Apart from “Don't your children have to go to school?”, there is now a second question we are asked a lot: “How is traveling for you during Corona times?”
Locked down in Bern (3 months) and Germany (1 month)
First of all: We did not travel during Corona times for four months in total. We returned to Bern in the beginning of March in order for me, Karin, to have a speech later that month. The speech was cancelled, but there we were when the Corona madness began. From the beginning, my mother welcomed the four of us in her small detached house with open arms. We are extremely grateful for that - thank you, Mum!
We spent three months in Bern - commuting between my mom's place in the city of Bern and a camping site in the Bernese Oberland, whose owner "temporarily" accepted us as "permanent guests". As we do not have a permanent home, we fell between chair and bank in the Corona regulations. Camping sites were officially closed - except for permanent guests and vagrant people. In which category did we fit? It depended on the interpretation and benevolence of the camping site owners and the local police. It was the first time in our lives that we found ourselves in a disadvantage and, yes, discriminating situation. A new experience!
We continued with our journey on May 27th to spend almost four weeks with Marian's family in the German Harz region. A big thank you to "Opa" Rainer and "Uroma" Lore for having us, too!
We continued to go northward on June 21st.
On the road again: The world is as you think it is
When traveling around, there is one thing that we realized more than anything else: It is our outlook on the world that creates our experience in this world. In other words: The world is exactly as you think it is.
If you focus on the difficulties of traveling during Corona, it will be difficult. You have to wait and see which country lets in people from what country, you can constantly keep yourself informed about all sorts of rules, and you can get angry because the hop on – hop off bus and other conveniences in the trendy cities are not in operation.
Or you take every day as it comes: Then, other people will tell you all you need to know just in the right time. If you can’t cross the border to one country, well, you go to another. And instead of focusing on all the rules, you can enjoy almost empty streets and camping sites that would be crowded in regular times.
Empty streets in Stockholm
It so happened to us in Stockholm, where the owner of the bar in a very central spot told us that we were the first tourists he has seen in a long time. It was indeed a special feeling to see Gamla Stan or the streets around the “Kungliga slottet” swept empty from people.
Same went for the Lofoten that are normally jam-packed in summer times. Well, there were many more tourists, but 99 per cent of them came from Norway. And we never had an issue to park Max - not even in frequented and small villages like Henningsvær. Apart from the Norwegians, there were some Finns, very few Germans – and us.
So here we are, encountering friendly people and seeing the most stunning places. Because that is what we are focusing on.
PS: In Sweden as well as in Norway, people are relaxed about Covid-19. They follow the rules, but there is no feeling of fear in the air. Nobody is forced to wear a mask, so nobody does. That helps. We are convinced that the fear created by everybody wearing a mask is much worse for your immune system than not wearing a mask or the virus itself.
You are what you eat. Following this principle, we have adapted a certain way of eating as a family: We prefer it free of meat, gluten, dairy and (processed) sugar.
Now, to maintain this form of nourishment is easy when you are at home and you know exactly where to buy your gluten-free oak milk or soy sauce. On a journey, however, this is a real challenge.
Eating out can be very difficult, especially with two children who do not want to make any exceptions from the rule. We sometimes urge them not to be “so stubborn” (just to make it easier for us), while secretly admiring their strong will.
That’s why we are more than excited when we find restaurants like the one we just had lunch at: The EcoCaféet in Östersund (www.ecocafeet.se). When I asked what vegan menus they had, the man behind the counter pointed at the food display with a variety of dishes and said: All this is vegan. The burger we ate was the best we ever tasted. And when I asked if there is oat milk for my coffee, he looked at me in a puzzled way, walked over to the coffee machine and checked if the can with the oat milk is still there. In Sweden, he said, half of the people take oat milk with their coffee, so there is always a can with it beside the can of cow milk. No need to ask for it. Bliss!
Stores offer a good variety of gluten-free and vegan products by now. We already experienced this in Germany. Eating out, however, is a huge challenge in Germany, where meat still dominates the menus. We helped ourselves with Indian and Asian restaurants, some rare gluten-free pizzas – or “Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus” (potato pancakes with apple sauce).
Our conclusion so far: It is still not easy to eat what we consider healthy when you are traveling. We observe a clear trend towards a fresh and vegetable based cuisine, however. This goes for grocery stores, who offer more and more vegan products, and for restaurants in bigger towns or cities.
Where there are young people, there are vegan places. This development is encouraging. We believe that in the near future, a meat and dairy free diet will become more normal and socially accepted – and this will make our lives easier.
Karin und Marian