All that remains is dreammaking and strange remembrance

I started the year where anyone dreams of being in January: the cold, dark capital of Finland. As affordable as the flights are to get there from New York, it isn’t enough incentive to get me to stay long.

That said, I did make more of a social effort, as one often does around New Years when people are trying to do things a little differently. One of my few hostel stays these days lead to a spirited night of karaoke (I did not sing) and one of the nicer diners I’ve ever had at a proper fish restaurant in downtown. I don’t recall if I got fish or not. I don’t think I did.

I do remember being hungover and missing a call, which is very unusual for me, so I decided being social was a bad resolution and decided to head towards Gdansk so I could sit by myself and stare at the sea.


By way of a quick stop in Tallinn to grab a bag and say goodbye for what I assumed would be forever, I arrived in Warsaw first. It was a big city and I just remember wandering around and eating perogies, but after a couple days of that I headed to Gdansk.

The main reason is because I like a city by the sea, and the secondary reason being that I could rent a very nice apartment quite cheaply. So for less than $1k/month I was in a modern building that overlooked what city was there, and it was nice to have proper furnishings and a good working setup.

Despite a massive language barrier, I got what I consider to be the best haircut of my life by a young woman there, who somehow made me look a little less bald. It’s an effect I’ve been unable to recreate, or attempted to, but for that day I felt pretty good.

Gdansk also has a Neptune Statue and speed dating at a craft beer bar on a Wednesday evening. I didn’t speak Polish so I couldn’t realistically take part, but it was interesting to watch while I worked.

The low points included tripping over my power chord and breaking my computer (which I then had to have repaired), and finding a fly in a perogy dish that had been well-preserved in a deep-fried encasing. It was tough to eat for a couple days after that, which surprised me, because I didn’t think I was grossed out by stuff like that.

They had a ton of nice, small, independent cafes in Gdansk that I rotated between throughout my couple month stay there. Other than baristas asking “why are you here?” a few times – in more of an perplexed tone than a curious one – the other conversations I had were largely with myself.

It wasn’t exactly beach weather in February, although I did take a ride out there (to Gdynia) a couple times to sit at the cafes and stare at the water. Probably not a bad place to stay if you were to come back when the weather was a bit more reasonable.


Planning to meet my dad and brother in Milan, I decided to head to Italy a little early and do a tour of some of the North of the country before they arrived. I started in Bologna for a couple weeks, which was nice as it wasn’t overrun with tourists but still offered the kind of Italian experience that I expected.

Lots of old buildings, a church being restored (of course), and another Neptune statue. It’s like I was seeking them out.

I also did a trip through Verona to see Juliet’s famous balcony. It’s supposed to give you luck to touch her boob, which I think I did, but I can’t say I found that superstition to hold true. Not that I’ve been unlucky, but it seems to reflect a general randomness the same as before.

I also went to Lake Garda and Lake Como to try to meet George and Amal, but I didn’t see them.

Then, I made my way to Milan to meet dad.

My main memory was all the pigeons outside Duomo di Milano. We also went to Flower Burger, which had some pretty delicious veggie burgers and colorful buns. What more can you ask for?

Next stop was Genoa, where I worked quite a bit and dad did a lot of walking. His favorite was visiting Christopher Columbus’ house, and of course we had to go to the Hofbrauhas because they had one there.

There was also a delicious little Italian pasta place near the water that was fast and cheap. But I didn’t save it on my Google Map, so it will be forever lost.

Next, we went to Cinque Terre, as we’re tourists after all. It was a lot of walking and picturesque little seaside towns, as advertised. It was early spring, so a little cooler and not as many tourists during high season, which I obviously appreciate.

The highlight was helping the American lady with the train tickets because they didn’t have an English option, when in reality she just didn’t know what the Irish flag looked like. While I still consider that a design problem, it’s a funny one.


Then on to France to meet my brother! Before he arrived to Nice, dad and I did a trivia night at Brew Dog and visited some kind of parade thing that was happening and seemed to be quite the big event.

Most of my memory of Nice is blocked by my memory of going for a jog with my brother and him jumping over a branch and absolutely cracking his head on a higher one. There was a nice view from there though, so it was a good place to rest while he was almost certainly concussed.

Overall, Nice was a beautiful city though, even that time of year, and we found the French to be extremely pleasant despite their reputation of being otherwise. I guess that’s mostly Parisians though.

Dad chilled in Nice while my brother and I did a day trip to Monaco. Checked off another country if nothing else. Also saw some expensive yachts, walked more than it felt like we should have, and visited the famous Monte Carlo casino. It cost money just to enter the proper part of the casino though, and since we didn’t have much desire to gamble, decided against the price just for the novelty photos.

After a brief stop in Marseille, we continued on to Barcelona. At about the same time COVID was starting to break out in Milan, and we were staying just a little ahead of it as we moved west towards Spain (don’t worry, we weren’t the ones tracking it everywhere).


This was before COVID really became a thing though, so tourist life in Barcelona was quite normal. Since I had been there a couple times, I mostly worked and enjoyed Spanish food with them, while they did the tours of the Gaudi buildings. In other words, my brother lead my father on a trek across the city for a couple days that would leave anyone spent.

After they went home, I stayed in a hostel that was formerly some kind of weird garment place. There were a lot of weird nightgowns decorating the place, and I felt like I was in a haunted castle of some kind. No ghosts though.

By this time, COVID was becoming a concern around the world, so I decided to pick a place to wait it out for a while. Hoping it would be a couple months, I decided to head to a beach town in Morocco, as I figured it would be a nice place to relax and wait. I wasn’t wrong about that, but the couple months turned out to be quite a bit longer, and the lockdown stricter than I anticipated.

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