Ok, this week it isn't really Englishman in Dubrovnik, more like Englishman all over Europe. What a fantastic continent we live in. As Ursula von der Layen recently commented “Europe is simply the best place to live in the world,” and she is certainly right. So much history, culture, landmarks, nature, gastronomy all squeezed into one relatively small continent. And all with such an intertwined past and future, but each with its own unique qualities.
So driving home from Christmas has become a reality and an adventure that I haven’t had for years. In one day the whole of the Croatian coastline, it’s just so beautiful that time flies by, you feel like you’re driving in a postcard.
All the way we’ve been keeping our Croatian and English families informed. “Where’s that snow, looks like the Italian Alps?” came a question as sent them a photo of Velebit at the beginning of our journey. Crossing over the border into Slovenia and I sneezed and missed the country. Only joking. Although to be fair it isn’t the biggest country in the world, 33 Slovenia’s would fit into Texas! But it is certainly green! No wonder every slogan and logo has green on it.
We stopped to buy some local wine, yes we know this isn’t a country renowned for its viticulture and quickly saw that DU number plates have their advantages. “How lucky you are to live in Dubrovnik, I went there once in the 1970’s” said the man in the shop whilst recommending a couple of reds at a special price for his “Dubrovnik friends.”
Pushing onto Italy, our borderless European journey running smoothly even in these confusing times. We had done everything “by the book” even though nobody asked us for our Italian locator form or even Covid test.
They did, however, constantly ask us for our “Green Pass” or to me and you our Covid passport. Everywhere we went someone was waiting with a scanner to read our app. Either the unvaccinated stay at home or they eat a lot of picnics away from the rest of society.
There is even a “Super Green Pass” for those with the booster jab. Although I couldn’t really work out want a Super card holder got, maybe a discount?!
From the shores of the northern Adriatic, in Trieste, to the just as impressive shores of Lake Como in Lecco, the vast majority of Italians were wearing facemasks in the open air. Whether jogging, walking with friends or even riding a bikes the Italians are clearly mask sensitive, but I guess that’s what happens when your country gets hit the first and the hardest in a pandemic.
“Oh, I thought Dubrovnik was the capital of Croatia. Didn’t they film Game of Thrones there,” smiled the very pleasant receptionist as we stared out over the rising sun over the silver shadows of Lake Como.
Now I understand why George Clooney calls this place home, it has a certain allure that is hard to describe.
“No, that’s Zagreb, but yes we’ve played host to quite a few films and serials,” I answered.
We quickly contacted a Dubrovnik-born friend living near Geneva to get the lowdown on the high country. Again nobody checked anything, even though we had everything. What happened to the snow? Yes, it was cold, around minus 2 but the white stuff was only right on top of the highest Alpine peaks. If you need proof of global warming go to Innsbruck now. What should be a ski destination looks more like a scene from Heidi.
The Swiss are just as efficient and effective as ever. They are also just as expensive as ever. I’m never complaining about the price of our public toilets in Dubrovnik again!
And then into the wild open plains of one of the largest countries in the old continent, France.
Now, I’m actually writing this from a small hotel right in the middle of the champagne region, which at this festive time is clearly THE place to be! Clearly the French are clever when it comes to branding as you can buy just about anything with a champagne logo.
Tomorrow, fingers crossed, we’ll swish under the channel in the tunnel and onto my island home. And as we make our way across Europe I can’t help but think want an embarrassment Brexit was. The common cultures that bond us are there to see, if you just open your eyes.
And at this time of the year, I’ve seen Santas on Vespas in Italy, a Christmas fair in the Alsace and even Christmas decorations hand carved from Christmas trees in Slovenia, you can feel this joint spirit on togetherness even stronger.
So Merry Christmas, buon Natale, sretan Božić and joyeux Noël, to you all.