Friday, 23 March 2012

Walking to Azerbaijan

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may be aware that I am very much pro the Eurovision Song Contest. Last year I live blogged it, and this year I had thought I would be in Eastern Europe for it – but it turns out the final is being held on May 26, two days after our triumphant return.

Before I checked the dates, however, I did have a bit of a look round Google Maps to see how feasible it would be to detour from our planned route (Germany – Poland – Czech Republic – Slovakia – Austria – Hungary – Croatia – Slovenia – Italy) to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and home of Eurovision 2012. Not very, as it turns out – Azerbaijan is a bit out of the way.

In fact, if you were to walk it from my flat in Edinburgh (because that’s something you would do), it’d take 34 days and 9 hours – assuming you walk at the pace of Google Maps (which gives you about 20-25 minutes to do a mile).

The directions are pretty extensive, although as we all know they are bound to have missed out countless mini roundabouts and pedestrian areas. Still, they do warn that the directions are in beta, and to be fair to them 3, 347 miles is a pretty large area to cover. Possibly my favourite thing is that they also warn: “Use caution – this route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.”

There aren’t any pavements on the North Sea, then?! What an outrage! I shall be writing to my MP.

I jest, of course – Google Maps knows the average person cannot walk on water. Instead they advise you to saunter down from Edinburgh to Newcastle and get a ferry to Ijmuiden, although presumably you can pace up and down the deck if you really want to keep moving. After that it’s a simple case of walking up through the Netherlands and across the top of Germany till you get to Kiel, from whence you take another ferry to Lithuania before a brisk march down through Belarus, Ukraine, part of Russia and Georgia. Then bob’s your uncle, you’re crossing the border into Azerbaijan before you can say ‘are we there yet?’

Rather brilliantly, the directions are full of things like ‘Turn right, Entering Russia.’ This is nice because it makes it sound really simple, when in actual fact the parts of Russia they are suggesting you traverse are flagged up on the Foreign Office website as amber for ‘advise against all but essential travel’, due to issues including terrorism and the political situation. Somehow I don’t think a pilgrimage in support of Englebert Humperdinck counts as essential.

Which brings me on to another point about this year’s contest; namely, was it somehow influenced by Eddie Izzard? Until recently Definite Article was my only reference point for Azerbaijan, whilst Dress to Kill provided my only knowledge about Englebert Humperdinck. Now he is representing us there, several years later. Coincidence? I think not…

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