I've been staying in touch by email with our good friend Howard Berlin, known as the Numismatourist for his travels far and wide to visit numismatic museums. For great armchair reading and planning future visits once international travel resumes, check out his 2014 book The Numismatorist.
Howard recently reported on his visit to Dubai (linked below). He was back on the road this month and is safely back home in Delaware now, but his travel ordeal is one for the history books. Here's his report. -Editor
Despite the fears or the bans for those who have stopped traveling on account of the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19), I departed March 9 for my next trip overseas, which I had booked back in May 2019. In 10 flights and 5 hotel bookings, I had hoped to travel to Berlin, Tbilisi (Georgia), and Baku (Azerbaijan).
I made it to Berlin ok for an overnight stay and checked in to my hotel, which was nearly empty. I kept checking the US embassy and airline websites but there was no indication of cancelled flights or borders being closed.
The next morning I departed for Tbilisi via a 2-hour layover in Istanbul's new airport which could teach London's Heathrow Airport a few things about efficiency. I've been in the old airport several times but this new one is huge! For those of us who need assistance getting around, there is this motorized wheelchair which is a combination Segway and wheelchair that zips along about 20 miles/hour. It was like sitting in the first row of a rollercoaster.
I arrived at my hotel in Tbilisi that overlooked Freedom Square. Like my hotel in Berlin, this too was nearly empty. I really felt sorry for people working here as they had virtually nothing to do. Information about the COVID-19 situation was increasing but all my remaining flights and hotel reservations were still in play, so I thought.
The main reason traveling to Tbilisi was to see the numismatic collection at the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia, which is one of several museums of the Georgian National Museum. The museum was only two blocks from my hotel, a somewhat tiring walk owing to the very heavy air pollution from the auto and diesel exhaust and me wearing a protective mask and latex gloves to help protect against getting the bug and breathing the air pollution.
Upon reaching the museum, I found it to be closed, as a result of the pandemic! What a waste and one visit was now toast. My flights to Baku were still listed as being "on time." After staying in Tbilisi four days, I boarded my flights to Baku, via another stopover in Istanbul. When I got off the plane in Istanbul, I received a text that my flight to Baku as cancelled and also my visa to Azerbaijan was annulled. I was told that I would have to go back to Tbilisi, which I declined. Now the two numismatic collections I had planned to visit were no longer possible.
In the next few hours, I cancelled two hotel reservations and five flights. The only way I could return to the US was to fly into one of 13 designated airports. My "home" airport of Philadelphia was not one of them, so I booked a non-stop flight to Chicago O'Hare as the best option and a flight from there to Philadelphia for the next day. I stayed in the Turkish Airlines airport lounge for about 19 hours before boarding my flight to Chicago. Landing in Chicago, I thought I was to undergo "medical screening" but this never happened. I still needed to make it to my gate in less than two hours after going through passport control, customs, getting my suitcase and rechecking it for the flight home and then changing terminals. Luckily, I made it to my departure gate with about 30 minutes to spare before boarding. I arrived home around 1am.
So far I have no symptoms. Now the EU is closed to non-EU citizens, so I cancelled my trip that I was to make to Malta in May (5 flights, 3 hotels) and am trying to claw back prepaid hotel bookings, airline tickets, points and miles I used for the trip.
I guess it was not to be. My luck ran out on this trip.
Entrance of the Georgian National Museum, closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Thanks for the report, Howard. We're relieved to know you're back home safely and doing well. -Editor
To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NEW BOOK: THE NUMISMATOURIST (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v17n31a03.html)
BOOK REVIEW: THE NUMISMATOURIST (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v17n47a10.html)
INTERVIEW WITH HOWARD M. BERLIN (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v17n47a16.html)
TOM BABINSZKI INTERVIEWS THE NUMISMATOURIST (https://coinbooks.org/v20/esylum_v20n33a18.html)
THE DUBAI COINS MUSEUM (https://www.coinbooks.org/v23/esylum_v23n08a23.html)
SHARJAH MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION (https://www.coinbooks.org/v23/esylum_v23n09a21.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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