Exploring Germany: Semi-retiree Desmond Chan treks solo in scenic Bavaria

Mr Desmond Chan took on easy to moderate trails on a self-guided hike in the alpine mountains of south-eastern Germany. PHOTO: DESMOND CHAN

Who: Mr Desmond Chan, 55, a semi-retiree

His trip: A solo, self-guided trek in Bavaria, plus a city jaunt in Munich, from Sept 17 to 28

He was trekking among alpine mountains and meadows in Germany, days after Singapore's first Vaccinated Travel Lane launched on Sept 8.

"The summer is short and you never know when there will be another lockdown," he says of his swift decision to travel. "Seize the day. Why wait?"

So enthused was he about taking his first flight out of Singapore that he hiked alone - another first - when his wife could not join him. She gave her blessings and soon he was revelling in the great outdoors of Bavaria, a scenic, south-eastern state.

"The air was so fresh. The places were so untouched," recalls Mr Chan, who started trekking five years ago. His adventures include a snowshoe trek in Japan and tramping in New Zealand.

A confident traveller, he did not mind when he hiked in the wrong direction in Bavaria or when the day turned foggy.

He simply backtracked if he strayed and relied on "amazing technology" including Google Maps, which shows even tiny trails. And fog made the mountains dreamy. "It was like walking in the clouds," he marvels.

For about a week, he walked on easy to moderate trails, with some rocky terrain here and there. He savoured the solitude and the singular focus on the route.

Once, at a summit restaurant, he lingered over Bavarian wheat beer and local sausages at an outdoor table. At those lofty heights, birds were soaring at eye level.

He explored safely, since the trails were uncrowded. He might go an hour or more without encountering trekkers and, if he did, they were companionable.

He also felt safe in the city of Munich, which bookended his trek. Proof of vaccination was needed at public places like eateries and attractions - and he also finally enjoyed the breakfast buffets that Singaporean vacationers love.

Some hotels required diners to don gloves and masks in the buffet line. "I had all kinds of sausages and, sometimes, sparkling wine at breakfast. It's so nice to get back to a buffet."

Mr Chan went on a solo, self-guided trek in Bavaria. PHOTOS: DESMOND CHAN

His German sojourn was all the more exhilarating because of the trips he had to shelve during the pandemic. He had booked and dropped a Phuket trip this year, when Covid-19 numbers in Thailand did not look good.

He had also hoped to cruise in Alaska, but settled for two cruises to nowhere this year. Neither did plans to travel in Bhutan materialise.

But Germany, with its splendid nature and safety, compensated for all that. And, solo travel in Bavaria was ideal. "Own time, own target - that was the best," he declares.

Tips to explore safely

• Print out your vaccination certificate for entry to hotels, restaurants, attractions and cable cars, says Mr Chan. Masks are not required outdoors. Most of the time, he dined al fresco.

• Buy travel insurance with Covid-19 cover.

• Head to attractions early before crowds show up.

• Consider packing and using antigen rapid test kits on the go.

• Use cash only when necessary.

• Rely on technology. For instance, get tips on buying train tickets on YouTube. Besides Google Translate, try Linguee for online bilingual dictionaries.

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