Steven Primrose-Smith had been living in Nerja for 6 years when he decided to get on his bike and begin a 30,000km cycle ride around all the capital cities of Europe. He is currently back in Nerja on his winter break and MyNerja.Com caught up with Steve and asked him to tell us about his mammoth endeavour.

So, what are you doing?

I’m trying something that I believe hasn’t been done before, and hasn’t been done on two different levels. If that makes any sense. I’m cycling, in a continuous loop, to every capital city in Europe, around 30,000 kilometres in total. As far as I can tell, no one has ever done that. At least that’s what Google seems to tell me.

What stage are you now at?

I set off last March and did the first seventeen capitals. I started from the Isle of Man and cycled through the UK, the Channel Islands, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, back across France, over Andorra, through Spain and Portugal and last year’s final capital was Gibraltar. I finished the first leg in Nerja. The second leg begins from Nerja once again in March this year.

And what’s the other thing you’re doing that hasn’t been done before?

Well, I wanted to try out something that’s only possible because of today’s technology. I’ve been a student with the UK’s Open University for a few years, and I wanted to discover whether it would be possible to study and travel at the same time.

And what have you discovered so far?

That’s it’s absolutely possible. The plan is to cycle for around six months a year for three years. There’s not much fun cycling in Europe in winter. In any case, I need to take a break in October each year to do exams but, aside from that, there are a lot of mountain passes that would be closed in winter because of snow, and I’d also struggle to find campsites. I plan to do some wild camping but there are countries were this isn’t a good idea. For example, Bosnia apparently still has unexploded landmines at the sides of its roads. That should be fun. Anyway, so far I’ve done about one third of the trip – about 9,000 kilometres – and studying wasn’t a problem. I scored as high as I needed to in all the courses I did last year.

Why is it important that you can travel and study at the same time?

For me, it’s just something that combines two of my loves but for other people, as an experiment, it might provide an additional option. As it stands, new students often take a year out to travel before going to university. Then they spend the next three years in some grey, drizzly British town. OK, they get to party hard and take lots of drugs, but some people might not want to do that. They might prefer to upload their course books to a Kindle and set off on their own adventure, an adventure that would work out cheaper than three years in an expensive British town. And, for certain courses, the adventure could provide an additional element to their studies. If you’re studying Spanish, for example, and your trip takes you around Spain or South America, your language skills would be much better than those poor sods doing a Spanish degree in Leeds.

Why did you choose Nerja as an end point for year one and the start point for year two?

I lived in Frigiliana for three years and then Nerja for six years until early 2011 but I don’t think so many people know me. I pretty much kept myself to myself during that time. But because I have some friends here I decided that the first year’s leg of the trip would end in Nerja so that my bike would have somewhere nice to live over the winter. And also setting off from Nerja in spring this year should give me the best chance of finding decent weather in Europe so early on. Anyway, I’m back here in Nerja until the ride restarts and this time I’ve made a greater effort to get out and about. I’ve made more friends in the last month than I did in the previous ten years.

Any thoughts on Nerja?

Yes, I love it. It’s the only place on this coast that I’d live. Gibraltar has the worst elements of the UK and Spain moulded together, Marbella and Puerto Banus just feel tacky, Torremolinos and Fuengirola are great if you just want pie ‘n’ chips and a fight, but I probably don’t, and the farther east you go from Nerja the more square metres of plastic you’re likely to encounter. But Nerja has managed to promote tourism without losing the charm of the place. It has very few ugly resort tower blocks and in some of the backstreet tapas bars it really doesn’t feel like a tourist resort at all. And with all that lovely Spanishness retained, I can still watch Blackburn Rovers on telly every week thanks to the sports bars with non-British satellite systems, a pleasure not even available to people in the UK since Blackburn are on Sky Sports about once every three seasons. But maybe there’s a good reason for that.

Is there a website where people can find out more about your trip?

Yes, it’s called That’s ‘Uni’ for the university thing and ’50’ for the number of European capitals. And, no, I’m not doing it on a unicycle. From the site there’s a route map, some photos from last year, as well as links to a couple of blogs I write and the charities I’m trying to support. Please have a look!

Thanks for your time, and good luck with the next leg of your trip. When you are back in Nerja let us know how things are going

No problem, see you at the end of the year

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