Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Memories from the Germany-Hungary trip


When you visit a new place, every single day is an experience. Sometimes there are challenges which make you learn and grow. Isn’t that what travel all about? Apart from the immense joy it brings to your life, of course!

So this year when we went to Germany and Hungary, the Boy and I had our share of interesting experiences which I thought I’d share here.

Transport offense

Our hotel in Frankfurt gave us a complimentary pass for the local transport for the length of our stay which was 4 nights. It had my name spelt wrong so I had to change it when I noticed the mistake the next day. On day 3, we were on a local tram when the inspectors came to check the tickets. We took ours out and as I was holding and waiting for the inspectors, I noticed that the receptionist had given me a 2-day pass by mistake and it was now expired! The inspector came to our seat and just as I was about to show him my ticket, he walked behind us where a drunk man was sitting and spitting all over the place. We had actually noticed him before and therefore decided to change our seats and sit away from him. Anyway, the inspector and his colleague dragged him out and made him get off at the next stop. We too got off without them checking our tickets!

It was a narrow escape. Even though the fine was 60 euro, I had major palpitations because I am the types who follows the rules to the T. Lesson learnt – drunk people are super cool.

License blunder

While we were in Baden-Baden, we went to pick up our pre-booked car. We had plans to drive around the Black Forest for 3 days. We had done the area before in public transport and so this time we wanted to do something different. It was quite exciting because the prospect of stopping anywhere, going to random places without planning, and just exploring at our own pace was fun in itself.

When we went to Sixt to pick up our vehicle, the manager asked the Boy for his international driver’s licence, his passport and his licence from the country of residence. Now when we travel, we tend to empty our wallets and keep only the necessary cards and cash. The Boy had left his national licence in Bahrain because it was not required. The manager refused to give us a car without it.

Frustrated that all our plans will need to change now, we tried to contact the other car rental agencies. Avis readily agreed to give us a car with our documents in hand and we had a Volkswagon in less than half an hour!

Lesson learnt – keep only the important things with you when you travel. Oh, we know this from before!

Health struggles

I always plan my trips very diligently because I don't want any health struggles. I have difficulty climbing steps and walking uphill and so before going to a place of interest, I see how the location is wheelchair friendly because if it is good for a disabled, it should be ok for me.

This trip was planned at the last moment due to forever changing covid numbers. I was not able to plan every single thing. When we were in Budapest, we decided to go to a cute near-by village called Szentendre. This town was one hour by train. When we reached the train station I saw that the step into the trains was very high. Usually the Boy lifts me up in such situations. But I have a thing with trains. Since they stop only for a minute or two, I panic in case of a difficulty. That is exactly what happened. I could not climb, it was a huge step, the Boy tried to help me but his usual style wasn't working, and the train's door was about to shut and leave the station!

It was the scariest moment ever. But my Knight in shining Armour lifted me with all his might and I was in the train. It took me a while to get over this and while returning I was just glad that Szentendre was the first station for the train and I had ten minutes to get into it!

Why o Why do they make steps like that! We need a more inclusive society and this is one reason I dread going back to India. There I can't do anything alone!

Leap of faith

I love being in nature. The idea of being in a dense forest with the smell of nothing but trees and wet sand is my most favourite thing in the world. But unfortunately, most of this involves hiking which I cannot do. When we were in Baden-Baden, we took a cable car to the top of a hill. This place had mesmerizing views and a dense forest along the way. It was approximately 4 kilometres from the base which didn't seem like a difficult task going downhill.

I entered a part of the trek on the top and was amazed by how serene it was. Emotions took over me and I started walking downhill convincing the Boy that I will manage the whole way. After one kilometer I realised what a mistake this was. Although I was loving every breath I took, each step felt like an enormous task. With several breaks we managed to reach the base but by then it had started raining and I was drained! I lost balance and fell down, without getting hurt, thankfully. We didn't have a car on this day and the bus was about half an hour away. With no bench in sight, we decided to call a cab.

The next day was super scary! When I walked out of the hotel for breakfast, the floor was moving. My nervous system had completely gone bonkers from the experience! I prayed for this to pass which it did in two days.

Will I do the downhill trek again! Oh, yes, but probably towards the end of the trip so that I can have my bed rest for two days!

Sweetest gestures

When we called the cab after my experience mentioned above, it was raining heavily. On arrival to the hotel, the cab driver told me to wait in the car. He ran to take out an umbrella from the boot and escorted me to the hotel door! I cannot forget his sweet face ever! 


Ah, sweet memories, I want to go back already!

Monday, September 20, 2021

How to get a digital EU Covid health pass if you are vaccinated outside of Europe

If you are familiar with Covid-19 applications, then there must be one which is widely used in your country. It has your vaccination details, your test history, the situation in your country, and is needed at many places for entry. Similarly, Germany has Luca for its citizens and since June, EU launched an application which saves your vaccine certificate digitally to make travel easy between the Schenghen zone. It is called CovPass.

How to have your vaccination certificate issued in your country visible on the CovPass or how to convert your vaccination certificate into an EU digital certificate? The process is simple although it has certain steps.

First, you have to find the pharmacies that issue digital vaccine certificate in a particular city. Our first city was Baden-Baden in Germany. I found a list of pharmacies there which issue the same and emailed a few. This list can be found here.

There were a few that said that they will not convert, but one responded in the positive. It said that they need my vaccination proof with a QR code and my passport.

When we landed, this is the first thing we did. The pharmacist scanned my QR code and performed checks on their device. Then she issued me an equivalent vaccine certificate for Germany which had another QR code. All I had to do then was scan this code into the CovPass and I was done! I was now free to move in the Schenghen zone! I could also scan this code in the local Luca application which was checked at many places in Germany.

Note that I am vaccinated with Pfizer Biontech vaccine. You can only get an EU pass with certain vaccines. As far as I know, Sinopharm and Sputnik are not accepted.

We travelled to Germany, Hungary and France after this and did not have any problems. We showed our CovPass whenever asked which was quite a few times and it was easily accepted.

To find the list of pharmacies issuing this certificate will require some research. For the German list, you can look here.

There might soon be a global application to show your vaccination status. Or better still, Covid-19 will miraculously vanish from the face of the world and we will be able to jump with joy across borders without any problems.

Planning a trip during this pandemic requires a lot of research. But trust me, it is all worth it in the end!

P.s. Rules regarding Covid-19 are forever changing. This was my experience in August 2021 in Germany. Please do your research before travelling.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

How to choose a travel destination during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Boy and I live for travel. Our lives change when we take a break of two weeks and explore a new place. The experience rejuvenates us mentally and gives us plenty of memories to go on for the next few months. Although this is the smallest issue, but this is the only (thankfully) reason that the pandemic has been hard on us.

So as soon as travel became a little safer, we took our Schenghen visa appointment and decided to fly into Europe. Our criteria was simple –

-        -   there should be a direct flight from Bahrain to the destination because masks are hard to wear for longer periods of time,

-     -   no Quarantine requirements,

-      - high rate of vaccination,

-       -  and new covid cases numbers should be low.


That gave us only one city to fly into – Frankfurt. We were excited since Frankfurt is close to one of our favourite regions in the world – The Black Forest. We decided to go to Hamburg and Berlin as well but as we were planning, the Delta variant started spreading in densely populated areas of Germany and so we decided to travel to Hungary after the Black Forest.

Ah, I planned and planned but things changed constantly. I have no complaints though!

So how do you track covid numbers diligently and choose your vacation spots? There is a lot of data available online which makes everything very easy.

The first thing to consider is the incidence rate in any place. This is the number of new cases per 100,000. Usually, it is the average number of cases per week. The higher the number, the more the cases. Also, higher number means more curfews, chances of lockdown, greater use of masks, and an exhausted healthcare sector. When we started planning for the trip in July, the number for Germany was less than 1. When we returned, it had become 11 which is quite high. Hungary was less than 1 when we went and changed to 2 when we left.

If the world is your oyster, consider opening google maps. Click on ‘Layers’ and then press ‘Covid info’. When you zoom into any country, you will be able to see the incidence rate of that place. That was our starting point.

The next thing to check is the positivity rate. This is the percentage of people who test positive of the number of tests taken. The more the testing, the better you feel about how the government is reacting to the pandemic. Germany was taking only 1 test per thousand of its population which is low in comparison to its neighbours, but the positivity rate was also low at 1%. It increased to 8% when we left.

It is also great to see a local website of the country which can be found by checking where Worldometer is taking its data from. For Germany,this website has comprehensive data.

Now those are a lot of statistics to look at before you travel. But if you want to be safe and feel comfortable during your travels, this is the best way to go. For some people, ignorance is bliss. That is clearly not the case with me. I am not paranoid, but I am not carefree either.

It is another thing that you forget all about these numbers when you are on a holiday. I did not check covid info even once while we were on the vacation because by then we had already taken the plunge! If the laws are not stringent, nobody wears masks in these countries. We were the only people in most places who were very serious about masks and sanitisers. My prime concern was that I don’t want to fall ill in a foreign country even though I was fully vaccinated and my risk of serious illness is very low.

Coming up next - How to get an EU Covid Digital Health Pass while in Germany/Europe and bits from the trip!