Most people are very aware of what factors affect the climate. Still, climate action is often not treated as a top priority because, seen from a global perspective, individual people, companies and even governments can make little difference. For Jürgen Stühler, a passionate cyclist and a software architect at COSMO CONSULT in Nuremberg, this makes it all the more important to lead by example, to take a stance and motivate others. When the time came for the annual team meeting in San Sebastian, he had an idea: Instead of taking a plane as usual, he decided to bike the 1,500 kilometres to the Basque Country. "It's only a small contribution to climate action, but if I can inspire some colleagues to bike to the office or to take public transportation to their next meeting with a client, then I will have achieved a lot," he said. He is reporting on his trip from Nuremberg to the Basque Country in a travel diary. The money that that the plane ticket would have cost--with a little more on top--was given to the Organisation Target, which was founded by Rüdiger Nehberg and helps women and girls worldwide.
Today, I start off at half past eight under a cloudless sky and with fantastic weather for cycling. When I have the southern foothills of Nuremberg behind me, I go through the Kammersteiner Land: fields, forests, blue skies and a vast landscape - a great start. From Herrieden on though, the weather gets stormy and the planned route turns out to be a highway with heavy traffic. I have no choice but to take a long detour around that leg of the trip. By the time I arrive in Schwäbisch Hall at 6:15 PM, I’m at 167 km - absolutely fine for the start.
Just past Schwäbisch Hall, there is a steep climb. After a few annoying kilometres on and beside a main road, my route takes me over small roads through a beautiful forest landscape - but always with a good uphill climb. The weather is hot in the Neckar region and I arrive at my friend Eric’s place in Karlsruhe significantly dehydrated.
After the overnight stay in Karlsruhe, I’m a bit behind on my schedule, so I have to get in an extra 50 km today. After a breakfast that gives me a lot of energy, I get started at 8:30 AM. Eric accompanies me along the first few kilometers over small roads through Alsace. Shortly after we cross the Rhine to France, he turns around and goes back, while I head south. My route keeps going along the Rhine. It's flat and I make good progress. My GPS guides me through Strasbourg. Sorry Strasbourg, I’ll stop to take a look another time. I bet you are beautiful, but I've got to get to the office! After that I bike for endless kilometers straight ahead along an old canal. The landscape is not exactly spectacular, but good for racking up the kilometres. I arrive in Mulhouse shortly before eight in the evening - just before it gets dark. Now it's time to set up the tent, take a shower, eat something quick and then sleep. Today I covered 215 km.
A perfect day to be on a bike. The weather is great, so is the route. It takes me along the Rhone–Rhine Canal on EuroVelo route 6. Biking through the city of Besançon is a little unpleasant. I guess I picked a bad route. After covering 170 km I find a nice place to camp on the riverbank.
I’m freezing in my sleeping bag tonight. You can tell it's turning autumn. My route today covers over 150 km via Dole to Montceau-les-Mines. It’s mainly flat, along fields and old canals. Looking back, the stretch is more ambitious than I expected. You cannot compare the 150 km to biking on a racing track at home: Getting up at sunrise, doing the biking, finding a place to eat and someplace to sleep before the sun sets. But today marks the half-way point in terms of distance and to celebrate I treat myself to a hotel. Also, because the campsite turns out to be an RV site.
This time I have nice weather and am going over lonely country roads with hills. It’s about time, too, because the flat segments of the trip are gradually getting boring. After about 100 kilometres I have to pedal really hard: the road surface is bad and there is a headwind and the route takes me uphill steadily. At km 145 I also have to master a small pass. I am the only one with a tent at campsite for today. There are only a few people left - the season is coming to an end.
Wind and rain are shaking my tent, so I can hardly sleep. Bad conditions for today's leg of the trip, actually: 205 km to Brive, but with a steep 2300 m difference in altitude. It is still dark when I strike my tent and start off. The route is constantly uphill and downhill. Then there are three really long climbs: up to 1000 m altitude. But there are also beautiful descents as a reward for the climbing. At the end of the day there are steep climbs again, this time of almost 20%. You can see all kinds of landscape. It's fantastically beautiful. My route goes exclusively through the woods with great views. The most beautiful thing of all is that there is no traffic. I'm biking like I'm in a trance. I reach my goal at sunset: Brive-la-Gaillarde.
In contrast to yesterday's ride, today's leg of the journey is unspectacular: 160 KM, a few inclines, otherwise flat, mostly good surface and at lot of tailwind. At last I have time for a beer after I get to the campsite. Atlantic here I come!
At dawn, I start through the vineyards of Bordeaux in a light drizzle. First of all, I want to avoid Bordeaux, but the detour would be more than 30 kilometres. It's a good thing I decide against the detour. I bike through a big city faster than ever before. The right lane of the two-lane streets has been converted into a bus and bike lane. Cyclists are even allowed to cross the traffic lights when it's red - when there is no traffic. Before I know it, Bordeaux is behind me. The rest of the way to the sea I fight against the light drizzle and headwind. My reward is getting to meet with friends at Dune de Pylat and have a great dinner with a sunset on the Atlantic coast.
Early in the morning I say goodbye to my friends, thankful to them for a good night’s sleep in their mobile home. Under a cloudless sky I head south. Instead of staying on my planned route, I take the EuroVelo 1 bike route, which in its full length stretches from the North Cape to Portugal. I bike through large forest areas and small villages on the Atlantic coast far from roads with lots of traffic. I spend my last night in a tent on a campsite by the sea - another opportunity to see the sun set into the Atlantic.
Last leg of the trip! Again, I pack my belongings in the dark and start off into the morning cold. My route continues south along the Eurovelo 1 cycle path, always hugging the coast. Soon I'm biking mainly through urban areas, which slows down my average speed a bit. In Biarritz, where the rich and beautiful are, I stop a few times to take pictures. Then I continue towards San Sebastian up and down hills along the steep Basque cliffs. After a total of 102 kilometres, I arrive at the office at 16:30, where I am greeted by my colleagues and given a welcome beer by Víctor.