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Getting to know my German neighbors… after almost four years!

A couple of weeks ago, our next door neighbor, Uli, told Bill she was going to have a barbecue, and we were invited. At the time she made her invitation, we were thinking we might be going to see our dentist in Stuttgart. But we couldn’t arrange boarding for Arran and Noyzi, so we postponed our dental appointments until later this month. That freed us up to attend last night’s festivities.

I’ll be honest. I was a bit apprehensive about this event. You see, I’m not that great in groups. The older I get, the worse I seem to be. I tend to say more than I should. But Bill is a very friendly, jovial guy, and he wants to be neighborly. Plus, he just brewed some beer, and mentioned it, which automatically excited our hostess. Of course, the beer Bill makes, while very good, is not German style beer. He makes British style ale, mainly because the yeast required for lagers is more fragile than ale style yeast is. But, over the past twelve years or so, he’s gotten better at his craft. Maybe he’ll delve into making lagers eventually. I would like that.

I did tell Bill to go to the commissary and pick up some Bubba Burgers and American style burger buns for Uli. I know she likes them, and I have a feeling the people before us used to pick them up for her on occasion. Bill gave her the burgers and buns and she seemed quite delighted. Personally, I’m more of a fan of handmade burgers with German buns. But if Bubba Burgers help facilitate neighbor relations, I’m all for giving them out sometimes. Uli seemed surprised when we told her we don’t shop at the commissary very often. We prefer German markets.

We had a nice gathering of about twenty people, with plenty of food and libations. There were sausages, salads, a couple of burgers that Bill contributed and I was too full to eat, and breads. There was lots of wine and beer, including a few bottles of Bill’s brews. At the end of the evening, a lovely Italian man who lives across the street brought out a round of espresso and an Italian digestive. He gave Bill some homemade limoncello, too, and said he would teach him how to make it.

Noyzi and Arran complained loudly at first, but then we brought them outside to see what was going on. Arran was over it quickly. Noyzi was feeling friendly, but he still gets freaked out by people he doesn’t know. So after they came out for a few minutes, we brought them back inside. Our neighbor’s lab, Tommi, spent most of the evening being a host. He is adorable.

Our host’s English speaking mother, Margot, was also there. She lives in the house that borders ours on the other side. I have often seen her walking Tommi, but she told us she had to stop, because he’s too strong for her. Last summer, Tommi got away from her while I was walking our dogs. I happened to have an extra leash, because Noyzi was still pretty skittish. Tommi didn’t have a leash, so I was able to give Uli’s mom the extra one so she could capture her pooch. I even wrote about it, because last year, pandemic restrictions made travel blogging more challenging.

Margot said, “Your dogs make so much noise when you go out.”

Without missing a beat, I said, “Luckily, I almost never go out.”

Bill later mentioned that he thought that was a sign of progress. When we first came to Germany and people would remark about my dogs, I would get nervous and offended. I was still a little put off, but then I said, quite reasonably, that they are seldom alone. Moreover, I know they don’t bark the whole time we’re gone, because they’re never still barking when we get home. I don’t think they would necessarily know to shut up when we were driving up to the house. We do keep our outings short, though, precisely for that reason.

Later, Margot said she wanted to talk to me, simply because she says people ignore the elderly. I told her that I would love to talk to her, because I enjoy having conversations with older people. They always have interesting stories to share. She brightened quite a bit, and told us about what it was like in Breckenheim in 1945, when the US Army came in. She said the Germans all had to give up their homes for the soldiers, and her brother wasn’t allowed to live with her and her mom. They somehow got to stay in their house.

Now… consider that 1945 was World War II… and who was in charge at that time. Yes, I would love to talk to her about that era! I think it would be fascinating. And she said she wants to practice her English, which is already good. But she reminded us that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Then she chastised me for not speaking very much German. LOL… But if people want to speak English to me, how can I speak German? I do understand a lot more than I did in 2007, when we moved here the first time… and 2014, when we moved here the second time. However, I am more successful singing in German, than speaking it. ­čśë That’s not saying much… although I really can sing quite well. It’s just that I can memorize the lyrics and learn to pronounce them without necessarily knowing what all the words mean, even though we did have to translate the foreign songs when I was studying voice. Margot also told us that she only drinks Grauburgunder wines. She doesn’t even like Rieslings. And beer is out!

Toward the end of the night, I think I kind of horrified Uli, when I told her that we had to sue our ex landlady. Although lawsuits in Germany are pretty common– in fact, I think Germans are more litigious than Americans are– they don’t seem to want to talk about them. Uli is a landlady, too, so this was probably something that made her blood run cold. She probably thinks I’m a little crazy, and I bet she tells our current landlord. But if he says anything about it, we’ll just tell him that he’s nothing at all like the ex landlady. He’s courteous, reasonable, and respectful, and he’s done things legally. Uli was probably just shocked that we knew about legal insurance (and liability insurance and pet liability insurance– all things that Americans really should buy in Germany)… but she shouldn’t be, because we’ve lived here a long time, we’re older, and she knows how much our house rents for. Of course we’d be smart to have legal insurance. We had to pay two month’s rent as a deposit. It was a lot of money.

The topic of suing came up, though, because the neighbor was showing off their kid’s school Tute, for the first day of school. Uli kept talking about how much she hated “suing”. I realized that she meant “sewing”. I was very confused at first! Then I confided that I don’t like sewing, either, even though my mom is a master at needlecrafts. I don’t have the patience or dexterity for it. Another lady talked about how her daughter spent the school year in Michigan, and got to attend the prom and football games. I said, that must have been very interesting for her, given how different American schools are. German schools don’t usually have school sponsored sports teams or big, fancy dances… or, at least that’s what I’ve heard. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, we enjoyed hanging out last night, and meeting some of our neighbors. Uli’s new tenants are moving into their place in October. I especially enjoyed the wife, who hails from B├Âblingen, in Baden-W├╝rttemberg. She said that she taught math, and met her husband in Karlsruhe, while they were at the university. She likes Hesse better. She flat out said it, without any prompting. Why? Because people are much friendlier up here. It’s funny, because she’s not the first German, even from Baden-W├╝rttemberg, who has mentioned that Swabia is a very “special” part of Germany. But I actually like Baden-W├╝rttemberg very much, in spite of the different culture. It was the first part of Germany I really got to know, and it is legitimately a very beautiful place– even if Stuttgart is kind of a homely city. I look forward to going back down there at the end of the month.

Again… I’m not very good in groups. I speak my mind too much, and am not one for small talk. Some people love that about me. Other people hate it, and think I’m an obnoxious freak. And that’s why I have dogs. At least Tommi likes us… the featured photo is of him, knocking on our door. He doesn’t do it often, but when he does, it’s super cute. He also jumped up on Bill and gave him a big smooch, which seemed to horrify Uli. Yes, our dogs bark, but so does hers. And we keep ours on leashes, although we did talk about maybe letting Noyzi and Tommi play sometime. I think they’d love it. If we didn’t turn her off too much, maybe they’ll finally have the opportunity.

Uli says in a few months, we’ll have to share some Gluwein. That is, if the temperatures get low enough to enjoy it. We did get some rain today, which is a great thing. I’m not sure if we’ll venture out today. We were both kind of tired after last night’s festivities. Also… I don’t want my dogs to disturb the peace.

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Germany, Wiesbaden

Whirlwind trip to Wiesbaden– our quest to find new dog friendly digs… Part six

We had absolutely glorious weather all weekend.  It was unseasonably warm in Wiesbaden yesterday, so we decided to take a stroll with the dogs, give them a chance to stretch their legs and us a chance to see a little more of the city.  I managed to grab a few more photos and we ran into a fellow beagle owner, who stopped us and enthused about how cute Zane and Arran are.  She showed us a picture of her beagle and I quipped to Bill that having a beagle in Germany is kind of like having a Mini Cooper in the States.  It’s like you’re in a special club!

Below are some pictures from our walk.

Another picture of that beautiful tree in the park.

Wiesbaden has so many fountains!  They’re everywhere!

My friend Susanne says this reminds her of the Salt Lake Temple, only it’s a different color and isn’t LDS.

 

We really didn’t even get the chance to explore the other beautiful landmarks in Wiesbaden… I can see I’m going to have my work cut out for me as I get to know Wiesbaden and Mainz.

Wiesbaden is a very international city– I would say moreso than Stuttgart, which seems more traditional to me.  We saw a lot of Muslims in Wiesbaden, some of whom were openly praying in the park.  I saw many women of Middle Eastern descent dressed head to toe in black, as well as some just in headscarves.  We also saw a group of men sitting on a blanket with one older guy sitting in a chair.  It was something I don’t see a lot of where I live now.  

 

A little bit later, we decided to have dinner, even though I was still pretty satisfied after our Thai food extravaganza.  We passed a couple of Italian restaurants and I decided I wanted Italian food for dinner.  We ended up at Little Italy, which is a tiny restaurant just around the corner from our hotel.

We were looking at the specials, which were written on a portable chalkboard, when a man in a chef’s uniform came out and invited us to sit down.  It was pleasant weather, so we sat outside.  The chef pointed out blankets and a heat lamp over our table, in case we got cold.

Our waiter impressed us by being at least tri-lingual– he spoke English, German,  and Italian.  When he heard me speak English, he was genuinely surprised.  Apparently, we pass quite well for Germans, although his boss in the chef’s outfit quickly figured out we’re Americans.

Bill chose this lovely Super Tuscan wine to go with dinner…

 

This came with the bread… olive oil with a dollop of very fresh tomato paste.

He had a Parmesan tartufo, which consisted of tagliatelle encased in a small Parmesan “bowl” and topped with sliced truffles.  We usually see this made in a big Parmesan cheese wheel, but they do it differently at Little Italy, probably because it’s a very small restaurant.

I had risotto with prawns, onions, and lemongrass.  It was topped with a breadstick.  I really enjoyed this because it was just the right size and very simple.

 

Just after we finished eating, we were thinking about dessert, when a very well-dressed, attractive, petite, older Italian woman sat down at the table next to ours.  She had perfectly manicured nails painted fuchsia, although she wasn’t wearing any makeup.  We noticed the staff at Little Italy knew her and greeted her by name as she sipped a glass of prosecco.  After a few minutes, she struck up a conversation with us.  It turned out she organizes high end luxury vacations, which Bill and I have been known to enjoy on occasion (although we didn’t tell her that).

She told us she hadn’t eaten for two days because she’d been so stuffed at a wedding and she decided that last night, she needed to eat.  So she stopped by Little Italy and ordered spaghetti with branzino.  Before we knew it, this lady was telling us stories about people she’d taken on trips, including one memorable tale about how she’d rented a Mercedes limo to take a client to an opera in Vicenza and the car broke down at a swimming pool.

Bill told her about how he’d been in Vicenza just last week and had Baccal├á Mantecato, a Venetian specialty.  He hadn’t cared for it.  It’s salted cod with lots of olive oil served with polenta, which sounds okay to me… but apparently, it sat very heavily on Bill’s stomach.  Our new acquaintance was impressed that Bill had tried it.

Then she showed us pictures of herself and her friends at Carnival in Venice.  They were wearing masks they had made in Venice.  As she enjoyed her dinner, more people who worked in the restaurant came over and said hello.  They were obviously happy to see her, although I got the sense that maybe the chef guy might have thought of her as being too chatty.  She certainly chatted us up, and told us her name is Paola.  I won’t be surprised if we run into her again.  We have a knack for running into people.  Actually, I have a real knack for it– always have, even before I met Bill.

I decided to have tiramisu for dessert.  It was very light and creamy, with ladyfingers that tasted more like angel food cake.

Bill had Zabaione with ice cream… this stuff was absolutely sinful.  It’s like very rich creamy custard made with marsala wine, with a ball of ice cream in the middle.  I tasted it and could practically feel my ass expanding.  

As we enjoyed dessert, Paola told us about a friend of hers who had died.  She had gone on a trip and was feeling kind of blue when she noticed a cloud shaped like an angel.  She said it was like her friend, Sue, telling her to enjoy her life.  Paola came across as very extraverted.  I’m not sure what made her decide to talk to us.  It might have been because Bill looks like a sweet teddy bear and is basically like that most of the time.

Paola told us that she had wanted to go out and talk to someone.  She said she had gone to the sauna and then the movies, and decided to have dinner out because she needed company.  She thanked us for talking to her, since she lives alone.  It was our pleasure.  She’s a very interesting lady.  That experience kind of drove home that Wiesbaden is probably going to be different in many ways… although it also occurs to me that a week ago, we met Germans from Wiesbaden at the Cannstatter Fest.  Maybe it’s one of God’s little signs that we’re in for something new and exciting.  I sure hope so.  But I especially hope we find a house that won’t drive me batty.

Incidentally, my German friend, Susanne, found Paola’s Internet presence, based on my description of her in the post…  Paola might be a good person to know, since I love my food and wine experiences.

We’ll definitely be back to this restaurant, too.  It was a great find!

Our drive back to Stuttgart was mostly uneventful, except that a trucker tried to run us off the road while laying on his horn.  I think maybe Bill was trying to pass him as he was speeding up to prevent being passed.  Consequently, he may have been cut off through his own fault.  He backed off when he looked into our car and saw me with my iPad.  I suppose I could have taken a picture of his very aggressive driving.  He acted like a total lunatic and probably shouldn’t be a trucker anymore.

Our next door neighbor was in her yard when we drove up.  She greeted us warmly and asked me about my singing.  She is also a singer… and she likes Van Halen.  I’m going to miss her when we go. But now that I’ve seen Wiesbaden, I know that there will be new friends to be made there.

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