Our pandemic dog rescue story… part six

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I think this will be the last part of my tale. I’ve got bitching to do on my other blog, which has been neglected for a few days.

Our drive back to Germany was long, but relatively peaceful. Once we got through the Katschberg Pass in Austria, the weather cleared up a lot. We had sun, or at least just a few clouds, all the way back home to Wiesbaden. Since we had to do the whole drive in one shot, I’m really glad we did it on a Sunday. There’s road work going on that we noticed had backed up traffic for miles on the way down to Slovenia. Since it was Sunday, there was still a slight bottleneck, but it wasn’t nearly as horrible as it was on the way down. Here are some more photos from the drive…

We made several stops but, following Meg’s advice, we didn’t attempt to take Noizy out. He’s still working on walking on the leash. When the rain stops, I’ll be giving him a few lessons. He’s going to be needing some exercise soon, although he’s so far seemed content to lie down in a corner of our living room, right by the doors to the garden. Speaking of the garden, I’m really glad we have one and it has a very tall fence surrounded by hedges. Noizy is about the size of a small deer and could probably jump pretty high if he wanted to. Arran is also a high jumper, but he’s way smaller than Noizy is.

So… now we’ve had our new family member for two days. He’s already blown my mind by being a super fast learner.

Bear in mind, when he lived in Kosovo, Noizy resided at a “pension”, which is not like the pensions one might find in Germany. He lived with a bunch of dogs on a farm and they were outside all the time, fed communally. He’s never been trained, hence why he still needs to learn how to walk on a leash. And although he’s very friendly and sweet, he’s not used to living with people. He’s also not very alpha at all, despite being so big. Arran easily dominates him, and Arran is not a particularly alpha dog, either.

When we first brought him into the house, Noizy seemed very confused by the glass doors. I have a sense that he’s never seen glass before. He tried to walk through the glass when he first came into the house and it took a couple of bonks on the face before he realized that I have to open the door for him. One of the doors has a holey mosquito screen thing put there by a prior tenant (it needs replacing). At first, Noizy had no idea what to make of that at all. But after he saw Arran go through it once or twice, he caught on that he can do the same thing.

The first night, Noizy was obsessed with being outside. I think it’s because that was what he knows best. However, in less than 24 hours, he seems to have figured out that being inside isn’t so bad. It’s warm and dry. Now, he gets upset if I close the door when he’s in the yard. He comes right back inside and curls up on his makeshift bed.

Noizy is still pretty scared of Bill, who is probably one of the gentlest men on the planet. But he’s pretty much at ease with me, and loves it when I pet him. When I approach him, his little stumpy tail wags and I can see in his eyes that he wants affection. He’s also learned to trust me enough to roll on his back for belly rubs, which he clearly adores. I knew he liked them because Meg sent me a video of him getting a belly rub from a boy in Kosovo. Still, I can tell this isn’t just him being submissive and showing me his belly. He trusts me enough to let me rub it.

Although he hasn’t wanted to leave his corner yet, he is a lot more relaxed than he was. He is also slowly getting braver and exploring more of the living room. Arran barks at him to keep away from me, especially when food is around, but I don’t think his sternness is going to last. Eventually, they’ll have to work something out.

I have been most impressed by Noizy at night. I was worried about him sleeping alone. Arran sleeps with us, as all of our dogs except CC have done. Noizy is way too big for the bed, though, and he needs a bath something awful (that will be a two person job for sure). He also hasn’t been brave enough to visit the other floors in the house, where the bathing facilities are. In any case, when it’s bed time, so far he’s just curled up on the little bed he’s made and been quiet all night. He doesn’t move from his spot. I have yet to find any pee spots. Arran is notorious stealth pee-er. Noizy has done almost all of his business outside, with the exception of a couple of submission pees. However… I can see that we’re going to go through a lot more shit bags, because Noizy’s poops are big, like he is!

I’m trying to teach him to use the dog bed. It’s not quite big enough for him, but our other dogs never used it much. Once he learns what it’s for, we’ll get him one of his own and station it somewhere away from the doors to the backyard.

Noizy has also learned to eat and drink from a bowl. Based on how he eats, I get the sense that he had to wolf his food down because of other dogs being around. Now, he’s learning that he can relax. Just today, I convinced him to try a dog treat. Arran loves them, but Noizy wasn’t so sure until he finally tasted one. I am hoping he’ll like the treats because they will help in training him. He’s definitely not very food oriented, though. He didn’t even want a little bit of chicken I offered him.

I look forward to teaching him to walk nicely on the leash so we can take walks. I’m sure my neighbors will be astonished when they see him. He really is quite a sight. I have a feeling he is going to go down as one of the most special dogs I’ve ever had. Just his story is amazing. He could have easily died on a street in Kosovo, a tiny puppy taken from his mom too young in a country where people don’t really care for dogs very much.

Instead, he was handed over to Meg, who had no idea what he would grow up to be. Meg has told us that Noizy represents hope to her. The young man who gave him to her didn’t know where else to take him, but didn’t want to see him die. That young man gave him an amazing chance. What were the odds that the tiny puppy left for dead would end up being adopted by Americans in Germany?

I’ve often thought about that with our other dogs, too… all of whom (with the exception of CC) have lived in Germany. What are the odds that these dogs, born in rural America and tossed away, would end up living in Germany?

In any case, I’m sure we will have our challenges. Noizy is not like any dog I have ever had in my life. But he is just such a sweetheart and so eager to please. I am delighted to finally know him after six months of waiting. It was worth everything to get him here. And so many people deserve a hearty thanks for making it happen.

One final matter… Yesterday, Bill reported to the German court, as requested. He saw the pet taxi driver who had caused the death of Jonny, the first dog we hoped to adopt over here. She didn’t acknowledge Bill at all and seemed completely nonchalant and callous about the whole thing. It turned out the magistrate, who had been the one who had answered the phone last week when Bill called to tell them he’d need an interpreter, had supposedly told Bill he didn’t need to come to court. She also said there was a letter, which there hasn’t been yet. In any case, Bill made the trip for nothing and it turned out we hadn’t needed to rush back to Germany, after all. Also, Bill noticed that everyone was dressed very casually. Even the magistrate wore jeans. Bill had put on a coat and tie. Ah well. We’ll close the book on that whole situation. We have our new family member now, and I think it was meant to be. And if Jonny hadn’t died, we wouldn’t have Noizy… who is a unique delight in every way.

I’m still not sure what we’re going to do about Noizy’s name. He comes from Kosovo, though, which is mostly made up of people who are ethnic Albanians. My German friend says there is an Albanian rapper named Noizy. Noizy was named because of the screeches he made when he was calling out for help as a little puppy, but he’s now a very quiet dog… but I hate to put him through yet another change. He’s already adapted to so much. I can’t wait to see him turn into a confident, happy house dog. I’ll be sure to keep updating this blog as that inevitably happens.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part five

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So there we were on a rainy Saturday in beautiful Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. We ate sandwiches and drank local beer as Meg updated us on her progress. She had left Kosovo at about 7:30am and promptly encountered an hour long wait at the Serbian border. I have never been to Kosovo or Serbia, but evidently, it is a very Muslim populated area and Muslims typically aren’t very fond of dogs. Noizy saw some street dogs at the border and barked at them. Next thing Meg knew, a whole bunch of street dogs were attacking her vehicle. Consequently, she decided to sedate Noizy.

Meg is a very well connected person in the former Yugoslavia. She lived and worked in Kosovo and Croatia and can speak some of the language. A vet kindly hooked her up with some squirtable medication. It looked like the type of container I had seen used for horse wormers. You squirt a little in the dog’s mouth and it’s nap time. Evidently, that’s what happened with Noizy. He was soon down for the count, which I’m sure was a blessing, given what came later.

As Meg crossed over into Croatia some hours later, her car began to run funny. She got warning lights indicating that the transmission may be failing. Meg was upset, because she had taken her car to a dealer to have it checked– an Urlaub exam– and it had passed with flying colors. Now, here she was with three dogs, about four hours from her final destination, and the car was acting up. She pulled off at a gas station just beyond a construction zone where the car had been running slowly, got some gas, took the dogs out for a pee, and decided it was time to call ADAC (German auto club). Unfortunately, Meg doesn’t have ADAC Plus, which offers service all over Europe, so they couldn’t help her.

Bill, who was fretting about having to drive all day Sunday to make it to the Monday morning court appearance that turned out to be for naught, said to me, “I think this is going to turn into a rescue mission”. Meanwhile, Anne and Kyle, who had also come down from Germany to get dogs, were asking Meg if she needed them to come get her.

At this point, I remembered how, back in December 2019, Bill and I were unexpectedly stuck in Beaune, France, because some asshole decided to puncture our brand new tire while we were at a rest stop. We also had to call ADAC. Fortunately, we have ADAC Plus. I am writing this to remind any Americans who are reading this and live (and drive) in Europe to make sure you have auto club coverage AND it covers you everywhere. We have had to use ADAC at least twice during our three tours in Germany and it definitely pays for itself when they bail you out of a vehicular mechanical nightmare in a strange town.

So, the hours stretched on, and it became clear that we wouldn’t be fetching Noizy on Saturday night, as planned. Bill asked Meg if he needed to come to her, but thankfully Anne and Kyle were able to spend another day, plus they’re a lot younger than we are. So they went to convoy with Meg… she followed them with the dogs and they finally arrived in Kranjska Gora at about 5:00am. Incidentally, that also reminds me of the time Bill and I, and his mom, got stuck in Italy and spent all night trying to come back to Germany, where our hotel room was. Yep… this kind of shit easily happens in Europe. We still talk about that situation, even though it happened in July 2009.

While I’m not glad that Meg’s car had problems, I am glad that we were able to get Noizy on Sunday morning instead of Saturday night. I didn’t know quite how large he is, nor did I know how Arran would react to him. He’s also still working on his leash training. It would have been a challenge having him in such close quarters with Arran the first night, especially in a place where walls are shared. However, he has been a gentleman since we brought him home. Arran keeps his distance, but I think he’ll eventually come around.

We spent Saturday night watching for news of Meg’s progress– she had a bunch of people offering advice. I am thoroughly impressed by her ability to make helpful connections!

At about 7:30am on Sunday, I sent Meg a message that we were on our way to her. She was staying at a little gasthaus outside of the town. It looked really nice. In fact, I think I would have preferred it to where we stayed. There was a nice field behind it where people were doing early morning yoga as we approached. I watched one guy do a headstand.

Meg was standing in the parking lot with Noizy, who was a striking sight. He’s a very tall dog… much taller than any of our others by far. And he has very bold coloring. It made for a very brilliant appearance with the mountain backdrop and fall colors. This was also the first time I had ever seen Meg, too. She turned out to be different than I was expecting.

When I was growing up, I had a neighbor from Pennsylvania who reminded me a lot of Meg and I had imagined her to look like my old neighbor. As it always happens when I form a mind’s eye, the picture I had in my head didn’t match my imagination.

We parked the car and I got Arran out. He went up to Noizy and gave him a sniff, then moved off to smell all of the other stuff. Bill took Noizy’s leash, but it appeared that Noizy was pretty scared of Bill. He backed up wildly. I was really glad he was in a harness. I heard the rush of water and was curious, so I took Arran to see where it was coming from. I also got a video of Arran and Noizy meeting. It wasn’t quite as magic as when Arran met Zane, but at least there wasn’t any bloodshed!

I could tell that Meg was very sad to give Noizy up. She has a very deep and special bond with him, having raised him from the time he was a tiny puppy. When I see Noizy now and compare him to pictures of him as a puppy, I’m reminded of a very cheesy cartoon from my childhood called Dinky Dog. This could be the story of Noizy’s life!

This theme seems a bit influenced by The Brady Bunch.

A local lady seemed keen to talk to us as we were getting to know Noizy. I’ve got to hand it to Meg, who rather firmly but kindly asked her to leave us alone as we got acquainted and worked to get Noizy loaded up and ready to go. I think some tears were shed by Meg and Noizy. He’s clearly very special to her and I am honored that she allowed us to add him to our family.

Because Noizy seemed really nervous, we gave him a little more sedative, enough to take the edge off for a couple of hours. Then we loaded him into the back of the Volvo. He fit perfectly and slept for most of the way back, even after the drug wore off. We didn’t hear a peep from him or even see him. He was very content to nap the whole way back. He’s a good traveler.

More on that in the next post!

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part four

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I have mentioned before that I think Austria is an extremely beautiful country. We haven’t spent enough time there, which is a shame, because it’s a small country that has huge things to offer. I love the scenery there. There are enormous mountains, babbling brooks, Dirndl clad ladies and men in Lederhosen, and lots of great food. I like Austrian food more than German food. Yes, there is a difference.

It seems like Austrian food has a little dash of Italian to it… and it also seems like there’s more variety to it. It’s not just Schnitzel, sausages, Spatzle, potatoes and cabbage. And yes, I know I’m inviting criticism from my few German readers for writing this. But I also know that some of them are reading because they want to know what things look like from an American point of view. Well, I am American, and this is my point of view, even if it’s not entirely accurate. You know what they say about perspectives. I know Germany has a variety of different specialties throughout the land, but for some reason, Austrian food just seems slightly different to me. Not that we had much of a chance to eat it during this whirlwind trip.

I was expecting Bill to stop for lunch. He never did. I don’t know how he hasn’t learned in almost eighteen years of marriage that it’s good to take a break. On the other hand, there weren’t that many appealing stops on the way down to the Slovenian border. We did stop at one place so I could pee. It was pouring down rain, though. I also remember having to pay a toll of 12,50 euros before we could go through Katschburg Pass. Bill was freaking out because the toll was done by machine and it wouldn’t accept his Bar (cash). I told him he should just take his time. People would have to wait. It’s not like they don’t make us wait when they have business to attend to.

Anyway, as we approached the border, we ended up on a narrow mountain road behind some guy who didn’t seem to know which was was up. There were many wrong turn signals, a few weaves and bobs in the road, and slow speeds. The drive over the mountain was very beautiful. The leaves are turning, so the colors were dramatic against the stormy skies. There’s a bunker museum on the mountain road. We saw a lot of signs and had we not had Arran and it hadn’t been raining, it would have made for an interesting stop for Bill. It was built during the Cold War to make sure no one from former Yugoslavia would cross into Austria and raise a ruckus. Again… I would love to visit Kransjka Gora again, so maybe someday we’ll get a chance to visit.

Here are some photos from our drive down from Salzburg.

We rented an “apartment” for our night in Slovenia. I didn’t realize it was really more of a hotel apartment. We told the proprietor that we’d be there at 2:00pm, since they told us they needed an hour to get to Kranjska Gora. We actually arrived earlier than 2:00, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me to message them through Booking.com. We just waited for a car. Well… first, Bill went to a tiny grocery store near the apartment and picked up a few essentials. Kranjska Gora is very close to both the Italian and Austrian borders. It must have been interesting to live there when Slovenia was still part of a closed society.

After we picked up a few items, we went back to the suite hotel and met the young lady who showed us our digs for the night. For about 86 euros, we got a little place with a bed, a sitting room, basic kitchen facilities, and a bathroom with a tiny shower. It was very clean and had what we needed, but it wasn’t quite as nice as our place in Salzburg. The floors were tile, which makes for easy cleaning, but chilly quarters. Still, it was just fine for a night and the price was right. Checking out was equally a breeze. All we had to do was dump the trash and leave the keys on the kitchen table. That was perfect for our purposes. The place we stayed was called G&F apartments on Booking.com, but it was in the Hotel Klass building, which is very close to the town center. I prepaid for the room and we had to pay four euros for the tourist tax. There wasn’t a pet fee and Arran was definitely not the only dog there.

Our original plan was to get Noizy at about 8:00pm, as that was when Meg was supposed to arrive with him and two other dogs who got new homes. Another American couple, based at Ramstein, I believe, were coming down to pick up a dog for themselves and transport another to a German family in Bavaria (I think). That other couple turned out to be a godsend. More on that in the next part.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part three

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When we take trips, I usually take a lot of photos, even from the car. Before a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Kransjka Gora, and had no idea of what we were in for. I did remember how beautiful Lake Bled was and had been wanting to visit Slovenia again. But Bill and I are getting older and it’s hard to drive for seven or eight hours straight, so that means it’s best if we can break up the trip. And, as most Americans know, there’s only so much leave a person can take. When Bill worked for his first company, the pay wasn’t as good, but they were very generous about letting him take time off. His current employer pays very well, but it’s not as easy to go away for longer trips. Not that we’re complaining. Six years ago, when we first came to Germany, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. I managed to pay them off two years ago, nine years ahead of time!

While I usually like to take a lot of photos on our trips, I was more preoccupied this time. I didn’t think to take any pictures until we stopped for lunch at a KFC. German KFC is not like American KFC. And American KFC is not like the Kentucky Fried Chicken of my youth, which used to be a lot better than it is now. We decided to stop for chicken, even though it’s not as quick and convenient as other fast food is. I was kind of astonished by the rest stop where we pulled off. It had an amazing assortment of choices, especially for Germany. There was a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a KFC and a Subway!

And right next to the Subway was an enormous “adult” book store, complete with blow up dolls outside the entrance! I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the erotic book store. I wish I had. In the United States, the adult book stores aren’t quite as prominent as they are in Germany, although I do remember repeatedly passing Club Risque in North Carolina many times as I drove back and forth from Virginia to South Carolina to and from graduate school.

I guess the erotic book stores are intended for the lonely truckers who traverse Germany from all over Europe, especially the East. I notice that they are well catered to in this country. Many rest stops have showers, as well as pay toilets that are clean. Where I come in the States, the rest stops are a little bit nicer than the free ones in Europe, which are really bare bones. But they don’t usually have restaurants (except in the Northeast). In Europe, the rest stops that aren’t just a place to pee have restaurants, fully stocked convenience stores, gas stations, and yes, something for the truckers who need a little distraction from the road.

Lunch was pretty filling. We ate it in the car, mainly due to having Arran with us and because of COVID-19. I watched people going in and out of the restaurant, ignoring the request to exit from the opposite side of the entrance. I also noticed in the ladies room, that someone had dumped pasta all over the bathroom floor. I couldn’t tell if it was cooked or not. It was an odd sight.

Once we got lunch sorted, we got back on A3 and headed south. I had forgotten how long the drive to Austria by way of Salzburg is. It seems to take forever to cross the border because you have to keep going east. I always enjoy driving over borders, but on this first day of our trip, we were about 90% in Germany before we arrived in Salzburg. We made another quick stop at an excellent rest stop not far from the border so Bill could buy an Austrian vignette (toll sticker). They are required for the Autobahn and you can buy them for ten days at just under 10 euros.

That’s another interesting thing about Europe. Many countries over here either have systems where you either pay for a vignette to use the motorways or you pay tolls. In Switzerland, you buy a sticker for the year and it costs about $40 (40 Swiss Francs or 30 Euros). In other countries, they are for shorter time periods and cost less. Many of the countries that have vignettes also have tolls for when you go through a long mountain pass. Germany is the only country I’ve seen so far where the Autobahn is free. But we don’t know for how much longer it will be free. Of course, you still have to pay 70 cents to use the bathroom at the fancy rest stops. That’s why it’s not at all unusual to see people peeing on trees here. They’re pretty brazen about it, too.

The proprietors at the Haslachmühle B&B had requested that we check in by 6:00pm. We arrived there at about 5:30pm, having driven through Salzburg’s traffic and passed by a guy driving a carriage pulled by two white horses. The horses spooked Arran, who barked and startled us both. I wish I’d had my camera, though. Those horses were a lovely sight.

So… about that B&B. It’s a winner. Getting to it is a little bit tricky, since it’s located on a very narrow “goat trail” type of road. But it’s a very charming place, with six unique rooms and a small free parking lot for guests. The lady in charge, along with her very sweet female dachshund “Luezy” (pronounced as if you were rhyming it with “noisy”), met us as we pulled up. She was quick to check us in and show us to the beautiful room I rented for the night. We stayed in the Room City View, which was just awesome. It had a big bed, a huge balcony that offered a view of the city, and a gorgeous masonry heater. I especially loved how the walls had built in bookshelves loaded with books (in German, of course). It was really unique and lovely. I was sorry we could only stay one night.

We were tired from the drive and still full from lunch, so we had no need for dinner. However, the B&B has a fridge where guests can get wine, beer, or soft drinks, as well as snacks. You just write down what you took and pay on checkout. Our room came with two bottles of water (looked like they came from a Penguin), mini Ritter Sports on the pillows, and three apples. Adding in some crackers and wine, we were pretty much set for the night. I enjoyed watching the sun set over the mountain. We also watched some network TV, which we rarely have the chance to do.

If we had needed food, we could have ordered from Lieferando.at or, if we were feeling determined, driven into town. There aren’t any restaurants near the B&B that I could see.

Breakfast in the morning included the usual buffet spread, with cheeses, cold cuts, fruits, juices, and breads. The proprietor made us coffee and scrambled eggs. While we were eating, Arran started pitching a fit. We hadn’t brought him into the breakfast room. I was very pleased to see that the proprietor didn’t mind Arran’s howling and even said we could bring him into the breakfast room, which we ended up doing. Another couple also had a dog with them and Arran behaved like a perfect gentleman.

After a leisurely breakfast, we loaded up the car and checked out. I would definitely go back to Die Haslachmühle B&B, next time without any canines. However, I am happy to report that they are very welcome there, even if children aren’t (according to Booking.com, anyway). We weren’t even charged extra for Arran. I was expecting a pet fee, so that was a really nice surprise. Below are some more photos from our stop in Salzburg. It really is a beautiful city. I would love to go back and do another tour of it when we don’t have business to attend to.

By late morning, we were heading south to Slovenia, which isn’t that far from Salzburg. I think it was about a three hour drive. I managed to get a few pictures of castles from the side of the Autobahn… again impressive sights. We really should come down and actually visit sometime. We had a chance to tour Salzburg when we did our very first Space A hop from the USA back in 2012, but that was just a day trip that we took from Munich. We had a great time, but it wasn’t long enough. Time to look into visiting again. We’ve been to Salzburg three times and still haven’t done the Sound of Music tour. 😉

More on the drive to Slovenia in the next post.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part two

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A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I were deciding the best way to go about picking up Noizy. Our older dog, Arran, is sweet, but he gets very jealous. Every day, there were new reports of the worsening COVID-19 situation. Also, the woman who interviewed Bill and me before we were approved to adopt Jonny had warned us that it would be best if Arran could enter the house before the new dog. Otherwise, it would be like a wife coming home to “another woman”, so to speak. That lady had also been very careful to tell us about the proper way to secure rescue dogs when they first come home. We’d heard the same advice seven years ago, when we adopted Arran. Using a collar and harness and connecting them together is the best practice… or carrying them inside the house while they’re in a box.

We have a great Tierpension who has taken excellent care of Arran and Zane, but they have limited pick up hours. If we put Arran in the pension, there was a risk the new dog would be home before he would. Also, I didn’t fancy the idea of being stuck at the border somewhere. Been there done that in post Soviet Armenia. Bringing Arran was also a little concerning, since I knew he might fight with the new dog and we have a 2020 Volvo. So, at first, I was thinking maybe I’d stay home with Arran and Bill would run down to Slovenia and get Noizy by himself. But then I reconsidered it and decided all three of us would journey to Slovenia.

With that decided, we set about planning the trip. I quickly determined that Salzburg would be a good halfway point between home and Slovenia. In fact, Salzburg was a midway stop we made in 2016, when we went to Lake Bled for vacation. We stopped on the way back to Germany that time. On the way down, we stopped in Gosau, near Hallstatt, a must see Austrian town that is really only necessary to see one time. However, the inn where we stayed in Gosau was probably one of my favorites ever!

I quickly found a really nice, pet friendly, bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Salzburg. The place I found, Die Haslachmühle, is a renovated mill house that dates from 1688. I booked us in their largest room, mainly because I didn’t want Arran to cause a fuss. It was 152 euros, but it had a huge balcony and a gorgeous masonry heater in the middle of the room. The B&B is not kid friendly. In fact, I don’t think they’re allowed. But parking is free.

One night in Salzburg booked, I found us an apartment in Kranjska Gora, which was where we planned to pick up Noizy. This border town is just a few miles from Italy and Austria, and boasts rugged mountain views. It’s obviously a ski area for Slovenia. Meg has been there a few times and highly recommended it. Having now been there, I can understand why. We’ll definitely have to go back!

Then, thinking we’d have an extra night, I booked us an apartment in Chiemsee, which is an area in Germany near Lake Chiemsee, a large freshwater lake near the Austrian border. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

The very next day, while Bill was on a business trip in Stuttgart, I went to the mailbox and there was a letter from Rheinland-Pfalz. It was a summons to be a witness in court. Naturally, as we are in Germany, the documents were all in German. I had to slowly translate everything… and basically, the document read that Bill was to be a witness for the pet rescue, which was suing the pet taxi driver whose negligence caused Jonny’s death.

The court date was for October 5th– today– which meant that we would not be able to stay a third night on our trip. Bill tried to get the case postponed. He called the court and got the magistrate, who didn’t speak English at all (he didn’t know she was the magistrate at the time). Bill also emailed the rescue, who said they would arrange for an interpreter and let Bill know if that couldn’t be done. He never heard from the court or the rescue, so he figured he was bound to show up. In the paperwork, it mentioned fines of up to 1000 euros for not showing up and/or a special “escort” from the police. Bill was more than happy to testify, since he’s been haunted by that accident since March.

I cancelled the third night and we awaited Friday, October 2, when we’d make our way down to Slovenia to meet Noizy. I dreaded the long drive. Neither Bill nor I enjoy long road trips anymore. It’s probably a good seven or eight hours’ drive to Kranjska Gora from Wiesbaden. But Bill was determined to fulfill his civic duty.

With that settled, I started looking for stuff to buy for our new pooch. We wanted to make sure he was properly outfitted for the drive. But then it occurred to me that I couldn’t judge his size very well from the photos and videos Meg sent us. Many of them were taken when he was still a puppy. I have adorable videos of him as a tiny baby, some of him as an adolescent, and not too many of him fully grown. Having wrongly guessed sizes on dogs before, I decided it would be better to wait until he got home to us. Meg promised he’d have a collar and harness, at the very least.

Friday morning, we set off on our journey to Salzburg.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part one

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As of yesterday, our home became a two dog household again. I never thought we’d get there, but we have. This series is about our quest to adopt a dog in Germany, which took us all the way to Slovenia and back over the weekend. Before I write about our travels, I want to offer a quick backstory about our experiences with dogs as a married couple. Please bear with me! It’s all about preserving history.

Bill and I have been dedicated dog rescuers since 2002. I grew up with dogs in rural Gloucester, Virginia, but mostly focused on horses until I went to college. Bill never had dogs, but his mom had many cats when he was growing up. Bill can’t have cats because he’s allergic to them. But he can have dogs, and he is a natural dog “parent”. In May of 2002, I had just finished graduate school at the University of South Carolina and it was time I had a dog in my life again. I told Bill I wanted a beagle. He agreed that sharing our home with a dog would be most acceptable, and beagles have been in our lives ever since.

All of our previous dogs have been beagle mixes of some sort. The first one, blue-eyed CuCullain (CC) was a beagle mixed with husky and he had incredible ice blue eyes. We adopted him in May 2002 and lost him after sixteen months when he contracted Mycobacterium Avium, an extremely rare and fatal disease in dogs.

All the dogs we’ve loved before– CC, MacGregor and Flea, Zane and MacGregor, Zane and Arran, and Jonny, whom we never got to pet.

Next, in November 2003, we adopted a dog named Flea, probably the closest we ever had to a purebred beagle. He was found on the side of a road in Chester County, Virginia, starving, covered with fleas and ticks, and heartworm and Lyme Disease positive. We had Flea for six years, and along with our third rescue, MacGregor, Flea came to Germany with us the first time. We lost him to prostate cancer when he was about twelve years old, two months after we moved to Georgia from Germany.

MacGregor, Flea’s sidekick, was a beagle-basset hound mix who was incredibly smart and funny, but terrified of people he didn’t know. He adored Bill and loved performing on camera. We adopted him in 2004, mainly because Flea badly needed a “second banana”. After a few weeks of “working it out”, Flea and MacGregor became best friends. We loved him for 8.5 years, until he developed a spinal tumor. We said goodbye to MacGregor in Raleigh, North Carolina a week before Christmas 2012, when he was about ten years old. CuCullain, Flea, and MacGregor all came to us from BREW in northern Virginia.

Zane, who was my very special friend, came into our lives a month after after we lost Flea in November 2009. We had just moved to Georgia and he was turned into Atlanta Beagle Rescue. His first owner had bought him at Petland and said she didn’t have the money to take care of him. Personally, I think she gave him up because she was too busy and he was in his destructive “teen puppy” phase. It took us about six months to turn him into a civilized pet, but once we did, he was an amazing gentleman. Zane was with us for almost ten years until we lost him on August 31, 2019 to lymphoma. He was almost eleven years old when he died. I think Zane was mostly beagle with a dash of Labrador Retriever. He never met a stranger and loved to play. I adored him and was crushed when we lost him.

We got Arran in January 2013, when MacGregor passed. He came from Triangle Beagle Rescue out of Raleigh, North Carolina, and appears to be a mix of beagle and German Shorthaired Pointer. He’s about eleven years old, and he’s sweet, cuddly, emotional, soulful, and very jealous. Bill is his favorite person, as evidenced by the many pictures I’ve shared of him on social media. Arran is a wonderful dog who doesn’t need a “second banana”. But I needed one.

We usually adopt a new dog within a month of losing one. Since we live in Germany now, it’s not as easy for us to adopt dogs. There are a lot of reasons for this. One of the main reasons is because local pet shelters don’t like to allow Americans to have dogs. Too many military folks have abandoned animals in the shelters here, to the point at which they don’t trust us anymore. Some rescues also don’t want to adopt to Americans because there have been cases of adopted animals being abused, abandoned, or neglected. Certainly, not all Americans are abusive to animals, but unfortunately enough of them have been that we all get painted with that broad brush in some parts of Germany. I didn’t want to buy a dog from a breeder, because I know there are so many dogs who need homes. So we waited about six months after losing Zane to try to adopt from a German rescue organization. That attempt to adopt was successful in that the rescue didn’t mind that we were Americans. Unfortunately, it ended with a needless tragedy.

Our brand new canine family member, currently named Noizy, was a much anticipated arrival. Noizy came into our lives in April 2020, a couple of weeks after a dog we tried to adopt escaped before he made it into our house. We were absolutely devastated about what happened to Jonny, the dog who was supposed to join us last March. You might say that, in a weird way, Jonny was a casualty of COVID-19 and extreme negligence. But when he died, he also helped save two canine lives– Noizy, and Max, an elderly cocker spaniel who found himself abandoned at our Tierpension when his owner died. The proprietor offered him to us, but since we had already committed to Noizy, I ended up sharing his story in a local Facebook group and Max was adopted by a teacher at the American school in Wiesbaden. I take comfort in knowing that losing Jonny meant that two dogs got new homes. Still, it was horrible what happened to him.

We were approved to adopt Jonny, a beautiful beagle mix from Sardinia, in mid March 2020, right around the time COVID-19 was getting really bad in Europe. Originally, we planned to drive up to northern Germany to pick him up from his foster family’s house. But before we could make travel plans, the local command issued General Order #1, which forbade us from leaving the Wiesbaden area. We let the rescue know that we couldn’t travel and offered to pay Jonny’s expenses until we could go get him. The rescue wouldn’t agree to that, but proposed that we could pay for a pet taxi to have him brought to us. Long story short, Bill ended up agreeing, and after hasty arrangements were made, Jonny was picked up by a pet taxi and driven to Wiesbaden overnight.

The woman who had brought Jonny to us had driven all night from northern Germany. She was exhausted, having told Bill that she had been driving for seventeen hours. For some reason, she had not properly secured Jonny with so much as a collar and a leash before she took him out of her pet taxi. She put him down on the ground, completely naked, and tried to use a lasso leash on him. The dog backed out of the lasso before it tightened, took off running, and soon found his way to the Autobahn, where he eventually got hit by a car. We found about it the morning after we lost him. The pet rescue found out first, because Jonny had a chip. I also got contacted by a club in Germany that helps the police inform people of their pets’ deaths. That was weird. Especially since he wasn’t really our pet yet. There’s a club for almost everything in Germany.

Complicating matters was the fact that a couple of people in Bill’s office were sick with COVID-19, and we found out about it the morning Jonny ran away from us. Bill was forced to quarantine just a couple of hours after Jonny escaped. We couldn’t look for him ourselves, but even if we could, he didn’t know us at all. He’d never even so much as sniffed us. We never petted him. I don’t think we would have been able to catch him, even if we could have found him. It was just heartbreaking; he was only about ten feet from our front door when he escaped.

I will never forgot how absolutely horrible that experience was… I definitely learned some lessons from it. In fact, as I type this, Bill is heading to court to testify about what happened to Jonny. The rescue sued the pet taxi driver, who refused to take any responsibility for what happened. (Edited to add: I just learned that at the last minute, the pet taxi driver decided to settle and Bill didn’t even have to be at the courthouse today… so basically, we rushed back to Germany for nothing. Oh well. At least she finally took responsibility. Wish they’d told us sooner.)

Anyway, last spring, I was feeling distraught about the Jonny’s sudden death. Bill and I don’t know how much longer we’ll live in Germany, and it seemed impossible to get another dog. I’d had my heart set on Jonny. Thanks to COVID, my reluctance to buy from a breeder, and German prejudice against Americans adopting dogs from Tierheims (even if it is justified), it seemed like we’d be a single dog household until we eventually depart Germany, and I have no idea when that will be. One day, I posted on Facebook that I really wanted another dog.

Within minutes of my post, my friend Mary sent me a message. She said she could put me in contact with an American woman who rescues dogs. Before I knew it, I was chatting on Facebook with Meg, who had lived in Kosovo, a tiny breakaway nation that was once part of Yugoslavia and is not recognized as its own country everywhere. Meg now lives in Germany, but still has many dogs in Kosovo who need homes. She is very committed to seeing that the dogs she rescues all get the sweet life off of the streets of Kosovo.

My heart was already kind of leaning toward adopting a dog from the East, even before we lost Zane. I have another Facebook friend named Trish who used to live in Stuttgart and was also living there when we had our latest Stuttgart stint. Trish adopted a beautiful female dog from a shelter near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Trish had said her dog, Phoebe, was the “best souvenir ever”. I had watched in delight as she posted pictures of Phoebe, who went from homeless Croatian street dog to beloved canine family member. I was inspired, even if I’m really used to beagles.

Anyway, after establishing contact, Meg sent me pictures of the dogs she had… and when I saw Noizy’s face, he made an immediate impression on my heart. I asked Meg about Noizy and she gave me some of his details. I told Bill about him and shared his story and photos. But we knew it would take awhile before Noizy would be part of our household.

First, he’d need to pass a blood test. Then there would be a four month waiting period after the test. There was also COVID-19 to consider, with borders opening and closing at varying intervals on a weekly basis. COVID-19 also made it temporarily impossible to export Noizy’s blood sample to a veterinary school in Germany, where it would be tested. Planes weren’t flying for awhile in the spring, and that was the only way to get the sample out of Kosovo. I think that logistical hassle added a month to the wait. Then the transportation had to be arranged.

All told, we’ve waited almost six months to bring Noizy home. There were times when it seemed like he’d never get here. Sometimes, I wondered how we were going to coordinate everything to get him to Germany, especially given the COVID-19 situation and the grim news reports about how there will be a second wave.

Noizy arrived last night after a very long, yet whirlwind, two day journey from his homeland. This series I’m going to start today is about that journey. I’m going to include the usual hotel details, as well as what little I got to see of the places we stayed, but this trip wasn’t about sightseeing. It was about expanding our family to a very special dog whom I hope will have a long and happy life with us. I’m sure this is just the first of many stories I’ll have about our new family member, a big dog from a tiny country… who came to us all the way from Kosovo and has already made a home in our hearts.

A drive to Kallstadt…

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Recently, I read and reviewed Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, a scathing expose about the Trump family, particularly her Uncle Donald Trump. I read in Mary’s book that the Trumps originated in Kallstadt, a wine producing hamlet located about an hour’s drive from where Bill and I currently live. Because we had nothing better to do today, and we’ve spent far too many weekends at home since the pandemic struck, Bill and I decided to drive to the village of Kallstadt to check it out.

A German Facebook friend wrote that she lives close to Kallstadt and that if we visited the cute little wine town, not to mention Trump. Apparently, the locals aren’t all that pleased to be associated with the current U.S. president, even though remnants of his family remain in the area, especially in the cemeteries.

The Inside Edition’s take on Kallstadt.

We had the best intentions of actually getting out and walking around there once we arrived. Unfortunately, parking was in short supply today. We also brought Arran with us. I did get some photos, though, and we took a drive through nearby Bad Dürkheim, a nice looking spa town that’s a bit bigger than Trump’s grandparents’ stomping grounds. If we’d wanted to, we could have spent time trying and buying different wines produced in the area.

Kallstadt is currently in Rhineland-Palatinate (or Rheinland-Pfalz, if you prefer). When Trump’s grandparents, Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump, were living there, back in the 19th century, it was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Looking at a German map, it’s surprising to see just how far north Bavaria stretches. I guess I’m used to being down near Stuttgart, which is a couple of hours’ drive from the closest Bavarian border. Up here in Wiesbaden, we’re close to several other German states.

The weather didn’t turn out to be the best for walking around today. We’re about to reach Fall, which can be glorious in Germany, but can also be a bit “iffy” in terms of the weather. Anyway, I did get some photos, although that was pretty much all we got on today’s journey… I would definitely be up for another visit when the sun is out and maybe if we didn’t bring Arran. There are many Weinguts to try in the area, plus some tempting looking restaurants.

I truly meant to write more about this. I hoped we could walk around and see a lot more of the area. It just wasn’t the right day to explore Trump’s grandparents’ stomping grounds. We’ll have to go back and spend more time… and at least taste a few of the products of the region. I’d like to know Kallstadt for the products it can truly be proud of, rather than our current leader. Kallstadt is a really cute little town, though. I can see why people visit.

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part six

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Our “Milinski” moment and the menu from Hell!

Tuesday morning got off to a somewhat bad start. We went down to the restaurant for breakfast, put on our masks and disinfected our hands, then got our usual fruits, cold cuts, and breads. I can’t complain about the breakfast at Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. There’s plenty to choose from, although I missed the Zumo machine at Hotel Kristall. As I was enjoying a pretzel roll, Bill took a look at the evening’s menu. He looked a bit concerned and said, “I don’t think you’re going to like this.”

He handed me the menu, and sure enough, the side vegetable of the day was mushrooms. Anyone who has read my blogs for any length of time probably already knows how much I hate mushrooms. I hate them to the point of having a phobia. I’m serious. I know it’s an irrational fear– which is what makes it a phobia– but I have a lifetime aversion to mushrooms and I can’t eat them at all. I wrote about the “menu from Hell” on my main blog, so anyone who is interested can read that piece.

Fortunately, the hotel does offer alternatives for those who don’t like what’s being offered. One can have an entrecote (rib eye steak) or a schnitzel (breaded pork cutlet) with fries. That’s what I ended up ordering for Tuesday night’s dinner. We also signed up for a Schnapps tasting, which was offered by a lady who runs a winery within walking distance of the hotel.

After breakfast, we got in the trusty Volvo and headed west and I started taking pictures of all the apple and pear orchards. We had no agenda. We just wanted to see what we could find. After about forty–five minutes of beautiful scenery, we came across a curious looking roadside attraction. It’s run by an artist named Lorenz Kuntner, who asks for a one euro “free will” donation to look at his massive “open air” museum. Mr. Kuntner strongly identifies with Native Americans and he has many works of art on his property, which also happens to be next to a swiftly running brook.

It wasn’t long until Bill and I encountered the very friendly man himself. Kuntner speaks German, Italian, and perfect English. He left his day job– not sure what it was– and opened this museum, where people are welcome to stop and look at his many works of creativity. He has everything from sculptures to paintings on the side of the mountain, and all he asks for is one euro per person. But many people tried to skip out on paying. He has no qualms about confronting them, either. He talked to Bill for about 45 minutes or so, while I patiently waited for the opportunity to pee. The chance to whiz wasn’t immediately forthcoming, but I did get a lot of pictures of the artist’s unusual creations.

The artist reminded Bill and me a little bit of another artist we met in Poland back in 2008 named Dariusz Milinski. Actually, I don’t think Mr. Milinski’s art is that much like Mr. Kuntner’s, but they were similarly eccentric in terms of their personalities. Kuntner was speaking to us in rapid fire German and English as he spoke about how small Hitler’s penis was and how Donald Trump is ruining the world (can’t disagree with that). He also showed us a photo of Geronimo. Mr. Kuntner very much identifies with the spirit of Native Americans and he spoke to us at length about it, in English and German. Below is a video Lorenz Kuntner posted. It’s in German. Again, in this part of Italy, most people speak German before they speak Italian!

Bill was pretty fascinated by the shaman, Lorenz Kuntner. He loves talking to artists. I like them too, except for when I need to use the bathroom. So after we visited the artist, we headed back east, and made our way to Merano. There’s a big spa there. I kept thinking maybe we’d go there, but we never made it. Merano is a charming little city, with drinking fountains all around that offer fresh drinking water. The only other place I’d ever seen like that was Yerevan, Armenia. Water fountains are all over Yerevan, and they are really helpful in the hot sun! Here are some pictures I took on the way to Merano, where we had lunch and enjoyed some local beers.

We had lunch at a place called RÖMERKELLER. I see now that it’s a chain restaurant, which doesn’t surprise me. Still, the food was very good and the service was fine.

We enjoyed several drinks at the Kloster Keller. Or, at least I did. Bill got a kick out of a realization I made. I married Black Beauty and he married Ginger. If you’ve read the book, you might understand what that means… Bill is very well-mannered and kind-hearted and was taught well by his mama. I’m kind of a high-mettled, angry bitch who doesn’t tolerate abuse. Sometimes, anyway… Black Beauty was very helpful when an elderly couple wanted to sit down. There were umbrellas in the way, so Bill was quick to move one of them. Another man, much younger and probably less astute, jumped up to help with the other one. I was proud of Bill and his teaching by example moment.

After awhile, we headed back to the hotel, where I faced the menu from hell… I’m not going to go into detail about it here, since I already wrote about it on my main blog. I did get some pictures of the meal, though, and lots of curious stares from the people sitting around us, who seemed baffled as to why I was having a steak. After dinner, we did the Schnapps tasting, which was where we let people know that we weren’t in Europe illegally.

The Schnapps tasting was done in German, English, and Italian on account of the multinational crowd of six that signed up for it. We surprised the hostess by knowing some words in German that she didn’t know in English, although her English was way better than our German. We enjoyed the spirits, too, and she had a lot of interesting information to share about distilling spirits in Sud Tyrol. She had an Austrian license, which limited her ability to distill spirits. She said that the day she came to do the tasting was one day of sixteen per year she was allowed to make her Schapps. She also sells wine. I wish we’d visited her and picked up some wine to bring home, but she was only open from 5:00pm until 7:00pm and we were otherwise engaged during that time.

Anyway… Tuesday was a good day despite the fungus heavy menu and the gentle chastisement I got from the waitress for not cleaning my plate.

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part five

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Onward to Italy…

Monday morning, we woke up to clear skies and the prospect of driving to Italy. I was a little sorry to be leaving Leutasch, although I did hope our next hotel would have a bed with a softer mattress. The one at Hotel Kristall was pretty firm. We packed up our stuff, had another breakfast, and checked out of the hotel. One thing I didn’t mention in previous posts is that Hotel Kristall has a “Zumo” machine. I first encountered a Zumo machine in Spain. You load up fresh oranges into the machine and it makes delicious fresh squeezed orange juice. That was another thing I loved about our Austrian hotel. They also had a machine for carrot juice, but I didn’t try that. Since I prepaid the hotel, we only had to take care of the bar bill. With that settled, the receptionist gave us a small jar of housemade marmalade as a parting gift and we were then on our way to Parcines, Italy and Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. The last words I said as we left Hotel Kristall in Leutasch were, “What a great hotel!” I would definitely go back.

Parcines, Italy, also known as Partschins to German speakers, is well known for its waterfall. However, I didn’t know about the waterfall when I booked the hotel. I was just looking for a nice spa/wellness hotel to spend four nights. My German friend was the one who told me about the waterfall, which I understand is very beautiful. Unfortunately, we were not able to see it up close because although the waterfall is public property, the land around it is not. During the pandemic, the owner of the land around the waterfall decided to put up a fence. So now, if visitors try to get close to the falls, they are trespassing. Based on comments on Google reviews, the landowner is now engaged in legal action regarding this situation.

Still, some people were able to make videos of the falls before they became less accessible. Here’s a video I found on YouTube.

It was disappointing that we couldn’t see this up close…

Our drive to Parcines was easy enough, with lots of nice scenery and a familiar trip through Brenner’s Pass. I took some photos, of course. The drive from Leutasch was maybe about three or four hours, so we arrived in Parcines in time for lunch.

We got to the hotel at about noon. Our room was ready, so the very kind receptionist, who was also the wine sommelier and bartender, as well as the proprietor’s son, welcomed us to check in early. We had another junior suite. It overlooked one of the three pools at the hotel. When we checked in, no one was using the pool. I remarked my surprise about that, and Janek, the barkeep said, “That’s because everyone’s out hiking. Trust me. They’re going to use it!” I should have realized what was to come. That pool was to be used by the kids, as the hotel also has an infinity pool for people aged 15 and up. There’s also an indoor pool in the spa area.

Like our room in Austria, the room in Parcines came with half board and a small fridge. We could order the fridge filled with beer and such, or just use it on its own. Like Leutasch, Parcines offers a lot, especially to people who are into hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, or swimming. Once again, we were allowed into the hotel without a mask. They were only required for the buffet, although we did not have to wear gloves, as we did in Leutasch. But then, Leutasch didn’t require masks. Like I mentioned before, the mask and glove requirements are oddly different everywhere we’ve been this summer. In Meerfeld, Germany, last month, we had to wear masks in the restaurant and at the buffet and Bill had to wear gloves to see the wine list, because it was in a book. In Austria we had to wear gloves, but no masks. In Italy, masks, but no gloves… and in Switzerland, no gloves OR masks. More on that later.

Since it was close to lunchtime when we arrived, we decided to have lunch at a pizzeria in town, which we were able to walk to. Weirdly enough, the pizzeria doesn’t offer pizza until after five o’clock. Maybe it’s because the oven is too hot for daytime use? I don’t know. Parcines has a couple of little shops. I noticed a shoe store and a tiny grocery store. There’s also a Weingut within walking distance of the hotel. The town has a lot of little hotels and apartments for rent.

After lunch, we walked back to the hotel, and sure enough, people were in the pool. We decided to join them. First, we checked out the indoor spa pool, which was empty. A little boy kept peeking in on us as we swam in there. I suspect it was because the kids kind of commandeered that pool, too, as I discovered over the course of the week.

When we got back to the room, the kids were back and in full play mode. Unfortunately, there is no air conditioning in this hotel, so we had to leave the window/door open for cool air. But that also meant listening to shrieking from the kids and, later on, people on the patio drinking, laughing, and enjoying themselves. Don’t get me wrong! I am all for doing those things. But I also like to take naps and enjoy peace and quiet when I’m in my room. If this hotel had air conditioning and we could have closed the door to the balcony, it would have been a lot better for us.

Later, we went down for our first dinner at the Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. It was “Italian night”, and we’d made our selections when we checked in. Bill had saltimbocca– veal wrapped with bacon– and I went with the vegetarian dish– mozzarella cheese in a pastry with tomato sauce. We enjoyed aperitifs before dinner started at 7:00pm, and met the very friendly proprietor, who spoke only German and Italian, but was kind and welcoming.

I think of all the dinners we had at this hotel, our first one was my favorite. To be very honest, I wasn’t all that crazy about the food at the Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. It wasn’t the worst I’d ever had, but I would say it was kind of disappointing, especially for Italy. Although this hotel gets high ratings, the one bad review it got was by someone who didn’t like the food. While I wouldn’t go as far as that person did in their criticisms, I did think there was definitely some room for improvement in the culinary department. I’ll get more into why in the next post. But anyway, Monday night’s dinner was mostly fine.

Once again, we got some side-eyes from the many Germans who were also staying at the hotel. That’s another thing I don’t like about half board deals. You end up eating with the same people and it can be uncomfortable, especially during a pandemic, when you’re an American and Americans aren’t supposed to be in Italy. We felt a little bit under the microscope at this hotel. However, the staff was excellent. Again, it’s family run. The facilities are also very nice. I just wish they’d planned a bit better regarding the rooms over the patio area (which are many of them). If you don’t want to hang out and drink after dinner, you either have to wait for everyone to go to bed for quiet or swelter with closed windows/doors. It’s not a very appealing tradeoff. I think I’d like this hotel more in the cooler months.

One guest’s opinions about the hotel. I wouldn’t go as far as a one star rating, but I did kind of agree with what s/he wrote. I don’t mind buffets, but I thought the food could have been better.

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part three

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Tackling the Leutaschklamm- Geisterklamm and visiting Innsbruck

Leutasch has the great fortune to be located in an area where there are a lot of things to do. Many people go there for hiking, biking, or perhaps whitewater rafting. But it’s very close to Innsbruck and not that far from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I had been wanting to see the Eibsee, which is at the base of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. I had not been there before, but I had read it was a very beautiful lake. Then I got distracted by posts about the Leutaschklamm– the beautiful gorge walk I wrote about in my previous post. I love gorges. Bill and I visited Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia back in 2016 and it was unforgettable– and not just because it was so beautiful and we had fresh trout for lunch, but also because we walked about ten miles to get there. This time, we were smarter and drove to the gorge, although we probably could have hiked there if we were game to do it. It’s not far from the hotel.

It was lucky that we decided to discover the gorge in the morning. Saturday, August 8th, was a beautiful, clear day with mild temperatures. We easily scored a parking spot, but by the time we left, the gorge was very crowded and people were lurking around the lot in their cars like mechanized vultures. The Leutasch and Mittenwald entrances to the gorge are both next to snack bars, where you can also use the restroom. The Leutasch side appears to have more of a selection of food and beverages and doesn’t require walking through a turnstile to access the toilet. I’ll explain more about that later. For now, here are some photos from our walk.

After we finished visiting Leutasch, we decided to go to Innsbruck for awhile. I went there on a bus tour in 2009, during Bill’s last business trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I remembered it to be a charming city and bought Austrian refrigerator magnets and a beer stein there. Since then, I’d been wanting to visit there with Bill. We finally got our chance on August 8th, although we didn’t stay long because it was really hot outside and the city was a bit crowded.

We had lunch at the Augustiner Bräu Stiftskeller, mainly because I really needed to pee. I totally wasn’t planning this, but that turned out to be where I had lunch when I visited in 2009, too. That time, I sat inside in the smoking section and the very annoying tour guide who had a voice like steel wool advised me to move as she lit up a cigarette. This time, we sat outside in the crowded Biergarten, where people were also smoking. However, it was a fun place to people watch.

As we were headed back to our car, which was crammed into a tiny spot in a garage, a guy tried to scam the lady ahead of us by dropping a twenty euro bill. He called out for her attention, but she ignored him. This is a common scheme in Europe. Someone drops cash, and a Good Samaritan tries to return it, but it turns out to be a way to hook hapless victims into parting with their own money. It was good to see this dude wasn’t successful in his bid to rip off someone.

We stopped by a grocery store for some wine and personal items. Everyone in the Austrian grocery store was wearing masks. I took the opportunity to buy a new stash of them for the rare times I go out in Germany. We went back to the hotel and decided to take advantage of the refreshing pool. Hotel Kristall has two of them. One is a rather dated looking pool for doing laps. It’s not very big and the water is a bit chilly. The other is a slightly warmer heart shaped pool that has jets in it. There’s also a rather antiquated hot tub, which was nice after a day of walking. We put in about six miles worth!

After our swim, it was dinner time. Here’s what we had! We also had salad from the buffet and I had a little bit of cream of broccoli soup. I had just wanted to taste it. It was very good.

After dinner, it was off to the room for quiet time. Bill watched an Austrian show about cops while I did some reading. Sunday, the ninth of August, promised to be a busy day too!