Open post

Bregenzer Festspiele – Opera on Lake Constance

Every year since 1946, my home town of Bregenz, Austria has hosted a month-long performing arts festival.

The centrepiece of the festival is an opera performance on the Seebühne, a spectacular overwater stage on the shore of Lake Constance.

This year, the stage is set for a performance of Madame Butterfly, a tragic tale of unrequited love and abandonment.

I was recently invited to a behind-the-scenes tour of the lake stage, in readiness for this spectacle.

The stage is beautifully set against a backdrop of Lake Constance and the Austrian hills.

The best view is offered from the indoor VIP area, above the stands.

The tour included the backstage areas and the layout of the stage itself.

This year’s festival takes place from July 20 through to August 20.

There are still tickets available for purchase on the official website of the Bregenzer Festspiele, starting from €30.

Open post

Strikes and travel disruption in Europe

Following on from the German transport strikes last week, travellers in much of Western Europe are now facing disruption from strike action across several countries.



Security personnel at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 are several days into a 10-day strike, aimed at disrupting travel through the Easter school holiday period.

Members of management and personnel from other terminals have been drafted in to cover for the striking workers, seemingly with reasonable effect.

By all accounts, it would appear that much of the predicted chaos has not materialised, with the vast majority of flights running as scheduled.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that security queues are not much longer than would normally be expected.

From what I can gather, travellers do not need to worry too much about this, unless there is a significant escalation in action.



France has seen widespread strike action across many sectors, as well as significant civil unrest in recent weeks, as people take to the streets to protest (amongst other things) government plans to raise the retirement age by two years to 64.

This has significantly affected the travel sector, in particular flights between third countries, which overfly French airspace.

Minimum service regulations, at least theoretically, grant that this should not affect flights to and from France itself. However, overflights between, for example, UK and Italy or Spain are not covered by these regulations and disruptions have been reported.

Indeed, my own flight from Valencia to Zurich yesterday was delayed and then rerouted over Italian instead of French airspace.

In terms of visiting France itself, it would appear that the disruption is significant enough to affect travellers’ plans and reduce the enjoyment of a trip. With this in mind, I would probably choose not to make any new bookings to travel in the coming days.

The only advice I can offer to travellers with pre-existing plans is to monitor news outlets carefully and make your own decision on how much aggravation you are willing to put up with.



Strikes by border personnel are expected to affect Faro and Madeira Airports from Thursday April 6 to Monday April 10.

I expect the effect to be limited to slightly increased waiting times on entry and exit.



Up to 17 airports across Spain are affected by strikes by ground handling agents employed by Swissport.

The strikes are taking place Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday until April 13.

Again, disruption appears to be minimal. I flew from Valencia Airport yesterday and didn’t notice anything amiss, other than a delay to my flight, caused by the French action referenced above.



The decimation of the travel sector by government policies during the Great Covid Panic is continuing to cause issues with understaffing.

This, coupled with the intransigence of trade unions and the inability or unwillingness of employers to reflect rising inflation rates in their salary negotiations, creates all the ingredients for industrial action.

I expect these strikes to continue for the foreseeable future and can only hope that the disruptions to travel operations remain as minor as they seem to be so far, with the notable exception of France.

I would certainly not be cancelling any plans, but I do advise travellers to build extra time into your schedules and not to plan any tight connections that you can’t afford to miss.

If you have any questions or experiences to share, please visit the relevant Destination Forum.

Open post

Germany – large scale transport strikes

Anyone who is planning on travelling to or from Germany in the next few days may wish to reconsider their plans.

Several transport unions have announced plans to paralyse the country’s transport networks this coming Monday, March 27.


No flights will operate from Munich Airport for two days, Sunday 26/03 and Monday 27/03. Disruption is likely to continue into Tuesday.

Frankfurt Airport will be closed to all regular flights on Monday and it is reasonable to expect sone cancellations starting on Sunday evening.

Stuttgart and Bremen airports have also announced they will be closing all day Monday, with Düsseldorf Airport warning of severe disruption “in the unlikely event” that your flight is actually running.


Deutsche Bahn has announced that there will be no long distance trains running on Monday throughout Germany.

Disruption is expected to begin on Sunday evening and run into Tuesday as trains and crew will be out of position.


Deutsche Bahn is expected to run very few regional trains on Monday and travellers can count themselves very lucky if any services are operating on their intended route.


Unions in seven of Germany’s 16 federal states are involved in strike action, affecting services in Bavaria, Baden Württemberg, Saxony, Lower Saxony, Nordrhein-Westphalia, Rheinland-Palatine and Hesse.


This is the largest scale transport strike action in Germany for some decades and will cause extreme disruption to transport networks.

Travellers should expect to be unable to reach their destinations using flights or trains.

Flixbus services may be an alternative, but are likely to be very heavily in demand. I tried several searches for connections between several major German cities and found that many are already showing “almost full”.

My recommendation is that if you absolutely must travel in Germany on Monday, a rental car is going to be the most reliable option.

In all honesty, however, if you are in a position to postpone or cancel your visit, or to choose an alternative destination, my advise is to do so.

If you have any questions or further information on the upcoming strike action in Germany, please visit the Germany forum.

Open post

Bavaria drops masks on public transport

As of yesterday, the German state of Bavaria has finally dropped the mask mandate on local public transport, after two and a half years.

Along with Spain, Germany has been the most mask manic country in the western world and has continued to enforce the slavish dogma with an iron fist while every one of its neighbours has tacitly admitted the futility and failure of the measure.

Bavaria now joins Saxony-Anhalt in once again allowing freeface travel on buses and local trains.

It must be noted, however, that long distance trains fall under the remit of the federal government, which is still stubbornly dragging its heels and insisting on FFP2 beaks being religiously worn.

Fortunately for libertarian travellers, there is a very simple workaround to this.

All buses, trams and city U-Bahn and S-Bahn services are now freeface.

Trains are split into regional services (coded RB or RE), on which gag rags are no longer required.

Forced muzzling still applies on InterCity, EuroCity and InterCity Express services (coded IC, EC, and ICE).

Just like travelling on a cheap LänderTicket, avoid anything with a “C” in the train number.

With all this in mind, a simple city break in Munich and a trip to the Christmas markets should once again be back on the menu for non-adherents of the mask cult.

It is good to see this positive move in Bavaria. Germany is a country I have been very fond of for many years and I have been dismayed to witness first hand some of the disgraceful behaviour that has taken place there in the last few years.

Hopefully this belated outbreak of sanity will quickly spread to other states and sufficient pressure can be put on the federal regime to finally put an end to the misery.

Open post

Canada drops all restrictions

In what may be a surprise move for a country which had among the most draconian covid restrictions in the world, Canada has announced that all entry restrictions relating to the covid panic have been dropped.

There is now no requirement for:

  • Covid vaccination
  • Pre-departure testing
  • Testing on arrival
  • Quarantine
  • Contact tracing

The federal mask mandate on board aircraft and other forms of transport has also been lifted.

Provincial and municipal mask mandates have also been allowed to expire throughout most of the country.

Whilst this is good news in theory, it is important to remember, firstly that Canada has a long record of covid restrictions among the harshest in the western world,  and secondly that the country has a long winter ahead.

Whilst it would be politically embarrassing to u-turn on the often prohibitive entry requirements, I would not be surprised to see localised mask mandates and potentially some restrictions on movement springing up again in some parts of the country during the winter.

However, I do think this news bodes well for the summer season next year.

Whilst I am not necessarily advising against travel to Canada at the moment, I would recommend looking at more stable alternatives, at least until the winter season is over, if you are concerned about mask mandates and localised restrictions returning, particularly if you are unvaccinated.

Open post
South Africa

South Africa removes all restrictions

It was announced last week that South Africa has repealed all covid related restrictions, including its mask mandate and all vaccination and testing requirements for entry.

This is very good news indeed for libertarian travellers seeking to escape the northern hemisphere Winter, as South Africa is a beautiful, varied and very economical country to visit.

On the flip side, however, it must be remembered that South Africa’s lockdowns were among the most brutal in the world. All social contact was forbidden for months and there was even a long lasting ban on any sales of alcohol or tobacco. Citizens were forced to wear masks indoors and out for nearly two years.

With this in mind, I have to greet this news with caution. With that said, all of the signs are positive. The government seems to be making all of the right noises about falling hospitalisation numbers and learning to live with the virus. This step has also been taken close to the middle of the South African Winter and outside of the main tourist season. I believe this bodes well for the upcoming Summer season from November to March.

I will be monitoring the situation closely in the coming weeks and months before I make any firm bookings, but I very much hope to be publishing a few articles on Johannesburg, Cape Town and the Garden Route this Winter.

New mask free destinations

Further to my previously published guide to mask free destinations , a number of countries have joined the freeface bandwagon and abandoned the face covering dogma of the covid years.

Costa Rica 🇨🇷

The tropical paradise of Costa Rica is now fully unrestricted. There is no vaccination or test required for entry and tourists are no longer forced to buy overpriced health insurance to cover quarantine expenses.

Furthermore, mask wearing is now entirely optional in all settings.

Latvia 🇱🇻

Latvia has now joined its Baltic neighbour in abolishing the mask mandate for public transport, meaning that all everyday settings are now mask free.

Austria 🇦🇹

Following months of dragging its feet, Austria has suspended the mask mandate for shops and public transport, meaning that there are now no mask requirements in everyday life.

This, however, comes with a few caveats.

FFP2 masks (bird beaks) are still required in medical settings, which barring incidents most tourists will not need to access.

The Austrian government has backtracked a number of times on promised relaxations of the mask mandate and has explicitly stated that the present relaxation is only for a period of three months. Therefore, I have to advise treating this announcement with a modicum of scepticism. However, as I stated in my Lake Constance review, the new freeface culture has been almost universally embraced. I am therefore hopeful that the mask mandate will not be politically expedient to reimpose later.

Italy 🇮🇹

I was unsure whether to include Italy in this list, as the mandate is still officially in force, but is very widely expected to lapse on June 15.

After this date, the mask mandate for public transport and all businesses will expire, meaning tourists can go about their daily lives unmuzzled.

Italy is perhaps the most surprising addition to this list, as it has been an avid bastion of mask zealotry for the last two years.

I very much hope I don’t have to publish a retraction of this section after a hurried U-turn in the next 48 hours.

EDIT: In the few days since this article was published, the Italian government has backtracked and extended the mask mandate for public transport until September 30.

Your guide to mask free destinations

After two years, it appears that more and more countries are finally coming to their senses and ditching their mask mandates.

Here is a list of all countries, where you can enjoy fully mask free travel.


United Kingdom 🇬🇧

Following several months of indecision, England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 has been mask free for some months. In recent weeks, Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿, Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 and Northern Ireland󠁧󠁢󠁮󠁩󠁲󠁧󠁢󠁮󠁩󠁲 have finally fallen into line.


Ireland 🇮🇪

Ireland kept its mask mandate for public transport until quite recently, but is now fully mask free in all public spaces.


Switzerland 🇨🇭

Switzerland is now fully mask free, having dropped the requirement on public transport from April 1.


Sweden 🇸🇪

The poster child of freedom throughout the covid panic, Sweden has never had a mask mandate for any public place, indoors or out. Many Swedes do not even own a mask and you will very rarely see someone wearing one.


Denmark 🇩🇰

Denmark has been mask free since February, when the country dropped all covid related restrictions. Since then, very few people wear masks in any public setting.


Norway 🇳🇴

Norway dropped the requirement to wear face masks in public in February and is now fully unrestricted.


Iceland 🇮🇸

Iceland is another country which has been mask free for some time and has adopted a pragmatic approach to living with covid.


Finland 🇫🇮

Finland has now ended its general mask recommendation for public places, the last of the Nordic nations to do so. The country is now fully mask free.


Estonia 🇪🇪

Estonia has been mask free for several weeks in all public places.


Netherlands 🇳🇱

The Dutch scrapped their mask rules on public transport in March, the last area where masks were required.


Poland 🇵🇱

By all accounts, enforcement of Polands mask mandate was always patchy, but it has now been officially dropped.


Czech Republic 🇨🇿

Czech Republic ended its mask mandate for public transport on April 14.


Slovenia 🇸🇮

Wearing a face mask in Slovenia is no longer mandatory.


Romania 🇷🇴

The requirement to wear a mask in public buildings and transport expired in March.


Bulgaria 🇧🇬

Face masks are recommended, but not mandatory, when using public transport.


USA 🇺🇸

The USA no longer has a federal mask mandate, since a recent court decision overturning the CDC’s mandate for air, rail and bus travel. However, travellers are strongly advised to check any local mandates.


If you have any questions or know of any other mask free countries, please feel free to join our forums, where further updates will be posted.

UK tightens restrictions again

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today announced that anyone entering the UK will be forced to take a PCR test within 2 days of arrival in the country and self isolate until a negative result is received.

Furthermore, the “red list” requiring 11 nights forcibly confined to a hotel room at a cost to the traveller of £2,285 has now been extended to arrivals from 10 Southern African countries. More countries will undoubtedly follow.

Additionally, face coverings will once again be mandatory in shops and on public transport throughout the country, unless a medical exemption is claimed.

Clearly, the UK is following continental Europe into the vortex of panic and is once again pulling up the drawbridge.

These measures will not be the last to be announced in the UK this Winter.

Feel free to discuss these measures on the UK forum.

Protests across Europe

Announcements of tightened covid restrictions in various European countries have been met with large scale protests across the continent.

I personally attended demonstrations and marches in Vienna and Bregenz, Austria, both of which were very well attended and focused heavily on Austria’s recently announced lockdown and the country’s unprecedented announcement that covid-19 vaccinations are to be made compulsory in the country from 1 February 2022. Heavy fines will be levied against those who do not comply and jail sentences are threatened against those who do not or cannot pay. Germany looks likely to follow suit, with Health Minister Jens Spahn quoted as saying that the majority of Germans would be “vaccinated, cured or dead” by the Spring.

Both of the demonstrations I attended in Austria were well organised and peaceful. The large crowds were extremely well behaved and I did not witness any violence, threatening behaviour or heavy handed police action at either venue.

I will post pictures and videos in the Austria forum shortly.

Protests also raged across Italy, Croatia, Belgium and The Netherlands, with one in Rotterdam sadly turning violent.

As I wrote earlier, the Winter lockdown season is well and truly under way in Europe. Additionally, governments across the continent are ramping up the pressure on citizens to accept a vaccination, with more and more basic rights and freedoms being removed from dissenters. As the continent moves deeper into the Winter, this situation can only deteriorate as panic spreads over rising case numbers. Restrictions will become tighter, lockdowns will be extended and protests will inevitably continue to erupt.

Europe can be a wonderful continent to visit during the winter months, with ski resorts, traditional Christmas markets and New Year concerts.

Sadly, this Winter is not the time even to think about enjoying any of those things.

Join the discussion on our covid forum.




Posts navigation

1 2
Scroll to top