A Travellerspoint blog

Trying to travel in Europe during COVID


View Italy on tatehomberg's travel map.

As you might imagine, traveling during the time of Covid is not easy. The places we are told to avoid to prevent the spread of covid are closed-in areas with lots of people. This sounds very much like a plane, train, bus, or ferry. Which of course, when traveling Europe, are all forms of transportation that you will take at some point. We are very careful, wearing our masks, and carrying wipes to sanitize the area we are sitting. Doing all this is a pain but it is not the hardest part.

When we went to Europe, we chose Croatia because we could get in without having to quarantine. As Americans, we were very limited on where we could go. To get into Croatia, we had to have a negative Covid test less than 48 hours old and we had to fill out some paperwork. The Covid test was a challenge, but we managed to pull that off. Once we had that, getting into the country went smoothly. However, crossing the border was the part that worried us the most. What happens if you fly 24 hours to get there and they say “No. You are not allowed to come into the country”. Do you get back on a plane and go home? Sleep in the airport? What? This was our nightmare but of course, what kind of adventure doesn’t have the possibility of some doom. So, we got in with no problem but now we are planning on going to another country - so now we have to do it all over again.

Croatia has been wonderful. I would not be surprised if it ends up being my favorite part of the whole trip, but it is time to move on. So where to next? Well, that is a harder question than you might think.

We are unable to plan ahead very much because the restrictions to get into other countries change almost daily. The plan was that we get into Croatia and then we figure it out from there. Well, we are at that point now and there are a lot of factors that we needed to take into consideration.

The questions for picking the next county include, among other things: Where can we go? Can we get there from here? Are Americans allowed to enter? Do we have to take Covid tests? Is it in the Shengen zone? Where can we go after we leave that country? Is this a bad time of year to go? What is their Covid situation right now? How expensive is it going to be? And lastly, of course, is this somewhere we want to go?

Lots and lots of factors. Now, I am not going to go over all of these but I am going to talk about a few. The first and hardest was “Where can we go?” To help answer that question we started with the website: reopen.europa.eu. It has a lot of good information, but it is also where we run into problems.

As you can imagine no one wants people coming from the United States (we suck when it comes to Covid). However, we are not coming from the US. We are coming from Croatia and have been here for almost a month. You would think this would make it easier but it doesn’t.

Some countries restrict travel based on the country you are traveling from and some countries based on the country that is listed on your passport. There are many other restrictions and each country is different. The hard part is getting the restrictions clearly defined. To make sure, we searched several websites such as EU websites, embassy sites and travel sites. However, this did not clear things up but made them more confusing. The different sites often had confusing or conflicting information. And of course, just like at the start of this trip, you don’t want to show up at a border and have them say, “Sorry, you can’t come in”.

Of course, you want clarification so we will just call or email someone. Well, that was the next problem. That is a lot harder than you might think. We called and emailed embassies and when we did get a response they just referred us back to the confusing websites we had already been looking at. So in the end, you have to make your best interpretation of the information and hope for the best, because there really is no one out there to help. And if there is, we never found them.

Next is the Covid test. Most countries, if they are going to let you in, require a Covid test that is less than 72 hours old. Most of the countries that don’t require a test either want you to quarantine for two weeks or they strongly suggest that you have a test -otherwise you might be required to quarantine.

Having to quarantine is the last thing we want to do because, besides the fact it would just suck to have to sit inside for a week or two, it would also be very expensive to rent a place for that amount of time.

Now when we left the States we needed Covid tests and it was a challenge to get one, despite the fact that we had a health provider that helped us. Now we are in another country and we have to find a place and pay for a test. After some internet searching, we found a place and found out the cost...3,000 kuna for two tests, which is about $470 for both me and Shelley. Savannah doesn't need one.

Of course it turns out that the town we are in right now (Dubrovnik), the Covid tests are twice as expensive as anywhere else in the country. But, we don’t have much of a choice unless we pick a country that doesn’t require a test and that just sounds risky.

The next challenge is: What countries can we travel to in Europe from Dubrovnik, Croatia? Of course we can get anywhere but some of the fights are very convoluted and require over 20 hours to get to your destination with long layovers.

In the end, we picked Italy as our next destination. Both France and Turkey made the final list, however we didn’t pick Turkey because it is on several other countries' red list, so that would limit where we could go after Turkey.

France was almost our next destination because there was a direct flight for cheap and they didn’t require a Covid test. However, a bunch of other smaller factors led us to feel that Italy was the better choice.

So, Monday morning we go get Covid tests and then later that day we will hop an overnight ferry to Italy. The plan is to be there about a month and then do this all again at the end of October.

We will see what is happening in a month but the hope is that after Italy we will go to Britain- leaving the Schengen Zone for a while. We will see what happens- it’s an adventure!

After writing this, we traveled to Italy and crossing the border was a bit bumpy and a little scary. More on that in the next entry. Thanks for reading.

Posted by tatehomberg 13:17 Comments (0)

Savvy Travels Trailer #1

Click the link below:

Savvy Travels-Trailer#1

Posted by tatehomberg 10:21 Comments (0)

Savvy Travels- Old Town Dubrovnik

Savannah’s educational videos Ep.2


View Croatia on tatehomberg's travel map.

Savannah explores some of her favorite spots in Old Town Dubrovnik! This is the second installment in her educational videos as she travels Europe.

Click the link below:

Savvy Travels- Old Town Dubrovnik

Posted by tatehomberg 09:44 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

DRIVING OVERSEAS SUCKS

JAMIE BLOG POST #1

sunny

JAMIE BLOG POST 1 - DRIVING OVERSEAS

I hate, hate, hate driving overseas!!!!!!!!

Just some quick background. Ten years ago when Shelley and I went to Europe on our honeymoon, we started our trip in Germany. We rented a car and did a day trip with no problem. On the way back, though, we got so lost. I mean, we drove around the same five square miles for THREE hours trying to find the house we were staying in. I ended up stopping and paying a cab to drive to the address so we could follow them back to the house. Then, on the same trip (and the same car) we drove to another city and it took us two hours to find the car drop off spot. We almost missed our train. Of course, this was before we had smart phones and there was no GPS in the car.

So, to say the least, I was not looking forward to renting a car this trip and driving. However, this time I would have GPS which was both a blessing and a curse. More on that later. We were driving from Split, Croatia to Plitvice National Park. First, thoug, we had to get to our room in a house that was right on the edge of the park. In this case, THANK GOD FOR GPS! There is no way in hell we would have found the place that we stayed without GPS.

We drove down some small narrow roads, but there was one road that scared the hell out of me. Did I mention I am not really a fan of heights? I am not horrified- I’ve been paragliding in the Alps and bungee jumping, but for the most part I really don’t care for heights. For example, I am not going to be the person that walks up to an edge of a tower or cliff to look over the side.

I bring this up because this very narrow road kept going up with no guard rails and in spots, there was just a straight drop off the side (sometimes there were large rocks to sort of protct the edge!). Now, luckily as I was driving up, we were the not on the cliff side but the whole time I was thinking- “tomorrow I have to come down.” If there’s a car coming the other way, I will be hugging that cliff side, a foot away from a perilously steep drop.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and I won’t run into any cars...come on, we know that is not going to happen! In the meantime, let’s enjoy the scenery before we have to drive back.

Plitvice National Park was amazing. Just beautiful waterfalls and lakes everwhere. Wooden walkways over crystal clear streams. It was worth the three hour drive and all the hiking! After a very long day, we crashed in our cute rented room.
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The next morning, our B and B hostess made us an amazing breakfast and it was time to start heading back. On our way back, we decided to take a side trip to the birthplace of Nickola Tesla, with his childhood home and a museum. Time to break out the cell phone and get directions.

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Directions loaded but the road of death awaits. At least it is at the start of the trip and I can just get it out of the way. So, off we go.

It starts off just as I want, with no cars in sight. I am in the middle of the road, staying away from the edge. White knuckling it down the road with Shelley giving me updates of how far to the turn which should put us on the big road. Only another 1.5 miles. I think, I am almost there, as I look down at cliff side on the edge of the road. Then I see it. My worst nightmare. Another car coming toward us. Except it is not a car, it is a box truck and we are at one of those drop-off sections of the road.

I think now is a good time to mention that when we rented the car online we got the small compact. You know, the cheap one. However, when I picked the car up they “upgraded” us to a SUV a little smaller than a Highlander.

As I look at the box truck coming at me and pushing me to the edge of the cliff, several things go through my mind. “Just my luck… Damn Enterprise and their upgrade… I am going to side swipe this guy and lost my $1200 deposit... God, I hope the tire doesn’t go off the edge!!!!”
I slow down as the truck moves over as far as he can. My mirror missed his by inches. Shelley is looking down the side of the cliff and all I hear is a deep breath. We just squeak by and back to the middle of the road I go. Later Shelley tells me that there was less than a foot between the tire and the edge.

We made it. Shelley tells me the turn onto the major road is coming up. We are home free! Wait… this is not how we came… was it? We make the turn, unsure of ourselves but we are going downhill so what do I care. Next turn coming up!

Now we are on a road that is even more narrow. There is no way to fit two cars. Again, if another car comes I am not sure what would happen. There is nowhere to go so let’s just hope that doesn’t happen.

We come to the next turn and I stop. This can’t be right. That is a wooden bridge that is so small I am not sure the car would fit over it! We pass it and take the next turn but it deadends. A nice man comes out and looks at us like “Dumbass tourists” but is very helpful. He tells us that yes, we do have to go over the bridge we passed. He also says, “if you go in, don’t worry- that water is not cold!”. I think, ha ha, thanks a lot! We say “hvala” and off we go.

Back to the bridge. This bridge is just wooden boards. No rails. I wouldn’t want to take my bike across this thing and now I have to drive my “upgrade” across it. Again, I can’t see the edge of the car, so I am not sure where the tires are going to hit. I go slow. Bump! That didn’t feel right. I back up and Shelley gets out of the car to walk in front and direct me. We get the car up on the bridge with less than a foot on both side and we creep across. As I drive over the boards, I feel and hear them lift up and fall back down as we go over them. But we are on the other side. One more mile on this one car road and back to the main road.

We made it to the big road!!! YES!!! I tell Savannah to cover her ears and I let out a slew of curse words. Later I figure out that we didn’t need to be on those small ass roads but the GPS sent us that way cause it was like a ¼ of a mile shorter. Damn GPS! Damn upgrades! Damn narrow roads with no rails!

Now, Plitvice was great. The Tesla home and musem was worth the vist and we also stopped at Krka National park which had an incredible waterfall, and we even got to swim at the base.
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However, I still Hate, Hate, Hate driving overseas. Even writing this my shoulders are in knots just thinking about it, but I guess it is just one of those prices you have to pay for other wonderful experiences.

Posted by tatehomberg 12:52 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

So now what? Week one in Split, Croatia

BLOG ENTRY #3

BLOG ENTRY #3 - So now what? Week one in Split, Croatia

Thursday 27/8
All of us woke up at around three in the morning and puttered about for a couple of hours - do we try to sleep more or stay awake? Let’s get on Croatian time, we thought, and decided to take a little nap before starting our day.

And eight hours later….
We woke up at 3 PM on our first full day in Croatia. Whoops!
Diocletian’s Palace here we come! For more info on that, see Savannah’s charming educational video “Savvy Travels”. We’re totally considering that homeschooling - history, public speaking, and writing organization!
We wandered around the downtown area (much of it encompassed within the palace’s walls), observing the many restaurants, shops, and apartments within those tiny stone streets. Window shopping in a pedestrian only zone was lovely!

It was high time we tried some Dalmatian food, so we found a local konoba (restaurant) where the menu was more in Croatian than English, figuring that that might be a good indicator of a non-touristy place.

The dish we had heard about the most was black risotto, cuttlefish cooked in its own ink, so of course we had to try it! Surprisingly mild and very tasty, as was the shrimp and zucchini risotto and Savannah’s homemade pasta with tomato and beef.

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After a leisurely dinner (the only way to do it here!), we followed the sound of live music back to the center of the Palace, the Peristyle, where an acoustic guitarist and violinist were playing. They were set up at the Luxor bar, an actual bar in the Peristyle where they throw cushions in pairs on the ancient Roman steps and you can order a drink. How decadent to sip wine while reclining where emperors and Roman patricians once walked!

The music was acoustic versions of popular American music, and we hummed along until I couldn’t stand it anymore and pulled Jamie up to dance. The female musician smiled over at us as we did some swing steps, Jamie spinning me as Savannah looked on and laughed.

We kissed after, remembering our last time in Europe and a similar impromptu dance in another famous square - St. Mark’s in Venice while on our honeymoon. Ten years (and one kid) after that lovely moment, we were blessed to be able to create another.

Friday 28/8

Jet lag ain’t no joke! We’re adjusting to the time difference, but still waking up in the middle of the night. Since we were all up before 4 AM, we decided to just go with it and got ready to leave the house before dawn. Bonus - sunrise over the Adriatic!

We had our first experience of bukek (the wonderful phyllo dough sweet or savory pastries sold everywhere) and kava (coffee) at one of the many little bakery stands throughout the town. Then we found the open air green market - oh the colors! Fruits and vegetables piled high on tables, with locals haggling over the plums, tomatoes, peaches, grapes, and figs. Wizened Croatian men and women gestured us over to sample their wares, each with just their few specialties. We tasted nuts and dried figs and tried to communicate, as we bought more that we could possibly eat that day. Jamie waved ten kuna at a little old lady trying desperately to rid herself of her small but deep purple plums, and she grinned and filled a plastic bag - plums for days!

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We learned to say “ne hvala” (no thank you) pretty quickly, or we would have ended up with more produce than we could carry. But it was a lovely and local experience.

After picking up makings for our picnic, we headed to Bacvice Beach. We joined the older locals (the youngsters show up later!) bobbing around in bikinis and Speedos. It was so peaceful, with older folks getting their morning exercise and socializing over card games played with the ornate Croatian card deck.

We did as the locals did - take a dip, float (so buoyant you barely need to tread water), then get out and dry off only to do it over again - maybe shower off the salt in between! It seems as though everyone takes a siesta during the heat of the day, but then the waterfront (Riva) comes to life again as it cools down.

Lovely tanned couples wander hand in hand, and groups of teenagers on bikes and on foot stop to flirt next to the yachts moored on the harbor.B68496D7-DA70-4845-8F28-08FEEB840CC0.jpeg

No matter what time of day, tables at the waterfront are occupied by people enjoying coffee (before noon) and drinks after (lots of beer and Aperol spritzes) and people-watching. This is very definitely a cafe culture, where buying a drink (whether coffee or alcoholic) is the price of at least an hour of relaxing with good company and watching the world go by.

As true products of American society, Jamie and I are both on the go kind of people - even relaxing at a bar in the States often came with discussing work and creating to do lists. While we still did some of that (have to plan the next day’s meals and events!) - we consciously made the effort to just relax and enjoy the moment. Every time got easier - retraining ourselves to just be is harder than you might think!

Posted by tatehomberg 12:34 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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