Postcard From the Rhine

Originally my wife and I were due to go on a Rhine Cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, but due to the ban on even doubly vaccinated travellers from the U.K. from entering the Netherlands without undergoing a 10 day quarantine on arrival this was cancelled with only two weeks notice. We were only due to spend less than two days there before our next port of call at Cologne to which we could fly very easily and enquired whether it would be possible to join the cruise there instead. Apparently not. No explanation has yet been given. So being keen continental rail travellers we arranged our own itinerary instead, along with all the testing rigmarole.

We flew to Cologne from Stansted and then took a local train to the main station in the City. The weather was perfect and we had a pleasant meal outside in one of the many restaurants beside the Rhine. Being outside meant no mask wearing and no signing in anywhere. Even in the hotel there was no compulsion to wear masks.

Next morning we did a spot of tourism and found the Chocolate Museum further down the Rhine. Indoor mask wearing compulsory, unfortunately. We took the train to Koblenz, our next destination along the Rhine. Our travels through Germany were complicated because of a train drivers strike which meant that fewer trains were running, although not a problem from Cologne to Koblenz which only takes an hour.

The rules for travelling in Germany by train state that FFP2 masks must be worn as a legal requirement so I had to order a pack of 10 from Amazon before departure. But if it was a legal requirement, few people were observing it. Most of our fellow travellers were wearing the ordinary blue surgical masks.

Our hotel in Koblenz was much stricter about mask wearing, but out of doors you could go mask free even when eating.

While in Koblenz we managed to have a 90-minute Rhine Cruise, which was some compensation for the one which was cancelled. While on the water we saw a vessel belonging to the line which we should have been on. The same vessel had previously been moored in Cologne when we were there the day before. We began to wonder if they had been running cruises from Cologne after all.

Later that day we saw a group of travellers on another vessel of the same line being escorted around the city. Rhine cruises were clearly running, but not our one.

Next day we went to Lucerne in Switzerland via Basel. The route follows the Rhine for much of the way and the best bit is that from Koblenz to Mainz where the track follows the river particularly closely for about an hour. Our train of choice going all the way from Koblenz to Basel would have been composed of Swiss coaches featuring a “panorama wagon” with almost floor to ceiling windows. Sadly due to the train drivers strike this did not run so we had to do the journey on local trains to Mainz and then to Frankfurt where we could get a train to Basel. There was quite a long wait at Frankfurt for our next train which was itself delayed due to the strike.

At last we arrived in Basel.

We spent three nights in Lucerne and with sunshine the whole time we were there we had a great time. The usual rules about masks in the hotel applied, but no plastic gloves at breakfast. Masks were also still required in shops but not elsewhere as we ate outside in restaurants the whole time. While in Lucerne we needed to take our three day before return test. As Switzerland like Germany is a “green list”country only a lateral flow test is required according to our passenger locator form. This was very easy to arrange as there was a test centre near our hotel with no booking required. Although very liberal at the time we were there, we heard that things were to change the following week.

Our last night was spent in Zurich where we met a friend. This was chosen as there are direct flights from Zurich to London City Airport, thereby avoiding the maelstrom at Heathrow.

At Zurich Airport our documentation was checked both at check-in and before boarding. As we had everything printed out this was very quick and easy.

On our return home we went for our day two test which was negative like the other two.

A few days later while having lunch with friends we received several text messages and emails from NHS Test and Trace ordering us to self isolate immediately with no reason given. Then later on several abortive phone calls, seemingly Test and Trace trying to contact us. Eventually, I checked the Government website which said that if you had been doubly vaccinated you don’t need to self-isolate if you’re pinged by Test and Trace. The next day a caller got through and told them we were exempt from having to self-isolate. Later on my wife picked up hers and elicited eventually that somebody sitting near us on the plane had tested positive. Why we were not told this in the first place and that it does not apply if doubly vaccinated I do not understand.

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