.

.
IPPNW
BAN Tour 2010
Biking against Nuclear Weapons
.
August 14th - 24th 2010
.
Idea
....................
Route
..............
Blog
..............
Photos and Videos
....
Participants
.......
Media coverage
.....
Sponsors
...
Basel World Congress
...
Infos: Nuclear Weapons
...
.
.

.

Blog

How many doctors does it take to carry a message across Europe? 35 medical students and young doctors have taken some time out of their busy schedule to be part of this GREAT event.... a life changing experience! Our organizers: Michael, Alex, André, and Roman have been supportive and diligent in sending support letters for visas and answering emails promptly.


Day -1: Thursday, August 12th, 2010 - The first arrivals

The day started with the arrival of the 27 rental bikes in Düsseldorf, which were delivered to the wonderfully helpful Radstation right behind the train station. Chloe from the US, Vilena from Russia, André from Switzerland, Agyeno and John from Nigeria and Carlos from Portugal were the first BAN Tour participants to arrive and were put up at the apartements of local IPPNW doctors, medical students or MediNetz members. The MediNetz is a local institution run by the refugeee initiative stay! and IPPNW doctors and medical students, who attempt to offer undocumented migrants access to health services. The MediNetz office was also turned into a little nuke-workshop, as some of the early arrivals began to assemble our B61 model, which was to accompany our tour and visualize the threat that nuclear weaons still pose to the health of the European population.
After some hardcore painting, nailing, wood-cutting and uranium enrichment in the MediNetz-backyard, we went on to explore the Altstadt, the historic old city of Düsseldorf. This place, which is basically a conglomerate of bars and food stalls is popularly known as the "longest bar of the world" and served us well for a first evening of getting to know each other over a few German beers and some great food. Alex eventually took off for his last night shift of that week and some of us got lost in the intricacies of German public transport, spending most of the night at various train stations before finally falling into bed at around 3 am. What a start for the tour....

Sum up of the day: Gemütlichkeit (a German word, encompassing "comfort", "relaxation", "atmosphere", "total well-being" and much, much more ;)

Distance covered: 5 m, pushing the bikes from the transport van to the Radstation

Props: the Deutsche Bahn for all the nice rental bikes as well as the Radstation Düsseldorf, the refugee initiative Flüchtlingsinitiative stay! e.V. and to all the MediNetz members who hosted us









Day 0: Friday, August 13th, 2010 - Meeting in Düsseldorf


On August 13th, the rest of the participants trickled into the city. While Chudamani from Nepal was picked up early in the morning by Alex, others were met by Christoph from the local MediNetz group, holding up a BAN-Tour Sign and again others arrived at the train station by train. Except for Cesar and Ahmed who somehow got stranded at the airpor, the welcoming committee did great work and eventually everyone made it to the Rheinwiesen, the large public park on the Rhine riverfront, opposite of the old city and the Landtag - the parliament of Northrhine-Westfalia. Here, the first tents were pitched, as more and more of the BANnies made their way to the site.
The hungry travellers were greeted by a delicious vegan dinner provided by the local peace group "Food - not Bombs", who had offered to do the catering in Düsseldorf. They then took turns, transporting the bikes from the Radstation straight through the city to the Rhine shore, taking various tours through the regal Hofgarten Park, down the posh Königsallee or alongside the Landtag across the bridge to the Western side of the Rhine. In the evening, as the sun went down behind the houses along Kaiser-Wilhelm-Allee and the colorful candle-lit lampions were hung up in the trees above the campsite, the air was filled by the sound of René Dombrowskis voice and his guitar, as we welcomed the BAN Tour participants with songs against exploitation, war and militarism. After a welcoming round and some last minute planning for the following day, we all went off to sleep in our tents, cuddled by the fresh air of the city and the excitment of what was to come.

Sum up of the day: Great day, cool night

Distance covered: countless kilometers shuttling bikes back and forth from the Radstation to the Rheinwiesen ;)

Props: Alex and Stephi for making practical preparations for our comfort, Christoph for picking up people at the airport, the mayor of Düsseldorf for giving us a special permission to camp on the Rhineshore and the Youth Hostel of Düsseldorf for letting us use their showers and toilets for the night







Day 1: Saturday, August 14th, 2010 - Düsseldorf to Köln


Our first wake up call came a little too early for some of us, while others were already up, testing their rental bikes, warming up and getting ready for our first day. While the five people who had volunteered to take turns driving the wicked VW Bully, Carlos, Rauf, Liina, Alix and Alex, had gotten up extra early in order to pick it up from the other side of town, the rest of the BANnies were cycling across the bridge to the press conference at the Landtag, the state parliament of Nordrhine-Westfalia.
It was there that we met up with Hans-Christian Markert, a member of parliament for the governing Green party.   It was here that we organized our first Target.
"Food - not Bombs" prepared a wonderful vegan breakfast for us. Who would have guessed that vegan scrambled eggs or vegan Mett (specialty of the Rhineland, usually consisting of raw meat with onions) would be this delicious!

After a well attended press conference and some opening statements by Mr. Markert, we started off with our brand new yellow BAN Tour T-shirts, which had come all the way from the Phillipines and have been a great help when identifying the group.
.
After an amazing ride through the inner city and Volksgarten Park of Düsseldorf, we eventually reached the small suburb of Benrath with its bodacious pink Rococo Palace.
In Benrath we were hosted by the Totzauer family, whose daughter Maren is an IPPNW member and a veteran of the Baltic and the Overriding Trident Bike Tours. The Totzauers were wonderful and generous hosts as all Germans we have met so far. After refilling our bottles with fresh water, we continued alongside the Rhine until the ferry-dock.Loading our bikes and the Bully onto the crowded ferry, we said goodbye to Düsseldorf and our hosts who stood waving on the dock and were carried across the stream to the medieval city of Zons.
This old tolling post of Cologne has remained largely untouched by the times ever since the Rhine - its lifeline-  was diverted away from it. It is a worthwhile place to visit when in Germany - the old towers of the city wall, the mighty windmill, the cobblestone alleys and the hal-timbered houses of the 14th century gave us all a sense of the history of the pleace. From the memorial square of the "war of swine" (appearantly one of the more infamous chapters Zons' history), we cycled south towards the old Roman city of Cologne.
Stopping for an hour, we cooled ourselves of and enjoyed a swim in the cozy Fühlinger Lake.
After this refreshment, we arrived at the old medieval Northern city gate of Cologne after our first 35 km to be greeted by an old friend - Andrzej from Poland, an old veteran from the Baltic Bike Tourhad spontanously taken some vacation in order to join the tour from Cologne onwards. After an exchange of hugs and greetings, we were led by Stephi, our local guide for Cologne through the beautiful Belgian Quarter and the Stadtgarten Park to our sleeping place - a day care center of the Quakers. Amongst children's toys, tiny chairs and loads of cushy pillows, we put down our sleeping mats, freshend up and left for the Aachener Weiher, a giant pond in the middle of the green belt of Cologne, right beside the university.
There, we were already eagerly awaite by the regional IPPNW group, who waited with a huge BBQ, kegs of local beer and wonderful company. Needless to say that the sunset behind the Aachener Weiher and the skyline of Cologne was a proper end to an amazingly rich first day of cycling.

Sum up of the day: "Make food not war!"

Distance covered: 53 km

Props: Michael Gnilo for making and sending the great T-shirts from the Philippines (without the use of child labour !) and Alix and Dominik for taking over the driving of the van that day... we felt very sorry, seeing you sit in the scorching bus, waiting to get on the ferry...







Day 2: Sunday, August 15th, 2010 - Köln to Bonn


In the morning, Stephi and Alex spend the better part of an hour driving through the deserted town, looking for some bread and finally happened upon an open Merzenich Bakery, where they found all those wonderful breakfast items that Germany is so famous for - Röggelchen, Vollkornbrötchen, Weckchen and whatever else your tastebuds desire. After a hearty breakfast in the courtyard of the Quaker House, we packed up and cycled into the inner city. On our way we passed remnants of Roman towers and walls as well as medieval buildings like the heraldic armory with its peculiar red-and-white windows until the flat marble square of the Domplatte opened up before us to reveal the cathedral of Köln, the Dome. Whenever in Köln, make sure not to miss visiting the magnificent and awesome Dom (luckily, it is located right beside the train station, so you can't miss it!) With tourists all over the place and today being Sunday, there was no better place to hold our first flashmob... please take a look at the video on Youtube. Thanks and much love to everyone from Köln who came and joined in, spontaneously falling to the ground and lying there, playing dead for 30 seconds. This event which managed to cause quite a row amongst the tourist groups and passerbys on the square, was meant to call attention to the onging threat that nuclear weapons still pose to each and every one of us - even in a city like Cologne, the danger of a nuclear attack still exists - be it inadvertandly or by the hand of terrorists. As long as nuclear weapons still exist, every city is a potential target. But cities should not be targets.

That's why after the flashmob, we held a Target installation on the square, informing the public  about the fact that nuclear weapons were still stationed in Germany and about the effects that a nuclear attack would have on a city like Cologne. Like most public events in Germany, it was great until the rain started to pour own on us. Helped by Carlos, who manged to organize a delicous cup of coffee for everyone to warm us up, we started our 43 km long journey towards Bonn despite the rain and wind.
Enduring almost endless masses of waters in our faces, clothes and shoes, we somehow managed to reach our lunch meeting point at the Augustusburg palace in Brühl. Instead of camping in the palace garden, however, we decided not to risk drowning and rather had a very entertaining, eco-friendly lunch, sheltered from the rain by the roof of the Brühl railway station. Ulli and Rauf had down wonders, organizing scrumptious wraps and pasta salads for everyone. Having thus regained some stamina and perhaps inspired by the super fast trains passing us every couple of minutes, about half of us decided to weather the storm for another 20km and continued on to Bonn by bike. Cycling along the Rhine river in a monstrous speed, they arrived at the Biergarten Alter Zoll, where we had originally planned to drink a rewarding Radler (typical German summer drink of beer and lemonade) and found the shutters closed, the benches littered with fallen chestnuts and the ground deluged by rainwater. What a storm it must have been! The other half of the group sought out the dry quarters of the Evangelische Studierendengemeinde (ESG) early by taking the train to Bonn directly from Brühl.         

Once we had all gathered in the ESG on the splendid Poppelsdorfer Allee, André, Stephi and Alex drove off for a little shopping tour to Cologne-Bonn airport and Stephi and Misha created a bountiful meal of Pita-Pizza, Bread-Lasagna and some steaming, sweet German Glühwein (mulled wine with cloves, cinammon and sugar) as digestif.

Sum up of the day: "Less tiring than yesterday" -- Rauf (well, he drove the bus...)
                               "Wet, Dirt and Fun" -- Alix and Soila
                               "Wet, yet warm. I am starting to feel the group bonding" - Lori

Distance covered: 44 km

Props: The people who joined us for the flash mob, Misha for loading up the van, and with Stephi, preparing a really tasty, warm and vergetarian dinner








Day 3: Monday, August 16th, 2010 - Bonn to Koblenz


After a well rested night of sleep we had an energizing breakfast of scrambled eggs and German specialties and took off from the ESG in Bonn


From the ESG, we biked down Poppelsdorfer Allee and biked down town where we held a Target X and the mayor of the city, Mr. Nimptsch welcomed us and showed his support for our cause.
During the target X, we had some people sign our postcards addressed to the German minister of defence, asking for the removal of the last US nukes stationed in Germany.
Following some chat with the press and informing people about the purpose of our trip, we finally got started and passe through the luscious Rheinauen Park just south of Bonn's old government district. Passing down the Rhine river on its Eastern side, we came by the ruins of medieval castles like the Drachenburg (Dragon's castle) or the Rolandsbogen (Roland's gate) and were introduced to fairytales and legends of the knights of the Rhine, of dragons, sorcerers, dwarves and giants... Of course we stopped on the way to enjoy some scrumptious blackberries and green apples from the trees alongside the road. Eventually, we passed some giant hills full of grapevines, which gave our tired legs the rest... we were in desparate need of some lunch!
After some hardcore biking up and down the grapevines, we finally met up with the van, which had set up lunch at the foot of an old palace. After eating lots of chocolate at the lunch site, we went downhill to continue on our way again. Coming down the steep vinyards, Mohamed from Egypt got too close to the curb and tore a ligament on his elbow - our first real injury on the tour and sadly the end for his biking...
Before getting to our final destination, we were received in Neuwied by members of the christian peace group EIRENE, who treated us to home-made cakes and drinks and had also organized some TV coverage of us passing through the narrow streets of the old city.

After some refreshments in the garden of EIRENE, the injured and tired bikers took the train the last bit of the way, while the majority of the group got on their bikes again and drove off to the final destination of the day - the Koblenz suburb of Arenberg - a beautiful community whose only fault lay in its situation on an impossibly steep hill... After getting to Arenberg with barely enough air in our lungs to speak, we had to get down to the business of fixing dinner - and endeavour that was spearheaded by Misha, Stephi and Katja. What a great way to end this hard day of cycling! The night was spent sleeping in the community centre of the local church. Andy, a friend of Alex from Düsseldorf had organized this accomodation and his parents let us take turns using the showers in their home. They were smiling throughout - despite around 30 people using their bathroom until well past midnight. Luckily, tomorrow will be downhill and hopefully when it is done, we’ll still have some strength in us to share some laughs.



Sum up of the day
: A day above the clouds
                               Up, up and above

Distance covered: 78 km

Props: Andy's parents for being so patient and sitting together with us until well past midnight, waiting for everyone to take a shower...








Day 4: Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 - Koblenz to Cochem


We woke up really early and took off downhill to reach downtown Koblenz, where we did a Target X. People are getting better and better at reaching out to strangers and getting them to sign postcards. For a few, especially those who don’t speak German, it is quite intimidating to approach people. However, it was good practice for Misha and Agyeno who seemed quite taken to their new-found vocation, learning German. Of course Stephi, Alex or any of the other German speakers were always nearby to come to the rescue.

.


While the others took off on their bikes, following the Mosel river down towards the airbase of Büchel, Mohamed was taken to the local hospital by Alex so that his arm could be looked after. While Mohamed was waiting for his X-ray, Alex spent a few hours stocking up on groceries. Two carts of vegetables and fruits, one professionally taped cast and two hours later, they met up with the group in a small village of half-timbered houses on the Northern shore of the Mosel and shared a refreshing lunch.

Having arrived in the evening in Cochem, we offloaded the van, packed ourselves in, picked up Roman, the fantastic organizer of the Basel student congress and Beverly, just arrived from the Philippines, and all the group headed off to Buchel, the last remaining nuclear weapon base in Germany, to make our anti-nuclear voices heard there. Only Tamar and Paata were left at the campsite, where they prepared a Georgian Chili von Carne for the group.

In Büchel, we were not allowed to take pictures of the base or the Tornado airplanes, so we demonstrated our anti-nuclear stance to the people wth a Target X, leaving the base in the evening as well as the security guards and took some pictures in front of the main entry. On the way back we stopped for a panorama view of Cochem with its beautiful castle on a hill overlooking the Mosel river and went back to the campsite in order to enjoy the delicious Georgian Chili! We finished the evening around a campfire eating roasted marshmallows and listening to the sound of Misha's guitarplay, Tamar's Georgian eloquies, Estonian folksongs and German and Finnish lullabyes, courtesy of Alix and Soila.



Sum up of the day
: How many anti-nuclear activists fit in a VW Bully?

Distance covered: 58 km

Props: The hospital Ev. Stift for treating Mohamed's torn ligament - all for the surprising fee of 36 Euro! No wonder German hospitals are underfunded ;)








Day 5: Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 - Cochem to Oberwesel


Adventure started today after we left the camping site, most of us refreshed from finally showering after two days and going for a swim with the swans in the Mosel River. Due to the large difference in speed amongst the participants, we decided to split into two groups: the fast group and the “wellness” group. The ride was very smooth and we enjoyed the landscape, castles and vinyards along the river… well, that was initially before things  went uphill. In order to bridge the distance between the Mosel and the Rhine river, we had to cross the Hunsrück mountains and were faced with a grueling 6 km uphill climb - on our bikes, of course. Not everyone too it sporty like Katja or Sebastian and there was a number of people looking for Alex's head on a platter by the time we had reached the plateau. 



They were rewarded, however, but some of the most beautiful scenery so far. While the fast group had reached the top of the plateau after about an hour of cycling steep uphill roads, the wellness group took a wrong turn at the base of the mountains and ended up on the wrong side of the range.

Being off the assigned path, they were faced with the irony of wonderful scenery of forests and mountains on one side and arduous uphill battles on the other. But they fought on through more and more hills until the forces of nature defeated them, forcing them to get off our bikes and push them until the next train station. In the meantime, the fast group had met up with another one of the many surprise guests making appearances during this tour: this time it was Maren, one of the veterans of the Baltic Bike Tour, whose parents had hosted us in Benrath a few days before. Out of nowhere, she popped up with her blue car, providing the cyclists with some refreshments and encouragement while battleing their way up the mountain.
Lunch was taken in the midst of green pastures, populated by horses and cattle and consisted of a delicious greek salad, courtesy of Tamar and her team. After all that hard work, biking up the Hunsrück, we all felt that we had deserved a nice round of wellness... time for a massage-line!

The downhill part for the fast group was fun-filled. Once the decision was taken to follow the un-tarred forest path (aptly named "Murderer's Creek"), it was full of speed and adrenaline, as any slight error would have probably meant shattered dentition, a broken limp, a wrecked bike… or all. It was awesome when, despite all of these dangers, Roman from Switzerland rode on only his rear wheel for about 50 metres!



Once the fast group had mastered the steep ravines of the creek, they found themselves back on the timid shores of the Rhine, where they sped along the last 30 km of the day, past he famous Loreley - a rock formation overlooking a dangerous curve in the river, where legend has it, a beautiful maiden caused boats to crash on the cliffs through her singing. Once they had passed this fabled landmark (without any beautiful maiden even rearing its head let along turn theirs), they entered the picturesque town of Oberwesel with its gothic churches, castles and its 16 magnificent towers.  Outside of the city wall, they were met by a represetative of the Franciscan covenant who ran the hospital in the city and were ushered into the large red Church of our Lady, where the BANnies were treated to an Organ concert and a tour of the premises.




The evening continued with a welcoming buffett, courtesy of Dr. Psczolla, head of the Loreley clinic. No one ate less than two plates; the food was just too tasty. We all are looking forward to breakfast at the same venue tomorrow. As we walked through the gas-latern-lighted cobble-stone streets of the town, we felt that it had all been worth it.




Today, as we climbed up the hills, we had plenty of time to think about ourselves, the group, and our goals. We learnt two lessons today: First, this tour is a physical expression of what we believe in. We are regular people biking through Europe with a message of peace and nuclear abolition; not an easy task, but we work very hard on it. Second, group work is the only way to get there, both to the top of the hill and towards a nuclear weapon free world.

Sum up of the day
: I take the low road, while you take the high road, and I'll be in Oberwesel before you... ;)

Distance covered: 63 km

Props:
We specially want to thank those people who have taken the responsibility to lead the groups and to wait for those who have a harder time biking. And of course to Dr. Psczolla and the entire crew of the Oberweseler Loreley Clinic, whihc treated us so kindly that some of us thought seriously about handing in our applications to work there... 








Day 6: Thursday, August 19th, 2010 - Oberwesel to Mainz


Breakfast was again a delightful buffet offered by our generous hosts of the Loreley clinic. What a great place to come for a coffee in the morning ;)


Now full of energy and after a good rest in our tents at a soccer field, we had an overall easy biking day. Our two biking groups did an amazing job at sticking together and reaching Bingen, where we met up at the ferry port. We sadly said good bye to our dear Mother Goose, Soila, who we will miss very much during the rest of the tour and would like to thank her for her great team spirit and care throughout the tour, and hope to see her in the next IPPNW pre-congress tour. 

Waiting for the ferry to reach us, we played a few rounds of frisbee, marvelled at Misha's ability to climb trees like a Koala and at the catches of Apil which always prevented the frisbee from flying into the river.                 


The van drivers prepared a delicious lunch for us in Rüdesheim after crossing the Rhine River on a ferry once more. After Alex introduced the group to the intricacies of the federal republic of Germany (the Rhine is at this point the border between the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hessen and we would be crossing more state borders in the days to come), we played another round of frisbee, enjoyed the prickling sensation of Brause in our mouths and planned the rest of the cycling day...

From Rüdesheim, we passed several small wine-producing villages and towns, many, many vinyards and the occasional castle on a hilltop. This region, called the Rheinaue, was one of the most beautiful in terms of landscape so far.


For the first time in the tour, both biking groups were at 5pm in our final destination: The rowing club in Mainz, where we were hosted by long-standing IPPNW members Ute and Christa. After setting up our tents, relaxing a little and bathing in the Rhine, Ahmed injured his foot on one of the pontoons and had to be stitched in the hospital.
Some group members went into town to have a look at the old city with its mighty sandstone dome, the remnants of medieval Mainz, the Gutenberg university or simply one of the many internet cafés around the station. In the meantime, Sebastian rushed to get some of the bikes repaired, which had broken down in the past days...
In the evening, a wonderful dinner was served by our hosts and during dessert and while enjoying a glass of delicious local wine, we watched a video of the first IPPNW bike tour before the 1982 IPPNW congress in Budapest. We enjoyed the video very much and laughed at the similarities between the two tours.

Sum up of the day
:
Let’s have a reunion tour in 25 years! – Misha

Distance covered: 56 km

Props: Definitely to Ute and Christa for hosting us so kindly and for the Mainzer Ruderfreunde for letting us use their boathouse. Also to the doctors at the university clinic of Mainz for treating Ahmed's foot.








Day 7: Friday, August 20th, 2010 - Mainz to Heidelberg


We woke up to a wonderful breakfast prepared by Christa and Ute - lots of hearty German bread, strong-smelling cheese and of course some homemade sausages... after enjoying the fresh air of the morning and the warm sunlight on our heads, and shaking off the soreness of legs, arms and backs during a nice hot shower, we took off to the city hall (Rathaus) of Mainz.



In front of the Rathaus and the Rheingold hall, mayor Beck already awaited us with a warm welcome. After his encouraging speech, we were offered the traditional refreshing drink of Germany: Apfelschorle (apple juice with mineral water)…wonderful combination! Kindly, the mayor had also organized a small lunch bag for each of us which came in handy along the way.


Another city, another Target - of course we could not be stopped from rolling out our red carpet once again.. only the nuke turned out to be buried deep beneath all of the other stuff in the van, so that we had to do without our "mascot" this time...

Today was the longest distance travelled so far. We ended up splitting into 3 groups, who each fought their way through the scorching heat. Cycling through vinyards most of the day, there was hardly any shade and we stopped frequently to stock up on sunscreen and drink some of the refreshing water we had brought with us from Mainz.


To everyone’s surprise, the “wellness group”, led by Alex, arrived in Worms first. They treated themselves to an ice-cold Radler (a drink, whose name means cyclist in German and which is a mix of beer and lemonade) under the shady trees of a riverside Biergarten.


Our van had somehow gotten lost on the way to Worms, so we had our lunch at 6pm (technically speaking we did not have lunch), after which the group split up again in the “worn outs” who took the train to Heidelberg and those who biked the last 40 km and arrived in the dark. Sebastian maintains to this day that those 40 km were the best ride of the tour because, in his words, “we were driving at really top speed, at about 30 km/h, and it was just great”. Apil, Chuda and Cesar took a little detour and ended up at a Turkish Doner bar, where they had to be picked up by Carlos later that evening. 


That evening, we camped in the Heidelberg Wildwuchsgarten, an organic farm, run by the local IPPNW group, who also welcomed the tired bikers upon arrival and had prepared a hearty dinner for us with their own farm-grown vegetable. Let's just say it was supreme, and in most of our opinions the peak of our pledge to live sustainably during the tour. After dinner, Florian and Jule played wonderful melodies from their guitar and violin at the camp fire. Surely now, the last strings of nostalgia had been severed from the hearts of those who missed Soila’s lullabies...



Sum up of the day
: It's been a (very) long and winding road...

Distance covered: 101 km

Props: To all of the kind people at the Wildwuchsgarten for receiving us with drinks and cooking kettles - and for introducing us to the intricacies of the compost toilet!!!







Day 8: Friday, August 20th, 2010 - Heidelberg to Karlsruhe


After a good night’s sleep in our tents, believe it or not, we woke up to the sound of music! Guitar and drums just before 7 am, courtesy of Florian and Roman, ushered us to a delicious breakfast. Our youngest member – since the previous night – Phillip, the son of Luise entertained us with cuteness and tranquility. We celebrated Ahmed's birthday with a homemade cake and singing in all the languages of the earth (or at least the ones we knew).


Cycling into fairy tale Heidelberg, we took to the street for another Target and a flashmob - shocking the people of Heidelberg with a die-in on Universitätsplatz and illustrating to them the proximity of the US nuclear airbase that we had just visited a few days back.


Leaving Heidelberg, we had a three-group split. The usual wellness group and fast groups, and our new addition, the middle group, christened the “Party Harder Group”, with dropouts from the fast group and upgrades from the wellness group. Thereafter, we headed off to a well planned refreshing and fast ride along the forest.

Lunch was hosted by IPPNW activists near the nuclear power plant of Philippsburg. They had prepared some delicious potato soup and salad for us and talked to us about their activism against the plant. We learned that there is a raging debate in Germany right now about the end of nuclear power and that IPPNW Germany is at the forefront of the fight to shut down the remaining 16 nuclear plants in Germany, organizing lawsuits, issuing information material, leading demonstrations and gathering medical data such as the study on childhood leukaemia near nuclear power plants. It was wonderful to get to know the local activists and talk to the about their work. The press was there, as well...           


After saying goodbye to the Philippsburg activists, we started our afternoon journey, took a quick swim and by 6 pm the groups started to arrive at Karlsruhe University, were we stayed at the old stadium, had very well deserved showers and enjoyed a soothing Nepali dinner prepared by Chuda and Apil. Before going to bed, Roman got 31 good-bye hugs. We look forward to rejoining him in Basel.



Sum up of the day
: Nuclear power stinks!

Distance covered: 65 km

Props: Thanks go to the nice people of Philippsburg and surrounding who hosted us for lunch, as well as the crew of the Wildwuchsgarten for a wonderful breakfast and the AKK in Karlsruhe who offered us a place to sleep - what a hospitable people ;)








Day 9: Friday, August 20th, 2010 - Karlsruhe to Strasbourg


Despite the fact that it was on a Sunday morning and not very many people were expected at the main square in Karlsruhe, we still decided to do a flashmob. To our surprise, we found quite a few people there and a big group of French tourists, who after our “general collapse” they were very interested in our topics, and Gott sei dank we had Andre who had just the perfect eloquence in French to get our message across and get many postcards signed at the Target.


One more day of biking under a glaring sun! Though we don’t miss the rain and the wet shoes so much, the sun and its heat have taken some energy out of our bikers, making the ride a little harder. However, everyone was very happy to reach the second country of our tour: France! After 35 kms of biking under the sun we reached the French-Germany border, where we had lunch.

After the break, it immediately started to rain. Well, not exactly a surprise anymore: as Alex says, every story in Germany ends with, “and then it started to rain”. Spot on. Some people who were too tired by all those weather shananigans opted for the train, the rest biked through the refreshing storm and in the end, everyone reached the Montagne Verte campside in Strasbourg - the capital of the Alsace. We quickly set up our tents, took showers and dressed up to the nines for a night in town...


                   



We were all anxious to see the restaurant where we were to have our one and only bought meal during the entire tour... Alex led us through the maze-like alleys of the old city of Strasbourg, past the magnificently lighted cathedral and an open-air performance of young dancers... Strasbourg is a beautiful city, inspiring and cultural. The river, the buildings, the half-timbered houses... 

 


After a few more curves, we finally arrived at the Au Brasseur, where we met Kathrin Madejski, a former German IPPNW National Student Representative, who now lives in Strasbourg and had organized an evening of merriment in the traditional local Bierstub (beer tavern) that Strasbourg is famous for. Singing drinking songs, drinking locally brewed beer and eating the wonderful Flammkuchen (flame cake - the French answer to Pizza), we felt reborn and left all our soreness behind... so we tried hard to follow Alex' advice: "eat as if there was no breakfast!"
After being literally kicked out of the tavern by the guys wanting to close shop, we cycled through Petit France, the picturesque little quarter of canals and bridges in the heart of the old city and towards our campsite.  What a magical evening it has been...


Sum up of the day
: France - it's like another country!

Distance covered: 81 km

Props: To Kathrin for organizing the all-you-can-eat at the Au Brasseur and for the van drivers for preparing a wonderful border-lunch.







Day 10: Friday, August 20th, 2010 - Strasbourg to Biesheim


Normally, we are woken up by a loud “Goooooooooood Morning [insert city we've just slept in]” from Alex, but not this morning. Today it was a loud “Booooooon jour Strasbourg” instead. We woke up to a cloudy day with enough rain not do our Target X in front of the EU parliament. Breakfast was a French affair, with some café au lait and freshly baked croissants, courtesy of the campsite.


Despite not being able to see the EU Parliament, we still go the expert’s talk on the organization of the EU by Prof. Stephi. For many of the non-European participants (and even most European ones), it was very valuable new information.

The road out of Strasbourg continued for many, many kilometers straight down the Rhine-Rhone canal, which honestly is not a name anyone can pronounce without sounding completely stupid.       


With many people with hurting buttocks (bike pants are over-rated), sore legs and cracking knees, we all enjoyed the lunch break in the corn fields of the Alsacian plains. Not that we were especially hungry - the supply of plums, blackberries, apples and pears along the canal was virtually neverending and we spent what felt like hours, snatching and eating fruits right off the trees.

From our break, we biked the rest of the 79 km to the camp site, which was situated conveniently on the tip of an island in the Rhine - right in between Germany and France. We pitched our tents and cooked a great dinner (including some strange-tasting corn on the cob from our own "harvest"), singing under the lampions until even the last of us got tired and slipped into their sleeping bags. Our last night in tents, the nostalgic sentiment was already hitting some of us.

Comment by Carlos: Almost in the end of this bike tour I just want to say that the energy of a human being has no limits and we were able to do and plan the most wonderful things during this BAN Tour. Today a French woman advised me to eat more fruits and vegetables, following up on which advice I ate about 10 apples during the journey from Strasbourg to Biesheim.



Sum up of the day
: How long can this canal possibly be ?

Distance covered: 79 km

Props: Thanks to all those diligent people who planted apple and plum trees along the canal!








Day 11: Friday, August 20th, 2010 - Biesheim to Basel


Last day of the bike tour. Sad, exciting! We got up early and for the last time, this time, we picked up all of our stuff and started off our final stretch to Basel. Rain welcomed us this morning and it was crazy packing and eating breakfast, but we managed. Today we decided to bike as one group, since we all have been biking at almost the same speed for the last 2-3 days, we thought this would be a nice way to end the tour. Finally everyone was interested in the right way! We were helped with the wounded by Roman Dolgov, a member of Russian IPPNW, who had driven all the way from Moscow in the past three days and had volunteered to accompany our tour into Basel. We quickly turned his car into an ambulance ;)




After cycling through deserted little ghost towns (man, those French really do take their summer vacation seriously), we entered the forest that would stretch all the way to the suburbs of Basel. After a very early lunch, we had a bit of rain and a few of us, tired of wearing ponchos and raincoats, just decided to embrace the rain and biked along with it. It was amazing! The view seemed prettier than other days - was it the nostalgia or was it the excitement of arriving our final destination? We don’t know, but it certainly has left some unforgettable memories for us all. At least we had our beloved canal back in the end... Oh - and we even met some distant relatives of Soila on our way.


As we reached Basel, crossing from the French part of the city across the Dreiländer-Bridge to the German part, we noticed that we were about two hours early for our meeting with the mayor (yes! we were early for once!). So we took a little break and had a most unusual surprise birthday party - we were in fact able to surprise Chudamani, who had not realized that it was his birthday that day!

After some welcome chocolates and a hot coffee, we embarked as a united group on the last few kilometers through Basel, crossing over to the Swiss side of the city and meeting up on a bridge to await the exact time to enter the Rathausplatz, Basel's main square.                 


While we waited, our friends and colleagues already gathered on the Rathausplatz, joined by many interested locals and tourists, who had come to watch the bike stunt show organized by Roman.

Finally, the moment all of us have waited for... our ceremonial entry into Rathausplatz - with a ringing bell concert and cheered by hundreds of people on the square, we circled twice around before parking our bikes near the Target that Roman, Carlos and the others had already set up shortly before.

After a speech by the mayor of Basel, Dr. Guy Morin and another round of stunts by Roman, we felt that it was time to receive a good round of applause for the more than 740 km that we had just cycled and all of the great activism we had participated in - and what an applause we got!           



We could not arrive in Basel without doing a proper flashmob. So after the initial round of welcoming speeches and greetings had died down, we dispersed over the square and had one of our most memorable flashmobs of the entire tour - the whole square fell to the ground at the site of the nuclear umbrellas and Misha's "Was ist das?" resounding over the Rathausplatz. If you want to see it with music, check out the Youtube link.      

Upon arrival at the very unique Youth Hostel at St. Alban's, we immediately, with military discipline under the watchful command of Sergeant Major Alex, offloaded the van for the last time and separated all of our junk, found all the lost stuff and got the bikes in the van so they were ready to head back to Köln. We then sat together for a round of debriefing and goodbyes. As we sat there on the grass, we all expressed our gratitude to all the organizers and to one another for making this a wonderful tour. With all of our diversity and differences, we just made all of it a very enjoyable and fun adventure that we’ll never forget and will bring a big smile out in times of remembering what IPPNW is really about.

On our first night in Düsseldorf, when Alex welcomed us, he said the tour had four major parts: one fourth is activism, one fourth is networking, one fourth is fun and the last fourth was left for us to find out and fill in by the end of the trip. Now that we have come to end the trip we are have learned that the last fourth is "family".



We all signed the BAN Tour flag that is to be handed over to the IPPNW Central Office. We're sure they'll find a nice spot - right behind the Nobel Peace Prize, for example ;) As everyone headed towards the showers and linen beds, Misha, Stephi and André drove the three remaining bikes to the station in order to have them shipped to Köln while Alex started off with the Bully in order to be in Köln on time to pick up the bikes from the train there...

Sum up of the day
: It was all worth it - in the end ;)

Distance covered: 67 km

Props: Thanks to Roman Sandoz and his crew for creating a truly marvellous entry into Basel and for Roman Dolgov for helping with the ambulance driving ;)








Day 12: Saturday, August 21st, 2010 - Basel to Cologne and Back

Midnight: The Bully passes Strasbourg
1 am: Heidelberg and Mannheim pass by in the clear moonlight
2 am: Memories of sunny days come up as the Bully passes Mainz
3 am: Koblenz glimmers under a starry sky
4 am: Arrival in Cologne. Alex begins to unpack the van
5 am: Van unpacked, all 24 bikes are standing in front of the station
6 am: The remaining 3 bikes arrive with the night train from Basel
7 am: One half of the BAN Tour stuff is dropped off in Cologne
8 am: The remaining half is dropped off in Düsseldorf

9 am: The Bully is returned to its family of yellow and purple cow-cars
10 am: Trainride back to Basel...





Sum up of the day: BAN Tour in reverse - what a long, strange trip it's been..

Distance covered: 740 km (x2)

Props: To the friendly people of the Deutsche Bahn for all their support and their great bikes, trains, everything ;)







And finally: a great big thanks to Nidia, Agyeno and their team for sitting down together in the evenings to put together this blog...




If you want to read the blogs of the last two IPPNW bike tours, click here:


Blog of the Baltic Bike Tour 2006

Blog of the Overriding Trident Tour 2007


..