March 2019 saw me in my new home city in Central Germany and a year on we are living in a time of a pandemic.
The snippets below are observations and go hand in hand with my letters from Germany.
To enjoy coffee and cake – Life in a Time of Covid-19 (June 8, 2020)
To enjoy a coffee or cake we need to abide by the protocols set by the State of Lower Saxony (this is generally reflective of national guidelines). We must wear a mask to interact with a café host, socially distance and we fill out forms so that we can be traced and contacted in case we might have been subjected to the disease. Most importantly we should show solidarity toward each other which is mostly the case.
226 people are currently ill from Covid-19 in Göttingen and the local district (Approx. 250,000 people) which is an increase in cases from a few days ago. The confirmed total is now at 1,025 with 722 recovered and 77 having died.
There has been a lot of concern recently that the city and the surrounding area is becoming a hot spot. Testing has been ongoing since January and health services are able to find clusters and act quickly. In a block of flats 60 new cases were found and a café, running unlawfully generated several cases seeing 300 people subsequently quarantined.
There is no glory in prevention, and I am grateful to live in an area where it is nonetheless important – where open source data is fully updated and often, is carefully watched and acted upon, is depoliticised and where testing-tracing is robust. Also, national daily death rates and new infections associated with Covid-19 are low.
I hope you are as fortunate.
Getting our kicks – Life in a Time of Covid-19 (June 8, 2020)
We stepped off our bikes to look at small horses (this is very much a horse area) and as we admired them a woman cycled by. Whereupon she suggested to us we might want to look also at the white cow in the nearby village.
I was tempted to make a pun about living in the fast lane but that would be churlish in this time of Covid-19 where we all get our kicks where we can.
And yes, we did see the white cow after keeping our eye open for it.
Later we stopped our bikes to allow a local woman to walk her Alsatian across the road followed by her two cats. That was entertaining to see!
Oddly coming back to life – Life in the Time of Covid-19 (May 8, 2020)
The city of Göttingen and the surrounding Landkreis is slowly coming back to life, it does feel odd to see people playing tennis, children playing on swings and people shopping. Most of the do not enter tape has now gone, although public benches have not made a return yet.
At the height of the lockdown the forest was alive with people and it now feels quieter as people return to work or go to the city centre instead.
Restaurants and cafes are set to open soon, in the meantime, they are being imaginative by moving out onto the streets. But some things never change, and this is the availability of ice cream. Large ques had formed at parlours selling what is a popular German pastime, we found one which sold great I-Scream and we didn´t have to wait.
The situation in Göttingen and its surrounds is that a total of 809 people are/were infected with Covid-19, 165 of those within the city, 599 people have recovered and 66 have died.
Free to play – Life in a Time of Covid-19 (May 6, 2020)
Today playgrounds reopened here in Göttingen, Lower Saxony allowing children to swing and slide whilst I looked on with envy. I make up for not being able to play on the swings by riding my bike!
The reopening of playgrounds is part of a raft of measures being taken in Germany to loosen the Covid-19 lock down.
Next up will be cafes, restaurants, larger shops and hotels, but we will continue to have to wear masks when interacting with each other. The latter took some getting used to!
The football season looks likely to resume behind closed doors in May and nonprofessional local league sports may begin once more and this includes gyms. Schools will begin to take back students.
Under the federal system each regional state will be able to tailor their responses to a continued fall in Covid-19 cases, nonetheless there is a nationally agreed moment when to reimpose measures if cases spike etc. There is a great deal of talk regarding a second and even a third wave being on the cards.
I have seen much talk from the UK saying you cannot compare the numbers of deaths in countries with each other, but my response to that is that you can measure and analyse what countries did in response to the pandemic.
The sudden tidal wave that hit Italy was seen by us all, thankfully some governments reacted. Here we could have acted faster but Germany was still able to mitigate the lost time by stock piling testing kits, ramping up tests, implementing measures, freeing up ICU beds and clearly explaining decisions. Chancellor Merkel was criticised for scaremongering because during a super rare address to the nation she outlined a potentially terrible scenario if nothing was done.
I have been in lock down longer than people in the UK, although I was generally free to walk and ride my bike without angst.
I am heartbroken to see the UK having the highest death toll in Europe (and second in the World) and I can only think, what if….
Nicker Elastic – Life in a Time of Covid-19 (May 2, 2020)
We are now required to wear masks when shopping or in public offices etc. and across Germany the sound of sewing machines working can be heard.
The clackety-clack sound is of people making masks and some are nice to see. You can buy masks in shops and from vending machines, but to be cool you should wear a homemade one.
This home industry has led to a shortage of nicker elastic!
Masks made for us by our lovely neighbour.
Colour in this time of Covid-19 (April 29, 2020)
My walk to the supermarket was brightened by children´s art.
It rained today for the first time in ages and a child made a great drawing on the road.
And children are adding stones to a growing snake in the forest.
Goslar – ´rotted in with its privileges´ (April 27, 2020)
We had good cause (under the social distancing rules) to visit Goslar in the Harz Mountains.
Hide and Seek with Steins – Life in a Time of Covid-19 (April 28, 2020)
In Germany children are fond of painting small stones with imaginative patterns and sometimes with messages.
My neighbour Alvar aged 5 (no kindergarten) made nine stones and hid them around the garden for me to find.
I had great fun looking for them and I now I owe him an ice cream.
Currency – Life in a Time of Covid-19 (April 7, 2020)
(Germans have a sense of humour)
Life in the time of Covid-19 (April 1, 2020)
At the best of times parks, playgrounds and forests are alive with children and bikes here in Germany.
Right now, during the Covid-19 pandemic especially whilst playgrounds and public places such as swimming pools are closed, the numbers of children and parents in the forest have increased noticeably to me.
When I look back at the time of the pandemic, I will remember the many bikes ridden by children and discarded for a few moments and laid down alongside the paths as children explored amongst the trees.
This cargo bike was used by a young father, two children and a dog all out enjoying the sunshine. The four of them had abandoned the bike and were walking a nearby dried up stream.
Pandemics – Life in a Time of Covid-19 (March 21, 2020)
Military or war cemeteries are mostly well maintained enabling you to read the gravestone inscriptions. Name and dates are clear to see and for some people it is odd for them to read a date of death outside of the war years.
Dates after the end of wars are often found in cemeteries away from the fighting front line and if you dig a bit deeper you will tend to find that a hospital is nearby or was operational during that time.
In my new home here in Germany there are rows of those buried in the Stadt Friedhof who died in 1920´s and these stand out because many of these people would have died in the second wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. I have also seen the same in London military cemeteries/plots such as Battersea Rise, Earlsfield and Leyton.
Additionally you will find Australians, New Zealanders, Fijians, Chinese, Canadians, Caribbean, Indians and others from the Commonwealth (or Empire as it was then) buried in places such as South Africa and these are soldiers etc. who died in transit home from Europe and are buried at the nearest convenient port.
Post WW1 the death toll continued to build, some died of their wounds and others because of illness. The fact that the 1918 pandemic continued for years is told on numerous gravestones around the World.
Now is the time to look after each other, be ashamed if you snatched a toilet roll out of the hands of another etc., as so many did in what looked like a feeding frenzy in a shark tank in many supermarkets.