The Day(s) of Hell!
Let’s start with the good news first. It is Thursday night and I am writing this while sitting on a deserted Air Canada flight from Toronto to Frankfurt enroute to Ljubljana. The picture above was taken as we flew over Salzburg. Not a lot of photos to choose from yet and this view was great. Now let’s go back a few days.
A few weeks ago, we received an email from the campground where our RV has been stored and waiting for us. They told us that we would no longer need to quarantine and could enter Slovenia as long as we had a reservation at a tourist place which they provided. We then checked the airlines and booked a ticket for a few days after my mother’s birthday to join our camper. Our main concern was our transiting through Germany. We are not allowed to enter Germany due to Covid-19. The German consulate told us that we could transit as long as our luggage was checked right through and we didn’t have to clear customs. I thought that since we would be leaving Frankfurt on a regional plane that we would have to officially enter the EU and the Schengen Zone in Germany which might mean that we wouldn’t be allowed to transfer through Frankfurt. We spent a lot of time talking and emailing the German consulate and checking the internet and it always came down to these same two requirements. We never once managed to get Air Canada on the phone, so they weren’t any help. The German consulate was pretty sure that, since we were staying on Star Alliance, we would be fine but there was no guarantee.
We also checked Slovenia out. It was the first country to declare themselves “Covid free” and open up. They still have restrictions and precautions, but it looked like they were in good shape.
Mike and I both did some really silly things within four days of departure. Mike finally decides to upgrade to Windows 10 and in the process has his entire machine wiped of all data. This generates a lot of work and worries. At the same time, I finally buy the cameras that I wanted on our balconies so that we could see the lake, the marina, Toronto and the sunrises and sunsets when we are traveling. I have wanted this for a long time but trying to set this all up to work remotely just before we leave was another headache we really didn’t need. During this period, we also decided to go for our Covid test so that we could take it and show it to the German officials or anyone else who is interested. We were both negative but we have since found out that many countries only accept tests done in the previous three days and a few locations say that only a test taken within 36 hours is valid. Our physical test will be a week old when we try and enter Germany and Slovenia.
So, two days before flight Mike and I are snipping at each other while still constantly checking the internet for covid issues. The day before departure we are madly running around including going out to get our international driver’s licenses, which is typically a 5-minute effort. This time it takes 3 hours and requires driving to multiple cities. This puts us way behind schedule. We get back to the apartment and I cannot find my EU passport anywhere. During the last six months we have performed fairly major renovations in our condo including adding built-in cupboards and shelves to nearly all the rooms. Mike and I madly searched everywhere many times over. My sister called. She and her daughter were coming over to say good-bye. After hearing the panic in my voice, they decided that a Google Duo good-bye would fit our schedule a lot better. It was too bad as I would like to have seen and talked with my niece, but passports took priority. My super husband did eventually find my passport (in the second place I had originally looked).
Everywhere you looked on the Internet there was contradictory information about whether or not you could enter countries, whether you needed to quarantine, whether or not you could transit. It was just awful and there was no-one willing to confirm anything.
We got to the airport three hours ahead of flight time expecting some delays. Mike and I both have two passports as Mike was born in the Netherlands and I was born in the UK. We got a big shock at the airport. Our major concern, our transfer through Germany on our EU passports would not be a problem at all, but Air Canada insisted that we couldn’t enter Slovenia with any of our passports and therefore we couldn’t check in. Air Canada had one “manager” running around telling all the check-in agents which passengers could and could not board. It was ridiculous. He looked on the internet and said that because of Brexit I would need a visa with my British passport. This really surprised me because Brexit isn’t supposed to affect travellers until Dec 31 this year. He said that Canadians were not allowed to enter Slovenia at all. This information all comes from one IATA website that all the airlines supposedly use. He said that the only way we were boarding the plane was if we had a letter or email from the Slovenian government saying that we could enter the country. We couldn’t get hold of anyone at the consulate in Toronto, but Mike did eventually reach someone staffing an Embassy desk for “emergencies” in Ottawa. Health issues are emergencies, not travel problems. On top of everything else, today is a major Slovenian holiday, like our Canada Day, and most employees were on holiday. The embassy staffer told us that we would be allowed to enter Slovenia as Canadians, but we will need to quarantine for 14 days. We did not think to tell him that we are clear of Covid which we are hoping will help. I sent the Embassy a note with our names and nationalities and within a very long 30 minutes, they replied that all Canadians can enter Slovenia with the restriction of needing to quarantine. We quickly took this to the Air Canada manager who said it wasn’t good enough. The Slovenian email reply never repeated our names and didn’t say that we specifically could enter. They said that “All Canadians” could enter. We tried to convince this manager that this was even better than mentioning us directly and was all inclusive. He didn’t care. He wanted an email with our names and passports numbers saying that we could enter. In the meantime, an older gentleman in a wheelchair and his daughter were trying to board the same flight to Slovenia. He was fine because he had a Slovenian passport. Mike thinks that they refused to allow his daughter to accompany him because she was Canadian.
By the time the very helpful embassy got back to us for a second time, the Air Canada manager has gone off duty. The new manager looks at the email and starts questioning how he can know that it is really from the embassy. I told him that the embassy had been willing to talk to the previous manager, but he wanted it in writing. By now we are cutting it very tight for the luggage check-in which closes one hour ahead of departure time. You would think that they would make exceptions during this period but no, if we didn’t get our luggage checked in by the right time, it wasn’t coming to Europe and that would be a disaster. It has all sorts of items for the RV that you can’t buy in Europe. An Air Canada agent who was just going off duty heard us, asked when our flight was and told us that we had three minutes to get checked in and to get our luggage into their system. He then agreed to stay and help us. We raced to get a computer terminal for him to use and he was saying things like only one-minute left. I think the system must close-out the luggage acceptance automatically because he looked very worried. We did get it in time. By now I was very hungry and very thirsty and badly wanted a cup of coffee. As we got to the gate, we saw that almost everyone (which wasn’t very many people) had already boarded so I would have to wait for my coffee. The first thing they tell us on the plane is that there is no proper hot meal, you get a box with a sandwich when you take off and some small box when you land. There is nothing to drink accept some water on the rare occasions that they bring it. Transport Canada has told the airlines to limit the contact between their employees and the passengers and this is how they are doing it. There is NO COFFEE! The good news about a deserted plane is that you can spread out as much as you want and there is never any line up for the washroom.
As I write this it is another 2 hours until we get to Frankfurt and a total of six or seven hours before we arrive in Slovenia. Hopefully, Lufthansa doesn’t use the same website and try and say that Slovenia won’t take us and hopefully we don’t need to quarantine with our negative covid tests. Earlier this winter the campground said that they could look after us in quarantine, but I don’t know how we would make the one hour drive from the airport to the campground and pick up some essentials all while supposedly in quarantine. We will wait and see. If I have time, I might post this from Frankfurt and keep everyone else in the same suspense that I am in ?. More likely I will add an update here to let you know if we actually make it to the campground and whether or not we need to quarantine. If there is, what does that mean in a deserted spot on the Adriatic. More to come.
Quick update: We are in Slovenia and there are a lot of problems. It isn’t fun at the moment. We are in quarantine, not where we were supposed to be for various reasons. Once things have settled down a little and we know what is happening I will post another article. Give me a couple of days.
Happy Canada Day to our Canadian readers.