And if I can walk all the streets, why not all the cities?
Once again there has to some kind of limit:
Alexandria, Athens, Bangkok, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Bogota, Bombay, Bucharest, BuenosAires, Cairo, Capetown, Calcutta, Damascus, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Jakarta, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur,Lagos, Lisbon,London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, Moscow, Naples, New York, Osaka, Paris, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Santiago, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, Vienna, Warsaw.
This list, or rather 'canon' changes regularly in my head (in my diary for that matter); I tinker with it according to fluctuating criteria. I have been to all these, but there are others whose neglect embarrasses me (St Petersburg!
Johannesburg! Manila! New Delhi!) But of course I will go to these as well. Not to do so is simply not an option.
The list is determined largely by size; the data is from the World Bank (cited in the Economist) and a similar list from the UN Secretariat (Time Magazine) Both give figures current for 1994 and 1992 respectively and both also made predictions for the year 2000 and beyond. Of course both, for all their authoritative origin, are out of date and unreliable, as are any population statistics. The pullulating, nomadic, undocumented millions in many cities are impossible to establish. In London too; each month large numbers of illegal immigrants just lose themselves. Furthermore, what is London?
Delimiting what is and what isn't a part of a city is in many cases impossible. Is it the London Boroughs alone; or the post codes? Or whatever lies within the ring of the M25? (a pretty good unofficial criterion). Or the population of the old LCC? the old GLC? the new GLA? So how do you even begin to assess the population of more fluid entities such as Cairo with its constant influx from Upper Egypt who live in virtually uncountable circumstances?
While I need to feel sure of visiting the biggest, there are other criteria. There are cities that are moderate in size yet epic in historical significance: Rome, Alexandria, Athens; great religious hybrids: Jerusalem, Istanbul; small but gorgeously situated: Capetown or Naples. There are, of course cities which I've visited and which don't make the list: quite big but not big enough; important, but not important enough; Tbilisi, Cartagena, Edinburgh, Lisbon, Palermo, Aleppo; cityettes I particularly love. I have small but intense memories of each of these but it is mega destinations to which I am drawn,
almost by enchantment; almost robotically do I buy that ticket, board that plane.