2020 – THE MOTHER OF ALL ‘ANNI HORRIBILES‘
(Posted 24th August 2020)
At age 70+ I can look back at many of those and recall a good number of them which I called ‘best to forget and move forward‘ to hopefully better ones. In some cases it worked out, but 2020 will forever remain that infamous year when the pandemic of my lifetime struck the world, infecting tens of millions and costing – at the time of writing – over 800.000 lives already. It was the year when whatever travels I had mapped out evaporated into thin air, an air filled with the ‘New Corona Virus‘ later named ‘COVID19‘
This year was planned out to the fullest already when at the stroke of midnight 31st of December 2019 the new year arrived, the year I was to turn 70 – and did in the mid of a raging pandemic – and the year when plenty of family visits, both here in East Africa and in Europe were on the drawing board.
So far, none have materialised after self preserving caution ruled at the earlier part of the year, when for instance Kenya in mid February let in a whole plane load of Chinese into Nairobi who subsequently melted away into the country but also given the exploding numbers of #COVID19 cases in Europe. I called off the Kenya trip but the decision not to travel then also put paid to the intention to travel later as it turned out to be.
Uganda in late March had to go under quarantine, the airport was closed – and still not open to this day for scheduled passenger flights – and a lockdown imposed on us which had me and most Ugandans sit at home for nearly 3 months, apart from the privileged few who continued to roam the streets with their shining 4×4’s, waving ‘movement permits‘ at the check points or simply driving through, aware of who they were and the entitlements which accompanied their status.
The only way to look out of Uganda, beyond our horizon and at the larger world was on the TV screen or through the internet, which turned out to be the main mode of communication with friends and family – of course taxed here in Uganda where, what elsewhere has reached the status of a human right is seen as wasting time, idling and gossiping – according to the powers that be and users were subsequently taxed for using the internet in a very punitive way.
My travel plans in Africa included several visits to Kenya but also to the Seychelles, South Africa, Rwanda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Zambia to name but a few. The pandemic however put the wrecking ball on my speaking engagements I had signed up for as all 8 conferences and tourism trade fairs I was to attend in 2020 were either cancelled or postponed until next year.
In Europe I was focusing on Germany and Belgium but also planned to visit Switzerland, Austria and the region of Alsace-Lorraine in France this year. The plan was to attend weddings and baptisms, see my granddaughter, grand nephews and grand nieces who were born since my last visit and of course see my parents, now both deep into their 90’s. My siblings and their families, but also friends I kept through the decades, year after year enjoyed the visit of the uncle bearing gifts, bringing packets of Uganda’s superb coffee and tea, handicrafts and local fabrics but this year will by the look of it have to go without.
I was looking forward to seeing the State Garden Show in Ueberlingen, a town on the shores of Lake Constance and a place visited regularly in the past with my sister during my summer visits to the old country. In fact, I had already reserved my hotel room there, at the fabulous Red House and checked out offers for lake cruises, none of it coming to fruition this year it now seems.
I was looking forward to the traditional Beer Festivals, the Food Fairs, the 1250th anniversary year celebrations of Heidelsheim, now a suburb of my home city of Bruchsal but also the annual wine harvest in the local vineyards, the cultural festivals and the open air summer concerts. I wanted to do a cruise on at least one of the major German rivers, either on the Rhine, the Danube, the Moselle or the Neckar, the latter being nearest to my birth town. Cruising up that river valley from Heidelberg unveils a historic region dotted with medieval castles on literally every available hill and the local museums in the small towns, where the cruise boat stops enroute, tell a rich story of the times long passed in this part of my home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Visits to restaurants too were high on the agenda, like to Burg Ravensburg – a long time favourite for the past 55 years of my life – to one or two of the region’s fancied Michelin starred culinary temples and also the more regular Gaststaetten along the towns and villages of the Black Forest but also across the border in France, where good home cooking and rustic hospitality are the order of the day.
As of late August I am left here in Uganda, literally locked in due to the absence of scheduled passenger flights and can only dream about all those carefully crafted plans, which the pandemic has laid to waste.
I was keen to hike along some of Germany’s famous wine and food routes while otherwise using rail and bus links – in fact revisiting some of my most liked places – explore small towns and villages still showing their medieval pedigree and of course write trip reports, hotel and attraction reviews like done in past years.
I had promised myself to make one, perhaps last trip to the island of Sylt this year. It is there where my parents took me and my siblings every summer for a beach vacation when we were young but also wanted to revisit Berchtesgaden, our annual winter vacation location in the German alps where I learned how to ski and race downhill on sleds.
Festivals of all kinds across Germany, open air concerts, art and culture exhibitions, sporting events and more were of course all cancelled or postponed into 2021 – subject to confirmation nearer to the time – and restaurants, like hotels, closed down by the thousands due to lack of travelers and clients. What I am missing so dearly is therefore equally missed by the German population at large, who have to do without their favourite events this summer as a result of government directives.
Could anyone have foreseen that in 2020 there will be no Octoberfest, no Cannstatter Wasen, no Love Parade in Berlin or anything resembling those events – one would have been declared certifiable and yet, so it has unfolded.
All I can now do is sort through photo albums and my picture galleries or surf the internet and look up all these locations online, being denied the real thing by the pandemic.
With no date in sight when the international airport in Entebbe is opening, besides the unfolding second wave of the pandemic in many parts of Europe, Germany included, is it uncertain if or when I can travel again this year, safely that is as my age makes me apparently a prime target for the virus.
Only time can tell when my next trip will take off and which direction it might take me, but as and when, be sure to read all about it here on www.ATCNews.org