You had planned your vacation of Central Europe for months. The current Syrian refugee crisis didn’t even exist when you bought the tickets (at least, not to your knowledge). But now you’re in Austria, rail travel is suspended and there are asylum seekers everywhere, ruining what was supposed to be a relaxing two-week jaunt.
Here are some ways to reclaim your travel bliss in the midst of a humanitarian crisis:
Austria has a long history of architectural grandeur. And there’s nothing quite like a guided architectural tour to keep your eyes pointed up and away from the weak, starving escapees of the horrors of Syria (which is maybe having a civil war?). Keep your camera aimed at the spires and statues above eye level and document real history. The stateless throng all about you don’t seem to care about taking pictures of the Vienna State Opera House, but that’ll just make your Facebook photo gallery look so much more cultured in comparison. Nice!
You may not have planned on being stuck in Austria, but you’ll be happy to find that it is home to some beautiful old churches. Ones with extravagant altars and old frescoes that suggest a rigid order to the universe that isn’t evident on the streets crawling with displaced people outside. Oh and don’t worry that the brown-skinned aliens pouring across the southern border will go straight to church. Because unlike the brown-skinned aliens pouring across the southern border back home, these ones are Muslim. Church is yours!
It’s frequently said that it can be a liability to be American when traveling abroad, and that’s even more true now. Some of these Syrian castaways are blaming America for creating the situation from which they’re escaping, but that’s not your fault! Expect better service at restaurants and museums by putting on a British accent. As a bonus, the émigrés seem to understand that England is hostile to the idea of taking any of them in, so they might just stay out of your way. It’s win-win!
Try sticking to the smaller roads in and around city centers. Not only will they be more quaint, they’re less likely to be barricaded by Austrian officials still trying to figure out what to do with the tens of thousands of desperate people escaping death, some of who have decided to go on foot to Germany, blocking even more roads. Twisty little cobblestone paths are no place for hordes of political asylum-seekers, but perfect for finding a little souvenir to bring to your secretary!
Central Europe is cheap, so all those Euros in your pocket will go a lot further than you think. That six-course meal at the fancy restaurant down the block is within your reach. And these refugees don’t have any money, so it doesn’t matter how hungry they are: they won’t be there. Enjoy some Austrian wine and Schnitzel in opulent luxury, promising yourself to read up on whatever’s happening outside once you get back to comforts of home.
There you have it. Five simple ways to turn this international inconvenience into a fun footnote of an otherwise fabulous vacation to Central Europe. Prost!
09 September 2015