The waitress in the restaurant the other night asked me where I was from. I suggested she told me first which she did. She was from Bulgaria. In addition to waiting on tables she was also studying psychology at Glasgow U but that’s not the point of this blog.
The point is I haven’t been to Bulgaria. It’s the one of the very few countries (the others are the Baltic states) in the EU I haven’t visited and it’s one of not many more in what might today be described as Europe. The break-up of Yugoslavia complicates matters with what was one country now being several. I’ve been to Croatia (Zagreb), Serbia (Belgrade) and Macedonia (Skopje) but not to Slovenia or Kosovo. To these you can add Albania and Cyprus but that’s it until you get into the countries which have come out of what was the USSR.
But the real point is which ones have I not visited but which I’d like to. A sort of bucket list and I guess that none of the above would be included. Which ones would?
Top of the list is Vietnam perhaps also along with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. I am an old Asian hand and have been everywhere else around there but never got to going to Vietnam before it became communist in the 70s and haven’t yet been as it’s become one of the tigers of South East Asia. The attraction is that it’s Asian and that it’s also former French colony so it’s got the architecture and cuisine to go with it. Cambodia also brings Angkor Wat. Laos and Myanmar just have curiosity value but I may be short-changing them.
There was a time when I’d add Jordan to the list because of the chance to visit Petra and get a sense of the desert and how it framed the development of Islam but I worry that it’s non exactly a safe place to visit these days.
Looking for the more exotic you might add Bhutan/Sikkim/Nepal to the list as countries with very different cultures and ones that provide a gateway to the Himalayas.
That’s it. I have no real desire to visit other countries for the first time but I can add to the list places I haven’t been to within countries which I have.
First of these is the Taj Mahal. I’ve been to India, specifically to Mumbai, several times on business and I enjoyed an excellent holiday in Kerala but I’ve not really seen historic India. There are other sites and experiences too but the big draw has to be the Taj Mahal.
Then comes St Petersburg. I’ve been to Moscow twice, once in the winter back in 2004 and once in the summer more recently but nowhere else in Russia. The recent War & Peace series on the TV showed a Russia like nothing today and the buildings of St Petersburg were an essential part of that.
Finally: Beijing. I’ve been to China several times on business but never to Beijing. Again it’s the history and the buildings which I’d like to witness. Most recently I’ve been to Shanghai but that’s a working city which has reinvented itself. It’s still got the river of course so that connects it to its past but otherwise it just seems to be evolving into an alternative Hong Kong.
I will of course visit other places, some I will return to, but this is the essential shopping list for the next 10 years.