For weeks, the most common question I’ve been asked is, “What about coronavirus?”
After so many inquiries about what seemed like a far-off problem on the other side of the world, I settled into the habit of giving a rather flippant answer. By the time I get to China, I would say, COVID-19 will either be a global pandemic (meaning China would be no different than anywhere else), or the global public health community will have got it under control. To be sure, I am many months away from reaching China!
Even as the virus began to spread to Europe, I felt secure in the open air on the tandem and often in a (no longer leaky!) tent at night. After all, as my friend Jeremy told me, “To my knowledge, the virus doesn’t billow down the road like tumbleweed…” Of course, like you, I am exercising normal precautions, such as increasing the frequency and intensity of my hand-washing!
But what I hadn’t realised was the impact that the coronavirus could have on international borders, and how quickly that landscape could change. The news of the last few days has forced me to shape up to this evolving reality. With the rapidly evolving situation in Italy and the many unknowns ahead, Geneva became a decision point for me… on how I plan to get to the other side of the Alps!
The route I had envisioned would bring me to the French Riviera, across northern Italy and into the Balkan states after a tour around Venice. The situation last week made this look increasingly difficult. The situation this week made it clear that this would no longer be possible. In one sense, I might not be able to pass through. In another sense, other countries might refuse my entry because I had been to Italy in the first instance.
So, meeting my mum in Geneva earlier this week, we had a look at the next most sensible plan for me and Chris to get to Istanbul via an overland route. Fortunately, there are so many beautiful options!
Yesterday, I began making my way north and East through the northern foothills of the Swiss Alps on may way (roughly) to Interlochen and Zürich; through southern Bavaria near Munich; then east into Austria via Vienna; then following the Danube al the way to the border between Serbia and Croatia after passing Bratislava, Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary, and many beautiful sights in between. I hope to rejoin my original route in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. A little further on, I am still hoping to visit the project site for World Child Cancer’s work in Kosovo (see also: their post about Bristol2Beijing).
Keep your fingers crossed for this being the last major route change for this leg of the expedition! Do come and join if this revised route sparks your interest! I hadn’t predicted needing help with German, Slovak, or Hungarian, but if there are any linguists who would like to help me publicise my new route and find some great people (and coffee shops) in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary, please send us an email!
Of course, flexibility is key, and I’m aware things could change again. The route after Istanbul will need to be evaluated as I get closer, especially given the COVID-19 situation in Iran, among other uncertainties. I will keep you posted. You can also follow my daily progress here!