Two things strike me as I begin to get more and more excited about heading off to Berlin next week. The first I have been aware of for a little while, since a German friend asked me a few weeks ago when I was last on the continent – my answer shockingly having been eight years ago, in 2002. Despite having spent just short of four out of the past 21 months travelling across three countries in SE Asia, trekking, teaching, eating unimaginable things, I haven’t been on holiday in Europe – or anywhere apart from our ‘staycations’ in Devon and Cornwall, for that matter – since our lovely trips to the Vendée nearly a decade ago.
The second thing I only realised tonight, while cooking my haggis of all things – and it shocked me. London excluded, which it bloody well should be given I lived there for the first twenty years of my life, I have never set foot in another European capital. Not Paris, not Rome, not even Cardiff, Belfast or Edinburgh – or even Athens, despite having been to plenty of lovely Greek islands, somewhat of a family obsession until about ten years ago.
This is all quite a discovery for someone who generally feels pretty well travelled, and who has really caught the travel bug so good and proper that it is starting to play such a pivotal role in their life. So Berlin is quite the stepping stone for me, more than it will be more for most of those I’m travelling with. Some have been before, some haven’t – but all, I think, have been to, say, Paris as a starting point, at least.
And I am resolving to make Berlin my own starting point, too. I’m not going to stop going to places far and wide – hell, I still want to see the rest of Asia, and that’s even before Cuba comes into the question. But I have realised I am the prime culprit in the scandal I have mindlessly spouted about to all and sundry for so long; that the greatest treasures lie right under our noses, and that they are the ones we take for granted the most.
I have always secretly thought features on UK destinations were a bit of a cop-out for travel magazines (particularly in ’25 weekends away for less than £50′ type stories, where the reality is there’s limited scope for much movement beyond Folkestone), but the truth is one that I’ve dodged away from and darted around for far too long. This country, this continent, are full of so many treasures, so much variety, so much just waiting to be seen. Sicily is top of my priorities for European travel – let’s see if I can squeeze it in before 2010 is out.