On June 15th 1912 (tbc), Maximilian J. St. George, a 27-year-old American, boarded a cattle train in Chicago. He earned his fare by looking after three carriage loads of stock. Three days later he arrived in Boston and continued his journey with the cattle on board the Anglian, a steamship that would deliver him to England by the end of the month.
“Like most people I wanted to see Europe; to see not only tourist Europe, but the real Europe as well. By rail I would be whisked from one city to another and see nothing of the country between. Walking was too slow, in fact out of the question because of the itinerary contemplated; an automobile was too expensive, a motorcycle too heavy, as well as unsatisfactory because of the speed at which one is tempted to ride, so there remained only the bicycle. On this I determined to make my trip.”Maximilian J. St. George, Traveling Light or Cycling Europe on Fifty Cents a Day
Once in London, he cycled to Dover from where he crossed the channel and, over the course of the next 16 months he visited ‘every capital of Europe‘ with the exception of St. Petersburg (Petrograd) and Lisbon.
“In short, I cycled six times into Germany; four times into England; three times into Belgium, Holland, Austria and France; through Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Scotland; around Switzerland, Ireland, Spain and Italy. The sixteenth month saw me again in London, after cycling sixteen thousand three hundred miles.”Maximilian J. St. George, Traveling Light or Cycling Europe on Fifty Cents a Day
In 1912, neither Poland nor Finland was not an independent country (it was part of the Russian Empire). All countries south of Hungary were also off his list.
Maximilian wrote about his travels in Europe in a book, Traveling Light or Cycling Europe on Fifty Cents a Day which was published in 1922 by Extension Press in Chicago.
Max – I’m going to call him that from now on – kindly gives us a detailed itinerary of his journey in an appendix to the book. You can see it here. Plotting his route on a map gives us what you can see below. However tortuous his journey may have been, it certainly didn’t lack in ambition and is a reflection of the man’s determination to achieve what he set out to do:
That’s quite a convoluted tour of Europe to say the least. He started in London before heading to the continent and in the direction of Scandinavia. From Stockholm he caught the boat to Germany and continued through Bohemia, Austria and Switzerland. He then spent another long period in Germany before heading further west through France to Spain and back towards Italy along the Mediterranean coast. Once in Italy he cycled south as far as Sorrento before turning round and travelling north once again through Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland and, for a final time, Germany. He returned to London via Belgium but once in England he headed off on a long tour of the British Isles taking in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and most of the length of England before finally completing his journey in London.
Europe has changed quite a bit in the last 100 years especially when it comes to the political geography of the eastern side of the continent but Maximilian managed to cycle through the following 19 (current) capital cities:
- Oslo (called Christiania at the time)
- Belfast and