On Saturday, July 11, I took the plane to Vienna, Austria. It was the first time I was getting out of my country, even my state, since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown which began March 16 in France.
Obviously, in a non-pandemic world, I had a trip planned during the month of April. A one-week road trip between Sevilla and Lisboa passing by Faro and the Algarve. Sounds dreamy, no? Anyway, three weeks ago, I had a travel crisis. I felt the need to go abroad, to visit a new place and get out of France while I still can — because politics began to speak of a new potential lockdown in the coming weeks — and so, I booked a trip to Vienna.
We decided to go to Vienna because it seemed that the country handled the pandemic crisis pretty well — and that we didn’t have to put ourselves in quarantine for 14 days. They have been really cautious and even if their lockdown is over for longer than the French one, some museums didn’t open before July, 1st. Even the City Airport Train, the direct train line between the airport and Vienna city centre, is still suspended.
So yeah, we thought “why not give Vienna a try” and booked our plane tickets with Air France.
If I am honest, I wasn’t really anxious about the idea of going into an airport where thousands of people circulate every day. As the mask is mandatory and I had hydroalcoholic gel for each time I will touch something another person could have touched, I don’t know how I could have been more cautious. Actually, I was even surprised by the number of people at the Paris’s airport. While we hear that airlines are in bad shape, I found the terminal pretty packed and it was hard to guess that there were fewer flights than usual. Or maybe it’s because only three terminals are operating out of 6 usually.
It was a bit different at Vienna Airport where you could tell that the activity is idling. Only one terminal out of two is open and he is still not working at 100% of his capacity. We passed the security check-in less than 3 minutes when we have waited for 8–10 minutes at Paris CDG.
Another thing I noticed is that even if we have travelled with the same airline on the outward and return journey, the precautions on departure are not the same at all. For the outbound flight, they took our temperature before getting on the plane while for the return, nothing.
Same goes with the immigration check. As I was flying in the Schengen space, there is normally no control. With the pandemic, the Austrian health authorities ask you to fill in a form before entering into the country so that they can contact you afterwards if needed. This form is collected by the personnel on board who deliver it to the airport but you still have no immigration control.
For the return flight, it was different. For the first time travelling in the Schengen space, I had to pass the immigration check. For flights coming from outside France, they checked everyone in case you were coming from an unauthorized country — which actually is not fair as some people can get in France through ground route and then take an internal flight but it seems that they also check internal flights sometimes. Of course, it was also an opportunity for them to put your ID in a file in case the country from where you were coming restart to have more sick person.
I don’t mind fill in papers and being checked at the immigration but it just feels that EU countries did not agree on the way of doing things. I would feel more secure if there was a unified way of doing things. If I had the temperature check, the form for the health authorities and the immigration check. If I knew it was the procedure but actually, it seems there is no procedure. For countries or airline companies. Everyone is doing what he thinks is needed and you don’t know who is really doing right for your health safety.
In Vienna, masks are only mandatory in public transports. In restaurants, museums or even in shops, you can go inside without wearing it. Honestly, it allows you to morally forget for a moment that the virus is still circulating. In France, even if it’s not mandatory in all the shops (for now), people are still mostly wearing it. So yes, to see people without a mask but still be really cautious on social distancing — I mean even at the pedestrian crossing they take care to be at 1 meter of you — is soothing.
The main objective of this trip was to change our minds for a few days. The last weeks have been pretty hard for everyone and I, personally, can’t handle more sad and negative information. For a few days, I just needed to disconnect from everything that was going on in the world and there was no better way to do it than by discovering a new city and being in a country that I don’t speak the language. I mean, I can only count in german... Vienna grabbed all my attention and to not see people wearing masks at every corner helped me enjoy it without being anxious about what will happen in the coming weeks.
Of course, I have not 100% erase the fact that we are living a pandemic during my trip. For example, I don’t know if I have experienced the city in his normal situation or in a pandemic one starting with the fact that Vienna seemed empty of people, especially young people, and that many restaurants and shops were closed. There was a bunch of tourists but not so many and if we didn’t go to Schönbrunn Palace, I would have probably said that I met less than 30 foreign tourists. Also, shops close at 6 pm but it seems to be normal there.
Travelling has been a way to feel that we can go back to almost normal life — or that one day, everything will be normal again. Of course, we have to adapt ourself to this pandemic and to what we are doing. To wear a mask or not. To wait longer than usual to respect social distancing. To wash our hands because we touched the same door handle as someone we don’t know. To do things during restrictive hours.
Yes, what we are living makes us act and think differently. It’s not because I was in another country that I forgot about health guidelines. If we want to get the chance to travel again in authorized countries, we have to learn to do it with the pandemic still going on and by respecting the local and our national safety rules.
Anyway, one thing that all this pandemic couldn’t change is that travelling allows you to escape your daily routine and that is something much appreciated at the moment so if you can get away from your daily environment for a few days, take this chance and disconnect.