Next year my wife and I plan to visit England.  The last time we went was 2004 so we decided visits should now always coincide with Olympic years not so much because we like watching athletics on the BBC but more so because the exchange rate means that the UK is so bloody expensive now that we can only afford to go there once every four years !  Anyway my wife would like to take advantage of one of these Ryanair “fly for the price of a bag of crisps ( which is more food than you can ever expect to be served on our cheapskate flight)” deals to visit Italy for a day or so whilst over there.  She has never been there and my daughter is pretty excited about meeting Pinocchio since she seems to think we’ll run into him in Rome.  The fact that she has already met the string-less wonder at Disneyworld hasn’t dampened her excitement.  I have been to Italy more times than Paris Hilton has been drunk so I am trying to convince my family members that if we do take a trip within a trip that it should be to somewhere else.

I would like to visit either Bulgaria or Denmark for the simple reason that I have never been to either nation before.  When I was a kid I had a weird obsession with Denmark which lead my Dad to think I had some kind of trace memory from our ancient ancestors who were marauding vikings that made their way to Ireland and started our clan on the emerald isle.  He seemed to think there must be some deeper reason behind my desire as a 7 year old to move to the Nordic nation but in reality the only motive behind my childhood plan was to go there and buy a soccer shirt.  Back in the mid 80’s Denmark had a shirt that was red on on side and thin red and white stripes on the other.  Somehow in my mind this seemed like the most attractive looking piece of clothing ever created and that coupled with the fact that Preben Elkjaer scored a hat-rick against Uruguay in the first world cup match I ever watched was the driving force behind my first emigration bid.  When I was 19 I almost went to Denmark once when my mate Deacon found a deal to go on a “cruise” there for 40 quid round trip.  It sounded great but when I realised that it actually involved sharing bunk beds with 3 other people (two of whom would be complete strangers – probably Swedish chef looking style serial killers) and a grand total of 4 hours ashore in the land of bacon I decided it was better to pay 129 quid to ride on a rickety old bus to Prague for 5 days instead.  I am sure that in reality Denmark has more to offer than classic Hummell soccer shirts but beyond bacon, legoland and a recently defaced statue of the little mermaid I am not exactly sure what !  Therefore the only way to find out is to show up there and asked the first basin headed blond that I run into where the party is.

Bulgaria is another country I have never been to despite the best efforts of a NYC based “Bulgarian” dentist to lure me there and pay 16 times the price I ended up paying in Romania for my recent mouth renovation.  Back in the day I recall Bulgaria was little more than a place for weightlifters, Papal assassins and people who use poison umbrellas to kill Russian dissidents but apparently today it is a Mecca for Brits.  You know a place has come of age as a tourist destination when even some of my parents less than worldly neighbours have been there and at the last count they knew at least 3 sets of middle aged Sawbridgeworth based couples who have recently made the trip.   When I first went to Eastern Europe in the 90’s these same people reacted as if I had just visited Alpha Centuri so either Hristo Stoichkov and co. have come a long way or the good people of Sawbo have been priced out of their usual haunts on the Costa-Lotta.   For my part I did once eat a can of Bulgarian luncheon meat in Budapest that was covered in green fungus and more recently I discovered that the father of one of my daughters pre-K friends once represented Bulgaria as an Olympic gymnast so I am not totally in the dark about the place.

Bulgaria like Denmark was a place I wanted to visit as a child.  I had no desire to purchase the rather bland looking Bulgarian 1986 world cup soccer shirt but I did think it would be a good idea for me to go there as a 9 year old and explain to the people that being communist was pretty stupid.  Luckily for me the people there realised that long before I showed up and since then it fell off my radar until this whole Ryanair thing came up with my wife.  She seems to think that the basis for choosing where to go should be what the country has to offer as a destination.  I am more concerned with satisfying my obsessive compulsive desire to have a red dot on my world map showing that I have been to every country in Europe and I don’t want to “waste” an opportunity by visiting a country I have already been to a thousand times.  I guess we will see what happens and in reality we will no doubt discover that the cheap flights have more stipulations than loan from a Scottish bank but hopefully my wife will realise that whilst we could climb the leaning tower of Pisa, marvel at the piazza Michelangelo or stand in awe at the size of the Coliseum that we could also more importantly tick one more country off my “must visit” list and surely that is what travel is all about.

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