Sundays

Mexican food with a San Antonio touch in Mainz!

A couple of weeks ago, when we were still in Czechia, a friend of mine who lives near Ramstein Air Force Base posted about a really good Mexican restaurant near where he and his family live. Among the comments on that post was also a suggestion for Mexico Lindo, a Mexican restaurant in Mainz, which is a college town about 20 minutes from where we live (which is not near Ramstein).. I made a note of the restaurant and when Bill invited me out to lunch today, I suggested we try out the Mexican place in Mainz. I heard it had a San Antonio flair, as if maybe the owners were of Mexican descent and came from San Antonio, Texas.

We had reservations for 1:30 PM, but we really didn’t need them. The restaurant was relatively quiet, save for the Mexican music and the sound of quiet chatter from the mostly German clientele. I do know this restaurant is known among the American community, but I didn’t see evidence that we were among a lot of our countrymen today.

I started our visit off with a visit to the ladies room, which was reasonably clean, albeit in a downstairs location. After we took care of essential business, Bill and I decided on what we’d be having. I was really tempted by the fajitas, which are available in all beef (with peppers and onions), all marinated chicken, or a mix of chicken and beef, and come with rice, beans, cheese, guacamole, and the usual vegetables, but it seemed like too much food and attention.

I ended up going for the Super Taco, which was a large flour tortilla with beef chunks, gravy, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, fresh cheese, and guacamole. It was 16 euros; I finished half and brought the rest home. Bill went for the barbacoa, which was very tender beef in tortillas with spicy pico de gallo, rice, and refried beans for 16,50. I think I liked Bill’s dish better than mine, although both were good. The issue with my Super Taco was that the cheese wasn’t melted, which weirded me out. Also, the cold toppings cooled off the beef rather quickly.

Bill had a Dos Equis beer, while I had a Kristalweizen. His beer came with a lime wedge; mine came with lemon. Next time, I’ll have to try one of their Margaritas, which I hear are very good. They’d have to be pretty good to beat Bill’s! A full range of cocktails, beer, wine, and soft drinks are available.

Service was friendly and relaxed, and we had a bit of a wait before we had the chance to ask for dessert. We split an order of Fried Ice Cream, because Bill had never had it before. I hadn’t had it since the late 1980s. It was pretty good, but quite sweet and gooey. I’m glad we split it.

Overall, we enjoyed lunch very much. It was very good, especially for Mexican food in Germany. Although the Mexican scene has improved a lot in Germany since we first moved here, restaurants can be hit or miss. This one is a good one, especially for Germany. It was nice to get out of the house, even though it’s pretty gloomy outside today. The restaurant is located near a shopping mall, so parking in a garage is convenient. You may also be lucky enough to score a street spot.

Below are some pictures from today’s outing!

I think the total was about 40 euros or so for the food… We had the option of paying by card or with cash. Bill paid in cash. It was well worth the trip. I think next time, I’ll go for the Fajitas or maybe a Chimichanga. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those. And there will definitely be a Margarita next time, too!

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Frankfurt, Hessen

Dinner at Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof – Ihr Hotel bei Frankfurt…

Spring is coming, and I’m starting to feel like I should be end my self imposed winter hibernation. I do still worry about Arran, whose lymph nodes are getting big again, but I also know I can’t stay homebound forever. Saturday night, Bill decided to check OpenTable to see if there were any inviting and interesting restaurants to try yesterday. He noticed one we hadn’t yet tried, Restaurant Retter’s at the Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof. They had plenty of tables open for a 7:00pm reservation, so Bill booked us. As you can see from the featured photo, it’s a lovely, historic venue!

I didn’t know anything about the Schloss Rettershof before last night’s repast. My German friend, Susanne, decided to look up the castle’s history while we were enjoying dinner. It seems that before the Rettershof became a hotel and restaurant, it had a colorful history that included stints as the European headquarters for the Hare Krishnas, and, for a few years after World War II, a U.S. Army post. Prior to the 20th century, it was a farm. And before that– from the 12th century until 1559, it was a monastery, and home for nuns. On July 3 and 4, 2018, parts of the roof of the nearby riding stable burned down due to a major fire. I saw evidence last night that people still go riding in the area.

The property has had a very colorful past that is well worth reading about, even if it is beyond the scope of today’s blog post. I only wish we could have visited when the sun was out, as even in the darkness, I could see that the Rettershof offers beautiful views. It’s located in the Fischbachtal district of Kelkheim, and very close to Eppstein, which is one of my favorite areas up here near Wiesbaden. I wouldn’t have been at all distressed if we’d found a house in Eppstein, instead of in Breckenheim.

Anyway… on to our actual experiences. ūüėČ

Bill overestimated the amount of time he’d need to get from our house to the Rettershof. Nevertheless, I was delighted that the GPS took us in a direction that, in four years of living up here, we’d never before ventured. I guess COVID lockdowns have a way of putting a damper on exploration. We ended up going through our village, up a hillside, and into a pretty, mountainous area. Or, it was mountainous for this area. Really, it was probably more hilly than mountainous, but it was still a nice change of landscape for us. We live in a valley.

I was pretty hungry when we got to the Rettershof, which was a good thing. We got plenty to eat last night. However, as we pulled up, about 25 minutes before our 7pm reservation, I almost wondered if the place was open. The generously sized parking lot was practically empty. No one was near the entrance of the hotel, although it was lit up. When we walked inside, there was a friendly young woman at the reception desk who greeted us and took our coats. I was immediately enchanted by the sitting area near the reception. I didn’t get a chance to linger, though, because we were immediately ushered to the dining room and invited to take a table. There was one other party there– a family of four, who had the one table near a charming bay window. We took a table for four on the other side of the small dining room, so it was rather private.

I did manage to get a couple of photos of the lobby area before we sat down… I loved the fireplace, and the cozy lighting of the area around it. Too bad this isn’t a dining room, because it was very charming and inviting.

At the top of the stairs are some bedrooms for rent. There is also an extension where newer rooms have been built. I have no idea if anyone was staying at the hotel last night. It didn’t appear to have any guests, but then, it’s not exactly the high season.

There were two very enthusiastic men waiting on us. We got the sense that one might have been from France, and the other seemed to be Spanish. Both spoke German and English, of course, and they were very friendly. The one from France, who had his long dark hair in a bun, thanked us profusely for coming. We sipped glasses of champagne while we looked at the menu, which was pretty limited last night. I got the sense that maybe they limit the menu when they are expecting few guests.

There was a set four course menu, which I didn’t go for because of the presence of truffles… A la carte, we had a choice of Ox with cheese, See Teufel (Angler fish), or Wiener Schnitzel. I didn’t see any vegan or vegetarian options on last night’s menu, but I’m sure they have something… perhaps it was in the regular menu, which I never had a chance to look at, as Bill was selecting a wine and the list was in the one permanent menu they gave us. There was also a choice of two starters– beef tartar with quail egg or beef consomme.

I decided to go with the Angler fish, which a dense fish that reminded me a little of catfish in terms of looks and texture, but tasted more like halibut. Bill went for the Schnitzel. I was surprised he didn’t want the ox, since he usually likes that kind of thing… but he did order the tartar as a starter. I had the consomme, which had sliced pancakes and carrots in it. We also had bread and butter from France, and a lovely and unique red wine that the waiter with the man bun said was “new” to them.

Both waiters were professional, but the one with the man bun was especially memorable. I got a kick out of him, especially when he pronounced the word “dynomite” like “deenomeete”. I think he might have learned new vocabulary last night.

Overall, we really enjoyed the food and the pleasant, yet quirky, wait staff, who were both clearly delighted that we came in for dinner last night. Yes, it would have been nice to have had more of a choice in entrees, but given that we and the other party of four appeared to be their only patrons last night, I can understand why they didn’t stock too much. This definitely wasn’t an inexpensive meal. The check came to 277 euros, which is a lot… and Bill delighted the wait staff by tipping like an American. They were practically bowing to us as we left. ūüėÄ

I would go back to the Retterhof for another meal. Next time, I’d like to do it during the daytime, so I can see how pretty it is. I also suspect that when the weather is warmer and more people patronize the restaurant, the menu expands a bit. But we did enjoy ourselves last night. The castle is a charming venue, and at least last night, the staff was very warm and friendly and were clearly glad to welcome us. We don’t live far away, either, so I could definitely see us venturing out there again.

A little clever marketing about the hotel and restaurant… I’m sure they live up to this if you give them plenty of warning.

I will offer a caveat to those who have mobility issues. The restrooms are located down a flight of stairs and I didn’t see an elevator. In the ladies room, there are several steps up to the toilets. I’m not sure if they have alternative accommodations for people who use wheelchairs.

A parting shot of the wine…

We got home at about 9pm. Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see us again. Arran, in particular, was really wound up and took off running around the house. I was relieved to see it, as two of his lymph nodes are large again. The vet decided to skip chemo last week, and the cancer has responded accordingly. But, in spite of the larger lymph nodes, Arran doesn’t appear to be feeling too badly right now. This is a sign, however, that the cancer is progressing, and we will probably be saying goodbye to him before too much longer.

I really hate this part of having dogs in my life, even though I know it’s necessary. However, I also know from experience that every time I have a dog who is very special and think no one can possibly equal him, I am proven wrong. Every dog we’ve had has been original and special in their own ways, and every one has been unforgettable and uniquely wonderful. So, as much as I hate the thought of saying goodbye to Arran, I also know that when he goes, another opportunity awaits us. And with that opportunity comes new and amazing experiences waiting to happen.

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booze tourism, tours

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part one

How did we end up in Italy and Switzerland again?

Yesterday, Bill and I got back from our eleven night food and wine odyssey, which mostly took place in Italy, but also included a night in Andermatt, Switzerland, and two nights in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. We also spent three nights in a castle in Torrechiara (near Parma), three nights in Florence, a night in Cortona, and another night in Florence. Our trip was busy, as it included a very intense, but brief, wine tour, as well as visits to places we’d never been, and a revisit for lunch in the coastal town of Viareggio, which I had last seen in 1997.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had initially demurred when this trip was proposed. We hadn’t been planning to go to Switzerland and Italy for our spring vacation, but had to be convinced that it would be a good idea to go there. Left to my own devices, I probably would have chosen to go somewhere else, mainly because I like variety, and we’ve been neglecting other countries because of COVID-19. We are way overdue for a trip to Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Poland, for instance. We went to Switzerland and Italy in 2020, and we visited Zurich, Switzerland last summer, so it seemed too soon to be going to those places again.

I also wanted to go somewhere where COVID-19 policies were less onerous, because frankly, I’m really tired of the rules and restrictions. I know this might not be a politically correct thing to admit. Many people still think we should be wearing masks and locking down, but having been in Germany the whole time COVID has existed, I am, quite frankly, fed up with the rules. In fairness, the rules have been much stricter in Europe than they have been in the United States. And yet, in spite of the stricter rules, people have still gotten the virus.

Anyway, Tom De Vries, a Florence based member of the Facebook wine group I run, owns a business selling beautiful Tuscan wines and leading wine tours in Tuscany. We’ve purchased a few wine boxes from Tom’s business, Sommelier’s Choices. While the boxes are not inexpensive, Bill and I have genuinely enjoyed the wines he’s sent to us. One day a couple of months ago, Tom sent me a private message, asking if Bill and I would be interested in joining his tour starting April 28th.

I have to confess that my initial reaction to his query wasn’t particularly positive. At the time Tom made his pitch, there were still a bunch of people arguing about COVID-19 and what should be done about the rules. I don’t always do well in groups, because I have the kind of personality that people tend to love or hate. I like to do things at my own pace, and I can be particular about food and accommodations. I also didn’t want to be stuck in a vehicle or touring wineries wearing a face mask. I legitimately hate wearing masks, and I go out of my way to avoid situations in which I have to wear them.

If anyone is offended by that statement, keep in mind my comment that I do my best to try to avoid situations in which masks are necessary. I do wear the masks when I’m required to, but I don’t like having to do it, and would much rather not. I figure that I don’t have to like wearing masks, as long as I comply with the rules. Vacations that require face masks aren’t fun for me, and I was afraid they would be required for the wine tour, either due to local laws, or because of other participants who preferred to wear them and imposed their preferences on everybody else.

I’m happy to report that face masks weren’t an issue at all on the tour, though masks were required for a good portion of our time in Italy. I’ll get more into that further into the series, since I did make some observations about COVID prevention measures in Italy that I haven’t seen in Germany. I was also surprised that Italy did away with masks in most public places later than Germany did. I would not have expected that, since Italians seem to be more laid back about a lot of things than Germans are. In some ways, Italy’s mask rules are stricter than Germany’s are, although to be fair, Italy got hit really hard with COVID-19 when the pandemic began.

I finally changed my mind about taking the trip because it was very obvious that Bill wanted to do it. He has become quite the food and wine aficionado, and he really has enjoyed Tom’s wine boxes. Bill also BADLY needed a vacation. He had leave to burn up, and was really jonesing for a trip somewhere. Before COVID, we used to do a lot of short breaks, which gave him a chance to recharge. We have been doing less of that over the past two years. But, I have to admit, for many reasons, I actually kind of wanted Bill to drive us in our own car on the tour. Again, I’m not very good at groups… Of course, now I know that wouldn’t have been a great idea. ūüėČ

In spite of my initial misgivings, this trip turned out to be a good one, because we went to some places I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, and we returned to a couple of places to where I’ve wanted to return. I also finally got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which I know many of my fellow military community friends have visited. In spite of my years living abroad and extensive travel, I had not had a chance to visit Pisa before last week. It was also great to walk around Viareggio, which I had the pleasure of visiting back in 1997, at a time when I thought I might never have a chance to see Europe again. And we spent two nights in Vaduz, which we had previously visited very briefly in 2009. Since Liechtenstein is technically a country, I was happy to add it to the itinerary– even if it does bear a strong resemblance to Austria and Switzerland.

So yes, even though I had some doubts about this trip when it was initially proposed, we did have a great time. I would also highly recommend Tom De Vries as a tour guide, especially if you’re into wines. He did a great job introducing us to some wonderful small wineries and great food. Again, more on that as the series progresses. This will probably be a long series, due to the length of the trip and its many facets. We stayed in SIX different hotels. I hope some people will follow along, anyway. I know of at least a few who will. So, let’s get down to it, shall we?

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Uncategorized

A delightful Greek lunch at Der Grieche in Erbenheim…

Until this afternoon, it had been awhile since Bill and I last enjoyed Greek food.  Unlike our former neighborhood in Unterjettingen, our current house isn’t within spitting distance of several Greek restaurants.  Sure, there are plenty of Greek restaurants up this way, but they aren’t clustered near us, and the ones that do exist don’t all have all day hours or even lunch hours.

Nevertheless, Bill managed to find a great Greek place in Erbenheim, a charming little hamlet not far from Clay Kaserne.  Der Grieche turned out to be a great pick for lunch, although we had a challenge trying to find parking near it.  Fortunately, there was a free spot open right by the Rathaus and the restaurant has its own tiny lot, though it was full of cars today.  Apparently, this is a popular Greek place.  Most of the tables were full when we arrived at about 1:30pm.

Near the Rathaus in Erbenheim.  It’s quite quaint!

 

And look!  They make cleaning up after your dog a cinch! 

We were seated at a comfortable four top next to the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.  I was taking note of the charming building and how well maintained it appeared to be.  I was glad to see it, since this area does not seem to have as many beautiful old buildings at Baden-W√ľrttemberg does.  I asked Bill if Hesse got bombed a lot in World War II, since I don’t see as much old architecture here as I did near Stuttgart.

I was really in the mood for gyros, so that’s what I decided to have.  Bill went with the H√§hnchenspie√üen– grilled chicken on a metal spit with peppers and onions.  Both dishes came with t’zatziki and salad.  Bill had pommes and I had patates– although I was supposed to get tomato rice.  I think our very charming waiter took one look at me and thought to himself, “There’s a woman who likes potatoes.”  He got one of my winsome grins when he asked me if I’d prefer those.

Obligatory shot of Bill, looking handsome as ever.

Both of our dishes came with this salad, full of kraut, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, a single black olive and a single pepper.  The dressing was the usual yogurt dressing Germans seem to like.  Personally, I prefer less dressing than this, but it was a nice start to the meal.

I almost ordered the chicken spit myself, but Bill decided to have it.  He said it was delicious.  I tried it and agree.  The chicken was very juicy and flavorful and looked festive next to the colorful peppers and onions.

The gyros were also very good.  They were well-seasoned and juicy and I loved the potatoes.  The t’zatziki was also very good and matched beautifully with the pork.

It was nice to see all of the families out today, enjoying each other’s company.  I noticed the people behind us got chocolate mousse, which I didn’t see on the menu.  I was tempted by it, but decided we’d had enough calories…  so we called for the check and had our ouzo…

And then our charming waiter brought us chocolate mousse, anyway.  I have to say, that really put a smile on my face!

The total bill was about 41 euros.  Bill topped up the waiter to 45 euros, not realizing that he’d stuck an extra 20 in there.  The waiter noticed it and gave it back to Bill.  I mused that in America, the waiter probably would have just grabbed the cash without looking.  I was left with a very good impression of Der Grieche after lunch, but it improved after that little mistake was pointed out to us.

We’re going to visit again…

They have a Biergarten, too.

Actually, Erbenheim has some possibilities, even if it sucks to have to park there.  This whole area is loaded with cars and not enough parking spots.

After lunch, we went to AAFES to buy a lamp and a couple of other necessary items, as well as to gas up my car.  Now that we’ve had our Sunday fun, I’m going to buy a couple more bookshelves so I can put the finishing touches on straightening out our living quarters.  My next project is to unload our horrible futon and get a real couch.  Interestingly enough, when I searched for “couch” on Amazon.de, I came up with one very interesting and unexpected result.  I’ll let you discover it if you’re interested, but be prepared.  It’s not exactly safe for work.

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Uncategorized

Slow food in Stuttgart…

Even though I love good food and wine, it’s taken me several years of living in the Stuttgart area to finally go to the annual Slow Food Messe. ¬†This huge exhibition takes place at the Messe near Stuttgart’s airport every spring. ¬†My German friend, Susanne, lives near the airport and makes a point of going every year. ¬†I had wanted to go in the past, but decided not to… probably because of the crowds and the hassle of getting there.

This year, Bill decided to pre-purchase tickets for yesterday. ¬†The tickets included a train pass, which made it very easy to get to and from the festival. ¬†Frankly, if you’re a drinker and think you might be tasting adult beverages, I would highly recommend using public transportation to get to and from this event. ¬†There are a lot of opportunities to try alcoholic beverages and you don’t want to drink and drive. ¬†The Messe is a short walk from the train stop at the airport, but then you have to walk through the convention hall itself, and it’s a pretty huge place. ¬†The Slow Food Fair is happening in halls 5,7, and 9. ¬†There are also other exhibitions going on, such as a Yoga Fair and a Fair Trade Fair (which shares hall 7 with the slow food exhibits).

According to Susanne, this year’s event is not as good as ones held in the years prior. ¬†She told me that a lot of her favorite exhibitors didn’t come this year because of new, more restrictive rules governing what products could be displayed. ¬†She said that in past years, they’ve had live animals at the park; but this year, there were none. ¬†Also, she said she felt there was too much emphasis on alcohol and less on food.

Since this year was the first time we’ve gone to the Slow Food Fair, Bill and I were plenty impressed by what we saw. ¬†I would highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes and, perhaps, eating before you show up. ¬†There is plenty to eat at the fair, but you’ll want to have strength as you make your way through the crowds. ¬†We made the mistake of not eating before we showed up and trying to find something for lunch was kind of overwhelming. ¬†We finally found some quiet food stands with seating in hall 7.

Below are some pictures from yesterday.  The Slow Food Fair continues today from 10:00am until 6:00pm.  Today is the last day of the festival.

Walking into the huge “Messe”… There is a very helpful information desk where Bill asked where to go.

We bought tickets online.  It was cheaper and more convenient that way.  You can also buy them on site.

There were African dancers… ¬†

 

I got a short video of them, as well as some of the other sights and sounds of the festival as it was yesterday.

The Yoga Fair was also going on. ¬†Your ticket allows you entry to the other events. ¬†I don’t do yoga, but Susanne does. ¬†

No dogs allowed! ¬†But I still saw one snuck in… it was a tiny chihuahua looking thing.

Damn… I meant to come back to this booth! ¬†I totally forgot! ¬† ¬†

We stopped for a “crash course” on wines, given in German. ¬†Bill speaks some German. ¬†I don’t, really… although I can understand it somewhat. ¬†They were handing out free tastes, though, so I was game.

If beer is more your thing, they have plenty of that, too. ¬†And they also have a “gin quarter” in hall 9.

An oasis of quiet in hall 7, where Bill and I found smoked salmon sandwiches.

They also had quiches and tarts from France.

And some kind of cinnamon and sugar creation.

I liked this sign.

This sandwich included smoked salmon, a honey mustard sauce, and cucumbers.  It was delicious!

Hall 7 was a bit quieter than hall 5.

 

I really should have made room for pastries.  This stall in hall 7 had what looked like sugared doughnuts filled with chocolate or vanilla custard.

And, of course, you can have coffee, too.

I think hall 9 was my favorite of the three.  It was a happy balance of exhibits with a slightly less hectic vibe.  

 

Bill tried some cheese.

Polish exhibit, with sausages and folk art.

Fresh orange juice!

Damn… I meant to come back to this stall, too!

We stopped to try ravioli.  One euro per sample includes two raviolis stuffed with ricotta, spinach, and Parmesan cheese.  It was delicious!

For some reason, I didn’t get pictures of what came next. ¬†We stopped at a Champagne exhibit and decided to try six for 18 euros. ¬†Three German ladies joined us. ¬†They were trying four for 12 euros. ¬†We ended up chatting with them and they were hilarious! ¬†I told them how much I enjoy living in Germany and hope we can stay awhile. ¬†When I told them I was from Virginia, one of the ladies said all she knew about Virginia is that they have moonshine there. ¬†Apparently, this was on a German television program! ¬†I happen to be related to people who live in moonshine country! ¬†They knew a lot more about Bill’s home state of Texas. ¬†One had even been to Austin.

We bought two bottles of bubbly and some “dip”. ¬†That’s more Bill’s thing than mine.

Bill tries some dip.  Guess we should pick up some crackers.

A Swiss monk was selling cheese.  He had a little contraption that made the cheese look like a little flower.  Bill bought some, noting that it was milder than Gruyere.  Maybe that will mean I can eat it, too!

Lots of whiskey! ¬†We were going to taste some, but soon became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices. ¬†So we moved on to wine…

This was a vintner from the Piemonte region of Italy. ¬†Bill and I visited there in 2008 and we love the wines from that region. ¬†The seller was very friendly, so we bought four bottles from him. ¬†He also told me his family runs a B&B near Genoa in the vineyards. ¬†It might be time to go back down there for a visit. ¬†The ladies who joined us for Champagne tasting laughed when they saw us trying Italian wines, too. ¬†Like I said… it’s good to come by train. ¬†

We finally stopped for “Eis”… This kind was vegan and had no added sugar! ¬†It was made with cashews and dates. ¬†They used cashew milk to make it creamy and dates for sweetening.

It was surprisingly good, too. ¬†Maybe it’s time I tried more vegan products.

We had a fabulous time at the Slow Food Fair. ¬†I’m half tempted to go back for another visit today, but I think Bill is hoping to start another batch of his home brew. ¬†If we’re still here next year, we will have to make a point of visiting the Slow Food Fair again. ¬†It really was a lot of fun, even if this year’s exhibition was not as good as last year’s. ¬†Susanne said over 100 past exhibitors protested the new rules. ¬†I can’t even imagine another 100 exhibits! ¬†I might have to book a room at a hotel and spend a few days!

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Sundays

Celebrating swine in Stuttgart…

Pig out!

Need something to do on a Sunday?  May I suggest Stuttgart’s kitschiest museum?  It’s a place utterly dedicated to the pig and the largest pig museum in the world, the Stuttgart Schweine Museum.

I don’t remember where I first heard about this place.  I want to say it was mentioned in a local Facebook group.  I know I also saw it highlighted in an online magazine article about quirky museums.  What can I say?  My people are originally from the same area where Foamhenge existed for years (it has since been moved to a new location).  I’m a sucker for the surreal.

I suggested a trip to the pig museum last weekend, but Bill and I were sidetracked by beer and wine tastings.  I thought we might go yesterday, but then we decided to go to Herrenberg today.  We thought about postponing our trip for another week when I realized how beautiful the weather is today.  I thought maybe the Schweine Museum might be better on a rainy day.  After some discussion, Bill and I decided we’d go… and then maybe drop by Killesberg Park for awhile.  Little did we know how absolutely HORRIBLE traffic was going to be.

At this point, we were very close to the museum… it still took about ten minutes to get there.  I think there was a game going on, which also made parking difficult.

 

Bill made me laugh pretty hard as we drove through one of Stuttgart’s many tunnels.  The GPS told him to make a U-turn and he said, “What?  I’m not making a U-turn!  Screw you!”  He gets pretty funny when he converses with computerized objects.  Thanks to the traffic going to a football game and the neverending road projects going on in the big city, it was kind of a challenge to get to the museum.  Once we got there, we had to find parking, which wasn’t so easy since a lot of people going to the game were availing themselves of parking at the pig museum.  Fortunately, we drove my Mini Cooper…

Props to Bill for his parking job.  He managed to squeeze into a tight spot.

 

Pigs are everywhere at the Schweine Museum.

The Schweine Museum has a very nice biergarten in the front and back.  There’s also a nice restaurant (called the Schlachthof Restaurant) on the first floor of the museum.  My guess is that many people come there for the food.  We saw plenty of people who were obviously in the area for football having lunch at the biergarten.  It was pretty full when we arrived, but had emptied out somewhat after we finished lunch.  It’s worthwhile, by the way, to stop in for food at the museum.  They had some great stuff, naturally inspired by pork. For those who aren’t pork eaters, there are other selections available.  Vegetarians and vegans might be a bit challenged, though.

Come on in… sit down and have a beer and a cigarette, if you want.  Smoking is allowed.

 

Someone (not me) obviously got bored while waiting for their order…  I have to admit being impressed.  It never would have occurred to me to add these features to the beer coasters.  I decided to be a good Samaritan and take these with me, lest any innocent children see them.

 

Bill laughs when I show him the adulterated coasters.

 

For lunch, Bill chose the barbecue pork burger, which came with onion rings, potato wedges, and kraut.  I had bratwurst, which also came with potato wedges and barbecue sauce.  Bill and I were delighted with the quality of the food.  I noticed that the company providing the food is the same one that owns Ampulle Dry Gin and Beef Club in Stuttgart.  We visited that restaurant last July and enjoyed it.  I’m glad to see they know what to do with pork, too.  Edited to add:  My German friend, Susanne, says the museum was founded by Erika Wilhelmer, who is the grandmother in the family that owns the Wilhelmer Gastronomie Company.  Wilhelmer Gastronomie is the force behind several food oriented outlets in the Stuttgart area.

The usual beer…

 

My fancy bratwurst.  It was very fresh, although the BBQ sauce reminded me of what they put on currywurst, minus the curry.

 

Bill’s pork burger.  It was a hit!  

 

Other choices included everything from salmon filet to pork t-bones to beef.  They also had salads and soups, as well as a kid’s menu.  Our lunch was about 36 euros before the tip.  Service was a little slow, but the servers were working hard.  It was a beautiful day and they were very busy.

 

After we ate and visited the loo, we went into the restaurant to find out how to visit the museum.  They lady running the museum had stepped out for a minute, so we ended up waiting for a few minutes.  After she sold us our tickets, a guy came in and started asking about the restaurant, at which point she pitched the museum to him.  I don’t know if she was the owner, but I would not be surprised if she was.  I read that the museum was moved to Stuttgart from Bad Wimpfen, a location near Heilbronn, just a few years ago.  The museum was housed in much smaller quarters in those days, but still made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest swine museum in the world.

The swine museum itself is on two floors.  I didn’t see any elevators, so I would guess this attraction would not be suitable for mobility challenged people or those with strollers.  I wouldn’t swear to this, though, so if this post makes you want to visit and you have mobility challenges, you might want to call ahead.  It costs 5,90 per adult to see the museum and that is the most you’ll pay for an hour or two of kitschy pig related fun!  Below are some pictures I took while browsing the exhibits, almost all of which had English translations of what we were looking at.

Pigs like this one are everywhere!

 

Outside, in front of the museum, there’s a lot to see.

Artwork near where you buy your tickets.  Looks like they had private dining rooms in that area, too.

Hours.

The two pictures above show who eats the most pork out of 75 of the 196 countries in the world.  Austria is #1.  USA is #21.  Not surprisingly, several countries heavily populated by Muslims come in last.

A pig inspired barbecue.

These helpful signs are translated in English, so you won’t wander from room to room learning by osmosis.

I would actually love to have this table.  I love this kind of stuff.

 

Pig booze?

Sexy pigs.

 

Today, I learned that pigs are rumored to have 30 minute orgasms!

X-rated pig stuff.  This is just one picture of several I could have taken.

Although most of the exhibits in the pig museum are good clean fun, I will caution those who are sensitive about sexually explicit exhibits.  There is one room, easily identified because it’s red, where there are some items that may not be suitable for children or uptight adults.  However, this room is easy to skip and you have to look closely to find the sexually explicit pig figurines.  I almost missed them myself, until Bill pointed them out to me.

For Lego lovers!

Kids play area!

Someone should have given us this for our wedding…

 

All in all, Bill and I really enjoyed our visit to the Schweine Museum.  It’s an inexpensive and fun place to visit, the food is great, and you will learn some surprising facts about pigs.  They have exhibits about everything from where pigs come from, to their intelligence level, to what it takes to hunt them.  I had no idea, for instance, that male boars in the wild are so cunning and dangerous.  There are also some interesting exhibits about where certain pig related sayings come from, such as “Casting one’s pearls before swine” and “Even a blind pig can find an acorn sometimes.”  I’m proud to report that I know more about pigs today than I did yesterday.  I would recommend this museum to anyone else who likes a little porking.

When pigs fly?

We also tried to visit Killesburg Park today, but there were way too many people there and it was impossible to find parking.  Maybe next time, we’ll take the U-Bahn and get there earlier in the day.

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A Schlachtfest! And lunch in Nagold at Luz Bistro Bar…

A flyer about our local Schachtfest.  It was held at Willy-Dieterle Halle, here in Jettingen.

Here in Jettingen, we get a weekly newspaper that tells us what’s going on.  I have only recently started paying attention to it.  I noticed a few days ago that the local evangelical church was having a Schlachtfest today after church services.  I was curious about it, but when I mentioned the prospect of going to the festival to Bill, he was a bit skeptical.  Bill has had a rather distressing history with organized religion and was worried about being proselytized.

I asked my local German friend, Susanne, what I could expect if we went to the Schlachtfest.  She posted a link to a newspaper article about last year’s fest.  She said it was strictly to raise money and there wouldn’t be any pressure to get religious.  She said the cakes would be made by the Landfrauenverein (country women’s club) and would probably be amazing.

A Schlachtfest, for those who don’t know, is basically a festival dedicated to meat.  Historically, it involves the ceremonial slaughter of a pig.  The meat from the pig is then used to make schnitzel, sausages, and other meaty dishes.  At the one hosted in our town, there was a two hour lunch followed by coffee and cake and a concert put on by the local music club.

I pressured Bill about going to the fest, but we were a little slow on the draw.  We didn’t get to the Schlachtfest until it was well underway.  The parking lot was very full and things were in heavy swing.  I took a few photos, but was a little overwhelmed by the crowds.

Check out those cakes!  They looked awesome!  I probably should have gotten a piece to go.  We noticed they had a waffle station, too.

Most of the seats were taken.  There were a couple of tables with religious literature on them, but other than that, it looked like a regular fest, complete with wine and beer and a couple of crosses on the stage.  No one tried to help us find Jesus.

The menu on the wall.  It looked like you’d pay, get a ticket, and then present the ticket to the ladies who were dishing out the food.  It smelled really good in there and I was tempted to partake, but it was after 1:00pm and the scene was a bit chaotic.  There were hundreds of people there having a good lunch.  I felt a little like I was in a school cafeteria.  So I told Bill I wanted to go to Nagold.

The parking lot was loaded.  Next time, we’ll come earlier.  They had games for kids in the lobby as well as a big coat rack.  I love how civilized things are in Germany.

 

We went to Nagold and had lunch at Luz Bistro Bar/Alte Post.  We’ve eaten at this restaurant a few times and have never been disappointed.  Today’s lunch was especially lovely.

Bill checks out the flyer on the table about Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations, as well as wine dinners regularly hosted in Alte Post’s classy upstairs dining room.

We split a nice bottle of Barbera from the Piedmont region of Italy.

I had the Metzgerspiesse– basically pieces of pork on a skewer with barbecue sauce, lots of bacon, and sauteed onions.  A potato with sour cream completed the dish.

Bill had Schweinebackchen– basically braised pork with pureed potatoes and corn served in a copper pot.  I really liked my dish, but Bill’s was even better.  That pork was so tender and flavorful!  Bill was hesitant to order it at first, but he really enjoyed it.  Next time, I’ll probably go for this dish myself if they still have it!

We finished with a round of espresso.

And I had to take note of the unisex bathroom.  Don’t worry.  There are two rooms with stalls, but everyone washes their hands in the same place.  

 

Our bill for today’s sumptuous lunch was almost 80 euros.  It was well worth the price.  We definitely need to get to the Alte Post for a formal dinner.  I’ve enjoyed every meal I’ve had there and the service is always welcoming and professional.  If you are ever in Nagold, I highly recommend stopping in for a meal.

A nice shot of a Nagold church…

On the way back to the car, we passed Osteria da Gino’s, which is probably our favorite Nagold restaurant.  We always end up getting the degustation menu, so we never know what he has or the prices.  I took a picture of the menu posted outside (we are usually there after dark).  We haven’t been to see Gino since my birthday in June and are long overdue for a visit.

 

All in all, we had a nice afternoon.  Now we’re enjoying quiet time with another nice red.  Hope your Sunday is just as peaceful.  On another note, isn’t Schlachtfest a great word?  It ranks right up there with Stau and Schmutz in descriptiveness!

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Our pet friendly Belgian Labor Day Adventure… Part three

We woke up Friday morning fairly refreshed.  Actually, I woke up at the crack of dawn because that’s my habit after being married to an Army man for almost fourteen years.  It was a bit chilly in the house, but the WiFi was working so I caught up on Facebook and email while Bill and the dogs slept.  Finally, at about 7:30 or 8:00, Bill got up and picked up some fresh croissants, cold cuts, and cheese.  He also bought some Senseo pods.

Now… I mentioned in my first post that Bill and I are coffee snobs.  Neither of us had high hopes for the Senseo pods.  Nevertheless, Bill tried them… and pronounced the resulting “coffee” horrible.  After fiddling around with the Senseo machine, he succeeded in making a cup of coffee that was somewhat less dreadful.  He offered to make me some coffee, but I told him not to bother.  I am very picky about coffee and don’t really have to have it to function.  When I drink it, I want it to be very good.  So Bill decided to go back to the store and find some whole coffee beans.  Once he did that, he was able to make some decent coffee that we both could enjoy.  The Senseo pods Bill bought ended up being donated to the house.

After we had breakfast and coffee sorted– that actually took a long while– we decided to check out Durbuy.  It was Friday, so everything was mostly open and it didn’t look like there were tons of tourists about.  We found plenty of parking, which we had to pay for.  You can either use cash or credit; I recommend using cash because the credit option confounded a large group of Europeans.  Besides, it was only about four euros for four hours.  Big deal.

Pretty Durbuy!

Durbuy is noted for being the “smallest city in the world” and it’s right next to the Ourthe River.  There’s also a topiary park, a jam factory, a castle, and The Belvedere, which is a vantage point over the city offering good views.  The town itself has charming cobbled streets, cute little shops, and plenty of little inviting bars.  Had Bill and I not had the dogs with us, we probably would have spent a good long time exploring the bars.  There was one called The Pirate Bar that was particularly intriguing; the bartender was actually dressed like a pirate.  One other thing I loved about Durbuy is that I didn’t see or hear any other Americans.  In fact, we didn’t run into any of our countrymen on this trip and not everyone could speak English!  I love Americans, but when I’m in Europe, it’s nice to find authentic, undiscovered places.

There was just one table of Brits at the restaurant where we had lunch.  They were enjoying lots of beer after a round on the golf course.

This was probably my favorite picture of the entire trip!  Apparently, public defecation is an issue in Belgium.  I didn’t see evidence of it in Durbuy, perhaps because of this sign.  I have seen it in other places, which I will explain in a later post…

As it was, we walked around the little city and stopped at a very pet friendly hotel/brasserie for lunch, Hotel La Caleche.  We chose this place because there were several bowls of water set out for dogs.  Durbuy is actually very dog friendly anyway.  We saw dogs everywhere and they seemed to be perfectly welcome, though most were probably better behaved than ours are.  Since Zane and Arran are fairly new to dining out, we wanted to choose a place that put out the “welcome mat”, so to speak.  Hotel La Caleche definitely did.  They also had an impressive beer list and a good menu.

Beer time!

Bill enjoyed a locally brewed beer from Durbuy which came with cheese.

He said this cheese was like butter!  I wish I liked cheese enough to try it for myself!

Zane relaxed.

I had a ham and butter sandwich and a side of marvelous frites.  No one does fries quite like the Belgians do…

Bill had what was basically a grilled cheese with ham and pineapple…

Heavenly fried potatoes!  They also brought us olives, crackers, and a mild onion dip.

Obligatory shot of Bill.

Obligatory shot of Bill after I made a disgusting joke.  Not long after Bill made this face, a wandering accordion player came around.  I got some video, which I’ll probably put on YouTube.

After the Westmalle Dubbel… I was starting to relax and some folks at a nearby table smiled appreciatively at Zane and Arran, who were both behaving surprisingly well.

Another local beer… though not local to Durbuy.  We passed this hamlet on Saturday.

A few parting shots of Durbuy as we were leaving…

Parking!

And a couple of shots of Barvaux.

 

Bill had picked up some more beer at the store, so we moved the party back to the chalet.  While I tasted some excellent Belgian brews, Bill filled the hot tub and started heating it with a fire.  The fire was a bit high maintenance, but happily Bill took care of it.  The chalet provided us with wood.  We enjoyed a very leisurely soak under Belgian stars.  It’s just now getting to the point at which it’s a bit chilly at night and coming inside was a bit of a shock to the system.  But, I must admit, it was well worth it.

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Sundays

A beautiful Sunday afternoon in Seewald…

I’m always looking for new things to do, especially on Sundays. ¬†Today, I was inspired by the continuing beautiful weather to take a trip to a place Bill and I had never been to before. ¬†I remembered that one of Bill’s coworkers had suggested a cool Biergarten in Seewald. ¬†After searching all my bookmarks, I suggested it to Bill, who had originally planned for us to visit the commissary. ¬†I’m pretty glad I talked him out of that, especially after our little road trip today!

Although Unterjettingen is not all that close to the military installations near Stuttgart, it is in a great area for finding things to do. ¬†Yesterday’s trip to the Barfuss Park was pretty painless; it’s only about a half an hour from where we live. ¬†Likewise, Seewald is also within about a 30 or 40 minute drive. ¬†I was keen to try the Seeheiner Gasthof and Cafe. ¬†I knew the Seeheiner was next to a lake. ¬†What I didn’t know is that the Seewald is a great place to hang out, swim, boat, have a picnic, and enjoy nature. ¬†In fact, many Germans were doing just that today.

I snapped this shot as we sat at a light in Altensteig, a picturesque town we passed through on our way to Seewald.

 

As we approached the biergarten, I noticed there were many, many cars… and even more bikes! ¬†Seeheiner’s parking lot was full of motorcycles. ¬†Plenty of people were parked on the side of the road and most of the parking lots were full. ¬†Undaunted, we parked in P2, which is a lot a bit past the biergarten. ¬†We made our way there, enjoying the majestic beauty of the lake, surrounded by evergreens and full of people having fun.

A man checks out a commemorative sign…

My first unobstructed glimpse of Seewald.

Plenty of people brought all manner of boats and rafts. 

Bringing your dog?  Seewald has you covered.  Unfortunately, not everyone availed themselves of this Hundestation.

At last, we reached the biergarten. ¬†We wanted to sit outside, but every table was taken. ¬†People were especially eager to take the tables on the slowly rotating platform that offered 360 degree views of the lake and the surrounding areas. ¬†Seeheiner has lots of outdoor seating. ¬†Besides the rotating platform, there are a couple of wraparound balconies offering views of the lake. ¬†There’s also seating out front. ¬†We didn’t want to wait for a table outside, so we decided to eat inside. ¬†That was actually okay, since Bill and I drove the Mini convertible and already got some sun on the way to and from the lake.

Beer!

A shot of the rotating platform. ¬†It moves very slowly round and round…

And another shot of the bikes… Bikers obviously love Seeheiner!

It was a beautiful day!

Bill checks out the menu.

 

Seeheiner has warm food throughout the day, though some dishes are only available at certain times of the day.  If you want a traditional lunch, you should arrive between 11:00 and 2:00pm.  The food is very typical hearty Swabian cuisine.  I saw only a few options for vegetarians, though there is a menu for kids.  The wait staff was working very hard and it took some time for them to get to us.  The food turned out to be well worth the wait.  Not only does Seeheiner boast a great location, it also offers delicious food.

Bill and I both had Hefeweizens.

And we had salads, though our dishes were so large that we probably shouldn’t have. ¬†I could only eat about a third of this.

Bill had Schweinebraten. ¬†He said it was probably the best he’s ever had. ¬†I have to admit, this pork was super tender and flavorful. ¬†It was delicious!

I had fresh Nagolder trout. As you can see, it’s liberally sprinkled with toasted almond slivers and accompanied by parsleyed potatoes. ¬†The fish was also excellent. ¬†It was super fresh, moist, and flavorful. ¬†I managed to eat a little over half before I had to stop. ¬†I thought about taking it home for lunch tomorrow, but thought better of it when I realized we were going to want to walk around a bit. ¬†What a shame!

 

I noticed quite a few delicious looking desserts heading out the door… lots of ice cream creations and cakes. ¬†If we were going to be spending the night in Seewald, I might have come back later for a late afternoon sweet. ¬†As it was, we were too full to even consider having dessert. ¬†Our bill was just over forty euros.

A better shot of the sign as we were leaving.

We took a walk around the lake and I found myself wishing I’d worn my bathing suit. ¬†I have been itching to take a swim for some time now! ¬†Maybe we’ll go back next weekend, if the weather holds up for us. ¬†The following are some photos I took as we explored Seewald, a name that now means more to me than just Jessa Duggar’s new last name. ¬†ūüėČ

The Seeheiner is one of several nice looking biergartens in the Seewald area. ¬†I also noticed there were lots of people camping in the area. ¬†There is also a small snack bar near the Seeheiner for those who just want a snack and don’t want to battle crowds at Seeheiner. ¬†I also noticed a pubic restroom near where we parked.

When we got back to our car, the guy who was parked next to us had his door open, blocking me from entering my vehicle.  Bill told the guy in German that we were going to leave.  He came around and closed his door.  I got into the car.  As I put the top down on my convertible, he smiled and asked in German if we wanted to trade cars with him.  He was driving a minivan!  Nein danke!

What a beautiful day to go to the lake and enjoy the sunshine. ¬†If you’re looking for a way to spend a warm sunny Sunday, Seewald is a good bet!

But get there early… ¬†Parking is a bit tricky! ¬†At least it doesn’t cost anything!

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Luz Bistro Bar vs. The Alte Post… (both are now closed)

So Bill and I recently noticed that the restaurant at the Alte Post seems to have changed names.  What we thought was the Alte Post restaurant is called the Luz Bistro Bar.  I looked at their Web site and it appeared that the Alte Post is a more formal restaurant, while Luz Bistro Bar is more casual.  They are run by the same people.

After our quick trip to Switzerland on Sunday, we were in no mood to cook.  So Bill and I went to Nagold and had a lovely dinner outside at the Luz Bistro Bar.  The weather was perfect for sitting outside.  We have actually eaten at this place at least three times and have enjoyed it each time.   But now I see we may have to go back and try what appears to be their nicer restaurant.

As for Sunday’s dinner, this is what we had…

Bill had a sauvignon blanc and I had a riesling…

Then he had a lovely grilled skewer with beef, onion, bacon, and a baked potato.  

I went with a beautifully prepared rib eye and pommes.  The steak was outstanding, though the pommes were rather ordinary.  

 

A lot of people were enjoying a pasta dish with truffles, which I could easily smell from several tables away.  I was tempted by the dorade, though I eat fish all the time.  Service was relaxed but professional.  English menus are available.

As we were leaving, I caught sight of the Vodaphone hot air balloon flying overhead.

 

I love living near Nagold.  I’m so glad we got to come back to the Stuttgart area and get to know more about what this part of Germany offers.  It’s great to be here.  I hope we can stay awhile longer.  And now that I know there’s more to the Alte Post, I will have to make a point of visiting so I can write a proper review.  It appears the Alte Post is only open Thursday through Saturday nights.  Luz Bistro Bar is open daily.  We’ll have to make plans!

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