“You must be home by now?” asked a friend a few days ago. The answer was, and indeed is, not yet! “I should be home before the St. Blaise festivity,” I answered with a smile.
We are dragging our feet a little on the return journey. Taking our time to soak up the sights that Europe has to offer, and there is a lot on offer. We’ve mainly followed the sun south without too much of a plan, which is probably why it’s taking us so long. We seem to be drawn, like moths to a light, to lakes.
We’re now staying on the third, or maybe fourth European lake, and this time it’s in the Italian Alps, a glorious tiny lake that sits above Lake Garda and is filled every year with melted snow, it’s a real gem. If you can imagine a shining turquoise lake completely surrounded by snow-capped mountains and only three Alpine cottages around it, then you have an idea of what we are watching in the morning. It’s tough to move on from this gift of nature.
And our dog is going to be sad when we head south again, at least he has ticked off “swim in an Alpine lake” from his bucket list.
Once we made our way off my island home under the English Channel the travel situation got easier, if not the Covid situation. Things change so quickly that it’s almost impossible to follow them.
Yes, it’s clear that less people are moving around Europe, we have only got caught in one traffic jam in almost a month.
Have you ever had to show your passport to drink a coffee before? At first I thought Italy had the strictest measures, literally everyone is wearing a mask inside and outside, but that was until I crossed Austria! Actually entering Austria was easy, in fact whilst staying on the shores of a German lake (I told you we are lake lovers) we accidentally went food shopping in Austria. “Are we in Germany or Austria?” I asked my wife as we pushed our trolley up the aisles. Austria was the answer. A day later and we transited over the Austrian Alps.
Now before I tell this story I know that the Austrians had a tough time before Christmas and they are probably more sensitive than most countries. So we stopped to refuel our petrol tank in one of those typical Austrian service stations in the Tyrol region. “Could you show me your Covid passports,” said a rather stern lady as we tried to buy coffee. Apart from Croatia and the UK, as far as we can tell from our experience, you can’t enter any shop, café, restaurant, hotel, etc., without showing the “Green App.” But Austrian has taken this to a whole new level.
“Yes, that is good now could I see your passports?” continued Helga. I haven’t just made that name up, I actually read her nametag. I was just about to say that only people in official positions could ask to see my passport, and that I was just trying to sip a cappuccino and nor cross an international border, but stopped myself as Helga didn’t seem to a have a sense of humour. “Ah, Thomas,” she looked at my photo and then at my passport photo and then looked me up and down again.
“She should be working as a customs officer and not a waitress,” I said to my wife in Croatian so that Helga wouldn’t put me in detention. “This is all correct, now one more step before I can give you your coffee, you need to fill out this form,” said Helga in an accent that made her sound like a character from ‘Allo, ‘Allo. Anti-vaxxers in Croatia would be already having a nervous breakdown at this Austrian treatment.
By the time I had filled out the form my coffee was already cold, and to be honest it was almost undrinkable anyway. It might be a stereotype but you can’t beat coffee in Italy and croissants in France and chocolate in Switzerland. We waved goodbye to Helga, however we weren’t finished with Austrian restrictions, and it seemed that poor Helga had made a cardinal mistake.
As we left the shop another shouting voice in angry German stopped us. We turned round to find Helga 0.2 pointing to our masks and her mask. WTF! There is a reason that Austrian looks like a flock of chickens. The only masks allowed are the so-called FFP2 and we were wearing surgical ones. Helga might have bombarded us with paperwork but Helga 0.2 escorted us out the café like a dog herding sheep.
Next stop Verona and some culture, before arriving back home in Dubrovnik later in the week, this has been a Christmas and New Year break to remember for a lifetime.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to