Travel

The Covid traveller

travel-europe

Maryanne Kerubo, a Kenyan student in Germany who has been travelling in Europe during Covid-19. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • One 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, Maryanne’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.

It is fair to say that travelling to Europe, the hotbed of Covid-19, deep in 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 put their travel plans on ice.

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, Maryanne’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’s a deadly disease, but I also wanted to explore Europe. At the back of my mind, I hoped I wasn’t being stupid,” she replies with a laugh.

“What if I fall sick in a foreign country and I’m admitted to hospital? What if there’s a lockdown and I’m 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 when 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, Maryanne had Paris on her bucketlist. This year, she had hoped to tick the French capital and Amsterdam off her list.

“I feared that if I didn’t 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.”

Five days

For the five days she stayed in Paris, Maryanne toured the city’s must-visit attractions of Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart of Paris) and the Notre Dame.

In Amsterdam, the tour was more spontaneous. “We visited the market for groceries every day, toured different lakes and went biking.”

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 Maryanne.

“Most people in Amsterdam speak English. Besides, German and Dutch aren’t very different. In Paris though, you must be able to speak French.”

Sometimes numbers enhance the thrill of travel. But when Maryanne 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.

“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, Maryanne stayed at an Airbnb, which were cost-effective.

“At 500 euros (Sh67,000) 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, Maryanne 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’d 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.”

While entrance fees had not changed, most of the attraction sites had heightened controls. For instance, no cash was accepted, with visitors asked to pay online.

It is also during Covid-19 that Maryanne has 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, Maryanne had been confined to her room in Germany with only trips to get essentials such as groceries.

“I’ve been working from home since March. Restaurants are closed, shops are closed and there’s hardly much activity on the streets. Yet the numbers of Covid-19 confirmed cases keep rising.”

She adds: “It’s particularly depressing for people who live alone. I’m lucky to have a roommate.”

On takeaways from travelling during the pandemic, Maryanne 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’re careful about who you interact with.”

Pandemic or no pandemic, Maryanne 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.

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