Health

Wiesbaden on business, followed by pleasure…

I have been needing a new contact lens prescription for ages. Now that I’ve reached 50 years of age, my eyes don’t work the way they used to. I need reading glasses, but I don’t wear them because I didn’t know what kind I needed. Besides, if I don’t wear my lenses, I can read just fine. But when I have them in, I have a very hard time reading small print. Likewise, Bill was in need of a new lens prescription, as it had been five years since our last exams. I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that one can buy contact lenses in Germany without an official or yearly updated prescription. If you know what you need, you can simply order from Amazon. So that’s what I’ve done… but it’s not been without its drawbacks, as I’ve gradually been self prescribing stronger lenses for myself.

The last time we saw an eyecare professional, Bill and I visited the Stuttgart health center on Patch Barracks, then filled our prescriptions at an optical shop in Nagold, a cute town near where we used to live in BW. Wiesbaden doesn’t have such a facility, and even if it did, using it would be on a space available basis for peons like us. So Bill decided to “bite the bullet”, and he made us appointments at Apollo Optik, an optometrist in downtown Wiesbaden. I should mention that Apollo is one of many eyecare outfits downtown. We passed two others on the way there today.

Bill made our appointments online, and we both got confirmations and reminders by email. Bill was in a hurry to get to the shop, but he needn’t have worried about being on time. Apollo wasn’t like the typical eye doctor’s office we’re used to, where there are places to sit. 😉 We arrived and waited for the painfully shy gentleman helping the people ahead of us to check in. He didn’t speak much English, and didn’t seem all that comfortable with German, either. He did not appear to be a local. My appointment was first, so I sat at a machine that did an automated exam that took about two minutes. But he neglected to tell me to remove my contacts first, so we had to do it again, once I’d taken them out. I was glad I brought my glasses and a fresh pair of lenses!

After a short delay, the technician came in and did my exam. He spoke English reasonably well, and was actually very thorough, as I explained that I need to upgrade from my regular astigmatism dailies to multifocal lenses. My prescription had changed a bit regardless, so it was good that we went in. He ordered new lenses for me to try, and when they come in, we’ll go pick them up and I’ll try them out. If they don’t work, he’ll order different ones. 😉 We are going away next week for a few days; then Bill has a business trip. We’re also dealing with Arran, who is newly diagnosed with lymphoma. But hopefully, we can get in and pick up the new lenses so I can at least see better.

Speaking of Arran… he’s a little slower than usual, especially in the morning, but he’s hanging in there. Yesterday, Noyzi got a dental, and Arran had more blood samples taken so that we might know what kind of lymphoma he’s got, and whether or not it will be worth it to treat him with chemotherapy. But again, he’s about 13 or 14 years old, so we’ll probably just make him comfortable until the sad day comes when we have to say goodbye.

Now, back to our day in Wiesbaden, which is a happier topic. Bill got his exam done. He just wanted new lenses for his glasses, as his frames from Nagold are made of titanium and he likes them. They were also expensive. The whole appointment took about 90 minutes, and when we were done, we both really had to pee and wanted some food. Our plan had been to eat at the City Fest, or the Fall Fest, both of which are going on right now. Unfortunately, for some reason, the toilets weren’t open, even though the fest was in full swing! So we decided to visit the Andechser Ratskeller, where we’d eaten once before, back in 2019. I’ve been wanting German food anyway, so it was perfect.

I had a Doppelbock beer, while Bill had a “special Hell” (hell is a German style of beer, not the fiery place down below). To eat, I had Schweinebraten with Rotkohl and a potato Knodel. Bill had a Wiener Schnitzel with fries. It was hearty fare served by a hardworking waiter, who was delighted when Bill tipped him American style. Our bill was 42,50 euros, and Bill gave him 50 and told him to keep the change. I could see the guy got a nice lift from that, since he was really busting his ass! I’m sure that might help him pay his energy bill this year. 😉 Or maybe pay for a few liters of gas… Ordinarily, we don’t tip like Americans when we’re in Germany, since people who work in restaurants actually get paid here. But I know firsthand how tough that job is, and we can afford to be generous sometimes.

After we ate, we made our way back toward the parking garage, stopping to explore the fall fest. I remember going to it in 2019, before COVID was a thing. It was great to see everything back in full swing again. People were having a lot of fun, and I saw some art I wanted to buy. Maybe we’ll go back tomorrow and get something, making sure to be armed with more cash. I heard several excellent musicians in the city fest, including an awesome brass band who were playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (yes, by Guns n’ Roses). I wanted to listen to them, since I love brass bands… but my bladder was screaming for relief. So maybe we’ll catch them another time. They were great! We also heard a British duo performing a lovely version of “Old Man” by Neil Young, and a beautiful classical guitar player, enchanting people on a soundstage.

We did need to get home, though… the boys needed to eat and pee, and they were happy to see us.

Here are some photos from today’s excursion!

I hadn’t wanted to go out today, but I’m glad I did. I was reminded of how lucky we are to live in Germany, especially at this time of year. Autumn is magical in Germany. It’s almost as amazing as Christmas is.

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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

More Breckenheimer Wine Fest photos…

We almost didn’t make it to the second day of the wine fest in Breckenheim, mainly because of the weather. Yesterday, it rained a fair bit, which we really needed. But it did sort of put a damper on our enthusiasm to join in with the festivities. Bill and I decided to go to the fest anyway, because I wanted to see if anyone was there. Sure enough, plenty of folks had shown up for wine, live music, and street food.

We were originally only going to have one glass of wine at the stand we missed on Friday night, but we ran into some people we knew, and I was enjoying watching people dance, sing, and drink. Lots of kids were there, too, having a good time. I got some photos and videos of the fest. Although there’s no rain on the forecast, I don’t think we will attend today, because frankly, my body is still recovering. We have a bad habit of not eating when we attend these fests, thinking we’ll eat at home. And then when we get back, we don’t feel like cooking. 😉

As you can see, I was sporting the drowned rat look, because we didn’t bother to bring umbrellas.

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay…
I videoed this for my friend, Andrew, who is a fellow Sting fan.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
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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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Uncategorized

Getting to know my German neighbors… after almost four years!

A couple of weeks ago, our next door neighbor, Uli, told Bill she was going to have a barbecue, and we were invited. At the time she made her invitation, we were thinking we might be going to see our dentist in Stuttgart. But we couldn’t arrange boarding for Arran and Noyzi, so we postponed our dental appointments until later this month. That freed us up to attend last night’s festivities.

I’ll be honest. I was a bit apprehensive about this event. You see, I’m not that great in groups. The older I get, the worse I seem to be. I tend to say more than I should. But Bill is a very friendly, jovial guy, and he wants to be neighborly. Plus, he just brewed some beer, and mentioned it, which automatically excited our hostess. Of course, the beer Bill makes, while very good, is not German style beer. He makes British style ale, mainly because the yeast required for lagers is more fragile than ale style yeast is. But, over the past twelve years or so, he’s gotten better at his craft. Maybe he’ll delve into making lagers eventually. I would like that.

I did tell Bill to go to the commissary and pick up some Bubba Burgers and American style burger buns for Uli. I know she likes them, and I have a feeling the people before us used to pick them up for her on occasion. Bill gave her the burgers and buns and she seemed quite delighted. Personally, I’m more of a fan of handmade burgers with German buns. But if Bubba Burgers help facilitate neighbor relations, I’m all for giving them out sometimes. Uli seemed surprised when we told her we don’t shop at the commissary very often. We prefer German markets.

We had a nice gathering of about twenty people, with plenty of food and libations. There were sausages, salads, a couple of burgers that Bill contributed and I was too full to eat, and breads. There was lots of wine and beer, including a few bottles of Bill’s brews. At the end of the evening, a lovely Italian man who lives across the street brought out a round of espresso and an Italian digestive. He gave Bill some homemade limoncello, too, and said he would teach him how to make it.

Noyzi and Arran complained loudly at first, but then we brought them outside to see what was going on. Arran was over it quickly. Noyzi was feeling friendly, but he still gets freaked out by people he doesn’t know. So after they came out for a few minutes, we brought them back inside. Our neighbor’s lab, Tommi, spent most of the evening being a host. He is adorable.

Our host’s English speaking mother, Margot, was also there. She lives in the house that borders ours on the other side. I have often seen her walking Tommi, but she told us she had to stop, because he’s too strong for her. Last summer, Tommi got away from her while I was walking our dogs. I happened to have an extra leash, because Noyzi was still pretty skittish. Tommi didn’t have a leash, so I was able to give Uli’s mom the extra one so she could capture her pooch. I even wrote about it, because last year, pandemic restrictions made travel blogging more challenging.

Margot said, “Your dogs make so much noise when you go out.”

Without missing a beat, I said, “Luckily, I almost never go out.”

Bill later mentioned that he thought that was a sign of progress. When we first came to Germany and people would remark about my dogs, I would get nervous and offended. I was still a little put off, but then I said, quite reasonably, that they are seldom alone. Moreover, I know they don’t bark the whole time we’re gone, because they’re never still barking when we get home. I don’t think they would necessarily know to shut up when we were driving up to the house. We do keep our outings short, though, precisely for that reason.

Later, Margot said she wanted to talk to me, simply because she says people ignore the elderly. I told her that I would love to talk to her, because I enjoy having conversations with older people. They always have interesting stories to share. She brightened quite a bit, and told us about what it was like in Breckenheim in 1945, when the US Army came in. She said the Germans all had to give up their homes for the soldiers, and her brother wasn’t allowed to live with her and her mom. They somehow got to stay in their house.

Now… consider that 1945 was World War II… and who was in charge at that time. Yes, I would love to talk to her about that era! I think it would be fascinating. And she said she wants to practice her English, which is already good. But she reminded us that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Then she chastised me for not speaking very much German. LOL… But if people want to speak English to me, how can I speak German? I do understand a lot more than I did in 2007, when we moved here the first time… and 2014, when we moved here the second time. However, I am more successful singing in German, than speaking it. 😉 That’s not saying much… although I really can sing quite well. It’s just that I can memorize the lyrics and learn to pronounce them without necessarily knowing what all the words mean, even though we did have to translate the foreign songs when I was studying voice. Margot also told us that she only drinks Grauburgunder wines. She doesn’t even like Rieslings. And beer is out!

Toward the end of the night, I think I kind of horrified Uli, when I told her that we had to sue our ex landlady. Although lawsuits in Germany are pretty common– in fact, I think Germans are more litigious than Americans are– they don’t seem to want to talk about them. Uli is a landlady, too, so this was probably something that made her blood run cold. She probably thinks I’m a little crazy, and I bet she tells our current landlord. But if he says anything about it, we’ll just tell him that he’s nothing at all like the ex landlady. He’s courteous, reasonable, and respectful, and he’s done things legally. Uli was probably just shocked that we knew about legal insurance (and liability insurance and pet liability insurance– all things that Americans really should buy in Germany)… but she shouldn’t be, because we’ve lived here a long time, we’re older, and she knows how much our house rents for. Of course we’d be smart to have legal insurance. We had to pay two month’s rent as a deposit. It was a lot of money.

The topic of suing came up, though, because the neighbor was showing off their kid’s school Tute, for the first day of school. Uli kept talking about how much she hated “suing”. I realized that she meant “sewing”. I was very confused at first! Then I confided that I don’t like sewing, either, even though my mom is a master at needlecrafts. I don’t have the patience or dexterity for it. Another lady talked about how her daughter spent the school year in Michigan, and got to attend the prom and football games. I said, that must have been very interesting for her, given how different American schools are. German schools don’t usually have school sponsored sports teams or big, fancy dances… or, at least that’s what I’ve heard. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, we enjoyed hanging out last night, and meeting some of our neighbors. Uli’s new tenants are moving into their place in October. I especially enjoyed the wife, who hails from Böblingen, in Baden-Württemberg. She said that she taught math, and met her husband in Karlsruhe, while they were at the university. She likes Hesse better. She flat out said it, without any prompting. Why? Because people are much friendlier up here. It’s funny, because she’s not the first German, even from Baden-Württemberg, who has mentioned that Swabia is a very “special” part of Germany. But I actually like Baden-Württemberg very much, in spite of the different culture. It was the first part of Germany I really got to know, and it is legitimately a very beautiful place– even if Stuttgart is kind of a homely city. I look forward to going back down there at the end of the month.

Again… I’m not very good in groups. I speak my mind too much, and am not one for small talk. Some people love that about me. Other people hate it, and think I’m an obnoxious freak. And that’s why I have dogs. At least Tommi likes us… the featured photo is of him, knocking on our door. He doesn’t do it often, but when he does, it’s super cute. He also jumped up on Bill and gave him a big smooch, which seemed to horrify Uli. Yes, our dogs bark, but so does hers. And we keep ours on leashes, although we did talk about maybe letting Noyzi and Tommi play sometime. I think they’d love it. If we didn’t turn her off too much, maybe they’ll finally have the opportunity.

Uli says in a few months, we’ll have to share some Gluwein. That is, if the temperatures get low enough to enjoy it. We did get some rain today, which is a great thing. I’m not sure if we’ll venture out today. We were both kind of tired after last night’s festivities. Also… I don’t want my dogs to disturb the peace.

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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.