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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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Italy, Liechtenstein, restaurant reviews, road trips, wine

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

Landing in Liechtenstein…

As I prepare to write the last two parts of this series, it does occur to me that I need to work on my titles. At least no one can accuse me of writing “click bait” titles, right? What you see is what you get. Ah well, I’ll work on it.

On Monday, May 2, Bill and I made our way to our final stop on our spring tour– Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Originally, we had planned to go to Lugano, Switzerland, for the last two nights. I have been wanting to go to Lugano forever. But I realized that Lugano was too close to Florence and not far enough away from Germany. Staying there would potentially mean arriving too early for check in on May 2, and having to drive all day on May 4, when we made our way back to Germany. Also, I couldn’t decide on a hotel in Lugano. There was one that really attracted me, but was quite pricey. Another one was less expensive and got very high ratings, but didn’t lure me like the other one did. I finally got frustrated and decided to change plans.

I decided on Vaduz because of something that happened in 2009, when Bill and I lived in Germany the first time. It was June, and Bill’s mom had come from Texas to visit us. We were going to be PCSing (permanently changing stations– moving) in September of that year, so we were trying to cram in some last minute travel. At the time, Bill’s mom had never been to Austria, Switzerland, or Italy, or really, anywhere in Europe except for Germany and Ireland. I got the bright idea to book us a long weekend at an apartment in extreme southern Bavaria. On the second day, we went exploring, and eventually found ourselves in Italy, where we literally got stuck for hours, due to a sudden rainstorm that flooded the roads.

On our way to our joyride mishap in Italy, we stopped in Vaduz, Liechtenstein for a look. It was novel to be visiting the tiny country bordered by Austria and Switzerland. Parker got her passport stamped. I remember thinking that Vaduz was a pretty town. I took a few photos, since we were fortunate enough to have, at least at that point, beautiful weather. Hours later, I wished we’d turned around after we visited Liechtenstein… or even Chur, Switzerland, where we had lunch.

Remembering how pretty I thought Vaduz was in 2009, I went looking to see if there were any nice hotels there. I kind of wanted a splurge, since I knew we’d be tired after a week in Italy. I love Italy very much, but being there has a tendency to wear me out. But that might be because we often stay in somewhat busy areas.

I was also looking for peace and quiet, and very comfortable accommodations. That’s when I found the beautiful 29 room Park Hotel Sonnenhof, which also has a well-regarded restaurant called Maree. I noticed all of the enthusiastic reviews of the hotel, and found myself lured by the idyllic photos of the snow capped mountains and green lawns around the hotel. Then I noted that it was about a six hour drive from Florence, and maybe five hours or so from Wiesbaden. Perfect! That would split up our drive home nicely, and give us the chance to experience something novel– a tiny German speaking principality (62 square miles) with Swiss currency and ties to Austria. As small as Liechtenstein is, there are three other countries in Europe that are even smaller! Liechtenstein is also one of only two double landlocked countries in the entire world, the other being Uzbekistan. That means that it’s surrounded by countries that are also landlocked, and reaching a coastline requires crossing at least two national borders.

Below are some photos from our drive out of Italy… It was a very beautiful journey, although there are even prettier routes through Switzerland. We crossed over some majestic mountains to get to Vaduz.

When we arrived at the hotel on May 2, I was immediately struck by how beautiful and peaceful the surroundings were. The parking lot was mostly empty, and it was very quiet and calm as we approached the front door. A Tesla charging station was located at the front of the parking lot. I would later see many very expensive cars at this hotel. It’s clearly the “best” hotel in Vaduz.

An efficient receptionist who spoke flawless English checked us in, reminding us that Maree is currently closed on Mondays, but a small snack menu is available for hotel guests. I was glad of that, since it was mid afternoon when we arrived, and we were both tired of being in the car. It is possible to walk to the city center of Vaduz from the hotel, but it would have been a stout stroll, as the hotel is in an residential part of town.

We were assigned a junior suite– room 33– which has an African theme. The rooms are individually decorated. The room was very nice. The bed was especially comfortable, which was great after our week in Italy. We had a small terrace that overlooked a serene “park”, and offered majestic views of the Alps. I could have sat there all day, watching the mountains change with the sun and clouds. I had picked up a sandwich just before we arrived at the hotel, but Bill was hungry, so we ordered from the snack menu. It was just enough to satisfy us for the first night. Bill turned on the water cooler (air conditioners are illegal in Liechtenstein), and we enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep.

On Tuesday morning, we slept in a bit, then had a nice breakfast at Maree, which is where we also had dinner reservations. After breakfast, we walked around Vaduz, took pictures, and talked about everything. When it was time for lunch, we made our way to the Cellars of the Prince of Liechtenstein and the Hofkerllerei, which is a winery and restaurant. We hadn’t planned to visit this place in advance, but decided to go there because it looked like the menu was promising. Besides, we had spent our entire vacation drinking Italian wines. What better place to cap off the vacation? Below are some photos from our day in Vaduz.

And more pictures from Vaduz, lunch, and our wine tasting…

I think the next post will be the last in this series. Time to wrap up this trip and move on to other things.

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President’s Day weekend, 2022…

I know I usually update this blog at least once a week. Before COVID hit, I would write even more regularly than that, because Bill and I were always going out to eat or traveling somewhere. The last two years have definitely been *different*. Even before we came back to Europe in 2014, we would go out to eat pretty often. Nowadays, it’s a very rare treat, just because going anywhere is a pain in the ass right now.

But that reality may be a memory soon, as COVID cases are finally declining again. The weather is warming up, and more people are getting vaccinated, getting sick and recovering, or dying. I noticed a recent headline indicating that Germany is on the brink of a recession, thanks to COVID. So, I would imagine that the restrictions will probably be loosened next month, because money is important. Ready or not, the world will probably have to open up soon. I am ready for it. But besides the need for business to resume, cases really are going down here. And the severity isn’t as bad as it has been. Or so the headlines say today.

At this writing, we’re still planning to visit Stuttgart to see the dentist next week, then head to France for the weekend. Maybe we’ll have a chance to visit Bitche, which is a militarily important town in France, and has the distinction of having had its Facebook page taken down without explanation. I have a feeling a bot decided Bitche was a bullying page. When I read about that happening, I wasn’t surprised. I was, however, disgusted by the ignorance. I really feel like Facebook needs human beings running it.

Europe is rife with places that have “profane” names. Or names that are profane in English. English is not the only language there is, though. Sadly, some European towns are changing their names thanks to obnoxious tourists. The Austrian town of Fucking, for instance, is now called Fugging, because people were fucking under the signs or stealing them. I’m glad we had a chance to visit before the name change happened on January 1, 2021.

Anyway, since I titled this post “President’s Day weekend, 2022”, I guess I should write about what we did this year. And the answer to that question is, not a whole hell of a lot. Bill ate stinky cheese from France. We drank wine and talked a lot. I did some writing, and Bill finally replaced the strings on his Telecaster. I started watching my Facts of Life DVDs, which gave me a temporary return to my 1980s era girlhood. Arran and Noyzi got some quality time with Bill, with lots of snuggles. I cleaned the inside of the glass on the oven door, which is a nasty job. Last week, Bill took some online courses at the Carl Jung Institute. Originally, he was going to go in person, and I would have joined him, but we decided not to go because of COVID rules.

I took this photo in February 2021, when Bill first got his guitar. He just now changed the strings. But he still loves that shirt, as you can see in the photos with Arran.

I truly hate not traveling on the long weekends. I have some hope that this will be the last time we will have to forgo our usual long weekends. There’s still so much we want to see in Europe. But we’ll see. COVID is always mutating, so this could be an issue for awhile yet. But at least I might finally get to get my Bitche on next week. I’ve been curious about that town for awhile. And Bill will enjoy the military aspect, since that’s his life. I hasten to add that we haven’t been staying home because we have to, due to the local rules. It’s more because the rules make traveling a pain in the butt, and not much fun. That will hopefully change very soon.

These photos sum up our holiday weekend. Not bad, I guess… there are worse ways to spend a weekend. But I hope we can do better next year. With any luck, the times soon may be a’changing. At least Bill managed to finish reading Maus.

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Austria is locking down… will Germany be next?

The local news in Germany has been all abuzz about the COVID-19 situation in Austria. Fed up and frustrated by the ever increasing numbers of people falling ill with the coronavirus, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced that Austria would be locking down for at least ten days. The lockdown will apply to everyone, vaccinated or not, and it means that Austrians will be asked to work from home and non-essential shops will close. Schools will remain open for children who require face-to-face learning. The measure will apply until December 12, and then the COVID situation will be reassessed at that point to determine if there should be another ten days of lockdown.

As I read the news yesterday, I realized how lucky Bill and I are that we managed to take our recent vacation and get through all of the countries unscathed. Croatia and Slovenia are considered “high risk” areas– higher risk than Austria was– but we didn’t interact with many people at all during our time there. I think the risk is mainly because fewer people are vaccinated, but the reality is, there aren’t that many people congregating in Slovenia or Croatia at this time of year and social distancing is actually super easy. That may change as winter approaches and people want to ski, at least in Slovenia.

Austria, on the other hand, was like 2019. During our trip, it wasn’t considered a “high risk” area. Masks were only required in grocery stores, on public transportation, and in healthcare facilities. I won’t lie. It was really nice. And, in fact, Salzburg and, to a lesser extent, Wels, were sort of “alive” with people, which was a morale booster. I’m not sure if the lax masking is the reason why this surge is happening. Germany is a lot stricter about masks, but people are still getting sick here, and the hospitals are full. Personally, I don’t think the masks are going to be what saves us. What needs to happen is mass immunity, and that will come as people get vaccinated and boosted, and others manage to recover from the illness. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people may get very sick and/or die in the process. The only way to avoid the risk is by staying away from other people.

Austria has also taken the unusual step of requiring everyone to get vaccinated by February 2022. Frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad decision. It’s certainly groundbreaking. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t agree with forcing people to do things, particularly when it involves healthcare. However, communicable diseases are different. With my background in public health, I already know that there are some public health situations that require detaining people who put others at risk. On my main blog, I have written about how I think COVID-19 could eventually become an illness like tuberculosis. If you get TB and you refuse to get treated, you can and will be detained so that you don’t threaten other people. Many of us are really sick and tired of COVID-19, and the way it’s disrupting normal living. It’s also costing the world’s economies a lot in lost business, and like it or not, money matters. I don’t think people should be surprised if the rules become more draconian in an effort to get rid of the scourge.

Bavarian state premier, Markus Söder, who is a champion of the dreaded FFP2 masks for everyone, everywhere, has already declared a “de facto lockdown for the unvaccinated”. All of the Christmas markets have been cancelled, and all bars and clubs will be closed for the next three weeks. In areas where “weekly incidence rates top 1,000 per 100,000 people – restaurants, hotels, sport and culture will also close.” I believe the rules in Germany recently changed, as Angela Merkel plans to leave office. Now, they’re letting the states decide, rather than the federal government. I think I might enjoy the incoming government. I read that they’re also considering making recreational cannabis use legal. I never thought I’d see the day. I have limited experience with pot, having only tried it in The Netherlands a few years ago. But I did enjoy the experience…

I will not be the least bit surprised if other countries take a similar approach against the virus. It really sucks that this is happening, since Christmas is approaching. I do have some hope, though, because this year, at least there are vaccines. Some medications are also being developed to treat COVID-19– legitimate ones, rather than hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin. Historically speaking, pandemics always end at some point. So I continue to hold out hope that this one will end eventually… COVID-19 is a terrible illness, but it’s probably not even the worst humankind has faced, and nowadays, we have a lot more and better technology, which will continue to evolve out of necessity.

But yes… I sure am glad Bill and I managed to take our trip, enjoy ourselves, and emerge unscathed. We were very lucky. If there’s one thing COVID-19 has done for me, it’s make me a lot more appreciative of being able to travel.

Bill has been in Warsaw, Poland all this week, sadly missing our 19th anniversary at home. He brought home a few things for me last night. It would have been nice if I could have gone with him, but the COVID situation makes it dangerous. In fact, we were supposed to see James Taylor in Frankfurt in February, but he had to postpone his stop in Frankfurt until next November. With any luck, we’ll still be here and alive in November 2022. We’re supposed to see Keb’ Mo’ in May of 2022… but the tickets I bought were for a show that was supposed to happen on November 16, 2020– our 18th anniversary. So far, it’s been postponed three times. So we’ll see if we manage to see James in November 2022. I hope so. We have second row seats.

I was thinking maybe we’d go somewhere to celebrate our anniversary, now that Bill’s home… but I think we’re going to be locked down again very soon. So maybe we’ll just stay home and fuck or something. Just kidding… it’s more likely that we’ll turn on music, light a fire, and drink wine.

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Ten things I learned on my Aus-cro-slo-aus trip…

I always like to cap off my travel series with a top ten list of things I learned while traveling. Even when I’ve been to places repeatedly, I usually do learn something new on every trip. That was especially true as we visited Croatia overnight for the first time. We had visited there once before, but only for a couple of hours as we took a “joyride” while visiting Trieste, Italy. So, I’ll dispense with the useless palaver, and commence with my list. Here goes.

10. The word “slap” means waterfall, both in Croatian and Slovenian.

As we know, “slap” means something entirely different in English. But when you see it on signs in Croatia and Slovenia, it means you might be in for a beautiful view of something special.

9. Croatia is very friendly to English speakers.

I couldn’t help but notice that Croatia really seems to have embraced visitors who speak English. A lot of Europeans know English, because it’s a very practical language to learn. If one speaks English, he or she can communicate with Americans, Brits, and Aussies, just to name a few. But I was still surprised that so many people in Croatia spoke English so fluently, and many of the signs were also in English.

8. The off season in Croatia and Slovenia means very few crowds, but also a lot of closed businesses.

The Lake Bohinj area was especially empty of tourists, although to be fair, we were there in early November, rather than late October. November 1 seems to be the cut off day for things to close up for the winter.

7. But even though places were closed, the fall colors were fantastic, and there were still some things to do.

We still managed to see and do some things, even if it was harder to find open shops and restaurants. And the trip was so worth it, if only to see the incredible fall colors along with so many lakes and waterfalls.

6. Salzburg is still hopping, even though it’s November.

Of course this isn’t a surprise, but the fact that Salzburg was still in full swing was great, especially after spending time in places where it was so quiet. We managed to do a little shopping and enjoy a very fine meal in a restaurant. I could definitely spend more time in Salzburg, and Austria as a whole.

5. Wels, Austria is known for its catfish.

I don’t really enjoy eating catfish, but this was something I didn’t know before we visited Wels. In fact, I didn’t even know Wels existed before we took our trip.

4. Sometimes it’s interesting to visit lesser known cities.

I’m truly glad we visited Wels. It’s probably not high on most people’s travel itineraries, but I found it a pleasant place to spend a couple of nights. I wouldn’t mind going back. I’m also glad we visited different places. I’m rather proud that I came up with a plan to visit Plitvice Lakes and Lake Bohinj. And I’m glad I listened to Slovenians in Lake Bled who recommended Lake Bohinj.

3. I need a genuine kit bag for all my stuff.

I typically carry a digital camera, a phone, and my iPad when I tour places. I could have used a better bag, especially when we were hiking. If anything, I could have used a place to put my layers as I stripped them off. I got hot at Plitvice Lakes and ended up having to carry my sweater and hoodie. I also need to bring snacks.

2. The word “jezera” means “lake” in Croatian. And the word “ključ” means “key” in Croatian.

I only learned the word for “key” because the lovely couple at the house we rented used it several times.

And finally, 1. Planning ahead is difficult, especially in the age of COVID-19, but it’s always a good idea to try…

I wish we could have visited the Krka National Park during our time in Croatia, even though it would have been physically challenging. But now we have a reason to go back. I hope we’ll have the opportunity. It’s good that we came back when we did, as COVID-19 has become even more concerning in the past week. I still don’t regret our trip. We had a really great time, in spite of my occasional crankiness and griping.

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Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part fourteen

And now, we’ve come to the end of my latest series… which I will admit was not long on food and activities, but had plenty of gorgeous scenery and solitude. When I am finished writing this post, I’ll do my usual “ten things I learned post”, but that will probably be done tomorrow, so as not to overwhelm anyone with all the action my travel blog is suddenly getting. 😉

Because we were coming from “high risk” areas– Croatia and Slovenia– we had to upload our vaccination information to officials in Germany. This would absolve us from having to quarantine. But, when we got to the border, they just waved us through, anyway. Maybe because it was Sunday.

Our drive home was mostly uneventful. Salzburg is about six hours or so from where we live, I think… Ray had made it easy to check out. All we had to do, besides take out the trash and make sure we used the toilet brush, was put the 12 euro city tourist tax (three euros per person per night) in the lockbox, along with the key. We got an early start, and, at first, the weather was beautiful.

The nice weather began to change the further north we went. It got cold and decidedly cloudy, then it was raining. At one point, we tried to stop for lunch, but there was no parking in the parking lot. The spots were all taken up by tractor trailers. We eventually ended up at the very same rest stop where we stopped on the way down to Croatia. On that visit, I wore a surgical face mask, as did a lot of other people. Surgical masks are the rule for all of Germany… except hard assed Bavaria, where people are supposed to wear FFP2s, the tighter fitting “coffee filter” masks. I did have a fresh one in my purse, but I really hate wearing them.

Anyway, we walked into the McDonald’s, which was empty. Evidently, the COVID-19 rules changed again, because the cashier pointed to me and said I needed the heavier mask. That pissed me off, so Bill and I left. I ranted about it on my other blog. We went to Burger King and ate lunch in the car. I spent much of the rest of the drive annoyed, since the heavier masks are obviously not curbing the now soaring infection rate in Germany. People need to be vaccinated. But if they’re going to enforce mask mandates, I wish they’d be consistent about it. And I wish they’d show common sense, particularly toward people who have actually done the responsible thing and gotten the vaccine.

I mean, look at this…

This is in Koln, where Carnival is in full swing.

It’s ridiculous. I can’t sit in an empty McDonald’s without being forced to wear a heavy mask, but these fools can party and drink unmasked in huge crowds in Mainz and Cologne! I fear we may be heading for another lockdown soon, which makes me even more glad that we took our trip. As it stands now, James Taylor has postponed his European tour. We have second row tickets to his Frankfurt show, but who knows when it will happen. We still have tickets to see Keb’ Mo’ for a show that was supposed to happen on November 16 (our anniversary) 2020. At this point, it’s been postponed three times, thanks to COVID-19. Maybe we’ll get to see him in May of 2022. This COVID shit really needs to be sorted.

The only other notable thing that happened on the way home was that we passed a van that had a sticker on it that read “Porn casting car”.

And then, we noticed that the driver had drapes with little gold tassels on them in the front seat. Maybe it really is a porn casting car.

After we got home, we unpacked and started doing the laundry. Later, we went to get Arran and Noyzi, who I guess could hear and smell us as we approached. They were so excited! Noyzi was even ecstatic to see Bill. He practically dragged me to the car and was delighted to jump in the back all by himself.

When we got home, we discovered that Arran had a couple of swollen flesh wounds on his ears. And the next day, Noyzi had kennel cough. By Tuesday, Arran was coughing too, although they are both okay now. Fortunately, it was a mild case. It was the first time I have ever dealt with kennel cough, which is usually a mild illness that clears up on its own. Our dogs are usually vaccinated against it, but we stopped giving Arran most vaccines because he’s had mast cell tumors. Noyzi is due for his vaccines next month.

Here are a few final pictures of a few things we brought back with us… I wish I had found a few things to put in the house. Oh well. Maybe on the next trip. Bill has to go to Poland on Monday, and he’ll be gone on our 19th wedding anniversary, which is on Tuesday. I’m sure he’ll get some Bison Grass vodka. Just what we need! 😉 We also got jams, honeys, liqueurs, and gin.

Well… that about does it for the series. Stay tuned tomorrow, for my super fun “ten things I learned” post. I actually did learn some new things on this trip. It was one of our better ones, and we’ve been on some great trips. I hope we can do it again, soon.

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churches

Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part thirteen

Our last full day of our trip was probably our most touristy-vacation-esque of our trip. We went to Salzburg and walked around, taking in the sights. Once again, I regret not buying any art, since we passed a few galleries which were closed by the time we departed in the late afternoon. Salzburg is a beautiful city, with lots going on, and a lot of photogenic scenery. We mainly walked around, but we also visited St. Peter’s Abbey and, after Bill lit a candle for his late father, who was a Catholic, we had a very expensive but delicious lunch at Peter, one of the restaurants in St. Peter Stiftskulinarium, which was founded in 803 AD. We didn’t know anything about the restaurant when we visited, but it turned out to be a very successful stop.

Below are some photos from our walk around the city before lunch…