Epilogue

On Wednesday, 4 Sept 2019, I walked into the Central Train Station in downtown Oslo, Norway, bringing to a conclusion my walk across Europe.  The trek transited seven countries in 151 days, beginning in Athens, Greece on 7 January 2019.  The walk was all I had hoped it would be, and so much more.  In this Epilogue, I will provide some data about the trip and also a few thoughts on some of the observations I made while backpacking thorough the amazingly beautiful, but diverse, European countries of Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.  

First, a few statistics.  The 2314 mile (3724 kilometer) walk took 151 days, divided into two parts.  Part 1 began on Monday, 7 January, in Athens, Greece, and ended on 12 March in Verona, Italy.  During this 65 day period, Dave Alcorn and I walked 18 days across the Peloponnesian Peninsula and the mainland of Greece, ferried across the Adriatic Sea to the southern coast of Italy, and then walked 47 days through the heart of Italy.  We saw the beautiful shorelines of the Greek Isles, the Adriatic Coast of Italy, as well as Rome and Florence.  At the end of Part 1, we flew back to the U.S. for a 90 day break while observing the European Union’s restrictions on extended travel in Europe.  

On 11 June, I flew back to Verona and continued the walk, spending the next 10 days completing the Italian portion of the walk, including transiting Brenner Pass in the Italian Alps.  After Italy, it took only 5 days to walk across a very narrow stretch of Austria, including the beautiful city of Innsbruck. After Austria, I began a 46 day stretch through the heart of Germany, transiting the cities of Munich, Nuremberg, Hanover, Hamburg, and my favorite, Lubeck, located on the Baltic Sea.  But the highlight of Germany was definitely the many small Bavarian towns and villages I stayed in or walked through.  

After Germany, I took a short ferry boat ride to Denmark where I began my trek through the first of three Scandinavian countries.  Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen, was one of the highlights of the entire trip with it Baltic coastline and beautiful canals.  After a week in Denmark, it was on to Sweden, where I spent a little over two weeks walking along its North Sea coast and through the city of Gothenburg.  The walk ended in Oslo after walking five days in Norway.  

In all, the walk took me to seven countries, totaling 151 days, with 13 of those being days off to rest.  I stayed in 143 different hotels and ate out 453 times.  I averaged 16.9 miles per day on the days I walked, with the longest day being a 27 mile day in Germany.  I went through four pairs of shoes, and went to the doctor one time with an infected blister on my foot.  There were two places where I did not actually walk; both in Greece.  First, Dave and I took a ride in the back of a pickup truck for about a quarter of a mile to get past some aggressive dogs blocking our route on a remote road.  Second, we were unable to get past a girl collecting tolls at a tunnel that prohibited pedestrians.  We stood at the toll booth until two nice men gave us a ride in their car for three miles through the tunnel.  Other than that, plus the three ferry rides that transited waterways with no bridges, I walked all 2314 miles.  

Now for some thoughts and observations I made during my five months in Europe.  Please understand these comments are not based on any scientific data; they’re just my interpretation of what I observed and experiences as I crept my way through the seven countries I visited.  

First, Europeans are not addicted to their cell phones.  They don’t use them in public places like Americans do, and I can count on my fingers the number of times I saw someone looking at or talking on their cell phone while driving.  And that is based on me making eye contact with literally tens of thousands of cars and their drivers as I walked along Europe’s highways. 

Second, as I mentioned earlier in one of my journal postings, it was my general observation that most people in Europe do not attend church.  Most small towns have one church, usually in the middle of town.  Larger cities have several churches.  However, I walked through many towns during times when you would expect to see people at these churches and rarely did I see anyone there.  And I can’t remember seeing any churches in the suburbs; something you would call your local church.  

People in Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, are very disciplined about following rules and regulations.  Rarely did I see anyone jaywalking, running red lights, cutting ahead of people in line, drivers cutting off other drivers in traffic, not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, etc..  

Most people in Europe do not initiate conversation with strangers.  Rarely would someone greet me on the street by saying “Good Morning”, “Hello,” etc..  Only if I spoke first would they return a greeting.  However, if I initiated the greeting or conversation, people were very warm and cordial.  

People in Europe, especially the Scandinavian countries, almost exclusively use plastic (credit card/debit card) vs. cash.  In Denmark, I could not find a single place to exchange currency.  Not even their banks have actual currency on hand.  The same held true for Sweden.  The only sources for actual money were a few money exchanges like Western Union or an ATM machine.  By the time I got to Norway, I didn’t even bother getting any of their currency.  I just used my plastic like everyone else.  

Southern Europe is very affordable; northern Europe is very expensive.  Beginning in Greece, hotels, restaurants, and anything else a tourist would want was inexpensive.  As I worked my way north, things got more expensive.  A $120 hotel room in the U.S. would cost $50 in Greece and $200+ in Norway.  

Food was plentiful and very good everywhere I went.  There were regional specialties in every country, but the one consistency in all seven countries I visited was Italian food.  There is an Italian restaurant or pizzeria in every town, big and small, in Europe.  And generally speaking, every country’s  local beer is cheaper to drink than soda, and in many cases, cheaper than water.  

There is absolutely no fear of random violence in the European countries I visited.  I discussed this issue with several people I met, including police officers, and they attribute this to the fact that there is no public gun ownership in most European countries.  It’s a cultural thing, and they just shake their heads in disbelief at the number of random shootings we have in America.  Their greatest fear is of being attacked by terrorist; not an attack from their own fellow citizens. 

People in Europe, especially northern Europe, ride their bicycles, walk, or use public transportation to get from point A to B.  For example, there are more bicycles in Denmark than automobiles.  And the public transportation systems, both busses and trains, are cheap, reliable, and on time.  I rode a bus 15 miles from one town to another in Sweden and we passed 17 bus stops, scattered all along the rural highway we were on, between the two cities.  This makes it possible for even those living in rural areas to use public transportation, and they do. 

Language is not a barrier in Europe.  Most people in the countries I visited spoke some English.  In northern Europe, almost everyone, regardless of age, spoke English as a second language.  For example, in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, students take four years of English beginning in first grade.  

Finally, I was surprised to find that all the countries I walked through, with the exception of Greece, are extremely agricultural.  Cash crops like wheat and corn are everywhere in Europe.  

In closing, I want to emphasize how cordial the people were in all seven countries I visited.  I never had an experience where I felt being an American in a foreign country was creating a barrier.  To the contrary, when I told someone I was from Texas, I always was greeted with the stereotypical conversation about cowboys, horses, and hot weather.  

So that puts a wrap on this 5 month long adventure in Europe.  I can honestly say it was every bit as rewarding as my walk across America in 2015.  I would highly recommend that any of you who have never been to any of the seven countries I visited to please go and visit.  You will be as highly enriched by the cultural experience as I was.  JB

Being greeted at the airport by granddaughters Bailey and Ava.

My airport greeting in Austin.

Back home again in San Antonio.

   

Categories: Updates | 2 Comments

Day 151

Start:  Holmlia

Finish:  Oslo, Norway

Distance:  8

Total:  2314

I MADE IT!  I walked the last eight miles into Oslo this morning and it felt amazing!  

With only a short distance to walk to the finish line today, it should have been a piece of cake.  Just sleep in late, have a nice breakfast, then go out and enjoy the stroll. I wish it had been that easy. But with rain forecast to begin at 10:00, I was up at 5:30, breakfast at 6:00, and on the train at 7:00 to get out to Holmlia where I stopped yesterday. The train ride was only 20 minutes, so I was on the road at 7:20. The weather was beautiful to start the day with the temp at 43. 

My route was all on sidewalks, walking through neighborhoods in the outskirts of Oslo.  I had a steep climb to start the day, and I stayed up in the hills away from the shoreline until I was a mile from downtown Oslo.  As I got close to the city, there were some clearings where I could see the port of Oslo, downtown, and the hills that surround the city. There were several cruise ships in port. Also, I could clearly see the Olympic Ski Jumping venue on a hillside north of town. Oslo hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics and still hosts the World Championships in Ski Jumping on occasion. 

As I got close to the Central Train Station which marked the end of my walk, the skies turned gray and shortly after I got inside the station, it began to rain lightly. After eating a light lunch, I took a 30 train ride to the town of Gardermoen where Oslo International Airport is located. I’ll be staying here tonight and flying out early Thursday morning bound for Texas. 

I plan to post an Epilogue to capture the highlights of my walk after I’ve been home a few days. However, it goes without saying how amazing this adventure has been. From its beginning in Athens, Greece in January to the end today in Oslo, Norway, I can only say great things about my experiences with the people of Europe. They have been welcoming in every way. And the incredible scenery I’ve seen from the highest mountaintops in Italy, Austria, and Germany, to the scenic sea shores of Greece and the Scandinavian countries, I could never describe it in words. You just had to see it to believe it. But now it’s back home to see other sites that are just as amazing, like the faces of my family, who I haven’t seen in three months. I can’t wait to get home. 

So in closing, thanks to all of you for following along with me. I have tried to put a touch of realism in my posts; not to try to impress you, but to let you share some of my experiences from day-to-day. It’s been my honor to have you tag along. I have been motivated by knowing you were out there. So watch in a few days for my last post where I’ll give you a few thoughts on some of my observations over the last few months. Thanks. JB. 

PS. I posted a final video. Click on Videos to watch.

An early morning look at part of Oslo, Norway.

My last train ride out to start Day 151.

My route was on a ridge above the shoreline.

Central Oslo with the Ski Jump on the hill just left of center.

The finish line; Oslo’s Central Train Station.


Categories: Updates | 4 Comments

Day 150

Start:  Vestby

Finish:  Holmlia

Distance:  18

Total:  2306

My plan for today was to walk to a point close enough to central Oslo that I could finish my walk Wednesday morning before the forecast rain starts. I believe I accomplished that goal. 

The day started off with a steady rain. I had some breakfast at the hotel and sat around my room until the rain stopped at 10:00. Today’s route had a little bit of everything; bike routes, highways, farm roads, logging roads, and more up and down hills than I care to remember. It was overcast most of the day but became partly cloudy mid-afternoon. 

By about 2:30, I had made it to the first train station that was a reasonable distance from Oslo.  If I had stopped there and caught the train into town, I would have 11 miles to walk tomorrow to finish. From that point, there were more train stations lines up on the same route about a mile apart. So each time I passed up a train station and walked on to the next, I was taking a mile off tomorrow’s final day. So at 3:30, I’d had as much fun as I could stand and caught the train into Oslo, leaving me eight miles to walk tomorrow. Tomorrow’s rain is forecast to be light until around 10:00.  My plan is to get on the train early tomorrow morning, ride out to the train stop where I stopped today, and walk back to the Oslo central train station to finish before the heavier rain starts.  

After I get through walking tomorrow in central Oslo, I catch a train to the airport which is 20-30 miles outside the city. I stay at an airport hotel Wednesday night and catch a 7:45 AM flight Thursday morning to come home. So this adventure is rapidly coming to an end. Thanks everyone for following along. JB. 

Walking the backroads south of Oslo.

I saw a moose sign, but no sign of a moose.


Categories: Updates | 1 Comment

Day 149

Start:  Moss

Finish:  Vestby

Distance:  18

Total:  2288

My walk today was very enjoyable with great weather and easy terrain, but my experience with tonight’s hotel threw a damper on my enthusiasm. 

The day got started in Moss with the thermometer reading a crisp 48 degrees. There was no wind and the skies were crystal clear.  The first couple of miles were on a walking trail through the woods.  I’m always apprehensive about wandering down these trails because I never know what’s lurking around the next corner. Will the trail be under water?  Will there be a locked gate that will keep me from continuing?  This time there were no surprises and I finally made it out of the woods and out onto a main road. 

My route was off and on bike trails all day which seemed to end with no warning and no obvious reason.  When the trail ends, I have to hop onto the road and ask for a share of the pavement from the approaching traffic. It’s usually not an issue. 

Once I got to the town of Vestby, my lodging was a couple of miles past the town and across the interstate. It was advertised as a hotel and campground. I found it without a problem and walked into the office to check in. The lady said “you know the hotel is not actually at this location, right?”  I said no, I actually did not know that. She said it’s about a 7-8 minute walk back towards town where I’d just come from. I recalled seeing a hotel as I walked between the town and the hotel office, but it looked closed as there were no cars in the parking lot, etc., and it seemed like it was farther away than she said.  While she took care of registering me, I went to Google Maps and found the hotel was actually a 20 minute walk, ie, one mile.  So after getting my key, I got back on the road and backtracked to the hotel. It’s not a huge deal, just an irritant. I walked two extra miles (40 minutes) today, and I’ll walk an extra mile tomorrow as I go past the hotel office again. 

So I have 26 miles left to the finish line. My plan is to walk about 16-18 tomorrow to one of the suburbs of Oslo, take the train into town where I have a hotel reservation tomorrow night, then ride the train back out to the suburb and finish the last 8-10 miles into Oslo Wednesday morning. The weather is forecast to be rainy both of the next two days so I may be finishing, and singing, in the rain the rest of the way. Thanks for reading. JB.

Taking a walk in the woods to start day 149.

Good Morning, Norway!

Another river along my Day 149 route.

 

Categories: Updates | Leave a comment

Day 148

Start:  Sarpsborg

Finish:  Moss

Distance:  21

Total:  2270

Today’s 21 mile walk got off to a slow start because of rain, but at the end of the day I’d turned due north and am headed straight towards Oslo now. 

After a good night’s rest and an awesome breakfast buffet, I waited until the rain stopped at 10:00 to get on the road. There were some big thunderstorms last night, but as forecast, it all moved through by mid-morning. My route was very hilly again but I had a bike trail to follow most of the day. Also, I spent the majority of the day walking west rather than north, but my route has been paralleling the freeway ever since I got into Norway and it runs through the town of Moss, which is on the west coast of Norway, so here I am. 

Tomorrow, it’s another 17 miles north.  I’m very near the coastline, but I don’t think I’ll actually see the water again until Wednesday when I finish in Oslo.  

That’s about it for Day 148. I hope everyone has a great Labor Day holiday tomorrow. JB. 

Tonight’s lodging in Moss, Norway.

Categories: Updates | Leave a comment

Day 147

Start:  Halden

Finish:  Sarpsborg

Distance:  17

Total: 2249

After a so-so stay at last night’s hotel, which I won’t get into, today was a good walk to the very spread out city of Sarpsborg, Norway. 

With only an average distance to walk today, I didn’t start until about 9:00. The skies stayed cloudy most of the day. After leaving the hotel, I immediately found myself walking through farmland. Wheat appeared to be the crop of choice, but most of it had already been harvested. 

At lunchtime, I found a convenience store that had some fast food items. It was decent, but very expensive. After lunch, I almost immediately found myself walking through the suburbs of Sarpsborg, population 55,000. However, the town seemed to be built along only one very long Main Street.  This went on for several miles until I got close to the actual city center where there were more streets. 

My hotel is on the far north side of town. When I walked up into the parking lot, it was obvious there was a car enthusiast gathering here at the hotel. Taking a closer look, I noticed all the cars were Corvettes. After checking in, I went out onto the terrace where there were maybe a hundred men and women all wearing the same red shirts. After talking to a group of them, I learned this is the summer gathering of the Scandinavian Corvette Club. There are Corvettes and their owners here from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. They seem to be drinking their share of the beer, and having a great time showing off their cars. 

Tomorrow I get one more day closer to Oslo with a walk of 20 miles. JB. 

A typical country home along the road in Norway.

The southern Norway countryside.

A Norwegian church built in the year 1250.

A few of the Corvettes gathered at my hotel in Sarpsborg .

Tonight’s hotel, the very American Quality Inn in Sarpsborg, Norway.
Categories: Updates | Leave a comment

Day 146

Start:  Strömstad, Sweden

Finish:  Halden, Norway

Distance:  19

Total:  2232

Today I hit another milestone; I crossed the Swedish/Norwegian border and am now walking in my last country for this trip. 

The day got started with a good breakfast at the hotel in Tanumshede followed by a 30 minute bus ride back to Strömstad where I stopped walking yesterday. Today was cloudy and winds gusting to 40 mph. Fortunately for me, the wind was at my back. The terrain today was very hilly so I spent the going up and down rolling hills on backroads. 

As I neared the border between Sweden and Norway, but still on the Swedish side, there were several retailers selling tobacco and alcohol.  The stores looked very crowded with shoppers, so there must be some advantage for people from Norway to come into Sweden to shop. 

Once I reached the border, the two countries were separated by a deep gorge and an inlet from the sea. The bridge was clearly marked half way across with a sign and lines painted on the pavement designating the border. The old border checkpoint stations are still in place, but are abandoned now due to the open borders. 

Once I crossed into Norway, it was about two miles downhill to my hotel. Unfortunately, the symbol on Google Maps for the hotel is not in the right location so I walked an extra mile trying to find the place. I finally saw a truck driver walking toward a restaurant and asked him if he knew where the missing hotel was located. He did and I finally found it. 

Sweden was a beautiful country.  It’s shoreline on the North Sea is rocky and there are hundreds of islands and inlets that form the coast. Also, I didn’t meet a single person in Sweden who didn’t speak English. And just like Denmark, cash is almost nonexistent in Sweden. I talked to one gentleman who said he hadn’t spent any cash in three years. No matter how small the purchase, Swedes use a card. I’m assuming Norway will be the same way and since I’m only spending five days here, I don’t plan to get any of their currency. 

So tomorrow I set out on my brief walk through southern Norway. It’s about 80 miles from here to the finish line in Oslo.  I have five days to get there. I’m still one day ahead. If the weather forecast stays good, I plan to take a 23 mile day that’s in my walking plan next Monday and split it into two shorter days. Then I’ll arrive in Oslo right on time next Wednesday, 4 Sept.  

That’s it for today.  Have a great three day weekend everybody!  JB. 

PS:  I posted a new video. Click on the video tab to watch it. 

About to walk across the border into Norway.

Taken from the bridge as I straddled the Swedish/Norwegian border.

No questions about where this border lies.

Looking west from the border bridge. That’s the bridge for the freeway in the distance.

Categories: Updates | Leave a comment

Day 145

Start:  Tanumshede 

Finish:  Strömstad 

Distance:  19

Total:  2213

Today’s walk was a real grind. Narrow roads, rain, and not even a place to take a break and get some lunch were the order of the day. 

I knew there was a strong possibility (90%) that I would be walking in the rain today. Unfortunately, the strongest chance of rain was from 11:00-2:00; right in the middle of the day; so I really couldn’t start early enough or late enough to avoid the wet stuff. So I got started walking at 8:00 and got as far down the road as I could before the rains came. There was no bike trail, but the road had a nice shoulder for the first few miles. Then, just as predicted, it started raining at 11:00. At the same time, the road shoulder went away. I stopped and put on my parka at a bus stop and headed out, sharing the road with oncoming traffic. The traffic wasn’t too heavy, and everyone seemed to be going a little slower because of the rain and wet roads. When I got about two miles from Strömstad, the rain stopped and a bike trail started. 

My destination today was the main bus stop in the coastal town of Strömstad.  Because I was unable to get a hotel room in that town, I took the bus back to Tanumshede to spend another night. Taking the bus was easy, even though I had to do a bus change along the way. Tomorrow, I’ll take the bus back to Strömstad and walk 18 miles to Halden, my first town in Norway. 

That’s all for today. Most of my peeps are going to the Texas A&M football game tonight in College Station. I’ll wake up at 2:30 AM tomorrow morning and see if I can watch it on my iPad. Unfortunately, the WatchESPN app doesn’t work in Europe. JB. 

The rocky Swedish coastline near Strömstad.
Categories: Updates | Leave a comment

Day 144

Start:  Dingle

Finish:  Tanumshede

Distance:  18

Total:  2194

Today got started with an early breakfast and a train ride from Uddevalla where I spent the night to Dingle where I stopped walking yesterday. The train left at 8:00 and got me to Dingle at 8:30. The weather forecast said rain all morning and thunderstorms this afternoon. When I got off the train it was raining lightly so I covered up with my poncho. The rain only lasted about an hour. When I got to within a couple of hours of my hotel, it started to look like thunderstorms could be forming, so I hustled up and knocked 20 minutes off the last two hours of walking and made it before the rain started. 

Tomorrow will be my last full day in Sweden. I walk 19 miles to the seaside town of Strömstad. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a hotel room there, so I’ve got to take the bus or train back here to Tanumshede and spend another night after tomorrow’s walk. Friday morning, it’s back to Strömstad and an 18 mile walk across the Swedish/Norwegian border to Halden, Norway. Today I saw my first highway sign for Oslo, but it was too far away to get a good picture. But I’m definitely going in the right direction to find it one week from today. JB. 

One of the many lakes in this part of Sweden.

My hotel in Tanumshede on Day 144.


Categories: Updates | Leave a comment

Day 143

Start:  Uddevalla 

Finish:  Dingle

Distance:  21

Total:  2176

Today I had a good day walking to the very small town of Dingle (pronounced Ding-Lay). It was another hot one but I was able to slack pack because I’m back in Uddevalla to spend another night. 

I got started early this morning because I needed to get to Dingle, 21 miles north, by 3:18 to catch the train back to Uddevalla. If I was late and missed the train, the next one didn’t come for two hours. So I got out the door at 7:30, giving myself an extra hour just in case. My route was very walking friendly with either a bike trail or wide highway shoulder. 

At about 11:30, I happened upon a Circle K and got some lunch, then pressed on, getting to Dingle about an hour before the train. There was an old abandoned train station building that appeared to have been closed for some time. So unfortunately, there was no place to sit down and get out of the sun so I parked myself on a large trash can and waited for the train. By the time the train came, there were several people there to catch a ride. The train ride back to Uddevalla took 25 minutes. 

Tomorrow morning, I’ll catch an 8:10 train back to Dingle to pick up my walk. Tomorrow’s weather calls for rain showers all day until 3:00, then thunderstorms. With 18 miles to walk, I should be able to beat the thunderstorms but I might get wet tomorrow with the showers. 

In closing, I want to say hello to granddaughters Bailey and Ava. They started back to school yesterday; Bailey in 3rd grade and Ava in Kindergarten. They are the sweetest things and I know they’ll have a great school year. I can’t wait to get home next week to see them. JB. 

Granddaughters Bailey and Ava back to school.

The abandoned train station in Dingle, Sweden.
Categories: Updates | Leave a comment