The featured photo is of our crowded, but quaint, village of Wallau, located near where we live. This was where we got our vaccines registered.
I am delighted to write another travel blog series. It’s been AGES since I’ve been able to write an actual travel post for my travel blog, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Things are finally opening up here in Europe. Infection numbers are falling; fewer people are being hospitalized or dying; and people are breaking out of seclusion for some fun. I have been waiting impatiently for the ability to have fun. It’s been too long.
As of June 16th, I became fully inoculated with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. That was enough of a cause for celebration… but today also happens to be my birthday. Bill and I usually try to do fun things when we have birthdays, and this year we needed a break more than other years. We also needed to introduce Noyzi to the Birkenhof Tierpension, since we haven’t been anywhere since we adopted him in October of last year. Since it was Noyzi’s trial run at our boarding facility, we decided to keep the weekend short and close to home.
I’d been wanting to visit Heidelberg again for ages. We went there in October 2008, when we lived in the Stuttgart area the first time. That visit was decidedly friend heavy, as at the time, there was still an active Army installation in Heidelberg. We had several friends who were living there, so during that visit, we hung out with them and went on post. I remember touring Heidelberg Castle one day, eating at Vetter’s, and then the next day, we went to nearby Schwetzingen and visited the palace and castle. We even took a tour in German. The hotel we stayed in then was Appartment & Hotel Kurpfalzhof Heidelberg, which was then, and still is, the number one traveler ranked hotel on Trip Advisor. It was an extremely clean and nice hotel, with friendly owners who were obviously very Army friendly. For some reason, they aren’t taking reservations right now.
For this occasion, I was wanting to stay somewhere fancier and in town, anyway. I found two likely candidates: Heidelberg Suites and Der Europäische Hof Heidelberg. Both properties were extremely appealing for different reasons. I ended up choosing Der Europäische Hof Heidelberg because of its downtown location and parking availability– there’s a garage right next door. They have a pool, and thanks to the heat wave, I knew I’d be wanting to swim. They also have a beautiful bar area, and Bill and I were hoping to enjoy that, too… (and we certainly did).
So, with the hotel booked for Friday and Saturday nights, and the dogs set up for their stay at the Birkenhof, it was time to deal with the next part of the process of breaking back into traveling. We needed to visit an Apotheke (pharmacy) to register proof of our vaccinations with the German government and pick up QR codes that can be uploaded into an app that is easily shown at restaurants, hotels, and shops. I was a little worried about that process, having read a “horror” story in The Local: Germany about an American guy in Cologne who went to six different places until he finally found a place that would recognize his American CDC vaccination card.
Bill and I didn’t have any trouble like that. We followed the link for mein-apothekenmanager.de to find a local pharmacy that had the ability to register people in the system. Not all pharmacies are participating, and some are participating, but don’t have the system set up yet. It turned out a pharmacy in the next village was participating. Bill sent them an email in German explaining that we’re Americans who need the QR codes for the app and asking if they could help. To our delight, the answer was a yes. Bill stopped by on Monday and dropped off copies of our vaccine cards, and the very pleasant druggist told us that she’d have them ready for us in a few days. It took time because so many people were trying to sign up that the system crashed!
On Friday morning, we took the dogs to the Hunde hotel. Noyzi seemed alright when we left. There were several nice dogs there who seemed eager to play! I think it helped that Arran was happy to be there and very relaxed. Arran has been many times and always has fun. We’ll go pick them up in a few hours. Hopefully, everything went alright!
After we dropped them off, we went to Wallau to get the proof of vaccination. There was a long line of people waiting outside of the pharmacy, many of whom were waiting to register. Others just needed to get some drugs. It’s good that we brought in the papers before Friday, since it’s routinely taking the pharmacist a couple of days to get people’s credentials loaded. If we had not had that paperwork, we probably would have needed to be tested for COVID-19 while we were in Heidelberg. Below is a picture of what the papers look like.
Unfortunately, the apps available in Germany aren’t available to us yet. We both tried to download the CovPass app, but that requires a German iTunes account and we have American ones. When I tried to change my location to Germany in the App Store, I got this message:
One of the other two apps is only for Android users. The other one, for some reason, just refused to work at all. I was able to download the Luca app, though, which is used for contract tracing and test results. Supposedly, we will eventually be able to load the vaccine passes into that app, too. I’m sure the German government will hear about this issue soon, or they’ll get used to the American CDC cards. In any case, the paper from the pharmacy worked alright, even though we don’t have the yellow European version of the the vaccine proof card. I suppose we could have gotten one at a pharmacy and had them stamped by the American vaccination center where we got our shots, but we didn’t know about them when we got inoculated. Phew… so much work to get legit before we can take a weekend out of town!
After we got the vaccine paperwork done, we packed a couple of bags and loaded the Volvo; then we set off for Heidelberg, which is about 50 miles– 70 kilometers from where we live. Although it only takes about an hour or so to get there, it’s in another state– our old home of Baden- Württemberg– where Bill and I spent a total of six mostly happy years together. It’s always a pleasure to go back! The drive was easy and fun… I spent the whole time making jokes about Sinead O’Connor’s new book, which I hope to be reviewing on my main blog very soon!
Once we found our way to the beautiful, grand, five star lodging where I had booked a junior suite for two nights, the celebration was primed to begin. More on that in the next post!