‘I’m cautiously optimistic about visiting at Christmas’: How the pandemic hit readers’ trips to Germany

The coronavirus crisis led to many people having to cancel trips, including to Germany. Here's some of the people who've been affected and when they hope to visit again.

'I'm cautiously optimistic about visiting at Christmas': How the pandemic hit readers' trips to Germany
Tourists in Berlin on June 11th. Photo: DPA

In March, the pandemic effectively grounded international travel as countries closed borders and implemented restrictions in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus.

It resulted in many people having their holidays cancelled or facing uncertainty on future trips.  Although the health of everyone is much more important than vacations during a crisis like this, lots of readers were still left disappointed at their plans being interrupted or sad that they couldn't see family or friends.

When we reached out to ask how your plans were affected and when you think you'll visit Germany again, we were inundated with replies. Here are some of your stories.

READ ALSO: Germany lifts travel warning for 27 European countries

Over half of readers cancel Germany trip

Around 100 people replied to our call-out from all over the world – and of those, 53.5 percent said they had cancelled their trip to Germany due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, 24 percent said they were still unsure whether their trip would go ahead.

And many of those who had booked travel are currently out-of-pocket, or still waiting for a refund or credit to rebook tickets.

Current EU rules give travellers the right to request a refund from travel companies over the cost of their tickets.

Honeymoon on hold

Whether it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the hills of Bavaria, a short holiday to see friends at the Baltic Sea or a city break to Hamburg, lots of people had to forget about travelling to Germany when the crisis hit.

Although most of the respondents to our survey said they accepted the situation (it's not every day that a pandemic comes along), it still caused some sadness and disappointment.

Sameer Kawthale, 28, from Bengaluru in India, said: “I planned to come for my honeymoon and booked everything but in the end I have to cancel. Kawthale said he lost half of his money “as the airlines have not refunded me fully”.

Chris K Patterson-Duebner, 59, from the US said he feels “empty and sad” after having to cancel a 60th birthday trip to Oktoberfest in Munich (which is cancelled this year), a resort in the Garmisch area and hiking in South Tyrol.

Patterson-Duebner managed to get credit from the airline to use on future flights.

A passenger at Hanover airport on June 15th. Photo: DPA

Arthur Dochterman, 59, from Florida in the US had planned to spend nine weeks in Berlin from the end of July. He was able to move the dates for accommodation to 2021, and got his flights refunded.

Meanwhile, Ken Kuhn, 69, from New Jersey in the US was gutted that his trip to Germany had to be shelved. He said: “We had a lot of special plans arranged since it has been 50 years since I studied in Heidelberg.”

Meanwhile, Abhijit Choudhry, 41, hoped to come to Bavaria from Sydney, Australia.

Jason Elsome, 47, from Texas in the US, is unsure when he will be able to reschedule his visit. He said: “We were planning on spending the last of November, and early December in Berlin. We've cancelled all plans for 2020. We are keeping an eye on Easter 2021 but I think we may delay all the way to 2022.”

Family visits affected

Lots of readers got in touch to tell us how they no longer had family reunions to look forward to, at least for the time being.

Raj Kumar Saini, from Moradabad, India was planning to visit his sons in Germany but had to cancel.

“I lost my visa application fees and trip to visa application centre in Dehli,” said the 60-year-old.

Mary Cassol, 65, said she felt “devastated” because she had been planning to take her two grandchildren and husband to Frankfurt, and visit other parts of the country.

“All hotels I could cancel, but lost money on flights,” she said.

Jeffrey Lazar, 72, from Austin, Texas visits his family in Heidelberg every year in summer but this year has been put on hold.

“I am cautiously optimistic about a visit at Christmas, but still think it will be in 2021,” he said.

Christopher Scott Burr, 54, said he was “very sad” after his July trip had to be cancelled. “My wife grew up in Germany and we were looking forward to revisiting many of the places she remembers during her childhood,” he said.

Hosiy Azami, in Stockholm, Sweden, had planned to visit his fiance and relatives in Hamburg but had to put plans on hold after borders were shut.

Rowena Tucker, 66, wanted to visit her son and young grandsons for a week – and hasn't received a refund on her tickets yet.

Lars Kroll, 31, in Sweden said: “I was planning a trip to visit some friends and family in Germany. It was end of March and the flights ended up getting cancelled. With Germany about to head into full lockdown, finding another route seemed like a bad (and probably futile) idea.” He received vouchers for the plane tickets.

Moving to Germany postponed

Susan Philipson, 64, from Whitby in England said she was set to “collect the keys to our new apartment” near her son's family.

“They have 18-month-old twins who we love to babysit,” she said. “Our son is now the key holder. Once we can visit Germany we will need to install a kitchen, furnish the apartment and make lots of time for family.”

Philipson said the family was “very disappointed albeit accepting the situation”.

Michael Richardson, 49, in Canada said he was going to travel to Berlin in May to organise for his move to Berlin.

“I had planned to return to Canada to “pack” my things. But, I am now still in Canada, and I have no idea for how long, he said, adding that there's been a lot of .

Bianca Karilene Kukla De Stefano, 27, said she is planning to move to Germany once its possible.

“My boyfriend is German and his family lives there, we quit our jobs in Brazil to move to Germany,” she said.

Lizzie Lines, 68, from Yorkshire in the UK was waiting for restrictions to lift before she starts looking for places to stay.

Photo: DPA

“I was planning to retire to Germany post-Brexit and knew that I needed to get there before the end of the transition period,” she said.

“I had planned to leave the UK in March and visit two or three cities of Germany for a month, then decide which area I wanted to live in, then rent a house or flat prior to buying a house.”

Cancelled events

Lots of people who contacted us said they were coming for events, but hoped they could reschedule the trip in future.

Andrew Cude, 46, said he was “extremely disappointed” as he planned to be in Berlin and Rostock in June. “I still may try to go in September,” he said.

Girts Krastins, 26, from Latvia wanted to go to Dua Lipa concert in Munich, “but of course it was cancelled” she said. 

“I had plans after the concert to take a tour around Bavaria, but as the airlines were shut I had to cancel everything and stay at home.”

Michael Mackenzie was supposed to travel from South Africa for an event in Leipzig in May.

The pandemic also hit work plans for people planning to come to the Bundesrepublik.

Om Prakash Vyas, 58, from India said he was disappointed that he was unable to take up his post as a visiting professor in Germany.

Dibin Baby from India got admitted into a phD programme in Heinrich Hein University, in Düsseldorf. But due to the pandemic, it couldn't go ahead.

“Cancelling my trip plan is unfortunate but this global crisis is inevitable,” the 24-year-old said. “We need to face it.”

READ ALSO: What are the rules for travelling abroad from Germany this summer?

Unsure if trip will go ahead

The German government says the worldwide tourist travel warning is in place until the end of August.

READ ALSO: Germany extends travel warning to non-EU countries until end of August

Andrew, 31, in the US said: “Our trip is in September and we're not sure the travel restrictions will have lifted.”

Savitri, 59, in Jakarta said: “I had planned to visit Germany at the end of this year, but it seems that is not a good idea now, at least until we have the vaccine. I don't want to travel anywhere but stay safe at home.”

No visits

Of course, the crisis has stopped people in Germany from receiving visitors.

Ashley Griffiths, 31, in Kindsbach, had hoped her parents would visit in May but they had to cancel.

Now she hopes her mum will be able to travel from the US in September to help look after her two-year-old son when she goes into labour “but now we are unsure if she will be able to be here for that, either”.

Griffiths said it was “heartbreaking”.

“There really are no other words. You can replace a vacation, but you can't replace the birth of a baby. It is hard not knowing when our parents will be able to come meet their new grandson,” she said.

Thanks to everyone who shared their experience with us. Although we weren't able to include all the submissions, we read each of them and we are truly sympathetic to the challenges Germany's international residents are facing right now.
If there's anything you'd like to ask or tell us about our coronavirus coverage or how the outbreak has affected you, please feel free to get in touch.

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Five of Germany’s most magical Christmas Markets to visit in 2021

Despite rising infection numbers, most of Germany’s Christmas markets will be open to fill our hearts with festive cheer this year. We give you a rundown of five of the country’s most magical Christmas markets.

Five of Germany's most magical Christmas Markets to visit in 2021
The entrance to the Stuttgart Christmas market in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tom Weller

In 2020, many Christmas markets in Germany had to close or were scaled back massively because of the pandemic. This year – at least at the time or reporting – lots of markets are set to open in the coming weeks. 

Here are five we love at The Local Germany. If you have any suggestions for magical Christmas markets in Germany, please leave a comment below. 

Maritime Christmas Market on the Koberg, Lübeck

Lübeck, the so-called “Christmas city of the North”, will be welcoming the festive season this year by lighting up its old town with over 500,000 Christmas lights.

The northwest of the old town island is where you’ll find the maritime-themed Christmas market which has been going since 2011.

Centred around the gothic, middle-aged church of St. Jacob, this Christmas market celebrates the city’s historical sea-faring residents by creating a cosy harbour atmosphere with old wooden barrels, nets and a stranded shipwreck as well as a Ferris wheel with an unforgettable view of Lübeck’s old town and harbour.

Culinary stands offer visitors sweet and savoury dishes, and beverages such as hot lilac punch, mulled wine and, of course, rum.

Extra info: The current rules for events and hospitality in Schleswig Holstein is that 3G applies (entry for the vaccinated, people who’ve recovered from Covid or people who show a negative test)  but from Monday, November 15th, indoor areas will be enforcing the 2G rule (excluding the unvaccinated).

The Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Christkindlesmarkt, Augsburg

With its origins in the 15th century, the Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg is one of the oldest in Germany, and the Renaissance town hall provides a particularly beautiful backdrop to this winter wonderland.

As well as a wide variety of stands selling handcrafted nick-nacks and tasty treats, the Augsburg market also has some especially magical features, including the “Heavenly Post Office,” and “Fairytale Lane”: an animated fairytale depicted in ten scenes in decorated shop windows around the market place.

Extra info: In order to keep dense crowds to a minimum, the Angel performance will not take place this year. The market will also be spread out over more locations in the historic centre and there will be fewer mulled wine stands than in previous years. The stalls will be distributed over the Hauptmarkt, Lorenzer Platz, Schütt Island and Jakobsplatz.

Meanwhile, masks will have to be worn due to the high Covid numbers in Bavaria – and there will be 2G rules around the mulled wine stands, meaning unvaccinated people will not be served alcohol.

READ ALSO: State by state – Germany’s Covid rules for Christmas markets

Medieval Market and Christmas Market, Esslingen

The Medieval Market and Christmas Market in Esslingen, with its backdrop of medieval half-timbered houses, offers visitors a trip back in time, with traders and artisans showing off their goods from times gone by.

The stands show off the wares of pewterers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, broom makers and glass blowers, as well as some old-fashioned merchants selling fun themed goods like drinking horns and “potions” in bottles.

Extra info: This year the number of stands will be reduced from more than 200 to around 120 and the stage shows, torch parade and interactive activities will not be taking place.

View from above the historic Streizelmarkt in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Streizelmarkt, Dresden

No Christmas Market list would be complete without the Streizelmarkt – Germany’s oldest Christmas market in the “Florence on the Elbe”.

This market, which you will find in Dresden’s city centre, first took place in 1434, and since then it has acquired quite a reputation.

The ancient market is home to the tallest Christmas pyramid in the world, as well as the world’s largest nutcracker.

Amongst the dozens of traditional stands, visitors to this market must also try the Dresdner Christstollen: the famous fruit loaf that is baked according to a traditional recipe with chopped dried and candied fruits, nuts and spices and dusted with powdered sugar.

Visitors can also take a ride on the historic Ferris wheel and gaze down upon the lovingly decorated huts of the Striezelmarkt.

Extra info: This year there will be no stage program and the mountain parade has been cancelled.

Old Rixdorf Christmas Market, Berlin

Although not as well-known as some of Berlin’s other Christmas Markets, the Old Rixdorf Christmas market is a romantic and magical spot which is well worth a visit. In the south of city in Richardplatz, Neukölln the old village of Rixdorf was founded in1360.

This charming setting is home to historic buildings such as the Trinkhalle and the Alte Dorfschmiede, and is illuminated every year with kerosene lamps and fairy lights. The stalls and booths are run by charitable organizations and associations. There are homemade trifles and handicrafts, but also culinary delights such as fire meat, waffles, pea soup, and numerous varieties of mulled wine and punch.

Extra info: The Old Rixdorf Christmas Market will be following the 2G model, meaning that all visitors over the age of 12 will be required to be fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.