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Where has Limburg been all my life?

First thing’s first. I had no plans to visit the Hessian city of Limburg, Germany today. I went there because I follow Wiesbaden Fest Finders on Facebook, and I run my own “wine and food” group, mostly for Americans in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden. My food and wine Facebook group started in 2017, when Bill and I lived in Stuttgart, and we made a point of trying new restaurants and doing new stuff every weekend. In those days, we had no clue that we’d eventually move to Wiesbaden, and we had even less of a clue that there would be a global pandemic.

In late 2018, when we moved from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden, just about everyone in my Facebook group was based in Stuttgart. It was a pretty active group then. Since I spent six years living there in two different stints, I decided to just tack Wiesbaden onto the name of the group. In 2018, I thought I’d be going to Stuttgart often, if only because that’s where my dentist is. The main difference is, I don’t belong to a bunch of Wiesbaden groups. Living in Stuttgart and dealing with social media drama there made me want to be more under the radar. So I kept the group going, but while I thought I’d be going to Stuttgart more often than I do, that hasn’t happened. Thank COVID for that.

I still have lots of Stuttgart members, and some Wiesbadeners have joined. It’s not a particularly popular group, and frankly, I’ve been thinking about going defunct. But just when I’m about to abandon the group, something exciting happens that makes me keep going. Today was one of those days. Today, we discovered Limburg! And no, it’s not where the infamously stinky cheese comes from; that’s in Belgium.

A whole shitload of wine fests are happening right now in the Rheingau. I posted several of them this morning. The Limburg fest happened to be the first one I shared in my group. I was a little curious about Limburg, because in 2020, when we were trying to adopt a dog from a German rescue, we had a home visit done by a lady who was from Limburg. She said it was about 45 minutes away. She approved us for adopting the dog, but tragically, it didn’t work out for us. But no matter. Now we have Noyzi, the wonder dog from Kosovo.

So anyway… that brings me to this morning, as I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to go out, having just recovered from my first official bout with COVID-19. I finally decided that I did want… and NEED… to get out of the house. Like I wrote before, there were many things going on today. We had our pick. But I decided I wanted to go to Limburg, so that’s where we went. And, I have to say, we had a great time! This was our first time in Limburg, but God willing, it will not be our last. What a cute town! It’s on the Lahn River, and there are so many splendid timbered buildings dating back hundreds of years. The weather was perfect, and when we got there, I was enchanted by the many adorable shops. I even found something I wanted to buy, but decided not to, when I realized how heavy it was.

We stopped at the Leon Gerhard Weingut stall and tried several wines. I would have liked to have tried others, but we were a little pressed for time, thanks to the parking garage. It was one where you prepay, rather than pay when you’re done. Bill’s credit card wouldn’t work, and for once, we were short on spare change. While I didn’t think the cops were gonna bust us for overstaying, Bill was in a hurry… and we did have hungry dogs to consider.

There were a whole bunch of vintners at the Wine Fest, as well as food purveyors. As we were leaving, musicians were setting up for live music. I couldn’t help but feel so grateful to be in Germany now… as my homeland is embroiled in endless political bullshit, Germany is having wonderful festivals, reminding us that sometimes you just need to chill out and enjoy some wine and company. God bless Germany. It will always have a piece of my heart.

As for Limburg, it definitely didn’t stink… again, the infamously smelly cheese, comes from the Limburg area of Belgium, not Germany. So although I will make jokes about stinky cheese and cheesiness, this town isn’t the one affiliated with famously pungent cheese. We’ll be back, because I’m sure they have lots of fests. We were only there for a few hours, but I feel like I got a short vacation, and it was great for my soul. Especially when we visited Limburger Dom, which is a uniquely beautiful cathedral that has its origins in the 9th century.

We did stop for lunch at Werner-Senger Haus, which is a very cute and historic restaurant in a building that dates from the 1200s. We ate in their garden, which was up a couple of flights of stairs, or accessible from a gate on the other side of the restaurant. It was hot, so we drank Weizens, and I had a Wildschwein Burger, while Bill had Wildschwein Bratwurst with Pfifferlingen mushrooms. The food was good, and there was plenty of it, although it was a bit messy! Both dishes came with a Preiselbeer sauce that was a bit heavily applied on my burger, which was “molded” rather than hand shaped. But it tasted okay, even if it was a little rarer than I like it.

As we were leaving Werner-Senger Haus, I noticed a portrait on the wall near the door. I thought maybe it was Werner Senger, but my German friend was kind enough to edify me with the startling truth. Apparently, the man in the portrait is the Schinderhannes, Johannes Bückler. The restaurant is in the house where he was brought after he was captured. Wikipedia tells me that Johannes Bückler was an outlaw and thief who lived from 1778 until November 21, 1803, when he was guillotined in nearby Mainz. Bückler was famous for organizing one of the biggest crime sprees in German history, so we were dining on true historic ground! I did marvel more than once that I thought the restaurant was really cool looking, but now I know it’s very historic, too.

I might have preferred street food at the fest, but I needed to pee, and as we walked through there, the public WCs weren’t quite open for business. They were when we came back an hour or so later. Our bill at the restaurant was about 49 euros. I would like to go back, if only because it really was such a unique and historic building, just as so many others in that town are. I felt like I got a half day vacation!

Below are some photos…

We had a great time today. I am sure we’ll be back to Limburg. It’s a very nice town, and I’ll bet they have some great fests. And once again, I am so glad to be living in Germany. I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but today was a reminder to enjoy and learn from every moment. Today was a treat, and I hope we can get back into enjoying them more often. At least until COVID gets bad again.

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

Finally in Florence!

We arrived in Florence during the mid afternoon. It was Bill’s first time driving there, and he was pretty nervous about the prospect of finding parking. Tom, our winery guide, a member of the wine group I formed on Facebook, had advised us to leave our car in a “free” parking lot, not far from the hotel he had booked for us. But, by the time we got to Florence, all of the spaces in the lot were full. When we first arrived, Bill also didn’t know that there was a huge parking garage located nearby. If we had known about the garage sooner, it would have spared Bill about an hour of driving around, looking for a space. Florence is a very busy city!

Castle ruins on the way to Firenze.

The GPS sent us down a narrow, one way street that didn’t seem like it should have vehicular traffic. Bill turned left, only to be confronted by a congested side street with cars crammed together. We found our lodging, Hotel Firenze Capitale, which was located on the second floor of a beautiful old building with frescoes on the ceilings of the bedrooms. However, thanks to the many scooters parked in front of the building, unloading our luggage was a very hasty project resulting in indignant horn honking from the vehicles behind Bill. I finally jumped out of the car with several bags and dashed into the building, completely missing the doorbell for the hotel. That was a critical error, but I was so flustered and anxious about successfully moving the bags, I just didn’t see it. I might have noticed it if someone hadn’t left the front door open, which was not a normal thing, as we found out over our three nights there.

Next, I was confronted by the old fashioned elevator. It was very tiny, and the kind of elevator in which one must close the doors manually. I barely fit in the lift with my two big bags and purse. Then, I realized I had to lean over and close the front door, then the two internal doors, and hold my breath as the tiny elevator ascended. Once I got to the second floor, I got myself and my stuff out of the tiny lift. To my left, there were the electric sliding doors comprising the hotel’s entrance point. However, there was no doorbell, and the doors didn’t open automatically. I stood there puzzled for a moment, not knowing what to do.

Remember, I had been preoccupied with getting the bags to the hotel, and I wasn’t given instructions about accessing the lodging. Bill had gotten the instructions from Tom, but he hadn’t mentioned the unusual means of accessing the lodging. Or, if he did, I missed the memo. But yes, I was confused when I reached the hotel. Usually, when I go to hotels, the door is open– and there’s someone there to help with bags or valet parking of some kind. I sent Tom a Facebook message, asking what to do.

An Asian man, who had been cleaning the stairwell, noticed my confusion as I stared at the door, not knowing how to access the hotel. He spoke Italian to me, and I didn’t understand… however, the gist of what he was saying had to be something along the lines of, “Why are you just standing here in the hallway looking clueless with your bags?”

Then, without another word, the guy leaned over and knocked on the door for me. How embarrassing! I should have thought of doing that myself. But, in my defense, I didn’t know what was behind the sliding electric door. I was also flummoxed by the sudden movement, and being confronted with an unorthodox hotel that I didn’t choose. I knew nothing at all about the place, or what was expected of me when I arrived.

Thanks to the kind custodian’s knock, the door opened. I profusely thanked the Asian man who helped me. Then I turned my attention to my host. There stood a man named Giuseppe. I did know from one of Tom’s messages that I was looking for Giuseppe. He greeted me and asked why I hadn’t rung the doorbell. I said I hadn’t known about it. I wasn’t the one who received the information about the hotel. I told him that Bill was looking for parking. Giuseppe told me about the parking garage and advised me to call Bill. But then I realized that, one, I didn’t even have Bill’s phone number, and two, even if I called him, he probably wouldn’t answer while he was driving. I did make a point of getting Bill’s number when we were reunited, about an hour later! He had found the garage on his own.

I gave Giuseppe my passport and, as he took it, he put on a mask. So I put on a mask. That turned out to be the only one or two masked interactions we had, as it seemed that the city of Florence was not quite as strict about masks as the cities we visited in Emilia-Romagna had been. We were assigned room 7, a superior class room, which, as promised, had very beautiful frescoes on the ceiling. Giuseppe gave me a very brief tour of the room, but forgot to give me the WiFi code. Fortunately, I had bought a cellular plan for my iPad, so I didn’t have to sit there in boredom while I waited for Bill to make his way to the hotel.

I turned on the TV, and was shocked to find an episode of the 80s era American show, The A-Team, airing. That was an ongoing theme all week in Italy. Lots of 80s vintage shows that were popular when I was a child were on prime time. It was pretty funny!

Once Bill was settled, we decided to take the fifteen minute walk to the historical center of Firenze… that would be where the city’s huge Duomo is. We didn’t bother to go into the cathedral during our visit, since we went to Florence in 2013, and visited it at that time. Frankly, I am much more impressed by the outside of the cathedral there, which is very striking to me. When we visited in 2013, the inside of the cathedral seemed rather plain. I didn’t want to stand in line to see it, either. So we skipped the church in 2022, but you can see my 2013 photos here.

It was exciting to be back in Firenze/Florence, which is a wonderful city. Because it’s so wonderful, there are many, many visitors there at any given time. This was my third visit to Florence, and I remember it was packed on the other two occasions, too. Tom told us that the beginning of COVID was kind of interesting, as the tourists all funneled out and Florence was quiet and empty. I would have liked to have seen it that way. I mentioned that Parma and Modena were not touristy. Well… Florence definitely makes up for that. I heard so many Americans in Florence! It almost seemed like there were more Americans than Italians!

After we walked around for awhile, we realized it was time for dinner. I was getting cranky because of the crowds. Somehow, we ended up on the wrong street, and an enterprising restaurant hawker noticed the look of irritation on my face, as I slowed down to look at a menu. He said, “You want something to drink?”

“Yes.” I said. “God bless you.”

We sat down at a table just inside the restaurant… and much to my shame, I somehow forgot to get a picture of the name of the place. It wasn’t a particularly special restaurant. The waiters all wore t-shirts with the name on it, and I looked it up on Google and noticed the mixed reviews. But I was still grateful for the rest and the beer. We were seated near another American couple. The male half kept raving about the Florentine steak he ordered, which was 800 grams. Bistecca alla Florentine seems to be Florence’s most famous dish. Every restaurant we visited had their own version of it. The guy tried to talk us into ordering the steak. I had to admit, it smelled great. But we knew we would be having it on Friday night, when we met our tour. So I had fried fishy stuff, instead. Bill had beef tagliata, which is steak with rucola and Parmesan cheese.

The American guy who had the steak was so impressed that he came back twice more to tell us! It was pretty funny! I wonder if he had it again during his visit. He looked like he enjoyed steak a lot, if you catch my drift. But then, so do I. 😉 I think if I was going to have steak Florentine, I would pick a slightly more upscale place. In spite of the lukewarm reviews, we had a good time.

Edited to add: Thanks to the Dream store photo below, I figured out that we dined at Ristorante Pizzeria Ginori. I knew the name started with a G.

After we ate, we went back to the hotel and crashed. It had been a long day, and we had big plans for Thursday morning. More on that in the next post.

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

Meandering around Modena…

I mentioned in the previous post that Bill had decided against visiting Bologna on this trip, mainly because parking can be tricky there. Bologna has an area where it’s strictly prohibited for non-residents to park their vehicles. The areas supposedly aren’t well marked, and fines are steep. So, since Modena also looked like an interesting place, he decided we’d go there.

Modena, which, like Parma, is also located in Emilia-Romagna, is on the south side of the Po Valley. It was about a 40 minute drive from our castle accommodations, which took us through some areas that reminded me a little of Mississippi. Probably the most traumatizing thing about our drive to Modena was when we passed a roundabout where there were cop cars. There were dozens of shattered wine bottles on the road, because a guy in a truck went too fast around the corner and lost about half his load. The police were sweeping up the glass and directing traffic as we passed. I wasn’t prepared to take a picture, which is just as well. It was a very sad sight indeed.

Modena has a huge parking garage outside of the walls of the city. From the parking garage, it’s easy to access the town with a short walk. Modena is known for its balsamic vinegar and expensive sports cars. Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati are either based there now, or were in the past. Lamborghini has since moved from Modena to Bologna.

Again, because of COVID restrictions, we didn’t have any big plans to see anything specific. Our goal was to get a feel for the city, have lunch, and people watch. One thing that I noticed and liked about both Parma and Modena, but especially Modena, is that the town did not seem touristy, at least during our very brief visit. I didn’t hear any Americans at all during my visit to Modena.

Maybe it seems wrong to write this, since I am myself an American, but it really is nice to be in a very authentic Italian town where there aren’t shitloads of my countrymen milling around, talking too loudly, and being obnoxious and obvious. On the other hand, I remember being that way when I was a lot younger and less aware of myself. But anyway, if you like places that aren’t catering to tourists, Modena is a good bet. And there’s plenty to look at and smell while you’re there. Modena was the one place on our entire visit where I routinely caught the aromas of things that smelled heavenly. I think it was mostly pizza, though…

In the photos, you might notice several young people wearing garlands on their heads. I’m not sure what that was about, but I got the sense it had to do with graduation. Modena has a university that was founded in 1175.

Here are some photos from our visit…