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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anecdotes, Germany, wine

We finally made it to another local wine stand!

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile might remember that a couple of years ago, before the COVID-19 plague began, my currently adopted town of Breckenheim would have wine stands during the warmer months. Naturally, that tradition had to pause last year, as the threat of the coronavirus among unvaccinated people was too great. We didn’t have them for most of this year, either, and the local powers that be even dismantled the permanent kiosk that used to be set up in the Dorfplatz.

In August, the wine stands finally started again, although not with the same regularity that they were held in 2019. We had to miss the first one in August, because we were in the Black Forest visiting the dentist. 😉 They had another one two weeks ago, but I got sick with my cursed stomach bug and we couldn’t attend. Finally, last night, the stars aligned, and Bill and I managed to make it to the wine stand, located just down the hill from where we live.

I was wondering what the stand would be like in the COVID era. I brought my purse with me, just in case masks were required. As it turned out, they weren’t. I also thought to wear warmer shoes and a wrap, because I had a feeling it would get chilly as the sun set. Here are a few photos!

Last night’s wine stand turned out to be especially interesting. At one point, a lady came up to us and asked in German if she could sit down with the two adorable children with her. Bill answered in German. She continued speaking German, but Bill misunderstood her. She wanted to push in the bench so the kids wouldn’t get soup all over them. He thought she was just asking to sit down.

It turned out she was American, and had moved to Germany over forty years ago when her father was in the Air Force and stationed in Wiesbaden. She married a local and is now a very convincing German Oma to the two kids, who looked to be about 4 (boy) and 6 (girl) and were absolutely charming, with blond hair and blue eyes. They had these little bags of what looked like puffed rice cereal that they poured into the pumpkin soup. They reminded me of Trix, only they weren’t colorful. The American lady said they were salty. I had never seen them before, but I was curious. It looked like maybe she got them at a bakery. I’m not sure they were puffed rice, either. She said they were a type of grain.

I never did learn her name, but we traded a few stories. Her family is back in the United States, but I could see that she was totally integrated here– and I would have imagined so, after forty years! The folks at our table knew her and she was chatting easily with them. In fact, the locals were even friendlier than usual to us, too. Oma asked where we were from, and we told her– Arkansas for Bill, and Virginia for me. She didn’t know either state… although she does know Texas, and Bill spent a lot of time in Texas. I got a sense that maybe she kind of missed the US a bit, but that was only due to a fleeting look of wistfulness on her face.

Oma and the grandkids left, and the very friendly lady across the table, who didn’t really speak much English said she wanted us to meet someone. She kept mentioning that he was a gardener. Next thing we knew, a British guy was standing near us, chatting. The guy’s name was Steve, and he came from the northwest of England, which gave me a thrill. It turned out that before he had moved to Breckenheim, he had lived in Nagold, down at the edge of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest). Nagold is, of course, the town that was closest to us when we used to live in Jettingen! Bill and I used to go there all the time before we moved up to Wiesbaden! It was one of our favorite places in our old stomping grounds.

Steve said he’d lived in Nagold for about fifteen years. We sat there and talked about all of the little restaurants we visited, and Steve told us about how, back from 2008-2010, the city of Nagold did a massive beautification project because they were hosting a garden show there. We lived in Germany from 2007-09, also near Stuttgart, but that time we were in a little town called Pfaffingen, which is closer to Tubingen. We never discovered Nagold during our first German stint, although I do remember hearing it mentioned.

For all of the crap we went through in our last home near Stuttgart, I am still glad we lived there, because it did afford us the opportunity to visit a lot of places we would have missed if we’d lived closer to the military installations. I still miss Nagold a lot. It had a lot of what I love about cute towns, without the huge crowds and obnoxious traffic. If we ever move back to that area, I wouldn’t mind finding a home in Nagold… as long as the landlords are fair and respectful.

Steve was telling us that he really missed living in Nagold. I could relate. Wiesbaden is a nice area, and there are things about it that I enjoy, like wine stands. But I find the area near Stuttgart to be more authentic and interesting. It offers more of a pure German experience– or, actually, more of a Swabian experience, which is something else entirely. Up here, people are friendlier and more laid back, and there’s not as much thriftiness, but housing costs more and it’s a bit more built up. Curiously, despite being more built up, the traffic is much less terrible up here. Steve explained that a lot of the people in Breckenheim are politicians or are involved in finance. I can tell this neighborhood is kind of well-heeled. It has a different feel than either of our previous German towns. Down in BW, the atmosphere is more agrarian, although that doesn’t mean the standard of living isn’t high.

I think a big reason why the Frankfurt area seems less charming and authentic is because a lot of historic buildings were destroyed during World War II. And the ones that were rebuilt don’t have the same old world quaintness that the destroyed buildings had. But, I am glad we moved up here, if only because I can compare and contrast my German experiences, now. And wine stands are one nice tradition that Bill and I really enjoy.

Hopefully, this weekend, we will continue to have some fun, especially since it’s technically a holiday weekend. I think Bill is going to work on Monday, though, so we can take a trip soon.

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Germany, restaurant reviews, Wiesbaden

Back to Little Italy for a Sunday lunch…

Before COVID times, Bill and I loved to visit Little Italy in Wiesbaden. It was one of the first restaurants we discovered when we moved to Wiesabaden in 2018. We love going there on Sundays and having long, elegant lunches. The pandemic put our habit to an end. I think the last time we managed to visit was in summer 2020. Today, Bill asked if I wanted to go out to lunch, and I was happy to agree. And when we parked in Wiesbaden, we found our way to Little Italy, where we were quickly welcomed and seated indoors. We mentioned our vaccinations, but the waiter didn’t seem to care. He simply pointed out the Luca app for contract tracing purposes.

Today’s lunch was as wonderful as always, coupled with fine service and good wine. Below are some photos.

I really enjoyed my risotto, which was perfect and full of shrimp– four grilled on top, and several mixed in the creamy, lime scented risotto. It was pure comfort food. For once, it wasn’t topped with a bread stick. Bill loved his sliced filet, which was cooked to medium rare perfection. I was surprised to see black olives mixed with the potatoes, but Bill said it was really excellent. And, of course, we paired everything with sparkling water and a glass of Primitivo for him and Montepulciano for me.

While we were dining, I got a private message from a Peace Corps friend of mine. He was was a Volunteer in Russia in the early 1990s, then came to Armenia to work. I met him when he was working for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. I was teaching business English there. I had lost touch with him about a year ago, so I was glad to get his message, especially since just last night, we had a memorial for an Armenia Volunteer who suddenly died a couple of months ago. My old friend is the same age as the guy we memorialized last night.

Other than that, it was another wonderful lunch at a neighborhood favorite. We spent about 89 euros before the tip, and it was money well spent. I doubt we’ll need much of a dinner… but I’ll probably indulge in some wine… to process last night a bit. On the way out of Wiesabaden, I got a few photos…

It’s so nice to see things a bit more normal… I don’t know how long it will last, but we’re going to enjoy it.

In other travel news, I have finally booked us a trip to Zurich. Yes, this will be our first visit there, even though we’ve lived pretty close for years. When we were in Stuttgart, we could have been there in about two hours. I got us four nights, starting July 22. I think we’ll do some specialized touring, to include visits to Carl Jung’s museum, which I know will fascinate Bill. Maybe a stop at the Lindt Chocolate Factory for me… I can’t wait. We’re ready for a change of scenery.

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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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coronavirus, Germany, staying home

Moderna and more spring photos…

Poor Bill had his second Moderna shot yesterday. The installation opened up some walk in slots for the second vaccine, so Bill went so he could spare himself a long drive to Landstuhl today. He went to Landstuhl for the first shot, back in late April. It’s not such a bad drive to get there, but it does take about an hour just to get out that way. Then he’d have to get through the process and drive back. It’s much easier to get the shot locally, which is what I plan to do myself in a couple of weeks.

He was feeling okay after the shot, but by about 3:00am, he started feeling like he did when we both got swine flu in December 2013. Today, he’s taking it easy, lying in bed. Luckily, the sheets are nice and fresh, since we washed everything yesterday.

I just took the dogs for a walk. I didn’t mind, since my new Apple Watch gives me pep talks about exercising. Bill usually walks the dogs if he’s home, but he’s not up to it today. So off I went, and I managed to get some photos of the flowers blooming in our neighborhood, along with some meddlesome nettles. No, they aren’t particularly exciting pictures… and I look forward to when we can get out and see and do more. Hopefully, that won’t be too much longer, as COVID-19 infection numbers continue to drop here in Deutschland. I think it’s partly due to the weather, and mostly due to people becoming vaccinated, at long last. After a slow start, Germany has kicked its immunization program into high gear! Hooray!

I meant to get a picture of this one lady’s tree, next to her well-tended house. Under the tree is a carpet of beautiful purple flowers. I noticed it the other day and thought it looked so pretty. I feel fortunate to live in a safe, clean, country where people work to beautify the surroundings, especially in the spring. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll get a chance to take a photo of that pretty flower adorned tree. Perhaps Bill and I can even take a walk together, like we did in the old days.

The elderly lady who lives in that house has a little female dog who does NOT like other dogs. We run into her quite frequently, and her little dog always acts like the proverbial bitch, wanting to take a piece out of Arran and Noyzi (and Zane before him). Her dog barks, shows her teeth, and strains against the bright orange leash the lady uses to keep her in check. It’s a myth that all German dogs are perfectly trained. But the lady is nice enough and always says “Guten Morgen” when we pass each other.

The featured photo is the rainbow that appeared after it rained all day and the sun came out. The rainbow only lasted for a couple of minutes, so I was lucky to catch it. I hope it’s a good omen that means better days are coming soon. At the very least, Bill should be feeling better tomorrow. And then we can look forward to when shot number two knocks me on my ass.

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Germany, holidays, Sundays

A leap of faith…

Although my travel blog has kind of tanked thanks to COVID-19, I decided to go ahead and renew my subscription for the next two years. I use the WordPress business plan, so it wasn’t cheap to renew. I spent $521, but that’s good until July 2023. For all I know, we could still be here that far down the line. Or we could be living somewhere else… probably in Europe. That seems to be where Bill’s best prospects for employment are at this point in time.

Bill got home from his latest TDY from Hell yesterday. On Thursday, he’ll get his second vaccination. Then, on June 9th, I’ll get my second shot… and then, maybe I can get back to reviewing restaurants and visiting exotic places. There are so many areas I still want to see. At this point, our plans to travel will come down to what places are open and which ones will give us the least hassle.

I suspect that our weekends at home may soon be coming to an end. I look forward to getting out more, if only so I can take more pictures. I’m getting tired of seeing the same ones on my photo feed every day. And I’m tired of only writing about what happens in Breckenheim.

Incidentally, Noyzi is fine after last week’s pet toy scare. He spent a couple of days pooping out the toy he partially ingested and never had a single moment’s trouble.

Today is Whit Sunday (Whitsun or “White Sunday”), a religious holiday that is celebrated in Germany, along with Whit Monday. I had almost forgotten about it, until I noticed the “three day holiday” mentioned in The Local, a useful online news source for English speakers in Germany (I think they have different editions for countries all over Europe). I finally broke down and bought a subscription last year. For the most part, I’m glad I did. It helps me figure out life in this country that isn’t really home, but has sort of become home. Or, at least it helps me keep informed about what the rules are now, regarding COVID-19.

Whit Sunday is the Christian High Holy Day of the Pentecost, which is celebrated 50 days after Easter. According to Google, “…it commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.” I don’t think too many Germans are very religious these days, but they do love their holidays. That’s probably why they still celebrate religious holidays like Whit Sunday and Whit Monday and close all the stores. Germany is pretty unusual in that stores are still closed on Sundays, although plenty of Germans don’t subscribe to religion or identify with another faith, like Islam or Judaism.

I hear my landlord’s grandchildren outside. That’s not unusual, though. They come over a lot.

The sun is finally out and the weather is slightly warmer… although it’s still unseasonably chilly for May. It’s hard to believe that in two months, it’ll probably be hot again. One thing I do appreciate about Germany is that the summer heat doesn’t last for too long, especially since air conditioning is not a given, especially in people’s homes.

Anyway… thanks to today’s purchase, this blog will be around for the next two years at the very least. Unless, of course, I croak or wind up in jail or something. I don’t have plans for either of those things to happen, but you know what they say about life being what happens when you’re busy making plans. 😉 As I learned once again this week, you never know when things can suddenly change.

I think one of our first trips will be to Stuttgart, so we can finally see the dentist. Beyond that, I have no idea where we’ll end up going. I’m just so glad to finally see the COVID-19 infections dropping and things slowly opening up again. The constant lockdown has been extreme, and I know for me, it’s been hard on my mental health. I’m also getting a little too comfortable with being a hermit, and that’s no way to live. So here’s to two more years… and the prospect of breaking out of this COVID-19 exile.

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dogs, Germany, live music, weather

A few spring photos…

I took these this morning on our walk… A male mallard was enjoying the creek that runs through Breckenheim. He was a little shy, and I was juggling Arran and Noyzi, so please forgive the lack of artistic merit in these!

I also managed to catch a rather epic play session between Arran and Noyzi. Arran still growls at him a lot, but I think they’ve developed a wary respect for each other. Nice to see them playing, anyway. It’s especially nice to see Arran playing, since he’s officially an old man with the rancid farts to prove it.

I love running into water fowl. I especially like ducks a lot, and we see them very occasionally here in our village. I like creeks, too. The one in Breckenheim is often polluted, though, which is a real shame. I guess it just goes to show you that even rule abiding Germans can be disrespectful to Earth when no one is looking.

Could they be bonding at last?

And last but not least, I made a new video for my YouTube channel. I haven’t shared it anywhere else, because it seems like a pointless exercise… but I think it turned out okay.

I woke up yesterday and felt like trying this… it was a mood booster. I needed one, because I was not in a great mood over the weekend.

My vaccination site is officially back to normal. There’s no more pain, itching, or swelling, and the redness is minimal. I don’t look forward to feeling yucky when I get the second shot, but maybe it will turn out okay. Either way, the first shot wasn’t a problem. Glad to have it behind me, especially now that Germany is officially relaxing the rules for vaccinated people and those who have recovered from COVID-19. I’m ready to reclaim some of my life.

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coronavirus, dogs, Health

First Moderna shot down…

We had truly weird weather yesterday. It’s early May, but yesterday, it was downright cold and windy, with scattered showers and even a brief hailstorm. In the United States, hailstorms are kind of unusual; or, at least they were unusual in the areas where I lived. Here in Germany, we seem to get them a lot, especially in the spring, when the weather gets really bipolar. As you can see from the featured photo, we had some ominous skies yesterday. It made for some dramatic landscapes, though none as dramatic as down near Stuttgart. I do miss it down there sometimes, but mainly because parts of it really are stunningly beautiful. I could probably get some of the same views by heading west.

When I was a child, I remember the temperatures were noticeably cooler for most of the year. Hell… even when we were in Germany the first time, from 07-09, I remember the winters were longer and snowier. But the weather is different now… I couldn’t complain about global warming yesterday, though, as I stood in line for my first Moderna shot. As you can see from the photos, people were bundled up. I think the post in Wiesbaden is windier and chillier anyway, since it’s on a hill. It’s weird wearing a jacket in May when you come from the southern United States.

Bill thought my appointment was at 1:30pm, but it was actually at 1:45. I got a reminder email yesterday, but I must have missed the time on it, which figures, since Bill is the one who booked them. No matter… things were moving along pretty well when we got there. I checked in, stood in line at what used to be the “strip mall” on post in Wiesbaden before the latest PX was built, and through a very well orchestrated system, got my injection. It was surprisingly easy. The shot didn’t hurt at all. In fact, I barely felt it. After I got the shot, I easily made an appointment for the the next one by using my phone. Today, there’s a very mild soreness, minor swelling, and an oval of redness around my injection site, but so far, other than that, I have had no ill effects.

I have an appointment to get the second shot on June 9th, which is just before my next birthday. I won’t be quite at two weeks post inoculation on the day itself, but a few days after I turn 49, I should be considered fully vaccinated. Maybe that means a big trip down to Stuttgart, so we can finally see the dentist again. While I’d rather go somewhere more interesting and exciting, we do need to do a quick trip so Noyzi can get acquainted with the lady who takes care of the boys when we travel. I don’t think Noyzi will have any problems. He spent most of his first two years in boarding down in Kosovo. Still, it’s good to do a quick test run, just to make sure there won’t be any serious issues. We need to get him a European Pet Passport, too. We have one for him, but it’s from Kosovo, and Kosovo is not in the European Union. I don’t think we’ll be traveling much with him, since he’s so big, but it’s always good to have the passports. It makes things easier for the Tierpensions, too.

I feel kind of privileged to have my first shot. The vaccines are still kind of slowly rolling out here, and a lot of Germans are languishing without access to the shots. I’ve read that a lot of what is available is the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is worrisome for some people due to its association with blood clots. But the risk is probably minimal in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway… I’m glad to finally be on the road to being vaccinated against COVID-19. The shot may not prevent me from getting sick, but it will probably help make things safer and more normal. I have really had my fill of being locked down, even if I have gotten pretty good at playing “Redemption Song” on my guitar. It’s time to enjoy living again, and the more people who get the vaccine, the sooner that can happen.

Of course… for now, I get to sit here alone and ponder things. Bill is on yet another long ass TDY and will be gone for most of May. He left yesterday, after we got my first shot, and will not be home until May 22nd. A few days after that, he’ll get his second shot. Hopefully, the TDY schedule will ease up… because he hasn’t had a break in ages and is a bit burned out. And both of us could use a change of scenery that doesn’t involve work. It’s bad enough that seriously, I would welcome a visit to Stuttgart so we can see Dr. Blair. We’ll go stay at our favorite Stuttgart area hotel… or maybe we’ll try another property. At least it will be a break from the neighborhood! I never thought I’d wish for a dental cleaning for my birthday!

Edited to add: A couple of days ago, I saw something very German while I was walking the dogs. A guy who looked like Barry Manilow circa 1978 was roller blading down the main drag of our village while pushing a baby carriage. He was really moving out, too. I was impressed by his blading AND parenting skills, getting his kid out for some fresh air. It reminded me of when we lived in Pfäffingen, during our first Germany experience. There was a guy there who I would see every day in a reclining bike/wheelchair, using his arms to haul ass down the street. It was a most inspirational sight, because I don’t think the guy had use of his legs, yet I could tell he was very fit. I wish I were as active as some of my German neighbors are.

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coronavirus, weather

It’s May… and so far, it might as well be March.

Here’s a quick post to update the travel blog. Right now, things are still pretty much locked down in Germany. Our local Rewe has a new policy to limit people in the store to 40 at a time. They enforce this by only putting out forty shopping carts. Since shoppers have to use a cart to purchase anything, that’s supposedly how they’re going to keep the number of patrons low.

I’m scheduled to get my first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow. It’s supposed to be the Moderna shot, which means that in 28 days, I have to go back and get the other one. Bill gets his second shot the day before the Memorial Day weekend starts. Ordinarily, we would be going somewhere fun for Memorial Day weekend, but I suspect he’ll be on his back, recovering.

There’s still a lot of news about Europe reopening to vaccinated travelers, or those who can show a negative PCR test. I still think it’s crazy for people to want to visit Europe right now, since so few locals have been vaccinated. I don’t know how they’re going to make a visit here worthwhile. Will museums, shops, and restaurants be open? Maybe, if the infection numbers decrease… but people will probably have to make appointments and wear masks. I know a lot of people don’t mind wearing a mask, but personally, I hate them. I find them uncomfortable and inconvenient, and seeing a bunch of people walking around in them gives me the creeps. Sorry… I know that’s not the politically correct attitude to have, but it’s how I feel. As long as I comply with the rules, I think I should be able to state out loud that I think the rules suck and I hope they change at some point.

Anyway… it’ll be interesting to see what summer brings for us. I look forward to getting the vaccine, although I hope it doesn’t make me feel too icky. After I get my shot, Bill will be off to Bavaria again for about 17 days, like he did in March. Once again, it will suck for me, but at least the weather might be better. Or will it?

Today is May 4th. We’re well into springtime. But it’s cold and rainy outside, and as of about 9:00am, it’s a nice toasty 53 degrees. I think after I’m done blogging, I might just go back to bed and finish my latest book so I can review it and move on to the next one. Today is a good day for reading… and maybe making homemade soup!

Seriously… I would love to be traveling right now, but I miss it the way it was a couple of years ago. Right now, things are still just too weird. But I’m going to do my part and get the shots. I’ve got no problem with it. And hopefully, the weather will improve and maybe I’ll want to go sit in the garden… or walk the dogs… or daydream about our next adventure. I really feel glad that we were here for a few years before COVID-19 struck. I feel sorry for people who moved to Germany as the virus was hitting us. I remember it took us months to travel when Bill and I lived in Germany the first time. I later kicked myself for not getting out more, and made a point of seeing Europe when we moved back. Now, I’m back to sitting on my ass.

Ah well… hopefully, more people will get their shots and we can have some fun again soon. I would settle for a trip to the Kaiser-Friedrich Theme, our local mineraltherme (nude), so I can get some relief for my aching joints.

Today’s featured photo is of something I hope to see again soon… road signs!

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advice, airlines, coronavirus, Europe

Yankee– stay home!

Yesterday, I read a travel column on The New York Times‘ Web site. Someone had asked for advice about travel to Europe this summer. The article was entitled, “Help! I Want to go to Europe in August. Is This a Pipe Dream?” Below is the letter in question:

My husband and I are currently planning a trip to Ireland, Portugal and Italy for August and September. We are only reserving hotels with free cancellation policies and our airline tickets can be changed to a future date. Knowing that much of Europe is closed right now to United States citizens because of the virus, is there much hope that our plans will materialize, or are we wasting our time? What should I watch for? 

Kathy

The author of the column, Sarah Firsheim, wasn’t as discouraging to Kathy as she probably should have been. She pointed out that some destinations in Europe are opening up for tourists. Greece and Iceland, for example, are starting to welcome tourists again, as long as they’re vaccinated and/or have negative COVID-19 tests. She points out that a lot of hotels and airlines are becoming more flexible about stays, too.

What I would like to tell Kathy is that she needs her head examined. I don’t think flying to Europe is a good idea right now, especially for tourist purposes. But even if COVID-19 weren’t an issue, I would never recommend coming to Europe in August. Why? Because August is typically when Europeans go on vacation. Many businesses close while people take vacations or, if they happen to be expats from another country, they go “home” to see family. August is also uncomfortably hot in many parts of Europe, and not everywhere has climate control, although it is getting more common every year.

But especially this year, I think Americans coming to Europe is a dumb idea. I said so in the comment section, with this comment:

Everything is locked down in Europe. I live here now. Save your plane fare.

I got an “angry” reaction from some lady in Sweden, who says I’m wrong because things are not locked down in Sweden. This was my response to her. I will admit, I was a bit annoyed, because I’m tired of random yahoos on the Internet shooting people down and insulting them simply for expressing their opinions.

Happy for you in Sweden. Where I live, it’s been locked down since November. Same seems to be the case in all the neighboring nations. If I were living in America wanting to come thousands of miles to Europe, enduring an overnight flight on a plane, donning a mask while being poked in the back by my neighbor’s knees, and having the person in front of me reclined in my lap, I would want to be sure the trip was well worth it.

Right now, living in Europe and LOCKED DOWN for months, I would say it’s definitely not. Your mileage may vary in Sweden. *shrug*

And then the Swedish lady came back and wrote this:

We have never had locked down and I am happy for that. But we can’t do much anyhow can’t see friends. I would not have come here from US either.

Seems to me this would be obvious. I mean, technically, one could say that Germany never locked down like France or Spain did. It’s never been to the point at which one literally can’t go anywhere. But shops are closed; people aren’t supposed to visit (although my neighbors break this rule); some places have curfews; museums and attractions are closed; hotels are not allowed to accept bookings for anything but business travel… Why in the HELL would an American want to come to Europe under those conditions, except maybe to see family? So I responded thusly:

Yes, and that was my point. I am American and I live in Germany. I love Europe, but I wouldn’t want to come here from America now. Not until more people have been vaccinated and things are more the way they were before. I can count on one hand the number of times I have left my neighborhood since the fall. My car’s battery has died twice because there’s nowhere to drive, where I would go for a reason other than just to drive to keep the battery charged. It’s a lot of money and precious time off for most Americans to vacation in Europe. I think they should wait until they don’t have to make an appointment to shop.

Vaccination rollout here has been excruciatingly slow. Even the U.S. military, which was supposed to be getting us our vaccines sometime before the end of May, is now delayed because the shots they got were the Johnson & Johnson ones, which have caused clots in some women. And, at least in Germany, citizens can’t get vaccinated because there aren’t enough shots available yet. It’s going to take time before people are able to get the shots and things will be less weird.

I’m not sure if the Swedish lady realizes that many Americans– even those with good jobs– have a very limited amount of vacation time available to them. And that’s if they’re lucky enough to work full time and have benefits. Our culture doesn’t value leisure time like European culture does. A lot of people get two weeks– tops– per year for vacation purposes. Consequently, not only is it costly and uncomfortable to come to Europe from the United States, but those days off are very precious. And truly, I think Americans who are wanting to come to Europe this year are nuts, although I might consider visiting a place where things aren’t quite so restricted.

If I hadn’t decided against flying for the time being, maybe I would consider visiting Iceland, for instance. I have never been there and I would love to go. But, to be honest, the idea of flying is very unappealing to me right now. I think flying is unpleasant under the best of circumstances. People seem to turn into majorly selfish assholes when they’re on an airplane. Now, add in the fact that everyone is supposed to stay masked the whole time they’re flying… and not only is that uncomfortable and annoying, but now everyone on the plane is paying super close attention to what other people are doing, which I find weird and creepy.

The New York Times ran another article entitled “How Safe Are You From COVID When You Fly?” It was a pretty interesting article, complete with a cool interactive feature showing how air flow works. But just looking at the interactive feature creeped me out…

A creepy screenshot from the interactive simulator of everyone crowded together while wearing masks. It just looks really uncomfortable. Who wants to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for that experience, unless it’s absolutely necessary?
You can’t even eat a snack or drink something without everyone watching your every move, silently judging you and seeing how long it takes you to replace the mask. Creepy! Who wants to pay for that?

I do love to travel. I miss it, although I haven’t been as deprived as a lot of people have over the past year. But I don’t want to fly anywhere until the COVID-19 situation is more under control. I’ll fly if I MUST– like, if Germany kicks us out and we have to go back to the States. But I won’t be volunteering for the above experience anytime soon. I get the masks are important for now, but this whole coronavirus experience has made me dislike people even more than I ever did. And the idea of being mashed into a seat next to a bunch of cranky, hyper-vigilant people, right on the edge of making a scene over COVID-19 regulations, just makes me think flying is extremely unappealing right now. I would much rather drive, and not have to worry about fellow passengers and flight attendants observing my every move, fighting over armrests or seat recliners, getting through security, worrying about getting sick, using disgusting airplane lavatories, or any of the other many inconveniences and annoyances associated with flying.

And again… I think if you’re American and you’re looking for a vacation destination in Europe for this year, you need a reality check. Now is not the best time to be here. COVID-19 numbers are up, and things are very iffy in terms of border closures and lockdowns. I say, save your plane fare and go somewhere in North America.

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