art

Artists of Breckenheim!

Bill and I just got back from the BRECKOMENTA event at the local clubhouse, a place we had never been before. I let Bill lead the way, and unfortunately, he got the wrong address, which meant we had to walk further. I wore new shoes, so this wasn’t a pleasant turn of events. Nevertheless, we did eventually get there, having taken a longer than necessary route. The club house is on the back side of the fire station, and the complex itself is near the walking trails we never visit.

I got some photos, and we were exposed to some of excellent works of local artists. The art was very interesting and, in at least one case, quite sexual.

After we looked at the art, we visited the snack bar… because what German event doesn’t have one? Our neighbor was running it, and we had a rather lengthy German chat with her about the neighborhood. She did joke that they didn’t have any “house made” beer. Our new neighbor told her that Bill makes his own beer. Actually, they had no beer at all. This is wine country! So we had wine.

Our neighbor told us about other Americans who have lived in our little cul de sac, as we drank local wines and ate pretzels. I noticed some of the works were for sale… I seriously might have been tempted, since I’ve been wanting to buy some more art for the house. Maybe we’ll go back tomorrow, since the event continues tomorrow until 6pm.

The really nice part is that we ended up walking to parts of Breckenheim we hadn’t seen, even having lived here for almost four years. And we finally found the cool little bee bomb vending machines that I posted about a few months ago.

I am impressed by our landlady’s art. I had no idea she was so talented!

The first photos are of self service commerce in our little town. we would have missed the first one, if Bill hadn’t taken us on a detour. The art is all done by local citizens in our village.

There was everything from sculptures to Bonsai trees, with jewelry, photography, paintings, and drawings. A couple of people were even drawing and sketching in the exhibition. On the way home, we noticed the JWs left a gift on the Bee Bomb vending machine. I also got a couple of shots of the church from the other side. The town manager was at the art event, and chuckled when he heard me successfully translate the word “gleich”. I get the sense they know us as the Americans, now, even though we aren’t the only ones.

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Health

Wiesbaden on business, followed by pleasure…

I have been needing a new contact lens prescription for ages. Now that I’ve reached 50 years of age, my eyes don’t work the way they used to. I need reading glasses, but I don’t wear them because I didn’t know what kind I needed. Besides, if I don’t wear my lenses, I can read just fine. But when I have them in, I have a very hard time reading small print. Likewise, Bill was in need of a new lens prescription, as it had been five years since our last exams. I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that one can buy contact lenses in Germany without an official or yearly updated prescription. If you know what you need, you can simply order from Amazon. So that’s what I’ve done… but it’s not been without its drawbacks, as I’ve gradually been self prescribing stronger lenses for myself.

The last time we saw an eyecare professional, Bill and I visited the Stuttgart health center on Patch Barracks, then filled our prescriptions at an optical shop in Nagold, a cute town near where we used to live in BW. Wiesbaden doesn’t have such a facility, and even if it did, using it would be on a space available basis for peons like us. So Bill decided to “bite the bullet”, and he made us appointments at Apollo Optik, an optometrist in downtown Wiesbaden. I should mention that Apollo is one of many eyecare outfits downtown. We passed two others on the way there today.

Bill made our appointments online, and we both got confirmations and reminders by email. Bill was in a hurry to get to the shop, but he needn’t have worried about being on time. Apollo wasn’t like the typical eye doctor’s office we’re used to, where there are places to sit. πŸ˜‰ We arrived and waited for the painfully shy gentleman helping the people ahead of us to check in. He didn’t speak much English, and didn’t seem all that comfortable with German, either. He did not appear to be a local. My appointment was first, so I sat at a machine that did an automated exam that took about two minutes. But he neglected to tell me to remove my contacts first, so we had to do it again, once I’d taken them out. I was glad I brought my glasses and a fresh pair of lenses!

After a short delay, the technician came in and did my exam. He spoke English reasonably well, and was actually very thorough, as I explained that I need to upgrade from my regular astigmatism dailies to multifocal lenses. My prescription had changed a bit regardless, so it was good that we went in. He ordered new lenses for me to try, and when they come in, we’ll go pick them up and I’ll try them out. If they don’t work, he’ll order different ones. πŸ˜‰ We are going away next week for a few days; then Bill has a business trip. We’re also dealing with Arran, who is newly diagnosed with lymphoma. But hopefully, we can get in and pick up the new lenses so I can at least see better.

Speaking of Arran… he’s a little slower than usual, especially in the morning, but he’s hanging in there. Yesterday, Noyzi got a dental, and Arran had more blood samples taken so that we might know what kind of lymphoma he’s got, and whether or not it will be worth it to treat him with chemotherapy. But again, he’s about 13 or 14 years old, so we’ll probably just make him comfortable until the sad day comes when we have to say goodbye.

Now, back to our day in Wiesbaden, which is a happier topic. Bill got his exam done. He just wanted new lenses for his glasses, as his frames from Nagold are made of titanium and he likes them. They were also expensive. The whole appointment took about 90 minutes, and when we were done, we both really had to pee and wanted some food. Our plan had been to eat at the City Fest, or the Fall Fest, both of which are going on right now. Unfortunately, for some reason, the toilets weren’t open, even though the fest was in full swing! So we decided to visit the Andechser Ratskeller, where we’d eaten once before, back in 2019. I’ve been wanting German food anyway, so it was perfect.

I had a Doppelbock beer, while Bill had a “special Hell” (hell is a German style of beer, not the fiery place down below). To eat, I had Schweinebraten with Rotkohl and a potato Knodel. Bill had a Wiener Schnitzel with fries. It was hearty fare served by a hardworking waiter, who was delighted when Bill tipped him American style. Our bill was 42,50 euros, and Bill gave him 50 and told him to keep the change. I could see the guy got a nice lift from that, since he was really busting his ass! I’m sure that might help him pay his energy bill this year. πŸ˜‰ Or maybe pay for a few liters of gas… Ordinarily, we don’t tip like Americans when we’re in Germany, since people who work in restaurants actually get paid here. But I know firsthand how tough that job is, and we can afford to be generous sometimes.

After we ate, we made our way back toward the parking garage, stopping to explore the fall fest. I remember going to it in 2019, before COVID was a thing. It was great to see everything back in full swing again. People were having a lot of fun, and I saw some art I wanted to buy. Maybe we’ll go back tomorrow and get something, making sure to be armed with more cash. I heard several excellent musicians in the city fest, including an awesome brass band who were playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (yes, by Guns n’ Roses). I wanted to listen to them, since I love brass bands… but my bladder was screaming for relief. So maybe we’ll catch them another time. They were great! We also heard a British duo performing a lovely version of “Old Man” by Neil Young, and a beautiful classical guitar player, enchanting people on a soundstage.

We did need to get home, though… the boys needed to eat and pee, and they were happy to see us.

Here are some photos from today’s excursion!

I hadn’t wanted to go out today, but I’m glad I did. I was reminded of how lucky we are to live in Germany, especially at this time of year. Autumn is magical in Germany. It’s almost as amazing as Christmas is.

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Uncategorized

Ten things I learned in Antwerp, Belgium…

Here it is, my usual list of ten things I learned on my latest trip. I like to do these to remind myself that travel is a way to expand one’s mind, pick up new knowledge, meet new people, and broaden perspectives. I also find that the ten things I learned posts are more likely to be read than my blow by blow accounts of our travels, especially since we tend to do a lot of eating and drinking instead of visiting exhibits. So, here goes… ten things I learned in Antwerp, Belgium.

10. Antwerp is a major port city.

Antwerp is located on the Scheldt River, and it’s partially located in the City of Antwerp and the Province of East Flanders. It is Europe’s second largest seaport, after Rotterdam.

Het Steen, a building that has been used many ways… including as a cruise terminal.

9. You can’t come to Antwerp and not learn about A Dog of Flanders.

I’m sorry to admit that I had not heard of A Dog of Flanders before we visited Antwerp. The novella was written by the English author, Marie Louise de la RamΓ©eΒ (also known as Ouida), and it was partly based on Antwerp. The story is about a poor boy named Nello and his dog, Patrasch, who were very loyal to each other. Ouida’s book was very popular in Asia and Russia, was made into a film, and translated into different languages. Because of the book’s popularity, there are two monuments in Belgium dedicated to Nello and Patrasch. One of the monuments is located in Antwerp, and you can’t miss it if you go to the cathedral.

A boy and his beloved dog.

8. Antwerp is famous for diamonds.

One of the reasons we visited Antwerp is because Bill thought maybe we’d shop for a diamond, since it was my 50th birthday. But we ended up skipping the diamond shopping, having been warned by Trip Advisor reviews. πŸ™‚ Nevertheless, I had no idea diamonds were notable in Antwerp before I visited there. Maybe we’ll still shop for a rock, since this year we will also celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

7. Antwerp is very LGBTQ friendly.

Which isn’t to say that Europe, as a whole, isn’t friendly to the LGBTQ community. But I saw signs that Antwerp is especially open to people of all orientations. I liked that about Antwerp.

6. It’s also very artist friendly!

Perhaps because it’s such an “open-minded” place, Antwerp is also home to a lot of artists and fashionistas. We saw all sorts of awesome fashion interpretations during our visit, and I saw more than a couple of art galleries I wouldn’t have minded exploring.

5. And there’s lots of food to suit every taste!

We found exotic cuisines ranging from Israeli to Peruvian-Japanese! And, of course, there was also the usual stuff, like Italian food, Greek food, Thai food, and Belgian food. There’s something for everyone.

Israeli food.

4. COVID rules are pretty relaxed.

Actually, I would say they’re non-existent. Masks are recommended, but aren’t required, on trains or buses, nor did I see anyone wearing them voluntarily. If COVID is a worry for you, you might want to keep this in mind. We were not asked about our vaccines, except in a casual conversation with the hotel staff who was comparing rules in Germany to rules elsewhere.

3. Not all stores take Visa (or American credit cards).

We should have known better, given that we live in Germany, and we don’t have European credit cards. A lot of European destinations have gone cashless, so we have gone that way ourselves. But if you carry an American card, you might want to bring euros with you, just in case.

2. Bill rode his first ferris wheel in Antwerp.

Bill is afraid of heights, so before my birthday trip, he never voluntarily took a ride in a ferris wheel. I did not know, as we were looking at Antwerp from the top of the wheel, that this was his very first time on such a ride. He had a good time. I’m sure it comforted him that the car was enclosed, though.

Bill lost his ferris wheel virginity here.

1. You have to pay to see the Cathedral of Our Lady if you aren’t from Antwerp…

However, it’s worth the price of admission if you like art. The cathedral is loaded with paintings, sculptures, and relics, as well as beautiful stained glass windows and a fascinating crypt. And, when you’re finished gawking at all of the beautiful art, you can visit the bistro, enjoy a beer or a coffee in the courtyard, and use the toilet. That’s a pretty big deal.

One of many paintings you can see at the cathedral!

So… there you have it. We had a great time in Antwerp and I hope we can visit again. It was a great place for me to turn 50. I found many friendly locals who were willing to celebrate with me! As long as you aren’t driving– or you have a very good GPS that can get you where you need to go– it’s a total pleasure. Driving in Antwerp can be hellish if you don’t have accurate GPS. But once you park, good times are to be had! I can still say that I’ve never had a bad time in Belgium.

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Uncategorized

We’re in Antwerp, Belgium!

I don’t have time to write a long post right now, since we’re here to celebrate my birthday, which is on Monday. I did want to take a moment to upload a couple of videos from today, since Facebook is a real pain about copyright.

Antwerp is a beautiful, artsy city with friendly people and great food. We’re in a beautiful, quirky hotel, too. The only thing we’ve found so far that sucks is driving in the city, which is a real nightmare. But I’ll get into that when I write up my series, which will probably happen Tuesday, when we get home.

This lady had the most beautiful voice. I actually cried when she sang…

A bunch of guys were singing “Don’t You Want Me” while peddling and drinking beer… They were funny!

So far, today, we have visited the cathedral, the “View” ferris wheel, and a great Israeli restaurant called Shuk.

Right now, we’re taking a short break, cooling off, and resting for a bit until the sun goes lower and it’s not so hot outside. I look forward to seeing more of the city in awhile. Until then, later!

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art, Italy, museums, shopping

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part eight

How great the art….

One of the reasons Bill really wanted to go on this trip to Italy, besides to indulge his love for fine wines and good food, was the chance to visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. When we visited Florence in 2013, we were only there for two nights. We stayed in a hotel outside of town. For some reason, we didn’t make time to go to the Uffizi Gallery during that trip. I think it was because he hadn’t booked ahead, and either couldn’t or didn’t want to stand in line at the ticket office. So, on this trip in 2022, we made a point of seeing the art gallery.

Bill loves to look at art. I am less interested in it, although I will admit that some of the paintings I’ve seen in art galleries amaze me. One would think I’d love to look at art, since it’s been such a big part of my life. I have a sister who is an artist, and after his career in the Air Force, my father made a living selling and framing art. But when it comes to museums, I tend to find interactive ones– science and natural history museums– more interesting. During the COVID era, I’ve not been that interested in going to many indoor activities at all. We did go to the Lindt Chocolate Museum in Zurich last year, and that was fun. Especially since tasting chocolate means taking off the damnable face masks. πŸ˜‰ Below are some photos from breakfast and our walk to the museum.

The Uffizi requires booking a time in advance. Bill got us an appointment for 10:00am. After a simple continental breakfast at Hotel Firenze Capitale, we walked to the gallery. On the day of our visit, the Uffizi was still requiring everyone to wear face masks. I’m not sure if that’s still required as of May 1. There were a lot of people there when we were there, so I would imagine that anyone who is very concerned about contracting COVID-19 would want to wear a mask, even if they aren’t required. On the other hand, my guess is that people will get the virus whether or not they wear a mask, especially if they don’t cover their eyes. That is one thing I did notice in Italy. Many people in Italy wore glasses with their masks, which would make it less likely that they would get the virus.

We picked up our tickets, stood in line, and went through security. Then, we walked up several long flights of stairs that left me breathless and lightheaded at the top. I did notice that some people used the elevator. Before I knew it, I was among hundreds of people walking through rooms of beautiful art… with many depictions of mothers and babies, Madonnas, and marble statues of naked men with small penises. There were exhibits featuring Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as many lesser known, but very impressive, artists. I took a lot of photos.

At one point, Bill wanted to walk into a very crowded room. I demurred and said I would see him later. He thought that meant I was leaving the museum altogether, but I meant I was going to go to a less crowded place. I don’t like crowds, even when COVID isn’t a thing. Later, Bill sent me a private message on Facebook, asking if I was still in the gallery. Yes, of course! And I did enjoy my visit. I went back later to see the paintings I missed when the rooms were full of people. Uffizi has a cafe, for those who need a moment with some coffee to process everything.

All in all, I found the Uffizi more manageable and less overwhelming than the Prado in Madrid was, when we went there in 2014. I haven’t been to the Louvre yet. Bill and I didn’t go there when we were last in Paris, back in 2009. We’ll have to fix that at some point. Below are many photos from the Uffizi.