“Be welcome here…”

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Tomorrow, Bill and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Normally, we travel for our anniversary. This year, we can’t go anywhere, thanks to COVID-19. I decided to buy a few new attachments for the air fryer I purchased at the beginning of the pandemic. We don’t use it very often, in part, because the noise from it seems to bother Arran somewhat. But we have discovered that we can use it in the laundry room and Arran doesn’t mind.

Last night, Bill made air fryer brownies that turned out great. This morning, we had a sausage, egg, spinach, sun dried tomato and cheese casserole made in the air fryer. Noyzi is getting braver and now hovers near me at mealtimes, hoping I’ll share with him. I don’t mind doing that because he’s so polite, and it does help him be less fearful.

After breakfast and starting another load of laundry, Bill and I put leashes on Arran and Noyzi and started on our walk. The sun is shining and the temperature is mild. It’s the perfect day to enjoy fall weather. As we were heading down the “Weg” to the main drag, a tall, slim, older German woman approached. She was wearing black slacks, a purple blouse, and a big black sweater. I noticed she also wore black gloves. Bill and I had just been talking about how Germans seem to bundle up a lot more than we do, even when the weather is nice.

I noticed the woman’s face as she looked at Noyzi, who is a very handsome and striking specimen. Noyzi was shying away from her noticeably. He was nervous enough that he dropped a single nugget of poop, but then he calmed down while Arran hung nearby, eager to keep walking. I fought the urge to pick up the poop as the German woman started talking to Bill. She quickly ascertained that we weren’t German when Bill opened his mouth to speak. She switched to careful, halting English, asking if we were the “new Americans”. It so happened that we were standing right next to a house that reportedly contains Americans. I guess native Breckenheimers talk about who’s who, and who’s new.

Bill explained that no, we weren’t “new” here. We moved to Breckenheim in late November 2018, and we live at the top of the hill. The woman wore no makeup. Her straight, silver hair was pulled into a ponytail. I don’t know how old she is. She appeared to be older than we are by some years, but she was very fit looking. In her hand, she held a bundle of some type of herb– perhaps thyme. I’m not sure, because I stood farther away from her than Bill did.

The woman didn’t wear a face mask. Neither did we. It’s probably a good thing, as she was very soft-spoken and I’m not sure we would have been as able to hear and understand her. She was very intent on sharing a message with us. She told Bill that today is a special worldwide holiday. She didn’t know how to say it in English. Bill thought maybe she meant it was like Remembrance Day, but having looked up holidays for November 15th, I don’t think so. I have no idea what she was talking about. She said it was a worldwide holiday, but is especially recognized in Europe. It was the first I’d heard of it after living here for several years.

Edited to add: My German friend Susanne tells me that today is Volkstrauertag (people’s day of mourning), and the lady was probably on her way to the cemetery or church, both of which we have in our area. I kept thinking maybe she was referring to Advent, but it’s a bit early for that. Volkstrauertag happens two weeks before Advent starts, and it commemorates members of the armed forces of all nations and civilians who died in armed conflicts, to include victims of violent oppression..

Regardless, of what the actual holiday is today (now I know– Volkstrauertag), she seemed very keen to talk to us about world peace. She spoke about how there’s no such thing as an enemy. We’re all people and we all deserve peace. Bill told her that he’d been to Iraq. I heard her say, “And you survived.”

She went on some more about having regard for our fellow man, avoiding war, and remembering those who died at war. And then, as she started to walk away, she said “Be welcome here.”

Bill turned to me and I could see the tears in his eyes. He was clearly moved. He said, “Well… that was a message.”

It’s not the first time we’ve run into someone who has imparted a message to us in an unusual way. Five years ago, I was stunned into peace and calm by a Buddhist monk we happened to run into at an Italian restaurant near Munich. It turned out he was a famous Japanese peace crusader named Toyoshige Sekiguchi. He was traveling the world, promoting peace and nuclear disarmament. I didn’t even speak to him, and yet he had a profound effect on me just by being who he is and being in my presence.

We lost Bill’s father a week ago and, naturally, Bill wasn’t able to attend his dad’s funeral on Friday. He was emotional about that last night. We spent some time talking and I was doing what I could to assuage his guilt and soothe his grief. He was still pensive and a little moody this morning. Perhaps that’s why got our special message as we walked the dog.

Bill is normally a very approachable person, but he was especially open-hearted today, which may have been why that woman felt the need to speak to us. Or maybe she stops everyone to talk about peace and loving everyone. It was a good message, though, and seemed kind of appropriate under the circumstances. Maybe she wanted to tell us her message because we represent Americans and most Americans around here are with the military. She might have thought Bill was a war monger, although he’s definitely not your stereotypical military man. In fact, I’d say Bill is not even like the typical guy. He’s unusually in touch with his feelings about most things. Maybe she figured we support Trump, though we definitely don’t.

I think a lot of people, with good reason, think that everyone in or affiliated with the military is a war monger. Most servicemembers I know want war less than anyone does. And anyone who knows Bill knows that he’s a gentle, caring, considerate, and kind man. I, on the other hand, graduate of social work and public health master’s programs and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, tend to be a bit feisty. Go figure that!

Anyway, we had a good walk. Noyzi has really come to love the daily walks. He still won’t let Bill put his leash on him, but he will let Bill walk him. And today, since I came along, I got a special treat in the form of butts. As I was putting on my shoes, Noyzi came up behind me and stuck his big nose right in my ass, as if he was greeting a new canine friend. Then, he came around as I was tying my laces, stuck his butt in my face, and backed up, swinging it side to side as if he wanted to use my nose to scratch his behind. He didn’t actually reach my nose, thank goodness, but he did seem to offer me his butt for sniffing. I guess he’s getting more comfortable here. I may have to teach him not to goose me in the ass when I’m tying my shoes, though.

A couple of nights ago, we ordered Greek takeout from Akropolis Restaurant in nearby Delkenheim. Bill wasn’t feeling like cooking, probably because he’d lost his dad and couldn’t go to the funeral. I was tickled because they sent him away with a small bottle of ouzo! I’ve had better gyros, but the rest of the food was pretty good. We had plenty leftover for lunch yesterday, too.

I wore my favorite dog walking shirt today. On the back, it says in German “Life is too short to drink shitty beer.” I was kind of glad it was covered up with a sweater today, after talking to that very deep and spiritual lady.

Take out from Akropolis in Delkenheim…

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Germany is starting to loosen up on its coronavirus restrictions. This weekend, restaurants are supposedly going to allow people to sit at tables. The tables will be spread far apart, which will be a welcome change as far as I’m concerned, and people will be expected to wear face coverings when they are not at their table, which is not something I want to do. Yeah, I have heard all of the arguments for the masks, but I just feel too uncomfortable wearing them in public. So I’ll continue to stay home, out of sight and out of mind, not shedding viruses or anything else.

Last night, we ordered from Akropolis in Delkenheim, which Bill says is a cute little village near us. I don’t actually know if it’s cute, since I haven’t seen it yet. But anyway, he says it’s cute, so I’ll take his word for it. As of Friday of this week, Akropolis will be allowing indoor and outdoor seating, again with face mask requirements, and curiously, leaving one’s contact information. Why? In case someone gets sick? Yeah, no thanks… I’ll just stay home.

But I don’t mind ordering take out, and we did that last night. Bill ordered souvlaki for himself and gyros for me, along with garlic bread and extra t’zatziki. He definitely didn’t need to order the extra sauce, because plenty of it came with our meals. We also got salads, although I didn’t try mine because there was so much other food.

I was craving Greek food the other day. We have always lived near Greek restaurants when we were in the Stuttgart area. Up here, there don’t seem to be quite as many, which doesn’t mean there aren’t still a lot. In Jettingen, we had four Greek places within five miles of us. Here, I think maybe we have two.

The garlic bread was standard white bread dressed with oil and what appeared to be garlic powder. It wasn’t bad at all, if not sort of pedestrian. Bill’s pork skewers looked excellent and I was kind of wishing I’d had those instead. They were seasoned with Greek spices and looked fresh. The gyros were pretty standard shavings covered with onions. I did really enjoy the potato “coins”, which are a nice change from the usual pommes one finds in Germany. I liked that they were full of potato, if that makes any sense. The t’zatziki was nice and garlicky and provided a nice contrast to the pork. We have plenty of leftovers for today, too.

This spread cost about 28 euros, which Bill topped up to 30. I would order from Akropolis again, although I’ve had better Greek food. It might be more exciting when one dines in. But, sadly, I don’t think that we’ll be doing that for awhile. Anyway, I’ll keep my eyes open to see how this new “loosening” works out. Even the Army is being a little less strict now. It’s inevitable, since the world has to reopen sometime.

Still social distancing, but we finally got take out…

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With all the dining out we’ve historically done, It’s surprising that it took until last night for us to get any take out from local restaurants. I told Bill I wanted to support local joints during this time of social distancing so they can keep afloat, so he went to Restaurant Ariston in nearby Hofheim to pick up Greek food last night.

For me, he got a Grill Teller with gyros, beef cutlet, souvlaki, fries, and a salad. It came with very garlicky tzaziki. For himself, he got gyros baked in Metaxa sauce and covered with cheese with fries and a salad. We shared the food. I normally wouldn’t get the baked gyros, but they were very good. I especially enjoyed the traditional gyros, though, with the delicious tzaziki. I usually get a bit weirded out by white condiments, but I have to admit tzaziki on grilled meat is delicious!

This cost about 30 euros and we have plenty of leftovers. It’s been ages since we last had Greek food, and over a month since we last had any food from a restaurant. We used to eat Greek a lot, since we’ve always lived near Greek restaurants. There aren’t that many of them in our current area. Bill said the inside of Restaurant Ariston looks nice and the outside area would be great for this time of year, as the weather improves. Hopefully we’ll get to dine in there at some point.

We drank Armenian wine with this interesting repast. Bill said the guy running the restaurant had a few orders going. I found a couple of other restaurants we’re going to try. This week, Germany is going to loosen a few restrictions. Small businesses are going to be allowed to reopen, which I’m sure will help make things feel more normal. Kids will be allowed to go back to school on May 4. I even found a local park we could visit maybe next weekend, if the weather is nice.

I do miss eating in restaurants, though… and I feel like such a hermit. I ordered some face masks so we can go on post and take care of some vital personal business. I need a vision exam and to get some passport photos so I can get a new driver’s license and renew my passport… not that we can use it to travel anytime soon.

I’m glad to be in Germany for this mess. It’s really disturbing to read about the nightmare occurring in the United States right now. People are losing their damned minds.

I wish I had more to write about, other than take out Greek food. On the other hand, it was very exciting to get it. Maybe we can order a fancy dinner from another restaurant at some point. I would encourage anyone reading this who can order takeout food to do so… Let’s keep the local eateries going so we’ll have places to enjoy if and when this virus crisis ends.

Modern Greek food at Kavos in Wiesbaden…

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It’s a dark, dreary Saturday in mid October. Unlike last weekend, our weather this weekend ist sehr schlect. Okay, so maybe it’s not very bad, but it’s not all that pretty outside. It’s cooler this week and cloudy, so we weren’t wanting to go to the river or seek out a mountain view. I was kind of tempted to stay in, just like I do every other day of the week, and watch bad TV. But Bill wanted to have lunch somewhere and he found Kavos Greek Restaurant listed online… just steps away from Wiesbaden’s “restaurant alley”. We mainly went there because it was open all day… we got a late start today, and it was after 2:00pm before we were on our way.

Anyway… we arrived just as another party was leaving. There’s a tiny dining room at the restaurant’s entrance, but more tables are upstairs. They also have outside seating under an awning. The weather was not so bad that we couldn’t have sat under the awning, but I try to avoid awnings if I can these days. 😉

The waitress, whose pretty face reminded me a lot of Julie Hagerty’s of Airplane! invited us to take the newly vacated table on the main floor. She spoke German to us, but when Bill told us we only speak a little German, she switched to English. I noted the high noise level in the restaurant as Greek pop played and small children shrieked. The party next to us consisted of two couples and four small children, including a baby. The kids were cute, though, and I heard one of the parents call her son “Schatzi”, which I thought was endearing… even as they screeched. Below are some photos from today’s dining adventure.

Kavos seems to offer a modern take on Greek cuisine. I read mixed reviews on Trip Advisor of this place, but honestly, we had a good experience. I really liked how they did the souvlaki, which was a single Spiese of tender, juicy, pork grilled to perfection. I liked the artful way the food was presented, and it tasted as good as it looked. But I also understand that tastes differ. Some people prefer larger portions. Frankly, I liked the modern take and smaller serving sizes. It gave me the chance to try more without getting stuffed.

Bill liked his Zander filet, although he also considered having a beef cutlet or lamb souvlaki. I don’t like lamb, but something tells me they do it well at Kavos. At one point, our delightful waitress asked if we were from England. I was kind of flattered she took us for Brits, but I told her the truth… we’re from America. She got a strange look on her face. Was it because of Americans in general or because of the recent drama from the White House? Hard to tell… But I guess we don’t talk loudly enough to be immediately mistaken for Americans.

Despite some of the mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, I noticed a lot of locals making reservations, either calling or coming in personally. I liked the owner, too. He shook our hands, said hello, and seemed interested in seeing that we enjoyed our lunches. I’d definitely go back again.

Now that we’re home, I’m back in my nightie, waiting for more wine and some dark chocolate. On the back to our car, we were delayed briefly by a crowd hanging around the souvenir shop on the way back to the garage. They claim to have the world’s largest cuckoo clock, but I think that’s bullshit. I seem to remember the same claim at a place in Triberg. I’ve also heard from Germans that they don’t have cuckoo clocks in their homes and think they’re silly. But if you want a beer stein or a clock from Germany, you don’t have to go to AAFES. You can stop at this place in Wiesbaden and if you’re there at the right time, you can watch a really lame “show”. A fellow American said, “We waited for that?” Yeah… I agree. It wasn’t worth stopping for.

Anyway… we enjoyed Kavos. I suspect we’ll be back. I love me some Greek food.

Volvo, Mark Knopfler, and East German adventures… part eight

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Friday morning, we got up and had breakfast.  The Steigenberger has a pretty good buffet offered, though I somehow missed half of it on the first morning.  My only complaint, besides the coffee being kind of bad, is that some of the chairs were a bit narrow.  I don’t have a skinny butt by any means, but I can’t help but think of those larger than me trying to sit down.  Even Bill, who isn’t a large man, commented on the “snug” feel of the mauve colored chairs in the breakfast room.  However, on the last day, we sat in the black ones, and they were a lot more comfortable.

After breakfast, we walked around Leipzig, enjoying the energy of the place.  I wish I had done a bit more research before we arrived in town, since there are some interesting churches and museums there that we missed.

A big day in Leipzig’s history.  Once behind the East German borders, Leipzig is now a freewheeling, vibrant city.  Although the first demonstrations happened the previous month, it started to become that way on October 9, 1989, when there was a huge peaceful demonstration among the people of Leipzig.  It was just after the 40th anniversary of the GDR’s existence.  For two years, there were Monday demonstrations in Leipzig, demanding change for the people.

 

This was just outside St. Nicholas Church, which is a Lutheran church where protesters gathered.  We didn’t get a chance to look inside the church, since they were doing renovations.

Like Rostock, Leipzig also has a university.  It’s one of the world’s oldest universities and the second oldest in Germany, having been founded on December 2, 1409.  Leipzig University was one of the first in Germany to allow women as “guest students”.  During the Nazi era, many Jews had their degrees “cancelled”.  Some were reinstated during the East German era.

 

Leipzig’s “Hochhaus”, a 36 story skyscraper…  probably the only real one in Leipzig.  The building, which was erected between 1968 and 1972, was designed by architect Herman Henselmann to look like an open book.  It was originally part of Leipzig University, but was later sold to the city, which then sold it to the U.S. investment bank, Merrill Lynch.  The offices are rented to tenants and the top floor has an observation platform, as well as a restaurant called Panorama.

 

After strolling through some of Leipzig’s beautifully constructed passages, we had a nice Greek lunch at Alfa Restaurant.

 

Bean soup… I guess it came with the meal.

 

Obligatory shot of Bill.

 

Salads…

 

Bill had gyros with fries and t’zatziki.

 

I had “surf and turf”, which was gyros with fried calamari and tomato rice.  This was a lot of food, but it was well prepared and the waiter was very nice.

 
The sun briefly came out, so we decided to go back to the wine fest, where we tried more wines… In retrospect, we probably should have gone to museums instead.  But what can I say?  We like our wine.

But soon the clouds were out again…

Most of the wines were German, but some weren’t.  The ones above were from the lone Hungarian vintner who attended.

 

Although I got us a parking spot for the Mark Knopfler concert, Bill decided he’d rather hire a cab to take us to the show.  We also wanted to get there early, remembering what happened when we saw Elton John in Stuttgart back in May.  I had ordered “special tickets”, which got us assigned seats, a wurst and a beer at the snack bar, and a parking spot.  I didn’t actually know where we’d be sitting, since the seats were assigned by the ticket outlet.  Well… it turned out we were on the third row on the ground floor.  They were AWESOME seats, especially since there weren’t any big screens.  Here are a few pictures from Knopfler’s show in Leipzig.  I see I can also order a recording of the Leipzig show in a few weeks.  Genius!

The arena.

The view before the show started.

There he is…

 

He had a wonderful band… although Knopfler himself looked a bit tired at first.  He perked up as the show went on and put on a great performance.  

 

I could not keep my eyes off of these two guys, who were playing multiple instruments so well.  They looked and sounded like they were plucked from some lovely meadow in Ireland or Scotland and recruited to follow Knopfler.  

 

I did not record any part of Knopfler’s show, but I want to mention that he has no objections to people audio recording or taking pictures, so long as they are for personal use.  I think that is a very generous and ultimately smart policy, because people are going to do it anyway and it’s pretty much impossible to police.  Hell, even at The Eagles’ concert, where they specifically asked for no cameras, people were openly recording.  Knopfler does state that iPads and video recording isn’t allowed.  People ignored that rule.

The sax player was badass, too.  He was so good… especially on “Your Latest Trick”, which is one of my favorite Dire Straits songs.

 

I loved that Mark Knopfler was showing off the band and obviously really appreciating what they can do.  I also liked that he shared a couple of personal stories about the songs he played… just a sampling of his amazing catalog of Dire Straits and solo efforts.  I’d been wanting to see him for years and this show was worth the wait. 

 

Security was mostly very good at this show.  I noticed a lot of them sitting on the floor, making sure no one misbehaved to sneaked into areas they shouldn’t be.  This was how it went until the very end of the concert, when a huge swath of people suddenly surged to the stage.  Everyone was forced to stand up.  I can deal with that and expect it… but not this.

This barefoot tall twit got up on her chair…

and started dancing while filming… and I couldn’t help but hope she fell into an open manhole on her way home…  Seriously, I was really pissed.  She could have fallen and hurt someone (namely me), plus who can see when people do this shit?  It’s just very inconsiderate and potentially dangerous behavior.  I was half tempted to yank her chair out from under her.  But while I may fume a lot, I have pretty good control of my physical impulses.

 After the show, Bill was unsuccessful in getting a cab.  We ended up walking all the way back to the hotel.  I was really pissed about that, too, since I wasn’t wearing the best shoes for walking.  My feet were burning and I was still really incensed about the idiot in front of us at the concert.  As a consolation, Bill suggested we go to the bar for a nightcap.  So we did…  We sat down at the bar.  I was still in a crappy mood.  The bartender suggested gin and tonics.  I looked up and…

“Don’t look now, but that’s Mark Knopfler’s band…”

Apparently, they decided to stay at the Steigenberger, too.  I was tempted to tell them how much we enjoyed the show, but decided not to approach them.  They worked hard and deserved a break without someone bothering them.  So we sat there and sipped our gin and tonics…  then…

Mark Knopfler himself showed up.  He sat in the back of the bar and did not call attention to himself. He passed right by me on his way to the elevator after spending about forty five minutes in there, hanging out with his band.  They appeared to be a tight, friendly group.

 

I said goodnight to one of the vocalists, who said he was on his way out to party.  It was very surreal. Apparently, that hotel gets its share of star guests.  As we were leaving, another well known rock star– Sting– was in the sauna taking a day off from his European tour, even though the star in the sauna hadn’t played there.  I guess he decided to stop in Leipzig precisely for that reason.  I won’t say who it was here, but I will give a major hint when I say that this sauna loving rock star is one I saw in Stuttgart a few years ago and has himself appeared on one of Dire Straits’ biggest hits.

Once again… special thanks to my dear husband, Bill, for making this dream come true.  One of the very first albums I ever owned was Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits.  I had it on cassette and used to listen to it on my Walkman as I rode my bike to and from the barn where I boarded my horse back when I was a teenager.  It’s an excellent album regardless, but I have some great memories of it thanks to the association I have of listening to it during my horsey days.  I miss them so much now.

Idyllic Idstein… a place to get your architectural fix!

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I mentioned in my last post that there’s a lot going on in Wiesbaden this weekend.  Even so, we decided today to visit Idstein, an adorable little town just about ten miles north of where we live.  With 25,000 residents and a history that dates from 1102, this is a very charming little town with a past and a future.

I got the idea to visit Idstein from seeing an ad for it on Facebook.  Someone posted photos of the colorful buildings and the inside of the protestant church that stands near the center.  I’ve been missing half timbered buildings since our move north and Idstein has them, along with the Hexenturm (witch’s tower).  This weekend, they’re having a jazz festival that costs 15 euros a head to attend.  Prior to the festival’s beginning, there were numerous musical groups playing for free on small stages around the city.

Bill and I wandered around a bit, had some Greek food for lunch, and visited the beautiful church.  Here are a few photos.

A view showing the steeple of the protestant church, as well as some of the beautiful half timbered buildings.

 
 

Such charming architecture!  I especially loved the colors and intricate designs on the buildings.

 

The blue house next to the Rathaus is the Schiefes Haus– the crooked house.  It’s not a museum or anything; you have to admire it from the outside.  But it really is unique and cute.  

 

The Rathaus, complete with drummers on stage.

We saw a lot of residential areas that looked like this.  People were living in or running businesses out of these classic homes on cobbled streets.  I could learn to love Idstein.  It could be our “new Nagold”.  All it needs is a river, although the two does have two brooks that run on either side of it– the Wolfsbach on the east, and the Wörsbach on the west.

 

Witches’ Towers are not unusual.  They were often part of dungeons, particularly for women accused of practicing witchcraft.  Sometimes they were simply used as regular prisons.

The Hexenturm (Witches’ Tower)… we didn’t climb it because you have to pick up the key from the tourist office.  This tower is part of Idstein Castle and consists of 160 steps.  I needed fortification for that kind of punishment.

 

The back of the castle, just past the tower.  A band was playing “Zoot Suit Riot” by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies.  I was reminded of Thursday night karaoke at The Library in Williamsburg, Virginia.  I used to be a regular.

 

A photo of the castle, which is very striking.  It seemed especially fitting there was a toy store just under it.

 
 

In the tunnel passing under the castle.  

 
 

Need a midwife?  Idstein has you covered.

 

Picture postcard perfect!  There isn’t a lot to Idstein, but it has some nice shops, a weekend market, and a lot of events.  I could see us coming back again and again… at least until our next move.

After about forty-five minutes of walking around, I was pretty hungry.  We stopped at Greek and German eatery called Deustches Haus.  Today, they only offered outdoor seating.  That was fine, since the weather was so good.

It was a nice place to people watch.

I had the Grillteller, which was souvlaki, gyros, and bifteki with tzatziki and steak fries.  This was good, although I’ve had better Greek food.  I loved the frites, which were better than the standard skinny ones one finds here a lot.  It looked like they were offering a scaled down menu, with just a few choices.  If I had wanted German food, I could have had a schnitzel or a salmon filet.

 

Bill had souvlaki, which was curiously priced higher than my dish was.  I couldn’t finish mine, so Bill helped.  Total bill was 34 euros and there was no ouzo… but we enjoyed lunch very much.  It’s been too long since my last Greek food fix.

Nice view from near the restaurant.

After lunch, we went into the Unionskirche, which dates from the 17th century, but was very recently refurbished. 

The inside of this church is astonishing, with its many paintings of Christ.

It kind of puts the Frankfurt Cathedral to shame, even though it’s much smaller.

The beautiful ceiling above the altar.  

I think if I went to church here, I’d spend the whole time looking at all of the art.  It really is beautiful and the pictures don’t do it justice.  The paintings are an unusual feature in a protestant church.  

A Klofrau was sitting near the WC truck.  Idstein also has a public toilet that is prominently and permanently stationed.  Very civilized indeed!

Right after an ice cream break.

Another big event coming up in Idstein this summer.

 

I definitely see us coming back to Idstein.  There are other things to do there that we missed today because we were distracted by the live music and other things going on.  It’s hard to believe this pretty little town is so close to us.  It reminded me a little of Esslingen, near Stuttgart, only it’s a lot smaller and there’s no river.

I would have liked to have stayed for some of the jazz concert, but we had to get back home for the dogs.  Next time, we’ll have to plan better so we can enjoy more of the live music.  Idstein is definitely going on my next “ten cute towns” of Germany list.  Stay tuned for the next rainy or cold day, which probably won’t be too far in the future.

Wiesbaden’s Mix Markt and a Greek lunch at Phaisto’s

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The weather has gotten kind of crappy again.  It’s a bit cloudy today, although the temperature isn’t too cold and there’s been no actual rain.  Although I’m itching to visit Mainz and some of the other interesting areas around Wiesbaden, the weather kind of didn’t allow for it today.  So we decided to visit Wiesbaden’s Mix Markt, a grocery store chain that caters to Russians and people from other countries in Eastern Europe.

We discovered Mix Markt when we were still living near Stuttgart.  One of Bill’s former co-workers, who reads my blog, had mentioned that this was a store that carried products from Russia and former Eastern Bloc countries.  Because I spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia, a former Soviet country, I was interested in seeing what they had there.  Mix Markt has locations all over Germany and in several other European countries.  I’ve been to the ones in Böblingen, Nagold, and now, Wiesbaden.  Each has been a bit grubby and crowded, and each has had a very interesting mix of clientele.

The markets in Nagold and Wiesbaden are pretty tiny, while Böblingen’s location is somewhat larger and has more selection.  Parking at all three of these markets is a challenge, too.  But if you like ethnic treats from Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, or any of the other formerly communist countries, it’s well worth visiting.  Bill and I like to go to there because they carry Georgian wines and Armenian brandies, as well as a number of excellent vodkas and other spirits.  And sometimes, it’s fun to remember things I used to be able to get easily.

Here are some photos from Wiesbaden’s location.  This market is in a rather “socialist” looking area.  There are lots of cookie cutter apartment buildings, although they’re all painted instead of drab grey.  It actually reminded of me of living in Armenia, although Armenia’s buildings were all made of tufa and none were painted.

Parking was somewhat challenging, although there was no charge to use the lot.  It was better than both Nagold and Böblingen, but still kind of tight.  In fact, the store was really busy today.

Every Mix Markt I’ve been to so far has had an impressive candy aisle, stocked with Russian chocolates.  There is also always a sunflower seed aisle.  Sunflower seeds are very popular snacks in formerly Soviet nations.

Beautiful cakes.  Armenia had the most beautiful cakes I’ve ever seen, but most of them tasted like sawdust, at least in the 1990s.  They may be better now.

This was what we came for…  Lovely Georgian wines!  Böblingen’s location has a bigger selection, but we were happy just to find a few bottles today.

And Armenian brandy, which is world class… some would say even better than French cognac.  Josef Stalin used to keep Winston Churchill flush with Armenian brandy because he loved it so much.  It really is good, although the brandy carried at Mix Markt is universally Proshyan, which is not as popular as “Ararat” brandy.  I usually have to order Ararat from Master of Malt.

They did have some fancy Armenian brandy bottles, though.  These make really nice gifts.

They also had Matryshka dolls…  I was tempted to get a set, since the ones I have are of former Soviet leaders and are still in storage.

Russian dominoes.

We decided to try this Turkish flatbread, but it wouldn’t fit in the bag.

It looks a lot like Armenian “Matnakar” bread, so I want to try it to see if it is like Armenian flatbread.

Lots of booze… 

And lots of people in line, with signage in four different languages.

I got a kick out of the vodka at the registers.  They even had some in “jelly jars”.  Actually, if I’m honest, it looked more like urine specimen jars.

You’d think we were going to go home and take communion.

 

On the way back into the city, we happened to notice a Greek restaurant that appeared to be open.  It was called Phaisto’s and had a very generous parking lot with free parking.  We arrived at 2:10pm, just fifty minutes before their pause began.  However, we were warmly welcomed and offered a nice table for two in the charming dining room.

Bill anticipates lunch.  We were both hungry.

I liked the fresh bread they brought out with red pepper spread and green and black, garlicky olives.

We both had salads to go with our meals.  I enjoyed the dressing, which was a nice herbal vinaigrette.  I actually ate most of the salad.  

Bill had the Kotopulo, grilled chicken breast on spits with Mediterranean vegetables– basically peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms.  We also had “patates”, which were like homemade potato chips, and t’zatziki.  If this hadn’t had mushrooms, I would have preferred it to my dish…

Gyros… again.  What can I say?  Sometimes, I just want slivered pork with onions.  I have had better gyros in other Greek places, but for some reason, it seems like there aren’t as many Greek restaurants up here in Wiesbaden as there are near Stuttgart.  I was just happy to have Greek food, to be honest.  But I have had better.  This was a little dry.

I couldn’t finish all of the gyros, so we had the leftovers wrapped up and enjoyed house shots of ouzo.  Then, we paid the 42 euro bill and went on our way.  I thought the service was good and the people who were running things today were very pleasant.  Next time, I’ll have to try the dorade.

This is a nice restaurant.  Even has a play area for kids.  When the weather is regularly nice, I’m sure the outside area will be teeming with people.

The parking lot is a good selling point.

It’s a very large building, too.

On our way back home, we drove through an unfamiliar part of Wiesbaden with interesting looking houses.  Wiesbaden has some really nice architecture.  It doesn’t look at all like Stuttgart, but it’s uniformly elegant.  I just wish this area had the same gorgeous scenery Baden-Württemberg has.  Wiesbaden is prettier than Stuttgart is, but the area around Stuttgart is prettier than the area around Wiesbaden is.

 

Bill will be away for the next two weekends, so my travel blog may get a little boring… perhaps even more boring than usual, unless I come up with an idea for something to write while he’s gone.  Tomorrow, I’m sure we’ll have an exciting trip to the commissary so I can be stocked up for the duration.  I suppose I could venture out by myself, though.  Maybe I will… but I probably won’t.

A delightful Greek lunch at Der Grieche in Erbenheim…

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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-Württemberg 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 Hähnchenspießen– 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.

We finally see the inside of the Sindlinger Hof and eat Greek food!

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Bill and I have lived in Unterjettingen for almost four whole years.  Unterjettingen is just on the edge of Böblingen County, but feels pretty far removed from the area near Panzer Barracks.  We feel like we’re pretty much out in the country… more like we’re in Calw, the border of which is maybe two or three kilometers away.  When most Americans think of Böblingen, they probably think of the downtown area, which is very built up.  Where Bill and I live, it’s pretty rural.  There’s a tiny village called Sindlingen just next to us, where there’s a farm that sells fresh produce, there’s a Christmas tree lot, and a horse farm owned by a former Olympian.  I’m not sure, but I think the horse farm is a castle that doubles as a B&B.  Every year, there’s also a large horse show that I can’t bring myself to watch.

I must confess that my heart kind of breaks every time we drive through tiny Sindlingen.  I grew up riding and showing horses and I haven’t been in the saddle in decades.  I really miss having horses in my life; I would rather hang around them and dogs than most people.  I usually catch myself looking wistfully at the horses who cross the road as their riders take them on a lovely hack in the beautiful countryside.  Dammit, I miss that so much!  Someday, when Bill finally retires, maybe I’ll have a horse again… and a smart alecky donkey, too.

Another thing that has always intrigued me, at least until tonight, was the large Sindlinger Hof restaurant.  Ever since 2014, Bill and I have passed this impressive looking facility that always seemed to be closed.  After awhile, we got the sense that it only opened for private events.  So, since September 2014, we’ve been passing this restaurant, wondering if we’d ever have the chance to try it.  Well… tonight, we finally got the opportunity.  Apparently, the Sindlinger Hof was taken over by a Greek restauranteur.  Although it says “Sindlinger Hof” outside, the restaurant is now called “El Greco”.  Bill noticed a sign indicating it was going to be open, so we decided to try it tonight.

The first thing to know about El Greco in Sindlingen is that it’s got plenty of parking.  Right next to the restaurant is a country lane where I’ve seen many riders and horses… and tonight, we did encounter some evidence that horses had been near the restaurant.  Having cleaned my fair share of stalls, I know what fly picked manure looks like.  Not that I fault the restaurant for that, of course.  I find horse manure a lot less offensive than dog poo, and there was no sign of that tonight.

When we approached the very attractive and busy terrace, we were told that all of the tables were reserved.  We decided to eat inside.  I’m glad we did, even though it was a bit warm this evening.  The inside of the restaurant is very attractive.  There’s a long row of nice booths alongside wide windows, and plenty of comfortable tables and chairs.  The bar area is especially nice, although it doesn’t appear to be set up for drinkers.  I didn’t see a lot of different libations there, just beer and wine and extra dishes.

Bill prays Mormon style as he looks at the menu, which offers both German and Greek dishes.

One or two of the very busy servers appeared to be a little bit nervous.  I don’t know exactly how long El Greco has been operating, but it kind of had the feel of opening night.  There were a lot of people there.  I noticed that the staff was competent, but seemed like they weren’t quite in sync.  I’m sure that will come in time.  Since it was our first visit, we decided to have some tried and true choices.  I went with gyros and Bill had souvlaki.

We each enjoyed salads, which were very good.  I especially liked the dressing, which was kind of a light mustard vinaigrette.  Then, some time later, a cook brought out our main courses.

Bill enjoys his souvlaki, which was delicious… tasted like it came right off the grill.

 

And I had gyros that were better than usual… I even enjoyed the pommes, which tasted fresh.  I finished half of this and brought the rest home for later.  Takeaway was no problem.

A look at the bar area.  It’s very nice!  I’m sure this facility was built for the horse events that take place across the street, but we rarely saw it open.  It’s out in the country, so maybe it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves…

 

There’s a lot of seating, although most people preferred to sit outside.  

 

Dinner was very good, although it took some time to get our plates cleared and the check presented.  Bill had to ask again for the bill.  Again, I think it’s because they just opened and had a lot of business.  The service itself was professional and friendly, if not a bit harried.  I think once they get into a groove and aren’t so new anymore, it’ll be a nice place to have Greek food.  And… bonus is that it’s within walking distance of where we live.  It’s not as close as Dimi’s was, but it’s certainly reachable by foot if the weather is nice.

 

Bill enjoys a house shot of ouzo.  I give them props for not giving me fruit juice!  Both the pepper and the ouzo had a kick, too.

And this is the view you get on the way out…

 

Not a great shot of the terrace, but I didn’t want to be too obvious.  

Total bill for tonight was 35 euros, which Bill rounded up to 40.  The waitress thanked us for coming in and said she hoped we’d be back.  On a side note, I had one of those thrilling experiences of actually understanding a lot of what was said to me tonight.  I call that a big win!  Hopefully, this place will stay open awhile so we can go back and try some of their other stuff.

Edited to add:  My German friend has provided a link to an article about the people running this restaurant and another they have in Horb.  Open the link in Google Chrome to get the translated version.

Olive Restaurant in Nagold…

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We had such marvelous weather all week that I was itching to go have dinner al fresco.  So tonight, Bill and I decided to visit the Olive Restaurant in Nagold.  Although we’ve lived near Nagold since 2014, this was our first time visiting this Greek spot.  I first noticed it last fall when we visited the Waldachtal Restaurant and then when we went into the Black Forest a couple of months ago.  I could see they had a great Biergarten and today’s weather definitely called for that.  And I was in the mood for ouzo, too.  Off we went.

The Olive Restaurant is located on the western outskirts of Nagold.  We pass it when we go to the Black Forest.  Since we don’t always go that way when we head west, it’s easy to see how we missed this place for the three years we lived here before we had seen it.  The last time we passed it was when we went to see the wolf and bear park last month.  I remember making a mental note to go there the last time we passed it.

Tonight, we parked in their small lot, noticing that the restaurant is also a small hotel.  We walked in at 6:30pm.  A few people were already there, enjoying the covered Biergarten.  I was actually very impressed by the Biergarten.  It’s quite large and even boasts a swingset for the kids.  It looked to me like they hadn’t quite squared away the garten for the warmer weather, but I was glad to see it open tonight.

The front of the Olive…  

 

We had a seat and checked out the menu.  I’ve been following this restaurant’s Facebook page, so I know they have some impressive looking food.  But I wasn’t that hungry tonight.  We ordered our usual sparkling water and red wine.  Curiously, they didn’t have any wine in the menu, but we could see people were ordering it, so we just asked for dry red wine.  We ended up with a half liter of something.

Happy Bill.  I think the weather agrees with him.

 

They also brought us ouzo with ice in it.  I was immediately reminded of Raki, which is a Turkish thing.  

 

Bill decided on souvlaki and I went with my usual gyros.  Both dishes came with salads and fries.  I noticed they had fancier dishes that came with “tomato rice”.

 

Salad.  Not long after we ate them, the lady who brought our entrees accidentally knocked over Bill’s water.  It was no big deal and they were quick to clean up the mess.  At least there wasn’t any broken glass involved.

 

My gyros, well seasoned and loaded with raw onions, which I didn’t eat much of…  I prefer my gyros lightly onioned.  

Bill’s souvlaki, which was tender and juicy.  He really enjoyed it.

 

While we were eating, about four firetrucks came screaming through the roundabout right outside, along with at least three ambulances.  I have no idea what was going on tonight, but it appeared to be a pretty major incident.  Bill wondered if a factory caught on fire or something.  There were that many emergency vehicles!

We decided we were too full for dessert or coffee, so we called for the check.  The bill came to 37, 30.  At one point, the proprietor asked us if we were American.  We admitted to being American and said we live here.  He said he lives here too.  All of this was said in German, which seemed pretty cool, to me.

The entrance to the very nice Biergarten at Olive.  It looked like they had a number of regulars.

 

Now that my curiosity is satisfied, I can say that I’d return to Olive in Nagold.  I don’t know when that will happen, though, because I have an ever expanding list of places to try… and lots of places I need to visit again.  But if you’re near Nagold or live in the area, I can report that this is a nice place.  And in the warmer months, the Biergarten alone makes it well worth a stop.  And your kids can play while the food is being prepared.