St Luke Health Path Around the Baltic Sea

St Luke Health Path Around the Baltic Sea

At ScanBalt Forum in Groningen October 2014 the idea of a health touristic biking and hiking path connecting the Baltic Sea Region initiating with a first section between Noord-Nederland, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and the Polish West Pomeranian province found strong support. In July 2015 Gerhard Rakhorst and Ko Henneman, Groningen, tested the first section out on their bikes. Health Tourism has significant potential in the Baltic Sea Region and is a priority for ScanBalt.

By Ko Henneman, former director of the Healthy Ageing Network Northern Netherlands.

As part of creating a cycling route from northern Netherlands to the Baltic states and possibly further around the Baltic Sea a first section was July 2015 initiated by Gerhard Rakhorst and Ko Henneman, former program manager and director of the Healthy Ageing Network Northern Netherlands. This first part of the route is between Assen/Emmen/Groningen and Warnemünde, where mid-July the annual ‘Branchenkonferenz Gesundheitswirtschaft’ was organized.

This (international) conference on health economy was a good opportunity to pay attention to this route, because in addition to cultural and nature elements, it has a strong health approach. Cycling and generally exercise is healthy. More and more people are choosing for cycling, especially since e-bikes make it possible to drive longer distances.

The idea of a sample route, besides the planned health facilities (health checks, “Quantified Self”, etc.), provides in particular opportunities for SMEs to join this development and provide services to those who follow the routes. It is  more or less similar to the St James Route to Santiago de Compostela.

Our route is named after St Luke, patron of physicians (he was a doctor himself), but also of painters and sculptors. Therefore the name is a very good fit with the broader approach that we have for this route. Lucas, since the 4th century, also is depicted as his symbol shape: winged bull, bullock or calf. Our German partners have already provided an appropriate logo. The participating organizations will complete the path like threading beads: everyone will add elements related to nature, culture, health and economy.

Our experience

The weather during the trip of 550 km was not ideal. The westerly wind blows in the right direction, but if you cycle fast you always have headwind. The rain made the trek relatively heavy, where the route sometimes was over dirt roads (were mud pits) and less used roads (wet grass and weeds up to our knees).

However, by looking back at the various moments, we saw how beautiful the setting often was. And the greatest misery (eg. we had to buy new shoes on the go because our shoes were too wet) at the end became the funniest anecdote, part of a real adventure. It was tough, but we have done it!

On the Picture: Ko and Gerhard on their bikes in rainy weather during the first section of St Luke Health Path

Germany already has a lot of bike routes, but a route with health components and possibility of health checkups gives an added value. And of course there will be the challenge to go on and cycle to Gdansk next year. (The Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern will probably put that on the agenda during his visit to Gdansk).

And maybe there are people from Copenhagen who will cycle to Warnemünde next year, or to The Netherlands.  In this way, the Northern Netherlands will increasingly be tied to their neighbors and we together will realize a joined effort to give the (health) economy in our countries a real boost.

One of the posters at the Branchenkonferenz said: ‘ Alles ist möglich, man muss es nur tun’ (Everything is possible, you only have to do it!). Let that be our principle!

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