As I got off the plane yesterday, I kept saying “wow…” underneath my mask. Going to Europe was more or less part of my monthly routine two years ago, but thenCovid kept me out for a year and a half. Even though I had double-checked the requirements and filled out preclearance forms, I was still half expecting to be denied entry.
I flew from LAX to Zurich, and as soon as I checked into my hotel I just started walking. I walked through neighborhoods, downtown, and along the water. People spoke mostly German, but also some French and Arabic. I only heard two people speaking English. The number one place I missed during Covid was Budapest, because it felt so foreign to be able to stroll through beautiful streets looking up at the old buildings, and Zurich definitely scratched that itch.
Other times I’ve visited Zurich I’ve found it to be unremarkable. With fresh eyes, though, everything was amazing. I liked the little wild parks, the coffee shops, and the half-flooded street with fountains that the kids could play in.
In more ways than one I felt like a new traveler. I forgot to do my anti-jet-lag strategy so I had to compensate on the plane. I double checked everything in my bag but still forgot to bring a US plug adapter. More than anything, travel felt like a big deal again. Before Covid my friends and I would take random last minute trips to Asia or Europe, sometimes just for a few days. It felt as natural as getting on a bus and going around town.
There’s something nice about both ways. When you travel all the time and it feels like no big deal, the entire world feels like one big neighborhood. When it’s novel, though, every part of it is amazing.
I grew a little bit of sympathy for those who travel less and and maybe hesitate to travel out of fear. I still think they should travel, of course, but I get why it feels like a big deal.
Traveling through Europe during this tail end of Covid was a lot easier than I expected. The only reason I booked a hotel in Zurich was because I thought there was no way I’d be able to make a 90 minute connection to Vienna. It turns out that customs took the same few seconds it normally takes. I handed the agent my vaccine card but I’m not really sure she even looked at it.
This morning I went to the airport to fly to Vienna and left myself plenty of time in case there was any hassle. No one checked anything leaving Zurich and flashing my vaccine card was all they needed once I landed in Austria. Apparently I can go to Budapest by train, so I’m going to try that tomorrow. We’ll see if it’s as easy as the other two borders.
I thought I’d be beating the tourists, but there are still a bunch from Europe and the Middle East. It’s much rarer to see Americans and Brits can hardly travel anywhere. I’m going to a museum or two tomorrow before heading to Budapest, so we’ll see how empty the museums are.
I still can’t go everywhere I’d like to (come on, Japan! Let me in!), but I can go enough places that it feels like Covid is over besides sometimes having to wear a mask. I may write more on this later, but I’m simultaneously grateful for being forced to stay put in Vegas during quarantine and also for having my freedom back.
Photo is outside a church in Vienna
I was going to schedule a tea time, but when I’m in Europe I drink tea at about 2am PT, which doesn’t seem doable since most of my readers are from the US.