My name is Azur, I am 5 years old, and today I want to tell you about my journey along the Rhine, the EuroVelo 15 cycle route, which took me from the top of a mountain in Switzerland to the North Sea in Holland.
First I must tell you that I am not new to cycling. I have always loved it. It all started when I was one year old and that I got a balance bike for my birthday. Gosh that thing was so much fun! I loved going on the BMX dirt track as often as possible and go fast down the slopes! Later, when I was two, I got my first BMX bike from Santa. I learnt how to do tricks, jumps and bunny hops, the skateparks became my preferred place to spend time in, and to tell you the truth, I am still going there very often. On Instagram you will see videos about me.
When I was four years old my parents got me a bike with 7 gears, and then we set off on an adventure along the Norfolk Coast. In 6 days I cycled 184 kilometres. Everybody was proud of me for my performance, and even myself I was thrilled that I had managed the ride, and discovered so many new landscapes and animals, like the seals at Blakeney point. I didn't even think that riding long distances was that tiring!
So, when we came back my parents started to plan our summer trip. They were looking for a place to ride that wouldn't be too hilly, and the idea came to them that the Danube or the Rhine rivers would probably be good choices. However the Danube is a huge river, and nobody thought it could be done in only 4 weeks, but the river Rhine seemed more appropriate, and my parents set their mind on it. Needless to tell you that I had no idea of what was waiting for me!
Starting from London, I was over excited to fly and then take the train from Basel to Disentis. It was long, but once we arrived I was stunned by the landscapes. The weather was really hot, but there, on top of the mountain, it felt cooler and yet very dry, and the sky was blue with almost no clouds in it. When we started cycling out of Disentis, we straight away had to climb some hills, but we were also rewarded with amazing views and long descents back down into the valley. I loved going fast downhill and to follow my dad as close as I could. I once almost reached 45 km/h! How amazing! When we were in the valley we saw the river Rhine which was turquoise, one of my favourite colours. It looked so pure, felt cold and was flowing rapidly like a torrent. Around us we could see some snowy peaks as well as birds of prey in the sky. It really was magic.
As we carried our way we reached the Lake Constance. Together with the mountain part, the lake is one of my favourite places on the entire journey. You know, last summer was very hot, but the lake was so refreshing! We stopped to swim and play in it as often as possible and that remains an amazing memory. Another thing is, when you come from the mountains, to arrive at the lake, you must pass through several countries. It was fun to be in Switzerland, then in Liechtenstein, in Austria, and later, around the lake in and out of Germany. I played a lot at looking at the car plates to try to guess where I was riding, which was not an easy task!
The journey continued and took me to many enchanting places: The Rhine Falls, Bad Säckingen where Europe’s largest covered bridge stands, the French fortified town of Neuf-Brisach, Strasbourg with its beautiful cathedral, the industrial German city of Manheim and the pretty old town in the city of Mainz.
In France we followed a canal on long straight lines for tens and tens of kilometres. That is when I learned to cycle without holding my handlebars! How cool is that? My dad and mum were calling me circus boy because I loved to pretend I was playing the drum or play a video game while cycling. :)
I still enjoyed the ride, but I must say that in Germany the Rhine became much more industrialised, small towns became large cities, turquoise became brown, torrents became wide and navigable waters and often silence became noise. The whole of it looked somewhat less pretty than what we had got used to, but still it was interesting to see how a river evolves, and how life was organised around it, the factories, the electricity plants, the cities, but also the majestic castles, the beautiful and fresh vineyards, the small farming villages and other touristic spot like the Lorelei Rock... I also loved going onto the ferries to cross the river, sometimes up to 3 times a day, and also looking at these large boats on the Rhine was very fascinating.
The last stretch of our journey took us to Holland. I had been there a few time before, but never I had experienced the heavy head wind that we encountered once we arrived there. The country looked beautiful, remote and quieter than the few hundreds kilometres we had just gone through. Before arriving in Rotterdam we passed a lovely place, Kinderdijk, where we saw 19 old windmills, of which some were still in working order. I did visit one of them, as well as a reconstruction of a small village showing the Dutch way of life in the 18th century. It was fantastic!
At last we made our way to the Hook of Holland, the last destination of our trip, and my mum, my dad and I went to swim in the North Sea to celebrate our great achievement! 26 days earlier we had started our journey and we had cycled 1,440 kilometres, across 6 countries. My parents kept on repeating they could not believe I had cycled the whole of it without ever complaining, but rather enjoying it. The truth is that every evening, while they were setting the tent and cooking I still had some more energy left to play football, swim, run, laugh and speak about the extraordinary places we had discovered day after day and thank to the amazingly well designed EuroVelo 15 route without which none of the above would have had been possible.
Now I just have one more thing to add. Before we went on this adventure nobody thought I could actually ride the whole of it. It just happened that I could, and that it is one of the best experience I have ever had. So by writing this I want to encourage any of you who is still hesitating: take on your bikes and go discover the world. Do it and you will be shocked at how magical everything becomes when you witness it from within, when you live it at a human pace, when you go through it with time to appreciate it, understand it and memorize it. For my part I already know that nothing will be able to erase the magic of this journey from my memory. I am now part of the Rhine, and the Rhine is part of me!
It just remains one question after all that, and it is: what next?