The Silent Musings of a Foreigner in Europe


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My 10 day visit to southern France before Covid came back in 2020 (Part 2)

You can read part 1 here.

Day 2 - The French city of Lyon

We had arrived at around 6 pm in Lyon. Lyon is breathtaking in a way I can’t quite describe. Maybe it was my relatively low expectations but it’s difficult to imagine that France has another city just as elegant as Paris that had barely ever registered in my radar. We ate pizza and walked around Lyon until midnight. The restaurants were full and the French seemed to be having a time of their life which was fascinating considering that there was a raging pandemic.

The next morning, we went out to look for breakfast but all places were closed. The restaurant owners of Lyon were still asleep. At 8 am. I can not stress enough how much this shocked me. Eventually, we came across a bakery that also served hot chocolate and latte machiatto.

 

At 11am, we left Lyon and headed south in the direction of Marseille. At around 15.30pm, we arrived in Grasse, the small town near Cannes where our rented house was located.  The house we rented was on a hill from where one could see the Mediterranean. It also had a pool. What was not mentioned was the fact that one could only access it using the most narrow winding and torturous streets that didn’t give one a chance to make a 2cm mistake. After many horrible close calls, we finally arrived at the house.

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Reminiscing about the horrors of 2020 and 2021 with my 10-year-old

At this time last year, most of us were oblivious to the horrors that 2020 was going to unleash on us. In this episode, my ten-year old and I look back on 2020. From Trump to Covid-19, it looked like nothing was ever going to beat 2020. But that was of course before  2021 arrived.

 

With the insurrection in the US capital and the white supremacist terrorists, 2021 is already kicking 2020's ass.

The most important lessons that 2020 taught me

2020 is finally coming to an end and I could not be more relieved. Yesterday, more than 1000 people lost their lives here in Germany because of Covid-19. To call 2020 exhausting would be a huge understatement.  Despite this, 2020 has taught me a few things that will guide my life going forward.

The Corona Virus disaster in Germany, what happened?

At the beginning of the year, Germany was hailed as a model of how to contain the corona virus. Watching the current number of infections and deaths from corona virus in Germany, that glorious past seems like a bad joke.

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A 10 day visit to southern France before Covid came back in 2020 (Part 1)

The idea to visit southern France wasn’t borne out of any particular curiosity or any enthusiasm. No, it was an idea that appeared one hot afternoon as we gasped for breath and pondered the very real possibility of melting away in the hot German summer. Three days in a row with temperatures of 36 degrees convinced us that 

we needed to get away to some place with a sea and hopefully with no COVID. Since we did not want to fly, the options were limited to some place where we could reach by car. German North Sea and East Sea were out of question. Too crowded plus the possibility of rain and cold winds can never be ruled out on those sides. 

 

And so we settled on southern France. Some place we could reach by car and still be able to have the strength to relax and enjoy ourselves. 

Driving in Southern France along the Mediterranean Sea in August 2020
Driving in Southern France along the Mediterranean Sea in August 2020

Day 1- The French Highways

 

We left the south western city we live in Germany at 10am. Our plan was to drive 600km into France and sleep over in the French City of Lyon. After being stuck on A5 headed to Basel for ages, the jam finally cleared and we finally headed to Strasburg. The A5 Highway has had construction for as long as I remember plus it’s always full, so if you are ever around it, make a point of avoiding it.

Every 2 hours, we made a break. Important: On the French side, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the restaurants off the highway didn’t charge for the toilets.The German highways have toilets run by a company called Serfway and it costs 70cents to use the toilets. Also unlike in Germany where the highway stops had either some unadventurous looking restaurant or a McDonald, the French side had nice restaurants and Cafes and seemed generally more spacious and nice. On the flip side, French highways are not free. You have to pay unlike German highways.  By the time we reached Cannes, we had paid close to 100Euros which is really a lot if you consider that all people in France pay to use the highways and not just some random travellers. I would have thought that the highways would be empty because people would avoid the charges. But this was not the case. The French highway from Lyon to Marseille was quite full especially with trucks.

 

The speed limit was for the most part set at 110km/hr though there were also parts that had 130km/hour limit. Compared to German Autobahns where everyone always seems to be rushing to the loo, it felt like a walk in the park.

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The most peculiar things that people do in Germany

Every country has its own peculiar habits or things that are so commonly done there that no one pauses to wonder about them. For foreigners, this can sometimes be very baffling if not downright hilarious. In this episode, we talk of the peculiar German things or habits or if you like, the way of life.

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What are the differences between Eastern Germany and Western Germany?

Today is the 3rd of October 2020 and it’s a national holdiay in Germany. On the 3rd of October 1990, two independent countries East Germany and West Germany reunified to form the current Federal state of Germany. 30 years later, what are the differences?

Which places should you as a foreign looking person avoid?

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