Since October 10th 2013: 131 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Some things stay true
Do you know what I get asked a lot? I get asked why I do not quit and go home? I can be really miserable sometimes within the Saga. You mostly see the tip of the iceberg. The 10% that pokes above the water. Sometimes I show you a bit of the 90% which is normally hidden.
This is absolutely no indication refering to the Saga is 90% horrible and hard. Not at all. What I mean is that the social media mostly centers around 10% of the activities and experiences this journey presents. And then the remaining 90% are mostly hidden from the public and encompasses both good and bad. So why do I not give up? I've been thinking about that and previously I haven't really known myself. However, now I think the reason is that if we give up in life nothing ever really changes. Everything stays more or less the same. My man MJ once said:"I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change".
I'm writing this while on a train heading back to Rome from a brief visit to Genoa. So evidently not all roads lead to Rome? Some lead to Genoa! However I'm on my way back to Rome now? How confusing?!? :) Maersk Line in Italy is based out of Genoa which turned out to be a phenomenal city by the Mediterranean coast. It's an ancient merchants' city and has always been an important port. Walking the streets of Genoa's old town requires very little imagination for anyone who wants to pretend they've traveled 400 years back in time. It's an incredibly charming city and while I could have stayed vividly entertained for several weeks I feel privileged just to be able to say: "I was there".
Palazzo Doria Tursi, Genoa.
While the cute old classical style houses whizz past me as my train moves closer to Rome, I pause to look at the green mountains in the horizon that reach up towards the ceiling of a pale blue sky. Cumulus clouds have formed above the mountains and look like they could house complete civilizations hidden from us wingless creatures on the ground. Italy is very beautiful.
Kuno and I in front of the Colosseum.
Last Friday I left you just as my friend Kuno arrived from Denmark. He had placed a booking at a (christian) hotel and requested two beds so we could share a room. Somewhere between my imagination and reality I sensed that the receptionist might have thought we were a couple? I guess it's not normal for two grown men to share a hotel room. However it's highly practical :) Kuno and I first became friends back in 1996 when we were both on our second year of business school. I had been watching Kuno and some of the others play cards for about a year and there was suddenly an open seat. We are such an odd match if you were to look at us. Kuno has got both feet planted firmly on the ground and is a partner in an increasingly successful accounting firm called www.onerevision.dk
He is married and has 2 boys. They have a beautiful house about 15 minutes from where Kuno grew up. I'm on the other hand me. Unmarried, no children, an apartment in Copenhagen far from where I grew up, I've worked in 20 countries around the world and I'm currently trying to pull off the impossible with the Saga. Somehow the chemistry was just right and he's been a great friend for many years now. More than 20 now! That's a lot of water under the bridge. Yes it is Sam ;)
The magnificent Trivi fountain (and its spectators).
I can't quite express how important it was for me to see him again. We regularly exchange emails and we Skype on and off. However being able to walk the streets of Rome and having the opportunity of enjoying a chilled glass of wine at one of the city's extraordinary plazas was just brilliant!
Kuno and I scouting for possibilities at the Vatican.
Kuno just had a few nights before he needed to fly back home. However we definitely got the best out of it and without even aiming to see as many tourist attractions as possible, our list kind of built up nicely anyway. That is Rome for you; something unique on nearly every street corner. Here's what we managed just by strolling about a bit:
- The Vatican City
- Castel Sant'Angelo
- The Tiber River
- The Pantheon
- The Trevi Fountain
- The Spanish Steps
- The Fiumi Fountain
- The Roman Forum
- The Colosseum
Something else I get asked every once in a while is: "what is the worst country in the world?" I don't think there is a "worst country". Whichever country might come to mind is a paradise for someone. I can however tell you which country is the dumbest in my opinion. The Vatican is definitely a dumb country. This is no attack on the church. But that is more or less all which the Vatican is. Let's just leave religion out of this for the sake of the argument. The Vatican is the seat of a major religion and for some reason it's considered a country? I happen to know the story about why. I often do my research. Nonetheless can we just try to agree on a few basics for what constitutes a country? I know it's really hard to define a country but please indulge me for a moment. Let's lay down two basics, which must be fulfilled before we can call a place a country:
1) there must be land (it cannot be nonexistent).
2) children must be born there.
Doesn't that sound quite reasonable? The Vatican has no hotels, no restaurants and the "country" closes at 11pm every night and opens again at 06:30am. If you are inside the "country" (and uninvited) after 11pm, you will be escorted out. So how do you get an invitation? That is something I continue to wonder about? I would love to sit down with someone from the Vatican who would pour me a cup of tea, and tell me what life is like for them so I can tell all of you. So far we have called every available telephone number, we have emailed every email address several times, we have faxed, we have sent post, we have sent packages I have even tweeted their official account for more than 60 consecutive days. No response whatsoever. If you want to be the holder of a Vatican passport you must acquire a job within the Vatican. While the Vatican certainly has land nobody is ever born there. It's completely surrounded by Rome which has more than 5 million citizens and Rome makes no claim to be a country. The concept of calling the Vatican a country is severely stupid in my humble opinion. Especially considering what we do not call a country here on this planet. Well that's my two cents on the matter anyway. And no - it's still a country within the Saga because it was when we began this project and we're not cutting corners.
The Vatican in all its glory.
So my train is still rolling and the mountains have disappeared now. The landscape has been replaced by endless fields and this train is unbearably hot to be inside. Italy and Spain are both being hit by the worst heatwaves recorded within the past 10 years. This particular train is the cheap regional one that doesn't have air conditioning. At least not air conditioning which works.
The Tiber river in Rome and the Castel Sant'Angelo.
Kuno left Rome proving that some roads lead to Silkeborg in Denmark. My road lead to a dorm room in a hostel where I zoned out for a few days. I had caught a cold last week and I have been having a hard time shaking the it off. In fact a few days ago I got out of bed in the morning to tell the receptionist that I was staying for one more night and to cook myself a quick meal. I went back to bed and slept until 9pm!!! I guess I needed that.
My "I'm sick food".
Danish liver pate on French bread baked in Italy :)
Proper italian food (thanks to Hanna).
I worked out how to spend 24 hours in the Vatican. To be more precise I should say that someone else worked it out and I'm going to try it out on my own body. It's just not the way I wanted to do it and some people (including myself) might question what the point is at all? Well the point is that I'm not cutting corners and that a 24 hour minimum rule for every country is exactly that. After making arrangements for the Vatican I switched to another hostel. This time an old favorite called The Yellow. The Yellow was the hostel I stayed at in 2013 when I first came to Rome within the Saga and wanted to give the Vatican a shot. Back then I stayed 3 hours in the Vatican before I decided that I wasn't going to visit the Vatican like that. I wanted to come back and do it right when I had a formal invitation. However the invitation I eventually received through an old friend's network 1.5 years ago is no longer valid today. Such is life.
The Yellow is still great though. It's near the train terminal and they treated me well back in 2013 so I'm happy to be back now :) Believe it or not; it just so happened that my mother then came to town and checked into a hotel just 2 minutes down the road. My mother is a travel guide for senior citizens and she arrived to lead her group of 37 spirited seniors through the splendors of Italy. I had a brief chance to meet them and afterwards a bunch of them couldn't help themselves from telling my mother that she has "such a handsome young boy".
After I finished writing this blog I still had time to watch Casablanca on the train :)
That leads us up to today. Because the next morning I got on a train and traveled the 5 hours it took to reach Genoa. I presented the Saga for the employees at Maersk Line who had a large number of great questions for me. Afterwards I received a real mini container from Diego Perdones who's the regional manager. It's such a cool little container which has been crafted in great detail to a degree where it really resembles a shrunken container. It's heavy too :)
How cool is THIS?!? Thank you Diego! :)
This beauty is Hanna from Finland who works for www.maerskline.com
in Genoa. She invited me out for dinner and it turns out that she speaks 8 languages and has been to every 4th country in the world!! :)
Right, we're reaching the end of this weeks entry and I'm going to declare the "European Tour" a success!
A month ago I initiated the European revisit tour under a very strict timeline. The purpose was multiple:
- Revisit European Red Cross offices for better use of the Saga.
- Make motivational presentations at Maersk offices to say thank you.
- Show you a little more of Europe.
- Boost project across Europe
- Give friends and family a chance to visit.
I'm happy to say that the logistics went like clockwork!
Here's how the past week went down. Keep in mind that I've also done several blogs, kept social media updated, traveled great distances, made reservations in person, done a lot of research and I have given a few interviews:
- Maersk Line Portugal (2 presentations).
- Visit Portuguese Red Cross
- Arrive to Madrid
- Maersk Line Spain (2 presentations)
- Meet Adrian from French Red Cross
- Meet French Red Cross
- Meet Lofti from Algeria
- Arrive to Brussels
- Meet Samira (friend) and family
- Maersk Line Belgium presentation
- Meet Belgian Red Cross (Bruxelles)
- Meet Belgian Red Cross (Mechelen)
- Arrive to Amsterdam
- Meet friends from Denmark (Pernille, Søren & Helle)
- With friends from Denmark
- Friends from Denmark leave
- Other friend from Denmark arrives (Kris)
- Meet Netherlands Red Cross
- Maersk Line Netherlands presentation
- Arrive to Hamburg
- With friends and family from Denmark (Lisbeth, Torben & Le)
- Maersk Line Germany presentation
- Arrive to Berlin
- Meet German Red Cross
- Meet Theresa (host)
- Meet Parth & family (project member and friend)
- Arrive to Zurich
- Meet Michele from Italy (friend)
- Maersk Line Switzerland presentation
- Arrive to Rome
- Meet Italian Red Cross
- Meet friend from Denmark (Kuno)
- With friend friend from Denmark
- Italian holiday
- Meet my mother for dinner
- Maersk Line Italy presentation
Let's keep on keeping on! ;)
I think this is my 7th passport?