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A most unusual wine stand in Breckenheim!

Bill came home yesterday morning, after having spent most of the work week in our old stomping grounds, Stuttgart. We were all glad to see him, especially Arran, who looked pretty pissed off when Bill dropped off his bag and headed to work. I wish I’d had the camera with me to take a picture of Arran sitting there, staring up at Bill with his big eyes, as if to say “And just where do you think YOU’RE going?”

It wasn’t so bad, though, because he came back home early, and then we decided to go to the wine stand in our village. It was being held in the parking lot between the Rathaus and the little elementary school that I’ve heard is going to be torn down in the next year or so. A new school is being built on the other end of town. I don’t look forward to that, since it will bring noise, construction, and more traffic to our already congested street. But as I am just an American, and not even an ordinary resident, at that, my opinion is pretty irrelevant.

I’ve mentioned before that our Dorfplatz, which is where the stands are usually held, is unusable right now, because a toilet facility is being erected. It seems strange to put a public toilet in the Dorfplatz, especially since the Rathaus is just up the hill, and there are toilets there. We live so close to the Dorfplatz that when we have to pee, we just go home. Nevertheless, the powers that be decided that a new toilet facility is necessary. So that means the wine stands had to be moved. The good thing is, they’ve been moved even closer to our house! It’s even easier to stumble home!

We don’t always attend the wine stands, mainly because they get crowded, and it’s just as easy to drink our own wine in our backyard. I wanted to go last night, though, because I could hear the lovely dulcet sounds of a pop choir called Die Weinseeligen. I’m wondering if the people who performed last night were the ones who were supposed to perform a couple of weeks ago. The wine stand was canceled then, because several of the members had COVID. They sounded healthy last night, as the tennis club hosted the biweekly fundraiser, which also offers a great opportunity for the community to come together and mingle. The wine stands weren’t allowed during the height of the COVID mess, so it’s been great having them again.

We saw one of the American ladies we met at the last wine stand. She said her partner was quarantining, because she had gone back to the USA to drill for the National Guard, and came back just in time to catch the virus. Apparently, she’s now recovered from the sickness, but still faintly tests positive. My guess is that she’s simply more introverted than her partner is, and would rather hang out at home. I can understand that. Not everyone wants to hang out in a big crowd. I feel that way myself a lot of the time.

I did take a few videos and photos, which I’m sharing below. Bill and I had a great time breaking my alcohol fast. The weather was wonderful; the wine was good; and although we didn’t partake of the food, it looked like they had some good offerings. I saw a guy walking by with smoked salmon sandwiches, which is a departure from the usual pretzels, brats, and broetchen that are usually offered at these events! The video isn’t the best, because it was crowded, and I was drinking. But it does offer an idea of how the choir sounded, and the atmosphere of the event. We love the wine stands, which we never had in either of the towns we lived in near Stuttgart. Down there, we had more Biergartens, and they weren’t standing events, like they are up here in Wiesbaden.

It took a minor miracle to upload this video… and it may not even be worth viewing. But we did have fun, as you can tell.

I have written a couple of well received blog posts about the differences between life in Stuttgart versus life in Wiesbaden. I think this is one thing I like about Wiesbaden. Folks seem friendlier and more social here, and it’s easier to get to know people. Or, at least that’s how it seems. That’s not to say that there aren’t friendly people in Stuttgart. There are. It’s just a different culture. There’s actually a lot I really miss about Stuttgart… but I am glad we had the opportunity to move to Hesse, because it gives us a whole different experience of living in Germany, and that’s a beautiful thing.

When our bladders had enough wine, we went home and hung out in the backyard, where we could still hear the choir a little bit. The temperature was perfect, and it was just so nice to have Bill home again. I even gave my German friend from the Stuttgart a thrill by posting in German on Facebook, without any help from Google Translate! Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

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Wiesbaden vs. Stuttgart updated…

Last week, while Bill and I were in Alsace, I got a message from a reader thanking me for a post I wrote at about this time last year. He’s considering jobs open in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden and was having trouble deciding on which town to apply more of his efforts. When I wrote the piece he referenced, I had only been in Wiesbaden for a a couple of months. Since we’ve now been here for about 14 months, I figure it’s time for an update of things I’ve noticed after having lived in both areas. Here’s the top ten list I did last year, with more information.

10.  Wiesbaden is more “built up”.

I don’t know why, but I was under the impression that life was more bucolic up here in Wiesbaden.  Maybe it’s the name of the city, which translates to Meadow Bath.  To me, Wiesbaden is more crowded than the Stuttgart area is.  There are many narrow streets here– even more than down in Stuttgart– and they are crowded with cars.  I was thinking we’d be able to find a rural area in which to live, but just about everywhere we looked was very built up and crowded.  That may be because there are several good sized cities here as opposed to just one.  We have Frankfurt, Mainz, and Wiesbaden, all of which have at least 500,000 inhabitants.

Updated answer– I still think this area is a bit more “built up”, but that may be because both times we lived in the Stuttgart area, we lived pretty far away from the city. During both of our Stuttgart stints, we were at least 25 miles out, which resulted in lengthy commutes and many hours sitting in Staus. However, it was mostly worth it, since Bill and I both like country living. The reality is, you will encounter narrow streets and built up areas in Stuttgart, too. It’s just that the Black Forest is closer, which means you may find more opportunities to live in rural locales.

9.  People are more laid back in Wiesbaden.

Despite the area being more “crowded”, I have noticed people don’t seem as cranky in the Wiesbaden area.  Or maybe I’m just becoming German…  I remember being taken aback when we moved to Stuttgart the first time.  People seemed grouchy and “in your face”.  It seemed slightly less like that during our second stint there, probably because I was more accustomed to German bluntness.  Here in Wiesbaden, I wouldn’t say people are necessarily friendlier, but they seem less uptight for some reason.  Maybe I should spend more time in traffic.

Updated answer– I still think people in Wiesbaden are more laid back. It may be because this area is so close to Mainz and Frankfurt, which are very international cities– Frankfurt especially. We have wine stands in our neighborhood during the warmer months and Bill and I have found that people here are more interested in getting to know us, even if our German sucks. We have met Germans who have lived in America, and our next door neighbor, who speaks English, has lived in Spain. They seem to understand what it’s like to be an expat. This isn’t to say you won’t find nice people in Stuttgart. You certainly will. I did– in fact, I still have several German friends in Stuttgart. It’s just that, at least in my experience, it seems to take a little longer to break the ice down there. Call it a cultural difference.

8.  Traffic isn’t as bad up here.

I don’t know why, either.  It’s not that there isn’t a lot of traffic.  There is.  But for some reason, we don’t experience the legendary Staus we did in the Stuttgart area.

Updated answer– I still think this is true. We do have traffic jams in the Wiesbaden area, but they aren’t nearly as often or as onerous as the ones in Stuttgart are. However, depending on where you live in the Wiesbaden area, you may or may not be able to access the S-Bahn as easily as you can in Stuttgart. Where we live, there is no train stop, but there are several bus stops. When we lived in the Stuttgart area, we had closer access to both trains and busses, although our first town near Stuttgart had an actual train stop, while the second town only had a bus stop, but the train was only ten minutes’ drive. On the other hand, since we live so close to Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, and Mainz, we don’t really need the train so much. It takes maybe fifteen minutes to get to Wiesbaden, and about twenty minutes to get to Mainz or Frankfurt, give or take a few minutes. By contrast, getting to Stuttgart could take up to an hour from where lived, more if there were traffic jams.

7.  Wiesbaden is not as pretty as Stuttgart is…

Actually, I should rephrase that.  The city of Wiesbaden is very beautiful and posh.  Stuttgart is kind of industrial and homely.  In that sense, I’d say Wiesbaden is prettier than Stuttgart is.  However, the areas around Stuttgart are absolutely lovely, while Wiesbaden’s surroundings seem to have less beauty, natural or otherwise.  I really miss the beautiful views from our old house, as well as the charming towns that weren’t decimated during World War II.  Forgive me, but I’m not as well-versed in history as I should be.  Nevertheless, there’s not as much quaint charm in the Wiesbaden area.  It takes more effort to see the half-timbered houses one sees in BW.

Updated answer– I still pretty much think that the areas around Stuttgart are prettier than the areas around Wiesbaden are. It may just be a personal preference, though. I liked looking at the Schoenbuch Ridge in the Stuttgart area, and it seems like there are a lot more forests for walking in and contemplating life. I especially enjoyed living at the edge of the Black Forest. We spent a lot of day trips in the Black Forest, feeling like we were getting a one day vacation. I also saw a lot more hot air balloons in the Stuttgart area. However, Wiesbaden and its environs are pretty in a different way.

I have come to appreciate our neighborhood with its friendly residents, wine stands, and plane spotting opportunities. We love being so close to the Rhein, which can also turn one day trips into mini vacations. And there are places to go if I need a walk in the woods, although it’s not as close to me as it was in the Stuttgart area. A big bonus is that I have yet to encounter the air smelling of shit the way I did regularly in the Stuttgart area during the spring and summer. If you haven’t experienced it yet, and you’re moving down there, you will probably soon know what I mean. I also haven’t seen as many fields of rapeseed up here, which is a blessing, since I am allergic to rapeseed.

6.  Wiesbaden is more international than Stuttgart is. 

I come from Virginia and sometimes, when I compare Wiesbaden to Stuttgart, I think of what it would be like to move from, say, Richmond, to northern Virginia.  Stuttgart feels very much like the state capital it is, while Wiesbaden, being so close to Frankfurt, feels more like the national capital it isn’t.  A lot of different kinds of people come through Wiesbaden because it’s close to Frankfurt.  Consequently, it feels somewhat more cosmopolitan, although I’ve read that if you really want to party, you need to go to Frankfurt or Mainz.  Wiesbaden apparently has a reputation for being “stuffy” and “snooty”, thanks to all the money up here.

Updated answer– Yes, this was a correct assumption on my part. There are all kinds of people living up here from all over the place. The bonus is that there are a lot more culinary delights here. We’ve found several restaurants that serve exotic cuisines like Georgian food, Afghan food, and even southern U.S. food. There are also a couple of American chain outlets up here that you won’t find in Stuttgart. Hell, if we wanted to, we could go to Hooters or Chipotle Mexican Grill (not that I want to). Both have locations in Frankfurt.

5.  There’s more money in Wiesbaden.

Swabians are reputed to be tight with their money.  Nevertheless, I thought Stuttgart was an expensive area to live in.  That was before I went looking for a house in Wiesbaden.  We pay almost twice as much (including Nebenkosten) for our current home than we did for our house in Unterjettingen.  However, our new house is also much nicer than our last one was.  Our landlord lives next door, but never bothers us… and when something needs to be fixed, he doesn’t freak out.

Updated answer– I still think this is true. I have noticed that housing is more expensive in this area, although I’ve also noticed that it tends to be more up-to-date. Also, the attitude regarding money seems to be different. I can count on one hand the number of times our landlord has rung the doorbell, even though he lives next door. He gives us free firewood, and has outright told us that he wants us to be happy in our home. He let a previous tenant put up a privacy fence and didn’t care that we installed a robotic lawnmower.

Yes, it’s his house because he owns it, but he doesn’t act like we should be grateful to be living in his house. He’s grateful that we rented his house. It seems to be a different mindset, which I really appreciate. I also noticed that same attitude when we were looking at other homes up here. Prospective landlords were quick to tell us that the house we rented would be our home, not a house that someone deigns to let us rent. Maybe it has to do with there being more money here or people being less frugal.

4.  There’s more farming in Stuttgart.

One thing I miss about our old area is that we lived near several farms where we could buy produce on our honor.  I won’t say this doesn’t exist in Wiesbaden, but it’s harder to find it.  I’m not sure we’ll find a 24 Milch Tankstelle up here, either.  On the other hand, up in the Wiesbaden area, there are wine stands.  They should be cranking out Federweisser soon.

Updated answer– It’s true that there aren’t as many farms as where we lived when we were in the Stuttgart area, but then, like I said, we didn’t actually live that close to Stuttgart. We have found some local farmer’s markets and farms near where we live, though I’m still searching for the Milch Tankstelles and vending machines that sell lentils and pork products, which are more plentiful in BW. An added benefit, again, is that I have yet to smell the essence of manure in the spring air, either.

3.  The food is kind of different and there seems to be less emphasis on beer.

In the Stuttgart area, the emphasis was on heavy, hearty German fare in the Gasthauses and there were many different breweries, all putting out beers that pretty much tasted the same.  Up here in Wiesbaden, the emphasis is more on wine.  I thought Stuttgart was wine country, and it kinda is, but it’s even more wine country near the Rhein.  I suppose if I want a good Volksfest, I’m going to have to pack my dirndl and pay Stuttgart a visit.

Updated answer– Yes… this is definitely wine country. If you want beer, it’s probably going to be from Bavaria as opposed to a local brewery. However, as many German beers are excellent but taste the same regardless, this isn’t a huge issue. Since we moved to Wiesbaden, we’ve discovered local delights such as green sauce, spundekaese (and handkaese), roasted goose (which for some reason seems to be more popular here), and apple wine. We have also run into the hearty stuff one finds in BW and Bavaria too, like schnitzels and sausages. As I mentioned before, you can find a lot of culinary options in the Wiesbaden area.

2.  Wiesbaden is growing on me…

It’s nice to have a change in scenery.  I’m looking forward to spring, when the weather will be better and we can take some day trips on the weekends.  The weather up here, by the way, seems to be less cold and snowy.  When I read about snow in Stuttgart, I look out our window forlornly and see nothing but rain.  But maybe it will be somewhat milder all the way around.  Like, in the summer, I won’t bake.  One can hope.

Updated answer– We still have yet to have a decent snow up here, whereas down in the Stuttgart area, we always got at least one good snow a winter. It could be that winter is just generally milder this year and was also last year. As for the summer, it was also pretty hot up here last year, although the house we’re in has Rolladens on every window. That made the house cooler. Also, I have two portable air conditioners and doors with windows. I lower the Rolladens all the way to the top of the air conditioning hoses and rest the top of the Rolladens on top of the hose, eliminating the need for hot air stoppers. If you don’t know what a hot air stopper is, you’ll probably soon find out. Basically, they’re fabric pieces with a zipper in them that can be attached by velcro to windows and allow for exhaust hoses to extend outside of the window, while keeping a seal to prevent hot air from coming in through the window. I had to use them in our Stuttgart area house, but don’t need them in this house.

As for fun day trips, yes they are certainly possible. We have several appealing Rhein towns we can get to, like St. Goar, Bacharach and Eltville, as well as other charming towns like Idstein, Eppstein, and Rudesheim. And if the pull of BW gets to be too great, we can be there in about an hour. Heidelberg is also not far. I do still miss the Black Forest, though.

1.  But I kind of miss Stuttgart a little, too…

If the weather has to be cold and yucky, I like it to snow.  We have yet to have our first decent snow up here.  I know the town where I used to live has gotten some white stuff.  I miss having a nice area to walk my dogs, too.  We were literally next to the Black Forest down in the Stuttgart area.  Here, they get walked by a grocery store near the Autobahn.  On the other hand, we do have a fenced in backyard, which is great.  Still, I was thinking wistfully about how beautiful the rural areas near Stuttgart are.  I do miss them.

Updated answer– We lost one of our dogs a few months ago. He had cancer. Prior to his passing, I found a new walking route that was better than where we were walking the dogs a year ago. One time, I was picking up some crap and a German man approached me. I expected him to yell at me, but instead, he had a look of amazement on his face. He thanked me for cleaning up after my dogs. That might have happened in Stuttgart, too, although it often seemed more like I’d be yelled at down there than up here.

So… while I do still miss some things about living in Stuttgart, I think, overall, I like Wiesbaden more at this point. I could also comment on the way the garrisons are run, but that might be risky, especially since it would be mainly from the perspective of a spouse. Suffice to say that my husband has a much shorter commute, there seems to be a lot less chaos in terms of the work he’s doing, and I think contractors get treated better. For instance, if you’re a contractor, you can get help from the housing office in finding a place to live. In Stuttgart, you have to go it alone. We didn’t need housing either time we moved here, but Wiesbaden was helpful when Bill approached them about a general housing issue we had. In Stuttgart, they would have told him to pound sand. Wiesbaden is a lot closer to Ramstein, Kaiserslautern, and Sembach than Stuttgart is, which can be handy if you have special “American” needs, like medical care.

There’s also a whole lot less social media drama in the Wiesbaden area. Stuttgart has a lot of Facebook groups that most everyone winds up joining. The groups are useful for spreading information and making friends, but the by product is that people can get kind of rude and shitty to each other. By contrast, there’s a lot less of that in Wiesbaden… or maybe I’ve just been wise enough to steer clear. I don’t know very many people in Wiesbaden, but met quite a lot of folks in Stuttgart… some of whom I regretted meeting, and some of whom probably regretted meeting me.

Weirdly enough, I actually miss Stuttgart’s airport, which was smaller and a lot easier to use than Frankfurt’s huge airport is. However, it’s a lot easier to fly directly to more places from Frankfurt, so there is that trade off. And I miss our very friendly and easily booked vets in Herrenberg, although the vet we currently use is a bit more modern and we’re close to a really excellent emergency veterinary facility. So again– many trade offs. I’m just grateful we’ve had the chance to live in both areas and experience the best and worst both places have to offer. Really, I don’t think you can go wrong in either place, especially since individual preferences and circumstances will certainly color each person’s perspectives. We don’t know how much longer we’ll be here, but we intend to enjoy as much as we can for as long as possible.

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Life in Wiesbaden vs. Life near Stuttgart… ten things I’ve noticed

Bill and I didn’t go out yesterday.  The weather was horrible.  It was dark, cold, and rainy, and a lot of stuff is closed on Sundays in Germany, anyway.  If we’d put our minds to it, maybe we could have found something to do, but I wasn’t in the mood to go out.  Instead, we stayed in, watched a lot of TV, and drank cocktails.

I do still have a work ethic, though, despite having long ago given up the working woman’s lifestyle.  I felt kind of guilty for neglecting the travel blog yesterday, since there are a handful of people who follow it and look for new posts.  I usually update on the weekends if I haven’t gone out of town.  Saturday, I was successful, but yesterday I was not.  So… today, I decided I’d write about the differences I’ve noticed between living in Wiesbaden and living near Stuttgart.

Bear in mind, I’ve only been in Wiesbaden for two months.  And our lives have been affected by the weather, the holidays, and the fact that we’re just now getting used to the area and finding stuff.  As it is every time we move, I’m having to get used to a new rhythm.  Yes, Wiesbaden is still Germany, and some German stuff is universal to the experience.  But just as it would be in the United States, there are some differences.  So with that idea, here are ten differences in life in Wiesbaden versus life near Stuttgart.

Stuttgart…

Wiesbaden…

10.  Wiesbaden is more “built up”.

I don’t know why, but I was under the impression that life was more bucolic up here in Wiesbaden.  Maybe it’s the name of the city, which translates to Meadow Bath.  To me, Wiesbaden is more crowded than the Stuttgart area is.  There are many narrow streets here– even more than down in Stuttgart– and they are crowded with cars.  I was thinking we’d be able to find a rural area in which to live, but just about everywhere we looked was very built up and crowded.  That may be because there are several good sized cities here as opposed to just one.  We have Frankfurt, Mainz, and Wiesbaden, all of which have at least 500,000 inhabitants.

9.  People are more laid back in Wiesbaden.

Despite the area being more “crowded”, I have noticed people don’t seem as cranky in the Wiesbaden area.  Or maybe I’m just becoming German…  I remember being taken aback when we moved to Stuttgart the first time.  People seemed grouchy and “in your face”.  It seemed slightly less like that during our second stint there, probably because I was more accustomed to German bluntness.  Here in Wiesbaden, I wouldn’t say people are necessarily friendlier, but they seem less uptight for some reason.  Maybe I should spend more time in traffic.

8.  Traffic isn’t as bad up here.

I don’t know why, either.  It’s not that there isn’t a lot of traffic.  There is.  But for some reason, we don’t experience the legendary Staus we did in the Stuttgart area.

7.  Wiesbaden is not as pretty as Stuttgart is…

Actually, I should rephrase that.  The city of Wiesbaden is very beautiful and posh.  Stuttgart is kind of industrial and homely.  In that sense, I’d say Wiesbaden is prettier than Stuttgart is.  However, the areas around Stuttgart are absolutely lovely, while Wiesbaden’s surroundings seem to have less beauty, natural or otherwise.  I really miss the beautiful views from our old house, as well as the charming towns that weren’t decimated during World War II.  Forgive me, but I’m not as well-versed in history as I should be.  Nevertheless, there’s not as much quaint charm in the Wiesbaden area.  It takes more effort to see the half-timbered houses one sees in BW.

6.  Wiesbaden is more international than Stuttgart is. 

I come from Virginia and sometimes, when I compare Wiesbaden to Stuttgart, I think of what it would be like to move from, say, Richmond, to northern Virginia.  Stuttgart feels very much like the state capital it is, while Wiesbaden, being so close to Frankfurt, feels more like the national capital it isn’t.  A lot of different kinds of people come through Wiesbaden because it’s close to Frankfurt.  Consequently, it feels somewhat more cosmopolitan, although I’ve read that if you really want to party, you need to go to Frankfurt or Mainz.  Wiesbaden apparently has a reputation for being “stuffy” and “snooty”, thanks to all the money up here.

5.  There’s more money in Wiesbaden.

Swabians are reputed to be tight with their money.  Nevertheless, I thought Stuttgart was an expensive area to live in.  That was before I went looking for a house in Wiesbaden.  We pay almost twice as much (including Nebenkosten) for our current home than we did for our house in Unterjettingen.  However, our new house is also much nicer than our last one was.  Our landlord lives next door, but never bothers us… and when something needs to be fixed, he doesn’t freak out.

4.  There’s more farming in Stuttgart.

One thing I miss about our old area is that we lived near several farms where we could buy produce on our honor.  I won’t say this doesn’t exist in Wiesbaden, but it’s harder to find it.  I’m not sure we’ll find a 24 Milch Tankstelle up here, either.  On the other hand, up in the Wiesbaden area, there are wine stands.  They should be cranking out Federweisser soon.

3.  The food is kind of different and there seems to be less emphasis on beer.

In the Stuttgart area, the emphasis was on heavy, hearty German fare in the Gasthauses and there were many different breweries, all putting out beers that pretty much tasted the same.  Up here in Wiesbaden, the emphasis is more on wine.  I thought Stuttgart was wine country, and it kinda is, but it’s even more wine country near the Rhein.  I suppose if I want a good Volksfest, I’m going to have to pack my dirndl and pay Stuttgart a visit.

2.  Wiesbaden is growing on me…

It’s nice to have a change in scenery.  I’m looking forward to spring, when the weather will be better and we can take some day trips on the weekends.  The weather up here, by the way, seems to be less cold and snowy.  When I read about snow in Stuttgart, I look out our window forlornly and see nothing but rain.  But maybe it will be somewhat milder all the way around.  Like, in the summer, I won’t bake.  One can hope.

1.  But I kind of miss Stuttgart a little, too…

If the weather has to be cold and yucky, I like it to snow.  We have yet to have our first decent snow up here.  I know the town where I used to live has gotten some white stuff.  I miss having a nice area to walk my dogs, too.  We were literally next to the Black Forest down in the Stuttgart area.  Here, they get walked by a grocery store near the Autobahn.  On the other hand, we do have a fenced in backyard, which is great.  Still, I was thinking wistfully about how beautiful the rural areas near Stuttgart are.  I do miss them.

I may have to revise this post after we’ve been here a bit longer.  I’m making a list of places to see on the weekends, once the weather is nice.  I look forward to day trips to the Rhein, at the very least, and new castles.  I miss the mountains, though.  Maybe I’d feel differently if we’d lived in Wiesbaden first.

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