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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Ljubljana on Saturday… Hare Krishnas, male bonding, wine, craft beers, and boat rides…

Bill and I decided to go to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, on Saturday.  We correctly surmised that there would be many day trippers coming to Lake Bled on Saturday and it would probably be a madhouse.  As we left Bled Saturday morning and observed the long string of cars coming into the town, we could see our hunch was right.  Making matters more complicated was the road construction going on.  Bled has a two lane road going through it that is currently being worked on, probably in time for what promises to be a busy summer season.

Ljubljana is only about an hour from Bled, so we got there at about noon. ¬†Bill found expensive parking in a garage at a galleria. ¬†There was a Spar grocery store there, which we made plans to visit on the way out. ¬†We’re always looking for interesting wines and beers. ¬†After we parked, we made our way into the main drag in the old town. ¬†It was very festive this past Saturday. ¬†There was a market going on where people could buy all manner of fresh produce, gifts, arts, and crafts. ¬†Lots of musicians were busking on busy corners and most of them were skilled. ¬†The air smelled of cheeses, meats, and fruits.

One of the first things we happened upon was a bunch of Hare Krishnas dancing to a young woman’s surprisingly lovely vocals. ¬†Bill and I stood and watched; it was happening right where the boat tours start and some woman asked me if we wanted to take one. ¬†I declined at that time, since we’d only just arrived. ¬†Really, what I wanted was lunch. ¬†As we rounded the corner, we were delighted by the sight of bubbles everywhere. ¬†Some guy was blowing them by the dozen and kids were chasing them in the sunshine. ¬†It made for quite the whimsical scene.

Raw footage of the Hare Krishnas and the boat tour we took in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

One thing I always do when I check out new cities is look down alleyways and in alcoves. ¬†I try to get out of the tourist drags, especially when I’m looking for a meal. ¬†I find that a lot of the better restaurants aren’t necessarily in the thick of the action. ¬†Not only do the out of the way restaurants tend to have better food and service, they also tend to have more reasonable prices.

We rounded a corner, where I heard the majestic sounds of a flute, a violin, and a harp. ¬†Three young ladies were playing beautifully as we passed and I noticed a tiny wine shop that I made a mental note to visit later. ¬†We got to a corner of a cafe that promised food, beverages, and speedy sewing jobs (it seemed to be paying homage to Singer sewing machines). ¬†Then I spotted an open door, wine bottles, and corks. ¬†I headed across the street, well away from the tourist action, and spotted where we’d be having a leisurely lunch.

I see that according to TripAdvisor, Spajza is ranked ninth out of 407 restaurants in the city. ¬†Having chanced upon it Saturday, I can agree that the food at Spajza is indeed excellent. ¬†So is the service. ¬†When we arrived, we were among the first there for lunch. ¬†We were ushered to a two top in the restaurant’s charming terrace area. ¬†I could see several large tables set up and knew that the peace and quiet wouldn’t last. ¬†Clearly, there were going to be a couple of big groups joining us.

Spajza has a number of dishes that might seem exotic to the average American. ¬†They serve “young horse” there, which I would never eat for many reasons. ¬†At a less American friendly Slovenian restaurant, I saw the “young horse” billed as “foal”, which is even creepier to me. ¬†I didn’t see any bear on the menu as I did in other Slovenian restaurants, but there was also rabbit as well as a host of seafood dishes. ¬†I wasn’t feeling too adventurous and the beef dishes mostly included mushrooms, which I don’t eat. ¬†I ended up having a couple of starters and Bill had a shrimp salad. ¬†Bill and I started with three scallops au gratin, which were served in the shell. ¬†Then I had a shrimp and asparagus risotto. ¬†We also enjoyed the awesome rolls and fish paste amuse that came with our meal, which we washed down with two bottles of local wine and sparkling water.

We might not have stayed as long as we did, but I got a kick out of one of the groups. ¬†It was a large group of guys who were obviously bonding over good food, beer, wine, and cigars. ¬†They were fun to watch. ¬†I think the waiter was surprised when we ordered more wine… and maybe even more surprised that I didn’t fall out of the chair.

After we enjoyed lunch, we stopped at the tiny wine shop– seriously no larger than a closet– and bought a couple of bottles from a guy with excellent taste in music. ¬†He was blaring Dire Straits and every time I hear certain Dire Straits songs, I’m reminded of a wonderful long weekend Bill and I enjoyed in Barcelona back in April 2009.

Further into the tourist district, I saw a sign that read “Beer”. ¬†Not being able to resist such an advertisement, I followed the sign into a little craft beer shop. ¬†The very friendly and enthusiastic lady who was running the store chatted with us about beer and nodded approvingly when I picked up a few Belgians I haven’t yet tried. ¬†Next, we picked up some Slovenian honey at the farmer’s market.

We pressed on to the parking garage and entered the grocery store, where we found a few more bottles of wine and a bottle of chocolate liqueur. ¬†Then, something funny happened. ¬†A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance introduced me to a hideous disco song called “Lady Bump”…

Penny McLean, who was a member of the Euro disco group Silver Convention, sings “Lady Bump”. ¬†Turns out she’s from Klagenfurt, Austria, which we passed through on our way back to Germany.

 

I happen to be a serious music nerd and I especially enjoy crappy music from the 70s and 80s. ¬†But I had never heard of “Lady Bump” until my friend introduced it to me. ¬†Sure enough, while we were wine shopping at the grocery store, that song came on! ¬†It was kind of surreal. ¬†After we bought the wine, we dropped it off in the car and went back to the boat tour dock. ¬†Bill needed some time to sober up and it was a really gorgeous late afternoon.

The lady who sold us the tour was trying to chat us up and coming off as a bit disingenuous, especially when her machine malfunctioned and she had to handwrite us tickets.  But we got on the boat and enjoyed a lovely little cruise, especially when we ran into a regatta!  A bunch of kids, no doubt learning how to sail, were having a race on our route.  You can see the footage in the first video I posted.  They were pretty awesome.

Ljubljana is a great town and I’m glad we visited. ¬†I’m actually glad we stayed in Bled instead of the capital city, since I have a feeling parking can be a challenge there. ¬†However, if you want to go shopping or eating, I think Ljubljana is a great bet. ¬†I hope we can visit again, if only because I want to find more awesome restaurants and visit the castle. ¬†We spotted it as we drove into the city, as well as the handy funicular that takes people up the hill. ¬†Had we arrived a bit earlier, maybe we would have toured the castle, although we were both a bit tired of tour groups by Saturday and we knew the castle would probably be teeming with them.

Farmer’s market!

Hare Krishnas

Bubbles!

This is why I always check alleys… ¬†really cool art here.

A church near where we had lunch. 

Food and sewing…

Graffiti.

Our spot for lunch!

Bill’s tiger shrimp salad with delicious wasabi dressing…

My risotto with shrimp and asparagus…

Scallops and mild cheese.

Awesome bread and amuse.

Our first bottle of wine…

The terrace before things got busy!

A good spot for beer!

Our boat cruise.

I snapped this shot of the mural on the building. ¬†It must have taken forever to do that…

 

On the way back into Bled, we saw yet another stream of cars.  They were headed in the opposite direction.  Yep, day trippers!  I recommend for those wanting to visit Bled, go somewhere else on Saturday.  Take a trip to the city to avoid the crowds!  Saturday is fun in Ljubljana!

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