A Travellerspoint blog

Emerging from the pandemic: Arrival in Austria

London Stansted Airport, Salzburg Airport, Salzburg and Spittal an der Drau


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My first trip abroad since mid-February 2020...

It felt so strange to be back at an airport, then on a plane, then arriving in a foreign country, after all the world has gone through over the last two years. Hard to believe that the last time I was abroad, in Vienna, the pandemic had started but its full seriousness was restricted to China. The only physical sign of it I remember is a notice in a shop window saying something like 'China virus face masks for sale here' - I rolled my eyes a little, thinking "what a money-grabbing thing, preying on the fears of a tiny few, who's going to want to buy and wear a mask here for a virus mostly occurring on the other side of the world?" Yes, with hindsight now it might seem really silly to think like that, but on the other hand, at that time (the 2nd week of February) there were zero confirmed cases in Austria and nobody I came across seemed that concerned about it or thought it was going to explode around the world in the way that it then did. A week after I got back, cases were just starting to rise sharply in South Korea. Italy and Iran were the next to follow... Restrictions on movement in Austria started in March. National lockdown in England started on 23rd March.

Clearly, in March 2022 in real terms the pandemic is not over, and won't be for a long time. However, in the UK it does feel like we are starting to emerge from it. Last week in England, the last domestic legal COVID restrictions were removed, as were face mask requirements on Transport for London services. Face mask requirements had already been removed elsewhere, though some places (e.g. supermarkets) still ask people to wear them if they can (only about 10%-20% of people do so, though). In Austria, most of the remaining restrictions were actually lifted yesterday, though Austria does seem to be experiencing quite a rapid rise in COVID cases right now. I've already been told that a certain type of face mask is required to be worn on Austrian public transport, and everyone (including my colleagues and I) will be wearing them at school.

Aside from a fortnight of face-to-face teaching in London last November, all my teaching since February 2020 has been online. I imagine it will feel very strange to be back in a physical classroom during the the coming week. I'm in the town of Spittal an der Drau, in the Austrian state of Carinthia, due to teach a tailored course involving a combination of tourism, culture and culinary-related English.

To rewind to the start of the day, though; my flight from Stansted was early in the morning, at 07:10, so I had to be up at the crack of dawn - before dawn, actually. Dave kindly gave me a lift to the airport. The airport was very busy for that time of the morning, especially in luggage x-ray, but there was still time for a look round duty-free. Free samples of Bailey's were being handed out, so I tried some delicious 'Espresso Creme'. After an uneventful flight, I arrived at around 10:00 to blue skies and sunshine, disembarking to the sight of beautiful mountains with a bit of snow still on the peaks. Wow - what a difference to all the London airports...

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Inside, passing through luggage pick-up and passport control was a smooth process. My NHS COVID Pass was checked. Then it was a simple bus journey to the main train station. I had an hour's wait there, so after buying my ticket, I ate the chicken wrap and snacks I'd brought from home for the journey out in the square in front of the station, read on a bench inside (taken by surprise at one point by a big fluffy dog which brushed right past me - a Great Pyrenees, I think) and admired a few smallish pictures of the nearby mountains high up on the walls.

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The train journey to Spittal an der Drau took just over two hours and went by smoothly and quickly. I spent a lot of time simply admiring the scenery as we passed through the Alps. My pictures did not do it justice.

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On my walk to my hotel I was still stunned by the beautiful scenery. Spittal lies in a long, very flat valley on the southern slopes of the Gurktal Alps. Being amongst the Alps is quite a novelty to me - I look forward to exploring my surroundings over the coming week! The town itself looks very nice, too. I did come across a small protest walking through the streets, though (but it seemed pretty quiet).

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Since getting to my hotel I've met my two colleagues 'M' and 'R', admired the view out of my window...

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...had a rest, attended our pre-course meeting, prepped for tomorrow and been out for quite a late walk to find some dinner (neither 'M' or 'R' wanted dinner, so I was by myself). I wasn't successful with the latter, though. Nearly everywhere is closed on Sundays in Austria and although one or two restaurants were open, they looked a bit formal and I didn't want a sit-down meal anyway. Eventually I found a Turkish kebab takeaway, but when I went in and tried to order, there seemed to be some kind of problem which meant they couldn't make me what I'd asked for. I didn't really understand what the problem was, but to be honest everyone in there had turned round and stared at me when I came in so I felt a bit intimidated anyway, so I quickly left empty-handed without having successfully ordered or paid for anything.

Luckily I remembered that I had two or three unopened packets of fruit mentos sweets in my rucksack, so I went back to the hotel and made that my dinner before going to bed. Thank goodness I wasn't desperately hungry anyway!

Posted by 3Traveller 20:49 Archived in Austria Tagged mountains planes trains salzburg airport austria buses spittal_an_der_drau

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Comments

Austria looks so beautiful! Interesting to read back about the pandemic, as well.

by Emma

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