Goodbye, Mad Scientist…

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As I have mentioned more than once in my main blog, 2020 has been a hell of a year for a lot of people. Between us, Bill and I have lost three loved ones in less than two months. I lost a cousin and a different cousin’s spouse. Bill lost his father. My cousin and Bill’s dad both died in November. Last night, we found out that we also lost a good friend in a guy we have been calling the “Mad Scientist” since 2008.

I found out about the Mad Scientist’s death by chance last night, as I was looking up his Greek restaurant, Agais, in Entringen, Baden-Württemberg, a place where Bill and I enjoyed many meals and lots of wine. It was where I tried retsina for the first time, and learned to enjoy t’zatziki, a yogurt and cucumber sauce much beloved by anyone who enjoys Greek food. It was also where I learned the Greek word “γιαμας” (pronounced “giamas”), which is roughly equivalent to the English expression, “cheers”.

I became a late convert to Greek cuisine, having tasted it for the first time in Vaihingen (a part of Stuttgart near Patch Barracks) at a little place called Taverna Faros. Taverna Faros had wonderful food, and we ate there a bunch of times during our first six weeks in Germany back in 2007. At the time, we were living in the Vaihinger Hof, a rather crappy but cheap hotel located in Vaihingen, which, over the years, has hosted many people moving to Stuttgart. I’m not sure the Vaihinger Hof is still open these days, since Air BnB has provided alternatives to living in hotels. But we were there for six weeks, and got very familiar with the restaurants in Vaihingen, since there were no kitchen facilities at the Vaihinger Hof.

Taverna Faros was where I tried dorade and gyros for the first time. Unfortunately, the proprietor was rather abruptly forced to shut down because he allegedly didn’t pay his taxes. The place where Taverna Faros once was is now known as The Auld Rogue. It’s a very popular Irish pub, and if you explore this blog, you’ll see that Bill and I visited there many times when we lived near Stuttgart from 2014-2018. Every time I went in there, I remembered that it was once a Greek place, and later became a disco, which we never visited.

Anyway, in the fall of 2007, after six weeks in the rather dirty but lovingly staffed hotel, we finally found a house in a little town called Pfäffingen. It was just a few miles west of the great city, Tübingen. Agais is located in a little village called Entringen, which we frequently drove through on our way to the military installations in the Stuttgart area. It was about 2 kilometers north of Pfäffingen.

Since I had recently discovered a love for Greek food, I told Bill I wanted to try Agais. We kept passing it every time we had to go to Patch or Panzer Barracks, and I was very curious about the food. So one night, we stopped in for dinner. It was probably in 2008, since we moved to our house in November 2007 and it took us awhile to get acquainted with the area. I remember when we walked in, there was no one there. But then a smiling Greek guy with wild, curly dark hair appeared.

Our old friend.

At first, he thought I was Greek. If you were to see me in person, you might be as baffled as I was by that. I’m short, blonde, and very buxom, with blue eyes. Personally, I think I look very Celtic, which stands to reason, since my people were mostly from the British Isles. But the Mad Scientist initially spoke Greek to me. When I reacted with a baffled expression, he realized we are Americans and switched to English. He welcomed us heartily, and we sat down at what would become our usual booth (the only one in his restaurant, actually). He turned on Greek music– from Zorba the Greek. The walls, painted white and bright blue, were covered with personal mementos.

I remember after enjoying our first nice meal at Agais, I told the proprietor that I thought we’d be regulars. He said, “I think you should.” When we got home that night, Bill said the guy reminded him of a “Mad Scientist”. So that’s what we’ve called him ever since. His wife, Renate, is German and cooks the food.

Of course, the Mad Scientist had a name. I think he went by the name John in Germany, but I found out last night his real name was Ioannis. He was born December 27, 1938 and died on November 9, 2020, just one day after we lost Bill’s dad. I don’t know what ended John’s life, but in recent years, I did notice that he was not as vibrant as he once was. I don’t know for certain, but I suspected that he might have had a stroke during the five years we were out of Germany. I say this because when we first met him in 2008, he spoke perfect English. When we saw him again for the first time, back in 2014, he struggled to speak English and, in fact, may have even had some trouble with German, which he’d also previously spoken perfectly.

During our first two years in Germany, we stopped by Agais many times. We also brought visitors there. Those first couple of years, John was quite healthy. He told us that he used to work in Canada as an engineer. He moved there with his first wife, whom I think was Greek. Their marriage broke up, so he married a German woman, who brought him to Germany to live. That marriage broke up, and he married another German woman, the one we know as Renate. They had a son who, during our first tour, was attending the university in Tübingen. Sometimes, we’d see him in the restaurant, helping out. He looked a lot like his dad, complete with the wild, curly black hair.

Although I’ve had Greek food I’ve liked better, Bill and I loved to visit Agais because we could always count on an entertaining evening. John loved to chat about all subjects, and we’d talk about everything from American politics to Greek/Turkish relations. He learned how we liked our food, and we could always count on getting pistachio nuts and candy at the end of the meal, as well as ouzo. John was also famous for giving out eucalyptus drops, which will clear out your sinuses and are great to have around whenever you’re sick with a cold or the flu. I carried them around in my purse for years after we moved the first time.

In 2009, we had to leave Germany a year earlier than we expected. We never got the chance to say goodbye to John and his wife. I always regretted that, since they’d shown us such a good time when we were in Germany the first time. The five years we were back in the States, I thought about them a lot.

Just before we moved, they had opened up a “vacation apartment”. It still operates today. I remember on one of the last visits we had before we moved “home”, we happened to dine there at the same time John and his wife were hosting several obnoxious German couples. I wrote about that incident when it happened and the story can be found on this blog. The short version is, these couples were staying in Entringen and had been dining at Agais all week. They had sort of taken over John’s restaurant, dictating which music he should play, and running him ragged. I noticed they were casting derisive looks at Bill and me.

I understood much less German then than I do now, but I could tell at least one of them was making fun of us. And we also heard them disparaging the Swiss. When they finally left, John asked us if we understood what they were saying. Bill said we hadn’t. Chuckling wickedly, John said, “Those people have been here all week for marriage counseling. They’re here in a last ditch effort not to get divorced!” Apparently, there is or was a marriage counselor in Entringen of some renown, and the annoying jerks at the table near us were there to receive services.

When Barack Obama got elected, I remember John was excited. He said he was glad to see a black man in the White House. Then he added, “But I think he might get shot.” We were shocked at the time, but given the fact that John was an older man who had lived through the Kennedy administration and watched America from afar, I could kind of see where he might have gotten that impression. Fortunately, Mr. Obama survived his time as our president.

In September 2014, Bill and I finally visited our old friend again. We walked into his restaurant, and it was unusually busy. His wife saw us and recognized us immediately, giving us a huge grin and a welcome. It took John a couple of minutes, but then his eyes widened and he smiled and said, “You are back in Germany!” It was at about that time that we realized that he was not the same man he was in 2009. But we made a point of visiting him occasionally when we were living in Jettingen, which was probably a 15-20 minute drive from where he was.

I wish we’d had a chance to see him once more before we left the Stuttgart area about two years ago. I would have liked to have been able to say goodbye. Unfortunately, we never got around to it. The last time we saw him was in September 2018. I noticed that over the years, the portion sizes were smaller and the prices were a bit higher. And he’d stopped handing out pistachios. I don’t think it was necessarily because he was trying to be stingy. I think business had gotten rough for him, especially after he got sick (and he did confirm that he was sick for awhile). But his English did improve, even if it wasn’t as fluent as it once was. And we still loved to visit his restaurant, remember old times, and make new memories.

It looks like his wife is carrying on with the restaurant and apartment, although Germany is now back in lockdown mode until at least next month. On their Web site, it says they’re doing some renovation work. I hope she can keep the place going during these tough times.

Agais is the one place that bridged our two stints near Stuttgart. It’s the one constant of both time periods, a place where we were always warmly welcomed. A lot of the restaurants we used to love to visit during our first stint went defunct long ago, but not Agais. And we could always count on John and Renate to show us a nice time. I will always remember the “Mad Scientist” fondly. He was a very good man.

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part two

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Our first stop– Leutasch, Austria!

When I was planning our trip, I knew we were going to visit Italy. Bill and I both love Italy, and it had been way too long since our last visit over Labor Day weekend in September 2018. I remembered visiting Bolzano on a day trip I took on our last business trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, back in 2009. I thought it was a nice city. So I started looking for places around there to go… and my German friend suggested Merano, which isn’t too far from Bolzano. But I wanted somewhere outside of the city– somewhere that was likely to be cooler and prettier. When we finally settled on Parcines, I looked for places to stop on the way there and back.

Bill and I went to Lermoos, Austria in September 2015, when we did our much heralded “Beer and Fucking Tour” (Fucking is a place in Austria, as is Fuckersberg– we visited both on that trip, as well as two beer spas). I knew I liked that part of Austria, but I wanted to go somewhere different. I ended up choosing Hotel Kristall in Leutasch, mainly because I got pretty fatigued trying to look through all of the hotel choices. What I didn’t know is that Leutasch is very close to Seefeld, Austria, which is another place we visited back in December 2015. I’m glad I didn’t realize it until after I booked because I would have probably chosen another place. That would have been a shame, because Leutasch turned out to be a great choice for us.

I didn’t know it when I booked, but Leutasch is home to a very beautiful and supposedly haunted gorge. There’s a very secure path that allows visitors to see the gorge and even walk into Germany if they have the stamina. Leutasch is literally just over the border in Austria, but it definitely feels different there. The gorge is a great activity for kids and there’s no admission charged. All you have to do is pay five euros for parking if you visit from the Austrian side. If you visit from Mittenwald, on the German side, you park in a public area and can pay three euros to see the waterfall (well worth the money and the short walk), or you can skip the waterfall and walk up the steep path that takes you to the Austrian gorge walk and the panorama bridge. All along the path are fun activities for children, although the signs are in German. The gorge turned out to be the highlight of our time in Leutasch.

But– I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to write about our journey to Austria, which started on Friday, August 7th. We dropped off Arran at the Birkenhof Tierpension, and headed south, which took us through our familiar former stomping grounds near Stuttgart. It was just as full of traffic as ever, although we did notice that some of the road work we thought would never be finished was finally done. We stopped at a truck stop near Kirchheim Unter Teck. It had a KFC, which we thought we’d like better than McDonald’s or Burger King (seriously, these are pretty much your options in Germany, unless you want schnitzel). That particular truck stop also had a regular German restaurant, though, so we decided to eat there instead of dining with “the Colonel”.

The waitress seemed surprisingly calm about masking. She wasn’t wearing a mask and actually asked us to remove ours so she could understand our orders. Then, while we were waiting, we filled out the contract tracing forms now required in Germany. It was nice to be in Baden-Württemberg again. It still feels kind of like home, even though it’s not ours anymore.

After lunch, we got back on the road. I happened to be experiencing the last death throes of August’s visit from Aunt Flow, which made the journey somewhat less comfortable than it could have been. But we were in beautiful Austria before we knew it. And boy is it BEAUTIFUL there! The scenery is just insane. I kept craning my body to take pictures of the magnificent Alps, limestone colored streams, and green meadows.

It was about 4:00pm when we reached our hotel. I was in dire need of a shower, thanks to Aunt Flow’s death throes and the heat of the afternoon. I was feeling rather cranky and irritable as Bill parked the car in the free lot outside of the hotel’s entrance. But then, as we approached, I noticed two awesome things. First, there was a table outside with a bottle of housemade Schnapps and shot glasses and hand disinfectant. And second, no one was wearing face masks except for the people running the hotel.

Austria has so far had very few COVID-19 cases, particularly in the Tyrol region, so the rules there are pretty relaxed. I know a lot of people will disagree that anyone should be without a face mask right now, but personally I thought it was great. We checked in, and were assigned room 36, which is a junior suite.

Our rate, which I prepaid, came with half board. We got breakfast and dinner included. I actually liked the food at Hotel Kristall. They did have interesting rules for the buffet, though. No masks were required, but everyone had to don disposable rubber gloves. After we checked in, I took a shower, and by then it was about time for dinner.

I noticed the people sitting next to us giving us curious side-eyed looks. I’m sure they realized we’re Americans and most Americans aren’t currently welcome to travel to Europe at the moment. However, if you’re American and live in Europe, it’s okay… A lot of people figured we were Dutch, since Dutch people will often speak English in countries where they can’t speak Dutch.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed the food at Hotel Kristall, although being American in Europe when Americans aren’t supposed to be in Europe was a little stressful. But the service at the family run Hotel Kristall was friendly, professional, and welcoming. And I genuinely felt like the people working there enjoyed their jobs. That made for a very pleasant stay.

Wiesbaden, take two… the dog friendly housing quest continues. Part six

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Sunday morning, we got up, had breakfast, and started loading up the car.  Bill was sidelined for about twenty minutes because he misplaced his car keys.  I had to laugh at that, because one Christmas, he got me “Tiles”, which are little things you can put on your stuff that make them easier to find when you misplace them.  They beep when you clap your hands or something.  However, I notice that I’m a lot less likely to misplace things than Bill is.  I don’t think I’ve ever bothered putting the Tiles on my stuff because my stuff is always in my gargantuan sized purse.  Bill, on the other hand, is constantly losing shit.  Incidentally, I found the keys under a dish towel by the sink.  Bill had put them there while he was washing the dishes.

I kind of shooed Bill to the car and he complained that we were going to be early for our 11:30 appointment.  I told him I didn’t care and we could drive around the area if we were too early.  Off we went to a town called Breckenheim, which is a borough of Wiesbaden.  Sounds fancy, right?  Well, it appeared to be kind of fancy, although it was very congested, just like most of the other towns we looked at.  Even the ultra modern house was on a busy corner with a lot of traffic, although at least the street wasn’t packed with cars.

We found the little private drive where the house was located.  It was crowded with parked cars.  It appeared that there were a bunch of people at the little school on the road, so this might not be a constant condition of the street.  On the other hand, it probably is always that crowded.  It seems to be a familiar state in the areas near Wiesbaden.

We were about twenty minutes early, so Bill parked the car.  We were just going to wait, but the prospective landlord spotted us and welcomed us to tour the house.  We left the dogs in the car and they were very good, for once.  They didn’t make a peep.  I almost went to the landlords’ house, which is located next door.  Ordinarily, having the landlords next door would be a huge red flag, but we were running out of time and options.  Neither of us has any desire to go back up to Wiesbaden for more house hunting.

We walked inside and I noticed that the layout was very normal.  The house was clean and has no carpeting or nightmarish tiles on the floors or walls.  It has a really cute kitchen that is at least twice as big as the tiny one we’ve been enduring for four years.  There is no dorm sized refrigerator in the kitchen that doubles for counter space.  Instead, there’s a normal sized fridge with a small freezer.  We already have a standing freezer and a small fridge, so that’s no problem.  I’ll probably finally get my “fridge of sin” back for beer and wine.

There’s a living room with a charming fireplace.  The bottom floor appears to be a mother-in-law apartment/hobby room.  The house has a nice laundry room with a vent for my dryer.  Most of the other places we saw would require condensation dryers, which I’ve heard are a real pain in the ass and take forever to get the job done.

The floors were just redone and look nice and, most importantly, the house can accommodate our furniture.  There’s a dining room for my Eckbank Gruppe and the two bedrooms on the second floor have a shared balcony and sloped ceilings, but they’re big enough to take the king sized beds, or we can put one bed in the downstairs area, where there’s another shower, and use one of the bedrooms for office space.  There’s also another room that has a balcony and can be used as an office.  I noticed the house has curtain rods, so I can easily hang my drapes.

The bathroom has a rainfall shower and a tub… and most importantly to me, the toilet was recently replaced with a modern version that will probably be able to handle any toilet paper I throw at it.

The backyard is small, but it has a high, secure fence.  Finally, we can sit outside with the dogs and not have to worry about them escaping.  Also… there was no awning to be found or broken.  Instead, it appears that the terrace has a roof.  There’s a garage and small parking spot for my Mini and another parking spot right in front of the house.  Tanja, the real estate lady showed up on time, just as we were finishing our walk through of the house.

When I asked the real estate lady about the landlords living next door, she immediately realized my angst.  But she said they’re laid back… and I did notice that not only did they allow the previous tenant to put up a fence and remove some of the doors from downstairs, but the previous person lived there for seven years.  That tells me he or she must have been relatively happy there.  I don’t love the idea of living next to the landlords, but who knows?  They might turn out to be people who can appreciate or at least tolerate my odd sense of humor and lack of cleaning related OCD.  I did notice that the husband has a sense of humor, which is always a good thing.  Like our very first German landlord, the owner of this house also worked at IBM in Böblingen at one time.  He understood why Bill and I are being forced to move, because the same thing had happened to him.

Bill was fretting about the price of the house, which is by far more than we’ve ever paid for housing anywhere.  It’s 3100 euros plus “other costs”.  It comes out to over $4000 a month.  But… Bill is going to get a small bump in his housing allowance, and we’re mostly debt free now.  Bill heard a rumor that pretty soon, the company he works for will only offer the money for actual rent instead of a lump sum, which would defeat the purpose of finding a house that costs less than what he’s paid.  And while I would have liked to have found something less expensive in a less busy neighborhood, Bill will get to enjoy a very short commute of less than ten minutes.  That has never happened in our sixteen years of marriage.  He’s always had to sit in traffic.  Maybe he’ll save money on gas.

Speaking of traffic, there was slightly less of it as we made our way home.  We did encounter one traffic accident, so we detoured through some cute towns near Pforzheim and Karlsruhe.  I was thinking about how much I am going to miss BW.  As pretty as Mainz and Wiesbaden are, I enjoy Baden-Württemberg’s country charm.  I won’t be surprised if we wind up living here again at some point.

Anyway, after a few hours of hemming, hawing, adding and subtracting, Bill finally realized that we can afford the house.  He didn’t need to tell me that, since I knew we could.  He just didn’t want to spend so much, for which I really can’t blame him.  He sent a note to Tanja, the real estate agent, who immediately got back to the owners.  They said they’d love to have us, so now we have a home right next to theirs.  Wish us luck.

The simple fact is, free standing houses are apparently in short supply in Wiesbaden.  Most people are paying a lot for apartments and duplexes.  I saw more than one apartment offered at over 3000 euros a month and plenty of duplexes were going for at least 2500 euros or more.  The house we toured yesterday had almost everything we needed and a lot of what we wanted.  Although I will definitely miss living in dog heaven and the beautiful views we’ve enjoyed in Unterjettingen, I think this house in Breckenheim will be alright.  I don’t know how long we’ll live in Wiesbaden, but it’s good to know we’ve found a place to hang our hats.  And a bonus is that the new house is within walking distance of a grocery store, bar, bus stop, and bakery.  So if I get depressed, it’ll be easy to drown my sorrows.

But I will admit, I’m going to miss the best part of living in Unterjettingen, pictured below…

Sigh…  I will truly miss this.

 

I will also add that in spite of all my bitching about this house in Unterjettingen, this process of looking for a new house in Germany has taught me that we were lucky to find our current place.  Not only was it very reasonably priced, it also accommodated our bulky American furniture without too much trouble.  Although we were also lucky during our first Germany tour, I am now realizing that finding German houses that work with American tastes can be difficult.  And finding really affordable houses that also work with American furniture can be almost impossible.  So thanks very much to our current landlords for that.

We should be getting the contract sometime today.  If everything checks out, we’ll officially have our new home and will probably already be in residence as soon as a month from today.

Ten Stuttgart area places we’re glad we visited…

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A couple of nights ago, I was sitting in my living room talking to Bill about how glad I am we made an effort to see more of Baden-Württemberg during our second Stuttgart stint.  As our time in the Stuttgart area grows ever shorter, I thought I’d make a list of the places we managed to see this time that we didn’t know about the first time we lived here.  These are places we’re really glad we visited and would recommend to newcomers.  Maybe they won’t be “must see” places for everyone, but they made our time here better.  As usual, this list isn’t ranked in any particular order.

10.  Allerheiligen Wasserfällen (All Saints Waterfalls)

Hope you’re in shape!

 

We discovered the All Saints Waterfalls this past summer when I happened to read someone’s blog post about visiting there.  These falls are in the Black Forest, about an hour from where I live and probably about 90 minutes from Stuttgart.  I had never heard of them before 2018, but I’m so glad we visited.  We spent several hours enjoying the beautiful scenery and getting lots of exercise!  I liked them even more than the Triberg Falls, which everyone visits.  If you have a free Saturday or Sunday and don’t mind a drive through the Black Forest, I’d highly recommend a trip to these falls.  Admission is free!

9.  Rottweil

Super cute town with several things to do!

 

I don’t know how we missed Rottweil when we lived here the first time, but I really wish we’d discovered it sooner than we did.  This beautiful town not only has some gorgeous architecture, but it also has the distinction of being the place where Rottweiler dogs were first bred.  The area is scenic and you can get a great view of it when you visit the Thyssenkrupp Testturm, an elevator testing facility that currently has the highest observation deck in Germany.

8.  Blautopf

It’s true… I had never heard of this place when I lived here from 07-09.

 

Blautopf isn’t close to where I live.  It’s kind of on the way to Ulm.  However, though it only takes a few minutes to see this natural wonder, I think a trip to Blaubeuren to see this marvelous blue pond is well worth the effort.  Blaubeuren has a few other activities available to make your trip worthwhile, as well as some good restaurants.

7. Tiefenhöhle

One thing you can do before or after a visit to Blautopf is visit Germany’s deepest show cave!

 

Although we visited Tiefenhöhle and Blautopf separately, I would recommend combining these two activities.  Tiefenhöhle is Germany’s deepest show cave and visiting it will wear you out… but then, once you’ve journeyed deep beneath the Earth’s surface, you can come back to the surface and see where this cave system ends… at beautiful blue Blautopf!

6.  Wildpark Pforzheim

I love to visit animals… and the Wildpark Pforzheim is probably my favorite of all of the animal activities in the Stuttgart area.

Stuttgart and its environs is richly blessed with a lot of places where one can indulge their inner animal lover.  My favorite of all of the places I’ve visited animals is Wildpark Pforzheim.  There’s no admission fee to visit it, although parking isn’t free.  We spent several hours wandering around this park, feeding animals and watching them interact with each other.

5.  Nebelhöhle

Nebelhöhle is my favorite local cave…

 

Last summer, Bill and I visited several local caves.  My favorite one is Nebelhöhle, which is not only beautiful, but is much less taxing to visit than Tiefenhöhle is.  You can combine a visit there with a visit to Lichtenstein Castle or nearby Bärenhöhle, which is a much smaller and more kid friendly cave.

4.  Lichtenstein Castle

I don’t know how we missed this the first time we were here!

 

Although we did make it to Hohenzollern Castle the first time we lived near Stuttgart, we somehow missed out on Lichtenstein Castle.  I’ve now seen a lot of German castles and I think so far, Lichtenstein might be my favorite of all of them… and yes, that includes Neuschwanstein!

3.  Burgbach Wasserfall

The Burgbach Waterfall was yet another lucky find!

 

The same blogger who alerted me to the presence of the All Saints Waterfalls also clued me in on finding lovely Burgbach Waterfall.  It costs nothing to visit this pretty waterfall in the Black Forest, which also happens to be conveniently located near the Bear and Wolf Alternative Park.  It’s a great thing to do on a sunny spring or fall day!

2.  Der Schönbuchturm

Herrenberg’s tower!

 

In June 2018, the city of Herrenburg got its very own tower, overlooking the lovely countryside.  This tower costs nothing to visit and offers unobstructed views of the area.  There is another tower much like this one in Stuttgart at the Killesberg Park.

1.  Bad Wildbad

The “tree walk” is just one thing you can do when you visit Bad Wildbad.

 

A lot of newcomers to Stuttgart visit the spa town of Bad Wildbad to climb the famed “tree walk”, otherwise known as the Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald.  But there’s more to this town than just cool “tree walks”.  By the way, there are other tree walks in Germany and the Czech Republic.  Bad Wildbad also has the distinction of being the first place Bill and I ever experienced a nude spa.

I’m really going to miss living near the Black Forest, but I’m excited about the prospect of getting to live in another part of Germany for awhile.  I also plan to visit Stuttgart at least once next year, since we’re coming down to see Elton John in concert.  I have no doubt that we could also end up moving back here someday.  If we do, maybe we’ll live on the other side of Stuttgart for a change…  or maybe not.  We do like being near the Black Forest!

We visited Wiesbaden for the first time last weekend and I can now say for certain that this blog is not going to be neglected.  Wiesbaden and Mainz are extremely beautiful cities and there’s still so much to see and do.  But a piece of my heart will always stay here in Baden-Württemberg, where we’ve been so lucky to spend a total of six great years.

If you’re new here, I highly recommend getting out and seeing everything you can before you have to leave.  Time in Germany tends to fly by and not everyone will get the opportunity to return.  These last four years have really shown us what we missed when we were here the first time.  I feel so lucky that we got to come back and see more of what this area has.  And now, we have learned just how very much BW offers to its residents!  I hope today’s post will inspire a few intrepid souls to get out and enjoy this beautiful part of Germany!

Cannstatter Volksfest 2018…

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Over the past few years, Bill and I have taken to going to the Cannstatter Volksfest on Sunday afternoons.  It seems like the crowds are less obnoxious on Sundays, although there were definitely plenty of people festing yesterday afternoon.  This year, I talked Bill into wearing his kilt, since I wore my dirndl.  He was a good sport, although he was afraid he might get in trouble for wearing it.  He heard some Scotsmen wore their kilts to the Oktoberfest in Munich and were stopped at the gate because they were mooning people.  I don’t know how true that story is, especially since Munich, in particular, seems to be pretty relaxed about public nudity.  Nevertheless, he was concerned about it.  I’m happy to report that the kilt was not only acceptable, it was a big hit!

Anyway, below are some photos from yesterday’s drunkfest…  Yes, I did drink way more than I should have and some of the photos might reflect that reality.

Bill in his kilt.  He got several comments about it!

A shot of the countryside near Herrenberg.  Too bad I didn’t roll down the window.

 

We made the 12:46 train to Bad Cannstatt, which takes about 45 minutes to get to from Herrenberg.  I don’t really enjoy riding the train, but I will admit that the train makes it much easier to have fun at the Fests.  We ended up sitting with a nice family from the States.  The dad is a teacher on Patch Barracks.  I was glad to get to talk to them, since it made the travel time pass.

 

I managed to get a nice shot of us.  For some reason, I seem to look best in a photo if Bill is with me.

 

We arrived at the Wasen along with many others.  I managed to snap a few photos.  I wish Bill liked riding the rides.

This guy was collecting bottles.  I liked his hat.

I’ve seen it more crowded.

 
 

Let the drinking begin.

We sat in the Furstenberg tent, which I think is the same one we went to last year.  It was quite festive and there were a lot of people there, although they didn’t seem too wound up at first.  I think I got more funny pictures and videos last year.

The band was alright.

The chicken was just okay… it was a little dry.  Last week’s was better.

These guys were having fun!

I call this my Bill Cosby look.

More merrymakers!

In a world of lederhosen, wear a kilt!  One lady selling cigars came by and told Bill he looked great.

Doing the Macarena!

Head and shoulders above the rest!

Around 4:30 or so, we decided to go to the Wine tent.  To be honest, I think it was really more my speed.  It was much less crowded and there was an older crowd in there.  Instead of a full band, there were two guys playing a keyboard and guitar.

But this guy wasn’t among them.

They had fish, too!

More my speed.

We ended up sitting with a really nice German family from Calw.  It turned out the parents are from the Wiesbaden area.  They didn’t speak English, but their daughter and her husband filled them in.  I think it was the kilt that got them talking to us.  We learned that wearing Trachten to the Volksfest is actually kind of a new thing.  According to our new friends, fifteen years ago, no one dressed up for them.  Now, Germans love to put on their best Lederhosen and Dirndls!

They did a lot of dancing divinely!  I sat and drank too much wine.

Nice bar area, too.  I think I might stick with the wine tent from now on.  But then, we may not be back to the Cannstatter fest next year.

That wraps up yet another fest season for us.  We’re not the kind of people who go to it repeatedly because it’s just too much excitement.  It’s a one and done deal for us.  I don’t even remember much of the ride back to Herrenberg…  It’s probably just as well!  I think I’ll spend today recovering.

An afternoon at the “historic” Cannstatter Fest in Stuttgart!

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It’s the last day of September, which means the Cannstatter Volksfest is in full swing.  That means that everyone and their brother or sister is donning dirndls or lederhosen and heading off to ride rides, drink beer, and listen to music while watching other people get drunk.  2018 is a special year, though.  200 years ago, the original Cannstatter Fest was held.  It started one day after King Wilhem I’s birthday, back when Stuttgart was nothing but a beautiful meadow on the banks of the Neckar River.  The Cannstatter Fest is still held in the same place it was held 200 years ago, but back then, it was basically an agricultural festival designed to stimulate the economy after the Napoleonic wars.

Because this festival has been going on for 200 years, the people of Stuttgart decided to do something special this year.  In downtown Stuttgart, at the Schlossplatz, a historic Volksfest started on September 28th and will run until October 3rd.  My German friend, Susanne, alerted me to this special celebration.  Today, Bill and I decided to check it out, with plans to visit the much bigger “Wasen” next weekend.

Below are some photos from today’s visit.  I also got some videos of the excellent brass band playing in the tent.  There was no heavy metal and very little drunkenness.  We had a wonderful time watching Germans drink beer, dance, eat delicious food ordered from menus in Schwabish, and sing along to classic folk songs.  Plenty of people were dressed in traditional garb.  I didn’t bother with my dirndl today, but I would have been right at home if I had put it on.

We were greeted by a large crowd.  Plenty of people came downtown to check out the traditional Volksfest.

There were plenty of old fashioned rides and stalls.

There was even a flea circus.

They had agricultural exhibits, that were a bit crowded.

Around this point, I smelled horses and wondered where they were.  I didn’t see them, but the aroma was unmistakable and intoxicating to this former horse crazy freak…

I was starting to get annoyed by the crowds and almost suggested to Bill that we bag it and find a nice quiet restaurant.  It might have been one thing if Bill would ride the rides with me, but he doesn’t like rides.  So if it means we’re walking around in crowds, I’d rather GTFO.

But then Bill spotted the large tent and we figured that was where the beer was…

We waited in a brief line behind these people.  My big bag got checked out and tagged…

And we walked into an old style tent, where we proceeded to spend the next several hours eating, drinking, listening to live band music, and watching lots of dancing.

As you can see, lots of people were enjoying themselves.

The menu was a trip.  It was entirely in Schwabisch.

That prompted Bill to make a face.

But we still managed to get delicious chicken and fresh bread.  I swear, this chicken is such a treat.  It’s moist, juicy, and perfectly seasoned.

Everyone was getting into the music.

This band was great!  I loved the bandleader, who promised there would be no heavy metal.

The kids were loving it.

And there was a songbook in Schwabisch, too.  People were gamely using it to join in…

Get down, son!

I did get a few videos of the band playing.  After I sober up, I might turn them into a video and put them on YouTube.  Or maybe not.  Depends on how cantankerous my computer is tomorrow.

I loved all the dancers!  Wish Bill would dance with me!

These two kind of stole the show.

Weeee!

I sing much better than I dance, but I didn’t try the Schwabisch…

I had to get one more shot of the band as we were leaving.  They were great!  I would much rather listen to a brass band than heavy metal, anyway.

 

At one point, I went to the restroom and was utterly charmed by two young people– a young man and a young woman probably all of about 20 years old.  She had beautiful long blonde hair and was dressed in a dirndl.  He had an earring, a goatee, and was wearing traditional dress.  As we waited our turns to pee, they started waltzing beautifully as the brass band played.  I wish I had gotten a picture or video of them.  They were dancing divinely and really adorable together.  I moved out of their way and watched for a minute before it was my turn to whiz.  I doubt I would have seen two Americans their age doing anything similar… although I will admit I haven’t been home in awhile.  They were so adorable, though.  Wonder if they’re dating… or are they just good friends?  They made me smile.

We left to big crowds, including at the bumper cars.

It was a beautiful day for traditional festing!

Maybe I should have ridden the rides.

 

I’m really glad we didn’t give up and go home.  I had a great time at the historic Volksfest today.  It was a memorable way to spend my Sunday, listening to great music, eating roasted chicken, drinking beer, and watching Germans enjoy the last of the great weather before it turns to shit in a few weeks.  I couldn’t help but feel a little choked up as I realize that pretty soon, I’ll be leaving beautiful BW for Hesse and the Rhein.  I know I’ll love it up there, too, but I must admit that the Stuttgart area has left an indelible mark on my heart.  It’s become the closest thing I’ve had to a real home in a very long time.  I’ll miss it terribly… but I look forward to visiting and maybe even moving back someday.

This festival is something special, so if you want to experience the historic Volksfest, I highly recommend visiting before it closes on October 3rd.  To be honest, if they did this every year, I’d choose it over the regular fest… but then, I’m kind of an old bat.  I might even eschew the regular fest over this one this year, but I need to get my money’s worth and wear my dirndl at least once a season.  Maybe I can talk Bill into wearing his kilt to the fest, too.

Wine with a new friend at the Breitenholzer Weinfest…

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Yesterday, Bill and I met up with one of Bill’s co-workers and the three of us went to the annual Breitenholzer Weinfest.  We would not have known about the wine festival had Bill’s co-worker, Travis, not stumbled across it last year with his wife.  Travis told Bill about how a winemaking family in Breitenholz was serving and selling their wine during their yearly Weinfest, which happens the last weekend of every August.

Breitenholz is located in Ammerbuch, a county just south of Herrenberg.  Bill and I lived in Ammerbuch the first time we lived in this area, from 2007 until 2009.  It holds a special place in our hearts, since that was where we first experienced life in Baden-Württemberg together.  Bill lived in Bavaria in the late 1980s, well before he knew me, and I had visited the Rhein and Bavaria before we met.  But BW was a new place for both of us during our first tour here.  We lived about two villages south of Breitenholz when we were here the first time, in a town called Pfäffingen.

Ammerbuch is so beautiful!  It’s always nice to visit our old stomping grounds.

Travis had asked Bill if we’d like to accompany him to the wine tasting, since his wife is out of town this weekend.  Bill said yes, although there was a period yesterday during which we wondered if the weather was going to hold for us.  If you live in the Stuttgart area, you may have noticed that the weather suddenly got rainy and chilly yesterday.  I also wasn’t feeling very well.  Fortunately, wine was a good cure for what ailed me and the weather didn’t turn out to be so bad.  We stayed several hours at the fest, enjoying conversation, locally produced wines, light food, and fellowship with wine loving Germans.

Below are some pictures from yesterday’s fun, which continues today, starting at 10:00am.

First thing’s first.  At an event like a Weinfest, proper facilities are a must.

We arrived just before things got into full swing.  You can either go up to the counter and self serve, or wait for one of the young women to wait on you.  Most of the people working yesterday spoke excellent English, but were very willing to let Bill and Travis practice their German.

A small “wine trail”, where one can see the process of making these local wines.

The price list.  There were four wines offered yesterday, all of which I managed to try.  They also had snacks and sandwiches.

Smoking is also allowed.

An inviting road into the orchards.

Travis talked Bill into trying “Schmalzbrot”, which is basically bread smeared with bacon grease and topped with dried onions.  I tasted it myself and enjoyed it, although it’s not the kind of thing my stomach can take too often.  

The men chat while I busied myself with vino and people watching.  A family with two adorable little kids was sitting next to me.  I was amazed by their boy, maybe aged three, who was climbing up and down the tentpole like a little monkey.  He had very impressive upper body strength!

This is a fest for friends.  We saw lots of people gathering, enjoying the food, wine, and fellowship with their neighbors.  It was really kind of cool to be a part of it.

As we were leaving, Bill and Travis decided to buy some wines.

Lots of people were enjoying the fest yesterday, despite the showers and clouds in the sky.  There are more tables behind the tents, too.

And there’s something for the kids to do while the adults enjoy the wines or non alcoholic beverages, like coffee and Apfelschorle.

Grapevines.

We were blessed with beautiful skies as the sun was starting to set.

The guys and their haul.

There’s plenty of free parking.  You just have to walk up a slight hill to find the festival.

Germany is so pretty.

 

As I mentioned before, the fest continues today, starting at 10:00am.  If you are in the area and inclined to try some rustic German wines, I highly recommend visiting.

Baiersbronn… a sleepy town with many stars… (Michelin, that is)

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Just like Hollywood?  Not hardly… but there’s good eating in them there hills…

 

Although Bill and I usually enjoy taking day trips on Saturdays and Sundays, we decided not to go out yesterday because it looked like it was going to rain.  Sure enough, it did rain… and then I got hooked on Call the Midwife on Netflix.  I seem to be among the last of my friends to discover this wonderful British series set in the 1950s and based on memoirs by midwife Jennifer Worth.  I started binge watching the show and, sure enough, wasted the day.  On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t too wasted, since Bill watched with me.

 

When it was time for dinner, Bill went to our local chicken man and picked up a couple of doner kebabs.  I don’t like a lot of the yogurt sauce on my doners, so Bill asked for “klein Sauce”.  The Turkish guy who runs the place knows Bill isn’t German and speaks English, but is good enough to do business in German with Bill.  His buddy took it a step further and gave him the right word for “little sauce”.  I’m sure we’ll never forget to say “weniger Sauce” from now on.

Today, we were determined to get out and see a place we haven’t yet been.  We decided to visit Baiersbronn, mainly because I had heard it was a noted place for haute cuisine.  Baiersbronn is just about 45 minutes from where we live in Unterjettingen.  It’s kind of a sleepy little town very close to Freudenstadt that has a lot of hotels and makes a lot of its money from tourism.  I was expecting it to be bigger than what I saw today, especially since I know there are eight Michelin stars in Baiersbronn.  Two restaurants have three stars and one has two stars.  Here’s a link to a 2013 New York Times article about Baiersbronn, posted when there were only seven stars there.  If you like gourmet food, it’s definitely a town you need to know about.

Baiersbronn was formed in the 1960s and 70s when five municipalities were formed.  It’s a well known spa town and there’s even a “natural pool” nearby, perfect for youngsters, called Naturbad Mitteltal.  It was a little cold for swimming today, but this does look like it could be a hit with kids who like to swim.  Bear in mind that if you’re not a member of the pool, the hours for you will be different than they are for card carrying members.  Check out their Facebook for more information.

We did not dine in any Michelin starred restaurants today, but now that we know how close the town of Baiersbronn is to where we live, we will definitely make some plans to visit one or all of them soon.  Instead, we drove through Freudenstadt (still going through major construction right now) and took a short stroll around the main drag before we finally stopped for lunch at Cafe am Eck (Corner Cafe), a cute little Konditorei heading into town.  They serve a breakfast buffet on Sundays, but we arrived too late for it.  However, they did serve a variety of snacks– Wurst salads, Flammkuechens, Toasts, and even Quiche Lorraine, which is what I had.  I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen Quiche Lorraine in Germany, although we’re close enough to France in these parts to have it.

Here are some pictures from today’s jaunt.

 
 
 
 
 

I never get tired of the beautiful flower arrangements in the smallest German towns.

 

The Murg River passes through…

 

It reminded me a little of the little town where I went to college, Farmville, Virginia.  The Appomattox River passes through Farmville, though, and I don’t remember pretty flower arrangements there.

 
 

A couple of cool old buildings.

 

An incentive to visit on a weekday or a Saturday.  I spotted at least one gourmet shop and a beer shop.  I also saw lots of construction hats like the one above.

 

There’s even a red telephone booth with an actual phone in it!

 

We probably missed the main part of the town today, although according to the New York Times piece I linked, Baiersbronn isn’t known for being especially beautiful compared to some other Black Forest towns.  It seemed like we were in the wrong part of town for tourism… although we did hear lots of English spoken by Americans, including at Cafe am Eck, a cute little establishment with decor that reminded me a little of an old style Howard Johnson’s restaurant of my youth.  You younger folks have probably never had the pleasure of dining in a HoJo’s, which were known for ice cream and family friendly dishes.  Cafe am Eck is definitely not a full scale restaurant, although during the work week, they do have a lunch dish of the day.  The waitresses all wear Dirndls and the one who took care of us was very nice, if not slightly scatterbrained.

 

Another construction hat, this time hanging from the grapevines over the terrace.  I have to admit, the terrace was pretty much what attracted me.

 

This was an okay Quiche Lorraine, priced very economically at about 3 euros.  However, I could tell it had been chilled and microwaved, since parts of it were hot and parts were ice cold.  I didn’t care… it tasted good.  Also, instead of bacon, I could see they used shredded wurst.  

 

Bill had Black Forest ham toast.  It was made with wheat bread, slices of ham, tomato slices, and cheese.  The toast wasn’t very toasty, but the top part was good…

 

I have a feeling most people come to this cafe for dessert anyway.  They have ice cream, candy, liqueurs, cakes, and pies.  Bill had a really lovely slice of cheesecake that was smooth and creamy and a little sweeter than usual.

 

And I had my usual Schwarzwaldtorte (Black Forest Cake).  It was very good, although I’ve had better.  I liked that it wasn’t too sweet or heavy.

 
 

A shot of the exterior of Cafe am Eck.

 

We really should have toured around a bit more, but it looked like it was going to rain and I felt like going home and drinking wine.  So that’s what I’m doing now… drinking wine, listening to a live recording of Carole King, and writing this blog post.  However, we will make plans to try some of Baiersbronn’s highly esteemed restaurants.  It’s also a town with some very nice looking hotels, making it a good option for a staycation.  Right now, just like in Freudenstadt, there is a major road project going on.  Maybe that’s what all the construction hats were about.

 

Below are a few more pretty photos from our drive home.  We feel so fortunate to live in an area right next to the Black Forest.  It’s really awesome to be able to escape there on the weekends and enjoy so much of what Baden-Württemberg has to offer.

 

Near where we parked.  There was a nice looking Freibad there, too.

 
 
 
 

Lucky stop here, as the train was passing.

 
 
 
 

Lots of sunflowers… there are a few fields of them on the way to Baiersbronn.

Now that we know the way, we will have to go back to Baiersbronn and its environs.  The area is very pretty and it’s so close to Freudenstadt, which is also a nice place to visit, although it’s nicer when the main drag isn’t torn up due to construction.

Edited to add: as of January 2020, one of Baiersbronn’s three Michelin starred restaurants has burned down…  The Traube Tonbach went up in flames on Saturday, January 4th.  There are plans to rebuild.