“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.

When the Wine Stand delivers…

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One of the things we have up here in Wiesbaden that we didn’t have in Stuttgart is the bi-weekly wine stand. Starting in March and running through October, my community allows clubs to do fundraisers in which they sell wine and food to people who congregate in the Dorfplatz. Of course, this year, that’s not possible due to the coronavirus and the need for “social distancing”. They did have one wine stand in March, but Bill and I didn’t attend because the weather was terrible.

Last week, as I was walking Arran, I noticed a sign posted on the gate of our local restaurant, the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen. That restaurant is within stumbling distance of our house, although we’ve only managed to eat there once, because it’s always packed.

Ten euros a bottle for wine we could have been drinking at the wine stand.

A local winery was advertising for their “wine stand”, which would have been held last night, since today is a holiday in Germany (Labor Day/May Day). Schools and businesses usually close and people take long walks. Some folks observe the night of April 30/May 1 as Witches or Walpurgis Night (WalpurgisnachtHexennacht). They light bonfires and prepare the Maypoles, which in some areas, people dance around to celebrate spring…

I have not seen this in person yet… but I liked the video made by the Reflections Enroute channel.

Well… sadly, none of this is happening this year. Even Germany’s beloved Oktoberfest in Munich has been cancelled, as has the Canstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart. And we’re not having wine stands with the local Breckenheimers, either. But Bill and I did get to try some rustic local wine, which we ordered after I saw the flyer advertising it at the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen. Last night, two chilled bottles of white wine were brought to our home. We drank one of them, then switched to an Italian red.

Bill says he thinks this wine might be what’s known as a “Landwein”, which is basically wine made by farmers. They’re usually tasty, but kind of rustic. We went to a Landwein tasting a couple of years ago, when we still lived near Stuttgart. I know the people who delivered this yesterday live nearby and either bottle the wine or produce it. They held one of the wine stands at their place last year, but we didn’t attend that one. I think we might have been out of town.

This was pretty good. It had the slight taste of apricots.

The weather was kind of yucky yesterday anyway, so I doubt the wine stand would have been too popular even if we didn’t have the virus. I was glad to see the rain. We really need it.

The added bonus to the wine delivery was that I could listen to music and pee with ease. When we do the wine stands, we either pee at the Rathaus or at home. If we pee at home, we might as well stay there. I do miss the wine stands, though, because it’s a fun way to practice our terrible German and meet new people. I enjoy watching the neighbors who have known each other for years congregating and hanging out. I’d love to see this kind of thing in the United States… once we aren’t so worried about contagion.

Germany, by the way, is doing pretty well in the coronavirus fight. Well… it’s doing better than the United States is, anyway. I miss being able to go out to lunch and tour places… I definitely have the itch to travel and to get a new dog. But in our case, the lockdown isn’t so bad. At least Bill and I still like each other. I’m also getting pretty good at giving him haircuts.

I’m amazed by how weird things have become, but Germany is starting to loosen the restrictions somewhat. Hopefully, there won’t be a huge wave of infections, now that the playgrounds and churches are reopening. Not that Bill and I hang around those very often anymore…

Visited by charming Kinder…

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The doorbell just rang.  I was not expecting visitors, but decided to see who was knocking anyway.  I opened the door and was confronted by a man and several kids who appeared to be on the verge of adolescence.  I must have looked surprised and confused when I blurted out in English that I’m not German.  I’m sure it was obvious that I had stumbled across a custom with which I was not  previously familiar.

The man, who spoke decent English, piped up and said they were collecting for Three Kings Day.  I then got a closer look at the kids, who were dressed in colorful felt costumes.  Three of them were wearing crowns.  Their leader explained that they would recite verses for me in German and then sing a song.  I consented; they performed; and I gave them a five euro donation.  Then the guy wrote in chalk over the door which supposedly means that anyone who passes through will be blessed by God.  I’m supposed to leave the sign up all year… or at least until the next rainstorm.

We are blessed!

Despite having been raised Presbyterian, I’m not sure I believe too much in religion; but I do have to admit that the kids put on a very cute performance.  And it beats being visited by Mormons, JWs, or aggressive frozen food salespeople.  I’m not sure the kids were all that into it, though… It’s cold outside and they were probably kind of embarrassed.  Public speaking is hard enough.  Singing is also hard to do.  I noticed the girl standing in front was holding a staff with a star on top.  Obviously, the lines were written on the back of the star, because I could see one of the kids in the back reading aloud from it.

I don’t usually appreciate uninvited visitors, but I am definitely smiling now.  The Three Kings Day visitors were very charming.  And it also gives me something else to write about on my “blahg”.  Some of my Facebook friends who read this will understand exactly what I’m referring to when I write “blahg” instead of blog.

For more on Three Kings Day in Germany, check out this Toytown Germany link.  I now have a “blessed” house, which is a nice thing.  My German friend, Susanne, says Three Kings Day is a Catholic thing and they usually only do the Three Kings Day collection for parishoners.  Also, Three Kings Day is only a holiday in Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg, and Saxony-Anhalt.  I have lived in Germany for a total of four Januarys and this was the first time I ever encountered anyone collecting for Three Kings Day.

My landlady is a Catholic from Bavaria, so I guess they must have thought she still lived here.  Life in Germany is so mysterious sometimes.  Yesterday, Bill and I were called “fuckface” while walking to The Auld Rogue.  Today, our house has been blessed by God.  Go figure.

ETA:  I happen to be wearing a t-shirt today that says in German “Life is too short to drink shitty beer.” I wonder if anyone saw it.

You can get one of these at SaintObnoxious.com…