Nagold’s Fall Fest and another lunch at Osteria da Gino’s!

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Today was one of those days when I am really very thankful to live in Europe, and Germany in particular.  Most days are like that for me, but some days I’m even more grateful than others.  Today was one of those days.  It was just glorious.  I’m writing this post, not just for myself and for those who already live here, but also for those who are planning to move to the Stuttgart area or even somewhere in Europe.  I hope it will excite a few readers, especially those who have never lived in Europe.

It started with an enchanting sunrise…  One thing I will miss about where we live.  I hope our next house has such a view.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the Mix-Markt chain, which is a European grocery store that specializes in goods from countries in the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union.  We visited the one in Böblingen, mainly because I figured that location was most convenient for a lot of my local readers.  Today, we tried to visit the one in Nagold, but unfortunately, the parking lot behind the store was absolutely jammed, as was our usual parking lot that is close to the store.  We ended up parking on the other side of town, which would have made hauling a large booty of groceries an exercise in difficulty.  So, instead of visiting the Mix-Markt and picking up some more eastern European wines, we decided to check out Nagold’s Fall Fest which is happening today and tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a shopping day in Nagold, so not only will this fest be going on with lots of food and music, there will also be shopping.

Lots of pretty fashions were on sale.

Damn.  I knew I forgot something.  Should have gotten some quarkinis for tomorrow!  They smelled heavenly!

Alsatian pizza anyone?

Fun for kids.  I would have liked this when I was a youngster.  Looks like it’s akin to bungie jumping.

Before we went shopping, we stopped by another one of our favorite local restaurants, Osteria da Gino, and had a sumptuous lunch.  Gino was there today, just as jovial and hilarious as always.  He shook Bill’s hand and delivered his trademark warm and friendly service.

We started with a lovely Primitivo, chosen by Gino’s second banana… who also happens to speak English.  That’s handy, because Gino isn’t an English speaker, but he still manages to be very entertaining.

 

We split this absolutely heavenly Vitello Tonnato– veal with tuna-caper sauce.  I usually try to stay away from veal, but I made a rare exception today.  This is truly delicious.  It sounds like it wouldn’t be, but it is…  

A pause before the pasta arrived.

We both had homemade pasta and tomato sauce with meatballs and Parmesan cheese.  I saved half of mine for later, because I wanted dessert…

Yet another piece of Gino’s wonderful tiramisu, which we shared.

 

I know I gush a lot about the restaurants in Nagold, but they truly are delightful.  I’m going to miss this town for all it offers.  I hope we find a similarly lovely town near Wiesbaden.  Total for lunch, which lasted about two hours, was just under 90 euros.

After we ate, we visited the bustling market.  I took some photos.  As you can see, the produce was well loved by other shoppers.

Chestnuts are a big hit.  There are several trees near where I live and I often see people picking up the ones that are on the ground.

I was attracted to this beautiful display of heirloom tomatoes.  I love all the colors.

Bill laughs as I swoon to the musical stylings of an accordion player…

He was really helping the mood.

At this point, I noticed a woman selling chocolate.  She spoke Spanish, German, and English.  It turned out she’s from Ecuador and lives in Calw and she operates her own chocolatier that uses less sugar.  We ended up talking to her for a few minutes and bought some of her truffles and chocolate shavings.  I found myself getting a little sad, realizing that we’re going to be leaving this town and the area around it.  It’s really been a pleasure to live out here in BFE.

After we bought the chocolate, I spotted a “Nette Toilette” sign.  I have written about this program before.  It basically allows people to use the restrooms in public facilities, free of charge.  Gino’s is a designated Nette Toilette, as is the municipal building I found on the way back to the car.  If you spot a red sign that says “Nette Toilette”, it means the business is getting money from the city to allow people to use its restrooms.  That’s pretty handy to know.  It definitely came in handy today.

Next, we stopped at a stand where a man was very animatedly telling a couple about his olive oil.  He was also selling wine, so we stopped in…  I ended up tasting two wines.  He gave me a piece of very strong cheese to try with the wine, which I passed to Bill, who is much more of a cheese person than I am.  I told the guy that Bill eats cheese and I drink.  All of the English speakers cracked up.  Then the guy gave me ham and sausage to try with the wine.  I don’t think I’ll need dinner tonight.

German gin.  We didn’t buy any… but I was tempted.

 

A moose passed while the guy was telling us about his 1000 year old olive tree in Italy.  It just occurs to me that the women who are passing look a little pissed…  Wonder if they were giving me the stink eye.

Bill makes a decision about the oil while I look on…

The overall mood of this fest was very “festive” and convivial.  Everyone was enjoying themselves… lots of people were eating, drinking, being friendly, and loving their community.  I will really miss Nagold.  I have come to love it.

  
If you’re looking for something to do tomorrow, I recommend visiting Nagold and checking out this festival.  Gino’s will not be open tomorrow because Sunday is his Ruhetag, but there will still be food, shopping, live music, and kids’ activities.  As for Bill and me, I think we we finally visit the Cannstatter Fest so I can get some use out of my dirndl and he can try out his new kilt.  Hopefully, no one will throw up.  Just kidding.  I intend to do more observing than drinking.

Eight of my favorite German destinations so far…

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President’s Day weekend is coming up, which means a lot of Americans living in Germany will be looking for cool places to visit.  This year, Bill and I will be going to the Czech Republic for the long weekend.  Last year, we went to France and had an absolute ball!  We do love going out of the country when we have the chance.

But what if you don’t want to leave Germany?  What if you face a situation like Bill did a couple of years ago?  He had to renew his passport, so leaving Germany wasn’t a good idea, since he had to send his documents to Berlin.  What do you do when you can’t leave the country, but still need to get out of the Stuttgart area?  Well… that is what today’s blog post is all about.  Here are a few of my favorite German destinations, at least so far.

Before I get started with my list, bear in mind that I am by no means claiming to be an expert on Germany.  There are still some areas I haven’t yet visited.  Moreover, even if I were an expert, I don’t think anyone wants to read an exhaustive list.  I need to save subjects for future posts, too.  So… this is just a short list and hopefully some folks will find it useful for planning purposes.  I’m not ranking them in any particular order.  These are just places we liked and would love to visit again (and have in a couple of instances).

Bacharach, Rhineland-Palatinate

Believe it or not, that castle is now a youth hostel.

Like cute towns?  Interested in medieval history?  Enjoy the Rhine?  Want to get out of Stuttgart, but not spend days on the road?  Consider a trip to Bacharach.  Bacharach has the distinction of being the very first German town I ever visited in my lifetime.  It was my first stop on a monthlong train trip I took in August and September 1997, when I was on my way back to the States from Armenia, where I lived for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I remember landing in Frankfurt, figuring out the train, and landing in this beautifully preserved town.  The first thing I did after checking into lodging was go out and buy a new pair of shoes.

Bill and I had a chance to visit Bacharach again in 2014.  It was the last place we visited on our last space A “hop”.  I’d been talking it up for years.  It lived up to the hype, too.  We ended up having a very special experience with Germans there… and that was also when I told Bill that I had a very strong feeling we’d be moving back to Deutschland.  I just had this strong premonition that he’d wind up getting a job in Germany.  Sure enough, six weeks later, we were packing our bags to move back to Stuttgart.  Needless to say, Bacharach remains one of my favorite German towns.  You can enjoy the Rhine by boat and visit all the cute towns in the vicinity.  I’m kind of Jonesing for another trip there myself.

Regensburg, Bavaria

Regensburg is the second German city I ever visited in my lifetime, again on that 1997 trip.  I happened to get off the train there simply because I felt like it.  I knew nothing about the town and how beautiful it is.  I only spent one night in Regensburg in 1997, but Bill and I visited again for President’s Day weekend in 2015 and I got to see even more of this lovely town in Bavaria.

It’s only a short trip away by train before you can visit Dom St. Peter in Regensburg.

 

Regensburg is also a well-preserved medieval city.  In fact, I remember when I first saw it over twenty years ago, I thought of it as “stereotypical Germany”.  I half expected to see dirndl clad ladies and lederhosen clad men dancing around in the main square.  Indeed, I did see people in Trachten there.  It is Bavaria, after all.  If you visit and you like sausages, be sure to visit the historic Wurstkuchl, which is perhaps the oldest continuously running public restaurant in the world.  An added benefit is the beautiful view you’ll have of the Danube River.

Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate
 

Bill and I visited Trier in May 2012, when we took our very first space A “hop”.  Bill had told me about Trier, a city that has several well-preserved Roman structures, like the Porta Nigra gate.  Trier is very close to the Luxembourg border, so if you visit there, you can easily take a quick trip to Luxembourg, or perhaps to France or Belgium, which are also close.  Trier on its own is also a very nice city to visit, especially if you love churches.  I still have wonderful memories of touring Trier’s own Liebfrauenkirche.

Porta Nigra in Trier.

Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Bavaria 
 

Bill and I only just visited Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber last month.  We’d been wanting to go there for years.  Now that we’ve been, I can see us going back.  It’s a comparatively short drive from Stuttgart to get to this fabulously preserved medieval city in the Franken part of Bavaria.  You can truly lose yourself in the charm of this cool little town, surrounded by walls and buildings that date back hundreds of years.  Yes, it’s a bit touristy, but if you go in the winter, it’s likely you’ll get more of a hometown feel for the place.  Prices will probably be lower, too.

Just one part of the wall that surrounds beautiful Rothenburg.  Yes, I’d say this town is a must see for any Americans posted in Germany.  Be sure to stop by the Criminal Museum, too.  You’ll learn a lot.

 

Passau, Bavaria
 

I promise I have seen areas other than Bavaria and the Rhine.  I just really like Passau, which I think gets overlooked a lot.  I visited Passau in 1997 and then again in 2008, for my 36th birthday.  Passau is a beautiful city in and of itself.  It’s also very conveniently located near the Austrian and Czech borders.  Passau is also a great place to visit if you love music, since St. Stephan’s Cathedral has the distinction of having the second largest pipe organ in the world.  You can take in a concert and enjoy a cruise on the confluence of three rivers: the Inn, the Ilz, and the Danube.  Then, you can take day trips to nearby Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic or Linz, Austria.  When we visited, it happened to be just in time for Cesky Krumlov’s excellent Five Petalled Rose Festival.  Everyone was dressed in medieval garb.  I thought I had stumbled into a theme park!

Pipe organ in gorgeous St. Stephan’s Cathedral.  It sounds as amazing as it looks.

Dresden, Saxony
 

Bill and I visited beautiful Dresden in November 2008.  We were there in honor of our sixth wedding anniversary, which included stops in Bolaslaweic, Poland, and Prague.  Our first few nights were spent in this gorgeous city that used to be part of East Germany and remains absolutely stunning.  You can take a cruise on the Elbe, walk to the top of the Frauenkirche and get a view of the city, or enjoy some really wonderful cuisine.  Dresden is especially nice at Christmas time, when it’s time for the Christmas markets.

A night shot of the lovingly restored Frauenkirche, which was reassembled after it was bombed by U.S. forces.  We also visited nearby Zwinger Palace.

Hamburg
 

You’d prefer a big city?  I highly recommend a visit to Hamburg.  Bill and I went there in January 2015 and enjoyed a leisurely long weekend in this northern German city that boasts more bridges and canals than Amsterdam.  Hamburg is rich in culture with plenty of theaters and museums, as well as lots of street art to see.  And if you are in the mood for debauchery, you can head to the Reeperbahn district of St. Pauli, where things get plenty gritty.  If you’re up for an early morning, you can visit the fish market and maybe even catch live music (which was what we did).  Or you can go shopping; Hamburg boasts some great places to drop some euros.  It’s definitely a different vibe from down here in the south and you can get there in about an hour if you fly.

Some cool looking graffiti in Hamburg…

No women or men under age 18 in the Red Light district…

I think I like Hamburg even more than Munich, which is also a fun but expensive and very touristy place to visit.  I also like it more than Berlin.

Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg

And finally, there’s lovely Heidelberg, which is just up the autobahn from us here in the Stuttgart area.  Bill and I went there in October 2008, when it was still home to many U.S. servicemembers.  We had several friends who were there with the Army, so we went up to visit them.  Sadly, Heidelberg’s U.S. installations closed in 2013 and were handed back over to the German government in 2015.  It was great to visit there to see what used to be a major Army hub when the Army was still there.  However, Heidelberg itself is a gracious city and boasts nearby Schwetzingen, which has a peaceful palace and park.  I remember how absolutely gorgeous the area was in the fall and I want to go back… maybe now because it’s no longer crowded with as many Americans.

Heidelberg is a quick and easy drive from Stuttgart, as long as there aren’t any staus.  And there’s plenty to see and do there.  Heidelberg Castle alone is well worth the visit.  Afterwards, visit Vetter’s for some hometown brews.

Schwetzingen Palace in Schwetzingen, just next door to Heidelberg.

Beautiful Heidelberg.

I’m sure I’ll be making a sequel for this post because I can think of plenty of other German towns I’ve been to and loved… and some I’ve just noticed and want to visit and write about.  For now, I hope readers have enjoyed this list…  and it gives some folks some food for thought for trips.  Each of these destinations are great for a long weekend and in combination with visiting other cities.