the streets in the afternoon. The weather is cloudy and it rains sometimes. Not too much, I hope.
At last, I left (2 weeks ago) the place I stopped longest: Basel, Switzerland. Of course it is always a very sad moment when I leave good friends. Mr. Heinrich Kunz helped me a lot and I have a lot of nice memories of him.
Within just 10 minutes, I entered France.
In Dijon (France), I visited Mrs. Brigitte, Mr. Andre and Miss Clementine for the fourth time. It is always nice to visit friends again. They said "You are always very welcome!"
In Paris (France), I visited Mr. Heinz Stucke who is in the Guiness Book of Record as the person who travelled by bicycle longest. He just came back from Patagonia, South America. We talked all night.
In Orleans (France), I visited Miss Nathalie Hamel. She always gives me a nice smile and that gives me power to continue my pedaling!
I arrived in Burgos (Spain) 2 days before my presentation (on March 16th). When I arrived, Mrs. Emilia and Mr. Luis Markina were waiting for me. I could stay at their house. They took me to their friend's house, where I was interviewed by national radio and interviewed by a local news paper. They had a full schedule for me during my stay (March 14-17) in Burgos!
March 16th, 17:00h We went to the theatre where I would present that evening. We prepared; Luis, Javier and Ivan, 2 sons of Luis and Markina helped us a lot.
20:00 They open the gate. Many people were already waiting outside. All 540 seats were quickly filled with people. About 200 more could not enter because they did not have enough place to stand (for security reasons).
20:40 I started my show. Pictures and music were good. The many people that were there enjoyed watching it. Then I introduced myself (in my poor Spanish). People were laughing when I mistook Spanish words, but they enjoyed my 'language' very much anyways. Then I showed my first around the world bike show in about 1 hour. Questions and answers lasted about half an hour. A friend of Luis translated for me sometimes. Everybody waved their hands and smiled at me. I sold my 60 DVDs quickly after the show. The city of Burgos paid me some money.
March 18th When I left Burgos, 40 cyclists were waiting for me. They followed me for about 15 km. Luis followed me for 30 km.
I am heading for the Western end of Spain now.
Santiago de Compostela is a World Heritage city and the spiritual and administrative capital of Galicia. Santiago was already an urban centre in the 10th century. It was a small group of buildings clustered around St. James's Church, on the western slope of a castro, whose growth was due to its position controlling a route centre and to the pilgrimages that have taken place over the century.
There are several ways from Spain and Portugal to get here:
|Camino Frances||Roncesvalles-Santiago||738 km|
|Camino del Norte||run-Santiago||803 km|
|Via de la Plata||Sevilla-Santiago||989 km|
|Camino Ingles||Ferrol-Santiago||119 km|
|Camino primitivo||Oviedo-Santiago||343 km|
|Camino Portugues||Lisboa-Santiago||575 km|
This way of Pilgrims is only for walkers, bicyclists and horse riders. 100,373 pilgrims arrived Santiago in 2006 including 18,282 bicyclists. Most of them arrive during Summer time (July and August).
Camino Frances is the most popular route and many albergues (hostels for pilgrims) are there (distanced between 3 to 20 km). Many hostels are free (or a volountary donation) or less than € 13.00. And many of them have a kitchen.
I joined the Pilgrims at Burgos. The road from Burgos to Santiago is quite hilly but well marked. It is easy to find the way and the road is very safe. (The Spanish car-driving manners are mostly bad!) On the 25th of March, I arrived in Santiago. The next day, I arrived on Capo Fisterra (The End of the World): the Western-most point of Spain. My last journey, back to Japan, starts from here!
I arrived in Santiago de Compostela 3 days ago and I was cape Finisterra (the End of the world) 2 days ago. I will be in Portugal tomorrow, following the road of the pilgrims: "Camino de Santiago".
It snowed last week and it rained a lot this morning. Everything is wet, but I can stay at a pilgrim's hostel for free tonight. So, I can dry my wet clothes...
Te mando muchos saludos y un gran abrazo!
After 3500 km of cycling in Spain, I came back to France on 23rd of April. While I was in Spain, the Easter holiday started. During the holiday time, no big trucks are on the road, but many holiday tourists crowd the road. More than 100 Spanish people died this week by traffic accidents (106 died Easter holiday week of last year, 2006). Spanish car drivers don't care about pedestrians and cyclists. But I was lucky, I did not get any in traffic accidents while there. I did see traffic accidents several times on the road... (Traffic in Portugal is even worse than in Spain. Portugese drive even faster.) France also has a lot of traffic. Many people use a car and they drive very fast. Many stressful people are everywhere....
I met Mr. Heinz Stucke in Barcelona April 15th. It was the 8th time we met on the road. We cycled 10 days together (about 700 km) to Valencia then to Narbonne, France. He travelled on only one bike: 547,000km for 45 years all countries on the world. He is in the Guiness of Records since 1995. It was a very good experience for me to have cycled with him because I learned many things from him. He told me of many of his experiences.
France is beautiful country. They have beautiful landscapes, old towns, rich history. When I came to France during the election of a new president. Women have a lot of influence in France. Some great heroine were French. Jeanne D'Arc fought the English army in the 100-year war at the end of the Middle Ages. Alexandra David-Neel traveled in Tibet around 1920 (when it was forbidden). And now, Segolène Royal tries to become the French president.
After camping for 2 weeks in my tent in the bush, I arrived at the house of cyclists in San Raphael in southern France (60km west of Nice). Emmanuele and Dominique Cocusse invited me to stay at their house. I took a nice and warm shower yesterday and I also had nice food. We have been talking a lot, too. They are very welcoming towards bicycle travelers. Because they are also cyclists and they love sports. (Oh, and I was interviewed again.)
I will soon be in Genova, Italy and then take a boat to Tunisia.
I left Europe 2 weeks ago, and I am in Tunisia right now. It is getting hot like summer time. I enjoy to talk to many local friendly people here, and I like the cheap food.
Tunisia is a very touristic destination for European and other foreign tourists, because it is a safe country. (At least, that is what everybody thinks.) Income from tourism is very important to Tunisia because they do not have oil and they do not produce a lot of products.
I came to Tunisia by ferry boat from Genova, Italy. There were many Tunisian people on the same ship and they brought a lot of things back to their home country. The ferry boat took 12 hours and cost 90 Euro. The cost of most airplanes is cheaper than this ship. That's why there are not many tourists on this ship. When we arrived at the Tunisian port, customs police very carefully checked the luggage of all passengers.
They were looking for prohibited things and they wanted to charge. When customs agent came to me, she started to open and look inside my bags carefully. She asked me one by one. It was tiresome, because I have 6 bags. A lot of time would be needed to check them all. After she checked the third bag, a higher ranking policeman told her to stop checking my luggage. The reason: they do not need to check (Japanese) foreigners as carefully. I could leave them more quickly than most of the local passengers. I felt sorry for the local people. They were very angry with the policemen, but they never complained to them. Then, I thought people in Tunisia were gentle and polite.
I met policemen several times when I cycled on the main road. They were happy to talk to me because they found it interesting to know a different man like me. They never saw such a heavy bicycle. Most of them are road police, who (try to) catch traffic violators. Whenever I arrived in touristic towns or big cities, I saw some policemen standing in the street, some of them tourist police. They look out for for tourists. Mostly people are honest and friendly and helpful in the countryside. But there were many thieves and criminals in big cities and touristic places. I thought most policemen in Tunisia are good.
The local people are mostly friendly but they can not speak English. I communicated using my poor French, mixed with English and gestures. It was difficult to understand most things. They understand what I need. I wondered why I saw a picture of the president inside of most shops. When I asked about their president or their government, nobody answered me clearly.
I met a Moroccan traveler at a small hostel in Tunis. He taught me somethings about Tunisia. Mr. Rachid lives on Corsica (a French island). He emigrated to France 18 years ago. He traveled with his own car through Algeria and Tunisia during his holiday. He invited me to drink beer several times during my 4-day stay in Tunis. He enjoyed to listen to my travel stories. Beer is quite expensive in Tunisia but he always bought some for me. It's not good to drink alcohol in Muslim countries. So, they sell beer only in big supermarkets or in tourist bars. But some locals drink alcohol in alleys. When police come, they flee very fast.We discussed many things about Tunisia. He can speak Arabic, French (of course) and English. He knows many things. The president is a dictator and his government has a lot of power. Nobody says something bad about the president or the government. Corrupt policemen sometimes take money from locals when they want. It is an Arabic country. We must respect their customs. It is not much of a problem to just travel through this country.
Two corrupt young immigration policemen would not let me enter this country without paying them some money, which I did not want. After arguing for one hour, another, older, policeman gave me a transit-only entry stamp. So, I could only stay for 3 hours in Valletta city.
... was crowded by many tourists ...
The 90th country I visited. It is quite steep, to the top of the mountain, 765 m above sea level.
I take a ferry boat from Ancona, Italy to Split, Croatia tonight.
I usually cycle more than 100 km each day. Sometimes, when the total weight of my bicycle becomes more than 70 kg, I can cycle only 100 km. I spend usually 12 hours, including lunch and rest time. Normally, my average speed is 18-20 km per hour. Sometimes, I am on the road all day long. I do not listen to music. I listen to natural sounds. I look at landscapes and the traffic and the road. Also I think about many things when I am pedaling.
My good Swiss friends, Mr. Luciano and Mrs. Verena Lepre cycled around the world for 8 years. Verena told me that most wonderful things about their travel was they had so much time to think about many things. I agree. When I was part of Japanese society, my life was so busy and I did not have much time to think about anything. I lost my time and my freedom to my job. Society exchanges time for money. Money helps to live our lifes without worry. I did not have time to think about many things - also, I did not need time to think about many things.
I think different things depending on my condition, the time, the weather, the road, the places. When my condition is bad, I can think only of the next stop. When I am good condition, I think of many things. About this country, my next destination, the next country, about next year. But I still do not want to think about my the end of my journey. I am still curious to see the next country and I want to cycle more distance. Also, I want to meet more and more real friends on my way. My dream is still strong and still being realised.
I often think about my near future but I also think about my past. Especially about my friends. I have many friends on the all over the world. I remember what they did for me. I am always curious of how they are. Nowadays, it is easy to contact friends all over the world through the Internet. Thanks new technology.
It is very hot and dry in Southern Europe. I am Kosovo right now.
In Kosovo, 90 percent of the poulation is Albanian. But it is part of Serbian territory. In 1999, Serbia attacked Kosovo, and Nato and the USA bombed Kosovo (and Serbia) in 1999. Since then United Nation and Nato armies are in Kosovo and protect the Albanian people from Serbia. It is a safe country now but the people still want to be independent. But the police, immigration, schools, ... everything is Albanian. More than 2 million people live. It's still a very poor country.
I was in Serbia, I feel Serbs are a friendly people. While here in Kosovo, I feel Albanians are also very friendly. But Serbs and Albanians hate each other. It is a very difficult situation for them.
United States wants to help the Kosovars to independence but Russia wants to help Serbia, who do not accept independence for Kosovo. When I cycled in Kosovo, I often saw Albanian flags next to American flags on the roof of their houses.
When I cycle on the road, people quite often invite me to drink water, coffee or beer. I enjoy to cycle in these Albanian countries: Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo.
On June 30th, I arrived into Kosovo from Tetovo, Macedonia. It was a small road and there wasn't a lot of traffic on that road. Both Macedonian and Kosovar immigration police talked friendly to me. The first village after cross the boader was just 50 m from there. Local Kosovar people looked at me carefully. When I said "Hello!" to them, everybody said "Hello!" to me. When I stopped in the middle of the village, a gentleman came to me and he invited me to drink coffee. He was an English teacher at an elementary school in this village.
When I arrived at the main road between Skopje and Pristina, I saw a lot of traffic. It was construction rush season near Pristina city. I did not feel this place was at war only 7 years ago.
All locals said "It is a safe country and there's no problem to travel in this country." But I saw quite a few military trucks on the road. I did not go to the border line between Serbia and Kosovo because I did not want to get in trouble. But if I would have gone there, I would known something more about the situation. I hope they make real peace soon.
I met one UN army who is German policeman at Kacanik, south of Pristina. Later, he sent me his message:
I hope you remember me. I am the German police officer, serving for the United Nations in Kosovo. I read already the most parts of your homepage and it was and is still very interesting. I would like to have the same experience.
Especially, I agree with your point of view regarding friendship. Here in Kosovo, I am working with colleagues from almost 50 different nations. It is a very peaceful and trustful teamwork. Consequently, I was asking myself which power decided for us who is a friend and who is an enemy. Knowledge about other cultures, tolerance and respect, even for the nature, will protect our lives.
It was really a pleasure to meet you. I wish you all the best and stay safe.
I will go to Skopje, Macedonia tomorrow then to Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey ...
Another traveller asked me:
While travelling, I sometimes feel like I am from another planet. How about you?
Your thinking about "holiday people" and "travelers" is exactly same as my thinking. I also do not like holiday people. But I do not want write it strongly, because some of my friends are also holiday tourists. I do not want to hurt them.
I have several bad experiences because of holiday tourists. I think holiday people are usually egoists. They want to enjoy their holiday time using the power of their money without respecting other people. The local tourist-business is happy to make money off of them. But quite a lot of locals do not like holiday people very much. That is a reason I do not like touristic places. Locals in those places do not open their mind to me. They do not know or they do not want to know who is traveler and who is holiday tourist. Some people come to talk to me but usually they are just looking to get money from me and I get tired of declining to talk to them. Thanks to tourists agencies, thanks to the traffic system, thanks to guide books, many touristic places are easy to access and many holiday tourists can visit many places easily.
Do you feel any distance? How do you view people that arrive at the same place as you, but in airconditioned cars and busses? The way they complain about the foreign food in the hotel last night? Their clothes that are always a little too bright?
Yes, I do feel distance. Everybody uses clean and nice clothes even when they arrive in the middle of a desert. My T-shirts are smelly and dirty with sweat and dust (from tourists buses or cars!). They stop a few minutes in the hot desert and go back into airconditioned cars or buses. They are proud of themselves and say: "I went to the desert. I know the desert!" Many 'package' tourists don't talk to the local people.
The good things of traveling (for travelers) is to learn many things from nature or from local people. If we respect local people, they will teach us many things. We can learn their culture, food, life style, real history and so on. And we can make real friends all over the world.
PS. That other traveller is also the webmaster of this site...