Germany

Our Heidelberger Birthday Holiday! Part six

Yesterday morning, we enjoyed another “lie in”, then packed up everything for the relatively brief trip home to Wiesbaden. I’m glad we went to Heidelberg. It’s not far from where we live, but it has a different feel. It was nice to leave Hesse, even if we were just over the line. I could have used another day, to be honest.

I didn’t take pictures of yesterday’s breakfast, which was much like the one before it, although we had it inside instead of out in the courtyard. I mentioned that it was my birthday and was hugely surprised by a special gift from the kitchen…

This was a delight! I truly wasn’t expecting it.

After breakfast, we brought our own bags down to the reception desk. They greeted me with a “Happy Birthday!”, having noticed it on the paperwork. All told, our extravagant weekend ran us about $2000 or so– including two nights in the junior suite, a couple of trips to the bar, breakfast, parking, one dinner, and a couple of bottles of wine. Yes, it was very expensive, but we felt it was well worth it after such a difficult and strange year. For us, personally, it wasn’t as difficult as it’s been for a lot of people… but it was definitely weird. I’m hoping for better and less odd days in the near future, as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19. We choose to enjoy life while we still can… and splurge when we can. Bill’s latest TDY per diem will be paying for this trip.

Since we couldn’t pick up the dogs until 6:00pm, we decided to go home a different way and spend a couple of hours in Speyer, a town in Rheinland-Pfalz I had heard a lot about but never had a chance to visit. On the way there, my German friend shared this adorable happy birthday video with me.

Bwahaahahahaaha!

After we parked the car, we started walking toward the picturesque city, when I spotted this…

We decided to just stroll through the town and take some photos, since we were really full from breakfast. Founded by the Romans, Speyer is one of Germany’s oldest cities. It’s the kind of place where it’s just cool to be there. It has a unique look and a different vibe. After our brief look, we’ll definitely have to go back for another visit and perhaps an overnight or two. Parking was cheap and easy in a huge lot near the downtown area.

After an emotional visit to the Dom, we strolled through the park, where there was a small fest going on. I kind of wanted to hang out for awhile, but Bill only paid for two hours of parking. Bummer… we will have to go back. This cute little festival was a nice reminder of what was, and what hopefully be again. Gotta keep the faith.

The dog was enjoying watching the kids on the ride!

We got home in the afternoon, just enough time for me to start the laundry and this travel series. We picked up Arran and Noyzi at the Tierpension Birkenhof 6:00pm. I could hear Arran all the way out to the car. He has a very distinctive bay! I’m happy to report that the boys did fine… When the caregiver opened the gate, Arran came right out to us.

Noyzi needed to be redirected. I’m glad to see he enjoyed his accommodations at the Tierpension Birkenhof!

Noyzi got confused and went back to his “room”. It actually took some convincing to get him to come out to us. Both dogs said goodbye and were relaxed and happy as we loaded them into the Volvo. I felt good about that. I didn’t expect Noyzi would have any trouble and he didn’t disappoint. I think the lady who watched them fell in love with Noyzi, which doesn’t surprise me, either. He’s a very sweet, gentle, easy to handle dog.

Arran says hello before he had his accident in our backyard.

My birthday would have ended up on a great high note, if not for Arran’s exuberance when we got home. Once we let him off the leash, he took off running outside. At some point, he must have careened under the bushes at a high rate of speed. He and Bill were having a reunification bonding session when I noticed blood on Arran’s shoulder. I took a closer look at the fresh wound and realized that he’d torn a big gash open, with a flap hanging down. It wasn’t bleeding a lot, but it was kind of deep.

So poor Bill had to take Arran to the Tierklinik Hofheim for debridement and stitches. Sadly, a lot of people were having pet emergencies last night, so although Bill got there at 9:30pm, he didn’t get home until 4:30am, about 825 euros poorer. The vet clucked sympathetically over the cost, which was pretty high… but in the United States, it would have cost a hell of a lot more than 825 euros to get emergency stitches for our dog in the wee hours of the morning. So while we wish the accident hadn’t happened, we’re grateful the clinic was available and Arran’s situation wasn’t worse. Bill said he counted three people who lost their pets last night. 🙁

Arran seems no worse for wear today, except for the stitches. They loaded him up with antibiotics and painkillers, and I suspect the forced rest will cramp all of our styles a bit. He jumped up on the bed at 4:30am, gave me a kiss, and went right to sleep. He’s been napping all day today. We’ll be taking the hedge trimmers to that bush in the backyard. This is the second time Arran has cut himself on it.

Well, that about does it for my birthday celebration for 2021. If you’ve been following along, thanks so much for reading. We really had a great time. I guess if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that travel is a wonderful privilege that shouldn’t be wasted or taken for granted. And every once in awhile, it’s a good thing to splurge. I suspect our next splurge will be when we book our long awaited dentist appointments in Stuttgart. That will probably be next on the agenda… and after that, maybe a real vacation! Dare to dream!

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Austria, fests, Germany

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part four

Chasing a waterfall in Mittenwald, gazing at the Eibsee, and views from Germany’s highest mountain!

Saturday was a full day for us. It was definitely fuller than what I’ve been used to lately. We walked several miles in warm weather and the pedometer on my iPhone was giving me bursts of celebratory praise in the form of virtual fireworks. Still, even with all of the walking we did on Saturday, we missed the majestic waterfall at Leutaschklamm, which is most easily accessed from Mittenwald, Germany. So, on Sunday morning, we decided to visit the German side of the gorge.

We were a little bit confused about this part of the walk. When we read up on visiting the gorge, people mentioned a three euro fee to “see the waterfall”. I was under the impression that it was on the gorge trail itself. It’s not. If you go to the German side of the gorge with your car, you have to park at a lot in the town, walk down a pleasant country road alongside the rushing brook, and then you will encounter the German entrance to the gorge trail. However, you won’t find the waterfall on that trail, which looked pretty steep and obviously leads to the panorama bridge. I shared pictures of the bridge in part three of this series– one post previously.

Instead, you have to go to the nearby snack bar– which you can’t miss– pay three euros, go through a turnstile, don a mask, and then walk through a misty crevice on a wooden planked trail. Your three euros also gets you access to the toilet, which is pretty handy. I didn’t take a picture of it, but the sign on the men’s room reads that that toilet is for men only. The ladies room is for both men and women. I guess the men’s room only has a urinal. Unlike the gorge trail, the waterfall path is narrow and it’s impossible to “socially distance”, hence the mask requirement. If you don’t have one, you can buy one at the snack bar.

I took video of our walk to the waterfall. At the end of the video, there are a few clips from Saturday’s walk on the Austrian side. Here it is!

It was worth the three euros!

I also got a lot of nice pictures of this excursion. The walk took about twenty minutes or so, and only because we stopped to enjoy the waterfall and the cool mist it created. I would say this experience was easily one of the highlights of our trip! I’m so glad we didn’t miss it.

It was late morning by the time we were finished seeing the waterfall. Once again, I was glad we arrived early. Parking spots were filling up fast, and just as they were on Saturday, people were lurking for a place to park. We noticed that the lot on the Austrian side was completely full when we passed it on the way to Mittenwald. And as Bill was trying to vacate our spot, two dumbass guys parked their car directly behind us temporarily so they could get a Parkschein (parking ticket). They were completely oblivious to the fact that they were blocking us, too. But even once they noticed Bill’s annoyed face, they still didn’t move, and they almost caused an accident. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only dumbasses we ran into on this trip. But, in fairness, I’m sure some drivers thought Bill was a dumbass, too.

After the thrill of the waterfall, we decided to visit Eibsee, which is a huge, beautiful lake at the base of the Zugspitze. First, we’d have lunch in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which we hadn’t visited since 2009. It was a bit of a ghost town, probably due to COVID-19. I noticed a favorite Konditorei that we visited a few times back in the day was closed. I was sad to see it. Last time we were there, we parked next to a car that had been keyed… looked like maybe the owner’s ex girlfriend was a bit of a psycho. S/he had scrawled “Fucking bastard” on the side of the car, or something like that. I remember feeling sorry for the guy, having to drive around with that on his car. He might have been a bastard, but it was still not a great look. Plus, the thought of the sound the key must have made on the metal set my teeth on edge. That was at least twelve years ago and I could see that the Konditorei, which had served such delightful pastries, coffee drinks, and beer was closed up tightly. What a pity. Edited to add: my German friend says the person who ran the Konditorei when we visited had a bad reputation. Maybe he was the owner of the “Fucking bastard” car. He disappeared sometime in 2009 (same year we left) and a much better tenant took over. She closed the business last fall.

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant called Pizzeria Renzo, although I would have loved to have stopped in at El Greco, which was a favorite Greek spot we used to visit back in the day. We thought El Greco had closed, but as we passed it on the way back to the car, it was obviously open. I guess they took down their outside menu because of COVID-19. A lot of restaurants are offering abbreviated menus right now, since a lot of them are printing them on single sheets of disposable paper instead of handing out thick books of pre-COVID days.

After lunch, we made our way to the Eibsee in Grainau. We knew it would be crowded. I wasn’t expecting it to be the way it was. I thought the lake would be like a lot of the other lakes I’ve seen in Germany… kind of low key. Well– the Eibsee, which is right next to the huge tourist attraction of the Zugspitze and either the Seilbahn (cable car) or cog wheel train to the summit– is not an easygoing place. Lots of people were taking advantage of the lake– swimming, sailing, paddle boating, hiking, and picnicking. I had really just wanted to get a few photos, so that’s what we focused on… then, kind of on the fly, we decided to take the cable car to the top of the Zugspitze, where we enjoyed a beer and got even more photos.

These pictures of the Eibsee are kind of misleading. I managed to get some that don’t show a lot of people. The place was very crowded, and we would have been hard pressed to find a spot if we’d wanted to go swimming or boating. I didn’t have a bathing suit with me, anyway. I was glad to get the pictures, though, and now that I’ve seen the Eibsee, I don’t have to visit again. Since we were already there, we decided to see the Zugspitze, too. Bill was last up there in the 1980s, when there was no Seilbahn. The cog wheel train still runs and you have a choice as to which method you want to use to get to the top of the mountain. Since face masks were required for either method, we chose the Seilbahn, which is super efficient and only takes ten minutes. The basic cost for either method of getting to the top of the Zugspitze was 59 euros per person, although they had other tickets for families or those who wanted to visit other attractions.

We could have spent a lot more time exploring here if we’d wanted to… They have lots of exhibits as well as other activities that we didn’t try. It’s obviously a popular attraction for children, too. But it was a very full day for us, so we were ready to go back to the hotel. Getting out of the parking lot was obnoxious– we encountered a trifecta of dumbasses. As Bill was backing out of his space, an oblivious young fellow with water toys almost collided with the hood. Then, another dumbass with his buddies and perhaps a girlfriend, decided to aggressively angle for Bill’s spot. He came very close to hitting our 2020 Volvo. I sure as hell am not looking for another legal issue this year, although it would not have been our fault if he’d hit us. Bill just sat there and stared the kid down until he let us leave.

Finally, the last dumbass of the day was an old guy on a moped. He suddenly got a wild hair up his ass and cut Bill off as he carelessly pulled into traffic without even looking for oncoming cars. It was a very near miss. The guy could have met his maker if Bill weren’t such a good driver.

On the way back into Leutasch, I spotted a little fest going on. We stopped and listened to some Austrian folk music, bought a small piece of art and some locally produced gin, and checked out a camel who was brought in for camel rides. They also had pony rides.

A short video with the folk music. I wasn’t trying to capture people on film, so it’s not a great video. But the music is delightful!

And finally, our last dinner at the fabulous Hotel Kristall to cap off this gargantuan post about our Sunday. I really enjoyed Austria and it was far too long since our last visit. We need to come back again and explore more of this underrated country with its warm hospitality and breathtaking views!

I would say that Sunday, August 9th, was the best day I’d had in a long time. It was worth the cost of the entire trip. But there were more thrills to come in Italy. More on that in the next post!

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fests, restaurant reviews

A weekend at home and in the city…

Saturday morning, we got up later than usual. The weather is changing inexorably to autumn, which means random rain showers and cooler temperatures. I’m mostly happy to see the weather change. It kind of matches my mood these days.

Saturday, we stayed home, listened to music, and drank wine. Bill finally broke out the electric pasta maker I got him last year. He made homemade bread and fresh Fettuccini Alfredo. Here are the photos… I have created a cooking monster.

We drank lots of wine all day and enjoyed each other’s company. I think we’ll have to make fresh pasta more often, especially as the weather gets colder.

Yesterday, the weather was kind of crummy, but Bill wanted to venture into Wiesbaden to catch the last day of the annual city fest. It was very well attended despite the weather. I’m sure it helped that it was also a Sunday shopping day in Wiesbaden. I got lots of pictures. My favorite attraction, of course, was the Shetland ponies. They had quite a few people selling crafts, lots of food, wine, beer, and agricultural exhibits. There was also a car show going on in the Market Square.

To be honest, for several reasons, I’ve been feeling a bit down on Germany lately… but one thing I do like about living over here is that there’s always something to celebrate. The Germans will have a festival for anything. And the ones up here in Wiesbaden are kind of different from the ones near Stuttgart. They tend to be less focused on beer and more on wine.

I was hungry, but not in the mood for fest food or the crowds. We wandered around looking for someplace to eat and finally ended up at Casa del Sabor, an Argentinian steakhouse. We ate there a few months ago and I really enjoyed the rib eye steak I ordered. This time, I decided to try a cheeseburger. This was an act of bravery on my part, since burgers can be iffy over here…

The cheeseburger had tomatoes, onions, cucumbers (not pickles), lettuce, ketchup, and mayo on it. I don’t usually put mayo on burgers, but I think Germans often do. I had to cut it in half and struggled to finish it, mainly because I went to town on the bread. I was really hungry when we came in and both of the spreads, but particularly the garlic, were delicious. I like Casa del Sabor. We’ll have to go back and try some of their other stuff, if only so I can have more of that garlic spread.

I was feeling kind of tired and listless and the weather was getting worse, so we decided to go home. I relaxed for awhile, then joined Bill for more music and wine. I went on a buying binge on Saturday and got a few albums by classic bands from my youth… the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, and Chicago. Sometimes I miss being young, but I am grateful I grew up at a time when there was so much fantastic music.

So begins another week here in Deutschland… Columbus Day weekend is coming up. I usually plan trips for the long weekends, but I am not feeling very inspired to this year.

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restaurant reviews

Damned good burgers at Fletcher’s Better Burger in Frankfurt…

We had absolutely perfect weather today. It was so perfect that we were seriously considering going to an apple festival in Mainz. We decided to go to Frankfurt instead, since Bill discovered a new burger restaurant we had to try. A friend at a conference he just attended at Ramstein Air Base told him about Fletcher’s Better Burger, a chain in Frankfurt that was started by an American. At this writing, there are four locations, all of which are in Frankfurt. I have a feeling this restaurant will take off and there will soon be more places to enjoy one of Fletcher Davis’s juicy burgers.

We tried the location at Katherinenpforte, which is right next to Frankfurt’s big main square and just around the corner from Five Guys. There’s a huge parking garage located right next to the square. It was a bit of a mad house getting in and out of it, and we had to park on the top floor because so many people did a shitty job parking. However, Fletcher’s burger was so good, I didn’t mind it so much. Here are some photos from today’s visit.

It’s a pretty low key affair. They just have burgers (beef and veggie– made with peas), fries, soft drinks, and beer. The meat is fresh daily, and they make their own buns. Burgers come with tomatoes, onions, ketchup, mayo, honey mustard, lettuce, and pickles. You can also get jalapenos, fried onions, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, mustard, and grilled mushrooms free of charge. Irish cheddar cheese and bacon is extra.

Unlike Five Guys, Fletcher’s Better Burger only gives you one patty with a standard burger. Of course, if you want more meat, you can add it for 1,60 euros or 1,90 euros for an extra patty with cheese. You can also order your burger wrapped in lettuce if you’re watching your carbs.

I have to say, we were really impressed with our burgers. They were juicy, fresh, flavorful, and a good size. I also liked the cross cut fries, which were robust with potato flavor and cooked to perfection. I definitely think Fletcher’s Better Burger could give Five Guys some competition. I noticed they weren’t nearly as busy, either.

The only thing I didn’t like about our experience was the music. They were playing godawful dance versions of classic 80s songs, including “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman and a cover of “With or Without You”, which was originally a U2 song. I found the music very annoying. But we could have eaten outside, as they did have plenty of tables available. Also, the bathrooms, which are at the bottom of a flight of stairs (bad news for wheelchair users), could have used some attention today. We would still go back, though. It’s nice to see the humble hamburger getting better treatment in Germany.

After we ate, we walked around a small fest that was going on. We didn’t stay long because there were a lot of people crowded into a small space. But I did take some pictures.