Christmas, fests, friends, Germany, markets, Wiesbaden

Wiesbaden Christmas Market 2021

My friend Priya, her husband Ron, and our new friend, Heather, came up to Wiesbaden from Stuttgart yesterday. They asked Bill and me to join them at the Wiesbaden Christmas Market. The markets down near Stuttgart have mostly been cancelled, due to rising COVID-19 infections, but there are many towns in other states that are having smaller versions of their markets. Priya and Ron have been making their way to a number of them.

I was glad they invited us to join them. I had been wanting to to go the market, but was having trouble with motivation. The weather hasn’t been nice lately, and the COVID rules can be onerous. But thanks to our friends from Stuttgart, we managed to have a great time. It was quite a shock to hang out with people again. We were all laughing about the erosion of social skills that has happened since March 2020.

After a few hours and too much wine and beer, we said our goodbyes. Priya, Ron, and Heather went on to visit the market in Mainz. Bill and I went home to feed the dogs.

For some reason, the connection on this site is excruciatingly slow today. I’ll have to keep the commentary to a minimum. I also can’t delete the photos, so there are a few that look like repeats. I’ll try to fix these glitches later.

A good time was had by all!

Standard
Austria, fests, Germany

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part four

Chasing a waterfall in Mittenwald, gazing at the Eibsee, and views from Germany’s highest mountain!

Saturday was a full day for us. It was definitely fuller than what I’ve been used to lately. We walked several miles in warm weather and the pedometer on my iPhone was giving me bursts of celebratory praise in the form of virtual fireworks. Still, even with all of the walking we did on Saturday, we missed the majestic waterfall at Leutaschklamm, which is most easily accessed from Mittenwald, Germany. So, on Sunday morning, we decided to visit the German side of the gorge.

We were a little bit confused about this part of the walk. When we read up on visiting the gorge, people mentioned a three euro fee to “see the waterfall”. I was under the impression that it was on the gorge trail itself. It’s not. If you go to the German side of the gorge with your car, you have to park at a lot in the town, walk down a pleasant country road alongside the rushing brook, and then you will encounter the German entrance to the gorge trail. However, you won’t find the waterfall on that trail, which looked pretty steep and obviously leads to the panorama bridge. I shared pictures of the bridge in part three of this series– one post previously.

Instead, you have to go to the nearby snack bar– which you can’t miss– pay three euros, go through a turnstile, don a mask, and then walk through a misty crevice on a wooden planked trail. Your three euros also gets you access to the toilet, which is pretty handy. I didn’t take a picture of it, but the sign on the men’s room reads that that toilet is for men only. The ladies room is for both men and women. I guess the men’s room only has a urinal. Unlike the gorge trail, the waterfall path is narrow and it’s impossible to “socially distance”, hence the mask requirement. If you don’t have one, you can buy one at the snack bar.

I took video of our walk to the waterfall. At the end of the video, there are a few clips from Saturday’s walk on the Austrian side. Here it is!

It was worth the three euros!

I also got a lot of nice pictures of this excursion. The walk took about twenty minutes or so, and only because we stopped to enjoy the waterfall and the cool mist it created. I would say this experience was easily one of the highlights of our trip! I’m so glad we didn’t miss it.

It was late morning by the time we were finished seeing the waterfall. Once again, I was glad we arrived early. Parking spots were filling up fast, and just as they were on Saturday, people were lurking for a place to park. We noticed that the lot on the Austrian side was completely full when we passed it on the way to Mittenwald. And as Bill was trying to vacate our spot, two dumbass guys parked their car directly behind us temporarily so they could get a Parkschein (parking ticket). They were completely oblivious to the fact that they were blocking us, too. But even once they noticed Bill’s annoyed face, they still didn’t move, and they almost caused an accident. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only dumbasses we ran into on this trip. But, in fairness, I’m sure some drivers thought Bill was a dumbass, too.

After the thrill of the waterfall, we decided to visit Eibsee, which is a huge, beautiful lake at the base of the Zugspitze. First, we’d have lunch in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which we hadn’t visited since 2009. It was a bit of a ghost town, probably due to COVID-19. I noticed a favorite Konditorei that we visited a few times back in the day was closed. I was sad to see it. Last time we were there, we parked next to a car that had been keyed… looked like maybe the owner’s ex girlfriend was a bit of a psycho. S/he had scrawled “Fucking bastard” on the side of the car, or something like that. I remember feeling sorry for the guy, having to drive around with that on his car. He might have been a bastard, but it was still not a great look. Plus, the thought of the sound the key must have made on the metal set my teeth on edge. That was at least twelve years ago and I could see that the Konditorei, which had served such delightful pastries, coffee drinks, and beer was closed up tightly. What a pity. Edited to add: my German friend says the person who ran the Konditorei when we visited had a bad reputation. Maybe he was the owner of the “Fucking bastard” car. He disappeared sometime in 2009 (same year we left) and a much better tenant took over. She closed the business last fall.

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant called Pizzeria Renzo, although I would have loved to have stopped in at El Greco, which was a favorite Greek spot we used to visit back in the day. We thought El Greco had closed, but as we passed it on the way back to the car, it was obviously open. I guess they took down their outside menu because of COVID-19. A lot of restaurants are offering abbreviated menus right now, since a lot of them are printing them on single sheets of disposable paper instead of handing out thick books of pre-COVID days.

After lunch, we made our way to the Eibsee in Grainau. We knew it would be crowded. I wasn’t expecting it to be the way it was. I thought the lake would be like a lot of the other lakes I’ve seen in Germany… kind of low key. Well– the Eibsee, which is right next to the huge tourist attraction of the Zugspitze and either the Seilbahn (cable car) or cog wheel train to the summit– is not an easygoing place. Lots of people were taking advantage of the lake– swimming, sailing, paddle boating, hiking, and picnicking. I had really just wanted to get a few photos, so that’s what we focused on… then, kind of on the fly, we decided to take the cable car to the top of the Zugspitze, where we enjoyed a beer and got even more photos.

These pictures of the Eibsee are kind of misleading. I managed to get some that don’t show a lot of people. The place was very crowded, and we would have been hard pressed to find a spot if we’d wanted to go swimming or boating. I didn’t have a bathing suit with me, anyway. I was glad to get the pictures, though, and now that I’ve seen the Eibsee, I don’t have to visit again. Since we were already there, we decided to see the Zugspitze, too. Bill was last up there in the 1980s, when there was no Seilbahn. The cog wheel train still runs and you have a choice as to which method you want to use to get to the top of the mountain. Since face masks were required for either method, we chose the Seilbahn, which is super efficient and only takes ten minutes. The basic cost for either method of getting to the top of the Zugspitze was 59 euros per person, although they had other tickets for families or those who wanted to visit other attractions.

We could have spent a lot more time exploring here if we’d wanted to… They have lots of exhibits as well as other activities that we didn’t try. It’s obviously a popular attraction for children, too. But it was a very full day for us, so we were ready to go back to the hotel. Getting out of the parking lot was obnoxious– we encountered a trifecta of dumbasses. As Bill was backing out of his space, an oblivious young fellow with water toys almost collided with the hood. Then, another dumbass with his buddies and perhaps a girlfriend, decided to aggressively angle for Bill’s spot. He came very close to hitting our 2020 Volvo. I sure as hell am not looking for another legal issue this year, although it would not have been our fault if he’d hit us. Bill just sat there and stared the kid down until he let us leave.

Finally, the last dumbass of the day was an old guy on a moped. He suddenly got a wild hair up his ass and cut Bill off as he carelessly pulled into traffic without even looking for oncoming cars. It was a very near miss. The guy could have met his maker if Bill weren’t such a good driver.

On the way back into Leutasch, I spotted a little fest going on. We stopped and listened to some Austrian folk music, bought a small piece of art and some locally produced gin, and checked out a camel who was brought in for camel rides. They also had pony rides.

A short video with the folk music. I wasn’t trying to capture people on film, so it’s not a great video. But the music is delightful!

And finally, our last dinner at the fabulous Hotel Kristall to cap off this gargantuan post about our Sunday. I really enjoyed Austria and it was far too long since our last visit. We need to come back again and explore more of this underrated country with its warm hospitality and breathtaking views!

I would say that Sunday, August 9th, was the best day I’d had in a long time. It was worth the cost of the entire trip. But there were more thrills to come in Italy. More on that in the next post!

Standard
fests

Our little Adventmarkt!

A year ago, Bill and I spent December 1st moving into what was our new home in Wiesbaden. He was recovering from cleaning our old house in Jettingen, which turned out to be a complete waste of time, since our former landlady was determined to find and charge us for every little defect, whether or not we were responsible for it. In retrospect, I wish we had just broom swept the place, as required by our lease, and been done with it. Trying to clean that house to her impossible standards was a waste of energy that took away from the energy we needed to set up our new home.

Anyway, because we were in the process of moving, we never did make it down the hill to Breckenheim’s adorable little Adventmarkt, which goes on for just one day every year. They had it last night, so we went down for a couple of glasses of Gluhwein. I got some pictures. Most of the booths were for food and mulled wine, as far as I could tell. They had waffles, crepes, and I could see the Breckenheimer bikers were selling brats off the grill. They were the ones who threw the awesome rock festival over the summer.

I love how community minded Breckenheim is. This is a community that does a lot of neighborhood events and I can see that the neighbors are friendly and social and like to do stuff together. I experienced this a lot less when we lived in the Stuttgart area. They had events, but they weren’t necessarily neighborhood events. It was also a lot harder to meet people down there because it seemed like the general mood was more reserved. I did make friends in the Stuttgart area, but it usually took more time. A lot of times, our dogs facilitated the meetings, too.

The lady who owned the dog, Sammy, was also working the Gluhwein stand. She noticed Bill’s German accent wasn’t native and quickly figured out we are English speakers. It turned out she lived in the United States for awhile and worked for Seagram, the beverage company. She came out and had a lovely chat with us on topics ranging from The Rolling Stones to Donald Trump. I found myself apologizing for our president, who is not popular over here for obvious reasons. But Germans have a laugh about that, since Trump’s origins in Kallstadt are not far from where we’re living now. Some of Trump’s poor extended relatives in Germany have been treated badly because he’s a distant relative.

Our new acquaintance from last night had plenty of opinions about American politics, which she expressed in excellent English, as well as a funny story about visiting the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky and being shocked that it was in a dry town. We chuckled and told her that Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee is also in a dry town, and that folks who live there have to bring in their booze from a neighboring town that doesn’t ban alcohol.

When we told our new acquaintance we used to live in Swabia, she had a good laugh about the dialect, which even a lot of Germans don’t understand, and the stereotypes about people from Stuttgart. She said they are very good at business, since they’re very detail oriented and hate to spend money. I suppose I can agree with that, although I don’t know that being that way always leads to good business sense. Sometimes, both of those qualities are alienating and can get in the way of business. The trick is knowing when to be that way and when to lighten up and go with the flow. Sometimes a person can be “penny wise and pound foolish”.

Sammy, the dog, was incredibly adorable. His owner told us that he doesn’t like little kids and she worries that he’ll bite them. I noticed Sammy started barking whenever kids ran past him, but he was utterly charmed by the two fluffy furball puppies another family brought. I wish I had Arran with me, but he’s at the Hundepension Birkenhof today, because Bill and I have to go to Landstuhl and spend the night. Bill is having routine tests done at the hospital and I am the designated driver, because he will be under the influence of sedatives. God help us. At least we have a Volvo!

We headed back to the house when it became clear that my kidneys are in good working order. I suppose we could have gone back to the festivities and hung around for the appearance of Santa… Maybe if we’re still here next year, we’ll do that, if it’s not too cold. Last night’s weather was chilly, but not too unpleasant, but you never know in Germany. A few years ago, we had snow on December 1st. But then, that was down in Stuttgart, where things can be chillier in more ways than one!

Standard
fests, restaurant reviews

A weekend at home and in the city…

Saturday morning, we got up later than usual. The weather is changing inexorably to autumn, which means random rain showers and cooler temperatures. I’m mostly happy to see the weather change. It kind of matches my mood these days.

Saturday, we stayed home, listened to music, and drank wine. Bill finally broke out the electric pasta maker I got him last year. He made homemade bread and fresh Fettuccini Alfredo. Here are the photos… I have created a cooking monster.

We drank lots of wine all day and enjoyed each other’s company. I think we’ll have to make fresh pasta more often, especially as the weather gets colder.

Yesterday, the weather was kind of crummy, but Bill wanted to venture into Wiesbaden to catch the last day of the annual city fest. It was very well attended despite the weather. I’m sure it helped that it was also a Sunday shopping day in Wiesbaden. I got lots of pictures. My favorite attraction, of course, was the Shetland ponies. They had quite a few people selling crafts, lots of food, wine, beer, and agricultural exhibits. There was also a car show going on in the Market Square.

To be honest, for several reasons, I’ve been feeling a bit down on Germany lately… but one thing I do like about living over here is that there’s always something to celebrate. The Germans will have a festival for anything. And the ones up here in Wiesbaden are kind of different from the ones near Stuttgart. They tend to be less focused on beer and more on wine.

I was hungry, but not in the mood for fest food or the crowds. We wandered around looking for someplace to eat and finally ended up at Casa del Sabor, an Argentinian steakhouse. We ate there a few months ago and I really enjoyed the rib eye steak I ordered. This time, I decided to try a cheeseburger. This was an act of bravery on my part, since burgers can be iffy over here…

The cheeseburger had tomatoes, onions, cucumbers (not pickles), lettuce, ketchup, and mayo on it. I don’t usually put mayo on burgers, but I think Germans often do. I had to cut it in half and struggled to finish it, mainly because I went to town on the bread. I was really hungry when we came in and both of the spreads, but particularly the garlic, were delicious. I like Casa del Sabor. We’ll have to go back and try some of their other stuff, if only so I can have more of that garlic spread.

I was feeling kind of tired and listless and the weather was getting worse, so we decided to go home. I relaxed for awhile, then joined Bill for more music and wine. I went on a buying binge on Saturday and got a few albums by classic bands from my youth… the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, and Chicago. Sometimes I miss being young, but I am grateful I grew up at a time when there was so much fantastic music.

So begins another week here in Deutschland… Columbus Day weekend is coming up. I usually plan trips for the long weekends, but I am not feeling very inspired to this year.

Standard
fests

Appel-Happel apple fest!

A little birdie told me that today would be the last sunny, warm day for awhile. So Bill, Arran, and I decided to go to Mainz to the annual apple festival at Appel-Happel. I had not been to this place before, but it appears to be a big apple market that also hosts events. I see on their official Web site that there are other events happening into November. There’s also an on site restaurant.

We didn’t stay long at the fest because there were a lot of people and Arran isn’t used to hanging out with us at fests. However, I am very proud of the way Arran behaved. He was mostly a perfect gentleman, with only a couple of loud outbursts. At one point, he even made a friend with a long haired American who drove a German car with Kaiserslautern plates. The guy clearly thought we were Germans, because though we spoke perfect English, he said danke schön after he petted Arran. He also said he has basset hounds. As we were headed to the car to leave, we encountered the same guy driving out and he leaned out the window and said, “Bye, Mr. Beagle!”

The festival had food and lots of apple inspired treats to include cider, juice, and wines, as well as apple cakes, strudel, and chocolate dipped apples. There was also entertainment in the form of dancing and music, bouncy house and playground equipment for the kids, and the opportunity to pick apples in the orchards. We already have a tree that dumps more apples than we can possibly eat, so we were content to just enjoy the libations. Here are some photos from today’s outing.