Pandemic Era Travel to a Small town in Germany: The Thrill of the Normal
By Tani Duta
As Europe opens up after the corona crisis everyone is busy planning summer trips. The weather is alluring however the pandemic of 2020 is just not over yet.
The passionate desire to travel gets the better of our fears. I did take the plunge however with some careful planning. Safety is paramount and prevention is always better than cure. Some things which I considered during the planning, are below in bold.
I deliberately chose remote places. Fortunately in Europe space crunch is not an issue–that is of course if you avoid the big cities. There are beautiful villages, sprawling parks, and meadows, clear lakes and rivers tucked away in the corners of anonymity.
I chanced upon one such place while exploring the google maps app. Yes, you guessed that right. Since COVID I often travel on the app virtually. Kranenburg near the border of Germany from the Netherlands proved to be one such gem.
The place does not have much. Not much known anyway. Open skies, a forested hilly landscape, and a few lakes here and there. Ideal for a getaway in the lap of nature where you don’t bump into too many people.
I had my own transport. I drove my own car. In the Netherlands, being a small country, everything is quite close by. Kranenburg is two hours drive from my place there. After a not so busy Friday afternoon at work, I jumped into my car and was at the Airbnb well before the time for an evening drink with friends.
My friends arrived in their own car as well. For them, it was a longer drive than mine, but in these times it felt worth it. Driving is also the safest option. A friend I know drove from the Netherlands to the UK via the Euro tunnel. He had never done it before but said it made sense for health sake.
I wanted to be certain of the accommodation and hence spent some effort towards choosing it. I wanted to be sure that the place I will stay is going to cleaned and sanitized well. I read the reviews on Airbnb well.
One tip that has always worked well for me is to choose “Superhosts”. They have the best interest of the guests in mind. They can be trusted to be truthful and cautious. I spoke to the Airbnb owner, upfront, on the protocols to follow, when did the last guest visit, are there any new health and safety measures, etc.
The Airbnb I chose, we had the entire place to ourselves and cleanliness was one of the top features of the listing. The lady renting it out was also very helpful and very patient with all our queries. It was reassuring and ensured peace of mind.
Packed in the masks and sanitizers. I had to wear masks whenever going to public places where there are other people.
During these times clothes can be forgotten but not masks. It was mandatory in Germany to wear masks at shops and when entering restaurants.
Extra Cautious and Masked
I was extra cautious – anywhere coming in contact with other people wearing masks even if it is not mandated. Also, I made a habit of using sanitizer frequently.
When we were out on hikes we tend to not care. But while leaning on to the railing of the bridge on the river or holding on to the direction pole while posing for a photo, there is always a risk and hence liberal usage of sanitizers was good.
Reservations Required for Restaurants in Germany
I had to book ahead at the restaurants. During these times, restaurants are operating at reduced capacity in order to maintain a 1.5-meter distance between tables. Hence you don’t find empty tables as you walk in, specifically on the weekends.
Reservations are needed to ensure no disappointments. At Kranenburg we ate out on both evenings and booked ahead. In fact, we couldn’t get a table in a couple of places and had to choose other options. Also home delivery with contactless options was an option but somehow being out of the house after such a long time it felt good to eat out and to experience the novelty of a restaurant again.
Maintaining social distance is of course a must. We did come across people, be it parks, lakes, tourist places. Everyone was respectful of the new norms. People gave way, waited in line, were patient to enjoy but responsibly.
I think everyone wants to ensure as little risk as possible. We met some people at one of the monuments in the nearby city of Kieve. Fortunately, it was a big space and a limited number of people.
Giving Each other Space
But still, people kept distance nevertheless. There was a beautiful statue at the center point. People waiting for each other to marvel the statue up close. Only after a group moved away did the other group move near to the statue.
This crisis has made us introspect in a new way. A walk in the park, catching up with friends at your favorite restaurant, a drink with your colleague after that hard deadline submission, a toast for uncle aunts’ 30th wedding anniversary, all these cannot be taken for granted anymore.
As we head out after the restrictions are being lifted we feel everything as if for the first time. Like a child. Experiencing everything for the first time. We appreciate more, we perceive more.
Every mundane thing has become fascinating. It a gift. Live in the moment. Live it to the utmost.
Tani Duta, living in Haarlem, Netherlands, she is originally from Kolkata, India. If you have heard the phrase “all those who wander are not lost” you will know it is me. Most often finding stories in “off the tourist track” places and writing about them. I believe every corner, every street has a story you just need to find a way to unveil it. Follow me on: instagram.com/tanitraveldiaries and www.tanitraveldiaries.com