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Rheingauer Weinwoche in Wiesbaden, Part Zwei…

Bill and I had a productive morning. After I ranted in my regular blog, I decided to practice guitar and then change the strings. Changing the strings on my guitar is a major pain, mostly because of the types of gears I have on my headstock. It takes me awhile and sometimes involves some pain. However, as I just recently made a video in which I played guitar, I realized that a string change was probably long overdue… so I did that, and Bill bottled his latest homebrew.

I recently joined a couple of swell Facebook groups devoted to day trips, mostly because I have really missed seeing and writing about interesting places on the weekends, like we did in Stuttgart. It’s time we got back into the swing of doing that, so we can get more out of being in Germany, and maybe I’ll start making ad revenue again. I saw some places that interested me, but as we didn’t get to see the whole Wiesbaden wine fest on Friday, plus it was already the afternoon when we were ready to venture out, we decided to go back downtown.

We walked a bit around the much calmer fest, slowed down a bit by the bright sun and intense heat. This current heatwave probably isn’t the worst I’ve experienced, even in Germany, but it has been going on for awhile… I’m pretty tired of it. It makes me cranky. The weather channel says we will probably have some rain– finally– this week. I sure hope so. The heat is a real bummer.

I got some more photos and we decided to visit the Barth Weingut stall, because last year, we went to a wine stand in Hofheim and bought some of Barth’s wines to take home. They were, and still are, very good. I have to say, I liked them better than the wines we had on Friday night at Weingut Hamm. But then, I wasn’t the one choosing those wines. We had a pretzel and spundekäs (cheese dip), a local specialty out of Mainz.

We also had a late lunch– a hot smoked salmon sandwich for me, and pulled pork for Bill. While we were enjoying our wines from Barth, a couple sat at the table behind us and proceeded to chain smoke. I was a bit annoyed, since there were quite a few empty tables nearby where they could have sat and not fouled the air with their cigarette smoke. Then, I was dumbfounded when the female half of the couple donned a heavy duty FFP2 face mask! They were sitting there smoking for a good half hour, but then she decides she wants to be a COVID-19 warrior? Amazing! But that’s one of the mysterious things about living in Germany. Some folks are the crunchiest, most health conscious people you’ll ever meet. But they love to light up, especially while they enjoy local wines and beers.

Anyway, we stayed for about three hours, hearing the vague strains of live music as we enjoyed Rieslings by Barth. I don’t know if we’ll go back again, even though the fest is running until next weekend. I am a little tired of wine fests, and would really like to do something different, in a different town. But we can’t always go to the Wiesbaden Wine Festival, while those other activities are usually available.

Below are today’s photos… they aren’t as exciting, because today was a lot more laid back and low key. I kind of like it that way, to be perfectly honest. I am not a big fan of crowds and super busy events.

It was kind of a low key time to be visiting the fest, but that’s kind of the way I like it. Hopefully, next week, we’ll find a nice Tierpark or something. We’ll see.

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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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Today’s garden visitor…

Early this morning, Bill let Arran out to do his business. Arran immediately alerted to the ivy covered fence on the right side of the yard. It was very early– not even 6am yet– so it wasn’t a good thing that Arran was barking so assertively. Bill brought him back inside, but Arran remained obsessed with getting outside.

I prefer to let the dogs out, if they want to go out. I’ve cleaned up too many accidents to know that it’s not a good idea to deny them the chance to pee when the need arises. But Arran and Noyzi were both still fixated on the fence line, and I didn’t want them to piss off the neighbors, so I went over to see what the issue was. There, I saw it… a humongous spiky hedgehog, curled up by the fence. It’s daytime, and hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, so I figured it might be sleeping. Still, I’m not interested in having a dead animal in my yard, so I got a shovel and gently pulled it out for a better look. It took a minute or two, but I finally saw it breathe. So, after I took a photo for posterity, I put it back where I found it, and shooed the dogs back inside.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a hedgehog in my German backyards. The first time we lived in Germany (2007-09), I had to rescue a hedgehog from the jaws of my then beagles, Flea and MacGregor. Later, when we were still living at that house, I discovered an enormous hedgehog raiding the trash. My guess is that it was the same one I saved from my beagles. I see from Facebook, that happened in August, too…

Dated August 19, 2009just found an enormous hedgehog raiding the trash… good thing my hounds were inside.

I last saw a hedgehog in our garden in October 2020. I noticed that it lived under a platform in our yard. For all I know, this is the same creature, as according to my reading, they can live up to 7 or 8 years in the wild. I also read that August is when hedgehogs in this latitude usually give birth. Some babies are born in July or September, but in Germany, at least half are born in August. For all I know, this is a female hedgehog who is about to have babies. I sure hope she moves, though, because I don’t want my dogs trying to eat her. She’s very spiky. Or maybe it’s a he. I don’t know.

I remember seeing hedgehogs in the 70s, when my dad was stationed at Mildenhall Air Force Base in England. We moved back to the United States, and I didn’t see them again until years later, when Sonic the Hedgehog became a popular video game and people adopted them as pets. I don’t think hedgehogs are as popular to own as pets anymore. But they sure are around in the European wilderness, especially in Germany… I never saw one when we lived in Jettingen. There, we saw lots of field mice, which Arran was occasionally able to catch, even when he was on his leash (which he almost always was, since we didn’t have an adequately fenced yard). They are good to have in gardens, because they eat bugs. For that reason, I welcome our cute visitor. I’m always amazed at the things I learn as a result of living over here.

Hedgehogs were never really an issue for us in the USA. Over the course of 20 years and many different homes, we’ve had snakes, squirrels, deer, wild ducks, turtles, mice, rats, chimney swifts, groundhogs, toads, coyotes, moles, foxes, chipmunks, rabbits, and all manner of birds. But wild hedgehogs are strictly a European thing… kind of like slugs. I know there are slugs in the USA, but I never saw so many of them there as I have here. They are huge, and pretty gross. I remember our first German landlord used to put out bowls of beer to attract the slugs and drown them. I don’t take those steps myself, because I love beer and hate to waste it on killing slugs. Also, beer attracts bees, who also end up drowning.

I’m still kind of shocked by how big that hedgehog is. I’ll bet it’s a female who’s about to give birth. I’m not going to turn it over and try to look for the telltale sex organs, though. Like I said… lots of spiky quills! It’s already Monday; I don’t need any wild animal related mishaps today.

ETA: I just checked where I left the hedgehog, and it’s moved. So that’s a good thing… Hope it finds a less dangerous place to be.

Here’s a video of the hedgehog, who came out while we were eating dinner a few days later. I suspect it’s a female, about to have babies… or maybe newly postpartum.

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Good intentions waylaid by a Stau…

We have nice weather today, and several fests are going on. I was thinking I might like to go to one in a town near us, since I knew there would be wine, food, and live music. But just after we got on A 66, we hit a Stau… that is, a traffic jam. We must have gotten to it pretty soon after a wreck, as a couple of ambulances passed us while we sat behind an endless processional of cars.

It was just after one o’clock when we hit the Stau, and about 1:45pm when we were finally moving again. We were both so irritated and hangry that we decided to just go to AAFES on post and pick up a few necessary items. I hadn’t been to the PX in many months… it’s probably been over a year. I needed to get some new makeup, because the stuff I’ve been using is probably from the pre-pandemic days. Bill also wanted to get shit bags for the dogs, and an Internet extender for the house.

By the time we were done shopping, we had spent well over $200, mostly on my cosmetics, because I don’t use cheap stuff. I usually buy Lancome, but there wasn’t any way to tell which shades things were, so I switched to Estee Lauder. Then we went to the Pizza Hut Express and got a pizza, which was pretty crappy. Pizza Hut used to be pretty good, back when you could go there and sit in the restaurant for dinner. Now, it’s kind of yucky. But it was handy to get it, since it was after 2pm, and we were both grouchy.

When we got home, the dogs were ecstatic. Noyzi goosed us both in the ass. Then I noticed a funny Carolyn Hax column in the Washington Post, about a woman who was pregnant and having to deal with her mother-in-law treating her like her grandchild’s vessel. For example, they’d go out for Thai food, and Grandma would say, “If that’s what Baby wants…”

My response was, “I’d tell her Baby would rather have a double gin martini.” For some reason, people thought that was a really funny quip. In honor of it, Bill made us gin martinis. See the featured photo for that. 😉

Below are a few photos from the highly annoying Stau. We were used to those in Stuttgart. They aren’t so common up here in Wiesbaden. Good thing we didn’t have our hearts set on doing anything special or having lunch anywhere good.

And no, I did not commit Beleidigung today, although the impulse was there. The martini was made from gin we bought from Vom Fass in Wels, Austria. We finally finished the bottle.

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A most unusual wine stand in Breckenheim!

Bill came home yesterday morning, after having spent most of the work week in our old stomping grounds, Stuttgart. We were all glad to see him, especially Arran, who looked pretty pissed off when Bill dropped off his bag and headed to work. I wish I’d had the camera with me to take a picture of Arran sitting there, staring up at Bill with his big eyes, as if to say “And just where do you think YOU’RE going?”

It wasn’t so bad, though, because he came back home early, and then we decided to go to the wine stand in our village. It was being held in the parking lot between the Rathaus and the little elementary school that I’ve heard is going to be torn down in the next year or so. A new school is being built on the other end of town. I don’t look forward to that, since it will bring noise, construction, and more traffic to our already congested street. But as I am just an American, and not even an ordinary resident, at that, my opinion is pretty irrelevant.

I’ve mentioned before that our Dorfplatz, which is where the stands are usually held, is unusable right now, because a toilet facility is being erected. It seems strange to put a public toilet in the Dorfplatz, especially since the Rathaus is just up the hill, and there are toilets there. We live so close to the Dorfplatz that when we have to pee, we just go home. Nevertheless, the powers that be decided that a new toilet facility is necessary. So that means the wine stands had to be moved. The good thing is, they’ve been moved even closer to our house! It’s even easier to stumble home!

We don’t always attend the wine stands, mainly because they get crowded, and it’s just as easy to drink our own wine in our backyard. I wanted to go last night, though, because I could hear the lovely dulcet sounds of a pop choir called Die Weinseeligen. I’m wondering if the people who performed last night were the ones who were supposed to perform a couple of weeks ago. The wine stand was canceled then, because several of the members had COVID. They sounded healthy last night, as the tennis club hosted the biweekly fundraiser, which also offers a great opportunity for the community to come together and mingle. The wine stands weren’t allowed during the height of the COVID mess, so it’s been great having them again.

We saw one of the American ladies we met at the last wine stand. She said her partner was quarantining, because she had gone back to the USA to drill for the National Guard, and came back just in time to catch the virus. Apparently, she’s now recovered from the sickness, but still faintly tests positive. My guess is that she’s simply more introverted than her partner is, and would rather hang out at home. I can understand that. Not everyone wants to hang out in a big crowd. I feel that way myself a lot of the time.

I did take a few videos and photos, which I’m sharing below. Bill and I had a great time breaking my alcohol fast. The weather was wonderful; the wine was good; and although we didn’t partake of the food, it looked like they had some good offerings. I saw a guy walking by with smoked salmon sandwiches, which is a departure from the usual pretzels, brats, and broetchen that are usually offered at these events! The video isn’t the best, because it was crowded, and I was drinking. But it does offer an idea of how the choir sounded, and the atmosphere of the event. We love the wine stands, which we never had in either of the towns we lived in near Stuttgart. Down there, we had more Biergartens, and they weren’t standing events, like they are up here in Wiesbaden.

It took a minor miracle to upload this video… and it may not even be worth viewing. But we did have fun, as you can tell.

I have written a couple of well received blog posts about the differences between life in Stuttgart versus life in Wiesbaden. I think this is one thing I like about Wiesbaden. Folks seem friendlier and more social here, and it’s easier to get to know people. Or, at least that’s how it seems. That’s not to say that there aren’t friendly people in Stuttgart. There are. It’s just a different culture. There’s actually a lot I really miss about Stuttgart… but I am glad we had the opportunity to move to Hesse, because it gives us a whole different experience of living in Germany, and that’s a beautiful thing.

When our bladders had enough wine, we went home and hung out in the backyard, where we could still hear the choir a little bit. The temperature was perfect, and it was just so nice to have Bill home again. I even gave my German friend from the Stuttgart a thrill by posting in German on Facebook, without any help from Google Translate! Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

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Sweet false hopes… but BrewDog saved the afternoon!

A few days ago, The New York Times ran an article about Khachapuri, a popular dish made of fresh bread, cheese, and egg, in Transcaucasian countries, to include Georgia and Armenia. I lived in Armenia for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and while I can’t say I ate a lot of Khachapuri when I lived there, I’ve come to appreciate the milder versions offered outside of the country. When I lived in Armenia, the dish was made with stinky cheese, which I could not abide. When it’s made with milder cheese, it’s more delicious to me.

Anyway, when I saw the article in The New York Times, I was reminded of the times Bill and I have enjoyed Georgian food. We went to Georgian restaurants in Stuttgart and Frankfurt, as well as several in Wroclaw, Poland. The Frankfurt restaurant was a bit of a disappointment, but the ones in Stuttgart and Poland were awesome. I did a Google search and learned that much to my shock, Wiesbaden has an Armenian restaurant unsurprisingly called Ararat. I looked them up, and it appeared that they were open today. So Bill and I ventured out there to see if it was a good place to eat.

The restaurant is located in an area of Wiesbaden that is known for its Eastern European population. That’s where one can visit the Mix Markt for eastern goodies. It’s in a residential area, and probably gets lots of locals as visitors. It also looks like they host a lot of parties and such, with live music.

We approached, and the door was open. There was a young guy on the phone and a young woman. The proprietor came out and said they were closed on Sundays, even though Google and their sign said they were supposed to be open every day.

I couldn’t resist, and asked in Armenian if they were from Armenia (Hayastan), since the place also advertises Russian food. Their faces lit up as they answered yes, in Armenian, and asked if I was Armenian, too. I actually answered “no” in German, then explained in Armenian that I know some Armenian. Then I said in English “I used to live there.” What can I say? It’s been 25 years since I last had to speak Armenian on a daily basis. Anyway, I could hear them commenting and chuckling as we walked away. We’ll have to call and find out when they have regular hours. I’d love to try their horovats… or shashlik, if they prefer.

We went back to Wiesbaden and parked at the Kurhaus, then walked into town. It didn’t look like anything exciting was happening, so we headed to BrewDog, where we ate a couple of months ago. I knew they’d be open, because they don’t take a pause. It was almost 2:00pm.

We drank a couple of beers and each tried something different from the last time we visited. I had a “Cluck Norris” sandwich, which was fried chicken breast with avocado, red onion, cajun mayo, and coriander with a side of fries. Bill had a roasted chicken sourdough bowl, which was basically a big salad with pieces of chicken and a piece of toasted sourdough bread. His dish also included chilli, chia seeds, and avocado.

We enjoyed the music, and I took a few new selfies, because I was wearing makeup and the lighting was good. Plus, since it wasn’t super hot outside, I wore something besides a t-shirt and shorts. While we were sitting there, a waifish blonde girl came in and dropped off a keychain with a note. She was quick as a flash, and we watched her go in and out in a matter of a minute or so, before she went across the street and did the same at a cafe. This isn’t the first time this has happened to us. I’m not sure where she was from, but I would guess it’s an eastern nation, and this is their way of collecting money. They try to sell little trinkets to sympathetic people who are trying to eat. I don’t think she had any luck.

Below are a few photos. I didn’t manage to get any of Ararat, although I’m sure we’ll try to visit again when they’re open– after we’ve called to verify. The owner had a very kind face and seemed super friendly. But I don’t mind that we went to BrewDog, either. That’s a fun place!

I really do hope we can try Ararat. I love finding new restaurants, especially when they offer different food than what is available everywhere! And I have missed Armenia… and Armenian people!

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Unique wine barrel furniture from Bijan!

Last weekend, a guy in my wine Facebook group, name of Bijan, advertised an open house at his wine barrel furniture-wine sales shop. Although I think he sometimes goes to Stuttgart to sell wine and furniture at AAFES, his actual shop is in Igstadt, which is very close to where Bill and I live near Wiesbaden. Bijan has somewhat limited hours, or one can call him and make an appointment.

Many times, I’ve seen Bijan advertising his beautiful wine barrel creations in my group. His pieces are all made from French wine barrels from Bordeaux or riddling racks from the Champagne region of France. Until today, Bill and I have never managed to make it to his place to see his products in person. He usually only opens on certain Saturdays from 10am until 2pm. We tend to sleep in on Saturdays or get to doing other stuff… and by the time we remember he’s open, it’s too late. This week, we made a point of going to see him. He was also kind enough to post a reminder in my wine group.

One of the things I’ve been wanting for our home is more storage for our wine. I’ve also been wanting to put some more furniture in our living room, since until today, it was half bare. I didn’t want to buy another generic wine rack from Amazon. I was hoping for something more unique and interesting. Bijan’s shop fit the bill perfectly.

We were greeted at the door by Marco Polo, the adorable canine ambassador, and I immediately saw what I wanted. There was a wine barrel cabinet that had racks for up to 8 bottles of wine, racks for wine glasses, and a shelf. On top of the barrel was a wooden table top with a glass insert in the middle, which turned the barrel into a pub table. There were several barrels to choose from, each one unique. Most had once held red wine, but there was at least one white wine barrel. Some barrels were light colored, while others were darker. And they each had unique bands around the barrel. We ended up choosing a barrel with black bands, only because it had the wine glass rack in it. The others didn’t have that.

I also wanted a riddling rack to hold some of my wines. The racks were originally used to produce champagnes, but are great as temporary storage for wines at home, too. We selected a dark stained rack with three rows on each side– it opens like an easel, and can hold up to 60 bottles. We never have that much wine in our house, because we drink it constantly. But right now in my basement, we have a bunch of wine in boxes, because we didn’t have enough wine racks. Now we can put the wines away and get rid of some of the boxes.

I’m thinking we’ll get a couple of stools for the new table/cabinet, and then on chilly winter nights, we can sit by the fireplace. Bijan makes stools, or maybe we’ll find a couple locally. It may be worth it to have him make us a couple of them. I’ll probably fill the glass insert with corks. The lady who sold us the cabinet said the wine that was stored in our cabinet was very nice… it’s stamped 2017.

Bijan takes cash and credit cards, and he also accepts the VAT form from Americans, so we don’t have to pay 19% tax. We got a ten percent discount, and ultimately paid just under 1000 euros for everything. Bijan knew exactly how to fit everything in our Volvo so it got home safely. I thought it was going to be hell getting the barrel into our house, but it worked out fine, after a few grunts and heaves from Bill and yours truly. Below are some photos of our new treasures. I forgot to get a picture of the building itself. They really have some unique stuff in there. We may have to go back!

Bijan also sells French wines and ports, and he was kind enough to throw in a couple of bottles for us.

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“Wining” away our Saturday in Wiesbaden…

A couple of weeks ago, one of Bill’s co-workers invited us to go to a wine tasting/market in Wiesbaden. She bought tickets for us, two of her other friends, and of course, herself. The event was held in the Colonnades near the Kurhaus in downtown Wiesbaden. To gain entry, we had prove we were fully vaccinated, but all other COVID related measures were dropped. We were supposed to be limited to two and a half hours, but fewer people showed up than were expected, so we could have stayed longer if we’d wanted to.

I really had a good time. I had forgotten how much fun these events are, even though I usually end up drinking too much. 😉 We met people representing wineries from around Germany, but there were also a couple of wineries from Italy and France in attendance. We also talked to a lady who runs a nut business out of Freudenstadt, which is very close to where we used to live when we were in the Stuttgart area. She had some really tasty cashews and other nuts that had complementary sweet and savory flavors. She also had salts, cheese breads, and granola.

We didn’t manage to hit every table. If we had, I would be in even worse shape this morning than I am… My liver really got a workout. But I did manage to get some photos. Lots of people were out and about, including a number of wedding parties. Springtime in Wiesbaden is a great time to see brides!

It’s so nice to have some normalcy again. I hope to enjoy it for as long as possible.

I enjoyed talking to some of the winery reps. One French lady bonded with us over a love for Georgian wines and the ancient way wines are made in the Caucasus. She said she did an internship in the Republic of Georgia, and since I lived in Armenia, we both knew about the region. ETA: It turns out the woman was actually from Germany, but she imports French wines. We found this out when Bill got the Rechnung!

Another winery was represented by the founder’s son, who said their winery was extremely tiny, with just one hectare of vines. Besides wines, they also made plum brandy and wineschorles (wine spritzers) that were refreshing. I think we came home with about 30 bottles!

I think we’ll take it easy today… enjoy the nice weather, and take care of some chores.

Here are a few shots of some of our neighborhood’s cutest residents. We ran into them on our walk the other day. Our neighborhood also has a bee feeding vending machine made from a repurposed gumball machine.