The Things ... A Holiday Interrupted


The Things ... A Holiday Interrupted

I had said in The Things ... Series that I would go on a vacation, possibly go to a museum and do some other things no one should do in the midst of a global pandemic. And there was no obligation to do any of this because nothing had been previously planned, booked or paid for. There was absolutely no need to follow through at all. Especially with Berlin being a destination plagued at that moment with rising numbers, new guidelines and volatile politics. But I figured why not and within days of going my husband and I planned an epic trip. We booked a hotel for four nights in Berlin Mitte. Picked seats on an ICE train. We made reservations at recommended restaurants. We scheduled tours, got tickets to shows and planned to do all the unassisted touristy things. And of course we didn't do it all because time ran out and things just aren't as accessible as B.C. (Before Covid). But the reoccurring theme was always the fact that the coronavirus was lingering and affecting everything around us. And that bitch ruined almost everything good about the freedom of being on a vacay. I see so many of you going on last minute trips here and abroad and I commend you. Because I am not beat for this new normal. 

Wearing A Mask for Five Hours Plus Isn't Fun

Surely, we can do it. If doctors and nurses can do it for 18 to 24 hours we can too. If people on planes can do it, then trains should be just the same. And if you can forget your mask is even on and drive all the way home from the HIT with it still on your face, you can take an Uber or a TaxiNow for twenty minutes in a mask. However, once I schlep my shit up and down platforms, lifts and stairs I am out of breath and sweaty. I look like a fucking Corona patient zero. I am disheveled. I am exhausted. And I want to take my fucking mask off. But I cannot take a moment to breathe ohne Maske because the train is arriving and someone may cause a scene. So I board, sweaty, tired and have to sit there uncomfortable for the duration of my travel. These aren't fifteen minute smoke break Amtrak trains. These are DB and ICE trains already late as fuck and barely offering a minute to disembark. There is no exception for a small puff of clean air. And when you arrive you cannot even do it then. You have to schlep your shit all the way to where you will stay and maybe if allowed you can have air related freedom from the comfort of your room. I feel sorry for those who must wait to check in. Or whose super host isn't there to provide a key. Or whose hotel lobby is filled to the brim and there is no outside, safe area to just breathe. And in our case, the moment we made ourselves comfortable housekeeping brought up robes - Maske auf to open the door. 

Amenities Cancelled 

The bar is permanently closed. The minibar emptied for precautions. The lobby restroom is außer Betrieb indefinitely so there goes the secret spousal poop room after midnight. The fitness center you can use at your own risk. If there is a pool it too is closed. If you wished to use the business center well you must do so in a mask. Breakfast is not available. Room service is not available because the restaurant is limited at the moment. All the creature comforts of a four star plus hotel are cancelled due to Covid-19. And you can complain or seek your pleasure elsewhere but curfews and guidelines effect that too. The bars close at 11pm but because restaurants have bars they too close. And if alcohol cannot be sold why would the kiosk remain open past 11pm for water and candy sales. Nothing is open because there is no grey area. So if you find yourself snack lusty or itching with thirst it is tap water and the last cough drop in your coat pocket called Scotland. Maybe you can make it until after 6am and go to a cafe for your fix. But imagine there is no seating because that is also limited. And imagine the niceties like spooning sugar are met with instructions of what spoon is clean, returning the dirty spoon and not stirring ones drink with it. So even the simple luxury of having brunch or a latte is destroyed with regulations and restrictions. 

Green Hotels Have Gone Red

I have never minded the green hotel that subscribes to three day plus cleanings. And what exactly is the point of refreshing a room daily? I mean at home one might sleep in the same sheets and re-use the same bath towel for at minimum one week. So I see nothing wrong with continuing the same practices in my home away from home. I also quite like putting the do not disturb sign on and only giving permission for someone to enter when I am far, far away. I mean even if its just to provide more toilet paper I want to do that when I am ready. But in Covid there is no housekeeping. You can request more towels or toiletries but no one is going to actually hang the towel or touch the bathroom counter. In fact, no one will remove the trash, wash the tub, lightly re-make the bed or reposition the chair back under the desk. No one is going to enter your room during a pandemic even when you are out for the day. They will leave the extras on the closest surface to the door and you will have to endure the conditions you have created until checkout. And there is something very unsettling about tidying things up expecting service and returning to unmade beds like some sort of peasant. I think I pelt out an audible scream. How dare this lady put a fucking swan towel on my desk and not take the 7.2 empty chardonnay bottles by the door!? It took me a good minute to realize she wasn't risking her life for my vanity or gluttony. We leave, they come ... and that is that is that. 

Reservations and Tickets Please

Berlin had imposed an 11pm to 6am closure rule which focused on alcohol sales but again this included basically everywhere. So there was a certain level of time constraints to the normal vacation lingering dinner and cocktails. We had to get dinner reservations for basically any place outside of fast or casual food. We set the reservations as late as possible - anywhere between 19 and 20:30 Uhr. If we were in Spain or France I would have made it 9pm or later. However, now we had to think about the service portion, getting our orders in a timely fashion and if there would be any room to go anywhere else after. The entire week there was simply no way to have both. During our first formal dinner instead of getting a bottle of wine we had multiple cocktails which was cheaper and more of an experience considering when we would have left all we could do was get back to our hotel room. We did want to visit bars but most opened after 6 or 7pm and so did most dinner centric restaurants. In order to eat a meal after going to a bar you would have to leave before anyone even showed up. I guess a way some places tried to prevent a mass exodus was charging a cover or offering tickets to a "show". So for a bar I really wanted to go to we bought these time slotted tickets for a performance we had no clue about. As other people arrived it was clear they came to support the performer and we just wanted to patron the bar. The singer was absolutely phenomenal but we were starving and everything would have closed if we stayed any longer. We had to walk out during this awesome performance and basically forfeit this ticket we had just paid for. The icing on the time sensitive cake was one of our reservations being cancelled two hours before dinner. Our last night's dinner was hyped all week by the restaurant. There was a new, exclusive tasting menu put on their social media the day prior. I had an outfit all planned out. Then the owner calls warning that the area of the restaurant has a known cluster of Covid-19 infections. She claimed her staff was fine but she didn't want to take any chances serving guests. While we appreciated the warning, we were left scrambling to find a similar place on short notice. There was no way to get a reservation same day at a decent restaurant in Berlin. Especially so during a pandemic where everything closes at 23 Uhr. Luckily, my husband remembered a place he had been years ago that was sort of a hidden gem. But then all our plans changed and we had to factor in an Uber to a new location. 

Museums and Tours

I didn't want to go Museum Island and countless other historical and or art related sites that have tours. We had been to Brandenburger Tor years prior and walked in droves of people to all the major political sights. Walking for ages past all those embassies and consulates was boring. I imagined now these places would be now. Awfully full of people and all these regulations for distancing and that was the last thing I wanted. I was surprised to see that these places were even open. There were plenty of walking and bus tours still operating as normal. And museums all had placards advertising exhibits and upcoming shows. The only thing I had to see was Tempelhof. I also wished to view the Topography of Terror and East Side Gallery. All of these being outdoor activities that I would control. Tempelhof has a few tours of the airport. Each one boasts different sites, durations and ticket costs. I figured no matter where we went I would see something I could photograph. I did imagine being outside, mask free and able to use my large format camera. Nope. Covid-19 prevented that because we were a group of people all from different households. We were not allowed to take our masks off at any point. And the free reign of moving about a museum or gallery during Covid-19 also not a thing. We were not allowed to get close to the guide, touch any doors or be left behind. This poor guide had to open an area, usher us in and then push us out to close the previous doors. This added a lot of time to an already long walking tour which included seven flights of stairs. We were seldom outside and even when we were we not allowed to take a breath or use any camera larger than a phone. I figured this wasn't about flash because they would have just prohibited flash photography. It was more or less about remaining to set up or take down your gigantic camera when we had to move in and out of ventilated spaces as quickly as possible. The alternate tour that boasted perfect photo opportunities was basically worthless because the main photographic area of the airport was being used for some third party exhibition. Honestly, a phone was your best bet in cropping out whatever that was to try to prove you had even been inside. Thankfully, the guide was enjoyable. The next days even outdoor spaces had traffic patterns and security guards so it wasn't any better. We visited the indoor portion of Topography which was unexpected. It was just an opportunity to get out of the cold and rain for a bit. However, there wasn't much idle time to take in the exhibit. Interactive displays were closed off. People would come in groups inside a space forcing you to move out. The only perk was seating and a restroom. Once we exited we realized there were separate traffic pattens for the outdoor exhibit and the remaining Berlin Wall. We would have to walk the length of both to enter or exit as suggested. Again it was raining and I absolutely refused to keep walking around in a queue for things that were open and free. We left without walking the wall but I took a picture from the outside of it. And I was surprised to see it was roped off and in the middle of a street so that you would have no choice but to walk the exhibit to see it. My husband offered a consolation of Checkpoint Charlie. And as I suspected it really was nothing to see there but crowds and tourist traps. 

Leniency and Latency 

Above all being in Berlin was sensory overload. There is so much density in comparison to a small city like Köln. And in these seas of people you could count all the unmasked faces or exposed noses for miles and miles. This mass population needed to get from point A to point B so train stations were packed with people not obeying any guidelines. I never saw anything, anywhere being enforced either. So as much as we tried to adhere to whatever rules we had grown used to in the NRW it was as if they didn't exist in Berlin proper. On our first U-Bahn there was a woman on her phone who seemed to attract a lot of attention. It wasn't the call, it was because she was the only person on the entire train without a mask. It wasn't around her arm or under her chin. It appeared as if she never had one to begin with. And she was was boldly on the phone staring at all of us like we were aliens. This was a reoccurring theme - mask-less people most everywhere. There were also literal human traffic jams and bottlenecks as certain trains were offline or traveling newer routes as detours. People would pile off this ended train line and the platform would be bursting with people. The alternate train just never seemed to come and it was like an eternity being underground, surrounded by people and not able to go anywhere. Thankfully, we avoided places like grocery stores or a Primark. I wouldn't want to see what scenarios like that looked like in Berlin. It always felt like places like that were built in mammoth proportions for the amount of people there and if there was always a defector on a train imagine in a closed space. 

A Return Trip

As I mentioned we didn't get to do everything. And in my heart of hearts I saw myself returning in a few weeks time. The Bahn card was on sale for the month of October and I thought I might as well use it. If I bought a return ticket now it probably wouldn't be too bad cost wise. I could come up over a weekend, stay with a friend who I couldn't hang out with during my initial visit or maybe just get a suite to myself. I had a memorized list of all the places we missed and so many more deemed more fit for a girls trip. It rained a few days while there and shopping was sort of a miss with my husband in tow. Next time I wouldn't have to fill my suitcase with all these outfits for formal dinners and just come casual and return with shopping bags. I also wanted to take a lot more pictures for content here and with the overcast there just wasn't any good opportunities. Above all I had figured out my way around and considered Berlin to be harmless. Surely, it isn't Köln but I am a Jersey girl and it seemed almost too easy to navigate the city without hiccups only the occasional performance, pick pocket bump or a sighting of human feces. Nothing too bad I couldn't escape with crossbody purse, no klein geld or a good KN95 mask on. But almost immediately as we left so many new guidelines were imposed and as of late the lockdown. All of this in my window for return. I didn't even get an opportunity to unpack before twenty six new fußgänger zones were announced with mask requirements. And then just days after that a national lockdown where tourism of any kind is verboten. Even if I had tried to sneak away there would be no way for me to book hotel accommodations or eat out for all of November.

The risk factor of vacationing within the confines of Deutschland are too high with satisfaction being at an all time low. And now no longer possible. Bleibt zu Hause