Postponed Plans and Pesky Pandemics

Snorting cocaine and sipping on caipirinhas from Pablo Escobar’s Colombian rooftop was what I imagined I’d be doing now. Instead, I find myself reverse-snorting phlegm and sipping on Horlicks from Dai Lampost’s Kidwellian patio. No, I don’t have any particular virus. My body is just bracing itself for a prolonged, frigid winter, trapped inside the reeking bowels of a small Welsh town. Now, I haven’t written a post for close to ten months, as nothing of note has occurred in the world worth writing about. 2020 has been about as uneventful as a rave in a morgue. As tedious as a drunkard’s sermon. As dull as a forgotten knife in the back of the cutlery drawer. Unfortunately for us all, these are all damn terrible lies.

I will attempt to refrain from whinging about all of my cancelled travel plans, as my tribulations are minuscule in comparison to most, but whinge I will anyway. Initially, my plan for the summer involved investing in a large van, converting it all oaky and Scandinavian, and living in it permanently like an intrepid Mongolian nomad with an eagle – I hear Vauxhall Movano’s are all the rage out there. When COVID struck, a job offer I had in the bag was withdrawn, delaying any potential van purchase (and joy) until the new year. This also scuppered my autumn plans to partake in a three-month South American voyage from Buenos Aires to Bogota, which would have taken in the delights of Iguazu Falls, the Inca Trail, and Mr. Escobar’s roof terrace. This has also had to be postponed until 2046.

As it became crystal clear that any attempt at backpacking across South America during a global pandemic would be extremely problematic (Argentina had banned all non-domestic flights at the time of planning), a simpler solution was sought. However, one which would still involve visiting several diverse and curious nations over the course of a three-month period until Christmas. My new proposal was to backpack from Budapest to Athens, stopping in Serbia, Kosovo, and Northern Macedonia on the way down, before heading back north along the Adriatic coast to Ljubljana in Slovenia, stopping in Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. A small horseshoe-shaped trip through all of the former Yugoslavian states – how quaint it would have been.

Those in-depth plans also joined the incinerator when Viktor Orbán, the rotund far-right, Trump-sympathising, migrant-hating maniac in charge of Hungary, slammed shut its borders (any excuse) and demanded everyone of non-Hungarian-origin to, in the politest possible way, get the fuck out. Other nations in the area, who closed their borders for more logical and scientific reasons, followed suit, making any sort of tourism in the region impossible. I was all but ready to take my medicine, in this case a large quantity of Valium, give in to the fact that travel was just not possible this year, and content myself with Dai Lampost’s garden patio. Then, however, a phrase hitherto never spoken by any human being in recorded history entered our COVID lexicons for the first time: the travel corridor.

Whilst the list of nations granted ‘travel corridor’ status diminishes by the second, there is one country that is so desperate for tourists and their fat wallets (obviously they haven’t had a look inside mine), that all notion of public safety has gone out of the window, ideal for me. That nation is Greece. So, I have a flight booked for tomorrow direct to Athens for a fortnight’s stay in a country rich in history, olive oil, and public debt. I will be avoiding all islands and beaches, partly because one would have to self-isolate on one’s return but primarily to show that Greece has far more to offer than Santorini, sunburn, and STD’s.

For the first time in my existence, I have also splashed out on a rental car (probably a Fiat 500 or a Reliant Robin or something of the sort) to smoothly transport me from archaeological site to archaeological site, in the hope that something will be open to the public. If not, I have the deepest gorge in the world (relative to width) to fall into at Vikos National Park and the most precariously placed religious building in the world (relative to St. Peter’s Church) to pray at in Meteora. Hopefully, the only things I return to the UK with in a two weeks’ time are cherished memories and litre bottle of ouzo. Anything else and I’ll probably have to be put down, given the feebleness of my travel insurance. As always, I shall write of my tedious goings-on here. So, if you struggle with insomnia these posts will make perfect bedtime literature. See you in Athens.

J

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