Author: Heinz Helfgen
Title: Ich radle um die Welt [I’m Cycling Around The World]
Length: more than 2 years
The good people
The story: HH is a former journalist turned POW who returns to Germany in 1946, only to find that things aren’t exactly easy work-wise. Thus, after struggling for a few years, he decides to support his family by riding a bicycle around the world and publishing newspaper articles about it.
a long route after the war
His journey starts in 1951, and it takes him from Germany to Turkey, to India, Southeast Asia, Japan, North America, the Caribbean, and South America. He eventually returns home in 1953 and publishes a book about it.
This book, which consists of two volumes, is a pure adventure story, and it is a lot of fun to read. Sure, the writing can be a bit crude sometimes, and apparently there are a few of HH’s wilder anecdotes that have been questioned for authenticity, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s fun. On a socio-political level, the population of post-war Germany was longing for stories like this one (or the one of Josef Martin Bauer’s homecoming POW). For them, it was nice to read about the joy of travel and about peaceful interaction with foreign people. And this book gave that to them.
Heinz Helfgen giving the readers what they want
HH is successful in many ways: He accomplishes a giant feat. He gets to meet interesting people all over the world (apparently even Ernest Hemingway). And he tells a good story about it. But his biggest accomplishment is something that we should not overlook: by writing about all the kind-hearted people that help him out here and there, he brings post-war Germany and the world a bit closer together.