Madrid was an important stopover for me, as I had studied there for a year in 1996 and I wanted to see my friend Emilio again. Pilar, who had lived in Frankfurt for many years, is now also living in Madrid, so we met them both and hit the town. It was great seeing them!
Next, Frankfurt. Well, this should not really be part of a year long trip, but since Lilians mother was getting married, we planned this in of course. Happy wedding, lots of food and seeing friends and family. We then flew to Sweden to meet some representatives of Swedish county councils that are looking for German doctors to work in their hospitals. They were extremely welcoming and gave us a hard time deciding whether we should go to Sweden or not. We decided to stay in Frankfurt for good.
Besides the interviews we also had time to drive up to the arctic circle and beyond. As it was April, most of northern Sweden was still deeply covered with ice and snow. Think of a winter wonderland. However, April in the north also means 14 hours of sunshine a day, which many Swedes use to go out ice-fishing, skiing and motorsledding. That would still be a good reason the change our minds and move to Sweden...
After a short visit to Arnstein to see my parents and brothers and sisters, we flew to Doha, Qatar. The countries on the Arabian peninsula provide a totally different challenge compared to South America. First of all, public transport is very limited here. After all, everyone is rich and has their own car. So we rented one too and tried to come to terms with the arab way of driving. They are definitely not drink driving, although it sometimes seems like it. Changing lanes is second nature for them. We made it safely to a beach south of Doha, where we spent the night in the car.
The situation is similar but worse in the United Arab Emirates. Public transport is minimal and taxis sometimes hard to get. Try to take a taxi during rush hour and you might encounter a taxi driver, who suddenly forgot how to get to one of the best known malls in town, just to avoid getting stuck in traffic.
We spent two days in Dubai exploring the obligatory sights lika Burj al Arab hotel, the Gold Souk and the ever growing Dubai skyline. Watch this space! I think it is worth checking on Dubai every five years or so.
A lady from Turkmenistan (one of the hardest countires to get into, but apparently easier to leave behind) then helped us to get a rental car. It is fairly normal that the people working in shops are not arab. About 80% of the population is foreign, mostly Pakistani and Indian, but also many South East Asians.
The bigest problem driving around the region is the heat. As long as you drive, you are in danger of catching a cold from the air condition, once you stop it is unbearable. So we drove most of the time and only stopped to go swimming.
Apart from deserts and mountain scenery there is actually not that much to see. Bedouin life did not leave many traces in the deserts and industrialisation only started with the discovery of oil or even a lot later.
Our next destination was beautiful Oman. As hot as Dubai, but a lot less people and traffic. We drove around the northern part of the country, chasing lazy camels of the road. Absolute highlight was the turtle beach in Ras al Jinz, where we could camp and swim. During the night, giant green turtles would come onto the beach to lay their eggs. The magic moment came, when Lilian brought a newly hatched baby turtle into the safety of the water.
At the beginning of May it was time to move on to Asia, our final destination, that Lilian had been looking forward to for quite a while.
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