A pair of geology graduates have completed the “world’s longest pub crawl” – enjoying their 3,000-mile boozy walk with a beer at the “end of Europe” in Istanbul.
Not sure what to do with their lives after finishing their studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, best mates Harry Bellows, 24, and Elliott Blake, 26, set out to sink beers in 12 European countries for five months en route to Turkey – with a budget of just £2,000 between them.
Last-minute decisions about where to start and where to go on their trek leave the American duo coming face-to-face with a bear, wild boars running around their tent, and accidentally walking into a reality TV show set. The biggest defeat.
And along the way, Harry discovers his career plan – just to travel and post on social media full-time – while Elliot still works.
Harry said of their epic trip: “I don’t know how many beers we drank in total, but it was a lot – we basically had beers every day.
“They’re a great way to get in some calories, and we also go into bars to charge our phones, so it’s a nice reward after a long day of hiking.”
The couple successfully stuck to their budget, though they luckily boosted their booze fund with an extra $500 (£435) donated by their TikTok followers.
And to save cash, they spent each night in their two one-man tents after walking nearly 25 miles a day on their way from Blumendel an Zee in the Netherlands to Istanbul.
Explaining how they ended up on their unlikely mission without much of a plan, Harry said: “Elliott and I wanted to see the world in a different way and we thought the world’s longest pub crawl was the way to do it.
“We kind of went with the flow. I had a loose plan to walk across Europe, but we didn’t know where we were going to start or anything like that.
“Our original starting point was going to be Spain or Portugal, but it was really hot, like 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38C) a day, so we decided to start in Amsterdam.”
“And from there, we had a plan to go to Istanbul, but basically we changed it as we entered each country and were able to figure out random routes to follow.”
The trip began on June 15, when the couple spent a week in the Netherlands.
Harry said: “We were able to eat herring from street vendors and literally every person we passed said hello.”
On a trip to Germany from June 22 to July 11, the couple were impressed with the views and the beers.
“Germany has the best routes on the entire trek.
“The villages are beautiful and preserved from hundreds of years ago and the second best beer too,” said Harry.
The best beer, in Harry’s view, was served in their next country, the Czech Republic, which they visited between July 11 and 23 – specifically frozen pilsner.
He said: “My favorite country is the Czech Republic, and a bit of beer in it, I’ll be honest.
“But, it’s very bohemian and charming in that way. Everyone has open windows, there are big mountains everywhere, open fields and people are very welcoming.
In the Czech Republic, where they had their first run-in with some nearby animals, Harry said: “Some of the pigs started running in circles around our tents.”
Fortunately they were safe under their canvas, which he said had sheltered them from humans even during their mammoth journey.
“We had to hide our tents a lot – we didn’t want to disturb anyone or anyone to mess with us.
“But we didn’t run into anybody telling us to get out of here or anything, so everything worked out.”
The companions spent the next 16 days visiting Austria, where they crossed the Alps, hung out in castles and spotted hundreds of cows.
The next stop was Slovenia, where they came face-to-face with a bear.
Harry said: “We were walking into the mountains and we accidentally ran into a mother bear protecting her cubs.
“I felt the whole trip that it was definitely in the most danger.
“What’s even weirder is that after five minutes we basically walk into the set of a reality TV show – the Croatian version of The Biggest Loser – it’s a crazy 20 minutes.”
They spent just under a month in Croatia, island-hopping on the coast, eating seafood and jumping into the water every day.
Harry’s girlfriend, Chloe Campo, 24, visited him in Croatia, making it even more memorable.
He said: “My partner, who is studying in France, came to visit for a week, so we paused the trip and let our bodies recover so we came to hang out.”
He said: “It’s definitely been hard being away from everyone for so long, but they’ve been very supportive and understand that this is the journey of a lifetime.”
But, the journey was never a happy one. In Bosnia from September 7th to 10th, Harry and Elliot are stopped by the border police and always have to look for landmines.
He explained: “The border police told us we were not allowed to go in the direction we wanted to go.
“So they just turned around and made us go back, basically five miles in the other direction, and make a long detour.
“Landmines were left over from war in the 90s and we have a landmine app that shows the location of all known minefields.
“This is a warning to us that if you step off the road, you risk landing on a landmine.
“There’s also tape on the side of the road near landmines saying ‘Caution.'”
In Montenegro, from September 10 to 15, they visited the Nixico Brewery and the Academy of Beers, as well as several canyons.
The next five days were spent in Albania, where the couple traveled over the famous Valbona Pass, surrounded by mountains.
Harry said Kosovo was “the friendliest country on the trip and everyone wanted to say hello”.
From September 24 to 29, the couple was in North Macedonia.
“We were stopped four times by the police – I think it was because of the way they were trained, and we looked like we didn’t belong.
“They stop us and ask what we are doing and take our passports and check for stamps and things.
“But it’s my second favorite food country because they have peppers everywhere and on everything.”
In Bulgaria, from September 29 to October 11, the city of Plovdiv is a highlight because it is “rich in history and culture” – and finally, the couple arrives in Turkey on October 11.
Harry said: “Turkey was a highlight from the trip, and it was fantastic to end up there because the people were so warm, generous and welcoming.
“We always stop and they all buy us tea or pastries and it’s a wonderful place to finish.
“It felt like the right place because it was at the end of Europe.”
Describing how it felt to sink his final beer, an Efes Pilsner, Harry said: “It was bittersweet – it’s been a long journey, I’m ready to finish and it’s the last sip of a lifetime adventure.
“Completing the challenge feels amazing because I know I can never do the same thing again.
“I recommend it to the brave and the fearless as it is an epic journey.
“But, if you go about it with a smile on your face, and you really want to live every day, I can definitely recommend it.”