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Man bicycles 700 miles through Europe

Daily News Staff Writer

One would think riding a bicycle for seven weeks throughout Europe would lead to some sizeable mishap — a major injury, a stolen bike, a loss of important documents.

Charles Haberbush managed to pedal on through, unscathed. He did, however, crash his bike three times, leave his bike on a train an hour away and have his water bottle stolen in Paris.

Haberbush, a local photographer, visited the Ketchikan Public Library on Wednesday evening to talk about his solo journey through three European countries — Croatia, Italy and France. The bicycle he used and bag he hauled around on the adventure were on display, while he showed beautiful photographs of stone castles, vineyards and art.

The expedition began in Italy, where he landed in Milan. He immediately started pedaling towards the East Coast, and from there, he took an overnight ferry to Split, Croatia — a town on the West Coast of Croatia.

“In Croatia, they would not allow me to take my bicycle on a train during the day, so I could only take midnight trains,” Haberbush said. “I went from the town of Split to Zagreb, which is the capital of Croatia. From there, I grabbed a bus to Plitvice National Park. It’s a park that has 16 lakes which are all interconnected by all of these waterfalls.”

After viewing the turquoise-colored lakes and walking along the wooden footbridges, Haberbush was on his way back to Zagreb. He said there are many cathedrals in Croatia, which has a large Catholic population. Then, he headed back to Split via an overnight train. Haberbush stayed in hostels along the way, which he took a liking to.

“They use to call them youth hostels, but they don’t do that anymore, anybody can go to a hostel,” he explained. “Hostels are very clean, very inexpensive, and you meet a lot of people from all over the world. I loved it; I enjoyed them far over hotels.”

He noticed a few notable things in Croatia — open markets with fresh food and hanging meat in the open air, as well as using the Croatian currency of the Kuna. He said they didn’t take Euros there.

From Split, he made his way to Ancona, Italy, via an overnight ferry. Haberbush rode 100 miles north along the Adriatic Sea to a town called San Marino, the fourth smallest sovereign nation in the world. From San Marino, he made it to Rome via another train. He showed a photo with blue lights emanating in the distance.

“Blue lights, those are police. I should point out that in most of Europe, there was always armed soldiers and police with fully automatic weapons and body armour waiting for any kind of disruption via of course terrorism, or whatever could come up,” he said.

From Rome, he was on his way to Florence via train. Haberbush went to several galleries and saw famous paintings, statues and buildings. The art, he said, shows in everything in Florence — even the alleyways are intricately designed.

He showed a photo of at least 20 scooters outside of a McDonald’s, and said everyone rode a scooter because it’s the fastest way to get through traffic — that, or a bike.

From Florence, Haberbush traveled on to La Spezia, Italy, via train, then to France, where he spent 10 hours in one day at the Louvre Museum in Paris. He also visited Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where Jim Morrison is buried.

The cemetery has thousands of plots filled by some of the most influential writers, painters, musicians and politicians in history. Some of those eternally asleep on the grounds include Victor Noir, Édith Piaf and Oscar Wilde.

After his visit to France, Haberbush went back to Italy and flew home from Milan. His last day in Milan was spent cycling around and viewing the Milan Cathedral, which took 600 years to build.

Overall, Haberbush said Italy was his favorite. He spent $4,000 total, which includes his flights, hostels, fees for national parks, Eurorail pass, luggage fees and ferries. He cycled 700 miles through the three countries while taking trains and ferries to cities farther apart.

Even though he doesn’t speak any other languages, that doesn’t seem to be a barrier to him. His next trip is already cycling through his mind.

“I’d like to do Spain and Portugal next … I can say ‘si’ and I can say ‘oui,’” he laughed.