Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Corona Conundrums in Germany


Foto von Moose Photos von Pexels

Let me begin by saying, for the record, I love living in Germany. Many expats (and locals!) complain about the bureaucracy and the frequently crappy customer service. I have had very few problems with those. We also don't have a problem with the Corona rules We follow them like the good little kittens who found their mittens.

But this weekend was for the shitter.

Here's the short version of what we went through this weekend, an entire year into this pandemic, mind you:

We had planned a private thing on the weekend which involved leaving town, so…

  1. We went to the local Corona-Test-Center on Friday for Schnelltests (results in 15 minutes)
  2. I tested negative, M tested positive.
    Medical helper told M not to panic because it could be a false positive, but to quarantine and get a PCR test as soon as possible.
  3. M found a doctor to do the official PCR test immediately.
    Labs don't test on weekends, we'll have to wait until at least Tuesday for the results. M's probe hung out in the doc's refrigerator over the weekend.
    M did a home test (same as the Schnelltest, just at home): Negative.
  4. We slept in separate rooms and self-isolated over the weekend and into Monday.
  5. Saturday & Sunday, M did a home test each day: Negative.
  6. On Monday the Gesundheitsamt (health department) called M and informed him he is officially in quarantine until 29 March. M told him it was only a Schnelltest and not the official PCR test results. Gesundheitsamt Guy didn't know that. He also didn't care.
    I searched the internet to find out if I am in quarantine also according to rules in Freudenstadt. Looks like yes. Gesundheitsamt guy could have told M that, just sayin'.
    M did another home test. I'm starting to think he enjoys the brain tickle: Negative.
  7. On Tuesday morning, after another negative home test, the friendly doctor called with the good news that M's PCR test results are negative!
    She faxed (yes, faxed) the official certificate to the Gesundheitsamt, I drove to her office to get the form, and M emailed it to the Gesundheitsamt.
  8. After lunch M called Gesundheitsamt guy to ask if he can be officially released from quarantine. He was told no, once the quarantine has been activated, it cannot be abgebrochen (stopped).
  9. My head exploded.
    I spat through clenched theeth, "I'm calling your mother!!" (I unload pretty much everything onto that poor woman.)
  10. Thirty minutes later someone else from the Gesundheitsamt called (without knowing M had already spoken to someone there) and told him his quarantine has been officially lifted/cancelled because of his negative PCR test result.
So after dutifully getting a Schnelltest so we could enjoy our weekend guilt-free knowing we’d both be Corona-free,* we had to cancel our plans and sit around in separate rooms waiting  four days wondering what the hell. The test itself, once the lab received M’s probe, took a good deal less than 24 hours. But because this is Germany and test labs are closed on the weekend even during a global pandemic the government cannot figure out how to get control of, we’ve been shitting ourselves for 4 lengthy days.

*We knew this because he has even fewer contacts than I do, and my only contacts are people I pass at the store while wearing a mask (required Germany-wide). If either of us, but especially HE picked up Covid-19 or any of its variants, we're all screwed.

Here's the thing. If he and I struggled this much trying to find out A) what we both needed to do each step of the way and B) getting reliable information, what about the elderly who only have a Smartphone because their granddaughter set it up for them (but can't visit at the moment because vaccines are coming at us in Germany like a sloth swimming through molasses) and don't really know how to navigate the internet? What about expats and immigrants who have greater challenges with German than I do? What about people who are alone and have no one to help them (or bitch to)?

We are one year in, and this should have been streamlined long ago. Those who test positive even with just a Schnelltest should be given a one-page clear explanation using short sentences telling them step-by-step what exactly they need to do from that moment until either they receive a negative test result or their quarantine ends. It would be great if that sheet were available in more than one language.

I don't pretend to have the answers to everything, but Jesus Murphy! 

If you found your way here because you've tested positive and have made it beyond the "What the F*ckkk?!?!" phase, I found this PDF from the Robert Koch Institut today, after I'd calmed down and didn't need it anymore. It is at least a place to start.

And if you found your way here because you are one of the powers-that-be, I volunteer to write that one-page document instructing people what to do after they've tested positive with a Schnelltest. Just send me an email. Sorry, I don't have a fax machine.

For those who haven't yet needed one of those brain-tickle tests and wonder what it's like (that was me until Friday), it's not so bad. M describes as "picking your nose. ALL the way."

Bleibt gesund!! // Stay healthy!!

Sunday, March 7, 2021


Here in Germany we are still on lockdown for the most part. Salons and a few stores have been allowed to open, but restaurants and cafés are still closed except for take out. I imagine everyone is getting eager to dine out again, and I know the chefs and restaurant owners are hoping for permission to finally open for outside and inside dining. In the mean time all we can do is cook for ourselves and order take-out when we want something special - and to support local businesses!

Earlier this week M sent me the Sonntags-Menü for today from our favorite local restaurant, and I think I had jotted down my order within three minutes. I also knew immediately what M would order without even asking him: Meat, not chicken and salad, not soup. When I called to place our order, the Chefkoch, Martin Straub, told me the Rebowls had arrived, and I enthusiastically said we're in! I had read an article in the local paper that several establishments in the area were going to start with this system, so I knew they were coming. 

The short version is that a restaurant, Imbiss, etc. signs up for the program and pays a monthly fee as well as a deposit on the number of bowls they want for serving their take-out meals. They are made of good-quality plastic with tight-fitting lids, are microwaveable and dishwasher-safe. Customers who prefer this container over one-use plastic and styrofoam agree to pay a €5 Pfand (deposit) on each bowl, take their order home, and wash the bowl and lid. The next time they place an order they bring the clean bowls back, swap them for the new bowls in which their order is packaged, and off they go again.

This is our double-order since we both had the same main course.
We re-plated it on our own plates for dinner.

But what if you are not a regular customer and are only ordering from that restaurant this one time? You can swap the bowls for orders placed at any establishment that  is in this system. When we are finally able to travel within Germany again, we'll check out what places in the area we plan to stay are in Rebowls - and take the bowls with us!

When the customers think they don't need the bowl(s) any more, they can return them and get the deposit back. They are out nothing and have reduced the amount of waste connected with take-out! Every little bit helps.

The Rebowls can't be kept warm in the oven while you enjoy your starter, but neither could the throw-away styrofoam containers. You can always plate it and then put it in the warm oven.

Our local butcher is also in on the program for their lunches-to-go, several places in Tübingen, one restaurant each in Herrenberg and Böblingen, and of course several places in big cities like Stuttgart. We hope to see the program expand! Check the Rebowls website to see if there's a participating restaurant near you.

So far there are no establishments in Esslingen participating, but we received a postcard advertising the program to send to someone, and I just might do that!

So, then. What did we order and enjoy today? Because that's what you really came here to see, isn't it?

Karottencremesuppe mit Frühlingskräuterpesto & Kracherle

Knusprig gebackene Fleischtäschle
auf buntem Gemüsesalat mit Paprika-Avocado-Creme

Schwäbisches Frühlingstöpfle

Bayrisch Creme & Schokoladenmousse
Himbeertraum & Obstsalat

We definitely look forward to restaurants being able to open for their sakes, and we will enjoy dining in again and enjoying a glass of wine in the nice atmosphere (Straub's Krone is within walking distance), but the Krone team has kept us well-fed during this pandemic and ordering take-out from them to eat at home has been the next best thing to dining out. We are very happy they're participating in the Rebowls program and happily support it!

Guten Appetit!!

P.S. I do not make any profit from my blog when I write about or recommend a place or a product. My descriptions and reviews are honest and my own.