Bill got home at about lunchtime yesterday. It was so nice to see his fuzzy face– he has grown a slight beard since last week. We went to the wine stand last night and talked to a few people. Noyzi came with us and was a little agitated, but every time we go to the wine stand, he’s a little less freaked out. He went up to our friend, Hannah, and gave her a very proper hello. She was delighted by how happy he was to see her.
We met a couple who just moved to Breckenheim, though they didn’t come from far away. We told them about how we used to live near Stuttgart and they said what a lot of Germans say when we tell them about our Stuttgart connection…
“That’s a very SPECIAL part of Germany…”
Indeed, it is. The dialect is different; people can be extremely tight with money; and they can be very anal retentive about Kehrwoche– that’s the communal routine of cleaning up common areas in a building or a neighborhood. Up here in Hessen, people seem to be a lot more laid back. It’s probably because this area is a lot more international.
We stayed at the wine stand for a little over an hour, but when it started to get crowded, we decided to move on. Below are a few photos… just a few, mind you. It wasn’t super exciting, although we did enjoy meeting the new folks, and appreciated that their English was excellent. The wife said she works at the airport and had a rare three day weekend! I mostly got photos of Bill’s hairy face, and Noyzi behaving himself.
Today, we decided to go to the Street Food Festival in nearby Hofheim. Those are always fun, and different towns have them on different weekends. Next weekend, we could probably find the same fest in a different place. Right now in Stuttgart, the big spring festival is happening. That’s definitely more fun and rowdy than the street food fest is, but we still had some live entertainment to cheer us, and lots of food from different places– from Ethiopia to Venezuela…
The band was kind of fun. They were playing songs from the 50s and 60s, mostly. Unfortunately, they had some issues with their sound. The mics were too close to the speakers, resulting in a very unpleasant tidal wave of feedback. You could easily watch people cringe as the metallic, electric shrieks emanated from the stage. But they eventually got the sound system straight, and they were better… entertaining, at least. Meanwhile, we enjoyed Venezuelan cheese empanadas, barbacoa pork tacos, and churros, washed down with pilsner. I got a few clips of the band, along with some “witty” commentary…
A very friendly elderly lady sat with us for a short while as we enjoyed “street food” to the American songs of 50s and 60s, interpreted by Germans. They also did a few in Spanish. I love how there are so many fun events in Germany… and we never have to worry about gun toting maniacs.
As we were finishing our churros, I noticed the skies were getting cloudier and the wind was picking up. It was getting chilly, too. I told Bill I wanted to see if anything was going on by the Wine Chalet, in a nearby parking lot. The Wine Chalet is a permanent thing, but it’s outdoors, on the outskirts of where Hofheim has its weekly market on Saturdays. Sure enough, lots of people were enjoying wine, listening to a dreadlocked Black guy singing Sting songs. We decided to have some wine… or, I had wine, and Bill had sparkling grape juice. The guy was pretty good, even if he was basically doing karaoke.
Mid glass, we were asked to move the table to another area. Bill had to help the guy who made the request, who seemed to realize mid move that we were Americans. He thanked us in English, after speaking German the rest of the time. I don’t mind being taken for a local. I take it as a compliment.
We got home at just before 4:00pm, just in time to feed Noyzi. We stopped in the Edeka to pick up some wine, because I think we’ll enjoy the rest of the evening…
It’s great to have Bill home again. He really makes me smile, as you can see… For some reason, when I try to smile alone, I look completely deranged. With Bill, I only look half crazy. 😉
I dunno about that beard, though… We’ll see how long it survives.
For the past few months, I’ve been following a Facebook group called Ausflugstipps für Baden-Württemberg. Members share photos and day trip suggestions for Baden-Württemberg. I’m also in similar groups for Hessen and the Schwarzwald. I don’t contribute much, but I do get some good tips from actual Germans on places to see. In some ways, I kind of like the old way I used to find places to go… suggestions from people I know, seeing signs on roadsides, or even just by doing a trusty Google search. I have to admit, though, that the Facebook groups make finding places a lot easier!
Anyway, someone in the aforementioned Facebook group recently shared some stunning photos of Brenztopf (aka Brenzersprung), a pond near the Rathaus in Königsbronn, a municipality near Heidenheim, a nice town on the way to Ulm. They also shared some photos of what looked like a really beautiful creek, but people in the know recognized that the background scenery in the photos didn’t match the terrain in Königsbronn and its environs.
I was intrigued by the beautiful photos of the spring/pond on the eastern side of the Swabian Jura. I told Bill I wanted to check it out; it reminded me of when we visited Blautopf in March 2017. Blautopf (Blue Pot) is a gorgeous pond in the town of Blaubeuren. A lot of people have heard of Blautopf; it gets plenty of visitors. By contrast, I had never heard of Brenzertopf, nor the nearby town of Heidenheim, which boasts a big hilltop Schloss (castle). So, although the weather was positively bipolar, Bill and I set out for the attraction, which is about a 90 minute drive northeast of Stuttgart. I got a few rainbow pics… March weather is nuts!
For those who don’t want to drive, it’s possible to take the train. Bill said it involves taking the high speed ICE train from Stuttgart to Ulm, then getting a regional train to Königsbronn. The train stop is right by where the spring is.
Before we went on our excursion, I did some basic checking out of the area. I learned that although Königsbronn is quite industrial, there are a few nice restaurants near there. I thought maybe we’d score a good lunch, too. On the other hand, such things usually require planning… more than I ultimately did.
We managed to find our way to the Brenztopf. It was raining a bit when we arrived, and Bill had to pee… blame those high blood pressure meds. Nevertheless, we gamely found a (free!) parking spot, and found our way to the pond, which I came close to missing, as it’s beside the Rathaus and Hammerschmiede (blacksmith) building. The blacksmith was closed, but Bill sweet talked some lady into letting him use their restroom while I walked around and took a few photos. While Bill was doing his business, I found my way around the building, where the pond is. Although it was very pretty even in the rain, the brilliance of the water doesn’t come out unless there’s sunshine. There I stood in the rain, taking pictures… At least it was free!
Then, just as we were about to drive away, the sun came out. I asked Bill to drop me off by the pond again, to see if I could get some sun kissed photos. As you can see, the effort was well worth it!
So, the moral of the story is, give it a few minutes if the sun isn’t out… I’m actually glad I got to see the pond when it rained, too. I thought the more opaque baltic blue was gorgeous… it’s one of my favorite colors to wear! But it was especially exciting to see how the sun changed the perspective so dramatically. Seems like a metaphor for life, too.
Bill didn’t bother to look at the pond a second time. He relied on my photos. Then we got on the road again and went to Heidenheim, which was having its Saturday market. I think we mainly just wanted to look around a bit, maybe find some lunch. On the way there, Bill saw a woman at a bus stop who wore a long black coat with the hood up. She also wore a white headscarf. He said, “It’s a nun!” I looked up and realized that the woman was actually Muslim and trying to keep warm in the chilly rain. We shared a laugh.
Although Heidenheim has a number of restaurants, not all of them were open. Some appeared to be more like cafes. It was chilly, and the rain was off and on, along with the sun. We were starting to get a bit grumpy. I had noticed an Italian restaurant when we first arrived, but although the sandwich board was out, it looked empty. I thought maybe it would open for dinner. We walked around and I got more photos. I tried to get a good one of the Schloss, with varying results…
Finally, we went back to the Italian place. Noticing a sign for the WC, Bill walked up the stairs, where he found the entrance to La Strada Osteria. On the menu, it looked like they didn’t take a pause, either. Score!
We were greeted by a very friend and tall waiter, who invited us to take a seat in the quaint dining room. He asked what we wanted to drink, and I blurted out “Rot Wein!” It was mainly because I was cold, cranky, and wet. We both enjoyed a healthy pour of red wine. For lunch, Bill had a pizza with buffalo mozzarella and ham. I had lobster ravioli with “hummer sauce”.
The food was very good, and I was charmed by the waiter, who was very pleasant. I noticed everyone seemed to be enjoying their lunches, including an adorable Bichon Frisé at the next table, who smiled and wagged at me when I sat down.
It was about 1:45pm, and we were finishing up lunch. The waiter asked if we wanted anything else. I wanted another glass of wine. He hesitated. I then noticed that he and his coworkers were eating pasta. They were having a pause, after all. So he was hoping I’d have coffee or dessert, rather than wine. I guess he thought we’d linger. Bill had wanted an espresso, and God knows I don’t take that long to drink a glass of wine.
When the guy hesitated, we were about to just pay the check and leave. I was a little embarrassed. But then he compromised and said he’d bring us “Wein für Eins”… I guess he thought we’d split it, which we ultimately did. I was confused, though, because it would have taken just as much time for me to eat dessert, plus they’d have to prepare it. Below are some photos.
We weren’t even the last ones to leave… but the guy got out of the restaurant at just after two, and Bill gave him a nice tip so he could buy himself some more smokes. Then, tired of the crazy ass weather, we decided to head back to Stuttgart. Heidenheim is a nice town; I’d go back, especially if there’s an event going on, and the weather isn’t shitty. A few more photos from our drive back to Stuttgart…
As special as Saturday had seemed at that point, it was about to get even more special… We sat down in the bar and ordered a round, noticing that a large family was wandering around the area. Some of them had musical instruments.
After a little while, we noticed a couple at the end of the bar, who heard us speaking English. It turned out to be a woman and her son. She had long white hair and a face that gave away her German heritage. They had come to Stuttgart from Vermont; her very elderly father had died, and they were there to help her German stepmother bury her dad.
She told us her story. Her dad was born in Stuttgart and had left due to World War II. He married and raised his family in Maine– a place Bill and I visited in 2011. Then, years later, he married his second wife, a German woman who lives in Stuttgart. However, although they were married, the couple lived apart for years. She’d come to the USA for a few months, and he’d visit her in Germany. Finally, about ten years ago, he sold everything and moved back to Germany permanently. He’d finally passed away at the age of 91, so the lady from Vermont and her son were there for the funeral, visit family, and see other sights.
Just after she told us her story, a manager warned us that the big family in the bar was celebrating a birthday, and they were going to be playing music. The lady from Vermont and her son decided to leave, but Bill and I opted to stay… and I have to say, by the time the evening was over, I’d had a good cry.
I’m not totally sure what was going on with the big family. I think they were celebrating their grandfather, but this family had several acts, most of which were very professional. The first performers were three little girls who sang, with violin accompaniment. One of the girls was noticeably talented as a singer; one was noticeably less so; and one was probably tone deaf. All three were adorable.
Next, a teen girl sang what sounded like a German pop song. She was pretty good, but seemed a little nervous– still, obviously more trained than the girls.
Then there was an older young lady who played cello beautifully. That’s when the tears started. She was followed by other family members– a boy on trumpet, a woman at the piano, someone playing a recorder, two violinists… and they played so beautifully for the patriarch. I was very moved, and grateful they didn’t kick us out of the bar. I was very happy to witness that concert. Besides the excellent playing, it was just so obvious that they were a close and loving family.
It made me miss MY family, which is also very musical. We used to be bound by our Granny, who was almost 101 when she died. Unfortunately, her passing, along with the deaths of many aunts and uncles has made it less imperative for me to go home to Virginia. Maybe we’ll make an effort to go back again soon. Some of my extended family might remember me, right?
Below are a couple of videos of the music. Since I wasn’t actually in the party, I didn’t film faces… just got clips of the music they played. Beautiful, isn’t it?
I have been needing a new contact lens prescription for ages. Now that I’ve reached 50 years of age, my eyes don’t work the way they used to. I need reading glasses, but I don’t wear them because I didn’t know what kind I needed. Besides, if I don’t wear my lenses, I can read just fine. But when I have them in, I have a very hard time reading small print. Likewise, Bill was in need of a new lens prescription, as it had been five years since our last exams. I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that one can buy contact lenses in Germany without an official or yearly updated prescription. If you know what you need, you can simply order from Amazon. So that’s what I’ve done… but it’s not been without its drawbacks, as I’ve gradually been self prescribing stronger lenses for myself.
The last time we saw an eyecare professional, Bill and I visited the Stuttgart health center on Patch Barracks, then filled our prescriptions at an optical shop in Nagold, a cute town near where we used to live in BW. Wiesbaden doesn’t have such a facility, and even if it did, using it would be on a space available basis for peons like us. So Bill decided to “bite the bullet”, and he made us appointments at Apollo Optik, an optometrist in downtown Wiesbaden. I should mention that Apollo is one of many eyecare outfits downtown. We passed two others on the way there today.
Bill made our appointments online, and we both got confirmations and reminders by email. Bill was in a hurry to get to the shop, but he needn’t have worried about being on time. Apollo wasn’t like the typical eye doctor’s office we’re used to, where there are places to sit. 😉 We arrived and waited for the painfully shy gentleman helping the people ahead of us to check in. He didn’t speak much English, and didn’t seem all that comfortable with German, either. He did not appear to be a local. My appointment was first, so I sat at a machine that did an automated exam that took about two minutes. But he neglected to tell me to remove my contacts first, so we had to do it again, once I’d taken them out. I was glad I brought my glasses and a fresh pair of lenses!
After a short delay, the technician came in and did my exam. He spoke English reasonably well, and was actually very thorough, as I explained that I need to upgrade from my regular astigmatism dailies to multifocal lenses. My prescription had changed a bit regardless, so it was good that we went in. He ordered new lenses for me to try, and when they come in, we’ll go pick them up and I’ll try them out. If they don’t work, he’ll order different ones. 😉 We are going away next week for a few days; then Bill has a business trip. We’re also dealing with Arran, who is newly diagnosed with lymphoma. But hopefully, we can get in and pick up the new lenses so I can at least see better.
Speaking of Arran… he’s a little slower than usual, especially in the morning, but he’s hanging in there. Yesterday, Noyzi got a dental, and Arran had more blood samples taken so that we might know what kind of lymphoma he’s got, and whether or not it will be worth it to treat him with chemotherapy. But again, he’s about 13 or 14 years old, so we’ll probably just make him comfortable until the sad day comes when we have to say goodbye.
Now, back to our day in Wiesbaden, which is a happier topic. Bill got his exam done. He just wanted new lenses for his glasses, as his frames from Nagold are made of titanium and he likes them. They were also expensive. The whole appointment took about 90 minutes, and when we were done, we both really had to pee and wanted some food. Our plan had been to eat at the City Fest, or the Fall Fest, both of which are going on right now. Unfortunately, for some reason, the toilets weren’t open, even though the fest was in full swing! So we decided to visit the Andechser Ratskeller, where we’d eaten once before, back in 2019. I’ve been wanting German food anyway, so it was perfect.
I had a Doppelbock beer, while Bill had a “special Hell” (hell is a German style of beer, not the fiery place down below). To eat, I had Schweinebraten with Rotkohl and a potato Knodel. Bill had a Wiener Schnitzel with fries. It was hearty fare served by a hardworking waiter, who was delighted when Bill tipped him American style. Our bill was 42,50 euros, and Bill gave him 50 and told him to keep the change. I could see the guy got a nice lift from that, since he was really busting his ass! I’m sure that might help him pay his energy bill this year. 😉 Or maybe pay for a few liters of gas… Ordinarily, we don’t tip like Americans when we’re in Germany, since people who work in restaurants actually get paid here. But I know firsthand how tough that job is, and we can afford to be generous sometimes.
After we ate, we made our way back toward the parking garage, stopping to explore the fall fest. I remember going to it in 2019, before COVID was a thing. It was great to see everything back in full swing again. People were having a lot of fun, and I saw some art I wanted to buy. Maybe we’ll go back tomorrow and get something, making sure to be armed with more cash. I heard several excellent musicians in the city fest, including an awesome brass band who were playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (yes, by Guns n’ Roses). I wanted to listen to them, since I love brass bands… but my bladder was screaming for relief. So maybe we’ll catch them another time. They were great! We also heard a British duo performing a lovely version of “Old Man” by Neil Young, and a beautiful classical guitar player, enchanting people on a soundstage.
We did need to get home, though… the boys needed to eat and pee, and they were happy to see us.