European spring 2022

The night before my first tour of Europe after two years of covid-enforced sabbatical, I wrote a post about the energy filling my mind and rattling through my body. But then I took a quick phone call and it was two weeks later, the tour already over. So I wrote a post about how it had been, paused for a breath before posting it, and six more weeks snuck by. That may already be the answer, but what was Spring 2022 like in European tourism, and global re-engagement?

Arguably the global leader in living cities overwhelmed by tourism, Amsterdam was ready to have us back

On a personal level were the vibrations of returning to countries I love, feeling that sense of collective possibility again, and seeing both the mental expansion of first-time travelers and the redemption of those who already knew there is a wider world beyond our homeland. Both of them, all of us, feeling the community and connections of our species in global moments.

The wider experience of Europe this spring was one of refreshed hospitality. Hoteliers were eager to host us in their awakening cities. Restaurants wanted to hear the sighs of satisfied diners. And the usher at the Anne Frank House made my month when he said, as he opened the door to a greater understanding of our universal daughter “Where are you from? America? Welcome, we are so glad to have you back!”

These were cities that had been drowning in Tourism in 2019, given sudden respite in spring 2020, followed by a convalescent honeymoon that summer, as they got their cities back without need to accommodate groups following flags, circumvent flocks of folks with numbers on stickers on shoulders, or smile their long sufferance at fools like me trying to characterize large groups of people in a meaningful way and inevitably leaving many out. But then came the 2021 long stasis and stagnation of waiting the weeks away, and they were now eager to have us back.

The feeling lasted about a month. (Except in Venice, where perhaps the Venetians were not grumpy about tourists for an hour in early March, though I doubt it.) Week by week this eagerness moved back toward fatigue. By the time I finished my last tour in early June, the floodgates weren’t open, they were washed away entirely. Longer lines than 2019 stretched out the doors of every bistro in Paris, the canals of Amsterdam had more boats than leaves, and the Vatican Museums were pioneering new ways to make the worst of smothering crowds.

C’est la vie, my loves, the marvelous vie. Because guess what? It’s damn great to be back under any circumstances. Covid finally conquered my system as I finished my last tour, and a celebratory week of Parisian indulgence turned into a quarantined series of audiobooks. But even that felt like freedom, as I could finally stop caring that no one in sight wears a mask anymore.

Those months are full of lessons learned and images worth sharing, worth posting, though I’m distracted by my paths that have since then climbed mountains, crossed deserts, and limped back to echoes of adolescence. But before we move up to those, I want to pause and savor the moment that was Spring 2022. Two years of fear, frustration, fits and starts were over (kind of) and we dusted off our passports and put them to good use again. It was a victory that cannot be taken away by cellular viruses or global pandemics, and it deserves recognition as we set it on the happy shelf of memory.

I have a weeklong series of posts planned about hiking among the Mountains of Heaven, and I hope you are all savoring your happy spaces, domestic and abroad, inside and out. It’s good to see you again!