What gave you the idea to cycle for peace?
Andreas: Retiring isn’t something you do every day! And it’s somehow entering the last—though not the very last—period of my life. So I wanted to retire in a special way, to feel like I was on the move and also give myself a sense of personal pilgrimage. I thought a bicycle ride could combine both well.
Then, I thought I wanted to give the whole project a special dedication—and peace is such a strong desire and need for our world and society.
Do your reflections on this trip sometimes lead you to think about the Palestinian and also the Jewish people you want to help with the ecumenical accompaniment program?
Andreas: Yes, for example, I visited my great grandmother’s house where she was born at the northern edge of the Czech Republic on the border with Saxony. Like so many Palestinian families from their houses, also this group of my ancestors was driven out of their homes in Sudetenland after World War II.
Another day I was confronted by the cruel aggression of the Nazi regime. Beside the large Millennium monument for the Saints Cyril an Methods Mission to the Slavic people there also was a little stone commemorating a young Jewish woman who had to stay in open air a night in 1945 with a group on their “deporting death trek,” As she collected some bread from a peasant woman she was shot by an SS guard and her sister had to bury her in the woods. I was very touched about another Shoahs victim’s quotation at a KZ side camp I passed by: “The most important in life is love…”
Can you share some of your most meaningful encounters?
Andreas: It’s becoming a trip full of gifts! Every day there is a small gift from heaven by an encounter, a helpful person, a refuge from rain in the right moment, by some hospitality.
Two employees of an IT company in Tabor stood in the street with their coffee mugs when I had just stopped. “What can we help you?” they asked. “Would you like a coffee?” I said, “Yes, please,” and we stood chatting and sharing.
I met a couple starting a pilgrim’s hostel in an old parish house in Český Dub. He’s a Catholic deacon and she’s an ergo-therapist, both doing hard renovation work in the house yet giving a hospitable welcome and a nice bed to sleep in amid the construction. On Sunday morning, I celebrated liturgy in Czech, not understanding a word, but feeling a deep atmosphere of prayer and joyful worship.
There are many others: a yoga ashram at the Saxonian border where I rented a block house for a night; a Moravian church in Herrnhut with a deep tradition of nonviolence; the Jesus-Haus in Herrnhut with a helpful and joyful mind, and a welcoming morning prayer.
What has surprised you the most?
Andreas: Slowly getting the needed power in my legs to climb up mountain roads I was fearful of before! Also, the seeds of peace which can be found and I have helped to grow! I am encountering places and people with very different spiritual attitudes—and trying to experience the “precious pearl” in each of them. So slowly I am learning that the Camino provides you with what you need and it’s not necessary to stress beyond your limits of power, neither physically nor mentally.
A very surprising moment was, when a woman on the street got interested in my project, asked for a photo and at the end there was a nice article in the Saxon Ian newspaper!