Recently I read Exploring New Europe, the story of the author’s trip from Estonia to Albania on a bicycle. The trip occurs in several legs, of around a week each, between which the author returned to the United States to live and work. Unsurprisingly the easiest part of the journey appeared to be on the modern and expansive bike trails created in the old East Germany… the hardest and most dangerous part of the journey was in Bulgaria, the “graveyard of cycling dreams.”
Most days the author journeyed between 45 and 50 miles, starting around 10 AM and finishing around 6 PM. This is a leisurely pace, and it’s inspiring to see how much of the world one can travel by bicycle. I personally appreciated the author’s use of almost no reservations in his travel — while AirBNB has changed this somewhat, the greatest adventures are the ones you can’t find on google beforehand.
Plus, the author released a youtube “trailer” for the book, which captures the spirit well:
This book was published after the recent elections, yet it feels out of time. It reminds me of the celebrations of globalization I read in the 1990s and 200s, like Tom Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999) and The World is Flat (2005). Long ago a called Friedman a genius, but Friedman and his followers have not transitioned to the post-crash world. There’s a breezy attitude toward “risk” that ignores optionality. Beyond “self-confidence” or “vision,” anyone whose experienced an old Empire crumble would be rationally nervous about the future of a new Empire
I’m sure [he] would have moved ahead if he owned by B&B. He would have gotten the needed permits and bank loans for development. [The actual owner], by contract, was just holding on. He didn’t have self-confidence or vision.
Likewise, the Euro-optimism doesn’t take into effect that the European dream is dying in the west, where Britain is soon leaving the Union, and the cause of dying in the East, and the War in the Donbas drags on
Some of the countries I crossed — Serbia, Macedonia, Albania — are still knocking on the door, and Kaliningrad as part of Russia is a special case. Make no mistake, the European dream is still alive.
I enjoy bicycling and liked this book about biking adventures. It was breezy to read and balanced discussing the countries with the author’s own thoughts and some details on the biking. But it doesn’t match the current concerns of Europe, or even the feel of this period of globalization (if the world is still globalizing).
I read Exploring New Europe: A Bicycle Journey in the Kindle edition.