Life at home in Germany


I am sitting on a bench under a blossoming linden tree.

When I close my eyes and listen I can hear the birds sing, the wind rustles in the trees. Quiet murmurs of a little river. Perhaps two, a maximum of three people talking as they walk past the bench I am sitting on.

In this part of Germany, we are still allowed to leave the house and go for walks at any time. Only with the people in our household, but nevertheless. And I am in the countryside, with fields and meadows right behind my home.

What strikes me the most is how quiet the world has become. I don’t hear the planes; I don’t hear as much traffic; I don’t even hear as many dogs barking. No big groups chattering, no children playing football, the world has come to rest.

It is hard to connect this calm atmosphere with the haste and negativity of the news. The pandemic is spreading ever further, the economy lays in shambles, and doctors do not have enough supplies to treat people adequately. And yet I am just sitting here, daydreaming, enjoying the quietude.

This ambivalence gives me a subtle feeling of uncertainty. The thought that this won’t last forever and that at some point I too will have to face the ugly consequences of this crisis.

Until then I sit under my tree and enjoy the sunshine.

Mathis Gilsbach


Germany during Corona-Shutdown

Germany – as already its official title ‘Federal Republic’ reveals – is a federalist state with 16  countries that have their own sovereignty about certain fields such as education, police, and crisis-management. Thus, during the Corona pandemic, what you can and what you can’t do depends highly on the place in Germany where you live. In some places, it is now officially a crime to sit on a bench in a park and read a book (even when you’re all alone) and the police would charge a fee of like 150 Euros if they bust you!

Lucky for me, in the country where I live (Saxony-Anhalt), there are not too many cases of COVID-19. Therefore the regulations here are not too strict and people are at least allowed to go outside as long as they are maximum of two people in a “group”. On the other hand, it is illegal to meet with more than one person even in your house (or in other private spaces). Some people have already been charged high fees for holding a “Corona-Party” at home. …so sorry for all my friends who were born in April!

As a person who likes to walk around and explore little back streets all on my own (mostly with my camera) or hiking around randomly in the forest and enjoy some fresh spring air, I probably can consider myself as lucky. My new job, however, is not running well lately…bad times for coordinating a school-project, when all schools are closed. At least I’ve got plenty of time now (to write something for VOICES for example).

The most iconic animal-metaphor these days is the hamster. Why? Well, in German there’s a word for buying lots of food and other things on stock: it’s called „hamstern“ (to hamster). Very likely we will tell our kids about 2020 – this year with the great toilet-paper and pasta shortage!

But there’s also light. One of the rather positive effects of the shutdown is, that Germany seems to have made more progress in applying digital tools for home-schooling and all kinds of online-based processes during the past four weeks than in the whole past decade! Whereby chancellor Merkel only a few years ago stated that „The internet is ‘undiscovered territory’*  for all of us!“

*(German: „Neuland“ – literally: „new land“)

Sascha Schlüter

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