Copenhagen, Denmark, France, Germany, Travel

A week-long road trip in Europe mid-pandemic..?

(featured photo was taken on the Rødby-Puttgarden ferry)

I’ve just returned (well, a few weeks ago now…) from a week-long roadtrip with my partner. We traveled from Denmark through Germany, then France, Germany again, and back to Denmark. I had the best time, but I’m so happy to be back in Copenhagen!

When the trip was being planned, travel within most EU countries from Denmark was more or less open. Things changed in the lead up to the actual trip. Originally we would have driven through Belgium (which would have allowed us to cut through to France faster), but fresh travel restrictions made these routes unadvisable. And as a non-EU citizen, even with legal residency in Denmark, it’s virtually impossible for me to keep up with new border rules because they’re framed in terms of EU vs non-EU travellers and I’m too pessimistic to trust that I really wouldn’t be the first person to be screwed over at some border control during times like this. To be honest, as a ‘foreigner’ (or ‘Alien’ as we’re called in Danish legal lingo, ha), I want to stay invisible in emergency situations – to keep my head down and not get caught up in some bureaucratic mess.

But hey, after a summer of non-stop working (by which I mean, I didn’t take July off like the Danes do 😉 ), I just couldn’t live in fear and say no to the prospect of spending a whole week exploring new places with my partner. We’ve talked a lot already about travelling abroad together post-pandemic. This unique opportunity basically landed in our laps, and with the ‘safer’ routes still open, it sounded like a wonderful idea.

And I mean…what better way to travel in this pandemic era than by driving ourselves in a socially distanced bubble with even less contact with others than we would make in our usual lives?

So we packed our bags, and visited 6 different cities over 7 days:
Cologne (Köln), Germany
Orleans, France
Bordeaux, France
Dijon, France
Heidelberg, Germany
Hamburg, Germany

That’s about 4000km+ of driving in a week!

I took about 1500 photos on this trip so I think I’ll have to dedicate a big post for each place we visited. So for the next 6-7 posts or so, you can expect some image-heavy recaps of our trip 🙂 I will also share with you what it was like to travel with the new pandemic related guidelines in place and how it differed in each country that we travelled to (Denmark actually put France on the ‘closed’ list after we got there).

Until the next post, I’ll leave you with some actual on-the-road shots…

The weather conditions were intense…rain, storm clouds, sun, the works.
Danish countryside.
I do love this contrast of the field with the gloom and doom of the sky.
We took the ferry over to Germany.
I think I see a muffin in those clouds, ha.
The ferry was a mere 45 minutes.
I can’t resist sharing a photo I took from the car, all the way in France. Isn’t the scenery just beautiful? But I’m getting ahead of myself – stay tuned for my next posts!
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Denmark, Expat life, Personal, Travel

Why I’m moving to Denmark from the UK in the middle of a worldwide pandemic

Days before Denmark became one of the first countries in Europe to close its borders and go on coronavirus lockdown back in March 2020, I received a job offer from Copenhagen for June 2020. I was delighted, of course – I accepted the job offer. My hope originally was to visit Copenhagen during Easter, scope out a place to live, move in the beginning of May, and be settled and ready to start by June.

But then, chaos.

Since the lockdown, questions from others that would otherwise be easy to answer (like if I’m going to travel by land or air) have, in this pandemic time, implicated sheer panic-inducing uncertainty for me. My most frequently used phrase in the past couple of months must have been ‘I don’t know’.

Last week I would have told you I’d be in Denmark by now, but my flight got cancelled last minute. I spent a small fortune booking another flight to Denmark (I’m supposed to fly in a couple of days, heavens willing) but who knows if this one will fly. So – I still don’t know. All I can do is wait and see.

Ok, back up. Can I not start my new job contract remotely? Why not just wait until travel restrictions are relaxed further before traveling/moving?

Believe you me, it’s no fun making travel plans during a global pandemic, let alone plans to up and move my entire life to a country I’ve never lived before under these exceptional conditions. I’m about a grand short due to travel and moving related expenditures at this point and don’t think I would have been able to sort everything out without savings. I’m also still juggling my current job (my contract in the UK expires the day before my new job in Denmark is set to start).

Here’s the reason it is imperative that I travel and move now (aside from the fact that I would like to start my job on time): my visa in the UK is about to expire. The UK Home Office is still only offering to extend people’s imminently expiring visas due to coronavirus (to those who are self-isolating due to illness or cannot book flights back home) until the 31st May 2020 – as if normal flight routes will be back up and running by then (?!)

Given the Home Office’s position I must make haste. 31st May 2020 is the absolute limit; after this date I would become an overstayer. It is on us ‘foreigners’ to travel out of the country, if we are able to so, by the end of this month, if we don’t want to risk repercussions related to our immigration status. There is no luxury of sitting back and waiting out the virus. It’s surreal to think about – despite getting my PhD in the UK, and having lived, studied and worked here for 9.5 years continuously, I am effectively forced out in the middle of a pandemic despite ongoing travel restrictions/disruptions because of my visa expiry.

Many people have incredulously indicated to me that, surely, the Home Office could not be that draconian – they wouldn’t actually punish overstayers and so on, given the pandemic. Hopefully not. But who actually knows? As a ‘foreigner’ with a precarious immigration status in the UK I find this kind of incredulity naive and frustrating. It’s easy for people to sit back and speculate about what they think human decency amounts to at the policy-level when they aren’t the targets of exclusion. I would love to believe that everyone gets treated in a reasonable way in the end, in whatever country they reside – but I’m wise enough to worry! Mind you, I’m speaking from a position of relative privilege. I’ve never made trouble in the UK, I can afford to live on my own abroad, my passport gives me international mobility, I don’t have dependants to worry about, I’m not stranded, I’m not fleeing a terrible situation in my home country, and so forth. Even so, I’ve had my fair share of Kafkaesque nightmares regarding immigration matters in the UK, and the psychological centrality of my insecure immigration status as a ‘foreigner’ is largely what makes me so eager to leave to a place where my permission to be there is not under threat.

But hey – I’ve made peace with the injustice of my relationship with the UK. I certainly don’t want to stick around to find out what happens to me if I stay here. My one beacon of hope throughout the uncertainty of lockdown has been the great competence and clarity I’ve received from Denmark. My experience applying for my work permit, enrolling my biometrics, and receiving the documents necessary to pass border restrictions in Denmark, has been unbelievably smooth, relatively unbureaucratic, and incredibly fast (I got my visa in 7 days). This has made a hugely positive impact on me during such an uncertain time. I will never forget it.

See you soon, Denmark, and thank you.

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