FIt is fair to say that travelling to Europe, the hotbed of Covid-19, deep in the lockdown was almost thoughtless.
Yet, it is equally fair to say that while people have been living in dread of the pandemic for months, not everyone was scared. At least not too scared to shelf their travel plans.
One such fearless traveller is Maryanne Kerubo, a Kenyan student in Germany. While Covid-19 was devastating the world and turning everything in it on its head, Kerubo’s wanderlust was piqued.
She took the deep dive, making expeditions across Germany, France and The Netherlands in a manner that even the most daring excursionists would cringe to imagine.
Wasn’t this reckless? I wonder. “I acknowledged there is a deadly disease, but I also wanted to explore Europe. At the back of my mind, I hoped I was not being stupid,” she replies with a laugh.
“What if I fall sick in a foreign country and I am admitted to hospital? What if there is a lockdown and I get stuck somewhere? These are some of the concerns that bugged me,” she says.
On whether she was wary about contracting the virus, the master of theatre, film and media student at Goethe University Frankfurt explains that fear is a constant factor that travellers have to deal with whenever they are exploring new territories.
“To me, Covid-19 was a fear that needed to be overcome. When I came to Germany for the first time, I was nervous because I didn’t know how my stay would turn out. I had to deal with that fear,” she says.
In the end, her adrenaline to travel won over her fears.
For many years, Kerubo had Paris on her bucketlist. This year, she had hoped to tick the French capital and Amsterdam off her list.
Less crowded sites
“I feared that if I did not travel then, I might never get the opportunity to do so,” she explains.
“My friends in Paris advised me it was the best time to travel because there were fewer tourists and the attraction sites were less crowded,” she says.
For the five days, she stayed in Paris, Kerubo toured the city’s must-visit attractions of Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart of Paris) and the famous Notre Dame. In Amsterdam, the tour was more spontaneous. “We visited the market for groceries everyday, toured different lakes and went biking,” she recounts.
They also went to Ajax Museum which houses memorabilia for football club Ajax Amsterdam.
Armed with fluent French and German, getting her way around the two countries was not difficult for Kerubo.
“Most people in Amsterdam speak English. Besides, German and Dutch are not very different. In Paris, though, you must be able to speak French,” she says.
Sometimes numbers enhance the thrill of travel. But when Kerubo and her travel companion were visiting these destinations, they were almost deserted. Wasn’t the experience somewhat underwhelming?
“I enjoyed every moment,” she says cheerfully.
“With many people confined to their homes by the lockdown, we felt safer,” she says.
If her tour of France had been a buzz, the trip to Amsterdam was an eye-opener. In Germany and France, the pandemic had taken a toll on residents. In The Netherlands, however, Covid-19 rules at the time were less stringent and people went out to the streets without masks, while social distancing was barely observed.
Standard operating procedures
“Life on the streets looked very normal. While we had been masked up in Paris, here we had to remove them because no one was wearing them,” she recounts.
Throughout the trips, Kerubo stayed at an Airbnb, which were pocket-friendly. “At 500 euros (Sh2.2m) per person per trip, it was a good deal,” she says, noting that travelling by train was far more thrilling and even cheaper. “Thankfully, there are direct train journeys from Frankfurt to Paris and Amsterdam.”
Besides taking safety precautions, Kerubo kept abreast of a country’s level of lockdown, travel restrictions and admission of foreigners before setting off. “We were constantly following the news to know which country was taking what measures. While in Amsterdam, for instance, we had asked our friends to inform us about any developments in Germany. We were ready to immediately suspend our trip and return home in case Germany decided to close the border,” Kerubo says.
While entrance fees had not changed, most of the attraction sites had heightened safety measures. For instance, no cash was accepted. All visitors were asked to pay online.
It is also during Covid-19, that Kerubo toured Germany extensively, doing road trips with friends, hiking and visiting Geierlay Suspension Bridge, the country’s longest hanging bridge in the south.
Many countries in Europe have suffered devastation, with Italy taking the worst hit at the state of the pandemic. Economies reopened and shut down as fast as cases continue to surge.
The UK is on the heaviest lockdown since December, as authorities grapple with a new strain of the virus.
2021 travel plans
Scary and lonely. That is her assessment of life in Europe at the moment. For months, Kerubo had been confined to her room in Germany with only trips to supermarkets to get essentials such as groceries.
“I have been working from home since March last year. Restaurants were closed, shops were closed and there was hardly much activity on the streets. Yet the numbers of Covid-19 confirmed cases keep rising.”
She adds: “It is particularly depressing for people who live alone. I am lucky to have a roommate.”
The little things in life
On takeaways from travelling during the pandemic, Kerubo says she now appreciates the little things in life that are often taken for granted.
“You would hop into a plane or train and travel to wherever you desired without having to worry about your health. Suddenly you are careful about who you interact with.”
Pandemic or no pandemic, Kerubo says she is not about to apply brakes on her travel ambitions. She admits though that caution will be a priority in her future tours.Her destinations in 2021? The UK and Switzerland. “I love football. I hope to visit Old Trafford in Manchester and the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich,” she says.
Facts about the Louvre museum
The Louvre’s collection includes Egyptian antiques, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, paintings by the Old Masters (notable European artists from before 1800), and crown jewels and other artifacts from French nobles.
Its works span the sixth century B.C. to the 19th century. More than 35,000 works are on display at any given time. The displays are divided into eight departments: Near Eastern Antiquities; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculptures; Decorative Arts; Paintings; and Prints and Drawings, according to the Louvre website.
380,00o art pieces
Even if you try, you cannot see the entire Louvre collection in one go. This is because on any given day, only 10 per cent of the museum’s massive collection is available to the public. When the museum first opened more than 200 years, ago, there were around 500 pieces of art.
Now there are over 380,00o pieces in total with more than 30,000 on display at any given time. But even if you want to see what is on display that day in one visit, you would be hard pressed to do so. Visitors are advised to take theme approach while touring the Louvre.
It could be women artists, you may want to check out the most famous pieces on display. There truly is an overwhelming amount of art here. Source: www.businessdailyafrica.com
The Louvre is the world’s largest museum and houses one of the most impressive art collections in history. The magnificent, baroque-style palace and museum — LeMusée du Louvre in French — sits along the banks of the Seine River in Paris. It is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. Its collection includes Egyptian antiques, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, paintings, jewels and artifacts.