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The Grand Tour

In just over a week, Habiba and I will leave Korea for a trip around Europe. We will be travelling for three months then doing three months working on a camp, after which we’ll head to the State to stay with Habiba’s mum for a while before heading back to Korea for the end of the year or early next year.

We actually leave the country separately. Habiba gets a free flight home (or wherever) from her employer; I don’t and had to buy my own. Habiba’s job have bought her a flight with Emirates, so she’s leaving at midnight on Sunday night and will have a half a day stop in Dubai. I got a much cheaper Aeroflot ticket and I leave at lunchtime on Monday and have a two-hour stop at Moscow Sheremetyevo.

So we arrive in Istanbul within a few hours of each other on Monday afternoon/evening. We’ll be spending a few days there before flying to Izmir on Turkey’s west coast. We spend another few days there and at nearby Selçuk, where the ruins of Ephesus are. Then we’re due to fly to Athens for a while then Thessaloniki and nearby areas for a while. There’s some civil disturbance in Greece at the moment with demonstrations against austerity cuts that have seen buildings burnt and the murder of three bankers. However, I think that there won’t be a huge problem as long as we take sensible precautions; and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to see the Acropolis and other sights.

Habiba’s mum will head back to Istanbul, then, for her flight home and we go to Albania – specifically, Berat, a picturesque town noted for its medieval buildings. We might stop in Tirana, the capital; we have a stop planned in Shkodra (or Shkoder – it seems to have two names). Then we visit another beautiful-seeming location, Kotor in Montenegro (where the average height is over 6 feet). Then it’s on to Croatia: Dubrovnik then Split (with a necessary transit through Bosnia and Herzegovina, which separates the southernmost tip of Croatia from the rest with its only coastal town of Neum) then Zagreb.

From Zagreb, we’ll travel north to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, where we’ll meet a couple of friends. One is Hungarian, so we’ll also take a trip with him to Budapest. Then it’s on to Vienna and Salzburg, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona and Rome. Our travel during this stage of the trip will be by train – we’ve already bought Eurail passes; we need to figure out exactly how to use them, though.

From Rome we fly to London (Gatwick). We’ll spend a few days there, staying with friends, meeting other friends and seeing the sights. Then Bath and Bristol. Then up to Runcorn and nearby areas. Then we fly from Manchester to Reykjavik for a couple of weeks volunteering on an organic farm. The farm is on the east of the country and the capital is on the west, so we need to take another flight between the two (there’s not much public transport in Iceland).

Then we fly to Switzerland, where we’ll stay with friends of Habiba’s in Basel for a while – and hopefully get in a bit more travel to surrounding regions. After that we’ve signed up to work on the Zenith Institute Sufi Camp in southern Switzerland. The work consists of five weeks of setting up, four weeks of being a steward at the camp itself (although, in exchange for attending the full five-week set-up period, we get a free week of seminars) then three weeks of take-down. This is Habiba’s dream and one that I have mixed feelings about – but I’ll try to keep an open mind about it.

The camp gives volunteers who attend the whole thing some money at the end – so we’ll use that to buy a flight to America. And then, presumably, we’ll start looking for work in Korea again.

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