coronavirus, France, Germany, staying home

President’s Day weekend, 2022…

I know I usually update this blog at least once a week. Before COVID hit, I would write even more regularly than that, because Bill and I were always going out to eat or traveling somewhere. The last two years have definitely been *different*. Even before we came back to Europe in 2014, we would go out to eat pretty often. Nowadays, it’s a very rare treat, just because going anywhere is a pain in the ass right now.

But that reality may be a memory soon, as COVID cases are finally declining again. The weather is warming up, and more people are getting vaccinated, getting sick and recovering, or dying. I noticed a recent headline indicating that Germany is on the brink of a recession, thanks to COVID. So, I would imagine that the restrictions will probably be loosened next month, because money is important. Ready or not, the world will probably have to open up soon. I am ready for it. But besides the need for business to resume, cases really are going down here. And the severity isn’t as bad as it has been. Or so the headlines say today.

At this writing, we’re still planning to visit Stuttgart to see the dentist next week, then head to France for the weekend. Maybe we’ll have a chance to visit Bitche, which is a militarily important town in France, and has the distinction of having had its Facebook page taken down without explanation. I have a feeling a bot decided Bitche was a bullying page. When I read about that happening, I wasn’t surprised. I was, however, disgusted by the ignorance. I really feel like Facebook needs human beings running it.

Europe is rife with places that have “profane” names. Or names that are profane in English. English is not the only language there is, though. Sadly, some European towns are changing their names thanks to obnoxious tourists. The Austrian town of Fucking, for instance, is now called Fugging, because people were fucking under the signs or stealing them. I’m glad we had a chance to visit before the name change happened on January 1, 2021.

Anyway, since I titled this post “President’s Day weekend, 2022”, I guess I should write about what we did this year. And the answer to that question is, not a whole hell of a lot. Bill ate stinky cheese from France. We drank wine and talked a lot. I did some writing, and Bill finally replaced the strings on his Telecaster. I started watching my Facts of Life DVDs, which gave me a temporary return to my 1980s era girlhood. Arran and Noyzi got some quality time with Bill, with lots of snuggles. I cleaned the inside of the glass on the oven door, which is a nasty job. Last week, Bill took some online courses at the Carl Jung Institute. Originally, he was going to go in person, and I would have joined him, but we decided not to go because of COVID rules.

I took this photo in February 2021, when Bill first got his guitar. He just now changed the strings. But he still loves that shirt, as you can see in the photos with Arran.

I truly hate not traveling on the long weekends. I have some hope that this will be the last time we will have to forgo our usual long weekends. There’s still so much we want to see in Europe. But we’ll see. COVID is always mutating, so this could be an issue for awhile yet. But at least I might finally get to get my Bitche on next week. I’ve been curious about that town for awhile. And Bill will enjoy the military aspect, since that’s his life. I hasten to add that we haven’t been staying home because we have to, due to the local rules. It’s more because the rules make traveling a pain in the butt, and not much fun. That will hopefully change very soon.

These photos sum up our holiday weekend. Not bad, I guess… there are worse ways to spend a weekend. But I hope we can do better next year. With any luck, the times soon may be a’changing. At least Bill managed to finish reading Maus.

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coronavirus, Denmark, dogs, shopping, trip planning

Dreaming about Danish delights in Denmark…

Well friends, it’s been another boring winter week in the land of COVID-19 restrictions and crappy weather. Bill was TDY during the work week, so I spent my days alone, doing a lot of reading and thinking. The news came out that Denmark was going to be the first European to end COVID restrictions. Given that we haven’t spent a lot of time in Denmark, and both of us are sick to death of the endless and ridiculous rules in Germany, I proposed to Bill that maybe a trip to Denmark may be in order.

Of course, since I am not interested in taking public transportation, a trip to Denmark would be a haul. But it is doable, as we drove through Denmark in 2019 when we picked up our new Volvo in Sweden. I thought it was a pretty country, and I would like to spend more time there. The only other time we’ve been was when we took a Baltic cruise in 2009 and Copenhagen was one of our stops. Last time we were there, we just spent an overnight. I am itching to travel, and ready to ditch face masks… especially the fucking FFP2s. So we’ll see. I’ll do some research to see where we might like to go. Either way, we’ll probably have to break up the trip with a stop in Germany. I think it would take us at least 8 or 9 hours to get there from where we live. Maybe we’ll turn it into a grand trip, since Norway and Sweden are reportedly also going to do away with mandates.

Aside from dreaming about Denmark, I also bought Bill a couple of funny aprons. I decided to replace his old one, because one of the ties broke off during a wash. Bill had said he would get one for himself, but acquiesced when I asked him if he had an issue with my choices. He laughed and said “no”, then added that if he bought himself an apron, it would probably be black with knives on it, or something. So I went looking, and sure enough, I found the apron pictured below within five minutes…

Yes, he’s holding a knife. I bought that for him some time ago. The comment on the apron translates to “Leave the recipe behind, I am a cook, not a chemist.”

Just as I was about to click away from the page, I noticed another apron that I knew Bill needed…

Bill is a Star Wars fan… I am not a Star Wars fan, but I knew he’d love this apron.

Yesterday, Bill raised the idea of maybe going into town and trying out the new BrewDog restaurant in Wiesbaden. But the weather today is positively terrible. It’s cold, windy, and rainy. And Germany, unlike its northern neighbors, continues to persist with oppressive COVID-19 rules which require even vaccinated people to be boosted and/or tested. I am triple vaccinated, but it’s just too much of a hassle to deal with the restrictions, just so we can drink beer downtown. So we stayed home, and Bill went out and got doughnuts, because I told him I wanted some yesterday. He was going to go to the train station to get them from Dunkin’ Donuts, but I told him to just go to the neighborhood bakery…

Not bad at all! I love doughnuts, especially on a Sunday morning. As you can see, we have Berliners, and choco-Brotchens, as well as regular chocolate covered doughnuts.

We’ll get to BrewDog eventually. Even Germans are getting fed up with the COVID rules that never seem to end. Eventually, the government will want people to spend money.

Arran is fine with us staying at home with him, though…

He sure was glad when Bill got home. So was I.

We were supposed to be going to Switzerland in the middle of the month, as Bill has a few classes planned at the Jung Institute that he was going to do in person. But because of Omicron, he decided to do the courses virtually. We were also going to see James Taylor next weekend, but that show was postponed until November. Hopefully, it will go on. I’m still waiting on a Keb’ Mo’ show that was supposed to happen in November 2020 and has been postponed three times. At this writing, it’s supposed to go on in May 2022. I look forward to it… if it happens.

Noyzi is still his adorable self, too… Every day, he becomes more attached. It does my heart good to see how much he’s changed. And now, when he needs something, he doesn’t hesitate to bark at us to wake us up. But he’s usually polite enough to wait until about 6:00am, if we haven’t already gotten up to tend to him.

Good thing he’s so cute.

Well, that about does it for this week. I hope that very soon, I can get back to sharing some really fun stuff. But for now, it’s gloomy. Even if COVID weren’t an issue, I wouldn’t want to go out in the yucky weather. The featured photo today is one I took in Copenhagen, back in June 2009. Those were the good old days. Maybe we can revisit them soon. We really need a change of scenery. We want our lives back, too.

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anecdotes, coronavirus, Germany, Health, Wiesbaden

Princess knotty gets a boost…

This post is probably going to contain a lot of crankiness, profanity, perimenopausal TMI… proceed at your own risk.

The day I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. I just got my Moderna booster shot, seven months after my second shot last June. I lived to tell the tale, too… at least so far, anyway.

Bill made me an appointment over a month ago. I would have tried to have gotten in sooner, but the rules were that we had to have been at least six months past our last shot. All of the earlier time slots were full. Bill got his boost on December 1, 2021, and it knocked him on his ass. We’ll see how I react. When I had the first two shots, I didn’t react much at all. Just had a sore arm and a blotch. This time, I don’t yet have a blotch, but the area where I got the shot is a little itchy. The lady went higher on my left shoulder this time.

I should have realized we’d be early for the vaccine appointment, since I am married to “Johnny on the Spot”. He’s always early. I often am, too, but not like Bill is. Bill got home from work at 11:30am. I figured that was kind of generous lead time for my appointment, which I thought was at 1:30. But, he was telling me we needed to go way sooner than that. So then I thought maybe the appointment was at 1:00pm.

We arrived at the vaccination center at about 12:30 or so– too early. But again, I thought I had the time wrong. I was suddenly really glad I had decided to wear my down parka instead of my trusty wool “coatigan”. The vaccination center is on a windy hilltop and I’ve never not been cold there, even in the warm months. I also wore my favorite blue sweater, which was made in Scotland and purchased at a Scottish shop in Rothenburg ob der Tauber a few years ago. I was going to wear a different sweater, but then I realized it was too bulky to get my sleeve up high enough. It turned out that changing sweaters was a good idea, since the nurse injected so high up on my shoulder.

It was cloudy and chilly today, but at least there wasn’t any rain, which we had all day yesterday. I was feeling a little icky, not because of a respiratory illness, but because after a four month hiatus, my ovaries woke up and I got my period, complete with cramps. Naturally, that made me a little grouchy, along with the chilly wind that blew across the hill where the depressing abandoned strip mall on post has been turned into a vaccination center. We all wore masks and filled out a government form, then stood around waiting for the show to get on the road.

As I was thinking about the appointment, I wondered why I didn’t just drive myself. I do have a car. I’m out of practice, though, and it’s been ages since I last drove my car. Besides, Bill likes to take care of me… hence today’s facetious post title. In retrospect, maybe I should have handled this chore myself.

So there I was, cold and crabby, thinking that I had a 1:00pm appointment, since we were there so early. Bill had made the appointment for me, so I didn’t know for sure. A guy finally came out to explain how the process would work. I turned to Bill and said, “What time was my appointment?”

He grinned and said, “1:30.”

Then I said, probably louder than I meant to, “WHY did you bring me here so early?”

He started to explain, and a kind looking lady, also with her husband turned to tell me, “If you have an appointment, you’ll be seen for sure.”

I said, “Yes, I heard him….” then I noticed the look in her eye (I couldn’t see the rest of her expression), and said reassuringly, “I’m just bitching at him…”

She and her husband laughed. I wondered what made her feel the need to intervene. Did I really sound that irritable? I probably did… Suddenly, I felt a little ashamed and embarrassed. The couple laughed and said, “She’s just being a wife.”

“I don’t want to stand in the cold.” I added, realizing that my social skills have eroded further than I realized. The lady and her husband agreed and that little intervention passed.

Then another lady asked me if I was in line. I told her to go ahead and Bill, apparently thinking I was talking to him, said “What?”

“I wasn’t talking to you.” I snapped. Yeah… cranky, chilled, and crampy… that makes me decidedly crotchety. The lady flashed me a look of surprise. I probably seemed really bitchy and entitled.

“Why don’t you go wait in the car.” Bill suggested. “I’ll wait for the announcement.”

“That’s a good idea.” I agreed. My toes were chilled, as were my hands. My lower back ached. My abdomen twitched with Aunt Flow’s tardy arrival. Yeah… I was definitely not fit for human company.

Bill unlocked the Volvo for me. I sat there and watched more people show up… it was a little slice of Americana, with all sorts of people in all sorts of clothes showing up for their shots. It always amazes me to see how people dress on military installations.

Finally, at about 1:25pm, I noticed Bill heading toward me. I got out of the car and got back in line. Two chatty ladies, obviously friends, were talking about how much of a pain it is to deal with traveling and having kids, especially during the COVID era. The taller one, who appeared to be a bit more experienced, was telling the other one about the wonders of Germany’s train system.

“You can book your own car… and drink!” the taller lady said. “And the kids can have their own spaces.”

Between them, they had five kids, not all of whom could be vaccinated. As they were describing what a pain it is to travel during the COVID era with kids, I realized I am glad that dealing with kids and vaccines isn’t one of my problems.

“I hate driving here.” the younger one said in a charming southern accent.

Me too… I thought to myself.

Finally, it was my turn to enter the building, where the familiar stations were laid out just as I remembered them. It was nice to be out of the cold. Another friendly lady complimented me on my pink and blue tweed tartan purse, which I bought on the Isle of Harris in Scotland. Harris Tweed– don’tcha know? And it matched my outfit, too. She asked it it was my family tartan. It’s not… although it kind of looks like the County Donegal tartan, which is bogus, since Ireland doesn’t really have tartans. That would be a gimmick. But Bill’s kilt is the County Donegal tartan, since that’s where the Crossens are from.

I put the wrong number as my ID number. They did away with using Social Security numbers for security reasons. So now I never know which one to use– mine or Bill’s… or my Social Security Number, which I know by heart.

An elderly Black man with two canes was in front of me. I was touched by how attentive the staff was to him. The female half of the couple next to me knew the guy. I got the sense that he was someone well known on the Wiesbaden installations.

The shot stung this time. I was right to wear my sweater with looser arms, as the nurse wanted access to the “meatier” part of my arm. Um… it’s all meaty! The platinum blonde woman who administered the shot said, “You’re a bleeder!” as she slapped a Band-Aid on my shoulder.

In more ways than one… I thought to myself as another wave of menstrual cramps hit me.

After I got my paperwork and rested for ten minutes… which was probably shorter than that, Bill spirited me back to the car. He handed me Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and said, “For your trouble. Why don’t we just go home, instead of messing with getting COV-Pass certificates from the Apotheke?”

“Nah, let’s just get it over with, since I now have to go in there with you.” I said. Apparently, the rules changed since last summer, and I had to bring my passport and sign paperwork. That wasn’t true last summer.

We went to the Globus, where a friendly pharmacist quickly and efficiently got us new QR codes for our COVID apps. A lot of places no longer accept paper certificates as proof of vaccination, since they can be faked somewhat easily. It’s getting to the point at which you have to have a phone, just so you can eat at a restaurant. That was my first visit to Globus since March 2020.

When we got home, Arran and Noyzi were delighted. And they showed Bill in a delightful way.

I’m just glad to be boosted. We’ll see how long it lasts. Maybe next time, I won’t be so cranky, chilly, or crampy. All in all, it wasn’t so bad today. At least the process was basically efficient, and the staff was friendly. Friendlier than I was, earlier today, anyway. My arm is starting to hurt more now, so I think I’m going to go sit on my can. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, but since Aunt Flow is here, I have a feeling that either way, I’ll still be feelin’ kinda bitchy.

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coronavirus, German culture, Germany, holidays, staying home, Wiesbaden

Happy 2022!!!

We had a rather quiet New Year’s Eve, with fondue, Riesling, and the news of Betty White’s passing just 18 days before she would have turned 100. Last night was almost like most nights, save for the five minutes of fireworks. I may be exaggerating a tiny bit, but only a TINY bit…

Officially, fireworks were banned for New Year’s Eve, because officials wanted to cut down on people injuring themselves and flooding the hospitals. As you probably know, COVID-19 is still a big problem and the hospitals are overwhelmed. I’m surprised in light of that, officials haven’t banned driving on the Autobahn, which I would imagine is potentially just as dangerous as lighting a bottle rocket. In any case, I knew there would be a few fireworks, because someone always has them. And there were a few fireworks, but it was really not a normal Silvester by German standards.

Last night was our tenth German New Year’s Eve. It will go down in history as the quietest one yet. The loudest and wildest one we ever experienced was in 2007. I could have sworn there was a war going on outside of our house in Pfäffingen. The night sky was literally alight with fireworks, and I could see our neighbors furiously setting off things that went crash and boom. Our late beagle, MacGregor, was absolutely terrified, poor thing!

Noyzi seemed a little perturbed by the noise and both dogs were curious, but they weren’t really scared. Our neighbors were in the street wishing Happy New Year to everyone… It was overall a pleasant evening. Below are some photos from our first try with the new fondue/raclette grill. It was a success! We really had fun making fondue. It was easy, festive, and even a little romantic! I should have bought this machine a long time ago.

Right at the stroke of midnight…
This is a pretty good representation of our fireworks display… It went on for a few minutes.

One other thing I would like to mention… My German friend tells me that the cookies our landlord brought us– yesterday’s featured photo and reposted below, actually have some local significance. The little macaroon behind the 2021 is a Bethmännchen pastry, which is a Frankfurt tradition at Christmas that has been around since 1838. The cookies are made with made from marzipan with almond, powdered sugar, rosewater, flour and egg. The recipe has not changed in the entire time this cookie has existed!

What a thoughtful gift!

2022 is already off to a good start. Bill made delicious cheese soufflés for breakfast!

I actually taught him to make these because we had them on our honeymoon in Virginia at a B&B. They aren’t hard to make and they make for an elegant breakfast dish on special occasions. We also have two leftover, and they will keep.

Well, that about does it for New Year’s… I am going to go write a more serious post on the main blog, and then I’ll probably watch a bunch of movies or something. I think Bill is going to cook a nice dinner, which I’ll probably document in photos if it’s pretty enough… and it probably will be!

I hope everyone had a great New Year’s Eve and an even better New Year’s Day. Maybe this year, we’ll get to do more traveling!

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advice, coronavirus, German culture, Germany, laws, news

Word of advice… don’t call a German cop a “fascist”…

It’s another cold, grey, drizzly weekend in Germany. Christmas will arrive next weekend. I suppose I should be more into the spirit of celebrating the season, but I just can’t seem to find my mojo. I don’t really like going out in yucky weather even when there isn’t a pandemic. The spiking COVID numbers aren’t inspiring me to get out there and mingle with the masses.

But not everyone feels the way I do. My German friend, Susanne, shared with me some news out of Reutlingen. It seems there was a riot/protest there last night, consisting of Nazi sympathizers and COVID deniers, most of whom weren’t masked and ignored the rules against congregating. Things got pretty out of hand in some places, so the Stuttgart police showed up to maintain order.

Germans are usually pretty tolerant of peaceful protests and strikes. They’re usually scheduled ahead of time and announced, so people can choose not to be involved… or, if they’re into it, they can participate or observe. I believe one has to get a permit to protest legally. I have no idea if this group followed the rules. The protests I’ve seen are usually pretty chill… afterwards, everybody breaks up and has a beer or something. But every once in awhile, people do get their hackles up. Such was the case last night.

This video was shared on Facebook by Matthias Kipfer in the public group, 99,99 % (Filder) vs. R.E.S.T.. I’m not sure where this particular incident involving the man screaming about fascists took place. It might not have happened in Reutlingen, although I can see by the photos and videos in the group, there was plenty of action there last night. I see the guy screaming about fascists was originally posted on Twitter by Stadtrand Aktion. As you can see, the cops weren’t amused. This guy was promptly arrested. I suspect he will get a nice big fine, as outlined in the trusty 2022 Bussgeldkatalog. Edited to add: Susanne thinks the fascist cop incident might have happened in Berlin, since the cop has a B on his uniform.

More than once, I have written about how insulting people is illegal in Germany. It’s especially true that insulting the cops is a big no no. All I can think is that this guy took complete leave of his senses, forgot to whom he was speaking, and lost total control of himself. I know how that feels. It happened to me a time or two when I was a teenager. This fellow looks to be well beyond the teen years.

I think it’s funny that there’s a catalog of fines people can consult to find out about laws and fines. I especially get a kick out of the section on the fines for insulting people in traffic. When they are translated into English, they are both hilarious and nonsensical. Below is the list of fines as of 2022.

Some of these insults seem to have lost a little in their translations.

In all seriousness, these protests were pretty bad. Apparently, some people were using children as human shields against the water cannons cops tried to use to disperse the agitated crowds. I was impressed by how the cops managed to keep their cool. German police officers don’t seem to be as violent as American police officers often are. But then, they probably pay better and offer more training.

My German still sucks, but I do find myself picking up words and understanding more, especially when my friend shares interesting German articles with me that include juicy tidbits about current events. If I have gained anything from the past seven years, besides a massive beer gut, it’s a rudimentary understanding of basic German. My Armenian is still better, though. That isn’t saying much.

The above photo basically translates to “People who think vaccinations change their DNA should consider it an opportunity.” Who says Germans aren’t sharp witted? Not I!

In other news… I hope the new blog design is welcomed by the few regular readers who have been keeping up with me during these COVID times. I decided to play around with it a few days ago, and when I went to change it back to the theme I was using, I discovered that the “wandering” theme was retired. So now I have a new but similar theme, and a new color scheme. I think it’s easier to read.

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Austria, coronavirus, Germany, Poland

Austria is locking down… will Germany be next?

The local news in Germany has been all abuzz about the COVID-19 situation in Austria. Fed up and frustrated by the ever increasing numbers of people falling ill with the coronavirus, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced that Austria would be locking down for at least ten days. The lockdown will apply to everyone, vaccinated or not, and it means that Austrians will be asked to work from home and non-essential shops will close. Schools will remain open for children who require face-to-face learning. The measure will apply until December 12, and then the COVID situation will be reassessed at that point to determine if there should be another ten days of lockdown.

As I read the news yesterday, I realized how lucky Bill and I are that we managed to take our recent vacation and get through all of the countries unscathed. Croatia and Slovenia are considered “high risk” areas– higher risk than Austria was– but we didn’t interact with many people at all during our time there. I think the risk is mainly because fewer people are vaccinated, but the reality is, there aren’t that many people congregating in Slovenia or Croatia at this time of year and social distancing is actually super easy. That may change as winter approaches and people want to ski, at least in Slovenia.

Austria, on the other hand, was like 2019. During our trip, it wasn’t considered a “high risk” area. Masks were only required in grocery stores, on public transportation, and in healthcare facilities. I won’t lie. It was really nice. And, in fact, Salzburg and, to a lesser extent, Wels, were sort of “alive” with people, which was a morale booster. I’m not sure if the lax masking is the reason why this surge is happening. Germany is a lot stricter about masks, but people are still getting sick here, and the hospitals are full. Personally, I don’t think the masks are going to be what saves us. What needs to happen is mass immunity, and that will come as people get vaccinated and boosted, and others manage to recover from the illness. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people may get very sick and/or die in the process. The only way to avoid the risk is by staying away from other people.

Austria has also taken the unusual step of requiring everyone to get vaccinated by February 2022. Frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad decision. It’s certainly groundbreaking. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t agree with forcing people to do things, particularly when it involves healthcare. However, communicable diseases are different. With my background in public health, I already know that there are some public health situations that require detaining people who put others at risk. On my main blog, I have written about how I think COVID-19 could eventually become an illness like tuberculosis. If you get TB and you refuse to get treated, you can and will be detained so that you don’t threaten other people. Many of us are really sick and tired of COVID-19, and the way it’s disrupting normal living. It’s also costing the world’s economies a lot in lost business, and like it or not, money matters. I don’t think people should be surprised if the rules become more draconian in an effort to get rid of the scourge.

Bavarian state premier, Markus Söder, who is a champion of the dreaded FFP2 masks for everyone, everywhere, has already declared a “de facto lockdown for the unvaccinated”. All of the Christmas markets have been cancelled, and all bars and clubs will be closed for the next three weeks. In areas where “weekly incidence rates top 1,000 per 100,000 people – restaurants, hotels, sport and culture will also close.” I believe the rules in Germany recently changed, as Angela Merkel plans to leave office. Now, they’re letting the states decide, rather than the federal government. I think I might enjoy the incoming government. I read that they’re also considering making recreational cannabis use legal. I never thought I’d see the day. I have limited experience with pot, having only tried it in The Netherlands a few years ago. But I did enjoy the experience…

I will not be the least bit surprised if other countries take a similar approach against the virus. It really sucks that this is happening, since Christmas is approaching. I do have some hope, though, because this year, at least there are vaccines. Some medications are also being developed to treat COVID-19– legitimate ones, rather than hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin. Historically speaking, pandemics always end at some point. So I continue to hold out hope that this one will end eventually… COVID-19 is a terrible illness, but it’s probably not even the worst humankind has faced, and nowadays, we have a lot more and better technology, which will continue to evolve out of necessity.

But yes… I sure am glad Bill and I managed to take our trip, enjoy ourselves, and emerge unscathed. We were very lucky. If there’s one thing COVID-19 has done for me, it’s make me a lot more appreciative of being able to travel.

Bill has been in Warsaw, Poland all this week, sadly missing our 19th anniversary at home. He brought home a few things for me last night. It would have been nice if I could have gone with him, but the COVID situation makes it dangerous. In fact, we were supposed to see James Taylor in Frankfurt in February, but he had to postpone his stop in Frankfurt until next November. With any luck, we’ll still be here and alive in November 2022. We’re supposed to see Keb’ Mo’ in May of 2022… but the tickets I bought were for a show that was supposed to happen on November 16, 2020– our 18th anniversary. So far, it’s been postponed three times. So we’ll see if we manage to see James in November 2022. I hope so. We have second row seats.

I was thinking maybe we’d go somewhere to celebrate our anniversary, now that Bill’s home… but I think we’re going to be locked down again very soon. So maybe we’ll just stay home and fuck or something. Just kidding… it’s more likely that we’ll turn on music, light a fire, and drink wine.

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Austria, coronavirus, German culture, Germany, road trips

Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part fourteen

And now, we’ve come to the end of my latest series… which I will admit was not long on food and activities, but had plenty of gorgeous scenery and solitude. When I am finished writing this post, I’ll do my usual “ten things I learned post”, but that will probably be done tomorrow, so as not to overwhelm anyone with all the action my travel blog is suddenly getting. 😉

Because we were coming from “high risk” areas– Croatia and Slovenia– we had to upload our vaccination information to officials in Germany. This would absolve us from having to quarantine. But, when we got to the border, they just waved us through, anyway. Maybe because it was Sunday.

Our drive home was mostly uneventful. Salzburg is about six hours or so from where we live, I think… Ray had made it easy to check out. All we had to do, besides take out the trash and make sure we used the toilet brush, was put the 12 euro city tourist tax (three euros per person per night) in the lockbox, along with the key. We got an early start, and, at first, the weather was beautiful.

The nice weather began to change the further north we went. It got cold and decidedly cloudy, then it was raining. At one point, we tried to stop for lunch, but there was no parking in the parking lot. The spots were all taken up by tractor trailers. We eventually ended up at the very same rest stop where we stopped on the way down to Croatia. On that visit, I wore a surgical face mask, as did a lot of other people. Surgical masks are the rule for all of Germany… except hard assed Bavaria, where people are supposed to wear FFP2s, the tighter fitting “coffee filter” masks. I did have a fresh one in my purse, but I really hate wearing them.

Anyway, we walked into the McDonald’s, which was empty. Evidently, the COVID-19 rules changed again, because the cashier pointed to me and said I needed the heavier mask. That pissed me off, so Bill and I left. I ranted about it on my other blog. We went to Burger King and ate lunch in the car. I spent much of the rest of the drive annoyed, since the heavier masks are obviously not curbing the now soaring infection rate in Germany. People need to be vaccinated. But if they’re going to enforce mask mandates, I wish they’d be consistent about it. And I wish they’d show common sense, particularly toward people who have actually done the responsible thing and gotten the vaccine.

I mean, look at this…

This is in Koln, where Carnival is in full swing.

It’s ridiculous. I can’t sit in an empty McDonald’s without being forced to wear a heavy mask, but these fools can party and drink unmasked in huge crowds in Mainz and Cologne! I fear we may be heading for another lockdown soon, which makes me even more glad that we took our trip. As it stands now, James Taylor has postponed his European tour. We have second row tickets to his Frankfurt show, but who knows when it will happen. We still have tickets to see Keb’ Mo’ for a show that was supposed to happen on November 16 (our anniversary) 2020. At this point, it’s been postponed three times, thanks to COVID-19. Maybe we’ll get to see him in May of 2022. This COVID shit really needs to be sorted.

The only other notable thing that happened on the way home was that we passed a van that had a sticker on it that read “Porn casting car”.

And then, we noticed that the driver had drapes with little gold tassels on them in the front seat. Maybe it really is a porn casting car.

After we got home, we unpacked and started doing the laundry. Later, we went to get Arran and Noyzi, who I guess could hear and smell us as we approached. They were so excited! Noyzi was even ecstatic to see Bill. He practically dragged me to the car and was delighted to jump in the back all by himself.

When we got home, we discovered that Arran had a couple of swollen flesh wounds on his ears. And the next day, Noyzi had kennel cough. By Tuesday, Arran was coughing too, although they are both okay now. Fortunately, it was a mild case. It was the first time I have ever dealt with kennel cough, which is usually a mild illness that clears up on its own. Our dogs are usually vaccinated against it, but we stopped giving Arran most vaccines because he’s had mast cell tumors. Noyzi is due for his vaccines next month.

Here are a few final pictures of a few things we brought back with us… I wish I had found a few things to put in the house. Oh well. Maybe on the next trip. Bill has to go to Poland on Monday, and he’ll be gone on our 19th wedding anniversary, which is on Tuesday. I’m sure he’ll get some Bison Grass vodka. Just what we need! 😉 We also got jams, honeys, liqueurs, and gin.

Well… that about does it for the series. Stay tuned tomorrow, for my super fun “ten things I learned” post. I actually did learn some new things on this trip. It was one of our better ones, and we’ve been on some great trips. I hope we can do it again, soon.

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anecdotes, coronavirus, Germany, staying home

This weekend is pretty much ruined…

A few days ago, I was really looking forward to this weekend. The weather looked like it was going to be beautiful. There were several wine centered events going on, to include our local wine stand that takes place in the town square. Before COVID-19 messed everything up, we would have those wine stands every other week during the warm months. They were a lot of fun, and a great way to get to know the neighbors.

There was a wine market in Hofheim yesterday, and a wine festival in Ingelheim, which I really wanted to go to. Fortunately, the fest will continue all week until next Sunday. Hopefully, by then, I’ll be well, and Bill won’t have to work.

That’s right… I am sick this weekend. I don’t know how it happened, but it has put a real damper on our fun. Thanks to a big work exercise, Bill also had to work this morning. He arranged to do a four hour shift early today, so we could have had the rest of the day to do something fun. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere today, either.

I spent most of yesterday in bed with gastroenteritis. I don’t know how I got it. I don’t spend time around anyone other than Bill, and he hasn’t had it. It’s possible I ate something that made me sick. It came on Friday night, when I suddenly developed a fever and chills. Of course I was worried about COVID-19, even though I live like a hermit.

As Friday night went on, my stomach started to feel weird. I actually wanted pizza for dinner, though, and was relieved that when Bill made it, I could easily smell it. Unfortunately, the pizza didn’t last. After dinner, the vomiting started. I spent the whole night shivering under two duvets.

Yesterday, Bill made breakfast and, once again, I was relieved that I could smell it. In fact, the aroma of bacon was almost overwhelming. But breakfast also didn’t stay with me. I resolved not to try to eat anything else, other than a waffle syrup cookie, which is pretty bland. I managed to hang onto that and the two sodas Bill brought me. Then I watched movies and took a nap.

This morning, my stomach feels marginally better, but I can’t trust my sphincter. A good sneeze, fart, or cough could make quite a mess, if you catch my drift. So I don’t think we’ll be doing anything today, because I don’t want to crap my pants.

I did have Bill go out and get a COVID test, just to make sure that wasn’t the source of my discomfort. At first, before the diarrhea set in, I thought it might be possible that the virus finally found me. He paid two euros for a Chinese COVID-19 home test. We tried to use it last night, but somehow didn’t do the test right. So I ended up with no result.

I did think to take some photos, though… the directions are in German and include pictures. Bill later said he saw there was a video we could have watched for instructions. It reminded me a little of a pregnancy test, except the sample to be tested came from my nose.

Oh well… I guess I’ll do more reading today. I do feel somewhat better than I did yesterday, at least. I think the fever went away, and I haven’t had to puke since yesterday morning. So there’s some bright news…

SIGH.

I’ll end this post on a positive note. Four years ago, I was also sick. That time, it was with a very nasty cold that I picked up when we cruised in Scotland. I wasn’t surprised that I got the cold, since there was a visibly sick woman on the boat who kept sniffling all week. By the time the cruise was almost over, I had her cold. Although that beat the everloving hell out of the norovirus infection I got in Scotland in March of 2016, having that cold was pretty miserable.

Bill and I came home to our driveway torn up, since our former landlords decided to renovate it. The work wasn’t completed while we were gone. Then, the day after it was done, while I was still sick, the landlords came over unannounced. I opened the door to get the mail, dressed in my nightgown. There they were, standing there on the driveway, inspecting the work. I had an awkward conversation with them, not just because I wasn’t dressed and had a bad cold, but also because by that time, our relationship had gone sour. A few weeks prior to our trip to Scotland, an awning that the landlady’s husband had “fixed” collapsed on a windy day. They tried to blame me for it, and the wife got very irate and screamed at me in my living room, specifically blaming me for other things that were wrong in the house.

The next day, the landlords showed up unannounced and started cleaning the gutters, right outside my bedroom window. I was in bed, still sick with the cold, and FUMING, because it was yet another unexpected visit. I had told them I was sick, and was trying to rest. Of course they never thought to consider my feelings. I was just someone whose husband they were deigning to let rent their house. Clearly, in their minds, I was not entitled to any respect, privacy, or consideration. I literally wanted to throttle them. (I am not the most patient patient) But instead of telling them to come back another day, like I should have, I just tried to ignore them.

Well… I didn’t quite ignore them. I posted on Facebook that I felt like choking them. I noticed yesterday that I had written that. I was really upset. Later, Bill did ask them for more notice, and was met with a rather rude response. But if you know what happened in the end, you know that we eventually came out on top in that situation, although it took some time.

Anyway, it occurred to me yesterday, reading that past Facebook status, that I have much to be grateful for. I don’t get sick very often in Wiesbaden. Bill doesn’t have to travel to Africa, so he doesn’t bring home weird germs. When I do get sick, I can recuperate in private. The landlord lives next door, but he never bothers us, and would never do loud work on our house without planning ahead. And I just really prefer this house on so many levels. In fact, yesterday, it occurred to me how glad I was to be resting in my own bed and using my own bathroom. When I last had a stomach bug, I had to deal with it while traveling. It was awful. So I’m glad to be at home, and glad to be living somewhere where the landlord isn’t an inconsiderate jerk.

And hopefully, the rest of this virus will “run its course”… I just ate a banana, so we’ll see how that goes. Looks like the fever may be done, too.

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coronavirus, Germany, live music, restaurant reviews

Wiesbaden is ALIVE again!

In celebration of our fully vaccinated and certified status, Bill and I decided to visit Wiesbaden yesterday. It was my first visit to the downtown in almost a year. I hated the COVID-19 rules so much that I just stayed home, where I could do my own thing without having to worry about confrontations, dirty looks, or judgments from other people. I realize that attitude was probably prompted by news articles and social media posts I was reading on the Internet about how things are in the United States. I read so many accounts of people getting into altercations about COVID-19 that it just turned me off of interacting with other people. So, visiting Wiesbaden was kind of a big deal. I guess our Heidelberg visit last weekend was a reminder to me that life is still going on where we live, too.

I took some photos of what was happening in Wiesbaden yesterday, as well as our visit to Scotch N’ Soda, an Irish pub and popular American hangout. We stopped in for lunch and got treated to a little concert by buskers… guys I’ve seen before in the city. They rove around town with their instruments. One guy has an upright bass violin. We saw him lugging it around before he met his buddies for their session. I was so happy to see and hear them that I tipped ten euros. One of them rewarded me with “twinkling eyes” (he squinted and smiled affectionately– I used to see this in Armenia all the time) and a hearty “Danke schoen!”

As we were enjoying beer and lunch at Scotch N’ Soda, the buskers played “my song”. It’s not my song in that I love it– although I do. It’s my song because I’ve sung it so many times that the lyrics are burned on my brain and I can’t mess it up. I’m the same way with Patsy Cline’s version of “Crazy”. I don’t actually do those songs very often anymore, because I’ve done them so many times. But people who know me and know my songs, know those are perennial favorites from way back!

Another one of our funny experiences in a Biergarten.

On our way out of Wiesbaden, a young woman with a child asked me in German if I had two ten cent pieces for a twenty cent piece. I was surprised when I understood her without having to think too hard about it. I guess seven years in Germany is finally rubbing off on me. 😉

I think we may head out again today… take my Mini Cooper convertible, which has suffered mightily from disuse during the pandemic. We had to replace the battery two or three times because it went dead from lack of driving. Finally, we bought a battery charger and an air pump for the tires, which also were going flat from temperature changes and lack of use. Normally, during the summer months, we use my car all the time!

I would like to drive to the Rhein– maybe to Eltville or Bacharach. I’m not sure how successful that would be, though, because Die Salzbachtalbrücke, which is a bridge on A66 is falling apart and will have to be blown up soon, because it can’t be repaired. That means a traffic nightmare for the next fourteen months or so, or at least that’s what the paper estimates. I’m pretty sure we usually go over that to get to those areas… and there are other places we haven’t been recently that need our attention. Maybe we’ll hit Hofheim today, instead. We’ll see… it’s just so nice to finally have the option to go out and be relatively free to be normal.

Wiesbaden was almost back to normal yesterday. They didn’t even do contact tracing at Scotch N’ Soda yesterday… no need to use the Luca app for checking in, like we did in Heidelberg last weekend. I hope the trend continues, although everybody is a bit worried about the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

I think now it’s time to plan for a vacation… and a trip to Stuttgart for dental hygiene purposes.

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advice, coronavirus, Germany, Health

How Americans can get COVID-19 legit in Germany via the COVPass app…

Every once in awhile, I try to write blog posts that are genuinely helpful. Today’s post is meant as a service to Americans in Germany, or possibly elsewhere in Europe, who are confounded by the new COVPass app and COVID-19 vaccine certificates. I know a lot of us are in helpful Facebook groups where this information is already available, but for those who aren’t… here’s my story about getting pandemic “legit”.

The COVPass app is compatible with Germany’s EU Digital COVID Certificate, which will make it valid in participating EU countries. Since many countries will require proof of vaccination, proven recovery from COVID-19, or a negative PCR test before you can visit, I highly recommend getting the certificates and the app if you can– especially if you plan to travel.

Edited to add on June 26th: The Corona Warn app is also acceptable for uploading the certificates. I just downloaded that app using my new German iTunes account, and I think I actually like it better than COVPass. It offers more functionality, such as warning of high infection rates, creating QR codes for events, and uploading tests. But for the purpose of uploading certificates, both apps work fine.

Edited to add October 7, 2021: I understand that the COVPass app is now available in the US Apple Store. I haven’t tried to download it, since I already have the app from the German store. This development should make things much easier for Americans, though.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an interesting article on The Local: Germany about 50 year old John Camp, an American guy in Cologne who had gotten a COVID vaccine in the United States. When he got back to Germany with his white CDC vaccine card, he found that 8 out of 10 of German officials didn’t want to recognize it. Camp was significantly inconvenienced, because when he’d show the white CDC card– say when he wanted to eat at a restaurant or visit a gym– the locals would balk at accepting it because the CDC card is in English and lacks official stamps.

A screenshot of a trusty German Impfbuch (vaccination book). You can get one of these at a doctor’s office, pharmacy, or Amazon.de, among other places.

If you were to get your vaccine locally, you would get a yellow booklet (Impfbuch) that can be stamped. I got a very similar yellow booklet years ago, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I probably still have it somewhere in storage. It’s an internationally recognized document put out by the World Health Organization. Why the US isn’t also using the yellow booklet, I don’t know. In any case, if you’re American and you get your shot(s) on a military installation or at home in the States, you’ll get a white card instead of a yellow booklet. That can be problematic in some areas of Germany or other parts of Europe, especially where there aren’t a lot of Americans.

German officials at the Robert Koch Institut have introduced the COVPass app, which allows users to upload their vaccine info into smartphones. That makes it easier to prove vaccination status without having to carry a paper around everywhere. The problem is, the German app is only available in the German iTunes store or on Google Play (for Android users). Additionally, it can be accessed from the HUAWEI app gallery.

As an American, I have a US iTunes account. I don’t have an Android phone, and the HUAWEI app gallery proved to be utterly useless. Nevertheless, I managed to get the app loaded and functional last night. So here’s the step by step process on how I went about getting COVID-19 legit. This could work for you, too.

Step 1. I found a pharmacist to issue the official certificates with the QR code by searching the My Pharmacy Manager database for participating pharmacies.

According to the article in The Local: Germany, not all pharmacies are participating in issuing the COV-Pass QR codes at this time. Some pharmacies don’t have the system working yet, and others are apparently opting out (per the article dated June 14th– that may have since changed). So I used the pharmacy manager database to locate a participating pharmacy near me.

Step 2. Bill sent an email in German to a local pharmacist.

This is probably an unnecessary step for anyone living in an area where there are a lot of Americans. We only did it because in the article about John Camp, the American in Cologne, it mentioned that he went to six different pharmacies before he found one that could help him get certified with his American credentials. Now, this was a few weeks ago, and he’s in Cologne, which isn’t loaded with American residents. Things might have changed significantly since that article was written. But we didn’t have the time or inclination to go hunting for a pharmacy that could help us, so we pre-emptively asked the pharmacist if our American CDC cards would be a problem before we visited.

Bill only asked the pharmacist if she would recognize the CDC card because of the article I read. John Camp had explained that one of the SIX pharmacists he visited could make certificates, but would not recognize his Pfizer vaccine. This was because the US vaccine name “Pfizer” wasn’t listed in the drop down menu of available vaccines on the program the pharmacists are using. Even when Camp tried to tell the German pharmacist that the Pfizer shot is the same product as the locally named BioNTech vaccine, it was still a “no go”. So our pre-emptive email to the local pharmacist was simply to save us time and aggravation. This probably wouldn’t be an issue with the Moderna shots, which are named the same in Europe as they are in the States.

We went to Heidelberg last weekend, and knew we’d need our certificates for our trip. So, after we found a participating pharmacist in nearby Wallau, Bill sent her an email in German, which also wasn’t necessary since she was fluent in English. Bill explained that we’re U.S. citizens who live in Wiesbaden and we got our Moderna vaccines on post. He asked the pharmacist if she would recognize the CDC card. The pharmacist responded that it was no problem.

Step 3. Bill dropped off our paperwork at the participating pharmacy.

In our case, it took a couple of days to get the certificates made. That’s because on the day we requested them, the system crashed, as a whole lot of people were trying to access it at the same time. You probably won’t have to drop off your paperwork like we did. You’ll likely get same day service. However, I recommend bringing copies of the CDC card, in case you do get snagged by a system crash or some other unforeseen issue.

Don’t leave the actual card with the pharmacist; treat it like you would treat any other important document. The pharmacist we had was willing to make copies for us, but your mileage may vary. It’s probably best to be prepared with your own copies.

I didn’t have to be present when Bill dropped off the copies of our CDC cards. We also didn’t need our passports, although some people have said they’ve needed them. I suggest making a copy of the front page, just in case you run into a more anal retentive pharmacist than we did. You also might want to arrange to get the certificates a few days before a scheduled trip to allow for any extra time needed due to system crashes, logistical hassles, uptight officials, or other SNAFUs.

Step 4. Bill picked up our certificates with the QR codes.

Again, I didn’t have to be present. You may want to plan for a wait. When we got our certificates, there was a line of people standing outside of the pharmacy, either to get the certificates or pick up medications.

The pharmacist gave us each two certificates— one for each vaccine. If you don’t manage to get the app, you can also show the paper certificates.

Step 5. I made a new Apple ID basing my location in Germany.

Right now, the German COVPass app isn’t available in the US iTunes store. I couldn’t easily switch my account to Germany, because I have unfinished subscriptions on Apple TV. If you don’t have unfinished Apple TV subscriptions, you can just change your account to Germany without making a new ID.

I couldn’t use Google Play because that only works for Android phones. So, what I did was make a new Apple ID. There are lots of articles on how to accomplish this technological feat. Here’s a link to instructions directly from Apple Support, although these aren’t the instructions I used.

It did take awhile to set up the new ID, and it was a bit of a pain in the ass to do it, mainly because the new ID wanted my billing information. Since I am an American in Germany, I have US credit cards and a US billing address, even though I have a German physical address. Not all Americans have this problem, because some have wisely set up German bank accounts. Alas, Bill didn’t listen to me when I suggested that he do that in 2014, so I frequently run into the address discrepancy issue.

Usually, using PayPal solves the address discrepancy problem, but that wasn’t the case last night. Apple recognized my APO address through PayPal, and would not let me input my German phone number with the American address. Eventually, I just made the account without the payment info and used an old US phone number. It still let me keep my German location. Since this app doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t matter. I probably wouldn’t want to buy anything from German iTunes anyway.

You may want to be near your other computer devices as you’re making a German iTunes account. I had to use my iPad to get codes and confirm my identity on the phone. That’s another reason it took time. Yes, it was a pain in the ass– all in the name of security.

Step 6. Once I had the German iTunes account, I downloaded the COVPass app.

This was super easy.

It’s finally on my phone!

Step 7. I aimed the QR reader through the COVPass app at the QR code on each of the certificates made by the local pharmacist.

Again… super easy! My phone immediately recognized the codes and I was gratified to see all of my info loaded into the phone. This will make traveling a whole lot easier! Hopefully, as Americans start coming back to Europe, the white CDC cards will be less of an issue. But, until then, the official app is a huge help.

Success! On the next page is the special QR code generated just for me.

Now that I have this app on my phone, I won’t need to carry the certificates with me, although I probably will. I have a tendency to dump stuff in my purse where it stays until I buy a new one. Since my current handbag is an expensive Harris Tweed number I bought in Scotland, I probably won’t be cleaning out my purse anytime soon. But this app will certainly make things easier for those who prefer to travel light.

One other note— once I got the app and uploaded my certificates through the QR reader, I didn’t need to keep my iTunes account set to Germany. I switched back to my US account and the app is still accessible and works as expected. How convenient!

Hopefully, this process will become even more streamlined in the weeks to come and you won’t need to follow as many steps as I did. In the meantime, I hope this guide is helpful! Wishing you happy, plentiful, and safe COVID-19 travels!

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