Living in the Republic of Ireland during the pandemic is quite restrictive. You cannot enter a bar or restaurant to have a drink, you have to have food, you cannot enter any shop or indoor venue without a facemask, and you certainly cannot walk past someone without them jumping 2 meters to either side of you. We knew once we returned from the Czech Republic we would have to quarantine for 2 weeks and we didn’t mind that as long as we didn’t have to quarantine when we arrived in Prague.
In Dublin airport, there was hand sanitizer everywhere! You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing it. The line for going through security looked around 4 times longer than normal due to social distancing. The good news is that it doesn’t take 4 times as long to get through, the bad news is that it does probably take twice as long to get through. The number of seats you could sit on was down by about 40% but there was no shortage as there were very few people in the airport compared to normal. If you like going through airports at a relaxed pace and having less stress, then now is the time to travel.
After landing at Prague airport I was expecting pretty much the same as Ireland, but how wrong I was. The brief time we spent in the airport was an early indication of how life in Prague was coping during this pandemic. There were very few people wearing facemasks and the people who were, seemed like they were tourists visiting the area, locals didn’t seem too keen on them. After getting the bus and metro to the city center we did have to wear facemasks on public transport which was mandatory and everyone seemed to obey.
We arrived late so we headed straight to our hotel, meaning we didn’t get to see how people in the city were living. When we woke the next morning we didn’t fully know what to expect. We knew it wasn’t mandatory to wear facemasks outside in Prague but we were quite surprised to see absolutely nobody wearing them! Back home in Ireland a lot of people wore facemasks outdoors but the people of Prague weren’t hooked on the idea.
Our first two stops were at the Old Town Square and the 14th Century Charles Bridge and we were completely stunned to find that there were little to no tourists. We planned to get up early one morning and get decent pictures of busy sights and attractions but there was no need, we were blessed. I’m sure it did help to come on a Monday rather than a Saturday but after doing the research before we arrived and seeing how packed and busy the sights were in Prague, we were astounded. For any photographers out there, this is a great opportunity for them.
The indoor situation was the biggest surprise for me. After going into quite a few shops and restaurants we realized we were almost the only ones wearing a facemask. Back in Ireland if you accidentally walked into a shop without a facemask, there would be daggers pointing at you from every direction, In Prague, you almost felt people were looking at you strange while wearing the facemask. There is a hand-sanitizer before you enter any shop but there wasn’t much anywhere else and people seemed to lack the desperation to use it.
The thing that really made me feel like there was normality once again was the fact you would walk into any pub, buy a drink and enjoy yourself. No time limits, no slips of paper being handed to you as you walk in the door, but you could stand up, walk around, and even have a dance if you wanted to. It was like I came to a new world where they never even heard of Coronavirus. Although I was made to feel like this was back to normal, there was one thing that made me realize I wasn’t in Ireland anymore, and that was getting pints of beer for just 1 EUR.
After feeling like we stepped into a time machine and traveled back to 2019 it was time once more to put on our facemasks and head to Prague airport via public transport. Once we stepped inside the door we immediately spotted the difference between Prague and Dublin airport, there weren’t half the hand sanitizers around. The only similarity was the fact the place seemed like a ghost town. On the flight from Dublin to Prague, there were 20 people at most on the flight so we were expecting even less considering anyone visiting Ireland had to quarantine for two weeks. I was wrong again, the flight was almost sold out, Either people did not know they would have to quarantine or they just ignored it.
Arriving back in Cork and having to quarantine for two weeks was a bit of a downer. For a few days, I got to experience what life was like not so long ago. The Irish government will release their new plan on International travel by October 13th, and knowing that there are places not so far from here returning to the way we used to live, gives me hope that we can return to normal in the near future.