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Another gloomy weekend in Germany…

We’re now at that time of year when Germany’s weather gets much less predictable. Today, the temperature is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s kind of overcast and rainy. It was sort of like that yesterday, too, although the sun did appear for a brief period in the afternoon. I tried to sit outside, but it was too windy to enjoy the sunshine, so back into the house I went.

Ordinarily, yucky weather wouldn’t necessarily keep us homebound, but we also decided to stay home because we’re a bit concerned about Arran. I mentioned in a few recent posts that he hasn’t been himself lately. A week ago, I discovered enlarged lymph nodes in his popliteal glands behind his knees (back legs). I immediately became concerned about lymphoma, which is the dreaded cancer that took our dog, Zane, in 2019. Bill took Arran in to see the vet last week, because besides the lymph nodes, Arran also had a few pesky fleas, which he picked up from the hedgehog who has been residing in our backyard.

The vet did a fine needle aspirate, and at this point, we still haven’t gotten the results. She also put him on antibiotics, which he’ll finish today. I would say he had a partial response to the antibiotics. The lymph nodes are still large, but Arran did seem to feel somewhat less lethargic. We treated him for the fleas, and I washed everything in sight, and that seems to have gotten rid of them for now. I just have a bad feeling that he has cancer. It might or might not be lymphoma. If it is lymphoma, it’s not like it was for Zane, who seemed to have a very aggressive case of it. He died exactly one week after he was diagnosed. Arran, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be ailing much, other than being a little slower to eat his breakfast, quicker to tire on his walks, and slightly less spry when he jumps up on the bed.

The dogs are due to get dentals next week, and if Arran is still with us, he’ll probably get a biopsy. Bill and I talked about it last night, and I think we agree that whatever we do for Arran will be conservative, because he’s about 14 years old. That is the human equivalent as a man in his 90s. Canine lymphoma is treatable, but it’s not curable. As sad as it was to lose Zane, though, his was the easiest of our canine deaths. He had a good last week. If that is what’s in store for Arran, I wouldn’t object.

On the other hand, it’s possible this is an infection and the antibiotics he’s been taking weren’t the right ones to cure it… or it could be another type of cancer. I really don’t know. I hate this part of having animals in my life, but I don’t hate it enough to give them up for good. Anyway, at this point, Arran is still eating, drinking, sleeping, taking walks, and hanging around with us. So this weekend, we decided to give him some more of our time.

Noyzi is also hanging out with us more. He likes to listen to me practice guitar, especially since he knows that when I’m done playing, if Bill isn’t home and hasn’t already taken him out, that means it’s walk time.

One thing that does worry me a bit is that we are due to go to The Black Forest at the end of the month, and we can’t cancel our reservation without having to pay for the stay. I did buy travel insurance with cancel for any reason coverage, but it’s not so easy to get reimbursed by travel insurance. Plus, I really want to go… Yes, we’ll be visiting our dentist, but I would also like to have a change of scenery. We haven’t gone anywhere since June. We’re long overdue for a trip.

I think that like Zane, Arran is going to stay with us for as long as he possibly can. He’s already the oldest dog we’ve had the pleasure of having. All of the others have died younger. He’s a very resilient, spunky dog, and he LOVES Bill so much. So we’ll see what happens. Below are photos that were taken within the past 36 hours or so. As you can see, the boys look fine. But I am still worried about those big lymph nodes.

Edited to add on September 19, 2022… Unfortunately, my concerns were on target. Arran does have lymphoma. So we will be speaking with the vet to determine what to do from this point. I think we are inclined to keep him comfortable for as long as possible, but we’ll see what the vet says.

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Getting to know my German neighbors… after almost four years!

A couple of weeks ago, our next door neighbor, Uli, told Bill she was going to have a barbecue, and we were invited. At the time she made her invitation, we were thinking we might be going to see our dentist in Stuttgart. But we couldn’t arrange boarding for Arran and Noyzi, so we postponed our dental appointments until later this month. That freed us up to attend last night’s festivities.

I’ll be honest. I was a bit apprehensive about this event. You see, I’m not that great in groups. The older I get, the worse I seem to be. I tend to say more than I should. But Bill is a very friendly, jovial guy, and he wants to be neighborly. Plus, he just brewed some beer, and mentioned it, which automatically excited our hostess. Of course, the beer Bill makes, while very good, is not German style beer. He makes British style ale, mainly because the yeast required for lagers is more fragile than ale style yeast is. But, over the past twelve years or so, he’s gotten better at his craft. Maybe he’ll delve into making lagers eventually. I would like that.

I did tell Bill to go to the commissary and pick up some Bubba Burgers and American style burger buns for Uli. I know she likes them, and I have a feeling the people before us used to pick them up for her on occasion. Bill gave her the burgers and buns and she seemed quite delighted. Personally, I’m more of a fan of handmade burgers with German buns. But if Bubba Burgers help facilitate neighbor relations, I’m all for giving them out sometimes. Uli seemed surprised when we told her we don’t shop at the commissary very often. We prefer German markets.

We had a nice gathering of about twenty people, with plenty of food and libations. There were sausages, salads, a couple of burgers that Bill contributed and I was too full to eat, and breads. There was lots of wine and beer, including a few bottles of Bill’s brews. At the end of the evening, a lovely Italian man who lives across the street brought out a round of espresso and an Italian digestive. He gave Bill some homemade limoncello, too, and said he would teach him how to make it.

Noyzi and Arran complained loudly at first, but then we brought them outside to see what was going on. Arran was over it quickly. Noyzi was feeling friendly, but he still gets freaked out by people he doesn’t know. So after they came out for a few minutes, we brought them back inside. Our neighbor’s lab, Tommi, spent most of the evening being a host. He is adorable.

Our host’s English speaking mother, Margot, was also there. She lives in the house that borders ours on the other side. I have often seen her walking Tommi, but she told us she had to stop, because he’s too strong for her. Last summer, Tommi got away from her while I was walking our dogs. I happened to have an extra leash, because Noyzi was still pretty skittish. Tommi didn’t have a leash, so I was able to give Uli’s mom the extra one so she could capture her pooch. I even wrote about it, because last year, pandemic restrictions made travel blogging more challenging.

Margot said, “Your dogs make so much noise when you go out.”

Without missing a beat, I said, “Luckily, I almost never go out.”

Bill later mentioned that he thought that was a sign of progress. When we first came to Germany and people would remark about my dogs, I would get nervous and offended. I was still a little put off, but then I said, quite reasonably, that they are seldom alone. Moreover, I know they don’t bark the whole time we’re gone, because they’re never still barking when we get home. I don’t think they would necessarily know to shut up when we were driving up to the house. We do keep our outings short, though, precisely for that reason.

Later, Margot said she wanted to talk to me, simply because she says people ignore the elderly. I told her that I would love to talk to her, because I enjoy having conversations with older people. They always have interesting stories to share. She brightened quite a bit, and told us about what it was like in Breckenheim in 1945, when the US Army came in. She said the Germans all had to give up their homes for the soldiers, and her brother wasn’t allowed to live with her and her mom. They somehow got to stay in their house.

Now… consider that 1945 was World War II… and who was in charge at that time. Yes, I would love to talk to her about that era! I think it would be fascinating. And she said she wants to practice her English, which is already good. But she reminded us that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Then she chastised me for not speaking very much German. LOL… But if people want to speak English to me, how can I speak German? I do understand a lot more than I did in 2007, when we moved here the first time… and 2014, when we moved here the second time. However, I am more successful singing in German, than speaking it. 😉 That’s not saying much… although I really can sing quite well. It’s just that I can memorize the lyrics and learn to pronounce them without necessarily knowing what all the words mean, even though we did have to translate the foreign songs when I was studying voice. Margot also told us that she only drinks Grauburgunder wines. She doesn’t even like Rieslings. And beer is out!

Toward the end of the night, I think I kind of horrified Uli, when I told her that we had to sue our ex landlady. Although lawsuits in Germany are pretty common– in fact, I think Germans are more litigious than Americans are– they don’t seem to want to talk about them. Uli is a landlady, too, so this was probably something that made her blood run cold. She probably thinks I’m a little crazy, and I bet she tells our current landlord. But if he says anything about it, we’ll just tell him that he’s nothing at all like the ex landlady. He’s courteous, reasonable, and respectful, and he’s done things legally. Uli was probably just shocked that we knew about legal insurance (and liability insurance and pet liability insurance– all things that Americans really should buy in Germany)… but she shouldn’t be, because we’ve lived here a long time, we’re older, and she knows how much our house rents for. Of course we’d be smart to have legal insurance. We had to pay two month’s rent as a deposit. It was a lot of money.

The topic of suing came up, though, because the neighbor was showing off their kid’s school Tute, for the first day of school. Uli kept talking about how much she hated “suing”. I realized that she meant “sewing”. I was very confused at first! Then I confided that I don’t like sewing, either, even though my mom is a master at needlecrafts. I don’t have the patience or dexterity for it. Another lady talked about how her daughter spent the school year in Michigan, and got to attend the prom and football games. I said, that must have been very interesting for her, given how different American schools are. German schools don’t usually have school sponsored sports teams or big, fancy dances… or, at least that’s what I’ve heard. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, we enjoyed hanging out last night, and meeting some of our neighbors. Uli’s new tenants are moving into their place in October. I especially enjoyed the wife, who hails from Böblingen, in Baden-Württemberg. She said that she taught math, and met her husband in Karlsruhe, while they were at the university. She likes Hesse better. She flat out said it, without any prompting. Why? Because people are much friendlier up here. It’s funny, because she’s not the first German, even from Baden-Württemberg, who has mentioned that Swabia is a very “special” part of Germany. But I actually like Baden-Württemberg very much, in spite of the different culture. It was the first part of Germany I really got to know, and it is legitimately a very beautiful place– even if Stuttgart is kind of a homely city. I look forward to going back down there at the end of the month.

Again… I’m not very good in groups. I speak my mind too much, and am not one for small talk. Some people love that about me. Other people hate it, and think I’m an obnoxious freak. And that’s why I have dogs. At least Tommi likes us… the featured photo is of him, knocking on our door. He doesn’t do it often, but when he does, it’s super cute. He also jumped up on Bill and gave him a big smooch, which seemed to horrify Uli. Yes, our dogs bark, but so does hers. And we keep ours on leashes, although we did talk about maybe letting Noyzi and Tommi play sometime. I think they’d love it. If we didn’t turn her off too much, maybe they’ll finally have the opportunity.

Uli says in a few months, we’ll have to share some Gluwein. That is, if the temperatures get low enough to enjoy it. We did get some rain today, which is a great thing. I’m not sure if we’ll venture out today. We were both kind of tired after last night’s festivities. Also… I don’t want my dogs to disturb the peace.

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Wine week in Wiesbaden… one last hurrah, and two rip offs!

Bill and I were trying to decide what we wanted to do today… when we were younger and less cranky, we might have decided to go to a place further afield, like Bad Homberg, or maybe Rüdesheim, which was having a wine fest this weekend. I’ve actually been wanting to go back to Rüdesheim myself, because I want to ride the Seilbahn. I’ve never done it before, and now is a good time to try it, before the weather turns to shit, as it usually does in September. But we didn’t feel like risking a Stau, and weren’t wanting to go far, so we decided to go back to the Wiesbaden Wine Fest, which ends tonight.

Overall, we had a good time. I drank lots of wine, and teased Bill, who didn’t drink nearly as much, since he had to drive. We ate good food and enjoyed the agreeable temperatures, which aren’t as bad as they have been lately, even if my house is still hot. We need rain very badly. But I know it’s coming, because the seasons are going to change soon. And, in my experience, they will change quickly.

We sat in a different part of the festival this time, and tried wines from three different Weinguts. We had different food, and I enjoyed a different public toilet. Sadly, Bill and I BOTH got ripped off.

It started with Bill. As it was mid afternoon, we required some food. He went off and came back with a fruit/cheese platter that was plenty of food, but not enough of what I wanted to eat. Bill had been talking about Langos, which is a popular Hungarian street food, that consists of fried dough topped with savory treats. Before today, I had never heard of them, but Bill talked them up. Then we saw someone with one that looked really good. So I told Bill I wanted to try one.

He went to the stand, very close to where we were sitting, and ordered me an Italian Langos– fried dough, tomatoes, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and paprika spread. It was actually delicious, but the guy who made it, ripped off about 15 euros from Bill by shortchanging him. Bill was pissed about it, but didn’t want to confront the guy. So I dispensed a piece of wisdom, which was “You don’t always need to be driving the karma bus.”

It’s true. When it counts, Bill stands up for his rights. He did sue our ex landlady, after all. This was a minimal loss, and we were having a good time… and that guy is going to be caught eventually. Last night, we booked five nights at the very nice Bareiss Hotel in the Black Forest, a place that guy will probably never get to experience. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I empathize with Bill being pissed, though. I just don’t think it needs to ruin the day, especially if it’s not enough of a big deal to say something about it.

Then I got up to pee. I paid the 80 cents with a two euro coin… I got change. Guess what? The “one euro” coin I got, came from Argentina. Yep… I got ripped off, too. I guess he saw me coming. Oh well. I took the coin and put it in my special foreign coin purse, which I bought in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996. It has coins from all over the world, as well as US coins that date back to 1880. No, a coin from Argentina doesn’t have monetary value in Germany, but having it provides me with a good story, which, to some people, is probably worth more than a euro. And I’ve never been to Argentina, so now I have a reason to go there, right? To spend my almost worthless two pesos, exchanged for a euro. The two peso coin is currently worth about .01 euro cent.

Anyway, we still had a good afternoon. This time, we had wines from three different wineries in the Rheingau. When we left, a lovely lesbian couple had taken over the table. They were doing what Bill and I always do when we buy wines to taste– trading the glasses. What a love language. The wine week ends tonight, so next weekend, I hope to have different photos. But for now, here’s what I have…

All in all, it was a nice afternoon, in spite of being ripped off. We learned new things. And, in the grand scheme of things, being ripped off twice isn’t a big deal. Because eventually, those guys will likely get busted, and we don’t miss the money, anyway. Next month, I will be writing about a legendary Black Forest hotel, after I get dental care. If you ask me, we are pretty blessed… as I write this, Elton John’s “Blessed” is even playing.

But I understand why Bill was pissed. No one likes to be a chump. At least he wasn’t alone today. 😉

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A day in a parrot paradise– Vogelburg

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a German Facebook group that offers ideas for fun day trips in and around the German state of Hesse. Actually, I joined an American run version of that group, but decided to join the German version when I noticed the group admin was mostly just reposting whatever was shared in the German group. He was adding very little original content or even a US perspective as he was resharing the German group’s content. So I decided I might as well join the German group, since locals often add information that Americans don’t have.

I know I recently mentioned that I would like to take this blog back to the way it was from 2014-2018, before we were dealt the double blow of a lawsuit with our former landlady and COVID-19. In 2019, we were new to Wiesbaden and trying to get used to our new town. Then, everything shut down for a long time, so that prevented us from exploring the way we would have, otherwise. For now, we are allowed to travel freely, but it’s taken time to get back in the mood to take day trips. Part of the reason I decided to go out today is because the weather was nice. It was sunny, but not too hot. Also, I needed to take my mind off of a threatening, harassing, message I got this morning on my now defunct Overeducated Housewife Facebook Page. One of the best ways to get me to temporarily forget about trouble is to visit animals.

Someone shared a post about Vogelburg, a sanctuary for rehomed parrots, parakeets, macaus, and cockatoos in the German Facebook group. I was intrigued, since I’d never heard of it. I showed Bill the official Web site, noted that it was open today, and we made plans to visit! The sanctuary is just north of Wiesbaden, on the way to Limburg, which is where we visited a few weeks ago. We probably could have gotten there in about 40 minutes, if not for a horrific pile up on Autobahn 3. We counted at least fifteen ambulances passing us, along with cop cars, fire engines, and the doctor’s car. The Stau held us up for about an hour, as we watched people exiting their vehicles to pee on the side of the road. It was quite frustrating, as I was also a bit hangry. However, once we got to the park, it was well worth the wait.

We paid eight euros each to enter the facility, bought some sunflower seeds, and made our way around, feeding the gentle and beautiful birds, watching them preen, listening to them communicate, and enjoying their antics. We saw one pretty cockatoo sitting on a girl’s shoulder while she petted it. Others were talking, hanging upside down, or begging for food. At first, I was nervous about feeding the birds, since there were picture signs warning about bloody fingers (see my photos). But I soon got the hang of things, and really enjoyed giving the birds treats. Quite a few of them really knew how to pour on the charm, as you can see in the video below.

Listen for the cuckoo bird!

After a couple of hours enjoying the birds, who came from all over the world, we decided to have a quick lunch at the park’s restaurant, which serves things like wurst, Frikadelle, potato salad, and cake. Bill and I both had bratwursts with potato salad. I could not finish the huge serving of potato salad, but did enjoy washing everything down with a cold Weizen beer. I did notice that the facility looked like it had been around a while and could use some refurbishment (ETA: it dates from 1981). But the birds are well cared for and very entertaining. They also have a Parrot School, which I guess is a program where visitors can learn more about the birds (ETA: My German friend says that the school is for the parrots). All of the signage is in German, though, which makes me think the “school” probably is, too.

We both left Vogelburg smiling, and I decided that we need to spend more time in this part of Hesse, which is quieter and less built up than Wiesbaden is. It reminded me a little of the lovely rural areas near Stuttgart we used to enjoy regularly when we lived down there.

This is a great activity for young children, although strollers may not be the best idea there, because there are cobblestones. They even have a cool slide at the top of the hill that kids can slide down and land in a sand pit. Plenty of adults were enjoying the park, too, as the birds are very social, healthy, and friendly! On the way out, there’s a gift shop. We didn’t stop in. This park opens every year on March 15th, and the season runs through October 31st. It’s open daily, from 10am to 6pm. Parking is free!

I’m happy to report that the drive home happened without incident– no wrecks or Staus. That’s always a plus in Germany!

All in all, it was a great day! I’m so glad we went to see the beautiful birds of Vogelburg today. They really helped me enjoy the day, and forget my troubles for awhile.

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It’s time for Rheingauer Weinwoche in Wiesbaden!

Last night, we missed the wine stand in our village, because Bill’s bosses reserved a couple of tables at the annual wine festival in Wiesbaden. I should mention that this festival is usually held every year, but because of COVID-19, it was not held in 2020 or 2021. We did attend in 2019, but we went by ourselves at the end of the fest, when things were much calmer than they were last night! Back when Bill was still on active duty in the Army, we might have called this event “mandatory fun”, although it wasn’t actually mandatory. But it was supposed to be for Bill’s work pals… and they graciously let spouses and significant others come, too.

Bill and I got to the reserved tables at Weingut Hamm’s tent early, mainly because his boss said that he was going to get there at about 5:00 to make sure our tables were open. We were there for over an hour with Bill’s boss, drinking wine and hanging out until the rest of the group started showing up. It was very loud, and quite chummy, with many smokers and people with body odor. But it IS Germany, after all, and that’s to be expected. I enjoyed visiting with Bill’s friends, and I managed to be on my best behavior, except at the end, when I made a crude joke to Bill’s boss. Fortunately, he has a raunchy sense of humor. 😉

I don’t have much to say about what we did last night, except that it involved a lot of drinking, loud talking, eating pretzels, and peeing. I noticed that the price of the toilets went up to 80 cents, too! But, they were clean and well stocked, and there were plenty available. Bill and I will probably go again on our own, since this fest runs through next weekend. I sense that a lot of folks were eager to party, given how so many popular events have been canceled. I also have a feeling that I’ll probably get another COVID exposure alert on my Corona Warn app.

I wish we’d made an effort to eat something besides pretzels. I was not feeling well this morning. I did do a COVID test, though… negative so far. Hopefully, it will stay that way. Below are some photos and a video of what we saw and experienced last night. It was quite a celebration, even if I’m kind of paying for it today! I didn’t walk around the whole fest, since we were there with a group. I would like to go back just to see what and who else was there… but maybe I’ll do that after I feel less hungover.

Who doesn’t love a band? (Click the link to see the video)

In spite of my rough condition this morning, I love these kinds of fests in Germany. People are usually in a good mood and interested in having fun. There’s plenty of security, medical assistance, and nobody brings weapons. I enjoy how civilized Germany is… and how we can have fun without being put at risk. I’m, once again, grateful to be here. I hope it continues for a long while.

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Street food in Hofheim equals presents for my ass…

I was feeling kind of lazy today, and probably could have been talked into staying home. But then I noticed Hofheim, which is a town very close to our village of Breckenheim, was having a street food fest. I have to admit that I love German street food fests. They are always an interesting mix of kid friendly activities and adult beverages. Also, there’s usually live music and good food. I don’t care that much about kid friendly activities, of course, but I am all about adult beverages, good live music, and street food… especially if it involves empanadas. So off we went in the Volvo, since I didn’t feel like messing with the Mini’s last decade sound system. I think it’s time to shop for a new car. The Mini is 13 years old and can’t keep up with technology. 😉

We parked in a different area of the Chinon Centre, which is the local shopping mall. We easily found the fest, which was/still is going on downtown. There was a nice turnout of vendors, with everything from Indonesian to Colombian food. We didn’t actually eat a lot, because much of what I saw being served was in pretty large portions. I may look like I can eat a lot, but actually, I am more of a drinker. 😉 So I ended up just having a couple of empanadas… but I did learn about a fruit that was new to me… and especially about the hilariously rude names people in the UK use for it.

Anyway, below are some photos and videos… It was a lot of fun, and a nice way to waste the afternoon. I really liked the guy who was playing guitar in the last hour or so of our visit. He seemed equally influenced by Sting, Santana, and Mark Knopfler. All are worthy, in my opinion. And his live guitar playing beat the ever loving hell out of the crappy Euro trash trance music that was playing. I do love Europe, but the pop music here often sounds like a mixture of dance music and late 80s era Mentos commercials.

As you can see, we had lots of choices for food and drink, and there was plenty for kids to do. The weather was perfect, not too hot or windy. My only complaint is that they needed another umbrella or two. Also, I wish there had been smaller portions at some of the food trucks. But really, those were minor complaints. It was a really nice afternoon. Hofheim rocks!