27 April 2020
In the beginning of 2020 the most prevalent international news was the outbreak of coronavirus in China. On Lunar New Year, that was on the 25th of January this year, we dined at a popular Chinese restaurant near Bled. Even though the atmosphere at the restaurant was as joyful as usual, with families enjoying their meal, the worrying look on the waitresses’ faces clearly suggested that there was something in the air. I wondered if their relatives back in China had been affected by the new virus. „They must be devastated,“ I concluded, hoping their lives get back to normal soon.
But unfortunately, they did not. It only got worse. Soon, that Chinese restaurant – like many other restaurants, bars, shops, salons and other small businesses had to shut down. Because a few months after celebrating the Lunar New Year, the virus was already here.
Coronavirus in Slovenia
First known case of coronavirus in Slovenia was confirmed on the 4th of March 2020. After following the news on this novel virus spreading fast in Italy, one of our bordering countries, this was not surprising, but still shocking for many. „What is going to happen next?“ Faced by the unknown and threatening situation – that has been experienced by millions of people around the world so far – were we ready to change our lifestyle and behaviour to prevent the spread of the disease?
Some more, others less. Soon after the World Health Organisation confirmed coronavirus as pandemic in the beginning of March, the life in our country started to slow down. Similar as in other European countries, people stopped going to work or started working from home, schools closed, events got canceled, online shopping skyrocketed and following the coronavirus updates became part of our everyday life.
As well as have been social distancing and keeping in touch with relatives and friends over the phone or internet. It is almost May and people are still not allowed to gather or leave the municipality in which they live, with some exceptions (like going to hospital). We are to keep our distance to others, wear a face mask and gloves in case of going to the nearest grocery store and be extra careful not to injure ourselves (extreme sports are out of question, for example) in order not to burden the public healthcare system even more. However, that does not mean that everybody sticks to this rule.
Life in Bled during lockdown
Even though the number of confirmed cases in Bled Municipality has been low (less than five cases), protective measures against the new virus are still in place. Hotels, restaurants, spas and entertainment venues remain closed and the majority of people stay home.
In spring months when the nature awakes from winter’s sleep, Bled sees the start of the tourist season. But it is different this year. Because the borders are closed, transport halted and travelling paused, there are no tourist buses in sight, no one is taking selfies at the lake or going to Bled Island by traditional pletna boat. Pletna boats stay put and the wishing bell in the island’s church remains silent.
„Bled is deserted“ wrote some Slovene news portals. However, during our early morning walks around the lake, we see that the place is still very much alive. Since most people associate Bled with tourism, may it be Slovene or foreign tourists, they overlook the beauty of nature that is often taken for granted.
Less people and temporary silence encourages animals, like ducks, birds and squirrels to come out to the areas by the lake that were previously occupied by people (some ducks even mistakenly think that the road is a safe place for hanging out). One morning we even almost bumped into a chamois while walking towards the lake which is something unbelievable as those animals dwell higher in the mountains.
Spring has brought life to trees and bushes planted around the lake and in the parks. And there are many: some are indigenous like willow, chestnut and spruce tree, while others exotic. – The latter were brought to Lake Bled in the beginning of the 20th century by wealthy owners of summer villas with lush gardens, many of them being public parks nowadays. Therefore, next time you are at Lake Bled, try to notice those trees – some of them are more than 100 years old – and listen to bird songs.
Moments during lockdown which I will not forget...
There have been some occasions that I have never experienced before, and will stay in my memory forever, being closely connected to the time of coronavirus outbreak, for example:
That moment when you are back from the grocery store and the farm shop knowing that you are stocked with quality food for the next 14 days. Or the initial fear of food shortage when the coronavirus appeared in our country.
There actually was a shortage of some products that we normally use in our household, and that was yeast. It was not possible to buy it anywhere, not even online. So along with face masks and disinfectants, yeast was out of stock – like toilet paper in the UK, US and Australia.
Celebration of Easter (Easter Monday is a public holiday in Slovenia) was quite memorable too. On that occasion, many Slovene families prepare a basket full of Easter foods (such as festive cake called potica, eggs, ham and fresh horseradish) and take it to a church for blessing. Since all the churches remained closed during the Easter this year, some put their Easter baskets near the TV or computer while a priest was praying and virtually blessing their food. Hopefully it worked.
And there will be many personal stories of that time too we will once tell to our children. – In our case, for example, taking all the preparation to reduce the risk of getting coronavirus before going for regular check ups during my pregnancy.
And for the end one of the questions that pops quite out often these days: “How our life will be in a couple of months? Will everything get back to normal?” There for sure will be some changes, I assume. In Slovenia, for example, one of those kind of changes might be keeping the stores closed on Sundays.