Fringe Box



Schwesterlich News: Schadenfreude Sums It Up

Published on: 2 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 3 Feb, 2021

The next in our regular exchange of news to and from our twin town of Freiburg in south-west Germany.

They are open letters between Penny Leube, co-chair of Freiburg’s Anglo-German Club, and Barbara Ford chair of the Guildford Twinning Association. See previous letter’s here.


February 2021

Dear Barbara,

What a time to be writing to you not only in this ongoing pandemic crisis but now in the midst of a jab war. “Calm down, dear,” as David Cameron famously said, so perhaps that should be the order of the day.

The vaccine rollout in the UK is very impressive but not heralded here in the media with such gusto and glee as yours truly would wish, but that’s just my red, white and blue blood bubbling to the surface.

Understandably, it’s a bit galling when things are not going so well with the rollout over here and I am sure a Brexit-sour taste for many lingers on.

Certainly, the media seems far more gleeful showing those empty Tesco shelves in Northern Ireland, disgruntled fishermen, and the mile-long queues of stranded lorry-drivers, 12 of them from nearby Titisee Neustadt, by the way. (Thank you, Mr Macron, for a merry motorway Christmas.)

And how the media just loved that discarded ham sandwich in Holland. Schadenfreude, what a wonderful German word that sums it all up.

As you will have gathered from the shenanigans twixt Ursula and AstraZeneca, there is a vaccine shortage. “Where are the vaccines?” the “impf” centres demand (impfen: to vaccinate) as stocks run low and appointments have to be cancelled or can’t be booked.

Baden-Württemberg (Freiburg’s state) was languishing near the bottom of the jabs-in-arms league table, but I notice, as with the Freiburg football club (yes, near relegation before Xmas and now ninth) it has put a spurt on and has moved up above North Rhine Westphalia and now has Bavaria in its sights.

This is sounding a bit like the Grand National.

Each state (16 of them, and what a nightmare for Angie they are, and Boris you think you have a problem, and you’ve only got three with Nicola, Mark and Arlene). Each is in charge of its own health and education policy and sets out its own way of doing things.

In some states, letters were sent out, but in Baden-Württemberg (BW) it was up to every individual who wanted a jab to apply (at present it is still available only to over-80s and health workers) by phone or online.

Lotti receiving the 10,000th vaccination in Freiburg, The photographer told her he was sent by the Oberbürgermeister to record the event.

Residential homes are provided for by a mobile vaccination team. Readers’ letters and the telly told the story of the hotline, “hot” with expletives, no doubt, from the frustrated callers and of the online bookings proving very challenging for some over-80s.

But in spite of all these hiccups, we are getting there. A while back, a club member, Lotti, proudly phoned to tell us she had been photographed as the 10,000th to be done in Freiburg. Here‘s hoping many more have been done since then, and Ernst and I will not have to wait too long for our shots.

The main vaccination centre in Freiburg is its Exhibition Hall, which only last year had been the scene of much jollity as the OB (Oberbürgermeister, top mayor) hosted the New Year’s reception there for 2,500 guests.

It was supposed to be the opener for the year-long 900th celebration; we all know how well that turned out. What a contrast one year on, instead of the sound of clinking champagne glasses filling the hall, the sound of clinking vaccine vials.

Freiburg’s Exhibition Hall – Image Wikipedia

We can only hope 900+1 will fare better. I am happy to report that it got off to a good start as OB Horn came up with a novel approach and rather than cancel the jolly he went online with this year’s reception.

Judging by the number of clicks it was a great success and perhaps for those of you not familiar with Freiburg, it is worth clicking just to see some opening shots of Freiburg: See it here.

I cannot be the only one, Barbara, who is reminded of the Hokey Cokey, in, out, shake it all about, as that seems what we have been doing all this past year.

Freiburg curfew or Ausgangssperre as covered on the official Freiburg town website

When I last wrote, we were just about to go into lockdown light, then shortly before Xmas we came out of light into hard, with a curfew added on top for good measure, and after New Year, it became lockdown extra hard, with family bubble +1, and an obligatory surgical mask FFP2 (Filtering Face Piece) to be worn in public places.

More costly, but some freebies were handed out, they are more effective, but definitely not very flattering, Miss Piggy here I come. All those cheerful, colourful fabric ones are no longer needed, so Nicola, Germany’s telling you to get rid of that unhealthy tartan one.

What about those curfews, you ask, Barbara. I had always associated them with stories of wartime and military regimes and here we were in peaceful BW being confined to barracks (8pm to 5am). Only Bavaria and Saxony have imposed them as well, until now).

To be honest, it really hasn’t made any difference, being as it is winter, cold and dark and there is nowhere to go. Perhaps, if this curfew continues into spring and summer it will be a very different cup of tea.

Unwittingly, we did manage to break it over the New Year, though, or rather our neighbour did. He came over for a drink and we just got chatting and well, that Baden wine did the rest. Fortunately, it wasn’t snowing so there were no tell-tale zig-zag footprints to his door.

If only our dear pooch had still been alive, we could have provided him with an excuse “gassi gehen” (walkies) and all would have been well, because that is allowed.

Let’s hope when that life-saving vaccine arrives (yes, the Oxford AstraZeneca will do nicely, Mr Macron, and Mr Spahn) all of the above regulations will soon be surplus to requirements, in time to prevent us from becoming that too.

A very big thank you for your chatty letter with your different insights on how things are panning out over there. We had a lot of very appreciative emails from friends and Anglo-German club members saying how informative it all had been.

Apologies for the tardy reply and I certainly have no excuse that we have been very busy socialising, with our contacts now reduced to plus one. Even at this late stage though, may we still wish you and Tony, and dear Guildford, from Ernst and me and the club, a “Frohes and Gesundes Neues Jahr”?

Before I close, a quiz question for you all: “What is Alexei Navalny’s connection to Freiburg and the Black Forest?” It is easy to discover on the internet. But quite interesting.

Here’s sincerely hoping the next time you hear from me things will have improved.

Do take care, and our very best wishes from us here to you all in dear Guildford, and love to you, dear Barbara.

The Guildford Twinning Association has just launched a Guildford-Freiburg Zoom quiz in mid-February for members of both clubs and their friends – keeping in contact!

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