It’s election time…

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I just bought a new pair of shoes that I needed to try out. I was going to try them yesterday, but ended up taking a nasty fall when I went to check the mailbox. Noyzi followed me outside and I panicked, because it’s almost a year ago that our would be rescue dog, Jonny, escaped his pet taxi before we could get him into the house. He ended up running away and tragically got hit by a car. That memory is still all too fresh in my mind.

When I went to grab for Noyzi, I lost my balance and fell. I got a nice, bruised, scraped right knee, and I tore off part of my right thumbnail. It really hurt, and I was actually a bit dazed for a few minutes. I had to sit on the floor to get my composure, because I almost felt like I might pass out from the acute pain. Needless to say, the boys didn’t get a walk yesterday. Arran capped off the misery by puking.

But anyway, we have sunny skies and nice temperatures this morning, so I decided to try again. We walked down the hill to the Dorfplatz, where there are many election signs. The big day is March 14th, and Wiesbaden has lots of candidates. I took some photos, even though as a foreigner, I won’t be voting.

I’m more than ready to get out of this neighborhood and see more of the sights. I am beyond sick of the COVID-19 lockdown lifestyle, especially since Bill has to go TDY for three weeks. But at least the new shoes were pretty comfortable, even if the shoelaces don’t want to stay tied without bow knots. I think once my knee and thumb stop throbbing, they’ll work out fine. Maybe I’ll even be motivated to walk outside of town and burn off some of this COVID-19 beergut.

Hopefully, the lockdown will be ending next month, although vaccine rollout has been slow here. Bill and I signed up for us to be vaccinated on post, but there’s no telling when that will happen. It will probably happen before we can get it on the economy, though. The school is open today, and I saw lots of kids playing outside, masked with surgical masks instead of cloth ones, which are now outlawed.

It is nice to see the sun… and feel warmer temperatures. I look forward to better weather, so we can at least socially isolate outside.

The aftermath of tragedy…

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This content also appears on my original blog.

Yesterday was so surreal. I woke up feeling hopeful that someone would find “Jonny” and we could welcome him into our home. My first thoughts, when I saw him run away, were of overwhelming dread, but so many people were sharing his picture and I read many hopeful stories of dogs who were reunited with their people. Of course, most of those stories involved dogs who were already bonded. Jonny didn’t know us. He never got the chance to even meet us.

Just after I published yesterday’s post, Bill called up to me and said, “It’s over. They found him on the Autobahn.”

Because he had a microchip, the police were able to call the rescue organization who had sent him to us, and the adoption coordinator was the one to let us know he died. I also got a Facebook message from a woman who is in a club that tracks dead animals (there seems to be a club for everything in Germany). She had a chip reader and reported Jonny’s death to Tasso. She also informed me of Jonny’s death, after we were given the news by the rescue. She said we should call the police to give them our side of the story, since a car was damaged from hitting the dog.

A representative from the rescue asked us if we have liability insurance, although she made it clear that we weren’t going to be blamed for this. We do have insurance— plain liability insurance and pet liability insurance– but we never had the chance to add Jonny to the pet policy. Bill signed the contract less than twelve hours before the dog got to Wiesbaden, and the whole incident happened before we would have been able to call the insurance company to update the policy. So far, the rescue says they will handle the claims resulting from the accident. I imagine they will also go after the pet taxi driver and her company for restitution, since the dog wasn’t yet in our care when he escaped.

All day yesterday, I got private messages from German strangers and a few friends. The vast majority of people were kind and understanding, although there were a few people who blamed us. I even got a message from the lady who did our homecheck, asking for an explanation, which I was happy to give her. When there were doubts about our ability to care for our dogs, I sent pictures of Bill with Arran, a picture of a plaque I had made of our five dogs, and even the memorial videos I made for Zane and MacGregor. Most people, when they see Zane’s video, tear up. It consists of four minutes of photos taken of him in almost ten years of life with us. It’s obvious how much he was loved. I would have liked to have given the same kind of life to Jonny, if we’d only managed to get him through the door.

Think I don’t take care of my dogs? Think again.

I haven’t been totally grief stricken. I didn’t know Jonny. I guess I could describe what happened as akin to watching someone jump off a building. He was still a stranger to us when we saw him take his devastating last run. I knew in my gut that he would inevitably end up getting killed if we couldn’t catch him. But I was powerless to do much more than spread the word and wait. Even if we’d searched for him, we didn’t have a connection to where he might be. We simply didn’t know him other than what we saw in pictures and read in the description from the rescue.

We discovered that Jonny’s foster mom had tried to give the driver his harness and collar. For some reason, the driver said she had all she needed and she did not take the harness and collar Jonny had been using. But then she said the harness she had was too small and she didn’t have an appropriate collar. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t have just taken the equipment he had been using, since it obviously fit him. But then we also remembered that she said she’d been driving since 10:00am on Thursday morning and she was meeting us at 7:00am on Friday. I’m sure if what she says is true, she was exhausted and her judgment was adversely affected. She seemed stunned when Jonny took off. Bill said she didn’t seem to have a clue what to do.

The rescue did tell us that they’d let us adopt again at a later date… if we still want to get another dog. I look at Arran and see how good he is now. Maybe it would be better not to get another dog for the time being. But then, there are so many that need good homes, and I know we can provide that. As long as we manage to get the dog into the house.

Yesterday, I told Bill that I pictured our four departed dogs– C.C., Flea, MacGregor, and Zane– all meeting Jonny at the Rainbow Bridge. I can just visualize Flea, our most alpha and outspoken dog, saying, “WTF, man? You really blew it. They would have given you a wonderful home and you would have had a beautiful life.” And they’d all shake their heads at Jonny as they trotted off to go play in the green, rainbow filled pastures and crystalline streams.

We’re tired and heartsick. Arran has an upset stomach this morning and Bill and I haven’t really eaten much. At least, so far, we don’t feel sick from COVID-19, although we don’t have the results of Bill’s test yet, so we’re still quarantined. This has just been a horrible weekend all the way around, and the news just keeps getting worse as people worry about how to survive during this pandemic.

Our first French Christmas, part two…

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Last Saturday morning, we loaded up our Volvo and headed to our first stop, Beaune… the very same place where we are right now. I found our pet friendly gite on Booking.com back in October. I didn’t know at the time that the gite owners had just bought the house their rental apartment is in and that they just started their own winery. I was under the impression that Beaune was a big town. I’d seen it on other trips we’ve taken to France and a local friend had visited a couple of months ago and made it seem like a really hoppin’ “ville”. But, as it turns out, Beaune isn’t all that big, except when it comes to wine. There are several wineries located within steps of our gite.

Our drive to Beaune was mostly uneventful. There was a pretty terrible accident on the Autobahn outside of Mainz that required us to drive on a side road. It had traffic backed up for miles, and we even saw the ADAC helicopter there. But the rest of the ride was uneventful, if not a bit long. We arrived in Beaune at about 5:00pm. I tried texting the gite owners, as they had requested, when we were twenty minutes out, but I had the wrong phone number. Consequently, we had to call them from outside of the house. It’s partly because of this that we were even at the rest stop where our car got vandalized. I had wanted to contact them ahead of time, since they had requested it the first time. Bill had their number on his phone and it gave me the chance to pee. If only we had done what we did on the way in! Then we would have avoided the criminals who took a sharp, pointed object to our beloved Volvo’s right rear tire.

The husband half of the gite owners gave us the grand tour, and because we were tired, we decided to settle in for the night. That was also because I didn’t want Arran to howl… and also, we never had the chance to make reservations anywhere. I got some photos of the gite, Au Miracle du Pain Doré (at the miracle of golden bread– or French toast)…

So far, I’ve paid about 700 euros for both two night stays. The first two night stay was slightly cheaper, probably because it was a Saturday and Sunday night. Our current stay was intended to be just just Friday and Saturday, but it looks like we’ll need at least one more night, thanks to our encounter with criminals yesterday. Booking.com has it priced at 185 euros for Sunday night… not a bad deal for a whole apartment. One thing that struck me about this gite is that it reminds me a lot of the one we stayed in near the Champagne region last February, although that gite was somewhat larger. The layout and style, right down to the kitchen and tiled floors, is very similar. When I have more time and am near my big computer, I will have to post comparison photos.

This gite is very conveniently located. You can easily walk to the charming downtown area, wineries, or to grocery stores and bakeries. Last Sunday, there were a few shops open, as well as restaurants and a cute little Christmas market. I didn’t manage to venture out today, thanks to all the running around Bill has been doing with trying to deal with our flat tire and reporting the crime to the police. Maybe tomorrow, after we figure out the plan, we’ll get into the town and try another restaurant.

Arran ruins our Saturday plans…

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As some readers know, I have two dogs that kind of substitute for the offspring I never had.  I wouldn’t say my dogs are my life, per se, but they are very important to me.  And, just like all living things, sometimes they get sick.

A few years ago, my dog Arran had a mast cell tumor on his head.  He had it removed and, fortunately, it was pretty benign.  He healed quickly and never seemed any worse for wear.

I was hoping Arran would be one of those dogs who never gets another MCT, but I think he might have one now.  He has a hard, slightly ulcerated bump, right next to the top of his right ear.  It’s maybe an inch or so from where his first tumor was.  I suspect it’s a MCT because it seems to get inflamed easily.  Arran has also been spontaneously vomiting recently, for no apparent reason, and he’s had some pretty rancid gas.  Mast cell tumors give off histamine, which can cause bleeding, stomach upset, and gas.

Yesterday, as I was writing a new book review on my main blog, Bill came into my office to tell me that Arran had a huge accident in the night.  Sometime before we woke up, he went into the living room and had a bout of diarrhea on one of my new rugs.  We cleaned up the mess; then at ten o’clock, Bill called what I think will be our new vet.  Unlike our previous vets in Herrenberg, this practice has regular Saturday hours from ten o’clock until noon.  We got an appointment at 11:45am.

Bill met the wife side of the husband and wife team, who checked out Arran and spoke relatively good English.  She gave Arran a shot and some medications for pain and to settle his stomach.  He’s doing better today, but unfortunately, Bill had to leave for another business trip.  This time, he’s going to the States.  I’ll be here alone all week, which sucks.

I think after Bill’s trip, I will arrange to have the vet aspirate Arran’s bump and, perhaps, remove it.  There’s always a risk with MCTs because if you don’t get them all with really good margins, they can come back with a vengeance.

My other dog, Zane, has also had a mast cell tumor.  Zane is doing fine now, but he’s had his issues with stomach upset and the like.  He’s getting lumpier by the day, too, thanks to many old man tumors.  I hope none of them are dangerous, but I don’t want to put either dog through any extreme surgeries because they’re both getting old.  I suspect a lot of the tumors Zane has are fatty lumps called lipomas.

I was hoping to have something new and exciting to write about today, but unfortunately, it’s just another cloudy weekend on my own.  Maybe I’ll think of one of my famous top ten lists in the meantime, as I feed Arran a bland diet.  Arran was ravenous this morning, which is a good sign.

On another note, as happy as I am that my husband has work he enjoys in a place we both enjoy, I really hate it when he leaves town.  I especially hate it now, because I don’t really know anyone in Wiesbaden yet and don’t yet know my way around here.  I also hate driving, although I will do it if I have to.  I miss Bill when he’s gone.  I suspect I’ll be sleeping and reading a lot this week, hoping for prettier weather.  Last night, I told Bill it felt like he’d never left the Army.  He just doesn’t get to look like a hottie in his uniform anymore.

Oh well…  for President’s Day weekend, we have planned another trip to France, this time to an area we have not yet explored.  We’ve found a very inexpensive and pet friendly house to rent.  It might soon be time for another list of pet friendly lodging!

It’s a good thing they’re all so cute.

Ende alles, alles gut… I hope!

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Okay… I truly hope today’s post will be my last one about Hello Fresh.  I think I may have finally succeeded in getting them to delete my account.  But they couldn’t just shut up and delete it, could they?  No… they had to blame me one last time.

Behold…

Customer service agent Matea confirms that my account is canceled, but adds for the record that I was the one who reactivated it.

And here’s my weary reply…  Again, I share this for the record, in case the zombies resurrect my account in the future.    

 

I tried to log in last night and found that my password no longer works.  Hallelujah!  I think this is a good sign that means they’ve finally complied with my wishes.  It only took a week and multiple emails!  I hope this will be the last time I write about Hello Fresh.  And I hope any Hello Fresh subscribers who are reading this have a better experience with them than I’ve had.

Now, on to a related topic.

I have noticed in Germany (and maybe France, too) that there’s a different mindset here when it comes to what to do when things go awry.  It seems like when something goes wrong, someone has to be “at fault”.  There seems to be no room for simple bad luck or accidents.  Someone must be to blame when there’s an accident or an error, and that person must be held responsible, usually in the form of paying fines or being chastised in some way.  Consequently, no one wants to take the blame for messing up and then be held responsible. When something bad happens, many people here immediately go on the defensive.  Then, the situation becomes nastier than it really needs to be.

I think this “faulting” mindset is why insurance is such a popular industry in Germany.  If you have an accident on someone else’s property, you will be expected to shell out money to pay for damages.  I don’t necessarily have a problem with paying for things that break on my watch; however, I don’t see why there must be such an emphasis on blaming the other party.  Everyone messes up sometimes, because nobody’s perfect.

I feel compelled to be very well insured while we’re living here.  Courtesy of USAA, we have car insurance, renter’s insurance, life insurance, valuable property insurance, and personal liability insurance.  Courtesy of a German company, we have personal liability insurance, legal insurance, and pet insurance.  We also joined the Mietverein (renter’s union).  And, of course, we also have TRICARE, dental insurance, and health insurance through Bill’s employer.  We probably pay more than we need to for insurance, but as I wrote in my previous post, I don’t like being fucked with.

Our new landlords require us to have pet liability insurance and strongly recommended personal liability insurance.  Bill was happy to tell them we have both.  He bought both policies due to my insistence.  So far, the personal liability insurance has paid for itself.  It only costs a hundred euros a year, yet we’re covered for millions of euros in case there’s a mishap and someone’s property gets damaged.

I have recommended purchasing personal liability insurance many times in my blog, especially to any Americans who will be living in Germany.  Many Americans don’t understand German and have no experience with the German legal system.  If something goes wrong, they are going to need someone local on their side who can help them navigate the situation.  However, I notice that quite a few Americans are reluctant to pull the trigger.  They seem to think personal liability insurance is a “scam” and assume that what they get through USAA or another American company will protect them adequately.

I think it’s helpful to remember that there is a different mindset here.  Many Germans have no qualms about going to court, which is why so many Germans have personal liability insurance.  What’s more, accidents can and do happen.  I have a friend who ended up paying for her German landlord’s brand new kitchen due to an accident one of her guests had while staying with her.  She did not have insurance, so she and her husband had to pay thousands of euros out of pocket.

If this post makes you want to explore more about why Germans have so much insurance, I recommend checking out poster Starshollow on Toytown Germany.  He has written many helpful posts that explain why having insurance is such a must in Germany.  Also, in the Stuttgart area US military Facebook groups, there is a poster named Gerhard Koch who sells insurance.  His English is perfect and he is extremely helpful.  In fact, he’s our insurance broker, and he’s helped us out more than once.

Anyway… I didn’t mean for this post to become yet another caveat about purchasing insurance, another subject besides Hello Fresh I’d like to retire.  It’s just that the Hello Fresh drama reminded me once again that Germans often have a very different mindset regarding how to settle accidents, and their concept of who is to “blame” might be different than yours is.  It may seem cost effective to skip purchasing insurance, but if something goes wrong, you may live to regret that choice.

Even the Hello Fresh debacle could have led to us needing to access our insurance, in case we wound up in court over that erroneous 54,98 euro charge.  If Hello Fresh had insisted that we pay for their mistake, it seriously could have led to a lawsuit.  Don’t believe me?  Read Toytown Germany.  People have posted plenty of nightmare stories about being sued over seemingly insignificant debts, which eventually turn into much larger debts due to fines, interest charges, and collections fees.

Incidentally, I think you should read Toytown Germany anyway.  It’s  a very useful site for English speaking expats and will give you a non-miltary/US government perspective of living in Germany as an expat.

Heavenly hiking at the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle

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Still chasing waterfalls in the Black Forest!

On May 19th of this year, Bill and I paid a visit to the lovely Burgbach Wasserfall in Bad Rippoldsau.  On that day, we had made tentative plans to also visit the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle (All Saints Waterfalls), which I found out about when I read this guy’s blog about waterfalls in Europe.  His post about the Allerheiligen falls led me to believe they weren’t anything special.  I was also thinking they were closer to Bad Rippoldsau than they are.  We couldn’t visit the All Saints falls on May 19th because while we were eating lunch, the sky opened up with rain.  Having now been to the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, I’m pretty glad we chose to visit them on a different day.  The visit was a lot more intense than I was expecting.

We left the house at a few minutes past noon and made the trip to the Black Forest National Park.  The falls are located just north of the village of Oppenau.  As usual, we enjoyed a lovely ride through the Black Forest, past Freudenstadt and Kniebis.  The only thing that made it a little stressful were the many bikers sharing the road with us.  The Black Forest is very beautiful, and it attracts motorcycle enthusiasts in droves.  They can be rather aggressive in their need for speed.  More on that later.

A lot of people had the same idea we did.  We arrived at the falls at about 1:00pm and the first parking lots we encountered were pretty full.  We parked on the street, where there are a number of spots available.  Here’s another hint.  Keep going past those first lots and you will eventually find the main entrance to the waterfalls.  There is also a large, free parking lot there.  On the other hand, if you want to eat before you hike, parking at the first lots will get you close to the very good gasthaus there.

A lovely view of the mountains, meadow, and a war memorial honoring men who died during World War I.

Besides the majestic waterfalls, Allerheiligen is also the site of a ruined monastery, the foundation of which originated in 1192.  Evidently, the site of the monastery was determined by a donkey, which threw off a sack of money in the area.  A wooden chapel was built, and by 1657, it became an abbey.  The Allerheiligen Kloster was at the height of its power during the 18th century, but in 1802,  Margrave Karl Friedrich of Baden began a course of secularization.  He dissolved the abbey and took all of its possessions.  The monastery was already damaged by several large fires between 1405 and 1555.  In 1804, there was another fire caused by a bolt of lightening.  It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when people started to tour the Black Forest, that anyone thought to preserve what was left of the ruins.  So many years later, they are still very interesting and kind of majestic in their starkness.

We encountered the ruins first, as they were at the end of the trail we took from our roadside parking spot.  Below are some pictures.

Now you see Bill…

Now you don’t.

This creek eventually turns into the waterfalls…

A more modern church on the hillside.  We didn’t investigate it because frankly, after walking up and down the falls, we were exhausted!

If you like photography, this is a beautiful place to be.  There’s a lot of interesting scenery.

 

The gaststätte is conveniently located next to the ruins.  Bill and I arrived just in time to snag a table. The hardworking staff was busy the whole time we were there and no table stayed empty for long.  We sat down next to two tables consisting of two couples with kids.  I’m pretty sure the husband of one couple was German.  Everyone else was very obviously American and spoke loudly enough for everyone to know from where they came.  It made me chuckle.

A very slender and extremely friendly lady took our order.  She spoke some English and was relentlessly chipper.  I admired how much she seemed to enjoy her work.  She was all smiles.  I used to wait tables myself and I can promise that I struggled to smile a lot when I was doing that work.  It was truly a pleasure to be served by her, though.  Not only that, but the food at the restaurant was surprisingly good.

Bill peruses the menu, which was passed to us by a nice guy at the next table.

Bill settled on Schweinebraten, which was served with brown gravy and a mound of delicious mashed potatoes.

I had fresh trout, topped with toasted almonds and served with mashed potatoes.  Those potatoes were off the chain!  They were very buttery and delicious!  It was such a treat!  I don’t remember ever being served mashed potatoes at a German restaurant before, but these would have made my mother proud.  We both enjoyed Weizen beers.

 

The food at the gaststätte is typically German.  They do have vegetarian selections and both a children’s menu and a menu for seniors.  We were pretty full after lunch, but I had to try the Black Forest cake.  All told, we spent 46 euros.

We shared a piece.  It was delicious.  Definitely not what you’d find at Busch Gardens in Virginia.  I used to decorate the fake Black Forest Cakes there. 

As we were about to leave, a group of bikers sat at the table next to ours.  It was good that we were leaving, since they pulled out their cigarettes and clearly intended to foul the air with smoke.  Sorry… I don’t mind smokers unless I am forced to sit next to them, especially when I’m eating.  But we were on our way to the falls by the time they lit up, so it was all good.  

Another shot of the ruins.

They were still busy when we left… and when we came back an hour later.  This restaurant only runs until 6:30pm, but it appears they work all day.  We thought it was well worth the trip.

There is a public restroom.  It’s not the cleanest and the doors have locks on them that require 20 euro cents to open.  I didn’t have to pay, though, because I got one that was left open by someone else.

A small museum with three rooms in it.  If you can read German, you can learn more about the history of the Allerheiligen monastery.

A fountain.

As you walk toward the falls, you encounter a fork.  If you go straight, you will go straight to the waterfalls.  If you bear left, you climb a gentle hill to the war memorial I mentioned earlier and pictured below.

You can unlatch the gate and look at the memorial close up.  We chose not to, which in retrospect was a wise decision.  We had many steps in our future.

You’re not supposed to wade or swim in the creek.  However, we saw plenty of people ignoring these ubiquitous signs.  We even saw one group that were actually wearing bathing suits and in the water.  Not saying you should do it, but I will say that there was no one policing.

The walk to the waterfalls is pleasant, easy, and flat.  You don’t know what’s coming…

 At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that we parked at the first parking area we encountered.  I think that was a mistake, even though I wanted to have lunch before we started our hike.  If you start at the top of the falls, you will get tired going down.  Then you will have to turn around and hike back up.  The hike up is a lot more strenuous than the hike down is.  There are seven levels, most of which aren’t steep drops.  However, at the bottom of the system, there are two big falls with many steps to climb up and down.  Keep that in mind if you visit.  Also… do not come to the falls with a stroller or a wheelchair.  This is a moderately difficult walk and requires participants to be able bodied or carried.

Below are photos from the walk down the falls.  It was fairly busy today, so a lot of people were taking pictures.  I think I did a pretty good job of not including most of them in my shots!  It took us about an hour to hike down and back, with another hour or so for a leisurely lunch.  If you have a lot of energy, you could combine this activity with another one.

One of the steep staircases to climb.

And a look at just how far down the mountain you are…

At the end of the falls, as we were approaching the main entrance.

Piles of rocks left by other visitors.

A map of the area.  If you wanted to, you could do a lot of heavy duty hiking here.

This is a picture of the main entrance– seems most people use it.

We turned around and started walking back.  This is a sign warning against winter visits, when the falls are closed.  I would imagine it would be dangerous to walk along the falls when it’s very icy.

A chair?  I sure could have used one.

Another long trip up the stairs!  Good thing I have a strong heart!

Although it didn’t take long to visit the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, it was a challenging walk for Bill and me.  I was alternately panting, sweating, and thanking God I’m still able to do these kinds of activities.  I thought of my mom as I was climbing the steps.  She’s turning 80 in August and can no longer walk like she used to.  She would not have been able to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls here.  On the other hand, we did see a number of very fit seniors visiting this natural wonder.  So I will keep hauling my ass up the hills and taking pictures.  Even if I sometimes grouse at the hard physical work, crowds, and stinging nettle plants, I am never sorry I do these day trips.  I always come away better off for having made the effort to visit.

I was tempted to hike up and down this very short but steep shortcut.  But then I remembered being stung by plants yesterday and decided not to cheat.

One last shot…

 Now… earlier in this post, I mentioned the bikers and how they were creating a bit of a hazard on the road to the waterfalls.  Those of you who ride motorcycles should pay close attention.  Bill and I got in the car and started heading home.  My cell phone had absolutely no signal in the area.  While this was initially a nuisance for an Internet addict like me, it actually became what might have been a matter of life or death.

As we were driving along the road between where we parked and where the main entrance to the falls are, we passed a young woman dressed in biker garb.  I noticed that she looked very distraught.  She waved at us to slow down.  As we approached a sharp bend, I could see why she was waving.  There was a small group of bikers on the side of the road, next to the treelined cliff.  A young man stood in the middle of the road and flagged us down.  He motioned for us to lower the window and asked us if we had a “handy” (cell phone).  Bill and I were confused as to what was going on, but the look on his face told us something bad had just happened.  Clearly, he was hoping I had a signal so he could call for help.

I noticed the groups’ bikes were parked nearby and a couple of the men were looking over the edge of the mountain.  I can’t be sure, but it appeared that a very serious accident had just occurred.  Bill and I surmised that perhaps a member of their group had been unable to negotiate the turn and went over.  I don’t know this for sure, though… only that the people in that group appeared to be very upset.  It looked like whatever had happened had only just happened.  Hopefully, whoever came after us was more helpful than we were and no one was either hurt or killed.  But that’s sure the way it looked.

So if you ride a motorcycle, please slow down and be careful, especially on the very curvy mountain roads at high altitudes.  We saw an awful lot of people taking stupid chances today, even if we hadn’t run into this distressed looking group.

Edited to add:  Here’s a news report about the accident.  Our impressions were correct.  Looks like he survived.

Oppenau (ots) – On the county road 5370 between Allerheiligen and Oppenau came on Sunday afternoon at 16:25 clock a 47-year-old motorcyclist alone involved in a right turn to fall. The driver of a group of four slipped over the road after the fall and threw first against a tree on the left lane side and in the sequence down a slope. The man was seriously injured about 50 meters below the road to lie down, his admitted in France two-wheelers crashed about 80 meters in depth. The casualty was hospitalized in a hospital. During the extensive recovery, the county road was closed for about 2 hours. The damage to the bike is around 12,000 euros.

Minutes after we passed the guys on the side of the road, we passed the main entrance.  If we had parked there, we probably would have missed the whole drama.

It was a really beautiful day to visit the waterfalls.  And… I was thanking God we did it in June instead of late July or August!  I was still radiating heat when we got to the car.  By the way… it doesn’t cost anything to visit these falls.  Frankly, I thought they were gorgeous.  Triberg may have Germany’s highest falls, but I think Allerheiligen’s falls are much prettier.  In fact, I also liked them better than the falls at Bad Urach.  If you like waterfalls, I definitely recommend a trip to the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle.

Below are just a few photos I took on the way home.  The route took us a different way than we’d ever been before.  Oppenau looks like a really nice town.  I may have to explore there next.

The ballad of the Swiss vignette…

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Sung to the Gilligan’s Island theme song… (although I’m sure a lot of you younguns don’t know about Gilligan’s Island…)

Just sit right back and you’ll read a tale,
A tale of a stressful jaunt.
With traffic backed up horribly,
Upon the Autobahn.

The driver was a contractor,
His wife by his side long haul.
The two passengers set off that day
For a trip to the mall. (A trip to the mall)

The traffic started getting slow,
The Mini Coop was tossed,
If not for the patience of fearless Bill
The Mini would be lost, the Mini would be lost.

The car crawled down the Autobahn, like every other schmuck
Seemed every German
near Stuttgart
Was similarly stuck.

So this is the tale of our hapless crew,
In traffic for a long, long time,
They’ll have to make the best of things,
It’s an uphill climb.

The cranky wife and her husband too,
Must do their very best,
To make themselves less miserable,
In that highway mess.

No exits, no shade, no pretty lakes
Just endless lights from brakes,
A Stau from Hell it sure was,
Obnoxious enough to cuss.

So join us here in an hour my friend,
We’re sure to still be there,
Just two unlucky motorists,
Hurrying to get nowhere!

This Stau sucked!

Today’s creative opening comes courtesy of the two hour odyssey Bill and I suffered today on our quest to buy Swiss vignettes at the ADAC store in Sindelfingen’s Brueningerland.  Ordinarily, the trip to that mall takes maybe a half hour from where we live, down here on the edge of the Black Forest (with all the other nuts).  Today, I swear to God, it took about two hours.

The trip started off innocently enough.  We had beautiful weather.  I was giving some thought to visiting somewhere pretty and/or cool, where we could walk around, have a nice lunch, take pictures, and go home.  But then I realized that in two weeks, we’ll be driving through Switzerland.  So I told Bill that maybe we should go to the ADAC store in Sindelfingen to pick up 2018 Swiss vignettes.

We really should have just gone to the damn Swiss border!  Or, barring that, we should have just ordered them and had them mailed.  These stickers are good from December 1, 2017 until January 31, 2019.

My original plan was to go to the Swiss border itself.  In retrospect, that probably would have taken us less time.  But at about noon today, we still didn’t know that there had been some kind of big accident on the Autobahn.  We were blissfully ignorant of what lie ahead on that stretch of treacherous highway.  So off we went north, the top down, Van Morrison blaring on the stereo.  We got up to just beyond the Ehningen exit when traffic slowed to a crawl.

Bill checked the GPS and didn’t see any reason why we should be held up, but we sure as hell were.  The traffic was absolutely horrible.  It turned out the police had shut down the part of the road that goes through Sindelfingen, so everyone had to detour off of exit 23.  It was a nightmare.  By the time we got to the mall, it was about 2:00.  I was decidedly cranky and hangry as we parked and went inside the surprisingly cool shopping mall, which, for once wasn’t a madhouse.

The wait at ADAC was also blessedly short.  In fact, we had no wait there at all.  We bought two vignettes at a cost of 71,50 euros.  Then, we went searching for food.  For some reason, I’m always at Breuningerland when I’m hungry.  I get very irritable when I’m hungry.  Bill was pretty funny, because he could see how tense I was.  As I eyed the menu at Nordsee, he said, “Isn’t there a restaurant up on the top floor that has wine?”

“Why?” I asked him.  “Do you think I need wine?”

“Clearly.” he said, nodding.  We made our way to the top level and went searching for a place to have a late lunch… later than I would have wanted it, anyway.

Actually, we ended up having lunch at Miyo, which is an Asian “Soul Food” place.  They have a sushi bar, which was packed today.  I didn’t have the patience for that, so we went to the main counter and ordered a chicken Satay with peanut sauce for Bill and a Mandarin sweet and sour duck dish for me.  You order at the counter and they give you your drink and bring the food out to you.

The chicken came with a rich peanut sauce, which I loved.  The vegetables were nice, too.  The rice was both dry and sticky, though.  It was stuck together in clumps, yet kind of had a dryness, as if it had been sitting awhile.  I’m not sure how they managed that.  Business was steady today.

My duck was crispy, but came with sweet and sour sauce, pineapples, bamboo, carrots, and red peppers.  Bill said that after a couple of bites, the color came back into my cheeks.  We washed this down with Erdinger weizens.

 

Miyo wasn’t a bad place to have lunch, although I’ve had better Asian food.  It did the trick in wiping the scowl off my face.  I felt remarkably better after I got rid of my hanger.

Then, Bill said, “Hey, do you think we should go get some tequila?”

I said sure to that, so we went to the Edeka on the first level of the mall.  We picked up bottles of gin and tequila– the gin is for Bill and the tequila is for me.  We also bought some rather sickly looking limes and some chocolate.  You know, the essentials…

Tequila, limes, gin, and chocolate…

I managed to resist the troughs of Nutella…

And the “shots” obviously meant for horny 20 year olds who want to get drunk.  They probably taste great, though.

 

By four o’clock, we were ready to head home.  I was relieved to see that traffic was flowing southbound.  But the northbound side was still shut down, a good three hours after we first got caught in the Stau.  Whatever happened was clearly very serious.  Bill noted that it took us a lot less time to buy the vignettes, eat lunch, do a little shopping, and go home than it did to drive up A81 to get to the mall in the first place.

Many police officers and highway crew were still clearing the scene two hours after we arrived at the mall.

 

That Stau was no joke!

 

We’re both now exhausted.  This will probably be us tonight.  Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll go somewhere a little less irritating.

 

There is definitely a reason the Stuttgart area is nicknamed STAUgart.

Edited to add:  Here’s a translated news story about the cause of the Stau.

It’s not that fast. After at midday a scrap truck on the A 81 – at the height Breuningerland – had tipped over, the clean-up work continues. A tip to the drivers: Sindelfingen drive around.

The reason why the scene of the accident has not yet been cleared: Many small metal parts, which were scattered by the accident on the highway, must be picked up laboriously. The sharp-edged sheet metal remnants could otherwise lead to damage to cars and possibly subsequent accidents. According to the police, the motorway in the direction of Stuttgart is therefore likely to remain closed until around 18:15 / 18:45. You may be able to temporarily open a lane. Currently, traffic is being diverted at the motorway exit Böblingen / Sindelfngen. Traffic on the highway is currently jamming back to Ehingen. Also in Sindelfingen and partly also in Böblingen the roads are heavily encumbered by the motorway closure. Best, you bypass the area spacious.

Liability insurance… a small investment pays off…

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Although I’ve been blogging about our travels since before we lived in Germany for the second time, I am aware that my “travel blog” has somewhat turned into a German living blog.  Many of my regular readers are Americans who live in the Stuttgart area.  Quite a few “local” readers are also somehow affiliated with the U.S. military.
A couple of months ago, I decided to leave several of our local Facebook groups.  I had a few reasons for doing so.  The main reason was that some of the drama in the local groups was causing me annoyance and distress.  However, I am grateful that I was in one of the local groups long enough to be talked into buying German liability insurance. 
One of our local Facebook groups is run by Gerhard Koch, a German who sells insurance for a living.  He very frequently advertises his products to group members.  He even hosts information dinners to talk up his insurance policies.  More than once, someone has accused him of using the group to bolster his business.  
It seems that many Americans assume that the insurance they can get through USAA or another American insurance company is enough for living here in Germany.  For all I know, that could be true.  Bill and I do have renter’s insurance through USAA that we’ve never had to use.  We recently had a situation in our rental property that we could have tried using our USAA insurance to cover.  However, I will go on record to say that I’m glad we didn’t have to go that route.    
A couple of years ago, I told Bill that I thought it would be a good idea to invest in German liability insurance.  Although at that time, we had not experienced it personally, I had read a lot of horror stories from people who had mishaps in their rental houses or had otherwise damaged someone’s property.  Germans are every bit as litigious as Americans are.  I know one woman who had a guest stay at her home in Germany and he somehow flooded and ruined their kitchen!  She and her husband did not have liability insurance and ended up having to use their life savings to cover the damage.  It amounted to many thousands of euros that they had to cover personally!
After hearing about that, I nagged Bill to buy the policy.  Actually, we got policies for personal liability and for our dogs, since both dogs and accidents are unpredictable.  Together, I think we spent a couple of hundred euros for a year’s coverage under both policies, which I believe cover us into millions of euros of potential damage.  It made me feel better to have that coverage.  For most of our marriage, Bill and I have been rather broke.  We are now pretty financially comfortable and, for the first time ever, don’t have to worry much about money.  In less than a year, my student loans will finally be paid off years ahead of schedule.  We can finally think about settling in a home of our own.  The last thing I want to deal with or pay for is damage to our rental house in Germany.  So Bill bought the policy and made me happy.
Sure enough, in late August of this year, we had occasion to use our policy.  We had an old awning attached to our house.  I didn’t use the awning that often, except on days when the sun was especially brutal.  The awning helped keep our living room from getting too hot.  For some reason, this year the awning had started to list a bit.  One side hung lower than the other side did.  We told our landlords and the husband came over to “fix” it.  He did manage to temporarily fix the problem, but our landlady said she didn’t know how long the repair would last.  She did not tell us not to use the awning and, I note, did not have a qualified repair person fix it.  Our landlord is very handy, but I’m not sure he’s an expert on awnings.
For a few weeks, all was fine.  I used the awning a couple of times on hot days with no issues.  Then one warm day in late August, I had cranked out the awning and gone upstairs for a bit.  The wind suddenly gusted and the awning collapsed.  I heard it hit the patio with a resounding thud and there was a loud scrape as the awning violently pushed our outdoor furniture aside.  I went outside to inspect the damage.  The awning is very heavy.  I’m really glad no one was standing under it when it fell, because I’m pretty sure someone could have been seriously hurt or even killed if it had fallen on their head.
The landlady immediately accused me of negligence because I used the defective awning on a hot, “windy” day.  It was not windy when I unrolled it.  The gust of wind had been swift, sudden, and unexpected.  But because I wasn’t sitting outside when the wind blew, and it fell, she claimed I was at fault.  Then she asked about liability insurance after she complained about some dog hair in the doorway and claimed that I wasn’t taking good enough care of the new windows and doors she had installed right after we moved in.
Now… I don’t actually have a problem with using liability insurance for the awning.  After all, insurance is supposed to be used for accidental events like random awning failures.  My issue is that she accused me of negligence.  Frankly, I think if anyone was negligent, it was she.
She finally brought a legitimate repair person over who said the awning couldn’t be fixed.  At the same time, we also happened to be having a problem with the electric rolladens.  I got blamed for that situation, too.  She said we weren’t using them often enough, and that’s why when we pressed the button to get them to come down, one of the rolladens wouldn’t budge.  The actual problem was that rolladen came off track somehow in the wall above the door.  After the repair for the rolladens was done, the landlady eventually admitted that it wasn’t installed properly in the first place.  However, the awning remained a sticking point… she continually sent Bill emails about the insurance money.  
I have to admit, we were both really pissed off and even considering moving over her insistence that we were “bad tenants”.  I’m still pretty angry with our landlady for the way she handled this situation.  However, we did learn yesterday that, after having inspected the damage last week, the insurance company decided to give our landlords 540 euros (although the landlady claims they only gave her 310 euros and reminds us that awnings cost 2800 euros).  That amount more than covers several times over what we paid for the insurance.  Moreover, if I hear another word about the awning, I can tell the landlady that I wasn’t negligent.  It’s because of me that we even had that liability insurance in the first place.
I don’t think she or her husband want us to move.  If we moved, she’d have to vet new people and it’s likely they wouldn’t buy insurance because many Americans seem to think it’s a scam.  Moreover, while we have had a couple of mishaps in the house, we pay our bills and the neighbors seem to like us.  We represent a dependable flow of a lot of euros for a house that isn’t all that great.
The truth is, we don’t want to move, either.  Moving is a pain in the ass.  Finding a place to live in this area is an even bigger pain in the ass.  There’s no guarantee that the next landlords would be any less irritating.  Also, we like the neighborhood where we live.  People are nice here and not overly uptight, as they were in the first neighborhood we lived in when we were here from 07-09.
However, if there’s one thing I learned from this situation, it’s that I’m ready to be a homeowner and because we had insurance, that will be an easier goal to attain.  Folks, if you live in Germany, you really should consider buying liability insurance.  It’s very cheap and if you have an “Unfall” like we did, chances are it will be covered.  I’d rather pay a hundred or so euros for an insurance policy than several hundred euros for an old awning that collapsed due to a sudden breeze.  Just something to think about.