It’s time now for my customary “ten things I learned post”. Since this wasn’t our first time in the Czech Republic, I’ve already done a “ten things I learned” post for the country. Nevertheless, this most recent trip was very educational and entertaining on many levels. We really enjoyed ourselves, but we also learned a lot. Besides, people seem to like these summary posts better than my usual detailed postings. So here goes…
10. Cesky Krumlov is well worth visiting for a day or two.
I mentioned that Bill and I visited Cesky Krumlov for a few hours back in 2009. I thought the town was really adorable then, and vowed to go back someday. This time, we stayed there for two nights. I think one full day in Cesky Krumlov is probably sufficient for most people, although we certainly could have enjoyed another full day there. I don’t know if I’ll go out of my way to return, but I wouldn’t object to it. It’s a beautiful town and well worth a stop if you’re in Czechia.
9. English is widely spoken in the tourist areas of Czechia.
On prior visits to Czechia, we noticed that it was helpful to speak some German. This time, we noticed that a whole lot of people are fluent in English. It’s not a given than they will be, but there’s a good chance that if you go to a touristy area, you don’t have to worry about a language barrier if you are an English speaker.
8. Brno is well worth a stop!
Of all the places we planned to visit when we were coming up with our itinerary, Brno intrigued me the most. I had read that it is an “up and coming” destination in Czechia. It’s not as handsome and charming as Prague is, but it’s definitely got its own vibe. And if you like caving, it’s a must visit destination, as there are several show caves there that are beautiful and worth seeing. I will never forget our visit to the Punkva Caves. I also noticed that Brno was not as heavily touristed as Prague and Cesky Krumlov. For that reason alone, it may be worth putting on your itinerary.
7. Someone may be watching you when you’re eating at the street food fest…
We certainly weren’t expecting to encounter an unhoused woman when we sat down to have lunch at a street food fest in Brno. But she did us a favor by eating our leftovers, and teaching us a thing or two about charity and not wasting food. And while I didn’t leave Brno with any artwork, I did leave with a memory and a great story. I doubt I’ll forget it anytime soon.
6. Prague has surprising “wild kingdom” moments…
I don’t know if I’d ever heard of nutria (otherwise known as coypu) before I spotted one swimming in the Vltava River in Prague. At first, I thought maybe I was watching an otter or some kind of beaver, but I’m pretty sure I saw a nutria, an animal that has taken up residence in Prague and is apparently causing issues.
5.If you’re near Lichtenstein Castle on the first Sunday of the warm months, you should visit Olgahöhle!
Again, this is a suggestion for those who like visiting caves. This cave is kind of special, and it’s only open on the first Sunday of the warm months. We happened to be able to visit by chance, and it was well worth the stop.
4. You can now purchase vignettes for Czechia online and there’s no longer a need for stickers.
This was a really welcome and convenient development for our trip. We were able to buy our vignette online, allowing us to use Czechia’s high speed highways. There was no need to put a sticker on the windshield. And the day before it expired, they helpfully sent a reminder email.
3. But the backroads are still in need of repair…
Our trip required some detours on secondary roads. A lot of them were in need of repair, thanks to potholes and other issues. On the other hand, they can take you to some great places, like the cool burger place we found because Bill needed to pee.
2. The people of Czechia are very warm and hospitable…
I can’t think of a single incident during our trip where we didn’t encounter very pleasant and warm people, especially in the hotels and restaurants. It definitely lent to the country’s charm and makes me want to go back again and again. This is also a great place for shopping, especially if you’re looking for art and unique toys.
The food, wine, and beer is very hearty… but if you want to, you can easily burn it off!
I was amazed anew by how rich and filling the food was on this trip. As heavy as German food can be, I think the Czechs have them beat! But I also found myself working hard, walking, climbing stairs, enjoying nature, and burning that fuel quite handily. Czech wine is pretty decent, by the way. I might not choose it over Italian wine, but it probably deserves a lot more attention than it gets. The beer is, of course, excellent and noticeably different from Germany’s beers.
So… that about does it for our most recent trip to BW and Czechia. We meant to see our dentist in Stuttgart and take in the sights in one of our favorite European countries. We missed the dentist, but sure made up for it with good times, new experiences, new friends, and fun. I hope if you’re inspired to visit the Czech Republic, you will take the plunge! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Since we used to live near Stuttgart, I wasn’t planning to write a “ten things I learned” post for our latest jaunt down there, but for some reason, I feel like writing a travel post today. Maybe it’s because I recently made a photo folder for my new computer, and it’s flashing some of my prettiest pictures, as opposed to every picture on my hard drive. A few photos from our latest visit to the Stuttgart area have been included in my photo folder.
So, to satisfy my itch to write about travel, and to maybe generate some new views, here are ten things I learned on our latest trip to Stuttgart. I do learn new things every time I travel, even when it’s to places I’ve been to many times!
10. The TV Tower (Fernsehturm) is closed on Mondays during the winter!
The Fernsehturm is located very close to the Wald Hotel. I’ve been up it twice, and although Bill doesn’t remember going up there with me, I’d swear he went on my second trip. We thought maybe we’d kill time last Monday and go up it again, but alas, it’s closed on Mondays! BUT– after April 1, you can visit on Mondays… until the winter season starts again in November.
9. If you’ve already seen the Blautopf, and you liked looking at the deep blue water, you might also want to visit Brenztopf (Brenzursprung)!
I’m grateful that we were able to come back to Germany, if only because when we were living here the first time, I had never heard of Blautopf, let alone Brenztopf. These are very beautiful ponds in the cavernous areas near Ulm. Blautopf is in Blaubeuren, which is an obviously touristy town and has more facilities. It might be the “better” of the two ponds, given a choice. A visit to Blautopf can be paired with a trip to the Tiefenhöhle (Germany’s deepest show cave open to the public– also open after April 1), in nearby Laichingen.
However, Brenztopf, in Königsbronn, also shouldn’t be missed, for those who like looking at mysterious, beautiful, blue bodies of water. Below are photos from both places. The top three photos are from Blautopf, while the bottom three are from Brenztopf. Both places are probably best visited after April 1, for the “summer” season. On the other hand, if you visit before April 1, there are probably going to be fewer crowds to battle.
8. If you want to get the most out of a visit to Hohenzollern, you might want to wait until the “summer” season starts, on April 1.
It’s cheaper to visit Hohenzollern Castle in the “winter” season, because one can only see the grounds during that time. If you want to actually go into the castle and take a tour, you will need to wait for the warmer months. That is also when the Biergarten opens, although I can’t promise that an April visit will be any better weather wise than a March visit would be. If you’re short on money, a “winter” visit might be better. Tickets are significantly cheaper during the cold months.
7. Taking the bus to Hohenzollern is so worth the money!
I mentioned in my post about Hohenzollern that Bill and I have had the experience of walking up the path to the castle. It’s definitely not for the weak. If you have any physical problems, or you’re just old and out of shape like we are, you might want to spring for the shuttle bus. Just sayin’.
6. Obviously, we need to schedule our dentist appointments AFTER April 1…
You’d think that after so many years of living in Germany, and near Stuttgart in particular, I’d already know this… But then, Bill is the one who schedules these things.
5. Besigheim is a very cute town, especially if you like German wines!
I never would have known about Besigheim if I hadn’t started following Facebook tip groups by Germans, for Germans. I wish we’d taken the time to shop for wines when we visited, but we were both eager to get to the hotel. As it was, we were still stuck in Stuttgart’s famous Staus.
4. Heidenheim is also well worth exploring, although it’s a bit of a hike from Stuttgart.
Now that we’ve seen it, maybe we’ll go back and see Schloss Hellenstein, which overlooks the town and has two museums. The castle dates from the 12th century, although the original version was almost completely destroyed in a fire back in 1530. Right next to the Schloss is a nature park, which has a bird of prey station and serves as home to many wildlife species.
3. It pays to check out restaurants thoroughly when you’re hungry.
When we visited Heidenheim, we wandered around a bit, trying to find a place for lunch. The first restaurant I spotted, La Strada, is where we ended up enjoying a lovely lunch. But we almost missed it, because although there was a menu board outside, the window next to the menu board made it look like the restaurant was deserted. All we had to do was go up a flight of stairs to find the entrance! The “deserted” room on the first floor was just another dining room that wasn’t open for lunch.
2. Always plan for a pause.
We were under the impression that La Strada had a warm kitchen throughout the day on Saturday. However, that turned out not to be the case… Our waiter was eager for us to finish up so he could take a break before the dinner shift. Not that we blame him at all for that!
1. We still haven’t seen everything.
In spite of living in the Stuttgart area for a total of six years– the longest we’ve spent living in any place throughout our 20 year marriage– we still haven’t seen everything there is to see. Although Dr. Blair (our dentist) kids us, we love visiting Stuttgart and going on excursions. I always try to plan for at least a couple of outings to places that are new to us. In the future, maybe we’ll finally visit Kirchheim Unter Teck, the Porsche Museum, or the palace in Ludwigsburg.
There are also places that deserve a second or third look, like Hohenzollern and the TV Tower. Stuttgart looks different during the different seasons, or when the weather changes. I like living in Wiesbaden, and we definitely need to explore more up here, but every time I visit Stuttgart, I’m reminded of just how many things there are to do down there. I always enjoy visiting!
I often compare Stuttgart and Wiesbaden, since we’ve lived in both places. I get a lot of hits from people in the United States on my posts that compare the two places. I know this is because the two US military installations offer similar job opportunities. I want to reiterate that I’ve really enjoyed both areas, although Stuttgart remains more familiar to me, because we lived there longer, and didn’t spend two years in lockdown there. Our most recent trip was yet another reminder of how appealing both areas are, for differing reasons. But really, you can’t go wrong in either place, and on this trip, I was reminded yet again how lucky we are to be able to have and enjoy these experiences in Germany.
So… if you’re a German reading this, allow me to say “Danke sehr!” for being so welcoming and allowing us to get acquainted with your beautiful, interesting, and just plain amazing homeland! Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe next time we visit, I’ll pick a place to the east of Stuttgart to base us, so we can see even more of the places we haven’t seen yet. I’ve got until early October to make plans!
Finally, it was Monday, the day we’d kind of been dreading. It was the reason we’d come to Stuttgart in the first place. At 3:00pm, we would be visiting our dentist, Dr. Blair, in downtown Stuttgart, for repairs and cleanings. After breakfast, we went back to the hotel room for a chat, and finally decided to go downtown at a little after 11:00am.
There was another reason to be a little worried about the day. Monday was the day transportation workers were on strike, protesting for more pay and better working conditions. That meant a lot of trains and planes would either not be going or were delayed. Since we were just going downtown, this issue didn’t affect us too terribly, but we did hear a lot of warnings about it.
We parked in the public garage close to Dr. Blair’s office and went searching for lunch. Stuttgart has a number of good restaurants, but not all of them are open for lunch, and quite a few of them take Mondays as their “Ruhetag” (quiet day off). I was wanting to try a different restaurant, too. We often end up eating in places near Dr. Blair’s office. I wanted to go somewhere else for a change, if only so I could report about it in my Facebook food and wine group. I like to be useful whenever possible.
After some time walking around downtown, we finally ended up at the Nesenbach Brauhaus, not far from the Stuttgart Markthalle. Although Bill and I have visited the Markthalle many times, we had never before dined at the Nesenbach Brauhaus. I wasn’t really wanting German food again, but time was getting short before our appointments and we needed to have lunch. Below are a few shots of beautiful downtown Stuttgart, including the festive Stuttgarter Markthalle…
The Nesenbach Brauhaus has a decent sized menu, which did include a lot of local Swabian inspired dishes. Naturally, there was beer, too, and other libations. We sat down at a corner table by a window, near a large group of ladies who were lunching. For lunch, I chose the “filled avocado”, which promised chicken and vegetables in avocado halves, drizzled with nuts and sweet chili sauce. I was a little hesitant about ordering the avocado, since sometimes “mixed vegetables” include mushrooms. But then, I reasoned, who puts mushrooms in avocados?
Bill ordered a “salad from the land and sea”, which included a small piece of salmon, a small piece of beef, Parma ham with melon, white asparagus, and greens. We were reasonably assured that his choice would be fungus free.
Well, the food came, and wouldn’t you know it? The avocado had mushrooms in it… We had to switch plates, because I can’t eat mushrooms. Fortunately, I liked the salad Bill ordered, even though it was quite an array of different things. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to put melon and Parma ham with salmon and beef, for instance. Bill didn’t mind the avocado, although he said the mushrooms didn’t really go well, and the chili sauce was a little too cloying. Seems to me they should have paired the avocado with bacon or citrus, or something more like that. Oh well, at least it was an attractive presentation.
When we were finished eating, the waiter asked if we wanted anything else, like sweets or coffee. I just sort of smiled at him and, reading my mind, he said “Another beer?”
“Yes!” I enthused. “We have to see our dentist in an hour, and I want to be relaxed!”
The waiter laughed and brought me my suds, which I happily drank, then we paid the bill and walked to Dr. Blair’s office.
When we arrived, there was still a sign on the door requesting that everyone wear a face mask. However, most of the staff didn’t wear masks, and I noticed a number of patients weren’t wearing them, either. I suspect that by the time we see Dr. Blair again in the fall, the masks will be long forgotten. I know not everyone feels this way, but frankly, I hope that is what comes to pass.
After a short wait, I was invited to the treatment room. The assistant left me alone, and I decided I’d better go to the restroom before things got started. That was a good decision, even though she was waiting for me when I got back. I apologized, and Dr. Blair came in and commented, in German, that my filling was “kaput”.
“That doesn’t sound good.” I said.
He laughed and reminded me that the “kaput” filling was why I was there. Then, somehow, we ended up talking about our ancestries. When I told him I grew up near Williamsburg, Virginia, he said he had many relatives buried near there. I asked him if he was related to James Blair, who was a rector at Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg, and whose name is on a number of public buildings there. He said he didn’t know, but his grandmother– last name of Warren– was from there. And then I realized that he was named for his grandmother, as his first name is Warren.
So then, they put a dental dam in my mouth, which is kind of a foreign experience for me, as most dentists don’t seem to bother with it unless the work is extensive. I mentioned that I knew about dental dams, since I used to study public health, which naturally led to a brief discussion about how gay men used to use them during the height of the AIDS era to protect themselves when they engaged in oral sex. 😀 I swear, I’ve never had this kind of talk with any of my American dentists! But Dr. Blair is not constrained by American conventions! He did mention that back in the late 80s, he worked in San Francisco and knew a lot of gay men who had lost people to AIDS. It was definitely a challenging time for his career.
As I tried to hang in there during the repair of my baby tooth, it occured to me that I am lucky to have such a skilled dentist. And I’m lucky that we can afford to see him on a regular basis, even though using a dental dam was vaguely kinky. It was a big relief when he was finished. Then, after another short wait, I was invited to get my cleaning done by the hygienist. She did an especially thorough job. I left the office with a noticeable brighter smile, although half of my mouth was very numb.
Bill’s cleaning went similarly well. Then he went in to get his filling repaired, as it had a tiny sliver missing. Dr. Blair said, “I don’t even need to numb you for this. It won’t take twenty minutes to fix this.”
Bill thought to himself, “Sez you…” but really, he didn’t require any novocaine. Dr. Blair worked his magic, and we were soon on our way back to the Wald Hotel’s bar. We’ll be back to see. Dr. Blair in early October. I will have to find a fun place to visit in the fall! We don’t need to stay in Stuttgart for that visit, since there’s no work planned.
While we were sitting in the bar, the lady from Vermont and her son came back. She said they’d buried her father that morning. They had a taxi coming, as she had plans that evening. During the day, they went to Ludwigsburg and visited the palace (a place I still haven’t seen), and her son, who is an arborist, found a reflective jacket that isn’t available in the United States. He said he managed not to buy the matching pants! The duo said they’d be flying back home on Wednesday, after a day trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a place we last visited in January 2018.
We decided to have a light dinner, so we wouldn’t be starving on Tuesday morning. I had a burger and fries, and Bill had soup. In retrospect, I probably should have had the soup, too. The burger came huge, on a pretzel hamburger roll. I liked the roll and the fries, but the burger patty was “machine molded and compressed”, which seems to be what Germans prefer, as opposed to hand formed. Hand formed patties are not so tightly packed, so they are juicier and lighter.
The patty was also seasoned, so that it kind of reminded me more of sausage. I like my ground beef “natur”, as the locals would put it. And finally, there were tons of condiments on the burger! Like– a really thick smear of mayo, a bunch of onions and tomatoes, and lettuce. My mouth was still pretty numb, but even if I hadn’t been, I couldn’t open it wide enough to bite into the burger, which was dripping mayo all over the place. I ended up having to eat it with a knife and fork, and finally gave up about halfway through.
Ah well… it wasn’t the worst burger I’ve ever had. And it did the trick of preventing me from getting hungry before breakfast.
We went back to the room and watched some German TV. We landed on a show called First Dates, which was about Germans who went to a hotel near Amalfi, Italy, where they had dates with strangers. There were several contestants, but it looked like the gay couple was the only one that found love. They were sent to Mallorca for water sports, too. I’m guessing the specific water sports they enjoyed didn’t just involve Waveriders and surfboards. 😉 I do like how German shows are less about violence, and more about love. 😀
On Tuesday morning, we got up, packed our bags, hauled them to the car, and had breakfast. Bill had to park in the “Tiefgarage” (which costs money), because the free outside lot was full of expensive cars for the businessmen who had converged on the hotel Monday afternoon. I was admiring my new white smile as Bill settled the bill, which was about 2500 euros. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but consider that we were staying in the suite, and we ate and drank a lot at the hotel. It’s still less than what we spent at Bareiss last fall, too.
Now that we’ve stayed in the suite, I can also say that I don’t really think I’ll need to book it again. I might go for the junior suite, which I think is a better room for us. Or, I might just go back to the superior room, which is a lot cheaper and has a really fabulous shower with mood lighting. 😀
Our drive home was kind of frustrating. There was an accident, so of course there was a lengthy Stau. But we managed to get home by the early afternoon, even after enjoying lunch at a NordSee in a rest stop. I resisted the urge to buy one of those obnoxious signs I noticed on the way down to Stuttgart on Friday. But maybe I’ll see if I can find one on Amazon.de, which would spare me some embarrassment. One other byproduct of our trip is a nasty cold sore, which I think was caused by stress. Either that, or Aunt Flow is about to visit for the first time in months.
As for Noyzi… he came through our short break just fine. Bill said he had to wait a bit before the clients ahead of him were finished getting their dog. When Noyzi finally came out of the pension, he almost knocked Bill over with a literal hug. I almost wish I’d been there to see that!
Anyway, so ends my latest series… Now it’s time to plan a real vacation in a country other than Germany! We might have to bring out the champagne bucket to help us make our choice. I look forward to making the decision soon!
Sunday morning, we woke up to more wind and rain. Naturally, that made me decide it was perfect weather for visiting Hohenzollern Castle. Actually, we took some time to decide where to go. I checked the Ausflugstipps für Baden-Württemberg Facebook page again, and saw a couple of possibilities. But I don’t think we felt like driving too far afield, and Hohenzollern is not that far from Stuttgart. It’s near a town called Hechingen, which is just south of Tübingen, a really cool college town Bill and I know very well.
We had been to Hohenzollern before, back in the spring of 2008. Bill’s coworkers at the time had recommended it, so we went there and were mightily impressed by the castle’s beauty and imposing presence on top of a mountain. I remember on that trip, we stopped at the cheesy tourist restaurant near the castle. It was obviously intended for busses, as there was a large parking lot that could accommodate them. On that 2008 trip, we ate some pretty terrible German style Mexican food, served in virtual “troughs”. Well, it probably wasn’t as bad as I remember it, but it was definitely missing something in the translation.
This time, we skipped the tourist trap and drove up to the large parking lot near the castle. Bill used the free WC, and bought our tickets. As of April 1, summer tickets will be available, which means the museum will be open. But, when we visited on March 26th, it was still considered “winter”, which meant we could only visit the grounds. Our tickets were seven euros each. Summer tickets are 22 euros, but include entry to the museum. I seem to remember that when we visited the first time– also in early spring– we had a choice of getting a ticket for just the grounds or one that included the museum/tour. Since we were financially poorer, and didn’t speak German and/or understood a lot less back then, we got the cheap tickets and stuck to the grounds. Now, we would opt for the museum/tour tickets.
One other thing we did differently this time was choosing NOT to walk up the steep path to the castle. This time, we took the shuttle bus, which was seven euros round trip. I gotta say, after having had the mountain goat like experience of climbing the hill, the shuttle bus is so worth it. Especially when the weather is as crazy as it was on March 26th. Bill and I are probably still capable of walking up the mountain, but I remembered it to be pretty exhausting when I was 35 years old. I’m 50 now, and only have so many spoons. 😉
The weather on top of Hohenzollern can be pretty wild. I remember writing about our visit in 2008 and advising visitors to make sure to bring a jacket, unless it’s just the dead of summer… and even then, it’s not a bad idea to have one. I don’t think I brought a jacket during our first visit, and I got pretty cold. This time, I was better dressed, but we experienced quite an array of weather conditions during our visit– everything from rain to wind to sun… and it was noticeably chillier up there, too.
I’m pretty sure our visit in 2008 must have happened in April, because I distinctly remember having a beer in the Biergarten, which wasn’t open during our most recent visit. We did visit the restaurant in the castle and had a nice lunch. I had very hearty Maultaschen, while Bill had the veggie bowl, which was attractive, but kind of bland. I liked my dish a lot, but I didn’t really need food again for the rest of the day! 😉
The current incarnation of Hohenzollern is the third. The castle as it is now was built in the 19th century, so it’s pretty modern as castles go. However, there’s been a castle on Mount Hohenzollern since the 11th century. It’s currently privately owned by the House of Hohenzollern, “with two-thirds belonging to the Brandenburg-Prussian branch, and the balance to the Swabian branch.” Family members still occasionally stay in the castle, with each branch flying their respective flags whenever either is there.
I would like to go back to Hohenzollern again sometime and visit the museum. I actually like this castle more than the much touted and unfinished Neuschwanstein, built by Mad King Ludwig. Hohenzollern is beautiful, and offers impressive views of the surrounding terrain. I’m not sure, but I think Bill and I could even spot the elevator test tower near Rottweil, which we visited in 2018.
I was surprised to see a number of people bringing their dogs to the castle. It’s totally allowed, as long as the dogs stay on their leashes. I’m guessing they walked up the mountain, too. I know I’m no paragon of fitness, but that walk up the mountain is not for slouches. I seem to remember there was a sign after the first stretch near a bus stop, for those who changed their minds and wanted the bus. But maybe they just walked along the road, which takes longer, but isn’t as steep. I remember we walked down the road when we came back down from the castle in 2008. In 2023, we were happy to take the bus.
Here are some photos…
The below photos were taken in 2008. Check out the difference! I kind of wish I’d brought my digital camera. It looks to me like cameras rather than phones produce pictures that look less computer generated.
We went to the gift shop on the way out of the castle, because I saw some souvenirs I thought Bill’s grandchildren might like. We bought a wooden sword and shield for the eldest, a fairy tale princess dress for the middle, and a stuffed hedgehog for the baby. I had to laugh when I noticed the princess dress was made in Canada. It’s now going to be shipped to Utah. I also bought a new jigsaw puzzle for myself.
After our visit to the castle, we decided to drive to Tübingen, as it’s always a good time. However, when we got to our usual parking garage, it was closed! It looked like they were renovating it. So we decided to go to Panzer for. a pee break and to see if the rug guy was there. I wanted to buy a new rug to replace the one Arran repeatedly used as a toilet.
We were in luck! The rug guy was there– but he didn’t have the rug I wanted to replace. We chose a different one. As the guy was folding it up for us, I said “I think we might need the bigger version of that rug.” Bill said he thought I was mistaken… Well, it turned out I was right, so the new rug went in the dining room instead of the living room. But, the rug guy said he was coming to Wiesbaden in three weeks, so maybe we’ll try again then.
We also ran into one of Bill’s old work colleagues from Stuttgart. And… while we were rug shopping, Mother Nature treated us to a nice hail storm! March weather in Germany is absolutely batshit nuts!
After we bought our new rug, which is currently clashing in the dining room, we went back to the hotel and enjoyed another evening of libations. I ended up having a chicken Caesar salad for dinner. Bill had a cheese course. We tried several local wines, too… Below are some miscellaneous iPad photos I took, starting with breakfast. Our poor waitress forgot to put in our orders for egg dishes! Luckily, they were worth the wait. All in all, I’d say Sunday was a great day.
For the past few months, I’ve been following a Facebook group called Ausflugstipps für Baden-Württemberg. Members share photos and day trip suggestions for Baden-Württemberg. I’m also in similar groups for Hessen and the Schwarzwald. I don’t contribute much, but I do get some good tips from actual Germans on places to see. In some ways, I kind of like the old way I used to find places to go… suggestions from people I know, seeing signs on roadsides, or even just by doing a trusty Google search. I have to admit, though, that the Facebook groups make finding places a lot easier!
Anyway, someone in the aforementioned Facebook group recently shared some stunning photos of Brenztopf (aka Brenzersprung), a pond near the Rathaus in Königsbronn, a municipality near Heidenheim, a nice town on the way to Ulm. They also shared some photos of what looked like a really beautiful creek, but people in the know recognized that the background scenery in the photos didn’t match the terrain in Königsbronn and its environs.
I was intrigued by the beautiful photos of the spring/pond on the eastern side of the Swabian Jura. I told Bill I wanted to check it out; it reminded me of when we visited Blautopf in March 2017. Blautopf (Blue Pot) is a gorgeous pond in the town of Blaubeuren. A lot of people have heard of Blautopf; it gets plenty of visitors. By contrast, I had never heard of Brenzertopf, nor the nearby town of Heidenheim, which boasts a big hilltop Schloss (castle). So, although the weather was positively bipolar, Bill and I set out for the attraction, which is about a 90 minute drive northeast of Stuttgart. I got a few rainbow pics… March weather is nuts!
For those who don’t want to drive, it’s possible to take the train. Bill said it involves taking the high speed ICE train from Stuttgart to Ulm, then getting a regional train to Königsbronn. The train stop is right by where the spring is.
Before we went on our excursion, I did some basic checking out of the area. I learned that although Königsbronn is quite industrial, there are a few nice restaurants near there. I thought maybe we’d score a good lunch, too. On the other hand, such things usually require planning… more than I ultimately did.
We managed to find our way to the Brenztopf. It was raining a bit when we arrived, and Bill had to pee… blame those high blood pressure meds. Nevertheless, we gamely found a (free!) parking spot, and found our way to the pond, which I came close to missing, as it’s beside the Rathaus and Hammerschmiede (blacksmith) building. The blacksmith was closed, but Bill sweet talked some lady into letting him use their restroom while I walked around and took a few photos. While Bill was doing his business, I found my way around the building, where the pond is. Although it was very pretty even in the rain, the brilliance of the water doesn’t come out unless there’s sunshine. There I stood in the rain, taking pictures… At least it was free!
Then, just as we were about to drive away, the sun came out. I asked Bill to drop me off by the pond again, to see if I could get some sun kissed photos. As you can see, the effort was well worth it!
So, the moral of the story is, give it a few minutes if the sun isn’t out… I’m actually glad I got to see the pond when it rained, too. I thought the more opaque baltic blue was gorgeous… it’s one of my favorite colors to wear! But it was especially exciting to see how the sun changed the perspective so dramatically. Seems like a metaphor for life, too.
Bill didn’t bother to look at the pond a second time. He relied on my photos. Then we got on the road again and went to Heidenheim, which was having its Saturday market. I think we mainly just wanted to look around a bit, maybe find some lunch. On the way there, Bill saw a woman at a bus stop who wore a long black coat with the hood up. She also wore a white headscarf. He said, “It’s a nun!” I looked up and realized that the woman was actually Muslim and trying to keep warm in the chilly rain. We shared a laugh.
Although Heidenheim has a number of restaurants, not all of them were open. Some appeared to be more like cafes. It was chilly, and the rain was off and on, along with the sun. We were starting to get a bit grumpy. I had noticed an Italian restaurant when we first arrived, but although the sandwich board was out, it looked empty. I thought maybe it would open for dinner. We walked around and I got more photos. I tried to get a good one of the Schloss, with varying results…
Finally, we went back to the Italian place. Noticing a sign for the WC, Bill walked up the stairs, where he found the entrance to La Strada Osteria. On the menu, it looked like they didn’t take a pause, either. Score!
We were greeted by a very friend and tall waiter, who invited us to take a seat in the quaint dining room. He asked what we wanted to drink, and I blurted out “Rot Wein!” It was mainly because I was cold, cranky, and wet. We both enjoyed a healthy pour of red wine. For lunch, Bill had a pizza with buffalo mozzarella and ham. I had lobster ravioli with “hummer sauce”.
The food was very good, and I was charmed by the waiter, who was very pleasant. I noticed everyone seemed to be enjoying their lunches, including an adorable Bichon Frisé at the next table, who smiled and wagged at me when I sat down.
It was about 1:45pm, and we were finishing up lunch. The waiter asked if we wanted anything else. I wanted another glass of wine. He hesitated. I then noticed that he and his coworkers were eating pasta. They were having a pause, after all. So he was hoping I’d have coffee or dessert, rather than wine. I guess he thought we’d linger. Bill had wanted an espresso, and God knows I don’t take that long to drink a glass of wine.
When the guy hesitated, we were about to just pay the check and leave. I was a little embarrassed. But then he compromised and said he’d bring us “Wein für Eins”… I guess he thought we’d split it, which we ultimately did. I was confused, though, because it would have taken just as much time for me to eat dessert, plus they’d have to prepare it. Below are some photos.
We weren’t even the last ones to leave… but the guy got out of the restaurant at just after two, and Bill gave him a nice tip so he could buy himself some more smokes. Then, tired of the crazy ass weather, we decided to head back to Stuttgart. Heidenheim is a nice town; I’d go back, especially if there’s an event going on, and the weather isn’t shitty. A few more photos from our drive back to Stuttgart…
As special as Saturday had seemed at that point, it was about to get even more special… We sat down in the bar and ordered a round, noticing that a large family was wandering around the area. Some of them had musical instruments.
After a little while, we noticed a couple at the end of the bar, who heard us speaking English. It turned out to be a woman and her son. She had long white hair and a face that gave away her German heritage. They had come to Stuttgart from Vermont; her very elderly father had died, and they were there to help her German stepmother bury her dad.
She told us her story. Her dad was born in Stuttgart and had left due to World War II. He married and raised his family in Maine– a place Bill and I visited in 2011. Then, years later, he married his second wife, a German woman who lives in Stuttgart. However, although they were married, the couple lived apart for years. She’d come to the USA for a few months, and he’d visit her in Germany. Finally, about ten years ago, he sold everything and moved back to Germany permanently. He’d finally passed away at the age of 91, so the lady from Vermont and her son were there for the funeral, visit family, and see other sights.
Just after she told us her story, a manager warned us that the big family in the bar was celebrating a birthday, and they were going to be playing music. The lady from Vermont and her son decided to leave, but Bill and I opted to stay… and I have to say, by the time the evening was over, I’d had a good cry.
I’m not totally sure what was going on with the big family. I think they were celebrating their grandfather, but this family had several acts, most of which were very professional. The first performers were three little girls who sang, with violin accompaniment. One of the girls was noticeably talented as a singer; one was noticeably less so; and one was probably tone deaf. All three were adorable.
Next, a teen girl sang what sounded like a German pop song. She was pretty good, but seemed a little nervous– still, obviously more trained than the girls.
Then there was an older young lady who played cello beautifully. That’s when the tears started. She was followed by other family members– a boy on trumpet, a woman at the piano, someone playing a recorder, two violinists… and they played so beautifully for the patriarch. I was very moved, and grateful they didn’t kick us out of the bar. I was very happy to witness that concert. Besides the excellent playing, it was just so obvious that they were a close and loving family.
It made me miss MY family, which is also very musical. We used to be bound by our Granny, who was almost 101 when she died. Unfortunately, her passing, along with the deaths of many aunts and uncles has made it less imperative for me to go home to Virginia. Maybe we’ll make an effort to go back again soon. Some of my extended family might remember me, right?
Below are a couple of videos of the music. Since I wasn’t actually in the party, I didn’t film faces… just got clips of the music they played. Beautiful, isn’t it?
On Friday, March 24, Bill and I made our way down to a very familiar city. We were both relieved to be on our way. The lead up to this trip had been very stressful, as our dog, Arran, was suffering from lymphoma, and we were very worried about the prospect of boarding him. He’d been physically healthy enough until the evening of March 16, when he suddenly had what appeared to be a stroke.
On the morning of the 17th, it was pretty clear that Arran was fixing to make his way to the Rainbow Bridge. We helped him on his way. While it was very sad to say goodbye to Arran, the timing of his passing was kind of fortuitous. It meant we wouldn’t be worried about him all weekend, as we were in the fall, when we visited Hotel Bareiss just after he was diagnosed with cancer.
March 24th was a rainy and chilly day. Noyzi was delighted to get to go to the Tierpension Birkenhof, though. He hadn’t been there since the fall, when we last went to see Dr. Blair. In November, we had our 20th wedding anniversary holiday, in Ribeauville, France. We took the dogs with us for that trip. For this trip, we needed to board Noyzi. I booked the Wald Hotel’s suite, and though the hotel is very dog friendly, the specific room we were staying in wasn’t, as it is carpeted. Luckily, Noyzi LOVES the hundepension. Arran used to like going there, but as he got older, he made it clear that he’d rather be with us. It was good that he didn’t have to endure a last stay there.
I got a video of Noyzi on his way to the “dog hotel”. He absolutely loves going there– as you can see! I was surprised to see that they’d done some renovation since we were last there, too. But Noyzi also likes coming home. Bill is going to go get him in an hour.
Once the dog was dropped off, we continued our journey south. I had suggested to Bill that we should stop for lunch in the town of Besigheim, a hamlet known for its wines. It’s just north of Ludwigsburg, a city in the Stuttgart area we used to visit all the time. We had never been to Besigheim before, but I decided it would make for a nice stop when I saw someone share photos of it in a local Facebook group. We didn’t have the best weather, but I did find the municipality to be very charming indeed. Better yet, it had plenty of cheap parking, and a garage that had a public restroom, which Bill really needed. 😉
I managed to get some photos, and then we had lunch at a historic restaurant on the main drag called Ratsstüble Besigheim. It appeared to be a local favorite, and we did have a nice lunch there. I think the waitress was kind of curious about us. Overall, we liked the lunch, although my fish was a little burnt on one side. Bill loved his salad, though.
I don’t think they get a lot of Americans in Besigheim, although I could be mistaken. My German friend says that one of Barack Obama’s forebears was born in that town in 1729. These days, it looks like it’s mostly known for being a place to buy lovely local wines. I’d like to go back, as I noticed a nice looking hotel, a wine bar, and some inviting looking shops. They also had several restaurants that were intriguing, and an Italian Feinkost (gourmet shop).
I would have liked to have stayed in Besigheim longer, but it was getting later in the afternoon and we were worried about traffic. It turns out we were right to be worried. Getting into Stuttgart via Heilbronn and state roads was a bit of a nutroll. There was tons of construction, as usual, as well as the annoying traffic patterns one often encounters in Stuttgart. But, after taking our usual route back today, we can say with all honesty, the Autobahn isn’t a whole lot better. 😉 There is a reason they call it “STAUgart.
We arrived at Wald Hotel in the late afternoon, and were welcomed by a young man who half-heartedly offered to help us with our bags. I was more impressed the last time we visited the Wald Hotel, and stayed in the Junior Suite (which is a better room, in my opinion). That was in May 2019. But anyway, I got photos of the Suite, too… and I don’t think I need to book it again. It was nice enough, but I liked the Junior Suite more, and it costs less. I actually like the rainfall showers better in the newer Superior Rooms. They’re awesome, and have mood lighting. The “suites” are lovely marble, but they don’t have rainfall capacity or mood lighting. I also think the beds in the Superior rooms are more comfortable.
I see in my review of the Junior Suite (502/500) in May 2019, I mentioned a “mysterious stairway”. I think I figured out that it leads to the Suite (501), as the two can be booked to accommodate a family of up to six people. There’s also a little bedroom in the Suite complex (500) that probably gets used for kids.
We also got a free round of drinks in the bar because I am an Expedia gold member and booked through them. Wald Hotel used to have a really cool bartender named Angelo who worked there, but he retired not so long ago. The current bartender was very good too, although Angelo was an old pro, and it really showed. I’m sure the current barkeep will eventually become legendary in her own right.
We decided to eat dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Finch, so we had our free round at the bar and the bartender beamed when Bill tipped her on the “free drinks”.