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My Reopening – Story

(by Mia Grieser, Executive Housekeeper)

If you had asked someone in the past whether he or she would like to simply do nothing for six months and even get paid for it, you probably would have seen a lot of cheering and jubilation. Just imagine using the whole day only for things that you really want to do. That really sounds romantic.

I admit that the first few weeks were a blessing. Like a well-deserved vacation that I made the most of. Drawing, walking, reading, watching series, turning the apartment upside down and converting it into a home gym – all these things you don’t find time for usually due to the hustle and bustle of your everyday life. But even the best series comes to an end at some point. So what now? Apart from the pandemic happening all over the world and the news getting scarier day by day, the fear for my own existence has become an almost daily companion.

At the beginning of the so-called first wave, there was still a lot to do for me. Don’t even think that you can just close the door and everything is done. Neither can you open up again after months of stagnation and get started right away.

Not only in private life, but also in business, there are things that are difficult to organise due to the lack of time. Of course, the closing period had been the time to tackle exactly those things. Muck out here, tidy up and optimise there. Concepts had to be developed for the safety of our guests and employees. Orientation was given by clear guidelines. So almost everything ran as usual during last summer – according to the new laws and regulations, of course. Sounds pretty good so far.

But just as the virus mutated, so did the regulations of the provinces and the federal government – at least in my perception. The summer then was marked by uncertainties: What’s okay? What’s not okay? Who is allowed to come to us? From where are they allowed to come and for how long? Under which conditions?

Similar were the questions I had to ask myself: may I, can I travel having a clear conscience? I can only speak for myself, but I think that many people have dealt with such thoughts. Sometimes the time passed in slow motion, the world seemed to have fallen asleep.

The deeper red the incidence maps turned, the clearer it became to us that no presents would be packed for guests at Christmas this year. Then, at the beginning of November, the second lockdown. This one hit me harder personally. It was cold, wet, dark and turned quite lonely then. If you normally can talk to your colleagues all day long and see the joy about a nice room or good food in the faces of our guests, it is pretty hard to forego 90% of your contacts for half a year.

The beginning of 2021 was the beginning of a year, during which one did not already think about going to the quarry pond in March. The weather left a lot to be desired. The news that there is a chance of opening up the restaurant and hotel business by Pentecost seemed surreal. Joy and apprehension at the same time. Can I still do that? Are we going to have guests at all? Will we have to close again?

Then a start with many stumbling blocks, a lot had changed. Nobody knew for sure whether we would be overrun by guests or whether they would not even think of travelling out of uncertainty. Until now, a lot of people are still unsure, understandably admittedly. But the fact to get back into the company of people and at least put a smile on the face of those who decide to enjoy the little things in life again, that feels damn good.

It will probably still take some time for the situation to normalise again or for everyone to get used to a new definition of “normal”. In a few years’ time, we may think back to this time and – as macabre as it sounds – appreciate the benefits of the pandemic. One must not forget how many problems have now been brought into the spotlight that need to be changed. So I can say for myself that it wasn’t all in vain, you have to learn from it and rather see the chance for a better future.

But first and foremost, I am now looking forward to being able to put a smile on the lips of as many guests as possible.

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Our Trainee Antonia Daniels Speaks

Seven months of compulsory break were not only a challenge for the permanent employees in the hotel – our boss and the employees responsible for training also came up with a lot of ideas to look after the trainees during this time. We ask one of our trainees how it was – and how it felt to be able to start again.

Hey Antonia, how did you experience the almost seven months of closure?

While it was quite a long time in general, time passed somehow, because we had tasks to do in the hotel (be it cleaning, reception service or just doing written tasks on site) unlike during the first lockdown. In between we had school from the so-called «B» and «C» block and exams from the B block, so we were occupied during the seven months – sometimes less, sometimes more.

What did you miss the most during that time?
Everyday life and our guests. Only when you don’t work for a longer period of time you really begin to realise how much of your everyday life is filled by your job. Obviously, it’s nice to have some free time, but living a longer period of time without having appointments or time-sensitive tasks isn’t so much fun any more as days start to just pass without using them productively (at least that’s what happened to me)

What’s your opinion on how our trainees were taken care of in the Oberkirch during the «lockdown»?

I definitely thought it was really cool that we had something to do at all. In conversation with schoolmates I learned that while there were few who actually continued to work normally, many hadn’t done anything for the last six months. While we also spent only 3 days a week at work, additionally we were given tasks for homework. In any case we actively took care that the trainees didn’t just hang around at home and got bored. Internships were even organised for us, which I don’t think can be taken for granted. In general, I don’t imagine it to be that easy when you have to keep a group of trainees busy for several months and always have to make sure that you find tasks. From that point of view, I think that the Oberkirch has successfully managed to use the lockdown time sensibly for itself and for the trainees!

How did you feel on reopening-day?

While I was present that day I did not really realise the reopening as I was cleaning the rooms. After this, our boss granted me a surprise vacation for a week.

How did you feel to meet guests for the first time after so many months?

As I was in the housekeeping department, I did not meet really a lot of guests. The only contact I had, was after finishing my first working day. I just finished changing my clothes when a guest had difficulties with her door as she did not manage to lock the door from the outside. So I helped her, and she was very happy about it. This made me realise, how much I had missed our guests – it felt great to be able to provide our services one again.

Regarding the months ahead, what are you looking forward to the most?
I am looking forward the most to the routine when it starts again that everything is running reasonably normally. To the fact, that there are more than 5 people in the hotel (both guests and employees). To be able to provide great service again.

What would you recommend to someone on vacation in Freiburg? What should he or she see and experience by any means?

Must See: The inner city of Freiburg, especially all the small alleys (e.g. the «Konviktstrasse»). The cathedral inside and the cathedral’s place. The «Seepark» and the Schlossberg.
Must Experience: the wine festival

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A Boss With A (Huge) Heart

Aside from the event industry, hardly any other branch of industry suffers from the pandemic-related restrictions as much as the gastronomy and the hotel business.

This poses an extreme economic challenge for every gastronomic company. Therefore many companies, some from our region included, initially made all employees who were still in the trial period (and for that reason could be easily dismissed) redundant. Hence, many of our colleagues from other hotels and restaurants are unemployed today, as obviously hardly any company can hire new staff under the current circumstances

We, the OberkirchTeam, can (once again) consider ourselves lucky to have Doris Hunn, a boss who has never looked for the easy way out, has never thought selfishly, but has always had the well-being of everyone working for the company in mind.

Of course, we were and still are forced to make use of the furlough regulations. But nobody was made redundant at the Oberkirch and no pressure was put on anyone to leave – on the contrary. During the lockdown, Ms. Hunn tirelessly encouraged her employees, told us that she needs us and that we will remain fighting side by side in order to overcome this crisis.

That is why if you visit us now, you will meet familiar faces and a team that is happy to have a boss with a (huge) heart and therefore is proud to be part of the OberkirchTeam.