dental, France, Stuttgart, trip planning

A dental appointment means we finally have actual travel plans!

On March 2, 2022, Bill and I have an appointment to go to Stuttgart to see our dentist, the venerable Dr. Blair. It’s time for our cleanings, which we forewent for two years before we finally went to see him last August. Some readers may remember that we combined our last trip to Stuttgart with a visit to the Black Forest.

We went to the Black Forest for a few reasons. First, our usual go-to hotel in Stuttgart, the Wald Hotel, was fully booked when we needed a room. Second, it occurred to me that we’ve been to Stuttgart enough times that it’s no longer a very exciting place for us to be, even though we both love staying at the Wald Hotel. Third, we used to live at the edge of the Black Forest, and went there many times for day trips. We loved going there, and I thought it might be fun to stay a few days. And finally, it was a great opportunity to spend a long weekend in Baiersbronn, where there are several excellent Michelin starred restaurants. It beat hanging out in Stuttgart, where we’ve been many times.

Well, we did have fun in Baiersbronn last August. It was so much fun that I thought maybe we’d go back to the Black Forest and stay in another area we visited for a day and loved. I looked at visiting both Oppenau and Wolfach, both picturesque places that are in different parts of the Black Forest. But then I read about the strict COVID-19 requirements in Baden-Württemberg and decided that it wouldn’t be that much fun to hang out in a hotel, or even a guest house, dealing with those rules. Plus, I just want to get out of Germany for a few days, since we have that capability. When I searched for properties in Oppenau, I noticed that I was also getting results for Strasbourg, France. I didn’t want to go to Strasbourg, though. Our last trip to France was to Strasbourg, exactly two years ago this month. February is usually when Strasbourg hosts an annual wine expo. Last year, it was canceled. This year, it was postponed until late March.

Then it occurred to me that we’ve never been to Soufflenheim, which is a town near the German border, famous for its pottery. I went looking for a place to stay in Soufflenheim, and noticed that one of the choices was a small hotel in nearby Sessenheim, which is known for a museum dedicated to the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The hotel, Auberge au Boeuf, has a restaurant by the same name with a Michelin star. The place gets rave reviews, especially for the food, but also for the rooms. They had one room open for the time we were visiting. It would cost substantially less than the room I was thinking of booking at the Wald Hotel in Stuttgart, and, as it’s just inside the French border, does not impose the same onerous COVID rules and restrictions that Baden-Württemberg currently has.

It’s not so much that I’m an anti-vaxxer, or anything. I have been triple vaxxed, and I wear masks when I have to. But I HATE the FFP2 masks with a passion, and while they could be required in France, at least if we go there, it’ll be a change of scenery. At this writing, masks and vaccines are required in France, but they have done away with the rule requiring people to wear masks outside, and it’s my understanding that a simple medical mask will do. And we have MISSED France so much! Bill and I didn’t visit France much when we were here the first time, from 2007-09, but this time, we have gone a bunch of times. We have come to love it. It’s almost like a second home, since it’s not far from where we lived near Stuttgart, nor is it that far from Wiesbaden.

Yesterday, I made reservations at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner on Friday AND Saturday nights during our visit. It looks that special. Also, Bill and I have been to Alsace enough times to know that it pays to make reservations. Otherwise, you could end up having a really terrible time at a poorly rated restaurant where the waiter asks you if you’re pregnant. Of course, that happened to me in October 2014, when I still colored my hair and wasn’t as nearly close to menopause as I am today. It’s doubtful that would happen to me in 2022, even though my face is still pretty smooth and, in fact, still occasionally has zits. Thanks, hormones. On another note, damn, we have really been here a LONG time.

I think we’ll have a great time in France. I suspect Noyzi will be delighted to visit the Hunde Pension again. Arran will be annoyed, but it’s only for four nights. Then, we’ll come home, and he’ll be pampered again. Poor guy used to love going to France with us, when we still had Zane, and it was easier to travel with the dogs. Noyzi is a good traveler, but he’s huge, and takes up the whole back compartment of the car. And hotels and rentals aren’t as keen to rent to people with big dogs… although I’ll bet Yannick in Ribeauville would be cool with it. We’ve stayed at his place many times; the latest was in January 2020. Alsace never gets old, but we do want to see other areas than Riquewihr and Ribeauville, and the like. Sessenheim is also a little closer to Nancy, where we visited in 2009. Maybe we can go there on this trip. Nancy is a beautiful city. It’s about a two hour drive from where we’ll be staying, but what the hell? We have no agenda, other than eating at the hotel twice. Based on what I’ve read, we could end up eating there even more times.

I’m looking forward to our trip. Hopefully, nothing will fuck it up for us. That includes anything that happens because of Putin.

Moving on…

We didn’t do anything special yesterday, except for use our new fondue/raclette grill. I got a few photos. It really is fun to use this grill, and it offers a nice change of pace at dinner. Bill is quite the gourmand.

And then, this morning, Bill decided to get doughnuts from our neighborhood bakery again, like he did last week. I think it’s because we finally have some Peet’s Major Dickason’s coffee to drink. We’re big fans.

The heart shaped Valentine’s doughnuts were especially yummy! Raspberry! And sweeter than usual. No, we didn’t eat them all. I look forward to a snack later, or maybe breakfast tomorrow.

So things are looking up. It’s nice to look forward to a dentist appointment. I think we’ll have a great time in France. Knock on wood, nothing will screw this up… I’m looking at you, Russian dictator wannabe Putin. I think the Georgians sang it best…

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Germany, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden

Wiesbaden vs. Stuttgart updated…

Last week, while Bill and I were in Alsace, I got a message from a reader thanking me for a post I wrote at about this time last year. He’s considering jobs open in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden and was having trouble deciding on which town to apply more of his efforts. When I wrote the piece he referenced, I had only been in Wiesbaden for a a couple of months. Since we’ve now been here for about 14 months, I figure it’s time for an update of things I’ve noticed after having lived in both areas. Here’s the top ten list I did last year, with more information.

10.  Wiesbaden is more “built up”.

I don’t know why, but I was under the impression that life was more bucolic up here in Wiesbaden.  Maybe it’s the name of the city, which translates to Meadow Bath.  To me, Wiesbaden is more crowded than the Stuttgart area is.  There are many narrow streets here– even more than down in Stuttgart– and they are crowded with cars.  I was thinking we’d be able to find a rural area in which to live, but just about everywhere we looked was very built up and crowded.  That may be because there are several good sized cities here as opposed to just one.  We have Frankfurt, Mainz, and Wiesbaden, all of which have at least 500,000 inhabitants.

Updated answer– I still think this area is a bit more “built up”, but that may be because both times we lived in the Stuttgart area, we lived pretty far away from the city. During both of our Stuttgart stints, we were at least 25 miles out, which resulted in lengthy commutes and many hours sitting in Staus. However, it was mostly worth it, since Bill and I both like country living. The reality is, you will encounter narrow streets and built up areas in Stuttgart, too. It’s just that the Black Forest is closer, which means you may find more opportunities to live in rural locales.

9.  People are more laid back in Wiesbaden.

Despite the area being more “crowded”, I have noticed people don’t seem as cranky in the Wiesbaden area.  Or maybe I’m just becoming German…  I remember being taken aback when we moved to Stuttgart the first time.  People seemed grouchy and “in your face”.  It seemed slightly less like that during our second stint there, probably because I was more accustomed to German bluntness.  Here in Wiesbaden, I wouldn’t say people are necessarily friendlier, but they seem less uptight for some reason.  Maybe I should spend more time in traffic.

Updated answer– I still think people in Wiesbaden are more laid back. It may be because this area is so close to Mainz and Frankfurt, which are very international cities– Frankfurt especially. We have wine stands in our neighborhood during the warmer months and Bill and I have found that people here are more interested in getting to know us, even if our German sucks. We have met Germans who have lived in America, and our next door neighbor, who speaks English, has lived in Spain. They seem to understand what it’s like to be an expat. This isn’t to say you won’t find nice people in Stuttgart. You certainly will. I did– in fact, I still have several German friends in Stuttgart. It’s just that, at least in my experience, it seems to take a little longer to break the ice down there. Call it a cultural difference.

8.  Traffic isn’t as bad up here.

I don’t know why, either.  It’s not that there isn’t a lot of traffic.  There is.  But for some reason, we don’t experience the legendary Staus we did in the Stuttgart area.

Updated answer– I still think this is true. We do have traffic jams in the Wiesbaden area, but they aren’t nearly as often or as onerous as the ones in Stuttgart are. However, depending on where you live in the Wiesbaden area, you may or may not be able to access the S-Bahn as easily as you can in Stuttgart. Where we live, there is no train stop, but there are several bus stops. When we lived in the Stuttgart area, we had closer access to both trains and busses, although our first town near Stuttgart had an actual train stop, while the second town only had a bus stop, but the train was only ten minutes’ drive. On the other hand, since we live so close to Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, and Mainz, we don’t really need the train so much. It takes maybe fifteen minutes to get to Wiesbaden, and about twenty minutes to get to Mainz or Frankfurt, give or take a few minutes. By contrast, getting to Stuttgart could take up to an hour from where lived, more if there were traffic jams.

7.  Wiesbaden is not as pretty as Stuttgart is…

Actually, I should rephrase that.  The city of Wiesbaden is very beautiful and posh.  Stuttgart is kind of industrial and homely.  In that sense, I’d say Wiesbaden is prettier than Stuttgart is.  However, the areas around Stuttgart are absolutely lovely, while Wiesbaden’s surroundings seem to have less beauty, natural or otherwise.  I really miss the beautiful views from our old house, as well as the charming towns that weren’t decimated during World War II.  Forgive me, but I’m not as well-versed in history as I should be.  Nevertheless, there’s not as much quaint charm in the Wiesbaden area.  It takes more effort to see the half-timbered houses one sees in BW.

Updated answer– I still pretty much think that the areas around Stuttgart are prettier than the areas around Wiesbaden are. It may just be a personal preference, though. I liked looking at the Schoenbuch Ridge in the Stuttgart area, and it seems like there are a lot more forests for walking in and contemplating life. I especially enjoyed living at the edge of the Black Forest. We spent a lot of day trips in the Black Forest, feeling like we were getting a one day vacation. I also saw a lot more hot air balloons in the Stuttgart area. However, Wiesbaden and its environs are pretty in a different way.

I have come to appreciate our neighborhood with its friendly residents, wine stands, and plane spotting opportunities. We love being so close to the Rhein, which can also turn one day trips into mini vacations. And there are places to go if I need a walk in the woods, although it’s not as close to me as it was in the Stuttgart area. A big bonus is that I have yet to encounter the air smelling of shit the way I did regularly in the Stuttgart area during the spring and summer. If you haven’t experienced it yet, and you’re moving down there, you will probably soon know what I mean. I also haven’t seen as many fields of rapeseed up here, which is a blessing, since I am allergic to rapeseed.

6.  Wiesbaden is more international than Stuttgart is. 

I come from Virginia and sometimes, when I compare Wiesbaden to Stuttgart, I think of what it would be like to move from, say, Richmond, to northern Virginia.  Stuttgart feels very much like the state capital it is, while Wiesbaden, being so close to Frankfurt, feels more like the national capital it isn’t.  A lot of different kinds of people come through Wiesbaden because it’s close to Frankfurt.  Consequently, it feels somewhat more cosmopolitan, although I’ve read that if you really want to party, you need to go to Frankfurt or Mainz.  Wiesbaden apparently has a reputation for being “stuffy” and “snooty”, thanks to all the money up here.

Updated answer– Yes, this was a correct assumption on my part. There are all kinds of people living up here from all over the place. The bonus is that there are a lot more culinary delights here. We’ve found several restaurants that serve exotic cuisines like Georgian food, Afghan food, and even southern U.S. food. There are also a couple of American chain outlets up here that you won’t find in Stuttgart. Hell, if we wanted to, we could go to Hooters or Chipotle Mexican Grill (not that I want to). Both have locations in Frankfurt.

5.  There’s more money in Wiesbaden.

Swabians are reputed to be tight with their money.  Nevertheless, I thought Stuttgart was an expensive area to live in.  That was before I went looking for a house in Wiesbaden.  We pay almost twice as much (including Nebenkosten) for our current home than we did for our house in Unterjettingen.  However, our new house is also much nicer than our last one was.  Our landlord lives next door, but never bothers us… and when something needs to be fixed, he doesn’t freak out.

Updated answer– I still think this is true. I have noticed that housing is more expensive in this area, although I’ve also noticed that it tends to be more up-to-date. Also, the attitude regarding money seems to be different. I can count on one hand the number of times our landlord has rung the doorbell, even though he lives next door. He gives us free firewood, and has outright told us that he wants us to be happy in our home. He let a previous tenant put up a privacy fence and didn’t care that we installed a robotic lawnmower.

Yes, it’s his house because he owns it, but he doesn’t act like we should be grateful to be living in his house. He’s grateful that we rented his house. It seems to be a different mindset, which I really appreciate. I also noticed that same attitude when we were looking at other homes up here. Prospective landlords were quick to tell us that the house we rented would be our home, not a house that someone deigns to let us rent. Maybe it has to do with there being more money here or people being less frugal.

4.  There’s more farming in Stuttgart.

One thing I miss about our old area is that we lived near several farms where we could buy produce on our honor.  I won’t say this doesn’t exist in Wiesbaden, but it’s harder to find it.  I’m not sure we’ll find a 24 Milch Tankstelle up here, either.  On the other hand, up in the Wiesbaden area, there are wine stands.  They should be cranking out Federweisser soon.

Updated answer– It’s true that there aren’t as many farms as where we lived when we were in the Stuttgart area, but then, like I said, we didn’t actually live that close to Stuttgart. We have found some local farmer’s markets and farms near where we live, though I’m still searching for the Milch Tankstelles and vending machines that sell lentils and pork products, which are more plentiful in BW. An added benefit, again, is that I have yet to smell the essence of manure in the spring air, either.

3.  The food is kind of different and there seems to be less emphasis on beer.

In the Stuttgart area, the emphasis was on heavy, hearty German fare in the Gasthauses and there were many different breweries, all putting out beers that pretty much tasted the same.  Up here in Wiesbaden, the emphasis is more on wine.  I thought Stuttgart was wine country, and it kinda is, but it’s even more wine country near the Rhein.  I suppose if I want a good Volksfest, I’m going to have to pack my dirndl and pay Stuttgart a visit.

Updated answer– Yes… this is definitely wine country. If you want beer, it’s probably going to be from Bavaria as opposed to a local brewery. However, as many German beers are excellent but taste the same regardless, this isn’t a huge issue. Since we moved to Wiesbaden, we’ve discovered local delights such as green sauce, spundekaese (and handkaese), roasted goose (which for some reason seems to be more popular here), and apple wine. We have also run into the hearty stuff one finds in BW and Bavaria too, like schnitzels and sausages. As I mentioned before, you can find a lot of culinary options in the Wiesbaden area.

2.  Wiesbaden is growing on me…

It’s nice to have a change in scenery.  I’m looking forward to spring, when the weather will be better and we can take some day trips on the weekends.  The weather up here, by the way, seems to be less cold and snowy.  When I read about snow in Stuttgart, I look out our window forlornly and see nothing but rain.  But maybe it will be somewhat milder all the way around.  Like, in the summer, I won’t bake.  One can hope.

Updated answer– We still have yet to have a decent snow up here, whereas down in the Stuttgart area, we always got at least one good snow a winter. It could be that winter is just generally milder this year and was also last year. As for the summer, it was also pretty hot up here last year, although the house we’re in has Rolladens on every window. That made the house cooler. Also, I have two portable air conditioners and doors with windows. I lower the Rolladens all the way to the top of the air conditioning hoses and rest the top of the Rolladens on top of the hose, eliminating the need for hot air stoppers. If you don’t know what a hot air stopper is, you’ll probably soon find out. Basically, they’re fabric pieces with a zipper in them that can be attached by velcro to windows and allow for exhaust hoses to extend outside of the window, while keeping a seal to prevent hot air from coming in through the window. I had to use them in our Stuttgart area house, but don’t need them in this house.

As for fun day trips, yes they are certainly possible. We have several appealing Rhein towns we can get to, like St. Goar, Bacharach and Eltville, as well as other charming towns like Idstein, Eppstein, and Rudesheim. And if the pull of BW gets to be too great, we can be there in about an hour. Heidelberg is also not far. I do still miss the Black Forest, though.

1.  But I kind of miss Stuttgart a little, too…

If the weather has to be cold and yucky, I like it to snow.  We have yet to have our first decent snow up here.  I know the town where I used to live has gotten some white stuff.  I miss having a nice area to walk my dogs, too.  We were literally next to the Black Forest down in the Stuttgart area.  Here, they get walked by a grocery store near the Autobahn.  On the other hand, we do have a fenced in backyard, which is great.  Still, I was thinking wistfully about how beautiful the rural areas near Stuttgart are.  I do miss them.

Updated answer– We lost one of our dogs a few months ago. He had cancer. Prior to his passing, I found a new walking route that was better than where we were walking the dogs a year ago. One time, I was picking up some crap and a German man approached me. I expected him to yell at me, but instead, he had a look of amazement on his face. He thanked me for cleaning up after my dogs. That might have happened in Stuttgart, too, although it often seemed more like I’d be yelled at down there than up here.

So… while I do still miss some things about living in Stuttgart, I think, overall, I like Wiesbaden more at this point. I could also comment on the way the garrisons are run, but that might be risky, especially since it would be mainly from the perspective of a spouse. Suffice to say that my husband has a much shorter commute, there seems to be a lot less chaos in terms of the work he’s doing, and I think contractors get treated better. For instance, if you’re a contractor, you can get help from the housing office in finding a place to live. In Stuttgart, you have to go it alone. We didn’t need housing either time we moved here, but Wiesbaden was helpful when Bill approached them about a general housing issue we had. In Stuttgart, they would have told him to pound sand. Wiesbaden is a lot closer to Ramstein, Kaiserslautern, and Sembach than Stuttgart is, which can be handy if you have special “American” needs, like medical care.

There’s also a whole lot less social media drama in the Wiesbaden area. Stuttgart has a lot of Facebook groups that most everyone winds up joining. The groups are useful for spreading information and making friends, but the by product is that people can get kind of rude and shitty to each other. By contrast, there’s a lot less of that in Wiesbaden… or maybe I’ve just been wise enough to steer clear. I don’t know very many people in Wiesbaden, but met quite a lot of folks in Stuttgart… some of whom I regretted meeting, and some of whom probably regretted meeting me.

Weirdly enough, I actually miss Stuttgart’s airport, which was smaller and a lot easier to use than Frankfurt’s huge airport is. However, it’s a lot easier to fly directly to more places from Frankfurt, so there is that trade off. And I miss our very friendly and easily booked vets in Herrenberg, although the vet we currently use is a bit more modern and we’re close to a really excellent emergency veterinary facility. So again– many trade offs. I’m just grateful we’ve had the chance to live in both areas and experience the best and worst both places have to offer. Really, I don’t think you can go wrong in either place, especially since individual preferences and circumstances will certainly color each person’s perspectives. We don’t know how much longer we’ll be here, but we intend to enjoy as much as we can for as long as possible.

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concerts, Germany, Stuttgart

Halloween in Stuttgart at the Irish Folk Festival!

It’s showtime!  

 

If you’ve been following this blog, you might know that the summer of 2018 was our summer of concerts.  Since I recently bought tickets to three more shows and have one more that has been planned since February 2018, I can safely say that 2019 will continue on the concert theme.

Some months ago, I noticed an ad on Facebook for the Irish Folk Festival.  This is an annual tour that celebrated its 45th anniversary this year.  Every year, bands that play Celtic music travel through Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Benelux.  And yet, even though this festival is almost as old as I am, I somehow never knew about it until I saw that Facebook ad.  Since I was on a roll buying tickets for shows, I decided to pick up a pair for Bill and me.  They were comparatively cheap.  I think I spent a little over 80 euros for two tickets and we sat in the second row.

Thanks to all of the big name acts we’ve seen this year, there were a couple of times I actually forgot that we’d bought tickets for this show.  I set up a reminder on Facebook, just so we wouldn’t forget to attend.  I’m so glad we did manage to catch this festival.  We had a wonderful time!

Last night’s show started at 8:00pm at the Stuttgart Theaterhaus, located very close to Robinson Barracks.  Bill and I have passed that Theaterhaus a few times, but this was the first time we ever took in a show there.  It’s a very nice venue.  Next door, there is a restaurant that we would have liked to try if we’d had time.  Unfortunately, we were caught in hellacious Stuttgart traffic and arrived at the venue about an hour before showtime.  The restaurant was very full and we didn’t think we’d have time to eat.  However, there were a couple of bars open and they did have sandwiches and candy available.  We each had a beer.

The theme was the hope for Ireland’s reunification after Brexit.  The lineup included several acts that I had never heard of, but I left the venue with several new CDs that I can’t wait to plug into my Celtic music mix.  We had the pleasure of being entertained by: Joanna Hyde & Tadhg Ó Meachair, Christy Barry & James Devitt, Ailie Robertson’s Traditional Spirits, and The Outside Track.  The show lasted a solid three hours with one twenty minute break.

Bill and I left as they were doing the last song, because it was already 11:00pm, and he gets up early for work.  The mostly German crowd was on its feet at the end.  They enjoyed the show as much as we did.  We saw more than one person wearing a kilt.  I was sorry Bill hadn’t worn his!

Below are some photos from last night’s show, along with a little light commentary.

It was just starting to get busy in the Theaterhaus when we arrived.  I was marveling at how nice it was.  I wish we’d had the chance to go to other shows during our time here.  Maybe we’ll have another opportunity at a later date.

 

Some information about other planned shows.

I got a kick out of this giant sign for the toilets.  I didn’t get a picture, but next to this lit up sign, there’s an Andy Warhol style graphic depiction of toilets.  That’s one way to make sure theatergoers know where to go when they have to go.

 

The venue has quirky decor.

 

My goofy husband, being a good provider.  He bought peanuts and crispy M&Ms so I wouldn’t get too hangry.

 

I’m always intrigued by graffiti and stuff people leave in bathrooms.  Here’s a statement on the evils of prostitution…  Prostitution is legal in Germany.

 

Our view before the show started.  A German couple sat next to us and asked if we were from Ireland.  We admitted to being Americans, albeit with lots of Celtic heritage.  The couple seemed surprised we’ve been in Germany for four years and are moving to another German city.  They wondered if we would eventually go back to the USA.  I’m sure we will at some point… but then again, maybe we won’t.  Time will tell.  I noticed they didn’t come back after the pause.  I hope we didn’t offend.

 

The local concert promoter was a German guy who wore a green suit covered in shamrocks.  He reminded me a little of Steve Martin before his hair went completely white.  I almost expected him to have an arrow through his head, the way Martin used to about 40 years ago when he did stand up comedy.  I understood some of what the guy was saying and noticed he had a good sense of humor.  The performers spoke a little bit of basic German, but the rest was done in English.  I noticed most of the people around us understood English perfectly well.  Once again, I regret not studying German in school instead of the six years of Spanish I took.

I did not take any photos during most of the show, nor did I do any filming.  Having performed on a stage myself, I understand that photography can be distracting, especially when people use flash.  Also, I think it’s rude to watch a concert through a cell phone screen.  I did get a few photos at the end of the show, when the excellent performers were doing their finale and taking their bows.

 Ailie Robertson, playing harp, seemed to be the evening’s bandleader.  She performed first with her band, Traditional Spirits, and explained how her music was about the making of whisky in Scotland, particularly in splendid Islay, which Bill and I have had the good fortune to visit twice.  After the pause, she joined her band, The Outside Track, which consists of almost all females and includes members from Ireland, Scotland, and Canada!  The lady in the sparkling green dress is lead singer, Teresa Horgan, who also served as a great bandleader and has a stunningly beautiful voice.

Mairi Rankin, the beautiful redhead from Cape Breton, Canada dancing front and center, was absolutely enchanting as she played her fiddle, sang, and danced.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  She had a wonderful stage presence and seemed to really enjoy her work.  I was drawn to her and probably would have loved to have had the chance to chat with her after the show.  She has a very friendly and kind aura.

 

A close up of the dancing!

Mairi is joined by Joanna Hyde and a guy named Cillian O’Dalaigh.  Cillian had fabulous hair and played flute and guitar and danced and sang.  He was another one I was drawn to watch.

Taking a bow!

The rest of these pictures are a little repetitive, but I’m including them for the curious.  It really was a wonderful show and the house was packed.  The tour continues tonight in Ravensburg and ends on November 17th in Hamburg.  I would definitely recommend getting tickets to any of the upcoming shows or planning to see this next year.  I see that they stopped in Mannheim and Frankfurt earlier in their tour, so if we’re still in Germany a year from now, we’ll have to make plans to attend.  It was time and money well spent for us!  And frankly, I was a little jealous because I wanted to be on stage, too… and I wish I had kept studying music when I was young.  Oh well…  At the end of this post, I’ll include a video I did of one of the songs we heard last night.  Yes, it’s me singing.

Well deserved accolades!

The song on this video, which includes pictures from Capri and Amalfi, is “Get Me Through December”.  I originally heard this done by Alison Krauss and Nova Scotia native and fiddle player Natalie MacMaster, but it was also performed last night by Teresa Horgan and the rest of The Outside Track.  I may have to do this one again today…  By the way… I would love to see Natalie MacMaster and her fantastic family play in Germany.  Maybe someday…  This version is mine, and the arrangement is similar to the one done by Alison Krauss and Natalie MacMaster.  Last night’s version was done in a lower key, but was no less ethereal.

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Germany, restaurant reviews, Stuttgart

Safran: Delightful Persian cuisine in downtown Stuttgart…

Safran… your address for Persian goodness!

 

Once again, despite the beautiful fall weather we’ve been enjoying here in southern Germany, Bill and I were tempted to stay in and vegetate today.  I think it’s because very soon, we will be very busy moving and that’s always a drag.  I didn’t really want to waste today, though, because very soon we’ll be living in another German state and another German city.  And there are still some restaurants I want to try before it becomes too difficult.

We decided to have lunch at Safran.  Safran is located near Berliner Platz in downtown Stuttgart, not far at all from the Liederhalle.  I had heard a lot of good things about this little Persian restaurant and I’ve been trying to get there for months.  We finally decided today was the day and boy, am I glad we went.  I’m also a little sad that we didn’t go there sooner.  Safran is a great change of pace for those who are tired of the usual Greek, Italian, and German offerings one tends to find in these parts.

Spotted on a pole before we crossed the street.  “There are more bisexuals than you think…”  Good to know!

This painted building is very close to Safran.  If you see it, look across the street and you’ll see Safran on the corner.

Inside the restaurant, they have lots of goldfish.  These fish were fed at the same time we were…

 

On Sundays, Safran opens at 2:00pm.  We were the first ones in the restaurant and the very friendly barkeep enthusiastically invited us to sit anywhere we wanted to.  We chose a comfortable booth in the dining room.  Another American couple soon came in and sat down at a table on the other side of the room.  Other than the four of us, the place was empty at 2:00pm.

The bartender came over and asked us in German if this was our first visit.  We said it was, so he explained the menu.  There are selections from the grill, as well as special Persian dishes from the motherland.  They have dishes with lamb, chicken, beef, and vegetarian selections.  There’s also a modest selection of alcohol, as well as the usual non-alcoholic drinks.

 

Bill checks out what’s offered.  They have cold and warm appetizers, as well as salads to go with your grilled delights.

 

Bill asked for a bottle of sparkling water and a bottle of Shiraz.  They brought us the water and just one glass of wine, which Bill decided I should have.  Did I tell you I married an angel?  I did.

The bartender’s very beautiful blue eyes lit up when I ordered the Fesenjan, which is delicious grilled chicken served with a sauce made with walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and onion, topped with rice.  Bill tried to make this once, but he’d never actually had it, so his version kind of missed the mark.  This was absolutely delicious!  I loved the platter it came in, too.  My mom has a brass table like it that she passed on to me.  It’s sitting in storage.

Bill had the Tschelo Kabab Soltani, which was two kebabs.  One was made of ground of veal and the other was lamb.  He got it with grilled vegetables, which did include a mushroom, and a side of musir dip, which was kind of like t’zatziki without the cucumber.  He liked his dish, but liked mine even more.  

 

As we were enjoying lunch, I was paying close attention to the beautiful piano music that was playing.  It reminded me of Seattle born new aged pianist, David Lanz.  I did a Sound Hound search and discovered an Iranian pianist named Fereydoon Foroughi.  Wikipedia tells me Mr. Foroughi left this life in 2001.  I’m sorry he died at age 50.  He was quite gifted.  I may have to buy a couple of his albums.

New music I discovered at Safran.  The whole time we were there, beautiful piano music was playing. I can only guess it was all by Iranian musicians.

 

Total damage for this lunch was about 44 euros.  I would say it was well worth it.  I would love to go back sometime.  I enjoyed the delicious food, the warm hospitality, and even the glass of Australian Shiraz.  If you’re looking for something a little different, I definitely recommend Safran.

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Germany, restaurant reviews, Stuttgart

Top flight cuisine at Stuttgart’s Airport…

Believe it or not, until Friday afternoon of this past week, Bill and I had tentative plans to go back to Wiesbaden for more househunting.  We found a few more contenders in our housing search and had contacted potential landlords about showings.  But when a couple of them were late getting back to us, we decided not to leave town.  That left us with no plans for Saturday.

We also got up later than usual and, as the day wore on, I decided not to get dressed.  That’s not unusual.  I often hang around the house in my nightie if I’ve got nothing to do and no one to see.  That’s one reason why I hate it when people drop by unexpectedly.

At about 1:00pm, I asked Bill if he’d like to go out to dinner somewhere.  He was up for it, so I started searching OpenTable for restaurants.  Then, I noticed the restaurant Top Air was listed and had availability at 6:00pm.  I had been curious about Stuttgart Airport’s fancy restaurant for ages, and it had also been ages since Bill and I last had any haute cuisine.  Bill was game for a Saturday night visit to the airport, so I made the reservation.

Smart casual dress is suggested for Top Air.  I needed a new selfie anyway, so I got all dolled up in my trusty black dress, jewelry, and a shawl.  Bill put on a nice shirt and a jacket.  We noticed other patrons also dressed up a little to visit this restaurant, though several were in casual clothes.  No one was turned away for dressing down, though, so if you decide to try Top Air, feel free to wear jeans and sneakers if it pleases you.

We arrived at the airport at about 5:45pm and parked in P4, one of the suggested parking garages.  Top Air will validate your parking ticket so you don’t have to pay.  That’s a nice touch.  The restaurant is in Terminal One, on the second level, right next to the much more casual Red Baron restaurant.  I remember eating there when we lived here the first time.  I didn’t know about Top Air in those days, but apparently Top Air has been putting out top flight food for twenty-six years and has a Michelin star to prove it.

Below are some pictures and commentary about our “top flight” cuisine at Top Air!

You don’t have to go into the main entrance at the airport to access this restaurant.  There’s a side door up a couple of flights of stairs to the right of the first revolving door in Terminal One.  Climb those steps and you can avoid the ticket counters and luggage drop off booths.

Here’s the main entrance…  We were warmly welcomed by a very pretty young server who was dressed in a sleek black dress with a jacket.  She invited us to our table, a four top that had a ticket with our name on it.  

I guess this is one reason why you shouldn’t walk into Top Air.  They had pre-printed a “boarding pass” for us.  When they realized we were English speakers, they whisked this one away and brought one back in English.  It wasn’t necessary, but we appreciated the effort.

 

We were the first ones to arrive for dinner at Top Air last night.  It turned out they booked every table, though most people tend to come later than we did.  Bill and I don’t like to stay out really late anymore, so early reservations are good for us.  I think you’re more likely to get a table if you go earlier, although to be honest, I’m not sure if Top Air always books every table.  I counted just eight tables in the dining room, though, so if you want to eat during prime time, you should plan ahead.  Also, plan to spend at least a couple of hours.  We were there for about three hours and we only did three courses.

The head waiter/sommelier was a very proper German man who spoke perfect English.  He struck me as being kind of nervous.  After he poured aperitifs for us, he started compulsively walking around the dining room, as if he was pacing.  It made me a little nervous, too.  I watched him pace a bit and listened to the smooth jazz piped in over the sound system.

I had a lovely glass of rose Champagne.  Bill had a Campari with soda.  I liked the dining room, which allows prime viewing of planes landing.  

 

Top Air offers a tasting menu, as well as a la carte dishes.  You can have between 3 and 5 courses if you order the tasting menu.  They had a suggested menu that I wasn’t going to go for because several courses had either mushrooms or goose liver in them.  I may enjoy high class food sometimes, but there are a few items I just can’t abide.  I’d sooner eat the liver than the mushrooms, though.

I told the head waiter/sommelier that I don’t eat mushrooms, and this sort of turned into a big deal… To be honest, it was a little embarrassing.  He gave me the third degree about whether or not I have an allergy or I just don’t like mushrooms.  I don’t have an allergy to mushrooms; however, I do have a phobia of them, which makes me extremely averse to having them on my plate.  I won’t run screaming from the dining room (anymore, anyway), but I’d really rather not have to deal with them.  If we’re paying 50 euros or more a head for dinner, I expect that not to be a problem.

The sommelier was very concerned about my dislike of mushrooms and kept questioning me about it.  I really didn’t want to have to explain to him that what I have is mycophobia, which is a real thing… but it’s very embarrassing to talk about because it’s irrational and ridiculous.  The fact that it’s irrational and ridiculous is, of course, what makes it a phobia.  Suffice to say, my dislike of fungus goes way beyond not enjoying the flavor of them.  However, having once worked as a server myself, I understood the waiter’s concern.  The last thing he wants to deal with is anaphylactic shock during dinner service.  (Edited to add: My German friend Susanne tells me that many years ago, the sommelier/head waiter, Ralf Pinzenscham, got his training at Ente, a Michelin starred restaurant in Wiesbaden.  One more clue we were destined to move there eventually, right?)

Anyway… once we established and thoroughly discussed my psychotic hatred of mushrooms, we got on with dinner, which turned out to be pretty special…  Before we started this course, a group of three showed up.  They appeared to be the head waiter’s long lost friends, as all three of them gave him a hug and he warmly welcomed them.  I noticed they had what appeared to be all five courses.  And, like me, the man in the group was taking a lot of photos!  I always worry I’m going to look tacky when I photograph food in a restaurant.  I suppose that behavior is the least of my tacky behavior, though, so it’s no big deal.

The amuse– a little gift from the kitchen, which consisted of sushi of arctic char with soy sauce and algae, tartar of Blackmore Waygu beef with beet root and horseradish, and tuna with lettuce, celery, green apple and cucumber.

Then, the bread arrived, with butter, salt, and olive oil.

Bill studied the wine list and chose a lovely French red made of grenache…

 

The food at Top Air is probably among the most beautiful I’ve seen, and I have been to quite a few Michelin starred restaurants in Europe.  Chef Marco Akuzun is truly as much of an artist as he is a culinary expert.  I noticed that other tables were getting little cards with pictures on them placed in the little stand where our boarding card was.  We didn’t get the cards.  It might have been because we were having different items and/or the explanations were in German.  We didn’t mind, though.  It was just fun to watch the other people.

A lovely Bouillabaisse– fish stew, which came with every meal.  This one had a little heat to it, as well as salmon that melted in my mouth.  

My first course was the tuna, which was served two ways.  I started with this tiny, yet exquisite tuna bite.

While Bill started with the goose liver pate.  I hadn’t noticed at first…

This was a skull!  And it was filled with goose liver pate and presented on a plate that made me think of a stage.  Notice the balsamic vinegar dots, forming a star like decoration.  That skull was the star!  Bill doesn’t usually go for liver, but he said it tasted like candy.

The second half of the tuna course, which was very fresh raw tuna served with coriander, radish, and wasabi flavored ice cream.  There was also this little white ball that resembled an unusually round boiled egg.  It was not an egg, but some sort of gelatinous casing that contained tofu.  It was very interesting in a good way.  I don’t usually eat tofu.

This was the second part of the goose liver…

And this was the third part of the goose liver.  I was amazed by how beautiful it was, even if I didn’t taste it.  It was really too pretty to eat!  Bill said he enjoyed it, although I don’t think goose liver rates any higher on his choice of cuisines.  

 

To be clear, there were other choices available than goose liver, but Bill decided he wanted to break out of his comfort zone.  I think he’s glad he did, even if it was just to be served such aesthetically pleasing food.  It really was gorgeous… and priced accordingly!

 

We both had duck for our second courses.  This was an exquisitely grilled piece of duck breast served with a little wonton of duck tongue (which tasted better than it sounds), bok choy, pineapple, kimchi, and sweet potato.  Again, the sweet potato came in a perfectly round, egg like ball, which I am guessing was made with gelatin.  I don’t usually eat a lot of sweet potato, but I really appreciated the way this was presented.  The kimchi, on the other hand, had very strong flavors that momentarily upset my stomach a bit.  After a moment composing myself in the restroom, I was okay.

This was the wine we enjoyed with our meal…  I will have to find this to purchase, because it was very good.  Bill is especially partial to grenache and Chateauneuf du Pape.  This wine was very much like a Chateauneuf du Pape.

A couple of shots of the pre-dessert; again, it comes with the meal.  This was mostly green apple, with cucumber and coriander.  In the center was this heavenly explosion of vanilla goodness.  I was really taken by surprise.  The candy accents had a eucalyptus accent that reminded me– no lie– of cough drops.  But somehow, it worked.  And the little discs on the ends had tiny leaves of coriander within them.

And finally, dessert.  I took a photo of mine and Bill’s, even though they were the same.  Mine looked it it had a face.  This was a white chocolate inspired dessert, with rosemary and lime…

But they weren’t finished.  We were allowed to choose chocolates from this tray…

And then we were presented with this delightful tray of sweets that ranged from little ice cream cones to tiny cannoli.  Dessert was quite the show stopper.

These were the chocolates I chose.  I think I liked the gold one, which was a peanut candy, the best.

 

We happened to finish dinner right as the other diners were in full swing.  Consequently, it took some time before we could settle the bill.  I entertained myself by checking out the very fancy stiletto heels another guest was wearing.  They were at least five inches and encrusted with rhinestones.  I thought they were beautiful, but I can’t wear heels like that for longer than a minute.  I was impressed by how comfortable and steady she appeared to be in those shoes.  God bless her– I would have been crying uncle after a few steps!

The bill came to 253 euros.  Bill was able to pay with a credit card and, after we got our parking ticket validated, we left feeling pretty great.  All in all, I’d say it was a very interesting and mostly pleasant experience.  I could have done without the huge deal made over my mushroom aversion.  I truly wish I didn’t have this problem; it would make dining out so much easier.  Unfortunately, mushroom hatred is my cross to bear.  Good thing I abandoned my plans to become a chef.

This is what the Stuttgart airport looks like on Saturday night.

I took note of this interesting ad while I waited for Bill to pick me up.

We enjoyed visiting Top Air and I’m glad we made the effort to go, even if it didn’t quite top my favorite five star restaurant in these parts.  That would be Alte Post in Nagold, which unfortunately closed because of a lack of qualified staff.  We were lucky enough to have the formal tasting menu twice at Alte Post and it was both the most expensive and most exquisite meal either of us has had yet.

I will say, though, that I was truly impressed by how stunningly beautiful the food is at Top Air.  Service is mostly very professional and attentive.  I never wanted for wine or water and the staff was mostly very polished.  If you like fancy cuisine and want to try Top Air, I would recommend it.  I just hope you like mushrooms.

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Germany, Stuttgart, Sundays

Ten Stuttgart area places we’re glad we visited…

A couple of nights ago, I was sitting in my living room talking to Bill about how glad I am we made an effort to see more of Baden-Württemberg during our second Stuttgart stint.  As our time in the Stuttgart area grows ever shorter, I thought I’d make a list of the places we managed to see this time that we didn’t know about the first time we lived here.  These are places we’re really glad we visited and would recommend to newcomers.  Maybe they won’t be “must see” places for everyone, but they made our time here better.  As usual, this list isn’t ranked in any particular order.

10.  Allerheiligen Wasserfällen (All Saints Waterfalls)

Hope you’re in shape!

 

We discovered the All Saints Waterfalls this past summer when I happened to read someone’s blog post about visiting there.  These falls are in the Black Forest, about an hour from where I live and probably about 90 minutes from Stuttgart.  I had never heard of them before 2018, but I’m so glad we visited.  We spent several hours enjoying the beautiful scenery and getting lots of exercise!  I liked them even more than the Triberg Falls, which everyone visits.  If you have a free Saturday or Sunday and don’t mind a drive through the Black Forest, I’d highly recommend a trip to these falls.  Admission is free!

9.  Rottweil

Super cute town with several things to do!

 

I don’t know how we missed Rottweil when we lived here the first time, but I really wish we’d discovered it sooner than we did.  This beautiful town not only has some gorgeous architecture, but it also has the distinction of being the place where Rottweiler dogs were first bred.  The area is scenic and you can get a great view of it when you visit the Thyssenkrupp Testturm, an elevator testing facility that currently has the highest observation deck in Germany.

8.  Blautopf

It’s true… I had never heard of this place when I lived here from 07-09.

 

Blautopf isn’t close to where I live.  It’s kind of on the way to Ulm.  However, though it only takes a few minutes to see this natural wonder, I think a trip to Blaubeuren to see this marvelous blue pond is well worth the effort.  Blaubeuren has a few other activities available to make your trip worthwhile, as well as some good restaurants.

7. Tiefenhöhle

One thing you can do before or after a visit to Blautopf is visit Germany’s deepest show cave!

 

Although we visited Tiefenhöhle and Blautopf separately, I would recommend combining these two activities.  Tiefenhöhle is Germany’s deepest show cave and visiting it will wear you out… but then, once you’ve journeyed deep beneath the Earth’s surface, you can come back to the surface and see where this cave system ends… at beautiful blue Blautopf!

6.  Wildpark Pforzheim

I love to visit animals… and the Wildpark Pforzheim is probably my favorite of all of the animal activities in the Stuttgart area.

Stuttgart and its environs is richly blessed with a lot of places where one can indulge their inner animal lover.  My favorite of all of the places I’ve visited animals is Wildpark Pforzheim.  There’s no admission fee to visit it, although parking isn’t free.  We spent several hours wandering around this park, feeding animals and watching them interact with each other.

5.  Nebelhöhle

Nebelhöhle is my favorite local cave…

 

Last summer, Bill and I visited several local caves.  My favorite one is Nebelhöhle, which is not only beautiful, but is much less taxing to visit than Tiefenhöhle is.  You can combine a visit there with a visit to Lichtenstein Castle or nearby Bärenhöhle, which is a much smaller and more kid friendly cave.

4.  Lichtenstein Castle

I don’t know how we missed this the first time we were here!

 

Although we did make it to Hohenzollern Castle the first time we lived near Stuttgart, we somehow missed out on Lichtenstein Castle.  I’ve now seen a lot of German castles and I think so far, Lichtenstein might be my favorite of all of them… and yes, that includes Neuschwanstein!

3.  Burgbach Wasserfall

The Burgbach Waterfall was yet another lucky find!

 

The same blogger who alerted me to the presence of the All Saints Waterfalls also clued me in on finding lovely Burgbach Waterfall.  It costs nothing to visit this pretty waterfall in the Black Forest, which also happens to be conveniently located near the Bear and Wolf Alternative Park.  It’s a great thing to do on a sunny spring or fall day!

2.  Der Schönbuchturm

Herrenberg’s tower!

 

In June 2018, the city of Herrenburg got its very own tower, overlooking the lovely countryside.  This tower costs nothing to visit and offers unobstructed views of the area.  There is another tower much like this one in Stuttgart at the Killesberg Park.

1.  Bad Wildbad

The “tree walk” is just one thing you can do when you visit Bad Wildbad.

 

A lot of newcomers to Stuttgart visit the spa town of Bad Wildbad to climb the famed “tree walk”, otherwise known as the Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald.  But there’s more to this town than just cool “tree walks”.  By the way, there are other tree walks in Germany and the Czech Republic.  Bad Wildbad also has the distinction of being the first place Bill and I ever experienced a nude spa.

I’m really going to miss living near the Black Forest, but I’m excited about the prospect of getting to live in another part of Germany for awhile.  I also plan to visit Stuttgart at least once next year, since we’re coming down to see Elton John in concert.  I have no doubt that we could also end up moving back here someday.  If we do, maybe we’ll live on the other side of Stuttgart for a change…  or maybe not.  We do like being near the Black Forest!

We visited Wiesbaden for the first time last weekend and I can now say for certain that this blog is not going to be neglected.  Wiesbaden and Mainz are extremely beautiful cities and there’s still so much to see and do.  But a piece of my heart will always stay here in Baden-Württemberg, where we’ve been so lucky to spend a total of six great years.

If you’re new here, I highly recommend getting out and seeing everything you can before you have to leave.  Time in Germany tends to fly by and not everyone will get the opportunity to return.  These last four years have really shown us what we missed when we were here the first time.  I feel so lucky that we got to come back and see more of what this area has.  And now, we have learned just how very much BW offers to its residents!  I hope today’s post will inspire a few intrepid souls to get out and enjoy this beautiful part of Germany!

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Germany, Stuttgart

An afternoon at the “historic” Cannstatter Fest in Stuttgart!

It’s the last day of September, which means the Cannstatter Volksfest is in full swing.  That means that everyone and their brother or sister is donning dirndls or lederhosen and heading off to ride rides, drink beer, and listen to music while watching other people get drunk.  2018 is a special year, though.  200 years ago, the original Cannstatter Fest was held.  It started one day after King Wilhem I’s birthday, back when Stuttgart was nothing but a beautiful meadow on the banks of the Neckar River.  The Cannstatter Fest is still held in the same place it was held 200 years ago, but back then, it was basically an agricultural festival designed to stimulate the economy after the Napoleonic wars.

Because this festival has been going on for 200 years, the people of Stuttgart decided to do something special this year.  In downtown Stuttgart, at the Schlossplatz, a historic Volksfest started on September 28th and will run until October 3rd.  My German friend, Susanne, alerted me to this special celebration.  Today, Bill and I decided to check it out, with plans to visit the much bigger “Wasen” next weekend.

Below are some photos from today’s visit.  I also got some videos of the excellent brass band playing in the tent.  There was no heavy metal and very little drunkenness.  We had a wonderful time watching Germans drink beer, dance, eat delicious food ordered from menus in Schwabish, and sing along to classic folk songs.  Plenty of people were dressed in traditional garb.  I didn’t bother with my dirndl today, but I would have been right at home if I had put it on.

We were greeted by a large crowd.  Plenty of people came downtown to check out the traditional Volksfest.

There were plenty of old fashioned rides and stalls.

There was even a flea circus.

They had agricultural exhibits, that were a bit crowded.

Around this point, I smelled horses and wondered where they were.  I didn’t see them, but the aroma was unmistakable and intoxicating to this former horse crazy freak…

I was starting to get annoyed by the crowds and almost suggested to Bill that we bag it and find a nice quiet restaurant.  It might have been one thing if Bill would ride the rides with me, but he doesn’t like rides.  So if it means we’re walking around in crowds, I’d rather GTFO.

But then Bill spotted the large tent and we figured that was where the beer was…

We waited in a brief line behind these people.  My big bag got checked out and tagged…

And we walked into an old style tent, where we proceeded to spend the next several hours eating, drinking, listening to live band music, and watching lots of dancing.

As you can see, lots of people were enjoying themselves.

The menu was a trip.  It was entirely in Schwabisch.

That prompted Bill to make a face.

But we still managed to get delicious chicken and fresh bread.  I swear, this chicken is such a treat.  It’s moist, juicy, and perfectly seasoned.

Everyone was getting into the music.

This band was great!  I loved the bandleader, who promised there would be no heavy metal.

The kids were loving it.

And there was a songbook in Schwabisch, too.  People were gamely using it to join in…

Get down, son!

I did get a few videos of the band playing.  After I sober up, I might turn them into a video and put them on YouTube.  Or maybe not.  Depends on how cantankerous my computer is tomorrow.

I loved all the dancers!  Wish Bill would dance with me!

These two kind of stole the show.

Weeee!

I sing much better than I dance, but I didn’t try the Schwabisch…

I had to get one more shot of the band as we were leaving.  They were great!  I would much rather listen to a brass band than heavy metal, anyway.

 

At one point, I went to the restroom and was utterly charmed by two young people– a young man and a young woman probably all of about 20 years old.  She had beautiful long blonde hair and was dressed in a dirndl.  He had an earring, a goatee, and was wearing traditional dress.  As we waited our turns to pee, they started waltzing beautifully as the brass band played.  I wish I had gotten a picture or video of them.  They were dancing divinely and really adorable together.  I moved out of their way and watched for a minute before it was my turn to whiz.  I doubt I would have seen two Americans their age doing anything similar… although I will admit I haven’t been home in awhile.  They were so adorable, though.  Wonder if they’re dating… or are they just good friends?  They made me smile.

We left to big crowds, including at the bumper cars.

It was a beautiful day for traditional festing!

Maybe I should have ridden the rides.

 

I’m really glad we didn’t give up and go home.  I had a great time at the historic Volksfest today.  It was a memorable way to spend my Sunday, listening to great music, eating roasted chicken, drinking beer, and watching Germans enjoy the last of the great weather before it turns to shit in a few weeks.  I couldn’t help but feel a little choked up as I realize that pretty soon, I’ll be leaving beautiful BW for Hesse and the Rhein.  I know I’ll love it up there, too, but I must admit that the Stuttgart area has left an indelible mark on my heart.  It’s become the closest thing I’ve had to a real home in a very long time.  I’ll miss it terribly… but I look forward to visiting and maybe even moving back someday.

This festival is something special, so if you want to experience the historic Volksfest, I highly recommend visiting before it closes on October 3rd.  To be honest, if they did this every year, I’d choose it over the regular fest… but then, I’m kind of an old bat.  I might even eschew the regular fest over this one this year, but I need to get my money’s worth and wear my dirndl at least once a season.  Maybe I can talk Bill into wearing his kilt to the fest, too.

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Stuttgart

Sometimes Stuttgart can be a real zoo!

Today, Bill and I decided to visit Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Park, the only state owned zoo in Germany and second only to the Berlin Zoo in its collection of animals and plant species.  This zoo is Europe’s only large combined zoo and botanical park.  It’s been in operation since 1846 and features some really cool Moorish architecture that brings Morocco and southern Spain to mind.

Today wasn’t our first time visiting Wilhelma.  When we lived in Stuttgart the first time (2007-09), we visited.  I want to say it was in the spring of 2008, not long after a polar bear cub was born at the zoo in Stuttgart.  I remember there was quite a line to see the cub.  I believe it was around the time Knut the orphaned polar bear was very popular at the Berlin Zoo, so the polar bear exhibit was very popular in Stuttgart.  About a year later, a depressed woman visiting the Berlin Zoo decided she wanted to be one with the polar bears and climbed over the barriers to swim with them, where she was promptly mauled.  Fortunately, everyone, including the polar bear that attacked her, survived the incident.

Sigh… I love the flowers.

Today, I saw neither hide nor hair of bears of any kind, but I did see a lion, a tiger, zebras, gorillas, camels, and huge cockroaches, the same kinds people used to be forced to eat on Fear Factor.  I saw a crocodile, Burmese pythons, donkeys, ostriches, and adorable ponies.  I also saw an enormous Schwäbisch-Hällisches Landschwein.  We spent about four hours at the zoo and could have stayed longer, had we not been worn out by the heat, the crowds, and walking.  The zoo is adjacent to a public park, which can be accessed from an entrance near the petting zoo.  Keep your ticket if you want to venture into the park and come back into the zoo.

We got an earlier start this morning, arriving at the zoo at about noon.  Bill parked at the garage adjacent to the zoo, although we could have also taken the train, which has a stop directly outside of the zoo’s entrance.  He paid 32 euros for two adult day passes and off we went.  Below are some pictures of today’s fun.  Bear with me… there are a lot of them!

Today’s line at noon.  Not too bad.  There are lockers right next to the box office, as well as toilets.  I think you’re supposed to start in the botanical part, but it was kind of warm and I was enjoying the fresh air…

So we visited the flamingoes, first.  Then we went into the greenhouse.

They had a lot of chili plants on display.  I couldn’t help but laugh, remembering my original German neighbors from our first time here gifting us with hot peppers because they were too much for them!  

I kind of wanted to take one of these home.  My German friend Susanne says there are days during the year when Wilhelma sells some of its plants and/or cuttings.  They have a booth at the Slow Food Festival in April and they also sell plants on Wilhelma Day, which this year is on September 30th.  

Colorful fish… just a few of many I saw today.

We went into the first part of the greenhouse, which featured cacti.

Our first German landlord was a cactus fan and we had a few in our house.  I was reminded of him as we checked out the exhibit.

More beautiful flowers.  The first time we visited, those flowers were tulips and were just as lovely.

We saw a few kids riding these things… I see it’s 2 euros for a 10 minute ride on these big stuffed animals.

A few more beautiful flowers…  Germans are so good with plants.

 Just before lunch, we went into the insect house.  There, we saw some pretty awesome bugs…

I never saw roaches like these in Texas.

Horseshoe crab, which I used to see a lot of in Virginia.

One photo of one butterfly.  The others weren’t quite as cooperative.

 

The biggest millipede I’ve ever seen.

A tarantula.  Yikes!

You could get pretty close to the pelicans.

Some equipment for other “wildlife”…

Last time we visited Wilhelma, we didn’t eat there.  Today, we did opt to have lunch at the cafeteria style restaurant closest to the entrance.  We stopped for a drink at the one closest to the petting zoo area, on the other side of the park.  I noticed a marked difference in the two places.  The restaurant closer to the entrance seemed cleaner, calmer, and had more shady areas.  It’s run by Marche, the same people who bring us nice rest stops in Switzerland and France.  I was somewhat impressed by what they had.

Salads with fresh looking produce that smelled great.

Vegetarian cuisine.

Coffee…

 

They even had fresh squeezed juices.  In the inside dining room, there’s also a play area for kids.

I went with a currywurst and pommes, which ordinarily wouldn’t have been my first choice… but I didn’t want a schnitzel and we’re having salmon for dinner tonight.  The pommes were awesome!  They weren’t all dried out and tasteless.  I could have just eaten a plate of those and been done with it.

A man and his hefeweizen… and penne pasta with pesto.  It was really good.

Just after I took this photo, a man pushed a trolley full of dishes by.  A beer glass fell off, shattered, and sent shards everywhere, including my shin.  Fortunately, it was a pinprick sized flesh wound.  No harm done.

After lunch, we found our way to the sea lions, who were a lot of fun to watch.  I got a bunch of photos and some video footage.  Here are a few of the best pictures, starring one sea lion with particularly good showmanship.

I was kind of jealous of their pool, too.  It looked refreshing.

Next, we went into the aquarium/terrarium… we saw lots of creatures there.

The snakes were cooperative at the zoo…

There were so many fish… and just as many people, so I just got a few shots of the more colorful ones.

Alpacas and Schweine…

I told Bill this fancy bird reminded me of Diana Ross… complete with feathers and long legs.

A gorilla who was outside… the others were inside.

I loved the zebras.  They were very chill.

And the giraffes, too…  

This ostrich had an attitude.  S/he came over and gave a guy with a camera what for…

I got several shots of the ostrich snapping at some guy with a camera.  It was kind of funny to watch. The other ostrich wasn’t as interested.

 

At this point, we decided to stop for a drink.  We were at the other restaurant, which appeared to be smaller, much more crowded, and offered less seating than the other restaurant, particularly in the shade.  Although it looked like they had a lot of the same kind of food, the first location near the main entrance was a lot more pleasant.  I noticed it was also less crowded and shadier on our way out of the zoo.

 

Look closely for camel butts.  They were of the two humped variety.

This Shetland pony was in the petting zoo area.  I remember the last time we visited, there were machines where you could buy food and feed some of the animals.  This time, both machines had signs on them that said they were broken.  Kids were putting some of the goats, though, and this pony let me pet him for a minute.  I could have hung out with him all day.

This pony was having a good laugh…  no, actually, I think he was yawning.  Lucky catch with the iPhone.

Pigs!

And an enormous Schwäbisch-Hällisches Landschwein!  He was huge!

These two were sharing a moment…

The elephants were putting on a show.  Up the hill, we noticed another World Wildlife Fund tent, like the one we encountered yesterday.  Bill was determined to avoid it.

A majestic Asian lion, who was proudly posing for photos…

It was dinnertime for the tiger, so I wasn’t able to get a really good shot.

These two were friendly!

I got some great video footage of these monkeys!  I’m going to see if my old computer will cooperate, so I can put it up on YouTube.  

Peacocks minus plumage!

 
 

And more monkeys!

Some rather chilled out kangaroos who weren’t very social.

And penguins!

Wilhelma Zoo is worth a stop if you love animals.  Both times we’ve visited, it has been crowded and some people seem to think the enclosures are too small and outdated.  That may be true, although I can’t deny that we had a nice time yesterday and that is my focus as I’m writing my post.  Are there bigger, nicer, and snazzier zoos?  Probably…  but the animals we saw yesterday appeared to be well cared for and basically happy, and we did enjoy seeing them.  I was especially impressed by the insect exhibit, which was more interesting than I was expecting it to be.

I think to do a proper visit, you should come somewhat early, wear comfortable shoes, be prepared for climbing hills and big crowds on nice days, and plan to stay awhile.  We were there for four hours today and I don’t think we saw everything.  There were some enclosures that appeared to be empty.  I noticed a few animals I saw in 2008 were missing this time.  I would have liked to have gone back to the sea lions, but was too tired by the time we’d done the loop.  The explanations on the exhibits are pretty much all in German, although I understood a lot of what I was reading.  I noticed it was fairly stroller friendly, too, although there are some hills.  The animal houses that had steps in them did have ramps, though, which was nice.

All in all, we had a really nice day.  I love visiting animals, although I tend to like zoos less than Tierparks.  I don’t like crowds and the zoo on a day like today is bound to have lots of crowds.  But Wilhelma is open almost every day–  It might be worth visiting when the temperatures are a little cooler.  On the other hand, the flowers are so pretty this time of year!  If you enjoy zoos, Stuttgart’s isn’t a bad one.  And with the train stop right outside the gate, it couldn’t be easier to get there.  In fact, the parking ticket machine is apparently broken right now, so taking the train might be better, anyway.

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concerts, Stuttgart

Our Rolling Stones weekend in Stuttgart… part threef

The gates at the Mercedes Benz Arena were due to open at 5:00pm.  Although the concert wasn’t going to start until 7:15, we decided to head over early, just to take in the scene.  I wisely decided not to bring my big purse with me, after being forced to lock it up at the museum.  Having seen some of the purses hanging off of the women at the show last night, I probably could have got into the venue with mine, although lockers were also available at the arena.  It was good that I didn’t bring it.  I didn’t need it.

On the way to the stadium…

We took a cab to the stadium and walked the short distance to security, which was thoughtfully staffed with female friskers for nervous ladies.  After we were frisked, we scanned the barcodes on our tickets and walked into the massiveness that is the Mercedes Benz Arena.  I had never been there before, although we did see Sting at the Porsche Arena next door.  We found our seats, 18 and 19 in row 13 in A6.  They were pretty close… at least when the arena is empty.  When it’s full, the seats don’t seem quite so close to the stage.

Security scene…

I guess people mistook this for a bathroom one too many times.

First view of the arena.  It’s massive.

A view of where we sat before it was full of people.

Small concessions area.  They had plastic cups with the Rolling Stones logo on them.  We probably should have foregone the pfand and brought a couple home.

We decided to have beer at the concessions stand.  Bill got me a bratwurst and fries, although I had asked for currywurst.  I don’t think the lady running the concessions heard him right.  There were also guys walking around the stadium selling beer and sodas out of camelbacks, ice creams, and sandwiches.  That was about the extent of what was available food wise.

You can see the guy who sat next to me in this picture, although I didn’t know he’d be sitting next to me when I took this shot.

I was interested in the clothes people wore to this event.  A few people were dressed up.  A whole lot of people were wearing concert t-shirts.  Many people were as old or older than Bill and me.  Almost everyone, whether or not they had a seat, was standing for most of the show.  I only mention this because at most concerts I’ve attended, people don’t necessarily stand if they can sit.  Most German audiences are fairly subdued, yet appreciative.  Not so at this concert.  

The Stones have been rotating several different opening bands for the 2018 No Filter Tour.  Last night, the opening band was The Kooks, from Brighton, England.  I had never heard of them before.  I actually enjoyed their music, although the lead singer, Luke Pritchard, who looks like a Dallas era version of Patrick Duffy, appeared to be trying to channel Mick Jagger and failed miserably.  I watched him dance and work the stage, but there wasn’t much connection between his movement and the expression on his face.  But I did enjoy their set and Luke’s weird shoes, which appeared to be fur lined slippers of some sort.

A few shots of the Kooks… This is Luke Pritchard, aka young Patrick Duffy.

Alexis Nunez stole the show.  At one point, they showed him in the audience while the Stones were playing and he looked positively orgasmic.  I was drawn to him more than the Kooks’ frontman.

Luke Pritchard promised us that the Stones were “on fire”.  He didn’t lie.

Frankly, I think the star in that band is the drummer, Alexis Nunez.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him when he was on the big screen.  He appeared to be taking a gigantic crap as he hit the skins– his eyes were squinty and teeth were clenched with effort as he pounded out rhythms, but I couldn’t help but be attracted…  Hmm… I guess that says something else about me.  I did like their music enough to download a few of their albums.  I probably wouldn’t necessarily work hard to get to one of their shows, but they were appealing enough.

A lot of people started showing up to the arena when it got closer to about nine o’clock, including the people sitting beside Bill and me.  The guy next to me was very tall and wore a tank top and cowboy hat.  He was also a smoker and didn’t hesitate to light up several times during the performance.  I know smoking is perfectly fine in Germany, but I can’t imagine being so rude as to basically smoke in someone’s face like that guy did to me.  Oh well… I guess it’s important to satisfy that nic fit.  I needed a shower anyway, after all the sweating I did.  Seriously, the chairs were arranged tightly.  It reminded me of being in the center seat on an airplane.

Half-time, which seemed to take forever as the roadies set the stage.  I noticed that the Stones have been staggering their performances, having shows every few days.  After watching them last night and their extreme level of energy, especially from Mick, I can’t blame them for taking a rest.

The audience reacts as the band takes the stage. I needed a step stool.

I was blown away by Mick Jagger’s stage presence.  Yes, I’ve seen him perform on TV, but it really isn’t the same as when you see him live.  There is no other person like him.  He’s a true marvel of nature.  His charisma is just astonishing.  Hard to believe he’s about to turn 75.

Ronnie Wood is also incredibly charismatic and sexy.  Not many people can pull off that look he has. He reminded me of a supermodel.

This was the view of the stage without the big screen.  I would have fared better if genetics had blessed me with a few more inches of height.

The bearded guy, Chuck Leavell, played wicked keyboards last night.  He’s American and has been playing with the Stones since 1982.  I was blown away by his playing.

Keith Richards was looking like he was having a blast!  To be honest, although I have always enjoyed The Rolling Stones’ music, I am not a super fan.  I had heard a lot of jokes about Keith Richards looking almost dead, but didn’t see any truth to the jokes last night.  He seemed very self-effacing and almost even overwhelmed by the love he got from the crowd last night.  

 

And here is drummer, Charlie Watts, who seemed the most straightlaced of the group.  He made me laugh with his goofy facial expressions and laid back demeanor.


Mick engages the crowd.

I shared one of these pictures on Facebook and a friend thought I was at a rally where people were burning an effigy of Donald Trump.  Nope… it was actually Mick Jagger who was on fire.

 

Below are a few more pictures from the show.  To be honest, I took more video than photos.  I normally don’t video at concerts, but almost everyone was doing it and, frankly, it’s hard to capture the magic of Mick Jagger in a still shot, especially when you’re not close and many people are in the way.  I will try to make a video of the clips I have and will, perhaps, eventually put it in this post.  Suffice to say, the man did not stop shaking his ass the whole concert.  His stamina was incredible.  No wonder he has eight kids.  I was also impressed that he spoke a fair amount of German.  Apparently, the Stones have been coming to Germany, particularly the Stuttgart area, for many years. Mick even spoke a little Schwabish to the crowd, which made them go wild.

I was amazed by Mick Jagger’s energy.  He has a way of making you feel like he’s only singing for you.  The camera loves him and no matter what he says or does, it looks natural.  It’s almost like performing is as as easy as breathing for him.  This is in sharp contrast to what I observed when Bill and I saw Eric Clapton in 2004.  Although Clapton had a fantastic opening band– Robert Randolph and the Family Band– his own performance was uninspired and lackluster.  I would not pay to see Eric Clapton again, even in the cheap seats, even though I still love his music. 

One of the two amazing sax players.  I have samples of them on video.

 

Before I close this post, I must write a bit about the Stones’ female backup singer, Sasha Allen, who joined the band in 2016 after previous backup vocalist Lisa Fischer left to pursue a solo career.  I am myself a singer, so I have a real appreciation for raw talent and what it takes to make the sounds Sasha makes.  Sasha Allen has some seriously powerful pipes.  At the end of the show, she and Mick did a fierce version of “Gimme Shelter” that brought the house down.  Yes, I recorded most of it.  And yes, as excellent Mick Jagger is as a performer, even he seemed blown away by Sasha Allen’s big voice.  She rivals Jennifer Hudson.

Now that I’m looking at her entry on Wikipedia, I see that Sasha Allen was also in the cult classic movie, Camp, which I discovered when we lived in Germany the first time.  I love that movie!  Anyway, she and the rest of the collaborators were every bit as good as the Stones themselves were.  It was a fantastic concert, in part, because of all of the backing musicians.  And Mick was great about sharing the stage with all of them.

Final bows…  The show ended with some rather sudden fireworks that went off, ejaculation style, at the end of the show.  Bill turned to me and said, “Well… that was unexpected.”  Sometimes I forget he has a touch of PTSD from his time in Iraq.

Once the show was over, the stadium emptied out in a surprisingly orderly fashion.  Thousands of people streamed out into the street and headed in different directions.  We had to walk about a mile and a half from the stadium until we got to where the road was open.  We were lucky to score a cab who whisked us back to the hotel, where our favorite Italian bartender was waiting.  We had a nightcap and I took a shower, then we passed out.  I slept until 9:00am today.  I don’t remember the last time I did that.

We ran into our new Icelandic friends at breakfast and managed to say goodbye after we each raved about the show.  After breakfast, we settled up with the hotel– our bill came to 540 euros and included Friday night’s dinners and last night’s nightcap.

Final thoughts…

Okay… so I spent $1200 on our tickets once all of the taxes and conversion rates were added.  Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have expected to pay that much to see a concert and none of the other shows I’ve booked so far have cost that much.  Was it worth it?  To be honest, yes.  The show was incredible.  I don’t think I like arena concerts that much because of how huge the crowds are and how hard it is to get in and out.  However, I can see why the Stones attract such huge crowds.  They are truly awesome live.  I can’t believe they’ve been playing for over 50 years and are still kicking so much ass.

I think if I ever spring for really expensive seats again, I’ll be more careful about their actual location within the venue.  I might try for aisle seats if I’m going to pay $1200 to see a show.

Still I think it’ll be awhile before I’ve processed last night’s show.  It was really amazing.  I’m delighted that we were able to attend.  I’m even more delighted that my husband had so much fun.  At one point, he turned to me with a big grin on his face and said, “I would never do this if it weren’t for you.”  I often wonder what my purpose in life is.  I think one of the main reasons I’m here is to make sure Bill has as much fun as possible for the rest of his life.  It’s a nice job to have.

Mick Jagger is just an incredible frontman.  He blew my brains out, just as I knew he would.  Many thanks to Stuttgart and the Stones for making last night so amazing.

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Germany, Stuttgart

Our Rolling Stones weekend in Stuttgart… part two

On Saturday morning, we had a leisurely breakfast in Wald Hotel’s restaurant.  They serve a pretty good buffet, with breads, fruits, vegetables, eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, and fried potatoes, among other things.  They will also cook eggs to order.  When we arrived at the buffet, the wait staff was very busy.  It took awhile before we could score a carafe of coffee.  My husband is usually a very mild mannered guy, but I could tell he was getting impatient for his morning caffeine shot.  I, for one, was more impressed by the Kessler Sekt that was made available.

While we were eating breakfast, I took note of all the people joining us.  Quite a few of them were obviously planning to attend the concert last night.  In fact, as we were out and about in downtown Stuttgart yesterday, I saw many people sporting t-shirts from previous concerts.  I had already read the information about the event that was emailed to me indicating that they were expecting 40,000 people at last night’s show.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I don’t go to a lot of concerts.  This was the first one I’ve ever been to with that many people.

After breakfast, we walked to the nearby train station and traveled to Charlottenplatz, where we knew we’d find something going on.  Sure enough, the city was alive with people yesterday, many of whom were there for the Children and Youth Festival.  We walked through the festival and I was very surprised by how many activities and exhibits they had.  Many groups had come to advertise their clubs.  I saw people from a fencing club, a dance club, and various sports groups.  I also saw a cooking school for kids as well as an impressive display by Porsche.  Below are some pictures from the festival.

The festival was scattered from the Schlossplatz to Charlottenplatz.  I was surprised by how many exhibits there were.

They had plenty of activities for kids to actively try, like this football exhibit.

Lacrosse.

Dance club.  You know the dresses were a draw.

 

We wandered out of the festival for a short time as we made our way toward the Schlossplatz.

They had set up a red carpet for a documentary festival that went on all weekend.

 

There were buskers everywhere, including this guy who was gamely singing Rolling Stones songs.  Bill dropped a couple of euros with him because he was genuinely entertaining and giving his performance a lot of go!

The Schlossplatz.  This was where we saw Van Morrison in 2016.  I can’t help but marvel at the people whose job it is to set up and take down bleachers and stages.  It seems like a huge undertaking.

 

A cooking school for kids.  I enjoyed the guy dressed like a chef who was working the crowd.  He wore chess board patterned pants and spoke enthusiastically into his microphone, inviting kids to participate.

Porsche was also onhand, with their own driving school for kids!

It was very safety oriented!

I snapped this photo just as we were about to cross the street.  Parts of Stuttgart are truly lovely.  I also noticed the church had its tower open earlier in the day.  We didn’t get around to climbing it.

The hour was getting closer to lunchtime, but we were still pretty full from breakfast.  We were about to head over to Karlsplatz, the square where the Hamburger Fischmarkt usually takes place every July, but ended up stopping by the Landesmuseum Wurttemberg.  We’ve passed it many times, but never bothered to visit.  Yesterday, we noticed entry to the permanent exhibits was free of charge, so we decided to stop.

There is also a children’s exhibit that I think does require an admissions fee.  Since we don’t have kids, we didn’t visit that part of the museum.  However, I am a big kid myself, so I probably would have liked it.  As it was, the Landesmuseum impressed me by being very extensive and including explanations in English.  It’s also kid friendly, with quite a few activities designed to engage children.

This is what you see as you enter the courtyard where the museum’s entrance is.

Information on the signs.

When we got our free tickets, the receptionist noticed how big my purse was, so she asked me to put it in one of the lockers situated in the lobby.  Large bags and some other items are not allowed in the museum, so if you have a big bag or a backpack, you will be expected to lock it up.  You use a one or two euro coin to lock the locker, and when you return the key, you get your coin back.

If you wanted to, you could spend a couple of hours in the Landesmuseum.  It’s surprisingly large.  In fact, we only explored the second floor.  On the first floor, there’s a permanent clock exhibit.  I took note of all of the history of Baden-Wurttemberg, particularly among Neanderthals.  Thanks to 23 and Me, I recently found out that I have a lot of Neanderthal genetic variants.  That explains a lot.  Neanderthals came from the Neander Valley here in Germany and many of their remains were found in Baden-Wurttemberg.

Besides information about Neanderthals, the Landesmuseum includes many paintings, artifacts, and precious jewels.  They’ve designed the exhibits to allow visitors to get a lot out of the experience.  For instance, a few exhibits had cleverly designed magnifying glasses that allowed visitors to see the detail of some of the precious artifacts being displayed.  In another part of the museum, there was a really interesting exhibit about religion.  They even had a hilarious oil lamp in the shape of a man with a very large phallus.  I wish I’d had my camera with me for that one.

After we explored the museum, it was time to hunt for lunch.  As I mentioned previously, Stuttgart was loaded with people yesterday.  A lot of restaurants were at capacity, especially outdoors.

We headed toward Karlsplatz, where a flea market was going on.  Lots of people were selling everything from military relics to carpets.  A Turkish food stand was open and putting off heavenly aromas.  A rockabilly band was playing live music.  The atmosphere was very festive.  Below are pictures of what was being sold.  

This band was pretty great.  I got a few video snippets of them playing.  

We probably should have stuck around to see if they were selling CDs.

The lure of beer was too strong and drove me away from this scene.

This seemed promising, but turned out to be a disappointment, since there were only tables able in full sunlight.  

Things were looking more promising as we approached the Markthalle, where we discovered a shady spot at the Marktstüble, a restaurant that is not open on Sundays.

The menu offered typical Schwabish delights like maultausen, schnitzel, and other porky delights.

But what I was after came in a mas krug…

Prost!  I’m glad we got the krugs because our poor waiter was pretty busy.  People were desperately seeking lunch outside in yesterday’s glorious weather.

And then, these buskers showed up and accompanied our lunch with their perky brand of accordion music.  I probably enjoyed them more than I should have.  They had game!

The guy in the orange shirt and his companion stayed at our hotel and took the same train into downtown.  All day, we ran into people from our hotel or folks who had been in the museum with us. It was kind of funny.  On the way back from the concert, we saw a guy who’d had breakfast at the same time we did.  He was distinctive because of his hat.

Bill had cold pork roast with potato salad and a green salad.  It was very good!  In fact, if we eat there again during the summer, I may order that myself.

I went with a green salad with shrimp.  I don’t usually go for salads, but I wanted something that wouldn’t be too heavy.  This fit the bill nicely.  It filled me up without making me bloat.

Below are some more photos from the Children and Youth Festival, which we passed through to get back to the train station.  It was time to go back to the hotel and get ready for our big concert!

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