by Mark Percario
I have been enjoying all the great content you have been creating and I greatly appreciate your efforts! The postcards are especially interesting, and I thought I’d write about a recent visit to the state of Georgia in the good ’ole USA. My wife and I travelled to Helen, Georgia, a small town in the foothills just north of Atlanta that had proclaimed itself a Bavarian themed town in 1969. It had been a logging town prior to this and is now the third most visited town in Georgia even though its population is only 430. The town is very charming and is 100% modeled in an Alpine/Bavarian style – even the fast-food restaurants! Georgia has been a mostly open state throughout the pandemic drama and does not have a state mask requirement. This was very evident during my first encounter at a gas station/convenience store where mask usage was very mixed and there was no signage regarding restrictions of any kind.
Our first night in Helen we dined at the Bodensee where they took our temperature and sprayed hand sanitizer on our hands. I was wearing gloves and the matron would have happily just sprayed the gloves instead of my hands! Everyone was very friendly and mask usage was very mixed. The staff were all donning masks, but it was obvious they did not take it very seriously – most refreshing!
The next morning, we visited the Crepe House which had no signage of any kind and no restrictions. Masks were not used by anyone working and the only evidence of pandemic drama were some of the patrons who walked in with the self-suffocation devices. We struck up a conversation with one of the owners and discovered the town decided to allow each business to establish its own rules. This was clearly evident after walking around and seeing the various different policies posted outside of the many shops.
My wife was in Germany this time last year and enjoyed the many Fasching celebrations. Helen had a very modest but enthusiastic Fasching parade and then its annual river tubing where many of the parade participants float down the Chattahoochee river (it goes through the center of town) dressed in their parade attire. This was very entertaining.
The photo above is at the entrance of Mully’s Nacoochee Grill where the servers wore masks but there were no special requirements to enter or enjoy a great meal with live music. There was complete normalcy at the Two Tire Tavern where the only self-suffocation devices seen were on some of the customers.
We very much appreciated Helen’s approach to restrictions or lack thereof. The photo of the signage tells it all – each individual is responsible for the risks they take, and Georgia will not allow you to blame someone else! I remember seeing a couple that were obviously on break from working standing on the sidewalk smoking cigarettes with masks around their chins. Better save yourself from inhaling the Chinese virus but who cares if you give up smoking!
Watching the behaviour of the people mulling around Helen was most interesting. It was very obvious where everyone was on the mask wearing adherence spectrum. They fell into one of three categories – the die-hard militants, the fence sitters and the contrarians and I found it fascinating that it was so easy to identify what group each person fell into. The whole mask wearing thing is akin to an initiation ritual.
I would highly recommend traveling to a state like Georgia where the restrictions are not so pervasive, and things seem a whole lot more normal. There was live music at many venues, and everyone was in a cheerful mood. Georgia’s neighbours South Carolina and Florida have taken a similar approach and I would expect great experiences there as well. Thanks again for all the great content you provide and feel free to publish this content as you see fit.