Bitching Brew

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Winter-railing!

The drift has been arrested.

Last time I wrote, I was rather listless. Now that I've taken decisions and chosen my gambles, I'm looking to the future with optimism instead of foreboding.

The option(s) chosen may surprise. You'll hear in due course - but naturally, one has to be wary of the corporate minions who trawl the web.

To date, I've only visited 12 countries - a rather pathetic total. Just after my 25th birthday, I set myself a target: while I'm still 25, I want to bring that number to 25. Thereafter, the total should always exceed my age.

I'm devoting this year to exploring Europe. Adventure one kicks off in ten days. The mission: to cross Europe without flying. The intended route: Dublin - Holyhead - London - Paris - Interlaken - Zurich - Salzburg - Vienna - Budapest - Belgrade - Sofia - Istanbul - Ephesus. In eighteen days, I aim to sample Alpine adventure, the high art of Mitteleurope, the decay and buzz of the old Eastern bloc, and the greatest city in world history. Capital of three empires, spanning 1600 years? Beat that.

As a trip like this can't be fully booked in advance, I'll be improvising and playing with the itinerary as I travel. I like to live by my wits! After Budapest, for example, there are potential pitfalls. (Let's not mention thieves and sketchy hostels.) The Belgrade - Sofia line is currently out of service, so unless that's restored in time, I'll have to divert. One option would be time-consuming - to continue south from Belgrade, to Skopje in Macedonia, and then Thessaloniki in Greece before heading for Istanbul. The other possibility would be to eschew both Belgrade and Sofia in favour of Transylvania.

This trip will see me set foot in at least six new countries - Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey - bringing me to a total of eighteen.

Before anyone asks: yes, it would be easier, more comfortable, quicker, and cheaper to fly directly from Dublin to Switzerland... but where's the fun in that? At the age of 25, I'll have entirely crossed two continents by land. While not a spectacular achievement, it is a minor one - and one to built upon. It won't surprise you to learn that I plan to ramp that number up from two to five before I'm 30.

This is by far the most exciting trip I've taken since I was 21 - and I am *stoked*.

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