This is Part 4 of 400 Days of Pandemic, my accounting of living and traveling across Europe during the first year of the pandemic. We have now arrived at the fourth chapter of the pandemic season where I lose all direction, sense of place, and motivation.
By the beginning of November, it was becoming apparent that Macedonia’s lackadaisical attitude towards COVID isn’t working and cases have become to climb at an alarming rate. I put a pause on “100 Days of Travel” at Day #50 and settled into a small lakeside city to wait out the next wave of COVID. I’m sure that the border to Bulgaria will open any day now and I can return for ski season.
With my visa running out, I leave Macedonia for next-door Albania. The capital city of Tirana has a seemingly endless number of comfortable outdoor cafes and I spend the holidays enjoying the sunshine. Then the winter rains come and I found myself trapped in my apartment in an overcrowded and polluted city of noise.
Before the terrible weather hits, I manage to see a few interesting spots around the country, but after ten months of near constant stress, I’m starting to hit the wall creatively.
It’s becoming apparent that I’ll need a backup plan for Bulgaria which still refuses to open its border for Americans. Tirana is not an ideal spot to spend the winter so I head to Europe’s quietest capital – Podgorica in Montenegro.
It’s quiet here. I love it. I move to a bare-bones apartment across from the mall. It rains every day and at night I listen to it hammering the balcony and think that there must be snow just a few hours away.
One evening, I’m walking along the strip of bars located next to the mall and through the window I see a television playing highlights from the Natural Selection Tour. The next day, I go to the mall and buy snowboard boots, snowpants, and a coat. I’m getting the fuck out of here.
Montenegro, like all Balkan countries at this point, is heading directly into a massive uptick of COVID and if I don’t make a move now, I may be stuck for the rest of the winter in my sad, sad apartment at the mall. I manage to get out of Podgorica twenty-four hours before new travel restrictions are implemented and cross the border into Novi Pazar, Serbia.
I don’t know where I’ll live or where I’m heading, so in other words, a typical Monday.
Next up: Powder! Frostbite! More Powder! The Serbian Army! And So Much Powder! It’s the 400 Days of Pandemic conclusion.