In this week’s roundup of news from our European guides, we learn that Europe’s gradual reopening is brightening spirits. While it’s still unclear how soon Americans will be able to visit Europe, Europeans are enjoying the chance to venture farther and farther from their homes.
Europe is hoping to have some tourism this summer, but it will most likely be intra-European. For example, Virginie Moré — who sent us a report from her farm quarantine last month — has started an Instagram account with tips for French travelers through July 14 (when the French summer vacation season usually begins).
“I have decided to promote traveling within France to French people this summer as this is what we will be restricted to. I will take people through France by introducing different topics each day: Tuesdays, a hotel or guesthouse; Wednesdays, a restaurant; Thursdays, a winery; Fridays, a local guide; Saturdays, a village; and Sundays, a monument or museum. This is more intended for French people, but I think our RSE travelers planning future trips might like it too!” If you’re on Instagram, you can follow along here.
In Slovenia, Tina Hiti is writing a blog about how she’s keeping busy during quarantine, and offering insights into Slovenian life.
Here’s an excerpt:
“’An apple a day sends the doctor away’ in Slovenia translates to ‘a schnapps a day sends germs away.’ Even though we know apples are healthy, we all believe also in the healing powers of schnapps. This is a strong alcoholic beverage of above 40% alcohol and can be made with grapes, pears, or plums.
“Once you get sick, instead of taking pills right away, schnapps can be used: When you get a fever — try to take a hot shower and drink a glass of schnapps and sweat it out. With feminine cramps — a little shot of schnapps soothes the pain. Any toothache can be cured with schnapps — just rub it on the affected area and it will help. If you find a tick in your skin — rub schnapps on it and the little creature will immediately crawl out. You fall and get a scratch — disinfect it with schnapps. Bad hair day — rub schnapps on it. You don’t have a toothpaste — easy, just have a shot of it in the morning…and on it goes.
“No wonder schnapps is one of the things you will always find in everybody’s fridge. We use it also when we have houseguests — if a host doesn’t treat you to a shot of it, it means you are not really welcome. And whenever we go on hikes, we always bring it along in small bottles that we like to keep close to our heart — a Slovenian kind of bypass. So beware. And just a hint: when you are offered to drink it, it is always bottoms up. It hurts only once that way.”
Various guides are making good use of new YouTube channels they’ve created to keep their guiding stills sharp while virtually introducing new audiences to their favorite sights.
For example, Stefan Bozadzhiev takes us to some hidden gems in Bulgaria:
Pål Bjarne Johansen shows off his home city of Oslo, including one of the city’s newest neighborhoods:
And Anna Piperato continues her series introducing viewers to important Italian saints:
Stefanie Bielekova, who works in our Travel Center, has been interviewing guides for her blog, Postcards from Stef. She recently posted an account of her chat with Scottish guide Colin Mairs. Colin leads Rick Steves tours in Scotland in the summer, then heads to the opposite end of the planet to do New Zealand tours in the…summer. Stefanie’s interview with Colin offers insight into living in a country that has had more success than just about any other at confronting the coronavirus crisis. Here are some excerpts:
“In New Zealand we have eased up on lockdown restrictions. Last week we moved to Level 2 – that means that most public spaces, including cafés, restaurants, and shops, are open again. The Covid-19 numbers of confirmed cases are just less than 1,500 cases and a total of 21 deaths in the whole country at the time of writing (May 18). The case numbers are low, even by the size of the population (New Zealand being a country of around 5 million people). The New Zealand government, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, took the approach of ‘go early and go hard’ against the virus and it has largely paid off.
“We use the term ‘bubble’ to refer to the immediate nucleus of people you are living with and spending the lockdown with. We are allowed to go out for walks with the people in our bubble but should stay within the neighborhood. My wife and I are a bubble of two. With the move to Level 2 last week, we can now extend our bubbles. We saw some close friends over the weekend, and gatherings are to be a maximum of 10 people. It’s really nice and a little surreal at first to actually be in the company of other people again!
“The fact that New Zealand has now returned to a relative sense of ‘normal’ is an indication that things are heading in the right direction. I hope that we will all learn something from this time. As someone who regularly reads and talks about history, it is quite an existential feeling to realize that I am living through one of the biggest world events of my lifetime — a once-in-a-century pandemic. I wonder how people will look back on this time and what future generations will think of those who panic-bought toilet paper and who disregarded the stay at home advice.”
Finally, in Italy, Susanna Perrucchini — who wrote to us not long ago about Italy’s Liberation Day — reached out with this beautiful message:
“Thinking of the months ahead, I started to wonder about the real nature of my job as a guide and if I was really sure to keep on doing what I have been doing for the last 20 years. And the answer was YES! I am not saying that I could not do something else if needed. I simply had to renew those vows to myself, because being a guide is, doubtlessly, a vocational job.
“Weeks and months will pass by, and I will adapt to a new life, to a new routine, like everyone else. Nevertheless, I know where you can find me when the first groups start to make their way to Europe: I will be right here, waiting for them.
“The big events of history, despite their heavy weight of sadness, despair, and tragedy, have always brought out the most basic of human skills: the capability to adapt, and the strength to stand up again after a bad fall. We all know, deep down, that no matter how violent the storm may be, the sun will always rise.
“Being in touch with one another, among guides, the office staff in Edmonds, and, of course, our families and friends is a fundamental way to survive (mentally) this epidemic and to deeply understand the meaning of ‘being on the same boat,’ because we really are. It makes us feel connected and definitely less alone.
“I want to end with a little reminder that may sound like one of those cheesy fortune-cookies messages: Picture in your mind an extremely funny situation that happened in your life, one of those moments when you were almost wetting your pants — we all have some of those! Think harder, come on! Ready?
Now rewind it and live it again in your head, and say to yourself OUT LOUD: ‘Those moments will come again!’ Because they will.”