AN Edinburgh couple are embarking on a challenging 28-city bike ride around Europe to protest Brexit.
Alex Colling and his wife Chiara Ginestra set off on their six month trek on Tuesday to highlight the benefits of freedom of movement because they would “never have met without it”.
He and Chiara, who is originally from Italy, first met working in the charity sector in Edinburgh, which he claims was only possible as she was able to “travel, live and work in the UK.”
“When the Brexit vote was announced, we cried. We were shocked and felt immediately unsure about our future,” said Alex. “We’re still not certain what the future holds in terms of Chiara’s right to stay. It’s only in the last few months we decided we wanted to do something.”
The couple have set up a blog for their trip, which they have called the Freedom of Movement tour. In a post, they comment that “our freedom of movement is now, and we are going to take it.”
They intend to cycle to 28 capital cities in 28 countries, starting from Edinburgh to Glasgow, on to Belfast, Dublin and London before moving onto the continent.
Other cities include Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Zagreb, Athens Madrid and Paris. The tour, entirely clockwise with the exception of Valletta and Nicosia, culminates in Amsterdam before they return to Edinburgh.
“We’re most looking forward to Rome,” said Alex. “My wife has family and friends there and it’s a nice midway stop. I think on average it gives us six days per country, but it really depends.
“When we go from Stockholm to Helsinki and then Tallinn, they’re all ferry trips apart so there’s not much cycling there, whereas others are a greater distance.
“We’re going to be on a huge budget, obviously, but we’ve been saving up for over a year to do this. We’re mostly going to just be couch surfing and camping and taking it at a steady pace.”
According to a recent European Commission survey, only four per cent of Brits cycle daily, the lowest percentage of all 28 European Union countries other than Cyprus and Malta.
However, Alex and Chiara describe themselves as “regular cyclists”. On their blog, Alex says cycling is a “truly restorative experience” and about “balancing, the forward progress, the independence and self-sufficiency, the fresh air, and the freedom.”
“We haven’t really trained for this, but we cycle regularly,” said Alex. “And we’ve got as much time as we need to practice and prepare in the next few days. This seemed a natural way for us to protest as we’re both cyclists and have been since we were very young.”
The couple plan to share photographs, thoughts and impressions as they go. But it will not all be leisure for the couple – they plan on joining “at least one” EU protest on their travels.
“We’re hugely in favour of migration,” said Alex. “I’ve lived and worked in Germany before so I’ve experienced the benefits first-hand. I think the Brexit vote is an enormous step backwards.
“With Brexit, the big feeling we get is one of the absolute unknown. So we want to do something exciting and positive.”