A summary of things I’ve learned

  1. The drive from Frankfurt to Weimar/Bad Berka is the exact same length of time as the drive from Berlin to Weimar/Bad Berka. I don’t know about the train service though and Frankfurt may be easier if you plan on taking a train. Berlin is a much saner airport than Frankfurt and getting a rental car was easier there. The cost of airfare was no different and each time I connected in Amsterdam to Berlin. The Amsterdam airport is equally as large as Frankfurt, but seemed easier to navigate. You also go through passport check/customs in Amsterdam both coming and going and don’t have to do that in Berlin. This seemed easier than Frankfurt.
  2. If choosing to rent a car, I have found that europcar.com offers the best rates with minimal hassle as compared to going through any of the individual car rental places. You book your car and your reservation will tell you which agency to check in with. Also should you get a ticket in Germany, europcar.com does not charge you for providing that information to local law enforcement, whereas the car companies themselves do to the tune of $25.00 US.
  3. If renting a car, check with your credit card company about whether they provide rental car insurance. I know that American Express does. Also check with your own insurance company on this. If you have to pay for rental vehicle insurance through your credit card because they don’t cover it, trust me that I think it would be cheaper than what they will gouge you for at the rental car company. Again, the rental car experience in Berlin was much more pleasant than Frankfurt.
  4. More rental car stuff… Make sure you go over your car with a fine tooth comb for damage, document the damage by taking pictures with your cell phone and don’t be lazy about finding a rental car company employee to document the damage. In Frankfurt in particular, the guys who check in your car get bonuses for finding damage and they do a very thorough job of looking for it and comparing it to what’s been documented. Again, Berlin isn’t that bad.
  5. Driving in Germany… The autobahn is pretty intuitive and I found it an awesome experience and a model I wish the US would follow. Don’t hang out in the left lane, think ahead and follow suit from the other drivers. It helps to browse Germany road signs, parking signs and the like before going over. Parking and no parking zones on streets seem to be the most confusing, but honestly, it isn’t as big a deal as you would imagine. I would also make sure that you get navigation in your car and have the rental car company set it to English. It makes it ridiculously easy and remembering to when we navigated with paper maps, I’m surprised I could ever find anything 15 years ago.
  6. Cell phones – with today’s cell phones, it was cheaper for me to call Verizon and add on international pass to my phone. It’s a daily charge of $10.00 US. Yes, you can get a prepaid phone once in Germany and just use that, but there’s the obvious inconvenience of not having your contacts programmed into it. I haven’t checked into getting a European pre-paid phone prior to leaving, but seems like a good option.
  7. AirBnb – You can find several very high quality apartments ranging from $40 - $80 per night. I provided Gary with contact info on a reputable person. Just make sure that you look at the apartment beforehand because if stairs are an issue for you, most places have stairs. Parking is also pretty tough in Weimar and depending on the AirBnb, there may be some walking involved between where you can park and the apartment.
  8. Finances – I chose to open a bank account with Deutschebank at the Weimar branch. It took a bit with a minor language barrier, but I was able to do it using my US address. I chose to do this so that I would have a local Maestro (debit) card and a place to deposit money when the Euro is down. It makes paying for treatment, as well as getting food and gas much easier. Having an account with Deutschebank also made it easy to pay traffic tickets, LOL, which when compared to the US, are ridiculously cheap. I got a parking ticket and two speeding tickets due to traffic cameras. Most citations are from traffic cameras and get mailed to you. If you see a big flash when you’re driving through a town, expect a ticket in the mail with a nice picture of you behind the wheel. The ticket will show up in your mail about 10 days after you get home. The cost of both speeding tickets was $15.00 US. I simply wasn’t paying attention and not intentionally speeding. The parking ticket was ironically cheaper than paying for overnight parking somewhere, so win-win. Paying the ticket through a German bank account is a simple bank transfer. If you are going through your US bank, it’s going to be much more expensive because of the wire transfer fee and exchange rate that your bank charges, but it’s doable.
  9. Finances Continued – there is an online service called transferwise.com that allows you to transfer your money from your US bank to a German bank account if you have/get one. You could also likely use this to transfer funds to the hospital. It is automatically converted into Euro and they do not charge exorbitant rates. It’s a flat rate that is less than the cost of doing a traditional wire transfer with exchange rates in addition, transferwise.com gives you up to the minute exchange rates. For example if the US $ to Euro is 1.04, that’s your rate! You pay a flat rate of $25.00. This is cheaper than even using a debit card at an ATM and paying your banks conversion rate.
  10. Arrive two days early for your first trip to get a lay of the land.
  11. Go to the grocery store or convenience store and get some food that you like. Yes, German grocery stores are a bit daunting again due to the language barrier only. Otherwise, they are great with everything you could ask for and more. Take food and drinks to the hospital because the food at the hospital is generally pretty bad. Get ready to eat food because there really isn’t a way once on the ward to prepare food.
  12. Food at the hospital is not a typical US meal for any meal. Breakfast consists of bread, meat, cheese, fruit, and cereal if you order it. The first few days that you are in the hospital, you get a standard meal tray. After that, you actually get to pick and choose a few things. Lunch is the only hot meal for the day and on each trip at least once I was served herring in a cream sauce that both smells and tastes like cat food. The evening meal is more bread, mystery meat and cheese.
  13. If you have family staying in the area, they can bring you meals to the ward, which isn’t a bad option. They can do this even when you are confined to your room due to having received PRRT. Also if you are alone, the nursing staff will order pizza for you if you have the cash to pay for it. I think you can also order beers, which is in stark contrast to the US hospitals.
  14. More on food… Weimar has many very good restaurants. There is no shortage of Italian restaurants and spaghetti in German is spaghetti in English. You will know the menu without trouble. If you don’t like Italian, there are other options to include a Texas Steakhouse.
  15.  Checking yourself off of the ward. On your first day after you get registered, find the ward, get your room, and get labs drawn, you can check yourself off of the ward for the night. Based on your schedule of testing the following day, the nursing staff will tell you when to be back on the ward. It was generally speaking around 0800. Once the testing is completed that day, you can check yourself off of the ward again, so you can stay with your family for that night and eat decent food. As an example, on my last trip (November 2016), I registered, got to the floor, dealt with the preliminary stuff and checked out. The following day, I checked back onto the ward at 0800, underwent testing until 1:30PM and checked off of the ward for the night. The second day full day I checked in at 0800, underwent testing until about 2:00PM, met with Dr. Baum around 6:00PM and checked off of the ward for the night. The third day was PRRT day and was confined to the ward until discharge.

That’s about it… I hope this helps others out. My wife is going to be providing an account of her experience as a family member to provide perspective. Find it below this!

J. Reynolds