Lunch in lovely Hofheim!

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We have pretty weather today, so Bill asked me if I wanted to go out. I did want to go out, as I have a bad habit of being reclusive when I should be out enjoying Germany. Unfortunately, Aunt Flow showed up this morning… about a week delayed. I was hoping for a reprieve but– NOPE– no such luck. It always happens on a Saturday, too.

Anyway, I mention Aunt Flow only because we were on our way to Hofheim in my Mini Cooper convertible (which really needs to be driven more), when I realized I had forgotten to arm myself with the necessary feminine hygiene supplies. Fortunately, Hofheim has a very nice Edeka located in a shopping mall that has a nice parking garage with low rates. We parked there, stopped by the store, visited the restrooms (50 cents), then took a stroll through Hofheim, which is one of the nicest towns near where we live.

A few months ago, when we tried and failed to adopt a dog from a German pet rescue, I joined the Wir in Hofheim Facebook group. It was one of many groups I joined in an attempt to try to locate the dog we hoped to adopt who escaped from his pet taxi as he was being unloaded. Unfortunately, the dog met an untimely end on the Autobahn, but I stayed in the groups, anyway. The Wir in Hofheim group is one of my favorites. I regularly follow it, because there’s a lot of helpful information in it and the people are very nice. It was from that group that I got the idea to go to Hofheim.

It’s not that we hadn’t been there before. Bill and I visited the outskirts when we first moved up to the Wiesbaden area and ate in a now defunct Italian place. Bill also visited the town to get take out for us when the COVID-19 restrictions were very strict. Unfortunately, one of the places we discovered in the spring, Blanca Bistro, is now closed. We passed by there today on our way into the old town. I was sad to see it sort of abandoned… there’s still liquor and glassware in there, and signage is still up, but the restaurant stopped serving food a couple of months ago. Several places have had to close due to COVID-19, including the excellent German place near our house. We only ate there one time because it was always packed! But it couldn’t keep going during the pandemic.

We did manage to find lunch, though. We ate at Ristorante L’Opera, an attractive establishment in a little alcove on the main drag. No one else was there when we arrived at about 12:30pm, but we were soon joined by a German couple who enjoyed smoking.

Bill filled out the contact tracing paperwork and the waiter handed us the laminated menus, obviously much abbreviated compared to normal. There were still a few dishes that were attractive, as well as some specials that were advertised on a sandwich board by the passage. Unfortunately, the uncomfortably narrow chairs, which are the kind often found at gelaterias, reminded me that I probably ought to cut back on my groceries.

I don’t usually get pizza in Germany, mainly because it’s always more than I can finish and I don’t always like the kinds of pizzas that are available. I will say that today’s pizza was excellent. I especially enjoyed the crust, which was absolutely perfect! I’m sure they have a pizza oven to get such perfection. Light, yet chewy with a slightly crisp crust, delicious mozzarella cheese, and a light layer of tomato sauce made that very simple pizza creation a delight! And I even skipped the meat.

Bill enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich, which had a housemade bun. He especially liked the slaw, though. Bill likes cabbage very much. I noticed he cleaned his plate, while I had leftovers, which our attentive server was happy to wrap up for later.

The bill for lunch came to about 41 euros. Bill gave the guy 45, and we took a walk around the town. Hofheim is maybe nine kilometers from where we live, but it’s very charming. We probably ought to visit more often, if only because we like the Edeka better than Rewe.

Anyway… it wasn’t long before we needed to head home and rescue Arran from his loneliness. Although Hofheim isn’t a substitute for some of our favorite little towns in Baden-Württemberg, like Nagold, Esslingen, Ludwigsburg, and Tübingen, it’s not a bad place to spend a couple of hours. There are several nice restaurants there, charming ambiance, places to shop, and enjoy the last days of summer. I’m glad we took the time to go there today… and for any readers who are looking to move to Wiesbaden, this is one town I would recommend seeking a home nearby. It’s a very pleasant little hamlet.

Ten cute towns in the Stuttgart area…

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Today’s post is more or less meant for people who are new to the Stuttgart area, looking for cute towns to visit.  It’s inspired by the many people I see posting in the local Facebook groups, looking to venture out on day trips that aren’t too far away.  The towns in this post are places I have personally been to, so I will probably miss a few places that really should get a mention.  Hopefully, in the future, I’ll be able to update this post with a sequel for those who have already seen the best known towns near Stuttgart.

Once again, these ten towns aren’t necessarily ranked in any order.  Here goes…

Tübingen

 

The lovely Rathaus in Tübingen.  They finally finished renovating it!

The obvious first town to mention, at least in my opinion, is Tübingen.  This awesome college town is located about 19 miles south of Stuttgart and offers plenty of restaurants, shopping, and when the weather is warm, a pretty great biergarten.  You can climb the church tower at St. George’s Collegiate Church (Stiftskirche) for a great view of the area or go punting in the Neckar River.  You can also visit the city museum and the Schloss Hohentübingen, or walk around the market square and look at the newly renovated Rathaus.  Tübingen is one of my favorite towns because we lived very close to it the first time we lived in Germany and we used to visit often.  There’s always something going on there and it’s a great place to people watch.  I think it’s a must see stop on any visit to the area, although be prepared for hilly terrain, especially when it’s icy outside.  You can take a train from Herrenberg that goes directly into the city.

Esslingen
 

Das Alte Rathaus– One of Esslingen’s most recognizable landmarks!

Esslingen is a pretty town situated about 9 miles southeast of the Stuttgart center.  Because it’s located pretty far from where I live, I’ve only been there three times myself.  However, it’s easily accessed on the S-Bahn, even though it takes us a good hour to get there that way.  Esslingen is especially enchanting during the Christmas season.  Its medieval Christmas market is legendary!  This town also boasts other festivals throughout the year, good restaurants, shopping, and the Kessler Sekt Cellar, where you can shop for locally made bubbly.  You can also take English tours of the city, which has a very interesting history!  Join Ellen Stillman Thomas’s group for information on how to do that!

Nagold
 

A shot at Hohennagold, castle ruins that reward your long, steep walk with ice cold beer!

Nagold is probably one of the less discussed cute towns in the area, but I’m partial to it because I live very close.  It’s a very charming little town that borders the northern Black Forest with a beautiful city center and small town appeal.  I think it’s probably become my favorite local hangout.  It has almost everything I love about Tübingen without the crowds!  Nagold also features a river where I’ve seen a lot of dog owners let their dogs swim during the summer.  If you’re feeling up to it, you can climb Hohennagold and see castle ruins, shop at the Saturday market, or visit the city museum in the Steinhaus which has different exhibits.  The last time I went to the museum, they had a very interesting exhibit about how Nagold was a model city for the Nazis during World War II.  It was free of charge to visit.  Every two years, Nagold also hosts a Celtic festival in the summer called Kelten-fest, and there is also a fantastic public pool there, complete with water slides (for warmer weather, of course).

Weil der Stadt
 

A beautiful shrimp salad I had at Samowar, a Russian restaurant in Weil der Stadt.  

I will admit that I haven’t spent a lot of time in Weil der Stadt, except to drink wine at a wine tasting, go to an international food truck festival, and eat Russian food.  I still couldn’t help but notice how charming this town is, located 19 miles west of Stuttgart.  Weil der Stadt offers an attractive cityscape, with its beautiful Church of St. Peter and Paul.  It’s also the birthplace of astronomer Johannes Kepler.  I like Weil der Stadt for its great fests, but I also love it because there’s good shopping there.  The town boasts a gorgeous Edeka grocery store– one of the nicest I’ve seen!

Ludwigsburg
 

In Ludwigsburg’s square…

Jewish memorial… outlined destroyed synagogue and suitcases symbolizing the lives that were lost.

Bill and I first discovered Ludwigsburg, a city about 7.5 miles north of Stuttgart, when we lived here the first time.  We had gotten on the mailing list for a small French vintner we discovered at the weekend market in Tübingen and they let us know that they would be at Ludwigsburg’s market.  Wine is the reason we discovered Ludwigsburg, but we tend to go back there to buy beer.  Ludwigsburg is not far from Kornwestheim, which is where Heinrich’s drink market is.  We haven’t been to Heinrich’s recently and we have a lot of empty beer bottles to unload!  Usually, we visit Ludwigsburg when we’re on a beer run, but we’ve also been there for fests, their Christmas market, and to pick up wine.  The city also boasts a great African restaurant.  I like to have lunch at one of the restaurants in the main square and watch people who have just been married.  If you’re there on a Saturday, there’s a good bet you’ll see at least one reception going on.  It’s a good place to catch buskers, most of whom are pretty good musicians.  Ludwigsburg also has a Schloss and is the site of where a synagogue was destroyed on Kristallnacht in 1938.  There is a very poignant memorial there.

Herrenberg
 

A shot of the Stiftskirche and the Saturday market.

Herrenberg is a pleasant city situated off of A81 between Stuttgart and Tübingen.  We’ve spent a lot of time in Herrenberg because during both of our Germany stints, we’ve lived close to this city.  As charming towns go, I’d say there are a few others I like better than Herrenberg.  However, I still think it’s worth a visit because it has a very nice market square (and weekend market), several good restaurants, a church with a tower you can climb and a bell museum, and castle ruins.  It’s close to the Schönbuch forest, where you can enjoy a lovely spring hike.  There’s also good shopping in Herrenberg, especially if you’re looking for whisky, cheese, or unusual gifts.

Freudenstadt

At the old school Experimenta Science Museum in Freudenstadt.  Cheap and fun for kids and big adult kids!

Freudenstadt is probably a little out of the way for a lot of Americans in the Stuttgart area.  We drive through it whenever we go to France or want to visit certain parts of the Black Forest.  It’s an attractive town that offers a kids’ science museum, as well as fests, shopping, restaurants, and proximity to the Barefoot Park, located in nearby Dornstetten.  Every time we pass through Freudenstadt, I want to stop and wander around.  It really has a pretty downtown area, well worth a visit if you’re looking for somewhere new or simply a place to stop for lunch on the way to France or the Black Forest.  It’s also a very popular vacation spot for Germans.  Many famous people have visited Freudenstadt for its health resort, including Americans John D. Rockefeller and Mark Twain, and George V of the United Kingdom!

Reutlingen 
 

In downtown Reutlingen…

Reutlingen is another southern town, 22 miles south of Stuttgart, which boasts a pleasant downtown area.  We pass through it whenever we head to Bad Urach, Lichtenstein Castle, Blautopf, or any of the caves in the Stuttgart area.  I will admit we haven’t spent nearly enough time in this lovely town, mainly because we encounter it as we pass through to get to another place.  It’s on my list for a Saturday visit, perhaps when the weather isn’t so cold!

Calw
 

Lovely downtown Calw!

Calw is a town that probably gets missed by a lot of Americans in the Stuttgart area.  We missed it the last time we lived here.  It would be a shame not to visit Calw, because it’s a charming and historic town that happens to be the birthplace of Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse.  Located west of Stuttgart, Calw makes a nice stop on your way to the “Treewalk” (Baumwipfelpfad) or to Bad Wildbad itself, the beautiful spa town where the Treewalk is located.  It even boasts a location of the Schönbuch Brauhaus, which I know is a popular place for local Americans to eat in Böblingen.  This isn’t to say there aren’t other nice restaurants in Calw, only that if you’re wanting something familiar, you can find it there.  Calw also participates in the very progressive and much appreciated “Nette Toilette” program, which is an initiative in certain German cities where businesses allow people to use their restrooms even if they aren’t patrons.

Waldenbuch
 

If you love good food and visit Waldenbuch, be sure to stop by Gasthof Krone!

And finally, I want to mention Waldenbuch, which I know is well-known to a lot of local Americans due to the Ritter Sport Factory’s presence there.  It’s also a cute little town with a great restaurant called Gasthof Krone.  I will admit that Waldenbuch is another town I haven’t yet explored enough, but I do know a lot of Americans happily live there and love it.  I’m putting it on my list of towns I need to explore more… or at least a place where I need to have another great dinner!

I hope this list will be helpful to newcomers!  I’m sure that before too long, I’ll be making a new list full of new discoveries as Bill and I explore more of what there is here.  I share these posts because we made the error of not getting out enough the first time we were here.  It’s a mistake to only focus on visiting other countries and big cities.  The truth is, Baden-Württemberg has so much to offer.  I would encourage anyone lucky enough to spend an extended amount of time here to get out and see what there is to see before the next move!

Glassblowing at Dorotheenhütte and the best Black Forest cake, ever!

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Some time ago, someone in one of the local Facebook groups alerted me to Dorotheenhütte, a glass museum and store in Wolfach, Germany.  Prior to today, I had been wanting to visit there for months. We finally decided to go this weekend, when we realized we were finally going to have sunny skies!

Wolfach is a resort town in the Black Forest.  It takes a little over an hour for us to get there from Unterjettingen via B28, which is definitely the slower, scenic route.  If you’re coming from points north, you may want to use A81, as it’s faster and less icy after a good snow.  Apparently, our area got a lot of snow last weekend and a lot of it still hasn’t melted.  There’s still a lot of white stuff in the Jettingen area, but there was even more snow west of us in Freudenstadt.  We decided to take the scenic route anyway, and were treated to some stunning views of snow capped mountains and pine trees laden with white stuff.  I got a few pictures of the scenery, which kept me occupied until we reached Wolfach.

As we were driving on either side just outside of Freudenstadt, I noticed a lot of people had parked on the side of the road.  I could see many folks cross country skiing.  That area still has a lot of snow after last weekend.  We also saw kids sledding.  If you’re ever looking for residual snow in the winter, the area west of Nagold is a good bet.  It’s a higher elevation and snow sticks around longer than it does closer to Stuttgart.  


Wolfach is a pleasant town, just made for tourists.

We reached Wolfach at just before noon and decided to tour the museum before we had lunch.  The tour is self-guided and there are translations in German, French, and English.  It turned out we got there at a good time.  There weren’t too many people there when we arrived at noon, but within an hour, more people began to show up.  It cost 15 euros for two adult tickets to the museum.

There were a lot more people here within an hour of our arrival.  I would imagine this place gets really packed in the summer.  I think now is a good time to visit Wolfach.  

When we pulled into the glass factory’s large parking lot, I noticed there was a lot of parking for buses.  There were no buses today, but they still had a good stream of folks coming in to tour the museum and get themselves a custom made vase.  I opted not to wear my jacket in the factory, since it wasn’t that cold outside.  That was a mistake, because the area where the museum is and the glassblowing is done was pretty chilly!  But as I stood there watching the group ahead of us getting vases made, it occurred to me that the factory must get pretty busy in the summer.  I’ll bet the museum gets hot, too.  The furnaces where the vases are made get to be up 1200 degrees centigrade.

 

Children’s play area.

 
 

A few shots of items available in the very expansive shop.  There are lots of nice items to be had and I thought the prices were pretty reasonable.

Christmas tree stands.

Items on display as you enter the museum area.

It turns out there’s a lot of “glass history” in this part of Germany.  The curators did a good job explaining how the glass industry came to be in Wolfach.  It’s obviously a significant source of employment.  In the small theater at the museum, there was a film about the factory.  I think it employs 34 people.

Above are schnapps bottles that were mouth blown.  Each farm was entitled to two liters of schnapps per cow.  

Different minerals found in the area.  There is also a place nearby where one can pan for minerals.

These are glass eyes– prosthetics for people who have lost an eye.

Explanation about the eyes here.

This was what I was waiting for… Glassblowing.  For 18 euros per vase, you can have one custom made and have a small part in its creation.

 

There are a couple of tables with examples of vases.  You choose two colors and which pattern you want.

Bill watches the group ahead of us.  They had several kids with them and I think they made three vases.  

Finally, it was my turn.  The guy who helped me spoke German at first, then switched to pretty good English, which I really appreciated.  I choose pink and blue for my vase.  In retrospect, I wish I had chosen blue and white… or maybe blue and green.  Oh well.  It turned out okay anyway.

The guy gave me a plastic mouthpiece that fit over the hollow rod.  When he pulled my vase out of the furnace, I blew into the rod, which helped shape the glass.  

Here’s a 30 second video  I made of the process.

More shaping and making a flat surface on the bottom…

Another trip into the furnace.

Then 20 minutes to cool off.  The glass gets up to about 500 degrees centigrade, so it needs to cool down and harden.  The guy made me a certificate and we paid for the vase and gave him a two euro tip.  Tips are appreciated and solicited.  You must pay for the vase on the spot.

 

We entertained ourselves by walking around the museum some more.  Not long after my session ended, a very large group showed up.  There were quite a few kids among them.  I must admit, I was impressed by how the guys running the glass works interacted with the kids.  They were great with them.  I could tell the kids were enjoying the activity, too.

Some more creations made in the factory.

Bill was eager for me to see the glass above.  It was colored by uranium before it became common knowledge that uranium is poisonous.

 

A view of the glassblowing.

A model of the furnace, sans heat.

Old glass making tools.

Tips please!

You can spend your twenty minutes watching a movie about the factory if you want…

This was as close as Bill got to making a vase of his own.

A wooden cuckoo clock.  I have been told Germans don’t care about them.  I left mine in the States.

 

When it became clear the large group was going to preclude us from being able to pick up our vase, Bill went to find the guy who helped me make it.  He got the vase and trimmed the top of it for me, then washed it out.

 

Finishing touches.  Then he wrapped it for me and put it in a bag.

 

When we were finished making my vase, we decided to have lunch.  The factory has a good restaurant serving traditional German food and some delicious desserts.  The lady who took care of us was a cute older lady who looked and acted very much like Oma.  She gave us the specials in German.  Realizing that we were English speakers, she asked if we understood.  I mostly did, though I settled on something from the regular menu anyway.

Bill looks at the menu, which was translated in French and English.

I had bratwurst with fries.  It came with mustard and ketchup.  The sausages were good.  The fries were ordinary.  I’m glad I didn’t fill up on them, because dessert is a must have experience at the factory.  

Bill had Zigeunerschnitzel “gypsy schnitzel”, which was basically a breaded pork cutlet with a paprika and tomato flavored sauce.  It was kind of like Hungarian salsa.  I noticed that a lot of the food coming out looked and smelled delicious.  I would say this restaurant offers above average food for what it is.  

 

Lunch was very satisfying and I think we were going to stop with what we’d had until I saw the ladies at the next table with pieces of Black Forest cake.  That is a particular weakness of mine.  But then, so is chocolate rum cake, which they were also offering… and cheesecake, too.

Wow…  an array of presents for my ass.  These cakes were beautiful!

We shared a piece of Black Forest cake and had coffee.  That cake was so good.  It was probably the best Black Forest cake I’ve ever had anywhere!

Lunch came to about 38 euros.  The lady who looked after us was doing a good job serving everyone.  She got very busy as we were finishing.  I bet that place is crazy with tourists when the weather warms up.

We decided to take a quick look at the Christmas town.  You can get your ornaments year round!

After I made a couple more impulse purchases, we headed back to Unterjettingen.  I got a few more pictures of Wolfach and the surrounding area.  This is pretty much stereotypical Grimm’s Fairy Tales Germany, right here.  I think I’m going to look for a house to rent for our next long weekend.  I think we’d love to get away in the Black Forest, especially since it’s not far from where we live, yet it’s kind of different.

We passed a wolf and bear park on the way to and from Wolfach.  This is another possibility for something to do in this area.  I’m definitely adding this to my list of places to see on a Sunday.  It looked well attended today.

More beautiful landscape shots from our drive.

 

My loot.  The taller vase and paper weight came from the shop (as if you couldn’t tell).  The pink and blue vase is what I helped make.  Next time Bill brings me flowers, I won’t have to use the wine decanter!

Right after we got home from our adventure, my dog Arran got loose.  Our door sometimes doesn’t close all the way, especially if it’s windy.  Bill neglected to shut the door securely and that’s how Arran got away from us.  I had just stepped out of the shower when it happened.

It’s unusual for Arran to run off.  Usually, Zane is the one who scares us with his daring escapes.  Fortunately, most of the people in our neighborhood have seen me or Bill with Zane and Arran.  When Bill got to where we usually walk the dogs, there were people there who had seen Arran run by, including a fellow hound owner.  Their dog, Oskar, is a friend of Zane’s and Arran’s.  In fact, Oskar’s mom often gives our dogs treats.  Anyway, they pointed Bill in the right direction.  One guy even kindly drove Bill in his van.  They saw a lady standing on the side of the road as if she knew someone was looking for Arran.  She’d grabbed him and put him in her house.  Once again, I’m heartened by how great our neighbors are and greatly relieved that Arran is okay.

We had a great day.  I would definitely recommend the glass factory and Wolfach in general, especially on such a pretty day.  The area is absolutely gorgeous and there’s a lot to do there, even if you aren’t wanting to make a vase.  I’d like to go back and check out the mineral pit… try my luck at finding rare rocks.

Eight of my favorite German destinations so far…

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President’s Day weekend is coming up, which means a lot of Americans living in Germany will be looking for cool places to visit.  This year, Bill and I will be going to the Czech Republic for the long weekend.  Last year, we went to France and had an absolute ball!  We do love going out of the country when we have the chance.

But what if you don’t want to leave Germany?  What if you face a situation like Bill did a couple of years ago?  He had to renew his passport, so leaving Germany wasn’t a good idea, since he had to send his documents to Berlin.  What do you do when you can’t leave the country, but still need to get out of the Stuttgart area?  Well… that is what today’s blog post is all about.  Here are a few of my favorite German destinations, at least so far.

Before I get started with my list, bear in mind that I am by no means claiming to be an expert on Germany.  There are still some areas I haven’t yet visited.  Moreover, even if I were an expert, I don’t think anyone wants to read an exhaustive list.  I need to save subjects for future posts, too.  So… this is just a short list and hopefully some folks will find it useful for planning purposes.  I’m not ranking them in any particular order.  These are just places we liked and would love to visit again (and have in a couple of instances).

Bacharach, Rhineland-Palatinate

Believe it or not, that castle is now a youth hostel.

Like cute towns?  Interested in medieval history?  Enjoy the Rhine?  Want to get out of Stuttgart, but not spend days on the road?  Consider a trip to Bacharach.  Bacharach has the distinction of being the very first German town I ever visited in my lifetime.  It was my first stop on a monthlong train trip I took in August and September 1997, when I was on my way back to the States from Armenia, where I lived for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I remember landing in Frankfurt, figuring out the train, and landing in this beautifully preserved town.  The first thing I did after checking into lodging was go out and buy a new pair of shoes.

Bill and I had a chance to visit Bacharach again in 2014.  It was the last place we visited on our last space A “hop”.  I’d been talking it up for years.  It lived up to the hype, too.  We ended up having a very special experience with Germans there… and that was also when I told Bill that I had a very strong feeling we’d be moving back to Deutschland.  I just had this strong premonition that he’d wind up getting a job in Germany.  Sure enough, six weeks later, we were packing our bags to move back to Stuttgart.  Needless to say, Bacharach remains one of my favorite German towns.  You can enjoy the Rhine by boat and visit all the cute towns in the vicinity.  I’m kind of Jonesing for another trip there myself.

Regensburg, Bavaria

Regensburg is the second German city I ever visited in my lifetime, again on that 1997 trip.  I happened to get off the train there simply because I felt like it.  I knew nothing about the town and how beautiful it is.  I only spent one night in Regensburg in 1997, but Bill and I visited again for President’s Day weekend in 2015 and I got to see even more of this lovely town in Bavaria.

It’s only a short trip away by train before you can visit Dom St. Peter in Regensburg.

 

Regensburg is also a well-preserved medieval city.  In fact, I remember when I first saw it over twenty years ago, I thought of it as “stereotypical Germany”.  I half expected to see dirndl clad ladies and lederhosen clad men dancing around in the main square.  Indeed, I did see people in Trachten there.  It is Bavaria, after all.  If you visit and you like sausages, be sure to visit the historic Wurstkuchl, which is perhaps the oldest continuously running public restaurant in the world.  An added benefit is the beautiful view you’ll have of the Danube River.

Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate
 

Bill and I visited Trier in May 2012, when we took our very first space A “hop”.  Bill had told me about Trier, a city that has several well-preserved Roman structures, like the Porta Nigra gate.  Trier is very close to the Luxembourg border, so if you visit there, you can easily take a quick trip to Luxembourg, or perhaps to France or Belgium, which are also close.  Trier on its own is also a very nice city to visit, especially if you love churches.  I still have wonderful memories of touring Trier’s own Liebfrauenkirche.

Porta Nigra in Trier.

Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Bavaria 
 

Bill and I only just visited Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber last month.  We’d been wanting to go there for years.  Now that we’ve been, I can see us going back.  It’s a comparatively short drive from Stuttgart to get to this fabulously preserved medieval city in the Franken part of Bavaria.  You can truly lose yourself in the charm of this cool little town, surrounded by walls and buildings that date back hundreds of years.  Yes, it’s a bit touristy, but if you go in the winter, it’s likely you’ll get more of a hometown feel for the place.  Prices will probably be lower, too.

Just one part of the wall that surrounds beautiful Rothenburg.  Yes, I’d say this town is a must see for any Americans posted in Germany.  Be sure to stop by the Criminal Museum, too.  You’ll learn a lot.

 

Passau, Bavaria
 

I promise I have seen areas other than Bavaria and the Rhine.  I just really like Passau, which I think gets overlooked a lot.  I visited Passau in 1997 and then again in 2008, for my 36th birthday.  Passau is a beautiful city in and of itself.  It’s also very conveniently located near the Austrian and Czech borders.  Passau is also a great place to visit if you love music, since St. Stephan’s Cathedral has the distinction of having the second largest pipe organ in the world.  You can take in a concert and enjoy a cruise on the confluence of three rivers: the Inn, the Ilz, and the Danube.  Then, you can take day trips to nearby Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic or Linz, Austria.  When we visited, it happened to be just in time for Cesky Krumlov’s excellent Five Petalled Rose Festival.  Everyone was dressed in medieval garb.  I thought I had stumbled into a theme park!

Pipe organ in gorgeous St. Stephan’s Cathedral.  It sounds as amazing as it looks.

Dresden, Saxony
 

Bill and I visited beautiful Dresden in November 2008.  We were there in honor of our sixth wedding anniversary, which included stops in Bolaslaweic, Poland, and Prague.  Our first few nights were spent in this gorgeous city that used to be part of East Germany and remains absolutely stunning.  You can take a cruise on the Elbe, walk to the top of the Frauenkirche and get a view of the city, or enjoy some really wonderful cuisine.  Dresden is especially nice at Christmas time, when it’s time for the Christmas markets.

A night shot of the lovingly restored Frauenkirche, which was reassembled after it was bombed by U.S. forces.  We also visited nearby Zwinger Palace.

Hamburg
 

You’d prefer a big city?  I highly recommend a visit to Hamburg.  Bill and I went there in January 2015 and enjoyed a leisurely long weekend in this northern German city that boasts more bridges and canals than Amsterdam.  Hamburg is rich in culture with plenty of theaters and museums, as well as lots of street art to see.  And if you are in the mood for debauchery, you can head to the Reeperbahn district of St. Pauli, where things get plenty gritty.  If you’re up for an early morning, you can visit the fish market and maybe even catch live music (which was what we did).  Or you can go shopping; Hamburg boasts some great places to drop some euros.  It’s definitely a different vibe from down here in the south and you can get there in about an hour if you fly.

Some cool looking graffiti in Hamburg…

No women or men under age 18 in the Red Light district…

I think I like Hamburg even more than Munich, which is also a fun but expensive and very touristy place to visit.  I also like it more than Berlin.

Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg

And finally, there’s lovely Heidelberg, which is just up the autobahn from us here in the Stuttgart area.  Bill and I went there in October 2008, when it was still home to many U.S. servicemembers.  We had several friends who were there with the Army, so we went up to visit them.  Sadly, Heidelberg’s U.S. installations closed in 2013 and were handed back over to the German government in 2015.  It was great to visit there to see what used to be a major Army hub when the Army was still there.  However, Heidelberg itself is a gracious city and boasts nearby Schwetzingen, which has a peaceful palace and park.  I remember how absolutely gorgeous the area was in the fall and I want to go back… maybe now because it’s no longer crowded with as many Americans.

Heidelberg is a quick and easy drive from Stuttgart, as long as there aren’t any staus.  And there’s plenty to see and do there.  Heidelberg Castle alone is well worth the visit.  Afterwards, visit Vetter’s for some hometown brews.

Schwetzingen Palace in Schwetzingen, just next door to Heidelberg.

Beautiful Heidelberg.

I’m sure I’ll be making a sequel for this post because I can think of plenty of other German towns I’ve been to and loved… and some I’ve just noticed and want to visit and write about.  For now, I hope readers have enjoyed this list…  and it gives some folks some food for thought for trips.  Each of these destinations are great for a long weekend and in combination with visiting other cities.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Part six– Ten things I learned!

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Whenever I visit a new place, I like to make a list of ten things I learned to sum everything up.  We only got a few short days in Rothenburg, but I feel like I know more now than I did on Friday.  So here’s a list of ten things I know now that I didn’t know a week ago.

Damn right.

10.  Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a must see if you are posted/based in Germany!

Seriously… it’s tragic that we never got to this town when we were here the first time.  It’s also tragic that it’s taken over three years this time to make it there.  It’s absolutely a gorgeous town… probably one of the coolest places I’ve found in Germany yet.  And I am developing quite a list of “cool German towns”, too.  Yes, it’s a tourist destination, but if you go during the low season, you can enjoy low prices and smaller crowds.  It’s also at the top of the Romantic Road, which makes it a prime spot to start a German themed road trip.  Summer vacation anyone?

9.  You didn’t want to break the law during medieval times!

The folks who lived in Rothenburg were God fearing, churchgoing people and if you were immoral, they would take it out of your ass… possibly literally!  A visit to the Criminal Museum is a must if you want to know more.  It’s very extensive and well done and all of the explanations include English translations.  Afterwards, you can visit the cafeteria for coffee and a Schneeball.

8.  Huge Asian tour groups like to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course… it just might help to be prepared because even in January, there were a lot of them visiting and they tend to travel in large groups.

7.  Being inside of Rothenburg’s walls can make you feel like you’re in a different time and place.

As we were leaving Rothenburg this morning, I remarked to Bill that once we drove out of the walled area, it was back to normal life in Germany.  There’s nothing wrong with that, either, but it is a bit strange after you’ve been surrounded by medieval charm for a few days.  Rothenburg is a super cute town and it will make you forget what century you’re in.

6.  Rothenburg is great for families and besties, as well as romantic couples.

If I had girlfriends to go on trips with, I would put Rothenburg on the list of places to see.  It’s really got a lot of appeal, especially if you like shopping and eating in restaurants.  A girl could have a field day finding cute stuff to feather the ‘ol nest with.  Fortunately, Bill is a good sport.  If you want to, you can take an English tour of the city.  It starts at eight o’clock every night and costs eight euros.  We didn’t do it this time, but if we have a chance to go back, we will definitely take the tour and learn more about the city and its fascinating history.

5.  Rothenburg is not far away from Stuttgart.

If you really wanted to, you could simply spend a day there.  It takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to get there from the Stuttgart area, depending on traffic and what part you’re coming from.  The ride is almost all on the Autobahn.  It would make a great day trip for those so inclined, although frankly I would rather spend the night, or really, the whole weekend.

4.  Anno 1499 is a great place to stay, especially if you have dogs.  

I may end up kicking myself for telling everyone about it.  I have a feeling it’s going to be booked a lot in the coming weeks.  I am adding it to my list of places I can go when I have to get out of Stuttgart.

3.  You can buy Scottish goods in Rothenburg.  You can also buy “Schneeballen”.

I know the Germans love Scotland and so do I.  It’s nice to know I don’t have to go there if I need a retail fix, although I always love having a reason to go to one of my ancestral homelands.  After shopping for Scottish duds, it’s fun to eat one of the locally made “Schneeballen”, a ball shaped pastry known and produced in the area.

2.  There is a fantastic sushi restaurant in Rothenburg.

And if you want to eat at Louvre Japanese Restaurant, particularly during the busy months or on Friday or Saturday nights, you should make a reservation.  It’s a popular place with limited seating and absolutely delicious, fresh food.  There are apparently other great restaurants we missed this time.  I will have to rectify that next time we have a chance to visit.

1.  It costs 1.200 euros to get your name on the wall of the city…  

Or so my German friend, Susanne, says…  I trust her, because she’s proven time and again that she’s a quick, diligent, and accurate researcher.

 
I wish we’d had a chance to visit “Hell”…  Yesterday was their Ruhetag, though.  Despite the devilish theme, they get great ratings.  Next time we visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber, we will make a point to stop in.  It’s very close to the Criminal Museum, which you can’t miss.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Part five– Sadistic punishments and one last dinner!

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We were finished with lunch at the Louvre Japanese Restaurant just around the time the Criminal Museum opened for the afternoon.  During the low season, it’s only open for a few hours in the afternoon.  However, if you have any interest in crime and punishment, especially during the medieval era, I would highly recommend visiting the Criminal Museum.  It’s very large and extensive.  We spent over an hour in there and we didn’t read everything.  If you take your time and read all there is, you can easily spend a couple of hours looking at exhibits and learning about the ways people of a bygone era dealt with those who committed offenses.

Below are some pictures I took of some of the more interesting exhibits.  Suffice to say, you had to stay on a straight and narrow path to avoid being publicly humiliated, tortured, or executed.

The outside of the museum.  It’s connected to a church and we heard the organ playing as we passed it before the museum opened.

Pillories, where many people were forced to endure public shaming.
“Paddy wagons” with bars on them.
This is a spiked chair– obviously a torture device for people who needed correction.

Throughout the museum, there were cool little exhibits that reminded me of dollhouses.  They showed how people were punished.  Another showed how kids in school were disciplined.

The two above pictures were taken in the very extensive exhibit about the original Martin Luther and the many witch hunts that took place in medieval times.

An executioner’s cloak.

A drunk tank.  Men who drank too much were forced to wear this barrel, sometimes weighted down for extra punishment.

One of many masks worn by people who needed to be shamed.  This one was an especially nasty one.

The above photos depict an exhibit showing how children in school were punished.

 

An iron maiden.

As a musician, I got a kick out of this device, meant to shame bad musicians.

Admission to the museum is 7,50 euros per adult.  I thought it was well worth the price because it’s so extensive and everything is translated into several languages.  It looked like a number of young kids were also enjoying the exhibits.  We ran into one couple who were telling their sons about the double “violins” people wore that basically yoked two people together who couldn’t get along.  They were forced to wear the device until they stopped fighting.

Another exhibit explained how couples who fought could be shamed.  If a man let his wife beat him, the roof of his house could be torn off.  He and his wife would be publicly punished and they were forced to give their neighbors a tankard of wine.  Premarital sex was also a no no and violators were publicly shamed.  They weren’t allowed to marry in a church.  Instead, they had to marry in an inn.  Later, the husband would go to jail while the wife spent some time in a pillory.

After the Criminal Museum, we went back to Anno 1499 and enjoyed a little CNN and a brief rest.  Bill got some love from our dogs, who were enjoying getting to vacation with us.

Zane isn’t much of a kisser, but when he does kiss you, he does it on the nose.

We decided to have dinner in town, even though I was kind of full from lunch.  Originally, we were going to try an Italian place we saw on Saturday.  I kind of wish we’d done that, since it was rated #1 on Trip Advisor.  Instead, we went to a German restaurant at Hotel Reichskuechenmeister, a place about a block from the Marktplatz.  On the way there, I took more pictures…

More Schneeballen and other baked goodies.

This time of year is nice, if only because it’s dead on a Sunday night and I can get some good night pictures.

Stop right here!  Your dream job (at a bank) awaits!

We decided to eat at the Hotel Reichskuechenmeister because it smelled good.  When we walked inside, I could see the place was pretty full, which is always a good sign.  A waiter opened a small dining room on the side for us.  Although I was tempted by a pasta dish with scallops and shrimps, I decided to have fried carp.  Bill went with goulash made with venison.

Substantial salad I shared with Bill.  It came with my fish.

Bill listens intently as I flap my gums at him.  He’s a good sport.  I had to use the ladies room, which involved taking the elevator to where the guest rooms are.  I guess their public restrooms are being renovated or something because they had what looked like a tiny single hotel room set up as a WC.  They placed a Schrank so that you couldn’t access the room, but I could see it was very small and had a traditional Bavarian twin sized bed in it.

I enjoyed the presentation of my fried carp.  It was position to look like it was jumping out of water.  It tasted good, too… very fresh.  However, there were a lot of bones.

Bill liked his hearty goulash, which included cranberry sauce and spatzle, as well as the dreaded mushrooms I hate.  He had a dark beer with his dinner while I had a glass of locally produced Sylvaner, a crisp white Riesling.

Outside by the front door…  I think we spent about fifty euros on dinner.  It was a pleasant experience.  Next time, we will have to visit the Italian place where we were originally headed.

And a few more window displays…

My last post in this series will be my traditional “what I learned” post…  Stay tuned!

Rothenburg ob den Tauber: Part four– Sushi, Sunday services, and sunshine!

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Sunday morning, we woke up feeling great.  Because we took it easy Saturday night, we were well-rested.  My little dietary indiscretion at Roter Hahn successfully ran its course (literally) and as a bonus, we had sunshine!  One of Bill’s co-workers told him about a great sushi restaurant called Louvre, located in Rothenburg.  It’s been ages since we last had sushi and even longer since we got to enjoy it while sitting in a restaurant.  I knew I didn’t want anything heavy for lunch, so Louvre seemed like the perfect choice for Sunday’s midday meal.

A sunny picture of the brewery.

But first, we took another stroll around the city and visited areas we missed on Saturday.  The weather was delightful.  I’m told it was grey and cloudy in Stuttgart on Sunday, so I am equally grateful we got such pleasant weather.  Rothenburg is pretty when it’s cloudy, but it’s even more gorgeous when the sun lights up all the gold hardware on the signs and rooftops.  It looks like a showplace.  Below are some pictures I took on our lengthy walk around town.

Although Rothenburg is a tourist friendly city, like everywhere else in Germany, things close on Sundays… at least during the low season.  I did notice Der Schottenladen had Sunday hours posted on its Web site, but they were not open yesterday.  Still, one can window shop all day…

This tower is close to Louvre, a lovely Japanese restaurant…

This is Louvre.  It wasn’t quite ready to open when I took this photo.  Japanese cuisine is served, but there’s art on the walls.  I guess that’s why they call it Louvre!

I’m so glad the sun came out so I could get these pictures of the beautiful countryside.  It reminded me a little of Asheville, NC.

At about 11:30am, we arrived back at Louvre.  We were the first customers of the day.  We quickly learned that it’s a good idea to make a reservation if you want to eat at this place.  Not only is it popular, it’s also very small.  The dining area only accommodates a small group of people at a time.  We noticed there were a couple of reserved tables, though fortunately, there were a few tables left open.

An adorably tiny Japanese lady took our order, bowing and smiling the whole time and very courteously correcting us when we murdered the Japanese pronunciations of the dishes we ordered.  Although we had sushi, we noticed they had several options available that weren’t sushi.  One of the groups who came in after us were having ramen, soup, and other cooked delights.  We were very happy to eat sushi, though.  It was fresh and delicious and very inexpensive!

Bill checks out the menu.  It was hard to make a decision!

I liked Bill’s “Kin” dish better than my “Dai” dish…  His sushi came with fried shrimp!

That salmon sashimi was so fresh… and the tuna and avocado rolls were a bit spicy.  I really enjoyed this lunch, even if I did overload on protein a bit.  

I liked the tables at the restaurant.  I didn’t get a picture of our booth, but it was set in cement blocks like the one pictured above.

This was the painting hanging by our table.  There is artwork all over the dining room to go with the beautifully prepared sushi rolls.

We enjoyed Japanese beer, too.  Nice change of pace!

 

All told, I think our lunch came to about twenty-five euros.  It was probably the cheapest of the meals we had in Rothenburg and definitely the most enjoyable!  Next time we visit Rothenburg, we will have to go back to Louvre.

Just beyond the arches is a lovely park.

We also visited St. Jakob’s Church, a Lutheran place of worship.  Their services were to start at 2:30pm, so we were able to tour the church.  We paid five euros to go in, but were allowed to take pictures and take an informative leaflet that was printed in several languages.  There was also a guide there who was telling visitors about the church, but he was speaking German.

Oh, how I love the sound of a pipe organ…  My mom was a church organist for over fifty years and every time I hear an organ, I think of her.  She is still living, but stopped playing organ about ten years ago.

Pull my finger…  obviously, a lot of people have judging by how shiny it is.

After lunch, we decided to check out the Criminal Museum.  More on that in the next part.

Rothenburg ob den Tauber: Part three– Shopping, sausages, Schweinshaxe, Schneeballen, and strolling the wall…

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Saturday morning, I woke up with a red wine headache.  After taking some Advil, drinking some fluids, and eating a little breakfast scored at the very closeby Edeka, I was ready to go see this famous town I’d heard and read so much about over the years.  Since my purse strap broke, I decided to simply bring along a few bare necessities.  I have to admit, it was weirdly liberating not to carry my big purse with me.  I tend to overload it with all kinds of junk and it rarely gets cleaned out.  That’s probably why the strap broke.

This tower is located very close to Anno 1499.  You can climb the stairs and walk along the wall, which will pass the back of the house.  You get a bird’s eye view of the little courtyard.

 

This archway is to the senior assisted living center where Anno 1499’s hostess works as a nurse.  It’s just across the street from the rental house.

We walked just a short way down Spitalgasse when I spotted a shop that had a few nice looking men’s sportsjackets on display.  Upon closer inspection, I recognized the jackets as being from Scotland.  Since I am a sucker for all things Celtic, Bill and I decided to go inside the shop, where we were helped by its proprietor.  I don’t know for certain, but I think he might have been a fellow American who now lives here in Germany with his wife and their kids.  He certainly spoke like an American.  The name of his shop, which he said he and his wife took over a couple of years ago, is Der Schottenladen.

Der Schottenladen… great Scottish goods in Germany!

It’s not so often that I go crazy shopping in retail stores anymore.  Like so many other people, I tend to buy a lot of stuff online.  But it wasn’t long at all before I found myself fingering a beautiful wool sweater.  I didn’t actually need a new sweater, but I am a sucker for certain shades of blue.  I also picked up a handmade purse made by an artisan in Aberdeen, and a pair of earrings (again, not something I needed, but simply couldn’t resist).  The proprietor turned out to be interesting to talk to. He said he goes to Scotland at least once a year.  His small shop was crammed with authentic fashions, bottles of whisky, kilts, and lovely gifts.  Almost everything was on sale, too!  Although it was a little weird to be buying Scottish stuff in Germany, I have to say I enjoyed that shop very much.  Bill also tried on a few jackets, but unfortunately, they didn’t have any in his size.  Maybe next time.

Scottish loot from Der Schottenladen in Rothenburg.

We decided to take my new duds back to Anno 1499, even though the proprietor kindly offered to hold them for us.  Afterwards, we walked back toward the Marktplatz.  I happened to notice something that looked promising– a view of some sort.  We turned down an alleyway and within seconds of encountered a lovely pastoral view, we were joined by a huge group of Chinese tourists who seemed to have a distinct herd mentality.  They all kind of crowded in and didn’t seem to want to yield so Bill and I could get out of the group.

Once we got to the Marktplatz, we hung a right and walked down another busy street full of cute shops.  We walked until we encountered what was probably the eastern edge of the impressive wall that surrounds Rothenburg.  You are allowed to climb the steps and walk the wall.  It costs nothing and offers some great views of the city, as well as the names of people who donated to the cause.

Every time I see this town advertised, I see the famous building to the right.  It’s now a brewery.  We didn’t have a chance to stop in.  Maybe next time.

I managed to take a few pictures before we were enveloped by a large tour group…

Bill looks amused…

As I sneak a shot of the big group of tourists who overwhelmed us…

 

Here are a few more scenes from Rothenburg on Saturday.  I could have spent a couple of days just checking out the cute businesses everywhere.

A view from on the wall.  It’s covered and protected from winds coming from outside of the town.

I imagine these people donated money to repair or restore the wall…

This is the courtyard in the house we rented.  Too bad the weather didn’t lend itself to sitting out there with a beer.

We followed the wall all the way to the tower that appears first in this post.  That was the one located just outside of our rental house, Anno 1499.

You can’t come to Rothenburg and not notice a local specialty pastry called “Schneeballen”.  There are a number of Konditoreis that make these.  We picked up a couple of mini versions of them so we could try them.

Schneeballen (snowballs).  Speciality in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

 

After we walked the wall, it was time for lunch.  I was wanting German food for some reason, so we decided to stop in at Roter Hahn, which is also a hotel.  The restaurant is kind of quaint, with stereotypically charming Bavarian decor.  As soon as we sat down, it became obvious that we were not the only Americans in the place.  A couple of American ladies, also evidently living here in Germany, were at the next booth having lunch.  One of them apparently never learned about using her indoor voice.

In the course of an hour, I learned all about the house she owns in San Antonio, her decorative preferences, how much the house cost, her favorite San Antonio communities, her husband’s nursing job at Ramstein, her many travels in Europe, and her request to split the check, which was apparently denied.  Seriously, people, I don’t mean to be bitchy, but please have a little situational awareness when you go out to eat.  Voices can carry.  Besides being rude, that kind of inconsideration for other people can put you at risk by making you conspicuous to those who are up to no good (like obnoxious bloggers, America haters, or petty thieves).  On the other hand, we did move here from San Antonio, so in a way, hearing about that town was kind of nostalgic.

Bill listens to the American ladies who lunch talking about their design choices…

I decided to have my pork knuckle.  It tasted okay, but I paid for it later…

And a little potato salad on the side… more than I could eat.

Bill went with the Frankish sausages.  They were very good and came with fresh bread and sauerkraut.  I think I liked his sausages better than my Schweinshaxe, which was a bit overdone and tough.

We split a “Schneeball” for dessert.  Unlike the local pastry, this was simply vanilla ice cream with a cookie topping, forest fruits, and a little whipped cream.

 

I had an okay impression of Roter Hahn until I got up to use the restroom.  The ladies room reeked of stale urine, which I found very off putting.  I had to go into the hotel lobby to get to the bathroom and it smelled of stale cigarette smoke.  Also, when we asked for a box for my inevitable leftovers, the waitress acted like it was an imposition.  When she brought it to us, she said it was the last one they had (and this is my problem?).  I don’t think I’d eat at Roter Hahn again, especially since we apparently missed the best restaurants in the city.

The outside of Roter Hahn.  Directly across the street is the Criminal Museum, which we visited on Sunday.


We thought about visiting the Criminal Museum, which is across the street and is open daily from 1:00pm until 4:00pm during the off season.  Unfortunately, lunch was sitting kind of heavy on my stomach.  It was also kind of cloudy outside, which makes me feel like hibernating.  So we made our way back to the house, with a few stops on the way… 

First, we went inside this sign shop because I had to have the sign directly over the Corn Flakes sign. It says in German, “In Heaven, there is no beer.  That’s why we drink it here.”  

Next, we stopped at a bakery to get some Schneeballen and a piece of cake, which I still need to eat.

 

After we bought our pastries, we stopped at a wine shop and bought some locally produced wines as well as a pretty stoneware wine pitcher.  Right after we bought the wine, we were treated to a surprise performance by a group of Cuban drummers.  I took a video.

They have the beats down…

Finally, we stopped to pick up some local beer.  I am drinking one right now.  Not bad!

That about did it for Saturday’s adventures.  Unfortunately, the heavy lunch made me feel kind of bloated and icky and I didn’t eat or really drink anything for the rest of the day.  Fortunately, I was much better on Sunday and we had a great sunny day.  More on that in my next post.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Part two– Eating Greek food and wearing Greek wine…

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Friday night, after we checked into the amazing Anno 1499, Bill and I ventured out for dinner.  It was bitter cold and just a little ways into our stroll, the strap on my purse broke.  Oh well… as we passed the beautiful window displays in the stores on the main drag, I knew I’d be able to shop for a new one.  There were quite a few tour buses with many Asians aboard.  One was loading up as we strolled through the town, looking for a place to eat.  Just like Hallstatt in Austria, Rothenburg is obviously popular with Chinese and Japanese tour groups.  We ran into quite a lot of them over the weekend.

Christmas is big in Rothenburg… lots of Christmas shops are there.

Nighttime near the Markplatz.

Alice in Wonderland quote on a hotel door.

Another lovely window display…  this is a great town for anyone who likes window shopping!

We passed a Greek restaurant on our way toward the Marktplatz.  I had originally been wanting German food, but suddenly Greek food seemed more appealing.  Since I was freezing and annoyed by having to carry my purse rather than slinging it over my shoulder, we decided to turn around and try the Greek place.  It was called Kreta and located on Spitalgasse, the same street our rental house was located.  We arrived rather early, so there was only one other couple in the place when we sat down.

I ordered gyros with calamari and Bill had plain gyros, both of which came with salads.  As usual, we also ordered red wine and sparkling water.  This is where things went a bit awry.  Because Bill wanted two glasses of the same wine, the waiter suggested that we get a half liter, which came in a small pitcher.  Instead of putting the glasses down on the table and pouring the wine, our waiter chose to try to pour it while balancing the glasses on his tray.  Having waited tables before myself, I couldn’t help but think he was courting disaster. Sadly, I was right.

As the waiter poured the wine, the glasses pitched forward and fell onto the table, where one shattered, splashing red wine all over the place and spraying shards onto the table and carpet.  Fortunately the wine didn’t actually get on Bill or me– except maybe a few spare drops.  The waiter and the bartender cleaned up the mess with minimal help from Bill and me.  Meanwhile, our salads came out while the bartender went to get us more wine and new glasses.

A well deserved shot of ouzo after a disastrous first wine service attempt.

Nice salad, although I didn’t have much time to try it before our main courses were served.

My gyros and calamari with fries.  I could have had rice instead if I had wanted that.

Bill’s gyros.

The sign outside.

Greek pop music played and the waiter, who had a surprisingly decent voice, sang along.  We enjoyed the food, although no one else came in while we were eating.  It’s definitely low season in Rothenburg right now, though it wasn’t totally dead there.  A number of businesses had signs up indicating that they are going to be closed until mid March.  I wasn’t surprised because Ribeauville, France was the same way last year during MLK weekend.  This is when the hard working folks in touristy areas take a break.

We had a little more wine after dinner, then went back to the house and watched German TV before going to bed.  Since we don’t get German cable at our house, I always enjoy watching it when we travel, if only so I can note the differences (and inevitable similarities) in programming and advertising.  I slept very well Friday night!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Part one– amazing digs!

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It’s Martin Luther King Day and Bill and I have just come back from visiting a place that has been on my bucket list for years.  A few years ago, I even drew the name of this place out of my champagne bucket; we were actually “supposed” to visit in 2014, but for some reason, our plans to get there got put on the back burner.  I’m writing of the beautifully preserved walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria, Germany.

My very first view of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Rothenburg is located not far from Ansbach, which is a town that has the distinction of being one of the places where Bill served his very first assignment in Germany (the other was Vilseck).  He has often spoken of Rothenburg during our fifteen years of marriage, making me want to see it.  Now that he’s been there and seen how beautiful it is, he says he’s not sure if he actually ever did go there before this past weekend.  Rothenburg is the kind of place that won’t slip your memory and he was surprised by how cool a place it is.

Because we find ourselves having to bring our dogs with us on a lot of our trips, I have to look for pet friendly accommodations.  Because we have beagle mixes and they can be loud, I have to find places where it won’t be a problem if they make noise.  I managed to book a fantastic place in Rothenburg.  As usual, I consulted Booking.com and it was there that I found a house called Anno 1499.

Folks, it’s not often that I gush about a property, but I feel like I have to about this house, which is located just inside the medieval walls of Rothenburg and dates back to the year 1499.  It truly had every comfort we could have ever wanted.  I was a little unsure about how successful this rental would be, since I could see that the house was in a row that shared walls with the next property.  I can now say that wasn’t a problem.  In fact, I think this might have been our most carefree pet friendly rental yet.

We arrived in Rothenburg at about 4:00pm.  Our hostess, who spoke a little English, told Bill where to find the keys to the house.  They are kept in a code activated safe outside, making it easy for renters to access the house.  Unfortunately, Bill still had some trouble finding the keys, so he had to call her.  She works as a nurse at the senior living facility right across the street, so she met us within about two minutes and let us into the house.  I am always nervous when I meet the landlord/landlady and I have my dogs.  I did not have to worry this time.  Our hostess warmly welcomed Zane and Arran!  Then she showed Bill a nearby spot where he could park all weekend for free!  Paid parking is also available at five euros a day.

Below are some pictures of this fabulous house…

The front door…  excuse the shadow!

Living room.  It has a couch, a television with German TV and CNN, a table and chairs, and a sliding door that opens to a small courtyard.  We didn’t use the courtyard, but it would be very nice in better weather.

A view into the kitchen.  It was fully equipped with a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, dishwasher, stove, and oven.  There’s another table and chairs.

Washer and dryer.

A shot of the little courtyard.  I wished we’d had weather that would have facilitated using this charming space, which you can see from the medieval wall located right behind the house.

One bedroom on the second floor.  It had a small double bed.

And a huge TV!

Behind the bedroom is an office with a daybed, a crib, and a desk.

Yes, the WiFi works well, except on the top floor.

Huge bathroom.  The tub was amazing… nice and big and even had lighting controlled with a dimmer switch.  The hostess also provides his and hers rubber duckies!

 

Top floor.  Another sitting area with a couch and a small TV, as well as a CD “boombox”.

And another bedroom with a larger double bed…

TV number four.

Baby gate on the top floor.

The pretty door from the inside.  To the right (not pictured) is another bathroom that has a shower.

Adorable Bavarian touches…

 

The front of Anno 1499…  At one point, someone’s cat got stuck on the roof.  I’m not sure how it got up there or eventually got down, but evidently it did.  Its owner knocked on our door and unsuccessfully tried to rescue it.

You would think this house would cost a bundle to rent.  Well, I’m here to tell you that at least in January, this house is a steal.  For three nights, we paid just 285 euros.  And 60 euros of that went to taxes.  We did not have to pay a security deposit or extra pet fees, either.  I spent all weekend marveling at how reasonably priced this place was, yet how awesome it is to stay there.  We paid our hostess in cash, as was required, and this morning when we left, we simply put the key on the kitchen table.

We could not have asked for a better place to stay and if we ever make it back to Rothenburg, I hope we can stay again.  It truly was first rate.  Adding to the house’s appeal is the fact that it’s only a five minute walk from the nearest Edeka.  You walk out the gates, cross the street, and rejoin us in 2018…  Or you walk the other way and stay in medieval bliss.  I actually experienced a little culture shock this morning as we emerged from the town and I remembered what Germany looks like outside of the walls.

Regarding Rothenburg itself… well, I will be adding it to my list of places to go when I need to get out of Stuttgart and have to take the dogs with me.  It really is a very cool town.  I hope you’ll come along with me as I write up the rest of our trip in the posts to follow this one.