Europe Roundup: Подорожній Незнайомець
October 05, 2020

This post was supposed to have been titled Eurasia Roundup, since the third section of the World2 Tour was always intended to consist of significant lengths of time on both of those continents, with Asia accounting for the majority of the time and distance. However, as I have already described on more than one occasion, this section of the Tour would better be described as the Lockdown section, and that circumstance has effectively eliminated Asia from my past and future Tour plans. I never came close to crossing the Urals, and my only steps on Asian soil were during the minimal tour of Anatolia I threw together at the last moment in August. Therefore, a limited version it will have to be, and I must say that I have been rather unmotivated to write this post, which will necessarily have to describe many goals that will remain unmet. It is, however, an established tradition for my Tour do a post like this for each section, so, here we go: Europe Roundup.

 Copernicus in Mask
Even Copernicus tried to slow the spread of the pandemic, Toruń, Poland

Of the three primary categories of activities that make up the Tour, cycling took the biggest hit as a result of the travel restrictions put in place to minimize the health crisis of 2020. During the time period between the start of February, and the middle of September, had I been able to stick to my intended routes, I should have completed sixteen and a half thousand kilometers of cycling. Instead, I managed only six thousand seven hundred over the same length of time, clearly an unsatisfactory result. There was a strong likelihood that the pace I originally intended was somewhat overly optimistic, given the number of major sightseeing destinations and the periodic rail and boat transfers that would have been involved along the way. So it is possible that I would have shortened my cycling distance during this section for other reasons, but certainly not by ten thousand kilometers. The most significant impact of that situation was a lack of consistency, with the result that my fitness level had regressed during each of the numerous long periods that passed without much physical activity. That meant that every time I restarted cycling again I had to endure the pains of becoming retrained to normal performance levels, a situation that I am still dealing with. Another aspect of my minimal efforts this year is that my accumulated distance for the entire World2 Tour has only passed the twenty thousand kilometer mark last week, equivalent to only one half the circumference of the Earth at the Equator. Cycling for another circumnavigation was never an explicit goal for this Tour, but once I had listed all of the places I wanted to see, and added up the distance required to bicycle between them, the total route was well over that amount. Since there is almost no chance of fitting in another twenty thousand kilometers, given the amount of funds I have remaining—another matter entirely— this Tour will not achieve that milestone, which is a little sad. On the bright side, I did enjoy my improvised routes through Sweden, Poland, and Ukraine during the travel window that opened during the summer and, more importantly for me personally, I did make it to the four places that were important to my family history, and all of those by cycling, more or less. The one other silver lining to this year’s circumstances was that in many places the level of roadway traffic was presumably much lower than it might have been in a normal year, as seen in the image below.

 Kam'yanets'-Podil's'kyi Streets
Empty streets in the center of Kam'yanets'-Podil's'kyi, Ukraine

The dominant aspect of this section of the Tour was always intended to be World Heritage Site visits, which is understandable, since Europe and Asia have the highest densities of such places to be found anywhere. I may have visited eighty of those Sites, had I completed my route, as envisioned, and among those were many that are consistently rated as the best the List has to offer. Things started off well, when I successfully reached all the Sites I planned to see in England and France, but then the doors slammed shut. During the longest shutdown period, through March and April, I passed the time by periodically crossing potential trips to major Sites off of my list of future visits, most of those probably forever, which was definitely a less than appealing activity. Then, as the situation evolved, I was able to slowly get back on track, mainly by finding my way to Sites that could, at least partially, be appreciated from outdoors, and later when some impressive places finally reopened towards the end of the section. Eventually, I made visits to fifty sites, which was only a moderately successful effort, though a reasonable one, given the circumstances. The image below accurately portrays one’s state of mind when only five-eighths of a major goal has been realized. The most impressive and enjoyable Sites for me came at the beginning of the section, with those of London, Stonehenge, and Paris among my favorites. Then there was a long period where most of the Sites felt a little average to me, but the section ended on an up note with visits to some beautiful cities, such as Krakow and Kyiv.

 Versailles Fountain
This inactive fountain accurately matches my mood, Versailles, France

The one area where I can claim that this section's results were reasonably adequate was with Birds. I never expected Eurasia to be the best section for birds, since the northern part of that landmass, where my original route would have taken me, is not known for hosting a large number of bird species, relative to other parts of the World. From the Atlantic crossing, until I left Turkey, I tallied one hundred five species, which is reasonable for the number of locations I managed to visit. Most of those came one at a time, as there were not really any outstanding birding spots along my route, and most could not be claimed to be the most colorful, or unusual, of species, but they all count in the end. However, I also encountered a few species that I might not have expected, but saw anyway, because of the longer time I spent in the region and my more northerly route, which took me up into Sweden. An example being the Barnacle Goose, below, who seems to be mocking me. For the entire Tour, my total of new Life Birds stood at four hundred forty-eight when I left Turkey, which was substantially off the pace I would like to have set by then, were I to reasonably expect to achieve the goal of one thousand new species for the entire Tour. Had I reached East Asia, there would have been a number of nice additions to be found there, cranes, raptors, bustards, and more, all of which will now likely remain unseen by me. However, the region that I intended to be the final section of the World2 Tour possesses a diversity of bird species that is off the charts, so I still may have achieved the thousand species goal if I had been able to make it that far. As of now, all three aspects of the Tour stand at about the halfway mark relative to their intended goals. The first two are certainly out of reach at this point, but my newly improvised fourth section is now underway, and it’s primary focus is birds. With that, and especially if I am still able to tack on another currently-closed destination at the end, I still may not achieve that goal, but I could get fairly close.

 Goose mocking
This Goose is saying: You will never see a Demoiselle Crane!

Early last year, I selected this version of the World2 Tour theme song, a duet by Simon Khorolskiy and Chris Rupp to be the ending song for the Eurasian section, primarily because half of it is sung in Russian and that large country was supposed to make up the major fraction of my route there. I suppose I could have tried to find a more applicable cover, but I decided to use this one anyway. Perhaps we can think of it as representing a goal to reach Russia that was never fulfilled, or maybe we can pretend that the lyrics are in Ukrainian, which would fit, and does sound very similar.

Either way, the line And there’s no sickness, toil, or danger, in that bright land, to which I go. definitely takes on increased meaning in the bewildering year that was 2020.