It's been a long journey, and I haven't even got on the bike yet.
It was some time in the winter that I got the idea into my head of cycling to Istanbul. It's a long way - about 2000 miles which for me corresponds to two months of cycling. Everybody who I told about it thought I was mad. But, who wouldn't want to cycle to Istanbul? It's that east-meets-west thing, the gateway to Asia, and seemed like it would be a really satisfying place to end a journey. I'd begin in Amsterdam. Amsterdam to Istanbul has a good ring to it, and Amsterdam's not far away. I'd finish work at the end of May, spend a couple of months at home and then set off in the autumn. The journey would take me across an entire continent, over the Alps and through so many different countries, languages and cultures.
As happens with so many of my travel plans, things didn't quite happen that way. I was really happy with the contract I was on and agreed to extend for an extra month, and then another six weeks. They finally set me free but I've only just stopped working, and September starts next week. Which has left me with a boy at home who's been missing me all year, but a brain that desperately needs a break before I get back to normal life. We talked and reached a compromise whereby I'd go away for one month rather than two.
But there's no way I can cycle to Istanbul in two months. What to do? Just do part of the journey? Go somewhere else entirely? For a while I was going to ride from Strasbourg to Belgrade, two cities I would really like to see, and do the other bits of the journey another time - but I haven't exactly been training and I wouldn't get much of a run-up to the Alps. (Momentum is everything.)
I've finally decided to split the journey into two halves and start from Hook of Holland. It would have been Amsterdam but there are rush hour bike-on-train complications there as the ferry gets in at 7:45am. I'll finish somewhere around eastern Italy / Slovenia / Northern Croatia, depending on how things go.
From the North Sea to the Adriatic. I think that sounds pretty good.