Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Planes, trains, automobiles, and boats. Four countries and four modes of transportation—and here we are at the Hyatt Place, spending our last night steps away from the Zurich Airport poised for our morning flight to LAX.
Only yesterday morning we pulled our suitcases up the gangplank and loaded them into a waiting taxi. We asked for the Basel train station, but the taxi driver was thinking ahead. “Have you already bought your tickets?” he asked. Finding we had not, he offered to drive us to Bern himself. Even though the price was high and three of us were squeezed in the back seat for an hour, this saved us valuable time.
And we got to see the wintry Swiss countryside, with farmhouses and patches of snow here and there.
John got to the American Embassy in Bern before noon and he had his passport by 2 o’clock. There were no other tourists at the embassy, he had all his paperwork in order, and came with the right change in Swiss Francs to get passport photos from the photo booth. Tip: Research on line and have all your ducks in a row if this ever happens to you.
They said he should have gone to the nearest embassy immediately after losing the passport, but that would have meant going to The Hague on day 2 instead of cruising on the Rhine.
As it was, we were able to walk around Bern and admire the beautiful store windows, the outdoor ice skating rink, and the elegant little Christmas market. There was one entrance, where they checked your COVID pass and ID on the now-familiar Swiss app, then total masking in the market area, and one exit, where they noted how many left, so there was never a packed crowd inside.
This morning we pulled our suitcases to the Bern train station and bought one-way tickets to the Zurich Airport. A 75-minute train ride got us to the airport and the Hyatt Place where I had reserved our rooms the night before. It turned out to be a brand-new hotel, just opened this week, quirky and modern, on the Circle, a new shopping and dining area wrapping around the airport. I think we are the first people to occupy these rooms!
But we still had one more hoop to jump through —the COVID antigen test is now required to be done the day before flying to the United States. Because this rule just came into place on Dec. 6, we had a hard time finding the testing location in the airport, but once there, the line wasn’t long and things went smoothly.
Within half an hour they emailed us the results and we got a printout at the hotel which we need to show the airline tomorrow. Time for a nap, buying last-minute gifts at Laderach’s chocolates, and a farewell dinner.
During the entire trip I’ve seen headlines like, “U.S. Issues ‘Do not Travel’ Covid-19 warning for Germany, Denmark.” (Reuters) and “Is it safe to travel right now?” (USA Today). I have to admit, the requirements right now are challenging to keep up with.
But for the highly motivated, it’s worth the effort. The countries we visited are taking the same precautions we take at home. In addition they have free testing available everywhere. We’ve felt safe and we’ve had some amazing experiences. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
At the moment, however, we are excited about being home for Christmas!