My pandemic birthday… part one

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Why did we stay twenty minutes from home?

A few weeks ago, Bill and I went to nearby Hofheim to visit the Birkenhof Farm for some fresh products from their 24/7 fridge. I wrote about that experience here. While we were picking out strawberries and farm cheese from the fridge, I couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable dome of a “Therme”. Germany has several areas that are noted for their natural hot springs where the water is rich with healing minerals. Stuttgart and Wiesbaden are both hot springs “hot spots”. Hofheim has the Rhein-Main Therme, that is connected to a hotel, which I spotted as we passed it in May. I mused that I would like to visit.

When we lived near Stuttgart, I loved visiting the Mineraltherme in Böblingen. I see it’s currently still closed due to COVID-19, although it looks like it will be opening again soon. Wiesbaden and the surrounding areas in Hesse have not been as badly affected by the coronavirus as Baden-Württemberg has been. Granted, the pandemic is still going on right now, but things have loosened up a bit. I think Bill was also a bit worried about my mental health, because I sometimes suffer from anxiety and depression and was starting to become a hermit. Until this weekend, I had not left our neighborhood since that short trip to the Birkenhof farm on May 17th… and I wasn’t really wanting to go anywhere.

Bill loves to travel, and so do I… but the whole COVID-19 thing and the constant social media uproar about it was making me very reluctant to venture out. So he decided to book a “surprise” weekend away for me. He didn’t tell me where we were going, but I kind of figured it out. The Rhein-Main Therme is located only twenty minutes away from our home in Breckenheim, but it’s connected to a comfortable hotel that offers half board options and room service. He figured that even if I didn’t want to leave the hotel, we could still get room service. And being the thoughtful guy he is, he even brought Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit, in case I wanted to play board games. Fortunately, those measures weren’t necessary. I ended up consenting to going out, despite my hatred of face masks… so my 48th birthday turned out to be pretty epic.

After arranging for Arran to visit the Birkenhof Tierpension, where he’d get to hang out with his old friend, Celene, who always takes great care of of him (and Zane, when he was still with us), Bill booked us two nights at the Vital Hotel, which is connected to the Rhein-Main Therme. He decided to go for the “Happy Weekend” package, which included half board (breakfast and dinner in the restaurant), free admission to the Therme, and two nights in the hotel. Right now, because of the pandemic, the Therme is limiting day visitors to three hour stays, but if you’re staying in the hotel, you can go directly to the Therme and stay as long as you want.

Meanwhile, as Bill was planning my birthday retreat, I was eyeing new guitars. I started learning to play guitar a few weeks ago. I bought an acoustic guitar on Amazon.de and signed up for Fender Play, an online service offered by the Fender guitar company that uses videos to teach people the basics of the instrument. The lessons have been going so well, and Bill has been enjoying hearing me play so much, that he decided he wanted to learn, too. So, even though I had a new Ortega acoustic guitar that I picked up on Amazon, I decided I wanted a better guitar with steel strings… and I bought Bill a basic guitar, too. Since we haven’t been traveling, I had some money stockpiled.

Fender Play isn’t available worldwide, but it is available in Germany. And there is also a Fender shop in Europe. My instruments got to me by way of The Netherlands in just three days! I love my pretty blue guitar, although I like the other one for teaching me the basics! As Bill was unwrapping his birthday gift (his is on July 7th), I said I felt like Oprah… “You get a guitar, and you get a guitar, and you get a guitar…” I’m still a lot better at singing than playing guitar, but I’m making progress, and my fingers are getting tougher by the day!

I worked on my new guitar skills as I nervously awaited our first trip away from home since coronavirus fucked everything up…

Coronavirus craziness in Germany!

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I haven’t been writing on the travel blog much lately for a few reasons. One is that I’ve been updating the formatting on this blog so that the old posts are readable. This time of year, when the weather sucks so much that I don’t want to venture out, is the best time to be doing that chore.

Another reason I haven’t been writing much is because Bill has been going on incessant TDYs lately. He’s currently in the United States, and this is his third TDY since the beginning of the year. I don’t really go out much on my own. I could. I’ve got a car and still can drive. In fact, this week, I have both cars! But I have no reason to go anywhere and no desire to deal with the hassles of emerging, even though it would probably do me some good.

And that brings me to the third reason I haven’t been writing much… Coronavirus. To be clear, I’m not worried about it much myself. I don’t mingle with many people and, even if I did get sick, it’s not like many people would miss me. I mean, Bill would… and Arran would… and maybe a few friends and family members. But no one really depends on what I do, so if I bit the big one, it’s no big deal.

I haven’t heard that Germany has been really badly hit with the scourge yet, but that hasn’t stopped people from panicking. Today’s featured photo was taken on Saturday, when Bill went to the Globus to buy some groceries. The entire Italian product section was stripped bare. A local chuckled when she noticed Bill taking a photo of the empty shelves.

My German friend, Susanne, says that she was forced to buy “fancy” toilet paper with flowers on it instead of the plain white she favors because there’s no regular toilet paper in the stores. Even the organic markets are being affected by panicked Germans who are hoarding stuff. Yes, it has been in the news— officially reported that even though health ministers in Germany are warning against it, people are buying out the stores.

The same thing was reported by the commissary on post. Bill went there the other day, too, and he said it was a mad house. Local officials even made an announcement about how stock was depleted faster than expected and that they were working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

My German friend wonders why people are buying so much soap and paper products just now… and why they aren’t more concerned that there aren’t many isolation beds in this country. They’re all confined to major cities, too.

I did read one interesting account of a man who got Coronavirus after having been trapped on the Diamond Princess cruise ship for two weeks. He started getting sick on the chartered plane ride back to the States, then went into quarantine. He’s now better, and well enough to write an article for the Washington Post. That isn’t to say that people shouldn’t take precautions. Of course they should. But really, the most important thing is to practice good hygiene and have common sense. Wash your hands. That’s the most important thing. Don’t touch your face, especially if you haven’t just washed your hands. And cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze… then wash your hands again.

I’ve been thinking about taking a walk to the Rewe. I haven’t been in there since they renovated it, following the grand opening of a new drink market in December. Bill always goes and leaves me at home. There are a few things we need at home, though, and it would do me some good to get out. On the other hand, if I do go there, will there be anything left to buy? Or will I be reminded of 90s era Armenia, where everything is behind a counter?

Maybe I’ll find out… if the weather holds. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep eating leftovers.

Holistic healthcare for your pets in Germany…

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Every once in awhile, I write about things I see when I walk my dogs.  Bill and I happen to live right next to a large nature park.  It’s a great area to live in if you have dogs.  There are a lot of dog owners in our town and they’re pretty friendly and helpful.  Case in point, about a month ago, my dog Arran escaped from our house and several locals were instrumental in helping us bring him back to safety.

Lately, I’ve noticed a woman parking a car advertising holistic medicine for pets.  I don’t know her and have never talked to her, but I see her and her son walking their Maltese dogs several times a week.  She drives a SUV with decals on it advertising her services as a naturopath.  I’m actually kind of interested in what she does, since I have been exploring natural approaches to veterinary care with my dogs, Zane and Arran.  Both of my dogs have had mast cell tumors since we’ve been in Germany.

I already belong to a great Facebook group that offers advice for natural approaches toward caring for dogs with mast cell tumors.  In that group, there’s information about how to feed dogs with mast cell cancer, hot to use CBD oil and other essential oils for healing tumors and lesions caused by the cancer, and nutritional advice for overall wellness.

To be honest, I’m not as much into “woo” as some people are.  I do think natural approaches can be helpful and are often not harmful.  I can personally attest to how much CBD oil has helped Zane and Arran, but I also give them Benadryl to discourage the histamine release that can cause tumors to develop.  I give Zane Tagamet or Pepcid to help him with the upset stomach he gets sometimes and also to help discourage new tumor growth.  It’s been over a year now and this approach seems to be working well for both of them.

Still, I wonder if there’s more I could be doing.  That’s why I took notice of the SUV advertising holistic services for pets.  The other day, I looked up the woman on Facebook.  Her name is Sylvia Fiedler, and according to her official Web site, we were born at around the same time in 1972.  She charges 60 euros an hour in cash for her services.  It appears that she comes to your home, although I see she’s located in Oberjettingen, which is just up the road from where Bill and I live.

It appears that most of Fiedler’s training is very recent, although she started in the field in the late 80s.  I can relate, since my very first job was working for a veterinarian, too.  I quickly determined that as much as I like animals, I didn’t want to work in the veterinary field.  However, my dogs have pretty much demanded that I learn more about how to take care of them.  Our local vets have been surprised by what I know.  One of them thought I was a nurse, but actually, I have a master’s degree in public health and used to work as a technical writer for a public health agency.  I think that’s why I know more than the average person about some of this stuff.

Anyway, it looks like Fielder’s practice centers around feeding a raw diet, laser therapy, acupuncture and acupressure, Bach flowers, and even leeches.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever be calling her… although it may get to a point at which I might decide to give homeopathy a whirl.  Some people do swear by it and it’s kind of cool to know that it’s available in my current “hometown”.  It’s also kind of cool to know that the lady who offers it walks the same routes I do with Zane and Arran.

I’m mainly just writing this post because I know I have some local dog lovers/owners who read my blog.  Perhaps some of them are looking for a naturopath/holistic practitioner for their dogs.  Hopefully, this information might be helpful.

Jettingen is a great place for dog owners… not just because there are so many trails, but also because we have a resident naturopath.