holidays, markets

Santa visited our little Adventmarkt while riding a motorcycle!

Every year at Advent, when the pandemic isn’t forcing everything to be closed, our little town of Breckenheim has a little Christmas Market. They only have the market for one night, and it mostly consists of local clubs selling Gluhwein, hot apple wine, beer, and funnel cakes. There are usually also a couple of little stalls selling crafts.

Four years ago, when we moved to Breckenheim, we happened to be here on the night they did the market. However, because we were up to our armpits in boxes, we missed it that year. In 2019, we made it to the market, which I remember to be a really fun time. Back then, we only had Arran, as we lost our sweet Zane to lymphoma on August 31 of that year.

In 2020 and 2021, the market was canceled because of COVID. I remember last year, we did make it to the Wiesbaden Christmas Market, but in 2021, a lot of the smaller markets were still called off because of the pandemic. This year, they seem to have come roaring back! Some people live for the Christmas Markets. I could take them or leave them, to be honest. I think they’re lovely to look at, and I enjoy the food and some of the shopping, but I don’t necessarily feel like I have to go to a bunch of them.

It was fun to go to the Advent Market last night, though. We brought Arran and Noyzi with us, because Arran seems to have been regressing a bit since he’s been getting chemo. Twice, we’ve gone out and found that he’s torn up something. I suspect it’s because the steroids make him obsess over food. He made a huge mess last week when we went to see James Taylor, and he made a more minor mess on Thanksgiving. So this time, we decided we’d just take the boys with us and give Noyzi some much needed exposure to crowds.

It was pretty chilly last night, but thanks to a new alpaca sweater from Novica and an Irish flat cap, I stayed pretty warm. Bill and I took in the sights and sounds, as we sipped mulled wine and watched lots of eager children play as they waited for Santa Claus to arrive at 5:00pm, sharp. After the Santa visit, there was a church service held at the big beautiful church by the Dorfplatz. We didn’t go to the church service because it would be in German and we had the dogs with us. But we did watch Santa come in, announced by sirens and a guy from the local biker club escorting him with his chopper.

We also ran into one of the other American families who live in our town, and we had a nice chat with them until it was time for Santa. Noyzi was pretty well behaved, although he was a bit spooked by all the kids and the noise. Arran ended up being filmed because he was barking at the huge Maine Coon cat who has adopted our village and shows up for all of the events. I don’t know who she belongs to, but she’s very friendly and doesn’t care at all about Arran’s crotchety beagle barks. I think this will probably be Arran’s last Advent Market, not that he attended a lot of them before he got cancer…

Noyzi, on the other hand, needs some training so that he can go out in public more often. He loves people and is very friendly, but he still gets pretty scared of things he’s not used to. After about an hour, though, he did calm down and seemed rather pleased with himself. Arran was over the market within a few minutes and was very happy to go home, where he could worship Bill in private.

Below are some photos and videos from our outing. We tried to stay out of trouble by hanging out on the periphery.

A very short video of Santa’s entrance and exit on a motorcycle. We didn’t get closer because of the dogs.

Edited to add: someone got a great shot of Santa…

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customs

The first night of Breckenheim’s very first wine fest!

This year, we seem to be attending so many wine fests! It’s probably on account of COVID-19 restrictions finally going away. October is coming, and there may be new restrictions, based on what the virus does. For now, Germans are having their beloved festivals, and where we live, they’re all about the wine. Remember that we moved to Wiesbaden in late 2018, so we missed the 2018 season. In 2019, it was “normal”, but we were dealing with stress associated with our departure from Stuttgart that put a damper on our spirits. Then came 2020 and 2021, and fests were significantly reduced. In 2022, things have rebounded a lot.

Our little town of Breckenheim is up and coming. We just got a weekly market, which started last week, probably to justify the installation of the new public toilet (which I got to use last night). This week, had a market AND a wine fest. I anticipate that there will be a lot more socializing in our village, and it’s a great thing. I’ve stated more than once how much we have enjoyed how convivial Breckenheim is. It’s a very different, friendly, mostly inclusive vibe here that helps to make up for losing the awesome beauty of the Schwarzwald in our backyard.

Bill came home from his latest business trip yesterday afternoon. He took Arran to the vet, because he’s been a little “off” lately, plus his run ins with the hedgehog in our backyard resulted in his getting fleas. Hedgehog fleas apparently don’t infest dogs and cats like regular fleas do, but they do bite. I noticed Arran had swollen popliteal lymph nodes, too. So he got a fine needle aspirate, antibiotics, and flea meds. One of the fleas was kind enough to jump off of Arran when he was being examined. Bill said the vet, two techs, and he all worked together to corral the nasty beast so it can be studied under a microscope. I’m hoping that whatever has Arran acting odd will turn out to be related to the fleas and isn’t due to cancer. He’s about 14 years old now, and our last three dogs succumbed to cancer. Arran was a little slow this morning, but after he had some breakfast and a walk, he perked up a bit.

The wine fest is going to go on all weekend. We’ll probably go again, because we had so much fun last night. At first, there were a couple of ladies giving us the side eye when they heard us speaking English to another American. Later, our next door neighbor’s mom came over to talk to us. She went over and sat with the ladies, and probably told them we weren’t tourists. Then our landlord bought us a round of wine. And then the young family who is moving to our neighbor’s vacant apartment came over with their kids, and we had a great time chatting with them. I have a feeling they are going to be good friends. They even asked us to carve a jack o’ lantern for Halloween, because they want to celebrate it. I’m happy to do that. I’m not very good at carving pumpkins, though.

Halloween is kind of hit or miss in Germany. One year, during our first stint in Germany, we had people come to our door and we weren’t prepared. Then we weren’t home other years. Bill now picks up candy in case anyone rings the bell, but no one ever does. Looks like this year will be different. This is the same family who brought me a piece of the pretzel the other day. I found out that the mom is half Italian, which explains why she found the Stuttgart area to be less friendly. It’s my experience that Italians are stereotypically a lot warmer– sympatisch— as my Italian friend who lives in Germany would say– than people from Swabia are. At least at first. I’ve found that most Swabians will eventually warm up, once you get to know them. It just usually takes more time than it does up here in Hesse.

We were only going to stay a little while last night, then go home and have dinner, which is why we didn’t try the food vendor’s wares. Instead, we ate a pretzel with Spundekäs, which wasn’t enough… especially considering how much wine we enjoyed. There were maybe four or five wine stands going, plus live music, plenty of seating, and the new toilet, which we learned last night cost taxpayers 120,000 euros or so… No wonder so many people were upset about it and a news guy from the local radio station was asking for opinions last year! But it is a nice facility, at least for now. And it’s Kostenfrei (free of charge), which really makes it special. 😉 I tried the new toilet, but failed to lock it properly. Luckily, I was finished when someone opened the door on me and said, “Entschuldigung!” (excuse me) I suppose I’ll learn the right way to lock the door, now that the village is about to be bustling with events.

Below are some photos from last night’s fun, plus a couple of videos from Bill’s return home.

Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see Bill after his trip. So was I!
Arran had to give his favorite person a hug. I was working on my latest puzzle.

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anecdotes, emergencies

Pet pandemonium pauses our promenade!

Today is Bill’s birthday, and we have wonderful weather this morning. Yesterday, it rained most of the day, and the dogs didn’t get their walk until the afternoon. I was going to take them for a walk this morning and actually got underway. But our plans were abruptly thwarted by other people’s pets.

It started with an unusually brave white cat, who was loitering on our path. I saw the cat first, as it was big as life clinging to the wall. The cat saw Arran and Noyzi, but didn’t seem to be afraid. Cats usually run when they see my dogs, but this one was pretty defiant. He or she pinned their ears, arched their back, and probably hissed. I couldn’t tell, because Noyzi had just noticed. Arran, super hound cat buster that he is, was a bit like Barney Fife this morning. He was the last to see the white feline, who was warily watching the boys.

And then, just as I thought we might make it down the hill, along comes our neighbor dog, Tommi, the friendly Labrador. He charged up to Arran and Noyzi, completely unattended, although he was at least wearing a collar. Hot on his heels was our neighbor’s mother, a slim lady I’ll call Oma. I’m guessing she’s in her 70s. She speaks English well and is very nice, but she’s probably not strong enough to be walking a rambunctious young Lab. And, in fact, she wasn’t walking him. She had treats with her, but no leash.

Naturally, the dogs went nuts. The cat did not go nuts. I kept waiting for it to run away, but it just kept staring down the dogs. Noyzi was facing the wrong way as I tried to lead him away from the tantalizing pussycat…

The funny thing is, I have been using two regular nylon leashes and a harness with Noyzi because he’s a rescue from Kosovo and still pretty afraid of a lot of things. I attach one leash to his collar and one to his harness, in case I drop one. I might then have a prayer of stopping Noyzi before he bolts for the Autobahn.

Noyzi’s walking manners have improved a lot; he’s become much less fearful and wants to run more. Last week, on two occasions, he tried the retractable tape leash I currently use with Arran and used to use with Zane. I waited a long time to try the retractable leash with Noyzi because he’s so much bigger and stronger than were either Arran or Zane, or both of them together.

We did have some success with the tape leash last week. Noyzi seemed to get the concept of running just a little bit ahead and not charging off so fast that he pulls me over. I was going to try the tape leash again today, but a little voice in my head told me to use the two leash system instead. It might have just been sheer laziness, since I already had the nylon leashes out and ready to use.

Well… that second leash was a God send this morning, because Tommi was completely out of control! First, he greeted my dogs with boisterous jumps, crotch sniffing, and tail wags, and Noyzi, of course returned the favor. Then he ran over to some guy working on his car. Oma grabbed for Tommi’s collar, but it somehow slipped off. She finally got it back on him and started trying to drag him away, yelling at him and spanking him all the while. Tommi was not at all fazed by the corporal punishment.

Meanwhile, that damned white cat was STILL defiantly sitting there, watching everything unfold, completely unbothered! A lady with a baby carriage was about to come down the hill, but thought better of it when she saw and heard all of the commotion. Arran was braying like a seal/donkey hybrid. Noyzi was yipping excitedly, dancing around like a whirling dervish. And Tommi, who has developed a full on Labrador bark, was telling off the cat and trying to give chase. He ran behind the bushes and Oma went after him, shouting in German, trying to grab his collar.

I suddenly realized I had that second leash, so I quickly unsnapped it and handed it to Oma, who thanked me profusely as she attached it to Tommi’s collar. The whole lot of us then turned toward home, because I had worked up a sweat and wanted the dogs to calm down a bit, and Oma wanted to get Tommi back to a place where he wasn’t running amok. I also obviously needed that second leash back! Arran helpfully took a big dump at the top of the hill, so he probably feels better. Oma was showing off Tommi to a group of school kids who had heard and witnessed some of the show.

Oma explained to me that her 18 year old granddaughter (whom Noyzi LOVES) has to study for exams. And the man and the lady of the house are on vacation. Oma’s son told her not to walk Tommi because he’s so strong, but she said there’s no one else who can do it. I don’t actually think she was trying to walk him this morning. I think he snuck out of the house.

Just like his Labrador predecessor, Levi, used to do, sometimes Tommi comes over to our house. We can see him through the glass. The dogs go nuts! It might do them all well to have a play session and wear each other out a little! Tommi is very sweet, but I think he might need a trainer. But I’m not about to suggest it, because I’m sure they don’t need me to tell them that… I did notice that Oma petted Arran, who was the calmest of the lot, which is really saying something, if you know him. On the other hand, Arran is old and rather petite, so it’s not too hard to keep him in line.

Anyway, I guess that incident was a sign from God to keep using the two leash system on Noyzi for a bit longer… if only so Oma can wrangle Tommi when he gets loose! And you’ll be proud to know that I managed to get some video footage of all of this, too.

And now that I’ve cooled off and calmed down, maybe we’ll try again.

Edited to add: We just had our walk. It was much less chaotic.

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Uncategorized

Parker goes to France, part three…

Sunday is kind of a rough day to be in some parts of Europe, especially in January. January and February are very much the “off season” in Alsace, so a lot of places are closed. I’m actually kind of glad to be in Alsace in the winter. Yes, a lot of shops and restaurants are closed, but there are no crowds whatsoever and you get a feel for the place as a local might. Bill and I visited Ribeauville for the first time over MLK (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend) weekend in January 2017. I remember how it was then… and then we came back in February of that year. We had meant to bring Parker with us that time, but she was unable to visit because of an unexpected injury. It was interesting to see that some of the places that were closed in January were open again in February, and places that were closed in February were open in January. Anyway, in 2020, it was no different than it was in 2017, although I did notice that a couple of businesses had either closed altogether or changed hands.

Sunday morning, we decided to go to Riquewihr, since it’s super close to Ribeauville and quite touristy. I knew we’d find a few things open and maybe score a nice lunch. As it turned out, we did have a nice meal at La Grappe D’Or, a restaurant I had been wanting to try on previous visits, but we never got around to it due to the dogs. I see from Trip Advisor that this establishment gets mixed reviews. We had a really nice meal there, and I got a kick of all the Michelin bric-a-brac decor.

Here are some photos from lunch…

The family who sat at the table next to us brought a cute little French bulldog in with them. She only got a little bit agitated when someone walked past with an active looking retriever. I really enjoyed La Grappe D’Or. We’ll have to go back there, if we make it back to Riquewihr. We probably will, but you never know what the future holds.

Here are some more photos from our walk around town. Riquewihr was still decked out for Christmas and I was imagining how pretty it is there during the holidays, even if the snow was absent this year.

After a couple of chilly hours walking around Riquewihr, which wasn’t totally dead, but was a lot less populated than usual, we headed back to the gite. We were all pretty tired, and the cloudy weather kind of made us want to hibernate with some wine. Luckily, that’s easy enough to do in Ribeauville, too. I remember the first time we visited Riquewihr, I was really surprised by how beautiful it is. Every time I go back, I am surprised anew. It really is a unique village that, unfortunately, way too many visitors to France miss. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to visit several times. It never gets old.

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San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio part 2…

The morning of July 4th, we ate breakfast on the Riverwalk.  A very brazen, persistent, and I daresay friendly duck joined us and begged like a dog for our scraps.  There were also sparrows and blackbirds begging, though they weren’t nearly as cute as this duck was.  I took many photos.

We only applied for one house, because the next day was July 4th and we weren’t going to be able to house hunt.  We spent the rest of the week just bumming around.  On the 4th, we went to the Tower of the Americas, a 750 foot tower that was built for the 1968 World’s Fair.  Bill and I visited this attraction the last time we were in San Antonio, but I didn’t get any pictures that time.  Also, they had a “4-D” show that we missed the last time.

It cost about $20 for us to see this attraction, including Bill’s military discount.  The nice thing about it was that the ticket is good for all day, though we knew we’d be going to mother-in-law’s house later.  My ears popped as we took the elevator up to the observatory area.  We walked around and I noticed that a lot of people had apparently leaned on the plexiglass by their foreheads.  There were lots of prints left there.

I got some nice photos…

We didn’t get our fortunes read by Zoltar…  I was kind of tempted, though.

After we took in the views, we saw the 4-D film, which was actually a “ride” of sorts.  You put on funny looking glasses and watch a film while your seat moves and you get sprayed with mist and see smoke.  It was kind of fun to watch the film.  There was a little kid in there with us who was having a ball.

Look closely and you can see Bill wearing goofy glasses.

On the way to the Riverwalk, I spied this very progressive bike rental station… Way to go, San Antonio!

We walked around the Riverwalk some more, along with many, many teenagers…

 I got this shot of Bill standing in front of San Antonio’s namesake…

Later, we went to mother-in-law’s house.  Bill grilled steaks and asparagus and baked potatoes.  We enjoyed chips, salsa, and guacamole, as well as margaritas.  I bonded with two of MIL’s black cats who would come out of hiding.  My mother-in-law is a lot of fun to hang out with.  I like her cats, too… although Bill is very allergic to cats.

Bill just talked to the property manager in Texas and was told another family applied for the house just after we did.  The owner has to decide which one of us gets the house.  I guess I wouldn’t be too heartbroken if we didn’t get the house, since it’s a lot bigger and more expensive than what we really need.  But if we do get it, that will mean the housing search will be over, at least.  I have a feeling the other people will get it if they don’t have pets.  The owners of the house are in Japan, which means they’re probably Air Force folks.

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