This will be a different type of blog post than what you’re used to, but I felt like I needed to write a bit about my own impressions and thoughts regarding the effect the Coronavirus pandemic had on Graz.
I’ve been missing in action for the best part of 2020 (until now) and I haven’t posted much since my last post to help people move to Graz. Until the beginning of March, this was completely my fault. Afer the turn of the new year, I was uninspired and unmotivated to write about Graz, especially because I had been spending less time here and more time travelling to other countries. I also invested a lot more time into another personal project dedicated to more personal hobbies, like sewing and baking (The Crafty Britalian).
Then March came along and, before I knew it, I was stuck inside my flat in Graz due to the social distancing restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Although I had a lot more free time in my hands, I did not feel that it was right to write blog posts encouraging people to visit Graz or do things in the city. I took the self-quarantine very seriously, and I still am.
Then 2 weeks turned into 4 weeks, and 4 weeks turned into 8 weeks. Now it’s the beginning of May and the restrictions are relaxed and we have most of our freedoms back. So I guess it’s time to look back at the past two months and just see how Graz has changed and my own view of Graz has changed with it.
Life in Graz during lockdown
To be honest, knowing directly from my family and friends what the restrictions were (and still are) like in other countries like Italy and Spain, I think the Austrians restrictions were not that bad with regards to personal freedom. We could still go out whenever we wanted, just making sure that we kept our distance from others, and it was discouraged to meet with other people (and completely forbidden to meet with more than 5 people).
I was lucky enough to be able to continue my job working from home, and in some ways it was nice to be spared of the endless commuting time going from one side of Graz to the other. In this way, I managed to have at least an hour longer of free time every day, which I could just invest in hobbies or just plain relaxing.
What was a big change was the fact that every non-essential shop was closed and I tried to go to the supermarket only once a week to do my food shopping. It was a change of habits that I am only now getting used to. Just the idea that you cannot go back to the shop on a whim if you forget something and you must plan your shopping beforehand.
I remember when the lockdown was announced at the beginning of March and I was one of the unlucky people who went shopping in the Interspar in Murpark on that day. The crowds were massive. Toilet paper and yeast nowhere to be seen. People were loading their trollies with beers, flour and other non-perishable items. And the queues at the checkout were so long that it was impossible to keep safety distance from one another (although many seemed not to even care enough to try).
At the beginning of the lockdown I considered myself lucky for many reasons. Besides the fact that I still had a job, I have a small garden and a dog. During breaks, I could just walk outside to get fresh air, and a couple of times a day I could walk even further around my neighbourhood with my dog. However, after about 5 weeks, I started to feel like I was so sick of just seeing the same old 20 houses that are in my neighbourhood. I felt a deep longing to see something else. Once the Mcdonalds’ restaurant re-opened for drive-through, we even went for a drive to the one in Feldkirchen just to see something that was not our neighbourhood. (We ended up turning the car around and going home because the queue at the drive-thru was so long that it would have taken us ages to get food).
On one day in March we needed to go to the centre of Graz because of an important appointment that could not be postponed.
Because parking was for free to discourage people from taking public transport, we could not find any free parking spaces. We did a couple of rounds in the centre and then we ended up paying a large sum of money to park at Andreas-Hofer Platz.
I took two shots of the deserted Herrengasse, just because I felt like I needed to immortalize this time in the history of Graz.
The appointment was also very strange. We had to go into a room that was usually meant for 20+ people just so that the three of us could be at a safe enough distance from each other. At the time masks were not obligatory, but they had disinfected the pens that we would use to sign the papers we needed to sign.
The impact on Grazer’s lives
In general, my impression was that the majority of people were being cautious and keeping to the stricts rules. for the first few weeks. But you could see that around Easter people started being sick of them and not following them to the letter. Our neighbours had often visitors and would themselves go visit others at the weekend.
I spoke to a couple of friends during this time and everybody was living this situation differently. Some were still being forced to go to the office, some were working from home or in Kurzarbeit, some were laid off. There was a general feeling of malaise and everybody was longing for normality but at the same time being grateful for not having caught the illness themselves.
Whilst Austrians were in the end only discouraged and not prohibited from visiting their relatives, many still did so. They visited at least their closest relatives during this time. Being foreigners and having our families abroad was the hardest part for us in this pandemic. And this made many foreigners also resent Austrians, who could visit their families whenever they wanted.
I am lucky that I visited my parents in February, just before the whole mess started, but now I have no idea when we’ll be able to see each other in person again. The same with my partner’s family, which we were used to seeing nearly every weekend, since they live just across the border in Slovenia. Due to the closed borders we are not allowed to go anywhere without doing quarantine and we would just wish that countries would make agreements with each other to allow for foreigners to see their loved ones.
Back to normal?
It’s now May and it seems like we are getting back to a weird state of normality. All the shops are open again and the schools are reopening (although with some kind of weird group system that I do not fully understand). It just seems weird that, after two months, you can just go somewhere if you need it. Today we had a hankering for ice cream so we went to Spar to buy some even if we were already there yesterday for our weekly shop. My friends asked me to meet for coffees or ice-creams and it just feels so weird that you can just do it now (or soon).
I am a bit worried that the restrictions are being loosened up a bit too fast here in Austria, but I will continue working from home as long as I can and avoid contact with large masses of people as much as I can.
What I miss a bit is how quiet my neighbourhood was in March and April. Now that many are going back to work, the roads are full of cars again and the noisiness somehow sounds louder.
What do you think?
I’m curious what the next few weeks will bring us. There won’t be much to write about for a while with regards to things to do in Graz, but hopefully this will change in the next couple of months.
Stay safe and still try to stay at home as much as possible! And leave a comment to let me know what you think the future will look like for Graz in this pandemic. I’d also like to know what your experience was!