Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I'm going to this country in a week or two. Well, the country represented by this flag. But where is it? Not telling! Hah!
All The Countries I Have Ever Visited
Here is a list of all the countries I have ever visited. OK, this may seem like a boring concept not untainted with personal smugness, but as an added inducement to read through, there is a competition at the bottom.
Before I start on this exceptionally dull exercise, I'd like to make clear my criteria. For a country to qualify as a place I have visited, I actually have to have been in person on that nation's sovereign territory. i.e. A stopover at the airport, where you don't leave the actual airport (and don't cross the passport barrier) does NOT count. Nor, obviously, does flying through the airspace. However just passing through the country, on a train or by car, DOES count, as long as there is a passport check at some point, or, failing that, you cross the designated frontier. Yes I know these might seem arbitrary rules, but hey it's my stupidly boring list, not yours.
Furthermore, the country must have been recognised as a country - by the UN, for instance - at the time I passed through it. This may seem an obscure point, but see this example: in the 1980s I travelled through Yugoslavia, and I spent time in the south of the country. The south is now an independent state called FYROM (cute name, huh? It means Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. A waggish friend of mine says that when they sort the dispute with Greece that has necessitated this clumsy name, they can just call the country M, which has a nice sinister ring, like a character in a Kafka novel. "Where are you going on holiday?" "Oh, I'm going to... M." But I digress.)
So where was I? Yes. Criteria. How do I assess my trip through Yugoslavia, that took me through one country in the 80s - but would take me through five if I did it now? The only logical way I can think is to take the countries that were in existence at the time of the trip. So I don't get a credit for FYROM, because it didn't exist when I travelled through it. But do I count Yugoslavia, which no longer exists? Yes. But maybe with an asterisk next to it, to indicate it doesn't exist now.
And with that monumentally dull and possibly incoherent preamble, here's my list of All The Countries I've Been To.
Trinidad & Tobago
So I make that 54-58 countries, depending on how you count the *s, the ones that don't exist any more, and the ** - Palestine. Is this a state? And of course the *** Mount Athos, the semi-independent ecclesiastical-monastic republic in the north Aegean which has passport controls and its own laws and its very own flag and diplomatic corps, but is technically in some ways part of Greece.
Er, anyway, let's call it 56. Not bad. I'm particularly pleased with Madagascar and Azerbaijan.
However I also note huge great holes - nothing in South America, India a big no-no, sub-Saharan Africa virtually a dark continent, and Australasia/Polynesia also missing. Travel editors of Britain, are you reading??
And here's the competition. Soon I shall be travelling to a new country, not on the list above. That's the flag, up there. But where is it?
The correct answer will win the usual five storey town house in Mayfair AND a signed copy of my new memoirs, at special discount price*.
* Spookily similar to the price charged by amazon, inc p&p.
Posted by sean at 12:37 pm