Stephen Schuster, a German citizen, chose a unique way to visit his family living in Israel. Carrying only a backpack, he took to the roads, riding all the way from Munich to Haifa, with a short break in Damascus.
In early September 2010 Schuster, 45, packed the necessary equipment in a backpack, including a tent and a sleeping bag, and began his journey along the Danube River heading towards the Black Sea.
He rode his bike for over 6,600 kilometers (4,100 miles), passing through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria and Jordan until finally arriving in Israel.
On Monday he celebrated the end of his long journey, and he is expected to return to Germany on Tuesday – this time by plane. "It's amazing," he said, "I'm glad I was able to finish this challenge I set for myself."
His niece Michal, who lives in Haifa, said: "He claims this is all my fault. A year ago I visited him in Germany and told him to come visit Israel, and apparently he said he took the offer very seriously."
Schuster's last visit to Israel was in 1992, and ever since he has dreamed of coming back. "I've wanted to return to Israel for a long time now, and at the same time I'd planned on going on a long bike ride. Eventually I thought: Why not just come visit my sister by bicycle? It's not easy traveling alone. There were many times I thought to myself it's a shame I didn't bring somebody with me. But on the other hand I don't think I could have gotten to know the population and the local cultures if I hadn’t traveled alone."
His biggest fear was to travel throught Syria and Turkey, but when he got there he received a warm welcome. "The roads there are amazing and there are a lot of areas that are quiet and beautiful," he said. "The Muslim culture and hospitality were extremely surprising. They were very nice."
A moment before he got on the plane back to Germany Schuster urged his friends make a similar trip. He also added that he was very sorry he could not make it back home on a bike.
"If it was up to me, and I didn't have work constraints, I would return as I came. I'm not sure when the next trip will be, but I hope it's soon."
Oshrat Nagar-Levitt contributed to this report
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