This kind of thing was not supposed to happen

Baltimore, Maryland

Oia Panorama

I was shopping. After years of abuse, I finally retired some much-loved and oft-abused travel clothes. Pants that had climbed (and slid down) a Moroccan mountain. A shirt whose longevity was inversely proportional to its 8 dollar price tag. Shoes that had seen more than a dozen countries on four continents. And while this gear was like my travel family, its best days were behind me, memorialized with so many passport stamps. Days before my next adventure was to begin, I needed some new clothes.

While this gear was like my travel family, its best days were behind me, memorialized with so many passport stamps. Days before my next adventure was to begin, I needed some new clothes.

But while browsing at REI, I realized I didn’t know precisely what I should be browsing for. Cold, warm, rain, sun? I had not checked what to expect two days and 6000 miles into my future. Idling in the Shorts section, I made a few phone calls, trying to find someone at a computer who could check European weather. Nobody came to my meteorological rescue. But Central Europe in mid-June shouldn’t be a problem, I figured. Even a summer visit to the Arctic Circle doesn’t seem to be much of a problem anymore. I bought shoes, shorts and lightweight t-shirts. And I sealed my fate…

With a 12 hour layover Brussels, planned specifically for a quick city visit, I plan my photos and strategize how to use my new camera equipment. This is my first European trip with digital gear. The leap to digital has been long in arriving – I waited until the affordable SLRs offered performance equivalent to the slide film I had been shooting. But beyond the convenience of not hauling around several pounds of expensive film, so many creative doors had been opened. Unlimited shooting. High dynamic range photographs. Timelapse. And – my latest passion, made infinitely easier with digital capture and software processing – panoramas. I envision 360 degree shots from the center of the Grote Markt. Timelapse sequences of people and trains transiting Gare du Midi.

Forget the new, I want to go back and recapture my old haunts with all the digital possibility I can muster. And what about Paris? Maybe I should use my interlude between flights to head south and spend the day in my favourite city before returning to the Brussels airport. Mental images of the food market of Rue Mouffetard send me to the Thalys website, looking for cheap last-minute train fares between Brussels and Paris. E40 gets me there and back in plenty of time for my evening flight to Prague. Should I go? Will the weather be different in either city?

Seconds after reaching the BBC weather site, my entire trip starts to unwind. Paris: 57 and rain. The same in Brussels. Prague: 59 and thunderstorms. For days. Heavy rain in Budapest as far as the forecast can predict. This is June, right? I confirm the forecast with other sites but the verdict is unchanged: all of Europe is trapped under clouds and heavy rain. Hobbled by awful weather for at least half of a 14 day trip sounds less than ideal. I quickly need to recalculate how I’m going to spend my next two weeks.

With some flexibility owing to my airline reward ticket, I begin by considering alternate locations. I need to fly in and out of Europe using the same cities and dates, but the final destinations can change. The old favorites are out: Marrakech is blazing hot. Croatia is too wet. France is expensive and wet and Italy is really expensive and wet. New, unexplored locations don’t work, either: Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia are all soaking. Scandinavia, while sunny, must be excluded because I would need to finance it by auctioning a kidney. I zoom in and out and scroll around the weather maps, querying cities like a frantic lost dog searching for my home. Moving southeast, I finally strike sunshine: Athens. I pick up the phone.