And then… life happened. (Also Frankfurt)

You remember that post about my travel plans for this year? Weeeell… Obviously most of them never happened. And I’m sure you all know why by now, in more detail than you would like to. Personally I am, luckily, otherwise fine: I have worked from home for years now and my social life is not exactly bubbling anyway. I still miss my friends, of course, but at least there is the Internet. I had to, of course, cancel both the trip to the US in March and Copenhagen now in May. I’m a bit conflicted on that, too: I would have loved to go, but I also would have wondered the whole time if I’m somehow infecting other people even if I’m not feeling sick, and my wallet (or credit card, more accurately) is thanking right now. I guess if there is a positive to this situation for me personally, it is the fact that I was more or less forced to save money. The main reasons for my spending sprees are, after all, book shops (which were closed until lately), travel (which is still basically banned) and eating out (restaurants will still not be open for a while). Too bad the rest of the world had to go belly-up for me to save up a bit more…

That being said, I’m now slowly starting to think again where I could go next. Not the US (at least not on my own) any time soon, I think, because the fuc… I mean, umm, the nice people dealing with the ESTAs decided that my ESTA, which was supposed to be valid for a few years, is now null and void because I might have had the COVID-19 virus, being from scary Europe. For all I care, they can do without my money for a while longer, unless I go there with my boyfriend, who enjoys traveling in North America more than anywhere else, the silly bugger.

Frankfurt views.

Copenhagen is still a place I really want to go, but in the current situation I’m thinking of maybe aiming for the cheaper destinations for a while. That should help me save up a bit more money while I can still see a few new places. And hopefully by this time next year I will be back on my feet money-wise. I mean, I had already paid for the flights to the US and Copenhagen, and I don’t get money back for either, most likely. Or, well, I could get some money back for the Copenhagen trip, but opted for the extra gift voucher on top of the original price to maybe go somewhere else later this year instead. And the US trip… well, no one knows yet. Technically I had a ticket that does not pay anything back if I cancel the trip (which I did, without a valid ESTA and the situation being what it is), but they DID change my flights several times, so there is a small chance I might get something back in the end. Will have to wait and see, as the customer service queues are something crazy right now in most flight companies. At least I am trying to be nice when dealing with them, which does not seem to be the case for most people on social media, at least…

I also still have an older gift voucher that I need to use before the end of October, from an older flight that was severely late. That means I have two flight vouchers, one smaller and one bigger one, and for both I still need to make the reservations this year. I was thinking of maybe going to Portugal with the smaller one and Thailand with the bigger, but since the situation is what it is right now, I have not booked anything yet. I should do so soon, though, and then just regret my life choices later if things go wrong again. No point in just waiting until the last moment and then noticing everything is a lot more expensive because so many flights are scrapped or everyone else like me wants to go “just somewheeeere!” instantly after we can do that.

I would rather book things and then hope they turn out okay than wait and fear things will never get back to normal. I’m just the kind of person who rathers hopes (no matter how foolishly) that things are okay than panics about things I cannot help (even though I do wash and disinfect my hands more often than before and wear a mask when dealing with bigger crowds). That being said, I also should use this as a chance to get more into railway travel. There should be more space and less restrictions, rules and cancellations, even if something like this would happen again. In theory, at least…

This bird scared me really badly in Frankfurt zoo: I didn’t notice him before he got annoyed with me.

As you might remember, I went to Frankfurt for a work-related thing on March. That was the last trip I did, as I was there just when things were starting to blow up. I was kinda chuckling back then how Paris had their first cases just when I came home from there and Germany started to have a lot of cases while I was there for the long weekend. Well, somehow that is not so funny anymore… Especially since Belgium seems to be doing relatively badly with the whole situation, but that’s also partially because there are a lot of old people here basically just ignoring all the rules and advice, and because the way of counting cases differs from country to country.

Back then, though, my main annoyance was not any virus but Deutsche Bahn. My train from Brussels to Frankfurt was cancelled at some point while I was on my way from Ostend to Brussels (that’s a 1.5 hours trip, basically). Instead, I had to take one train in Belgium, cross the border in a bus, and then take two more trains in Germany to actually get where I wanted to be, 3 hours later than the original plan. And the trip back did not go much better: the train to Brussels did not, in fact, leave from the main railway station as it was supposed to but from the airport, skipping the Hauptbahnhof completely. Luckily I was at the station early enough, so I could actually make it to the airport with the S Bahn before my train left, just to be panicking there because the train at the platform did not have a carriage with the number stated on my ticket.

Turns out it was the correct train, but the carriage numbers and destinations etc. were not yet changed when I arrived at the platform… What I am saying is DB made my supposedly easy and relaxing train travel extremely stressful and panicky. Both ways. And all this on my very first two trips with them. The Belgian railway company (NMBS) has never managed that: they usually only manage to f**k up things one way, not both ways, and mostly work just fine, even if Belgians love to complain about their trains. Sometimes there are issues, sure, but there are always problems with trains everywhere. Even in Japan, in my experience…

So, DB has let me down both times I’ve used it, and Thalys has been late twice when I’ve meant to be using them, out of maybe 5 times. Plus one extra time when I accidentally went to a Thalys train to Amsterdam instead of the normal one I was supposed to take, because Thalys was so much late I didn’t realize I was being an idiot and boarding the wrong train because the platform and destination was correct… The customer service, though, on that train was excellent, for which I’m super grateful. I also met some incredibly friendly and helpful strangers on that trip, and it is something I think of it every time I feel like I need a reminder most people are, in fact, nice and helpful.

But Frankfurt itself? A nice place, as far as I could tell. Good food, excellent cakes and pastries, pretty buildings and comforting greenery all around. Except, of course, it was early-ish March, and thus cold and rainy and most green things were not yet actually green. My first day there was a zoo visit day, and it was grey and drizzly. This, of course, meant there weren’t that many people in the zoo, which suited me just fine. I often prefer the rainier days in the zoo, as long as it isn’t raining cats and dogs (figuratively speaking), because then I do not need to jostle around families with their seventeen kids to see something popular.

The lion sleeps tonight… oh, wait, I meant “the tiger” and “this morning”.

Other than the rather small but nice zoo, I didn’t really see all that much. I arrived on Thursday around midnight (due to that cancelled train), and spent half of Friday in the zoo and the rest of the day just walking around trying to see as much as I could of the little there was left of the old city centre. I was so tired after the previous days escapades and all the walking around that I just ended up going back to the hotel relatively early. I ate ate shabu shabu downstairs in the breakfast area in the hotel for dinner. It was the only thing they sold in the hotel in the evenings, as I was staying in a Japanese chain hotel. It was nice, but I bet the quality was not as high as it would have been in Japan. They also had miso soup and rice at breakfast, and looking around, I felt like one of the few Westerners who loved that. I’ve never really been able to eat much bread and such for breakfast. Too much chewing, somehow. Rice with pickled vegetables and miso soup works a lot better for me. I still go slightly mad at a normal hotel breakfast, but that’s because of the sheer amount of different things. I end up eating a lot just because of the “I’ll take a bit of that and some of that and ohhh, let’s try that, whatever that is…” phenomenon. But it also, luckily, means I can do with a light lunch!

So yeah. The hotel was conveniently situated (in theory) near the main railway station and most of the local public transport went through the railway station, too, so I could get to my event easily on Saturday morning. And that’s how I spent all of Saturday: listening, talking, eating, drinking caffeinated drinks and enjoying the company of other Finnish women. We had dinner with a lot of the participants in a Persian restaurant in the same building where the actual event happened, and whilst the food was not a mind-blowing, the company and very happy service definitely made up for it.

One does not simply go to Germany and NOT eat flammenküche.

We also made plans with a few people to meet up on Sunday for an early coffee moment to continue talking. I walked there from the hotel, planning to see a bit more of the town, which was still grey, if not drizzly, and then walked back a bit before my train, taking a different route. Somehow I feel like I could have spent a lot more time in Frankfurt, really. There were a bunch of museums I would have liked to visit (Fantastic Women exhibition! Film Museum! Natural History Museum! Goethe House!) , and of course many things outside the city centre, too. At this point, after being stuck mostly inside for the last 2 months, I regret not taking the time and effort to actually get out of town and enjoy a bit of German nature… But I will try to make up for that next time I get somewhere where nature is easier to reach. Hopefully.

One does not simply go to Germany and NOT eat küche.

I also hope that later this year I can still go to Portugal and then maybe fit in a sneaky visit to Thailand early next year. As long as it is feasible and allowed and won’t cause any further issues for anyone. I really love to travel and I actually (first world problems) feel sad about the lack of possibility to do so, but I also want to make sure I won’t cause anyone any easily avoidable issues just because I’d feel better, traveling around.

I really hope the situation calms down for everyone, it has been quite stressful for a lot of people. I wish I could just make everyone feel better with a wave of a magic wand, but sadly I do not have a magic wand like that. And something tells me no one else does, either. Or if they do, they are selfish mofos who refuse to use it for everyone’s benefit, and I prefer to think no one has one instead. Which is sad, but not as sad as the selfishness option, you know? Ommmm, think of those nice people on that Thalys train to Amsterdam, ommm…

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