Bringing your dog to Germany? Here are a few vital tips for when you arrive…

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Since COVID-19 is ramping up again, the weather is icky, and we’re not really seeing the sights right now due to those factors and our new pooch, I thought today I’d offer a few handy tips for people who are planning to bring their dog(s) to Germany. This post isn’t about travel tips. I haven’t brought any dogs overseas to Germany since 2014, and the rules have changed since then. Even now, I look at our new family member, Noizy, and realize how huge he is. If we have to take him in an airplane, I’m pretty sure the process will be different than it was with the other four dogs we’ve flown with (three of whom are now at the Rainbow Bridge).

This post is more about encouraging Americans to do things they might not think is necessary. I’ve now spent a total of eight years living in Germany. I was here in Stuttgart from 07-09 and 14-18, and now in Wiesbaden from 18 until now. Having been in two different military communities, I’ve seen a lot of people expressing reluctance at doing things the German way. I’m here to tell you that if you’re one of those people who doesn’t think it’s necessary to get pet liability insurance or register your dog with TASSO, you may be making a big mistake.

The very first piece of advice I would offer any American moving to Germany with a dog is to get pet liability insurance. While you’re doing that, also get personal liability insurance. If your dog damages something or gets into trouble, the insurance is a great thing to have. I would highly recommend using a local broker to get the insurance, which is not very expensive at all. For two dogs, we pay about 80 euros a year. And that covers us if something awful happens, like one of the dogs runs away and causes a car accident, or the dog damages the house in some way. We got our insurance through a German broker who was hanging out in the local Facebook groups. Chances are, you can get it that way, too. Or ask around for a recommendation.

Personal liability insurance is good to have for when YOU have an accident of some sort. We have used ours. Most Germans have personal liability insurance, which also isn’t that expensive and can save you a lot of headaches, unless, of course, you’re dealing with someone who is greedy, entitled, and dishonest, which sadly, can also happen. But that’s a rant for another post. It’s good to have the insurance, though, because the insurance company will fight on your behalf if a person wants more money after an accident or mishap. Also, many Germans won’t expect you to have it.

The second piece of advice I would offer is registering your pet with TASSO.net. This organization is committed to helping you find your pet if he or she gets lost– kind of like an Amber Alert for pets. You send them photos and information about your pet(s), as well as their microchip number(s). They will send you tags to put on your pet’s collar and, should one get away from you, they’ll make flyers that can be posted and shared on social media. When our failed adoptee, Jonny, escaped his pet taxi last spring, TASSO sent us a helpful flyer with contact information. At that time, Jonny was still registered with the rescue he came from and when he was sadly found dead the day after he escaped, authorities were able to contact the rescue to let them know. Both of our dogs are now registered with TASSO, in case something should happen.

Jonny was also covered by the rescue’s pet liability insurance, because we hadn’t yet completed his adoption when he met his demise. If we had taken him in and not transferred his coverage to ours, we would have likely been on the hook for paying for the accident he caused when a driver hit him. Always make sure you have that coverage BEFORE an accident happens, especially if you’re adopting a dog while over here. Our new dog, Noizy, was on our pet insurance before we picked him up two weeks ago. That’s the way it should always be. Don’t forget to get the insurance in the excitement of adopting a new dog, especially since dogs who are new to your family might be more likely to panic and run away from home and you will be less likely to know what could trigger them to behave in unexpected ways.

Many people also look into getting pet health insurance. We haven’t done that ourselves, mainly because our original dogs, Zane and Arran, were too old for it. Veterinary care in Germany is very reasonably priced, especially compared to the United States. Some vets will even take the VAT form, which if you’re American, makes you exempt from paying German taxes on some goods and services. Not all businesses will take the VAT form and they are never required to, but the ones who cater to Americans often will. That can save you significant money, as long as the forms are filled our properly. Our former vet in Stuttgart had some issues with the VAT that resulted in money having to be paid. Fortunately for us, they were willing to pay because it was their mistake, and we didn’t even have to ask them to do it.

Arran getting a belly rub.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with Germany’s laws regarding pets, too. For example, it’s illegal to drive here with your animals loose in the car. They have to be in a crate or wearing a “seat belt”. You can purchase those items easily at any pet store.

Certain items that are legal in the USA are not legal here. Shock collars are not allowed, for example, and you can get in trouble for using them if you get caught. Likewise, you’re not allowed/supposed to leave your animals alone all day. This isn’t an issue for us, since I am at home most of the time, but if you’re in a dual career family with no one home during the day, you may need to hire a dog walker or use a doggy daycare. They do exist here. Germans are also very big on training dogs, so don’t be surprised if someone tells you to take your dog to the Hundschule. That happened to us a couple of times when we lived here the first time– back then, Germans weren’t as accustomed to beagles, who bay when they get on a scent. Beagles are becoming a lot more popular here now, but most German dogs are still very well trained.

If you’re here on SOFA status, make sure you register your pets with the vet on post. Otherwise, German tax collectors will expect you to license your dog(s) locally, and that can get very expensive. German dog taxes are more than what you’d expect to pay in the United States, and there are also fines for failing to register.

We don’t regret having our dogs with us in Germany. Germans love dogs and they can make great ambassadors in facilitating meeting people. It’s easier to travel with them here than at home, although we’ve found some excellent “Tierpensions” for when we can’t take them with us. I love having the dogs around for company, especially when Bill travels. There is a learning curve, though. Above all, I urge all Americans to please GET THE INSURANCE. And definitely register with TASSO! If your dog gets loose, you will want and need both of those protections.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part two

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A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I were deciding the best way to go about picking up Noizy. Our older dog, Arran, is sweet, but he gets very jealous. Every day, there were new reports of the worsening COVID-19 situation. Also, the woman who interviewed Bill and me before we were approved to adopt Jonny had warned us that it would be best if Arran could enter the house before the new dog. Otherwise, it would be like a wife coming home to “another woman”, so to speak. That lady had also been very careful to tell us about the proper way to secure rescue dogs when they first come home. We’d heard the same advice seven years ago, when we adopted Arran. Using a collar and harness and connecting them together is the best practice… or carrying them inside the house while they’re in a box.

We have a great Tierpension who has taken excellent care of Arran and Zane, but they have limited pick up hours. If we put Arran in the pension, there was a risk the new dog would be home before he would. Also, I didn’t fancy the idea of being stuck at the border somewhere. Been there done that in post Soviet Armenia. Bringing Arran was also a little concerning, since I knew he might fight with the new dog and we have a 2020 Volvo. So, at first, I was thinking maybe I’d stay home with Arran and Bill would run down to Slovenia and get Noizy by himself. But then I reconsidered it and decided all three of us would journey to Slovenia.

With that decided, we set about planning the trip. I quickly determined that Salzburg would be a good halfway point between home and Slovenia. In fact, Salzburg was a midway stop we made in 2016, when we went to Lake Bled for vacation. We stopped on the way back to Germany that time. On the way down, we stopped in Gosau, near Hallstatt, a must see Austrian town that is really only necessary to see one time. However, the inn where we stayed in Gosau was probably one of my favorites ever!

I quickly found a really nice, pet friendly, bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Salzburg. The place I found, Die Haslachmühle, is a renovated mill house that dates from 1688. I booked us in their largest room, mainly because I didn’t want Arran to cause a fuss. It was 152 euros, but it had a huge balcony and a gorgeous masonry heater in the middle of the room. The B&B is not kid friendly. In fact, I don’t think they’re allowed. But parking is free.

One night in Salzburg booked, I found us an apartment in Kranjska Gora, which was where we planned to pick up Noizy. This border town is just a few miles from Italy and Austria, and boasts rugged mountain views. It’s obviously a ski area for Slovenia. Meg has been there a few times and highly recommended it. Having now been there, I can understand why. We’ll definitely have to go back!

Then, thinking we’d have an extra night, I booked us an apartment in Chiemsee, which is an area in Germany near Lake Chiemsee, a large freshwater lake near the Austrian border. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

The very next day, while Bill was on a business trip in Stuttgart, I went to the mailbox and there was a letter from Rheinland-Pfalz. It was a summons to be a witness in court. Naturally, as we are in Germany, the documents were all in German. I had to slowly translate everything… and basically, the document read that Bill was to be a witness for the pet rescue, which was suing the pet taxi driver whose negligence caused Jonny’s death.

The court date was for October 5th– today– which meant that we would not be able to stay a third night on our trip. Bill tried to get the case postponed. He called the court and got the magistrate, who didn’t speak English at all (he didn’t know she was the magistrate at the time). Bill also emailed the rescue, who said they would arrange for an interpreter and let Bill know if that couldn’t be done. He never heard from the court or the rescue, so he figured he was bound to show up. In the paperwork, it mentioned fines of up to 1000 euros for not showing up and/or a special “escort” from the police. Bill was more than happy to testify, since he’s been haunted by that accident since March.

I cancelled the third night and we awaited Friday, October 2, when we’d make our way down to Slovenia to meet Noizy. I dreaded the long drive. Neither Bill nor I enjoy long road trips anymore. It’s probably a good seven or eight hours’ drive to Kranjska Gora from Wiesbaden. But Bill was determined to fulfill his civic duty.

With that settled, I started looking for stuff to buy for our new pooch. We wanted to make sure he was properly outfitted for the drive. But then it occurred to me that I couldn’t judge his size very well from the photos and videos Meg sent us. Many of them were taken when he was still a puppy. I have adorable videos of him as a tiny baby, some of him as an adolescent, and not too many of him fully grown. Having wrongly guessed sizes on dogs before, I decided it would be better to wait until he got home to us. Meg promised he’d have a collar and harness, at the very least.

Friday morning, we set off on our journey to Salzburg.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part one

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As of yesterday, our home became a two dog household again. I never thought we’d get there, but we have. This series is about our quest to adopt a dog in Germany, which took us all the way to Slovenia and back over the weekend. Before I write about our travels, I want to offer a quick backstory about our experiences with dogs as a married couple. Please bear with me! It’s all about preserving history.

Bill and I have been dedicated dog rescuers since 2002. I grew up with dogs in rural Gloucester, Virginia, but mostly focused on horses until I went to college. Bill never had dogs, but his mom had many cats when he was growing up. Bill can’t have cats because he’s allergic to them. But he can have dogs, and he is a natural dog “parent”. In May of 2002, I had just finished graduate school at the University of South Carolina and it was time I had a dog in my life again. I told Bill I wanted a beagle. He agreed that sharing our home with a dog would be most acceptable, and beagles have been in our lives ever since.

All of our previous dogs have been beagle mixes of some sort. The first one, blue-eyed CuCullain (CC) was a beagle mixed with husky and he had incredible ice blue eyes. We adopted him in May 2002 and lost him after sixteen months when he contracted Mycobacterium Avium, an extremely rare and fatal disease in dogs.

All the dogs we’ve loved before– CC, MacGregor and Flea, Zane and MacGregor, Zane and Arran, and Jonny, whom we never got to pet.

Next, in November 2003, we adopted a dog named Flea, probably the closest we ever had to a purebred beagle. He was found on the side of a road in Chester County, Virginia, starving, covered with fleas and ticks, and heartworm and Lyme Disease positive. We had Flea for six years, and along with our third rescue, MacGregor, Flea came to Germany with us the first time. We lost him to prostate cancer when he was about twelve years old, two months after we moved to Georgia from Germany.

MacGregor, Flea’s sidekick, was a beagle-basset hound mix who was incredibly smart and funny, but terrified of people he didn’t know. He adored Bill and loved performing on camera. We adopted him in 2004, mainly because Flea badly needed a “second banana”. After a few weeks of “working it out”, Flea and MacGregor became best friends. We loved him for 8.5 years, until he developed a spinal tumor. We said goodbye to MacGregor in Raleigh, North Carolina a week before Christmas 2012, when he was about ten years old. CuCullain, Flea, and MacGregor all came to us from BREW in northern Virginia.

Zane, who was my very special friend, came into our lives a month after after we lost Flea in November 2009. We had just moved to Georgia and he was turned into Atlanta Beagle Rescue. His first owner had bought him at Petland and said she didn’t have the money to take care of him. Personally, I think she gave him up because she was too busy and he was in his destructive “teen puppy” phase. It took us about six months to turn him into a civilized pet, but once we did, he was an amazing gentleman. Zane was with us for almost ten years until we lost him on August 31, 2019 to lymphoma. He was almost eleven years old when he died. I think Zane was mostly beagle with a dash of Labrador Retriever. He never met a stranger and loved to play. I adored him and was crushed when we lost him.

We got Arran in January 2013, when MacGregor passed. He came from Triangle Beagle Rescue out of Raleigh, North Carolina, and appears to be a mix of beagle and German Shorthaired Pointer. He’s about eleven years old, and he’s sweet, cuddly, emotional, soulful, and very jealous. Bill is his favorite person, as evidenced by the many pictures I’ve shared of him on social media. Arran is a wonderful dog who doesn’t need a “second banana”. But I needed one.

We usually adopt a new dog within a month of losing one. Since we live in Germany now, it’s not as easy for us to adopt dogs. There are a lot of reasons for this. One of the main reasons is because local pet shelters don’t like to allow Americans to have dogs. Too many military folks have abandoned animals in the shelters here, to the point at which they don’t trust us anymore. Some rescues also don’t want to adopt to Americans because there have been cases of adopted animals being abused, abandoned, or neglected. Certainly, not all Americans are abusive to animals, but unfortunately enough of them have been that we all get painted with that broad brush in some parts of Germany. I didn’t want to buy a dog from a breeder, because I know there are so many dogs who need homes. So we waited about six months after losing Zane to try to adopt from a German rescue organization. That attempt to adopt was successful in that the rescue didn’t mind that we were Americans. Unfortunately, it ended with a needless tragedy.

Our brand new canine family member, currently named Noizy, was a much anticipated arrival. Noizy came into our lives in April 2020, a couple of weeks after a dog we tried to adopt escaped before he made it into our house. We were absolutely devastated about what happened to Jonny, the dog who was supposed to join us last March. You might say that, in a weird way, Jonny was a casualty of COVID-19 and extreme negligence. But when he died, he also helped save two canine lives– Noizy, and Max, an elderly cocker spaniel who found himself abandoned at our Tierpension when his owner died. The proprietor offered him to us, but since we had already committed to Noizy, I ended up sharing his story in a local Facebook group and Max was adopted by a teacher at the American school in Wiesbaden. I take comfort in knowing that losing Jonny meant that two dogs got new homes. Still, it was horrible what happened to him.

We were approved to adopt Jonny, a beautiful beagle mix from Sardinia, in mid March 2020, right around the time COVID-19 was getting really bad in Europe. Originally, we planned to drive up to northern Germany to pick him up from his foster family’s house. But before we could make travel plans, the local command issued General Order #1, which forbade us from leaving the Wiesbaden area. We let the rescue know that we couldn’t travel and offered to pay Jonny’s expenses until we could go get him. The rescue wouldn’t agree to that, but proposed that we could pay for a pet taxi to have him brought to us. Long story short, Bill ended up agreeing, and after hasty arrangements were made, Jonny was picked up by a pet taxi and driven to Wiesbaden overnight.

The woman who had brought Jonny to us had driven all night from northern Germany. She was exhausted, having told Bill that she had been driving for seventeen hours. For some reason, she had not properly secured Jonny with so much as a collar and a leash before she took him out of her pet taxi. She put him down on the ground, completely naked, and tried to use a lasso leash on him. The dog backed out of the lasso before it tightened, took off running, and soon found his way to the Autobahn, where he eventually got hit by a car. We found about it the morning after we lost him. The pet rescue found out first, because Jonny had a chip. I also got contacted by a club in Germany that helps the police inform people of their pets’ deaths. That was weird. Especially since he wasn’t really our pet yet. There’s a club for almost everything in Germany.

Complicating matters was the fact that a couple of people in Bill’s office were sick with COVID-19, and we found out about it the morning Jonny ran away from us. Bill was forced to quarantine just a couple of hours after Jonny escaped. We couldn’t look for him ourselves, but even if we could, he didn’t know us at all. He’d never even so much as sniffed us. We never petted him. I don’t think we would have been able to catch him, even if we could have found him. It was just heartbreaking; he was only about ten feet from our front door when he escaped.

I will never forgot how absolutely horrible that experience was… I definitely learned some lessons from it. In fact, as I type this, Bill is heading to court to testify about what happened to Jonny. The rescue sued the pet taxi driver, who refused to take any responsibility for what happened. (Edited to add: I just learned that at the last minute, the pet taxi driver decided to settle and Bill didn’t even have to be at the courthouse today… so basically, we rushed back to Germany for nothing. Oh well. At least she finally took responsibility. Wish they’d told us sooner.)

Anyway, last spring, I was feeling distraught about the Jonny’s sudden death. Bill and I don’t know how much longer we’ll live in Germany, and it seemed impossible to get another dog. I’d had my heart set on Jonny. Thanks to COVID, my reluctance to buy from a breeder, and German prejudice against Americans adopting dogs from Tierheims (even if it is justified), it seemed like we’d be a single dog household until we eventually depart Germany, and I have no idea when that will be. One day, I posted on Facebook that I really wanted another dog.

Within minutes of my post, my friend Mary sent me a message. She said she could put me in contact with an American woman who rescues dogs. Before I knew it, I was chatting on Facebook with Meg, who had lived in Kosovo, a tiny breakaway nation that was once part of Yugoslavia and is not recognized as its own country everywhere. Meg now lives in Germany, but still has many dogs in Kosovo who need homes. She is very committed to seeing that the dogs she rescues all get the sweet life off of the streets of Kosovo.

My heart was already kind of leaning toward adopting a dog from the East, even before we lost Zane. I have another Facebook friend named Trish who used to live in Stuttgart and was also living there when we had our latest Stuttgart stint. Trish adopted a beautiful female dog from a shelter near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Trish had said her dog, Phoebe, was the “best souvenir ever”. I had watched in delight as she posted pictures of Phoebe, who went from homeless Croatian street dog to beloved canine family member. I was inspired, even if I’m really used to beagles.

Anyway, after establishing contact, Meg sent me pictures of the dogs she had… and when I saw Noizy’s face, he made an immediate impression on my heart. I asked Meg about Noizy and she gave me some of his details. I told Bill about him and shared his story and photos. But we knew it would take awhile before Noizy would be part of our household.

First, he’d need to pass a blood test. Then there would be a four month waiting period after the test. There was also COVID-19 to consider, with borders opening and closing at varying intervals on a weekly basis. COVID-19 also made it temporarily impossible to export Noizy’s blood sample to a veterinary school in Germany, where it would be tested. Planes weren’t flying for awhile in the spring, and that was the only way to get the sample out of Kosovo. I think that logistical hassle added a month to the wait. Then the transportation had to be arranged.

All told, we’ve waited almost six months to bring Noizy home. There were times when it seemed like he’d never get here. Sometimes, I wondered how we were going to coordinate everything to get him to Germany, especially given the COVID-19 situation and the grim news reports about how there will be a second wave.

Noizy arrived last night after a very long, yet whirlwind, two day journey from his homeland. This series I’m going to start today is about that journey. I’m going to include the usual hotel details, as well as what little I got to see of the places we stayed, but this trip wasn’t about sightseeing. It was about expanding our family to a very special dog whom I hope will have a long and happy life with us. I’m sure this is just the first of many stories I’ll have about our new family member, a big dog from a tiny country… who came to us all the way from Kosovo and has already made a home in our hearts.

Labor Day 2020…

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We didn’t end up leaving town for Labor Day. I never got around to finding a place to go. Since the COVID-19 situation is ever changing, it didn’t seem smart to book too far in advance. And then, we had to deal with the chimney sweep on Friday. It’s German law that they come every year and do an inspection and we weren’t sure when they would arrive.

Our weekend was mostly spent in the backyard, listening to music, gardening, and drinking beer and wine. We didn’t even go out to eat, although Bill did get some take out from Five Guys because I had a craving. I downloaded some new software and will probably try to figure it out today. Last night, we took a walk around the neighborhood and I took a few photos.

Our next trip could be to Slovenia, where we will hopefully meet a new canine family member. Fingers are crossed. Slovenia is beautiful anyway. I wouldn’t mind going just because it’s so gorgeous.

A drive to Kallstadt…

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Recently, I read and reviewed Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, a scathing expose about the Trump family, particularly her Uncle Donald Trump. I read in Mary’s book that the Trumps originated in Kallstadt, a wine producing hamlet located about an hour’s drive from where Bill and I currently live. Because we had nothing better to do today, and we’ve spent far too many weekends at home since the pandemic struck, Bill and I decided to drive to the village of Kallstadt to check it out.

A German Facebook friend wrote that she lives close to Kallstadt and that if we visited the cute little wine town, not to mention Trump. Apparently, the locals aren’t all that pleased to be associated with the current U.S. president, even though remnants of his family remain in the area, especially in the cemeteries.

The Inside Edition’s take on Kallstadt.

We had the best intentions of actually getting out and walking around there once we arrived. Unfortunately, parking was in short supply today. We also brought Arran with us. I did get some photos, though, and we took a drive through nearby Bad Dürkheim, a nice looking spa town that’s a bit bigger than Trump’s grandparents’ stomping grounds. If we’d wanted to, we could have spent time trying and buying different wines produced in the area.

Kallstadt is currently in Rhineland-Palatinate (or Rheinland-Pfalz, if you prefer). When Trump’s grandparents, Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump, were living there, back in the 19th century, it was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Looking at a German map, it’s surprising to see just how far north Bavaria stretches. I guess I’m used to being down near Stuttgart, which is a couple of hours’ drive from the closest Bavarian border. Up here in Wiesbaden, we’re close to several other German states.

The weather didn’t turn out to be the best for walking around today. We’re about to reach Fall, which can be glorious in Germany, but can also be a bit “iffy” in terms of the weather. Anyway, I did get some photos, although that was pretty much all we got on today’s journey… I would definitely be up for another visit when the sun is out and maybe if we didn’t bring Arran. There are many Weinguts to try in the area, plus some tempting looking restaurants.

I truly meant to write more about this. I hoped we could walk around and see a lot more of the area. It just wasn’t the right day to explore Trump’s grandparents’ stomping grounds. We’ll have to go back and spend more time… and at least taste a few of the products of the region. I’d like to know Kallstadt for the products it can truly be proud of, rather than our current leader. Kallstadt is a really cute little town, though. I can see why people visit.

A marvelous afternoon at Little Italy…

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Regular readers of my main blog may notice that I’ve been kind of crabby lately. I was especially irritable yesterday, since I was trying to write the blog post I posted earlier today while listening to kids outside my window shrieking and trying to respond to a private message. I get really cranky when I’m trying to write and can’t concentrate on what I’m doing. I probably should have been on ADD meds when I was a kid because I am very easily distracted. On top of that, I had a tension headache, and Bill was bugging me about going to AAFES. We did need to go to AAFES (military run department store), even though I hate going there, especially now that everyone has to wear face masks.

Military facilities are even more anal retentive about COVID-19 protocol than other places are. Although the guards have stopped giving drivers the third degree every time they enter the gates, there’s still a very strict mask requirement, entry and exit protocol, and handwashing detail. And while it may be necessary for sparing people from getting sick, I also remember that not too long ago, it was not uncommon to find the restrooms at AAFES in pretty disgusting shape. I have pictures of ones I encountered in Stuttgart as well as vivid memories of the remnants of other people’s dumps lingering in the toilets at the food courts. So while enforcing the over-the-top COVID-19 requirements may be a very good idea right now, they seem rather disingenuous to me after a lifetime of patronizing the BX/PX (AAFES).

I finally gave up on the blog post after trying to upload a few photos. I came back to my post, only to find that over half of it was somehow wiped out. After uttering a few choice words at the computer screen, I went downstairs, where Bill was busily “beagle proofing” (although Arran is probably more of a pointer than a beagle). He asked me if I was hungry. I legitimately wasn’t, although I knew that we were about to hit the dreaded “pause” hour of 2:00pm. Bill proposed picking up a pizza from Pizza Hut, because I had mentioned getting a pizza somewhere (I meant at a real restaurant). I used to like Pizza Hut pizzas, but they have really gone downhill over the past ten years or so.

So anyway, we went to AAFES. I dutifully put on the fucking mask and washed my hands, rushing to pick up the few items I needed… expensive Lancome face cream for my middle aged face, ponytail holders for my growing grey hair, and a couple of new dog toys for Arran to replace the ones he’s destroyed. I love that Arran is ten and still loves his toys. I don’t love that he only recently quit using my favorite rug as a Hundetoilet. God help us when the new pooch moves in, sometime soon. Bill picked up some more shit bags for the dog walking, of which we could soon be legally compelled to do twice as much of at some point soon (though I doubt it will be enforced).

As we were waiting in the obnoxious checkout line that stretched down the lotion and skincare aisle, Bill asked me what I wanted to do about lunch. I had no desire to eat in the food court, so initially, I said we should go by Five Guys and get takeout. But then I remembered Little Italy, a great restaurant I’ve blogged about several times since our move to Wiesbaden. There is a Little Italy on post. That’s not the one I’m writing about now. I am referring to a small restaurant in the heart of Wiesbaden, where they serve lovely Italian dishes, nice wines, and luscious desserts. Before the pandemic, we used to go there fairly often. Yesterday was our first time back since February, I think.

Bill made a reservation on OpenTable.de, noting that Little Italy does not take an afternoon pause. We got there at about 2:15pm. The proprietor, a friendly bald guy who speaks English, looked slightly panicked when Bill announced our arrival. Bill then noticed that the entire dining room was set as if there was going to be a large party. But when Bill said we had a reservation, he told us to find a table outside. The weather was glorious, so that was a pleasure to do.

A lovely young woman came over to take our drink order and have us sign the paperwork for contract tracing. Bill got me a glass of white wine from Sicily. He got himself a white wine from Lugano. Then, we both ordered dishes from the specials, presented on a chalk board in front of us. Bill had saltimbocca made of dorade. I had a salmon filet with rucola pesto, mashed sweet potatoes, and ratatouille (pisto).

While we were waiting for our food, a large group of well-dressed people showed up. I soon gathered that this was why the proprietor had looked a little stressed when we arrived. There were bottles of bubbly chilling in ice buckets until umbrellas near us. I had mistakenly thought they had set up a little wine stand, but no, that was for the people partying at Little Italy. Hopefully, none of them were carriers of the COVID-19 virus, since they weren’t wearing masks.

A tiny little blonde girl of about three came over to play with the Champagne bottles pictured in the gallery above. She had huge blue eyes and was sincerely adorable. We smiled at her while she played with the bubbly bottles and the nearby decorative water fountain. A few minutes later, I heard her shrieking as her mom struggled to contain her. Finally, mom put her in the stroller and methodically strapped her down while she wailed. I figured it was probably nap time for her… having been cranky myself a little while ago, I could commiserate, too.

I soon forgot about being cranky as we enjoyed lunch. I mostly enjoyed the bright colors of my dish, even if I’m not the biggest ratatouille or sweet potato fan. I managed to finish most of it, with Bill’s help. Bill really loved the dorade, which was accented with sage and bacon. He said he would definitely order it again if he had the opportunity.

As we were eating, the little blonde girl came outside. I watched her pick her nose while her grandmother smoked a cigarette. It occurred to me that kids are just so unabashed and unashamed about anything. Maybe watching that tiny girl explore the world around her without a mask is why I found this morning’s New York Times article about training kids to wear masks so very depressing. The masks have the effect of making communication and exploration more difficult, especially for the youngest among us. But, with any luck, there will be an effective vaccine or treatment that will make this brave new pandemic world less ominous and irritating. I always wanted to have children, but I am grateful I’m not a parent dealing with this pandemic stuff right now. I think it would drive me crazy.

For dessert, I had limoncello sorbet with mangos and pears, while Bill had tiramisu. Neither of us really needed dessert, but the weather was just so nice, and I was enjoying being out and about, watching people celebrate in a normal way. I used to take doing stuff on the weekends for granted. Now, when we get to have lunch somewhere nice, it’s a real treat. Maybe that’s one of the silver linings to the COVID-19 situation. I’ve often said that every bad situation has its positives. I don’t take a nice meal at a good restaurant for granted as I might have in 2019…

The bill was about 89 euros. Bill gave our lovely waitress a 100 euro note and said “Stimmt”. We really had a nice time. I hope we can do it again sometime soon. Then we came home and I set to work trying to wash the stench out of Arran’s Klo on my blue carpet. It’s now outside drying… and I fear that my efforts may have been for naught. Oh well… at least we had a good meal, and hopefully, we’ll stay healthy.

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part twelve

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Home at last!

I managed to get up in time to take a couple of pictures of the sunrise over Lake Konstanz on Sunday morning. It was a little sad to think of leaving the lovely Oberwaid Hotel, but I was definitely ready to get home and start writing. I have a few folks who genuinely look forward to reading these posts and it was time to dish!

We enjoyed another fine breakfast in the restaurant, albeit for a hefty price tag. Then we loaded up the car and Bill checked out. The receptionist kindly offered us bottles of sparkling water for the journey. Once again, as I left a hotel, I found myself saying “What an amazing place.” I would come back to the Oberwaid for sure. Next time we need a short break from Germany, it’ll be on our list! Hopefully, by then, the COVID-19 situation will be better controlled. But if it’s not, I’d still feel very safe in that hotel. I noticed they have a huge team of housekeepers, all of whom wore masks and keep the place sparkling clean. Here are a few parting shots before we got on the road to Wiesbaden.

We had a choice of several ways to get home. If we still lived near Stuttgart, we would have driven through Switzerland to the familiar border at Thayngen, which ultimately leads to A81 and past our old stomping grounds. But since we now live in Wiesbaden, Bill decided to get on A7 on the other side of the lake. From there, we passed through Baden-Württemberg and Bayern (Bavaria) until we finally reached Hesse. We hit a few staus on the way, one of which was pretty obnoxious and took some time to get through.

Against our better judgment, we stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch, but decided against eating in the restaurant due to the high number of people there. It wasn’t even a good restroom stop, since patrons could only go one at a time and there was a line. So we ended up peeing at a nearby rest stop. We should have just gone there to eat, too.

This came from the little market in Leutasch, too. Everyone is making gin these days! We should have spent more money… and we definitely should have bought more wine.

Arran stayed at the Birkenhof until Monday night. I wish we could have picked him up on Sunday, because I really missed him. But we weren’t sure when we’d be back on Sunday and the Birkenhof only allows a short window for pickups.

I’m really glad we took this trip, especially as the news about COVID-19 gets bleaker. There have been more cases in Europe lately because people are traveling. I didn’t feel particularly unsafe when we traveled, but there was definitely no chance of forgetting the pandemic, even in Switzerland, where things seemed the “slackest” (and that really surprised me). I’m not sure when we’ll get to do another lengthy trip. I hope it won’t be too long. For now, I’m glad we took this opportunity to change our scenery and get new pictures. I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride!

I’m amazed at all we were able to do– hike through a gorge, look at a waterfall, go to the top of the Zugspitze, see several beautiful lakes, eat good food, visit Lake Konstanz, and enjoy excellent hospitality. Overall, it was a very special and memorable trip. I’m glad we did it, even if I’m now slightly worried about exposure to the virus. But I’d rather live life than stay locked up, drinking wine in the backyard with the dog.

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part four

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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!

Sud Tyrol and beyond… part two

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Our first stop– Leutasch, Austria!

When I was planning our trip, I knew we were going to visit Italy. Bill and I both love Italy, and it had been way too long since our last visit over Labor Day weekend in September 2018. I remembered visiting Bolzano on a day trip I took on our last business trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, back in 2009. I thought it was a nice city. So I started looking for places around there to go… and my German friend suggested Merano, which isn’t too far from Bolzano. But I wanted somewhere outside of the city– somewhere that was likely to be cooler and prettier. When we finally settled on Parcines, I looked for places to stop on the way there and back.

Bill and I went to Lermoos, Austria in September 2015, when we did our much heralded “Beer and Fucking Tour” (Fucking is a place in Austria, as is Fuckersberg– we visited both on that trip, as well as two beer spas). I knew I liked that part of Austria, but I wanted to go somewhere different. I ended up choosing Hotel Kristall in Leutasch, mainly because I got pretty fatigued trying to look through all of the hotel choices. What I didn’t know is that Leutasch is very close to Seefeld, Austria, which is another place we visited back in December 2015. I’m glad I didn’t realize it until after I booked because I would have probably chosen another place. That would have been a shame, because Leutasch turned out to be a great choice for us.

I didn’t know it when I booked, but Leutasch is home to a very beautiful and supposedly haunted gorge. There’s a very secure path that allows visitors to see the gorge and even walk into Germany if they have the stamina. Leutasch is literally just over the border in Austria, but it definitely feels different there. The gorge is a great activity for kids and there’s no admission charged. All you have to do is pay five euros for parking if you visit from the Austrian side. If you visit from Mittenwald, on the German side, you park in a public area and can pay three euros to see the waterfall (well worth the money and the short walk), or you can skip the waterfall and walk up the steep path that takes you to the Austrian gorge walk and the panorama bridge. All along the path are fun activities for children, although the signs are in German. The gorge turned out to be the highlight of our time in Leutasch.

But– I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to write about our journey to Austria, which started on Friday, August 7th. We dropped off Arran at the Birkenhof Tierpension, and headed south, which took us through our familiar former stomping grounds near Stuttgart. It was just as full of traffic as ever, although we did notice that some of the road work we thought would never be finished was finally done. We stopped at a truck stop near Kirchheim Unter Teck. It had a KFC, which we thought we’d like better than McDonald’s or Burger King (seriously, these are pretty much your options in Germany, unless you want schnitzel). That particular truck stop also had a regular German restaurant, though, so we decided to eat there instead of dining with “the Colonel”.

The waitress seemed surprisingly calm about masking. She wasn’t wearing a mask and actually asked us to remove ours so she could understand our orders. Then, while we were waiting, we filled out the contract tracing forms now required in Germany. It was nice to be in Baden-Württemberg again. It still feels kind of like home, even though it’s not ours anymore.

After lunch, we got back on the road. I happened to be experiencing the last death throes of August’s visit from Aunt Flow, which made the journey somewhat less comfortable than it could have been. But we were in beautiful Austria before we knew it. And boy is it BEAUTIFUL there! The scenery is just insane. I kept craning my body to take pictures of the magnificent Alps, limestone colored streams, and green meadows.

It was about 4:00pm when we reached our hotel. I was in dire need of a shower, thanks to Aunt Flow’s death throes and the heat of the afternoon. I was feeling rather cranky and irritable as Bill parked the car in the free lot outside of the hotel’s entrance. But then, as we approached, I noticed two awesome things. First, there was a table outside with a bottle of housemade Schnapps and shot glasses and hand disinfectant. And second, no one was wearing face masks except for the people running the hotel.

Austria has so far had very few COVID-19 cases, particularly in the Tyrol region, so the rules there are pretty relaxed. I know a lot of people will disagree that anyone should be without a face mask right now, but personally I thought it was great. We checked in, and were assigned room 36, which is a junior suite.

Our rate, which I prepaid, came with half board. We got breakfast and dinner included. I actually liked the food at Hotel Kristall. They did have interesting rules for the buffet, though. No masks were required, but everyone had to don disposable rubber gloves. After we checked in, I took a shower, and by then it was about time for dinner.

I noticed the people sitting next to us giving us curious side-eyed looks. I’m sure they realized we’re Americans and most Americans aren’t currently welcome to travel to Europe at the moment. However, if you’re American and live in Europe, it’s okay… A lot of people figured we were Dutch, since Dutch people will often speak English in countries where they can’t speak Dutch.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed the food at Hotel Kristall, although being American in Europe when Americans aren’t supposed to be in Europe was a little stressful. But the service at the family run Hotel Kristall was friendly, professional, and welcoming. And I genuinely felt like the people working there enjoyed their jobs. That made for a very pleasant stay.

Post pandemic trip number two– Germany’s only Glauber’s salt spa

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If you are a regular reader of my travel blog, you might know that Bill and I are big fans of Germany’s wonderful spa culture. We’ve gotten so into the spas here that we’ve even done a very unAmerican thing and indulged in the nude! Yes, that’s right… despite being decidedly middle aged and not having the best body images, Bill and I have both embraced being naked in front of other people. I don’t know how Bill feels about it, but personally, I think the nude spas are liberating and healthy, even though it took us years to finally take the plunge, so to speak.

So far, we have visited these spas:

Mineraltherme Böblingen (probably my favorite, because it has clothed and nude areas, was recently renovated, has a great restaurant, and has a lot to do)

SchwabenQuellen in Stuttgart (all nude most of the time)

Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden (famously all nude, all the time)

Caracalla in Baden-Baden (clothed everywhere but in the sauna/steam room area)

Palais Thermal in Bad Wildbad (nude in most areas)

Kaiser-Friedrich Therme in Wiesbaden (nude all the time)

Rhein-Main Therme in Hofheim (clothed everywhere but in the sauna and steam room area)

And finally, as of Sunday of last week, we visited the Vulkaneifel Therme in Bad Bertrich (clothed everywhere but the sauna and steam room). If you’re interested in my thoughts on and experiences at the other spas, you can easily find my posts about them in this blog. Just do a search or click the spa tags.

Because I love Germany’s decadent Thermes, I would have wanted to visit the Vulkaneifel Therme regardless of whether or not it was “special” in any way. But as I was researching the Eifel area, I came across ads for the Vulkaneifel Therme describing it as Germany’s only “Glauber’s salt” spa. What does that mean? Well, in English, Glauber’s salt is sodium sulfate, somewhat akin to what we call Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). I used to use Epsom salt a lot when I had a horse. Applied topically in hot water, it’s great for reducing inflammation, soreness, and stiffness in muscles in horses and humans. Both salts are also used as laxatives, although Epsom salt is supposedly a better drying agent than sodium sulfate is. In any case, both salts are useful for soothing muscle pain, and apparently, the Vulkaneifel Therme naturally has sodium sulfate in its water, making it different from the other spas we’ve visited.

Bill and I decided to set off early for Bad Bertrich, since we weren’t wanting to be there when it was especially busy. Bad Bertrich is also not that close to Meerfeld; it’s maybe 35 kilometers away. I had actually considered staying in Bad Bertrich when I was looking for accommodations and, as we found out when we visited on Sunday, there are a number of appealing hotels in the area. However, now that we’ve been to the spa, I can say that I’m kind of glad we stayed in Meerfeld, again because it’s quiet and unique. Bad Bertrich is very much a spa town and it’s a bit touristy, although it’s also pretty.

We arrived at the Therme at about 10:00am and parked in the large garage right across the street from it. Additional parking is located to the side of the spa. The spa’s front door is contactless; it opens as you approach. The first thing to do is fill out the contract tracing information. There’s a station on the first floor, near the elevator, as well as hand sanitizer. Once you fill out the forms, either take the stairs or the elevator to the top floor, where you pay your admission fee. You can purchase entry to just the Therme or the Therme and sauna. Bill and I aren’t big on saunas, so we opted for three hours in the Therme. In retrospect, that was more time than we really needed, since this Therme isn’t very large. If we had eaten at the restaurant and spent at least five euros, we would have been entitled to an extra hour, anyway. The cashier station is also where you can rent towels, robes, and shower shoes if you need them.

The cashier gave us the familiar “wristwatches” that one gets at almost every Therme in Germany. Strap it to your wrist. It’s your ticket for everything in the Therme, from entering and exiting the turnstiles, to locking and unlocking a locker, to paying for food and beverages or anything else that would ordinarily require money.

Next, go into the co-ed locker room. Not to worry… they have individual cubicles where you can get into your bathing suit in private. Once you’ve changed clothes, find an open locker and put your stuff in it. Close the locker door and use your watch to lock it. There are instructions in English on the inside of the locker doors at this spa. Take a quick shower, then you’re ready to go!

We enjoyed the Vulkaneifel Therme, probably because it wasn’t very crowded at all during our visit. It’s not a very big Therme, although it does offer a large soaking hot tub, an exercise pool with jets, and a large central pool with indoor and outdoor access and jets. I noticed that they didn’t turn on the external “waterfall” jets that are usually periodically turned on at Thermes for people wanting to stand under them. I guess that’s to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus. The water in the exercise pool and main pools is kind of lukewarm; both were about the same temperature. Bill and I liked the exercise pool because we had it to ourselves for almost an hour and there are several powerful waterjets in the pool that are great for massaging sore backs, feet, and legs.

There were signs everywhere to remind people to wear masks and be socially distant from one another. Most people were respecting the social distance rules, but it’s hard to wear a mask in a pool environment. I was glad to see people were being sensible about that, too. I noticed people cleaning surfaces while we were there, which was reassuring to see.

After about three hours in the pools, we were pretty wrinkly, but relaxed. We didn’t try the wellness area, so I’m not sure if massages are being offered right now. I doubt they are. Anyway, we have yet to try a massage at a Therme, although we’ve had them at other places. Maybe someday, when the coronavirus is hopefully no longer such a threat, we’ll get an opportunity. We took another shower, used the watches to get our clothes, and since we didn’t buy anything in the Therme, had no need to pay the machine (much like the ones you find in a parking garage) before we put the watches in the turnstile and exited.

We walked around Bad Bertrich looking for a place to have lunch. The town does have several restaurants, but none were especially appealing to me. I wanted to have Italian food and the Italian places didn’t appear to be open at lunchtime. Several places also appeared to be closed, although I did notice that some shops were open, even though it was Sunday. I guess it’s because Bad Bertich is a touristy area. I did take some pictures of the town, which is really attractive and worth consideration for anyone who is looking for a base in the Eifel area.

Since we were unsuccessful in finding a place that appealed for lunch, we decided to leave Bad Bertrich. That turned out to be a good decision, even though it was after 1:00pm, and I was nervously eyeing the time. Remember, in Germany, a lot of places take an afternoon pause. If you don’t get to a restaurant before 2:00pm, you may be out of luck for lunch.

The GPS in our Volvo directed us to Christophorus, a pizzeria in a little town called Büchel, which was not too far from Bad Bertrich. We got there at about 1:30 or so, and two of the three outdoor tables were occupied. Christophorus is a roadside restaurant and, at first blush, doesn’t appear to be especially interesting. But we had a great lunch there, mainly because besides the good food offered, there was also exceptionally friendly service.

Bill decided to have a Bolognese Pizza, which came in three sizes– mini, mittel, and grande. He ordered the “mittel”, which was more than he could eat. I went with tortellini al forno. It wasn’t exactly low cal, but I was really in the mood for pasta. We each had a hefeweizen. As we were crying “uncle” at the end of the meal, a very pleasant and super friendly masked lady with extremely short hair came over to talk to us. I got the sense that she might have been the proprietor. We started out speaking German, but it turned out she spoke pretty good English, came to Büchel from Giessen (which used to host the U.S. military), and she was genuinely interested in how we were enjoying Germany and our trip. When she realized we are Americans, she shook her head sympathetically and said, “America is not so good right now.” Unfortunately, we agree… and we feel very lucky to get to be in Germany during this time.

Although it wasn’t the fanciest place we’ve ever eaten, I was really glad we stopped there instead of eating at a touristy place in Bad Bertrich or Cochem, which is where we went after lunch. Also, the inside of the restaurant is very nice. I loved the bar area, as well as the booths. It doesn’t look like a particularly special place if you’re just checking it out from the outside, but it really was a good stop. Other than Christophorus and another Italian roadside restaurant, there isn’t a lot to Büchel. But it is on the way to Cochem, which is a nice city with a beautiful castle. That’s where we headed after lunch.

It was mid afternoon by the time we were finished with lunch. I told Bill about Cochem, which I thought would be a good lunch stop if Christophorus Pizzeria didn’t pan out. Since we had nothing else to do, we headed down that way, about 10 kilometers from Büchel. Just as you approach Cochem, there is a place to pull off the road and take pictures in a very scenic spot. You can get a great view of Cochem Castle, as it’s situated by the Mosel River. We missed it on the way into town on Sunday. That was a pity, since the weather was beautiful and sunny, and a lot of people were taking advantage of it. We drove through Cochem, noticing how many people were out and about… it was a bit of a madhouse. However, if you want to take a boat cruise on the Mosel, this is a place to do it. There are also plenty of places to stay and eat, as well as visit the gorgeous castle on the hill.

Because it was so crowded and busy, Bill and I decided not to stop. However, we did make a note of it and perhaps might visit after the high season. It’s not that far from where we live, and it looks like a very nice base for exploring the Mosel area. Here are a few photos from our drive through Cochem.

The next post will be my last in this series. Sunday night was our final night in Meerfeld, and we were due to drive home to Wiesbaden on Monday morning. Stay tuned!