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2002: Thijs is back in Holland.

8 November, Thijs arrived in Jerusalem!

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A walk for nature from Amsterdam to Jerusalem.

The writer: Just a pilgrim with a message, walking from Amsterdam, the freest and most decadent city in Western Europe, to Jerusalem, the source of our civilization, to ask people if they want to take more care of nature and the environment.

About four years ago, I got the idea of walking from Amsterdam to Jerusalem. I have been traveling all over the world since I was 21 years old, and I have visited quite a lot of sacred places in many different countries, like Benares, Rome, Santiago de Compostella, Stonehenge, Ayers Rock, Teotihuacan, Machu Pichu, Gizeh, Delphi and Boruburdur, but I have never been to Jerusalem.

Saying goodby to his mother.

With the year 2000 getting closer and closer and me getting older and older, I thought that now would be the right time and that it would be very exciting to be there at the turn of the millennium. Because I enjoy walking so much, I liked the idea of hiking it all the way from Holland to Jerusalem. It had to be a special journey, and I wanted to do it with a special message. I am an environmental freak and a nature-lover, and I see that people and companies are doing a lot of harm to our environment. People, companies and governments should work together to clean up their households, their systems of production and the nature around us. In particular, a lot of factories, large and small, all around the world are polluting the air and water with their out-of-date production systems and are a real danger to man and nature.

But also, the many cars and trucks all over the world today are polluting the air and are a big obstacle for efforts to protect our ozone layer. How do we get rid of all the nuclear waste produced by nuclear power plants, the arms industry and hospitals when there is still no safe disposal method? Plus, all the ordinary people at home and on the street who just throw their waste and garbage out of the window or on the side of the road are polluting nature and our environment.

After years working and gathering money for this "Eco-walk," I set off at the end of August last year. To organize it all cost me a lot of energy and cash. Initially, I tried to find the right walking route for the right time. But finally I just put my pack on my back and started walking. Holland was quite easy because it is flat and I know the way over there. In Germany, the real adventure of my trip began. But Germans at home are very friendly, helpful and well informed about environmental issues. All the people I talked to supported my mission and the idea of my walk. They helped me with whatever I needed. I did 25-30 kilometers a day and had a day of rest after 5-7 days of walking. After a little more than a month, I reached the Czech Republic.

Czechs and Austrian balances

Compared to Germany, the Czech Republic is very old-fashioned, probably because it is a former communist country. People are not very friendly, living in their own historical dreamworld, and are not interested in walkers on the road. Prague is a beautiful city, and I stayed there eight days, but in all the three-and-a-half weeks I was walking through that country, I met only two nice people. I was a little disappointed that nobody seemed too concerned about environmental problems.

I was glad to reach Austria and find immediately that the Austrians do care about their environment. There is almost no garbage beside the roads and villages and houses. Also, everybody I met was friendly and ready for a chat. They understood my message right away and agreed with all the issues I was talking about. Vienna is a fine city and has many historical buildings, but it was quite expensive for me, so I walked further along the River Danube until I reached the border of Hungary couple of days later.

Hope in Hungary, less in Romania and Bulgaria

Hungary is another former communist country, but they are making a lot of progress over there and modernizig their whole industry and economy. I think their industrial companies find it more important to reach the same level as Western industrial companies and increase their profits than to protect nature and keep the environment clean, so there is still a lot of work to be done by environmental groups and individuals. However, I talked to many young people, and most of them know about the problems and are aware that something has to be done to change the minds of the captains of industry regarding the way they construct their factories and in particular their methods of industrial waste disposal.

While in Hungary, I gave a few interviews to the media to get my message spread all over the country. I stayed eight days in Budapest because there was a lot of work to be done and many people to talk to, and also Budapest is a very beautiful city with lots of things to see and enjoy.

From there I walked southeast to Szeged in seven days and another day westward before I crossed the border into Romania. Romania is a very poor country, and there is almost no money or expertise for building Western-style industry. The Romanians try to survive with old-fashioned factories and industries that were built long ago in communist times. That industry is mostly very dirty and polluting, on such a massive scale that it is terrifying to see. People don't realize what harm they are doing to nature, and they don't want to know either, because to make some money is more important to them than environmental issues. And who can blame them?

Unfortunately, a lot of factories are closing down because the products they make are out of fashion or produced cheaper, cleaner and better by Western companies. With unemployment rising, more and more people are becoming discontented about the situation in their country and disillusioned by the liberation from communism. Romania is in real trouble, and I think the West should help a lot more than it does now. On the other hand, people were very friendly, helpful and hospitable to me and often invited me to sleep in their houses because the nights were too cold to sleep outside in my tent. It was December and there was snow everywhere. My message wasn't of much use to them and was like a bird on the wing, disappearing into thin air.

I kept on walking over small roads through the Carpathians from village to village until one day I reached Bulgaria and took a rest at Vidin, a border town on the River Danube. From there, I walked for seven days to Sofia and celebrated Christmas and New Year in that capital city. Right after New Year, I walked to Plovdiv in about five days, and there I met a French guy who was walking from Marseilles to China. After two days of rest, we walked together to Edirne, in Turkey, which took us another week. Bulgaria is also very poor, and life over there is pretty grey and gritty, although people are pleasant and helpful. I concentrated more on my walking than on trying to convince people about the importance of my Eco-Walk and its message. First, the language was a problem and second I thought that in this country, as in Romania, the health and cleanliness of the environment were a low priority for the people.

Edirne: a relief!

I was glad when we reached Edirne after a long and sober walk through those grey, poor, cold countries. Edirne was really something else; the streets are so full of life with the many shops everywhere and the music from every corner. And the people were amazingly friendly and wanted to help us with whatever we asked for. The first day we were there, we met a man who helped us to get in contact with a newspaper and TV journalist to do interviews for the Turkish media and get the message across to Turkish people Erkal Üçlüm was himself an environmentalist and was working hard to teach people in and around Edirne about the environmental problems and the pollution from the factories in that area. He knew what was going on and gave us a lot information. But he was also a little bit disappointed by the local government and the people in charge of the factories and industries, because he said they don't care enough about nature and that they find profit more important than health and a long life in sustainable natural surroundings. He helped me with the translation of my Eco-Walk manifesto, so I was able to let Turkish people know about my program and message.


After three days, my French friend and I decided to continue together to Istanbul. From Edirne, we followed a small road that lead us to Kirklareli, Vize, Saray and other rural areas where the villages are small, the roads wind and the views are beautiful. The real winter was over and the weather began to improve. Sometimes the sun shone so that it felt like spring, although it was still only the middle of January.


In this area, we did not see much industry, but it is a pity to observe that local people don't care much about the rubbish they produce and just throw their garbage into their own backyard, on the street or right at the side of the road. Maybe in former times, it did not matter that much, and nature was not polluted by garbage that was made of natural things itself. But nowadays, the trash of ordinary households and little workshops doesn't consist of natural materials any more; the waste includes a lot of plastics, metals, glass, batteries, inked papers and chemicals that are a major danger to the environment and pollute nature in many ways and for a long time. This thoughtless, childish behaviour happens not only in Turkey, but also in Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and unfortunately also here and there in Western countries because of stupid people who should know better.

It is a shame to see that in such beautiful surroundings, somebody gets rid of a truckload of garbage and trash just beside the road where the wind and the rain will spread it over a large area. As long as their houses and hands are clean, they don't give a damn about nature, the appearance of their surroundings or the way the next generation will have to deal with those problems.

Istanbul is magnificent, but ...


The closer we got to Istanbul, the more pollution we saw, such as filling stations and car repair shops that let the gasoline and old oil from car engines just flow over the ground into a hole in the backyard or into the street's rainwater-drainage channels. When we reached the city of Istanbul itself, the amount of traffic was overwhelming. The fumes and gases from all those cars, trucks and buses are really too much and give you a headache and a sore throat right away. At least, that' s what they gave me.

Istanbul is a magnificent city, and the centre is not a bad place to stay and look around, partly because whole sections and streets are free of cars, which made me happy to see. I also met many people who are aware of the problems. Quite a few of them are already doing a lot to improve things in their households, at their workplaces or in their neighbourhoods.

When I visited the Association for the Protection of Nature, I was really impressed by the amount of constructive work they are doing all over Turkey. That was a very enjoyable and instructive afternoon, and they helped me to get in contact with NTV Radio and TV to do interviews on both. They also gave me information about other environmental organizations and the ecological farms in Turkey that work together with vegetarian restaurants and shops selling natural vegetables, fruit and other products. So on a small scale, there are many good things going on in Turkey, and I hope that the national government, the local administrations and the industrial sectors will help to make it happen on a larger scale!

This earth does not belong to us alone, but also to other living creatures and to the generations that will follow us. If we don't respect this shared ownership, we are lower than animals and an evolutionary failure. I thing we all have to change our lifestyle sooner or later, because environmental problems around the world will rise to a scale that will be a real danger to humanity as a whole if we go on polluting and exhausting natural sources as we are doing now. Sometime in the future, there might be a point from which turning back and things are polluted so badly that it will be too late to try to clean it up, or our resources will be consumed until they are exhausted. I think it is better to change now, while there is still time left to bring things back into balance, than to wait and postpone the problems to the future, when change will be inevitable and a lot more painful. But who am I? Just a pilgrim with a message, walking from Amsterdam, the most free and decadent city in Western Europe, to Jerusalem, the source of our civilization, to ask people if they want to take more care of nature and the environment.

South to Antalya

Turkey: Internet cafe

After 10 days in Istanbul, I walked over the Bosporus Bridge to Asia and continued my walk alone. My friend Philippe went another way, and we promised to meet each other again somewhere, somehow, in the near future. I walked eastward to Sakarya, then turned south from there, the road winding through the mountains to Eskisehir, Afyon, Egirdir and Antalya, where I arrived one month later. It was a long and sometimes arduous walk, but people all over Turkey are very friendly, helpful and hospitable, so I was never worried that I had nothing to eat or no place to sleep. They always helped me solve my problems, and most of the time they didn't want to accept money or even talk about it. The many glasses of tea and cigarettes I had for free are beyond counting, and almost everybody I met was very positive about my Eco-Walk and understood my message.

Now I am taking a holiday at Olympos for a few weeks. I still have a long way to go, but as I want to reach Jerusalem at the end of December 1999 to wait for New Year 2000, I have plenty of time. I still have nine-and-a-half months left to reach my destination. Up to now, I have faced no really big problems or dangerous situations, and I hope it stays that way. The weather is getting better all the time, and I think I will enjoy the rest of my walk here in Turkey very much. Without doubt, the people here are the most friendly I have met on my long path, and because they like to communicate with me about environmental issues, they make me very happy, so my walk through this country is already a success.

Here in Antalya, I have also received a lot of help from people and I have done a few newspaper and TV interviews that were arranged by a very kind man from a photo shop. It is a very pleasant city; the old center is relaxed and quiet, there are a lot of things to see and the view over the Mediterranean is outstanding. I will come back one day. All I ask is that people support me on my walk and help me with finding the way. And maybe there is somebody who will sponsor me, because my pilgrimage is very long and has cost me a great deal of money. And please, people, think about what I am saying and care about our fragile nature. This world is the only one we've got and the only one we'll ever have. Thank you very much for reading this.

Part 2, Syria and Jordan


E-mail address Thijs Postma: thijs@thijspostma.nl

Web address Dutch: http://www.thijspostma.nl/ecowalk

Lay-out: Alie van Nijendaal, E-mail address: alie@aliepostma.nl



Laatste wijziging: December 8, 2018