markets

Our neighborhood market is growing!

Bill came home a little bit early yesterday so we could visit our weekly market, which started at the beginning of September. We decided to go down there and see what we could find. I was impressed by how much was being offered. The first market only had four vendors, if I recall correctly. This time, there were at least twice as many trucks with different foods on offer– meat, fish, produce, apple most and wines, ice cream, and an awesome Middle Eastern Feinkost with lots of treats from Turkey, Lebanon, and Italy. Of course, there was also wine on offer.

We decided to leave the dogs at home. Arran is ailing, and Noyzi gets too nervous around people he doesn’t know well. That was a good decision, since there were a lot of people at the market last night, and some folks brought their much better trained dogs with them. Besides, it’s hard to enjoy drinking wine when you’re holding two leashes.

Below are some photos from yesterday’s trip to the Dorfplatz. The market in Breckenheim runs from 1-6pm every Thursday.

When we got home, Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see us. I videoed their welcome. Arran seems to be feeling okay, most of the time. Today, he’s going to the vet for a biopsy, while Noyzi gets a much needed dental.

The boys welcome us home after an hour at the market.

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customs, markets

Breckenheim’s very first village market…

Yesterday, something happened that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for awhile. Our little village had its very first neighborhood market on the Dorfplatz. It was also the first day of September, which means that, right on cue, the weather started to change in earnest. I’ve lived in Germany for ten years of my life and it never fails. As of September 1, it immediately gets cooler in Germany, even if it was broiling hot the week prior. Usually, by the 15th, I consistently need to wear a jacket, and have put away the air conditioners until summer comes around again. In fact, just a few minutes ago, I pulled the air conditioning hose inside and closed the window in my office for the first time in weeks. It’s really cooling down outside. I hope that means we’ll soon get some rain.

Some people might not think the neighborhood market is a big deal. I mentioned it on social media, and two of my American friends posted that their towns in the United States are doing the “same” thing. With all due respect to my American friends, I don’t think it is quite the same. Remember, I spent a good 35 of my 50 years in the USA, and have lived in several states, so I’m in a position to know something about life there. I would be very surprised if I went to a market in, say, my home state of Virginia, and found someone selling fresh harissa, locally produced sausages, or unpasteurized cheeses, which are usually pretty hard to find in the US.

I would also be surprised if they were pouring local wines. In the States, there’s a big emphasis on alcohol laws. Anyone appearing to be under 21 will be carded. This isn’t to say there are no booze laws here, but the drinking age is lower, while the driving age is higher… and fewer people drive here, anyway. And drinking seems to be more of a normal part of society, just as smoking is. In our case, the market was just down the hill from our house, and all of the people at the market are literally our neighbors.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful markets in the United States. I just don’t think they’re quite the same there as they are here. The market that happens in Wiesbaden is totally different than the market we had last night, which was very small and felt more like a wine stand with a few vendors selling their wares. However, I have a feeling that once the market catches on, it will be bigger, and there will be more things to buy than what was available last night. As it was, there was a flower vendor, someone selling vegetables, and a Turkish Feinkost represented. And the wine kiosk was open, so they were selling wine, beer, Schorles, and other non-alcoholic beverages. It looked like they had the usual Brats and Brotchens, too. I had Noyzi and Arran with me, so I didn’t get very close to the action.

Maybe it sounds petty, but it kind of annoys me when people back home assume they know how it is here… and claim it’s the “same” as it is in the United States. As an American who has lived many years in America, I know it isn’t, really. But then, a lot of things in the USA are not the same as they are in Germany. For instance, it’s pretty hard to find some of my favorite American style comfort foods over here. I am fortunate enough to shop at the military commissary, order from Amazon.com, and have stuff come through APO (government mail for US citizens). I regularly buy high quality grits from a farm in South Carolina, which are vastly superior to the Quaker quick or instant grits “crapola” in the commissary. I wouldn’t be able to find grits at all in a German store. Instead, I’d find polenta, which is not really the same. It’s only somewhat similar. Grits are also NOT semolina (Cream of Wheat). They are made of ground up hominy, which is corn.

The boys were amused by the sights and sounds of our little market.

It’s been my experience that Europeans tend to be more community minded than most people in the United States are, but of course there are always exceptions. And I’ve found that Breckenheim is a lot more of a friendly community than either of the towns we lived in near Stuttgart. Maybe it’s because of the wine. Stuttgart does have wineries, but the emphasis in the southern part of Germany is more on beer. Up here near the Rhein, it’s wine country. Maybe it’s because Hesse is not Swabia. Seriously… there is a different mindset in the Swabian region of Germany. It’s not that the people aren’t nice. They are. It’s just that it seems to take longer to make friends down there. The mood is a bit more insular, especially in smaller towns. There’s a different dialect that even native Germans sometimes have trouble understanding. And people, on the whole, seem to be more reserved and formal than they are in Hesse. In that sense, Germany IS like the United States, because as we all know, there are many different cultures within the regions of the US, too.

Anyway, below are some photos from last night. I didn’t get as close as I would have liked to, because we brought the dogs with us. Noyzi still gets pretty freaked out by strangers, although I can tell his instinct is to be very friendly. He’s still overcoming traumas from his youth, though, and that takes time and experience. I was proud of him last night, even if he was a little spooked by everything. Overall, he behaved very well. Arran, of course, couldn’t care less. He’s getting pretty old and is now unimpressed by a lot of things that used to set him off. Next weekend, Breckenheim will host its first wine fest. That should be fun, especially since it will be easy to haul home purchases from the Dorfplatz. Last night also heralded the opening of Breckenheim’s public toilet! I know that was exciting, too. The men of the village have been all over setting it up for weeks now.

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Farm Fresh Too…

A couple of months ago, when we tried and failed to adopt a dog, I joined a bunch of local Facebook groups. My purpose for joining was to spread the word about the dog we tried to adopt who escaped from his pet transport taxi driver and later got hit and killed by a car on the Autobahn. Well… now we’re waiting on another dog to join our family in a few months, but I’m still a member of the groups I joined when we were frantically trying to recover the one who got away.

As a fortunate consequence of joining the local Facebook groups, I’m starting to learn about stuff in the area that I never knew about. One place that came on my radar is the Birkenhof Hofheim, which is a farm that offers fresh produce as well as a 24/7 refrigerator where one can purchase fresh food. Germany is wonderful about making fresh food available at relatively affordable prices. Although there don’t seem to be quite as many farms up here near Frankfurt as there were near Stuttgart, they do exist if you look.

Our last home, in Jettingen in Baden-Württemberg, was near several farms. I wrote about our first experience shopping at the farms a few years ago. Up here in Breckenheim, we’re not as close to so many farms, since it’s a more industrialized area. Still, at this time of year– smack dab in the middle of “Spargel (asparagus) season”, there are plenty of stands selling strawberries, blueberries, and all sorts of other delicious produce.

Thanks to the pandemic, the Birkenhof Hofheim isn’t fully open until May 29th. Under normal circumstances, the farm offers fresh delights that can be served at a table. They also have fun activities for kids. When the farm opens up again, special rules will have to be followed– masks worn when using the toilet and everyone has to provide contact information in case someone gets sick and you have to be notified. After three or four weeks, they discard the information.

I was happy enough to get out for a little while today and get some photos… as well as some farm fresh treats for our table at home. They had everything from corn cobs and charcoal for your grill to milk, flour, and eggs. There was paper and a pen for tallying up the cost of your goods, all of which were clearly priced. They had bags for packing your stuff, and a money box for you to put your cash. The whole thing is secured by cameras, so don’t think of taking anything without paying. We bought about 21 euros worth of stuff.

This trip was also handy because it turns out the farm is very close to the Tierklinik Hofheim, which our former vet in Herrenberg (near Stuttgart) says is one of the best veterinary hospitals in Germany. When Zane was having his first issues with mast cell cancer, the vet down there was telling me about this clinic and how she could refer us there if need be. I remember looking it up and thinking it was so far away. Little did I know, we’d eventually be living about twenty minutes away. So now I kind of know where it is, in case I have to take Arran or our next dog there sometime.

It was nice to get out of the house… only the third time since March! I’m getting braver. We’ll definitely be back to the Birkenhof Hofheim for more fresh treats soon! I love visiting the farms and am glad to find one up here near Frankfurt, the only German city with lots of skyscrapers.

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The spring Regionalmarkt in Tübingen

Today’s activity comes courtesy of an ad from Vinum, my favorite wine and spirits store.  Vinum has locations in Tübingen and Reutlingen and I subscribe to their Facebook page.  If I had not been subscribed to their page, I probably would have missed today’s market.  That would have been a shame, because not only was it a great scene today, but Tübingen is always a pleasure in any case.  I love going there on sunny, warm Saturdays, people watching, eating, drinking, and doing the odd bit of shopping.

I was originally afraid we’d have rain today, but after a few sprinkles, the clouds cleared and we made our way to the big Koenig garage by the Klinik as you’re coming into the city from the west.  Every time we visit Tübingen, we also pass our old town (from 07-09) of Pfäffingen.  It never fails to bring back pleasant memories of our first tour in the Stuttgart area.

The very first banner about this twice yearly event featuring products from near the city of Tübingen…  

Flowers… just one of the beautiful products of nature available for sale today.

 

And fresh pasta!

 

Garden goodies!

After we parked, we walked into the city and noted the large crowd of people sampling wares in the main square.  Suddenly, it seemed like a good idea to have lunch.  We passed the Alte Kunst on the way up to the square, but then I remembered they had a large Biergarten behind the restaurant.  I walked through an archway and soon found myself in an oasis of quiet and calm.  We chose a table for two near an umbrella.  It was about 12:45 pm and I was surprised more people weren’t out there.  I didn’t have to wonder long.  Within the next half hour, we had plenty of company.

This empty scene lasted maybe ten minutes before the garden was full of smokers and little kids who needed naps.  Not that I’m knocking naps, you see.  I need them myself nowadays.

 

Bill checks the menu.

It’s asparagus season, so I had risotto with tiny shrimps, white asparagus, Parmesan cheese, and tomatoes.  This was paired with a glass of Pinot Grigio and San Pellegrino.

 

Bill went with asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and the same wine.  We had originally considered other dishes, but remembered this is the time of year to eat asparagus in Germany.

 

A family with two small children sat near us.  The children shrieked and cried while they waited for their lunch.  Their parents shushed them as the guy sitting behind me lit up a cigarette just in time for my lunch to arrive.   Once the kids had some lunch, they seemed a lot more contented and started playing with another little boy at another table.  I got a kick out of the other kid.  He was wearing a Fedora hat and looked adorable.  I also appreciated that his friendship calmed the other two kids down a little.  Lunch came to an even forty euros.  Bill paid and we made our way to Vinum, taking note of all of the stalls we needed to visit again on our way home.  We saw everything from fresh bread to fresh cheese, with plenty of other locally made wares like gin, wine, dips, spreads, and handcrafts.

 

 

Sausage…

 

Bread!

 

And Schwabian ketchup…

 

As usual, Vinum had Georgian wine.  We took the two bottles on display, then tasted several they had on special.  The guy who helped us spoke perfect English and looked like he could be a shorter version of our first German landlord’s brother.  I tried some local wine, which he made clear he didn’t like.  We discussed the finer points of how America’s Rieslings are too sweet.  Bill and I have become fans of the Alsatian and locally produced German Rieslings, but before we took the plunge on our second tour here, we avoided them like the plague.  It just goes to show that you should try the local stuff… except maybe the cheese made with raw milk.  Kidding, actually.  Bill loves it.

We walked out of Vinum with four bottles of wine and I suddenly realized I needed to pee again.  So we headed to the Neckarmueller, which also happens to be the location of my favorite Biergarten in this area.  We drank hefeweizens at a table and watched people on the river…  We still need to try punting before we leave.

It’s always time for beer.  Especially if you’re in a German Biergarten on a beautiful spring day.

Today was an excellent day to be on the river, drinking beer…

After our beer and rest stop, we walked around the city some more and did some shopping.  Bill bought some spreads from an African vendor.  We listened to some buskers and I discovered a Moroccan store I had never noticed before.

Or maybe I had seen this store before… but I never stopped in.

 

Spreads by HottPott…

 

We made our way to the main square, where we found a man selling locally produced gin.  We tried some and bought a bottle.  I am now enjoying my first gin and tonic of the season.

The guy who was selling this looked like he could have starred on Little House on the Prairie.  I thought he was very handsome.

Bill tried it first, then gave the rest to me because he was driving later.

 

Okay, maybe he had two sips.

 

Then we moved on to cheese made with raw milk.  Bill said it was very good.  To me, it just smells like a combination of dirty feet and ass.  Different strokes, I guess.  

Gin is all the rage.  You can even get it to go.

We stopped here for a little dessert for tonight.  We got a lemon tart and a chocolate cake.  Bill spoke German, but the lady behind the counter immediately switched to perfect English.  

I have a feeling this business is owned by Armenians.

You could even get escargot today!  It actually smelled wonderful.

We went into the Rathaus for the first time ever, because we were searching for these before the drive home.  There was an interesting exhibit in the lobby about energy.  

More sights from today’s regional market are below.  This was a one day event, but there will be another regional market on Saturday, October 6th.  If my post has piqued your curiosity, be sure to mark your calendar.  We had a really good time today, but we pretty much always enjoy visiting Tübingen.  It will always be one of our special places.

Piano playing on the street!

You probably have to be a certain age to get this…

I took this as we passed the “Schloss” near Unterjesingen, very close to where we used to live.

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German products, Germany, shopping

Farm fresh!

A lot of folks like to live close to the big city, where restaurants, shopping, and night life are plentiful.  Bill and I are big fans of country living.  We like wide open spaces, peace and quiet, and beautiful views.  Another benefit to living outside of the city is the availability of excellent local produce.  We have the good fortune of living near several farms, many of which sell fresh milk, eggs, and vegetables.  Today, we decided to stop by a couple of farms to see how self serve shopping at farms works.

I almost wish I liked carving jack o’ lanterns.

If you’ve spent any time in Germany, you have no doubt seen the self service fields where you can cut your own flowers or buy a pumpkin.  The self serve farms are no different.  Our first stop was at a farm where eggs, onions, and potatoes are consistently offered.  Right now, they’re also selling lots of pumpkins and other gourds!

Pumpkins!

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the pretty landscape.  Our house is within walking distance, though we brought the car.

 

I was surprised by how many people pulled up while we were checking out the goods.  This particular farm just had a little room with stuff on the shelves.  You’re on your honor to pay the self serve cash box (Kasse).

We bought eggs, an onion, and a big bag of potatoes.  The eggs, by the way, have not been subjected to the egg wash that American eggs get.  Therefore, there is no need to refrigerate them as we would in the USA.  They are shelf stable until mid November.

Grand total– five euros and forty cents.

Potatoes!  We’ll be set for awhile.

They always have eggs, potatoes, and onions, as well as other items when they are in season.  I noticed they had carrots, garlic, and a big leek on offer today. 

It helps to bring your own bag.

This farm also has a flower field where you can score sunflowers or other flowers. 

 

Next, we went to another farm where one can purchase fresh, ice cold, raw milk 24/7.  We had a glass bottle from another trip to the machine in town (where the milk is pasteurized).  Bill ran our bottle through the dishwasher so it would be nice and sterile.

Truth in advertising.  No need to ever go without milk because you can get it 24/7 here.  

But if we had needed to, we could have purchased a bottle at the farm.  A liter of raw milk costs a euro.  We will boil it before we drink it.

 

Bill buys raw milk and lentils from vending machines.  Edited to add: a German friend says we should take care to make sure the lentils are free of stones before we eat them.

This farm was also selling lots of pumpkins and squash. 

 

We decided to go into town to see what was being sold at the vending machine on the main drag.  This machine sells pasteurized milk, noodles, lentils, apple juice, and potatoes.

We decided to get some lentils.  On the way home, I spotted another vending machine that Bill had never noticed.  We didn’t check it out,because it looked like it might be low on products.

Our haul today.  We spent 11,40 euros.

 

We don’t do farm shopping nearly as often as we should.  I think now that we’ve done it today, we will do it a lot more often.  I feel good about supporting the local economy and I know we’re getting excellent products.  Better yet, now I know vending machines aren’t just for candy and soda anymore.

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