Our roller-coaster celebration in Europe: Quarantine Diaries
Guest blog by Prajakta Jagtap: Two Voyaging Souls
On the 8th of March, me and my husband Ajinkya were on our way from Pune to Mumbai International Airport. We had doubts about traveling right in the middle of escalating Covid-19 situation. We were celebrating our second wedding anniversary in Paris. Considering the situation, we decided to exclude Italy from our itinerary. That seemed cautious enough at that time. We assured ourselves that nothing will happen if we follow social distancing. So we set out for the adventure of our lives all equipped with hand sanitizers and masks. With butterflies in our stomach we were on that jet ready to explore Europe.
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First Stop: Paris
Our first destination was Paris, what a beautiful city I must say! Paris has many breathtaking architecture and luxurious shopping areas. It has joyous vibe with roadside cafes and bustling streets. We enjoyed our time in Paris as none of the countries had announced lock down. Amidst this, we hogged some delicious croissants and nicely brewed coffee. Our marriage anniversary celebration was exciting! We definitely had a gala time in this city. One destination had been been ticked off from our itinerary with numerous memories.
Around 15th March the COVID situation worsened in many countries. Eventually all European countries started closing their borders. This was the time when we flew from Paris to Austria. We reached Vienna, the capital city. As we walked from Metro station to our Airbnb apartment, we could see completely deserted streets. That’s when we first realised, we are in a problematic situation.
Austria had announced lock down on the day we reached Vienna. Few shopping areas, restaurants and parks were open. The government had asked citizens to stay indoors. We still managed to enjoy the peaceful surroundings in Vienna. Amazing sunsets, calm riverside and beautiful parks kept us entertained. For us, this was the most peaceful time. We didn’t think about any to do list or visiting any attraction. Rather we slowed down to have unending conversations while the sun said goodbye.
While scrolling news on his phone, Ajinkya came to know that Austria is closing its borders for all travelers. Ajinkya rushed to the station and booked train tickets from Vienna to Budapest.
Budapest was our last destination. The best option was to prepone our flight from Budapest to Mumbai and reach home early and safe. That evening we reached Budapest, two hours by train from Austria. It is the most beautiful city we have ever visited. This entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All medieval period buildings and carved architecture. The old statues in every nook and corner yet modern in its own way, the city had so much to offer.
It was like a tour back to the 18th Century. Lost in the beauty of this city, we decided to stay here and explore this city before returning to India. Three days in Budapest were full of sightseeing, amazing food and tons of photographs. While we were on this tour, not a single moment has passed when we were not cautious about our actions. We nether touched any object nor came in contact with people around. Every time we did, we made sure we are using sanitizer. We were maintaining a safe distance from other people at public places like monuments, metro and buses. This wasn’t a carefree travel but it was a very careful one!
#Lockdown due to Covid-19
On one such evening, when we were talking with our family. We came to know that India is closing borders for all travelers (including their citizens). Our immediate action was booking our flight to Mumbai. We had still managed to explore a lot in this city and satisfactory feeling lingered over our minds. We had our flight on 18th March, to Mumbai. Packed our bags and left for the airport. At the luggage check in counters, we see few Indians standing out of the line, worried and frustrated. When we went to the counter, the Emirates attendant told us we cannot board the flight. The Indian government had added a clause of 14 days mandatory quarantine at first port of departure for any passenger coming from any European Union Country.
Mind going numb, we didn’t know how to react, whose mistake is it? Indian Government? Us? Flight operator? Our only hope was approaching the Indian embassy in Budapest. Completely boggled up and scared, we Indians went to the Indian embassy. After waiting outside the premises for about an hour with our heavy luggage we get a message that nothing can be done in this situation. We had to extend our stay in Budapest until India lifts the travel ban. With no other option in hand, we rebooked the Airbnb apartment. We went back to stay their till 31st March, the initial lockdown period. On 31st March we come to know lockdown extended till 14th April, and now till 3rd May.
Quarantined in Budapest
With this news, there’s no hope for us returning home anytime soon. The neighborhood where we are staying is the most buzzing street in Budapest. Akácfa Street in Budapest has many ruin bars, restaurants, cafes and is very close to the city center. This area is in proximity of a grocery store, Indian store, medical shop, Public park and a few restaurants.
We wouldn’t have found a better place to stay as stranded Indians like us. Every morning we wake up, read the news, trying to find out if we can return to our home in any way. But disheartened we continue to live in our temporary home. We are also cooking our own meals to avoid risk of Covid-19. We have limited our outings just to buy groceries. Now it seems we’ve been here for so many years. Even if we would have been in India, we would have been ‘strictly home quarantined’. So isn’t it better to be quarantined in a beautiful city like this?? Hell yeah! We are having an amazing time here in Budapest.
Quarantine schedule in Budapest
While Ajinkya does his functional workout, I do a Zumba session, we also go out for walk occasionally. Budapest is not in complete lockdown and we still move around. It’s a relief that Covid cases in Budapest are very less and in control compared to all other European countries.
Now we have all the time to read, binge watch tv shows, try new recipes and of course clean our house daily. We are lucky that we have a shelter and food each day. And , we are fortunate that we were not stranded in transit in some other country or some other airport. Apart from that we are grateful for all the resources we have. We do miss our friends and family, thanks to social media we are still connected. Now it’s just a normal day in our life. We have embraced this opportunity. We are away from all the responsibilities. And we get to spend some quality time together.
Learnings in Quarantine
We learned a lot during this journey. All the basic resources we have with us are the only things that mankind needs to survive. Travelling is not only visiting a place and clicking pictures. It is about how well you camouflage in different cultures. We’ve made a few great friends in this journey from many parts of world. Everyone shares the same situational crisis. It’s not easy to stay in some country for months with uncertain future. It never will be! But we are managing to survive! There’s a smile on our faces with a hope that someday it’ll all be normal and by then world will be a much better place.
I sip on this amazing hot chocolate, scrolling through my Instagram feed and completing my quarantine diaries. The longing to go back home still lingers on my mind….
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