As a general rule, I try not to dwell overly on the places I have traveled to that earned my ire. I know that within a few months a plague, a fire, or a rampaging army could quickly change the entire look and identity of even the most distasteful city. I myself could not stand Bremen in the least—until, that is, it had been burnt to the ground once every three years and then flooded for the remainder of the decade.
Unfortunately, there are some locales that will never win my approval regardless of how many fires, plagues, or massacres attempt to overturn their dreariness.
It would be in any world traveler’s utmost interest to avoid certain places. With so many parts of the world that are pleasant and devoid of Vikings, why settle for the worst?
Since the collapse of the once mighty Viking North Atlantic Empire, one-time hot spots such as Iceland and Greenland have degenerated into disappointments of the worst kind. There is literally nothing to do there.
If the hassle of traveling across the rough frozen seas separating these miserable islands from lively Scotland weren’t bad enough, arriving in the most boring place in the world is nothing short of a slap in the face.
On a recent trip to Greenland, I found entire villages still empty after their inhabitants had been massacred by vicious skralings over two decades previous. Other well-known cities never suffered massacres, because the populace died of boredom before they had a chance to. All joking aside, though, it was most likely plague.
In Iceland, the frigid ice-covered hills are bereft of trees and devoid of life. The people never leave their homes, due to an irrational fear of trolls. Apparently, these vapid monsters most commonly live under bridges, in grain cellars, and, occasionally, at the bottom of wells. If I lived here, I would be more worried about skralings.
Many will say that Cyprus is an exotic island full of gently rolling hillsides, delicious cuisine, and the most beautiful prostitutes. I agree completely. Unfortunately, a dark secret lurks about this island, one too awful, in fact, to ever risk making a second visit.
I am, of course, referring to the fact that the island is completely surrounded by depraved, hungry sea monsters.
It is a well-known fact. Anyone with the least bit of sense would happily corroborate. Cyprus would probably control much of the world if so much of their commercial wealth weren’t constantly being consumed by vicious sea monsters.
There are many cripples in the island’s cities. Although I have no way of knowing for sure how they met their sorry plight, as I was too afraid to speak to them, they were surely the victims of the vicious sea creatures. I am convinced of this.
It was they that I thought of while my rickety skiff made the passage north to Anatolia. At one moment I saw the sea darken. I was terrified and hurled a nearby spear into the choppy waves. Despite the protests of the crew, I took solace in the fact that the boat was not attacked.
However, I was dismayed to learn a few years later that Cilician pirates had attacked the skiff on its voyage home. Without their spear, they were unable to avoid capture. Still, better that than being the delicacy of some disgusting sea creature.
Once, while enjoying a delightful trip to Byzantium, I was lured into a small shop by the mysterious Eastern smells of hash, incense, and ostrich stew. There I found a blind elderly woman playing a zither. She took no notice of me.
I helped myself to some of the stew. As I turned to leave, she looked at me and began speaking in tongues. I looked at her in horror and attempted to make some sense out of what she was saying.
At last, she began speaking normally and told me to “never travel to the lands beyond the Oxus, for only hardship shall you find there.”
When I left the shop, I was scared out of my wits. I figured she had decided to give me a scare for eating close to a gallon of ostrich stew. But how could she have known? She was blind.
Nevertheless, her stories of horse-mounted bears, fire-breathing lizards, and expensive tolls along the roads and river passages have continued to haunt my dreams. Most of the people that travel there never return, and there’s a good reason why: that mystical old hag was right. No good can come from a visit there. Stay away from Transoxania. If you don’t believe me, ask her yourself. The ostrich stew is worth it in itself.
There are so many delightful places one can travel to that carry only a moderate risk of injury, disease, or violent death. Why, at this very moment, I’m sitting in a leaky barn on the outskirts of Baden-Baden. Sure, all of the pigs were recently killed by werewolves, and with the recent droughts most here are reduced to eating grass, but at least I don’t have to worry about getting attacked by a horse-riding bear.