Dear fellow travellers,
Let's face it! Travel isn't always perfect. We made a hurried escape from Switzerland, as worried about Coronavirus as everyone else on the train. Mind you, there weren't many of us. We had an entire carriage to ourselves on the train from Lucerne.
One of the special features of travel is that mild frisson of uncertainty that comes in foreign lands. You know that feeling just as well as we do. How will we cope with the language? Will we be safe? What might happen if we fall ill?
Now, these days, that same apprehensive uncertainty is visited upon us in our homes. When will we next see loved ones who perhaps live far away, maybe even in a different country? We mourn, perhaps, not being able to amble down to the village and enjoy a coffee in our favourite café. Or having a casual chat with neighbours without a nagging worry.
For some, the anxiety finds expression in worries over basic sanitary issues. The empty shelves in shops devoid of toilet paper or soap speak volumes. And although there is a constant reminder to use disinfectant, in reality it is difficult to obtain any.
Cast back a couple of hundred years, as Europe reopened for travel after the Napoleonic Wars, and suddenly curious travellers were on the move again, taking with them all the hopes and expectations that come with venturing forth into new territory. But they also carried with them many anxieties. Many of these worries revolved around health issues. So appalled was John Ruskin by the filth at one French hotel that he appropriated a mop and a bucket to clean the main stairway.
You are most likely, as we are, staying close to home. We have time to ponder. And that itself can be a very positive thing. We'll continue to reflect European lives and landscapes with our regular Letter from Europe, ever aware that in times of social distancing and self-imposed isolation it is especially welcome to get a glimpse of life elsewhere. If you have thoughts on what we say, do let us know.
Of one thing we are already certain. We had come to take European travel for granted. It had all become so easy. Now we have been abruptly reminded just what a privilege it was, a privilege which has been rudely taken away. Let's cherish it all the more when it is restored! Better times will surely come.
If you would like to get an update on how Europe's railways are faring, you might like to read this European Rail News & Notes post published today.
With all best wishes - stay calm and healthy!
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)