Big business in Poland, part six

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I didn’t get to see as many Wroclaw attractions as I had hoped I would, mostly because for some reason, lately I’ve been having some pretty severe back pain. It’s especially bad in the mornings. Nevertheless, Wroclaw (pronounced ‘vrohtz-wahv’) is a pretty town, especially down by the old part of the city in the enchanting market square. Pastel colored buildings surround the vast square with cool architecture and plenty of gothic touches.

There are museums, art galleries, and churches to be visited, as well as many restaurants with a surprising array of culinary specialties offered. There’s also plenty of shopping. I couldn’t help but think back to the 90s, when Poland was a Peace Corps destination and wonder what the people who served as Volunteers back then would think of Poland today. I know Yerevan, Armenia, where I served, is vastly different now than it was in 1995… and yet it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that places like Wroclaw and Yerevan were off limits to the average American.

Wroclaw is known as the “Polish Venice”, because it sits on the banks of the Odra River and claims over 130 bridges which connect twelve islands. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to explore the bridges or the islands, thanks to my aching back. However, I still managed to enjoy myself and see some stuff that was close enough for this aging lady to walk to without too much trouble.

Speaking of the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union, I did notice quite a strong statement against communism in Poland. For instance, there are over six hundred bronze gnomes in Wroclaw, which first started appearing in the city in 2005. The gnomes are tiny, standing at about a foot tall each, and can be found on the ground, atop roofs, on window sills, or climbing up walls. I didn’t even come close to getting pictures of all of them, but I managed to find quite a few.

The gnomes are a reference to the Orange Alternative, an anti-Soviet resistance movement born in Wroclaw during the 1980s. The group used dwarves as its symbol and helped stamp out the communist regime through peaceful protests. From 1981-83, the Orange Alternative, led by an artist at the University of Wrocław named Waldemar ‘Major’ Fydrych, defaced communist propaganda with surrealist art as a means to protest the government’s oppressive restrictions against free speech and public gatherings. The early 1980s were a dangerous time in Poland. There was martial law, and people couldn’t even go out at night without taking significant risks. The gnomes were cute, and gave people something to smile and laugh at. They also helped show ordinary citizens how ridiculous it was that they were having to live with such oppression and to encourage them not to be afraid. Judging by what I saw in Wroclaw last week, the Polish people are now very happy to enjoy the nightlife and express themselves. Here are some pictures I took of the many gnome statues I found in Wroclaw.

You can actually purchase guides to finding these little guys all over the city. Just visit any souvenir shop! Personally, I liked stumbling across them without any help. They really give people a reason to smile… unless they’re like my friend, Mary Beth, who says gnomes give her the creeps!

I also made a video of raw footage from buskers I saw in Frankfurt, Germany and Wroclaw, Poland. Sunday night in Wroclaw, there were quite a few people on the market square in Wroclaw performing for tips. Here’s a look at that! It would have been nice if I’d used my digital camera, but it wasn’t as handy as my “handy” was.

Some talented people entertaining for euros or zloty…

I also visited beautiful St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, which was just across the street from the hotel. This church, which was once the primary Protestant church between 1525 and 1945, is one of the most striking and visible buildings in Wroclaw. It is currently part of the Catholic Third Order and the structure dates from the 14th century. It suffered severe hail damage in 1529 and was gutted by a fire in 1976. It’s important to remember that this church has a strong German heritage, since Wroclaw was once called Breslau and was a part of Germany. Since 1999, there has been a memorial at the church to Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a native of what was then Breslau, Germany, and martyr to the anti-Nazi cause.

There is a huge tower with an observation deck that can be climbed for a small fee, but I never saw it obviously open, we had several gloomy weather days, and my back wasn’t going to allow me to hike up the tower, anyway. Still, if you’re up for a stout climb and the tower is open, it might be worth doing just for the excellent panoramic shots you can get of the city. Here are some photos from inside this beautiful church.

Not being Catholic nor particularly religious, I can’t speak much for what this church is all about. I just like to visit churches in Europe because they are so incredibly beautiful and inspiring. I also appreciate the quiet and peacefulness of them… warmth and shelter on a winter’s day, coolness and shade in the summer.

Next post, back to food…

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

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A sight for sore eyes.

We left Rostock bright and early on Thursday, July 4th.  The drive to Leipzig took about four hours through the former East Germany.  We were marveling at how unspoiled it is, even thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell.  There are many open fields and the Autobahns, for the most part, are nice and clear.  We did encounter a couple of Staus, which were caused by road construction.

Nice rural East German countryside.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw that the builders had used signs with “emojis” on them to express how long the construction would last.  The first emoji would be a red frowny face.  Midway through, one might see a yellow flat face– with a straight line for its lips.  Then, at the end, there would be a green happy face and the word, “Geschafft!”, which translates to “finished” or “done”, I guess.  I see by Google Translate, it literally means “made”.  I tried to get pictures, but wasn’t so successful.  You can see an example of what I’m writing about here.  I don’t know how I’ve missed these for the past few years.  I haven’t seen them used in the areas where we’ve lived.

The only picture I managed to capture in time.

We finally reached the city of Leipzig at just after one o’clock.  Once again, Bill got turned around and missed the street where the Steigenberg Grand Hotel was.  We had to drive around a bit to finally get to the right place.  Upon arrival, our bags were whisked away and the car was driven off by a valet.  I got an upgraded room, thanks to Expedia.com, which also awarded me gold status again (I had lost it in December 2017, when I used my points in Berlin).  Instead of the standard room I booked, I got a deluxe room.

Here are some photos of the room.

Bathtub… we didn’t use.

Nice rainfall shower.

His and hers sinks.

 

The shower and toilet next to each other.

This bed was mostly more comfortable than our bed at the Radisson Blu in Rostock… except for one issue, which I’ll get into in a future post.

 

The room had air conditioning and a mini bar, as well as free Internet and a nice big TV.  There was also a couch by the window, which appeared to be what made this a “deluxe” room.  The standard rooms had chairs instead.  I think the deluxe rooms were also slightly larger.

This hotel has a nice bar area, a restaurant, and a spa.  We used the bar, of course, but only visited the restaurant for breakfast, which I booked with the room.  I probably should have gone to the spa, but didn’t bother.

Since it was lunchtime, we decided to try Dhillon’s Irish Bar & Grill for lunch, since it was very close to the hotel and I was in the mood for fried food.  Lunch at Dhillon’s Irish Bar & Grill was fine.  I had fish & chips and Bill had Cottage Pie.  We also had beer.  Service was fast and friendly, and we weren’t left with a terrible impression.  Unfortunately, we made the mistake of going back on Saturday night and were completely ignored.  I wrote a very foul rant about this on my main blog.  I would not recommend reading it unless you want to read a lot of cussing.  I was extremely pissed off.  But here are a few photos from our successful Thursday lunch visit.  I will admit, lunch there was fine.

Obligatory shot of Bill.

Cottage pie.  Bill said it was good.

I liked my fish & chips.

This was a welcoming sign… however, on Saturday night, they didn’t roll out the welcome mat for us.

After we ate, we walked around Leipzig and found our way to St. Thomas Church, where Johann Sebastian Bach was music director for 27 years.  This Lutheran church is also affiliated with several other well known composers, including Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelsohnn.  Besides a lovely interior, the church has a small museum and a large statue of Bach out front.  A couple of classical musicians were outside playing beautifully.  They brought tears to my eyes with their heavenly music.  Leipzig is definitely a very musical city and a place to visit if music is your passion as much as it is mine.

This was painted on the wall near the church.

St. Thomas Lutheran Church.

One thing I didn’t know when I booked our travel was that this past weekend was also the time for the Leipziger Wein Fest.  We managed to try several wines over a few days and listened to some nice live music in the square.  It was a real bonus to get to taste wines and see Mark Knopfler!

At one point, I saw an adorable young family dancing to the music.  Mom was very pregnant and looked about ready to add to the family.  Dad was dancing with his toddler son, who was enchanted by the music by Benni & Ich.  It made me tear up watching them.

This guy seemed really into the music.

Later that day, we found out that Bill’s daughter, Catherine, gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Clara.  Catherine is Bill’s younger daughter.  Thanks to an acrimonious divorce, Bill hasn’t seen her or her older sister, who was also born on July 4th, since 2004.  For many years, they were completely estranged.  However, in recent years, Bill and Catherine have started Skyping and emailing.  Bill now has a grandson and a granddaughter and, with any luck, he’ll be able to get to know them despite his ex wife’s extreme efforts at ruining his relationship with his daughters.

I’d say our July 4th, despite being devoid of fireworks, was a success.

Jettingen who? New discoveries in nature and more Breckenheimer rock n’ roll!

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Last night turned out to be unexpectedly awesome.  After we came home from Idstein, we decided to hang out with the dogs for awhile.  Then, at about 6:00pm, the Breckenheimer Bikers were back to continue their fest.  I asked Bill if he wanted to go.  He said “sure”, so we walked to the area where they had set up their booths and tables.  The weather was better, so there were a lot more people.  It looked like they had different food, too.

Then Bill wanted to see if there was anything going on at the Dorfplatz, which is where they always have the wine stands every other Friday night.  Nothing was going on there, but we decided to keep walking.  I’m ashamed to say that in seven months of living in this town, I haven’t explored it much.  I don’t know why.  When I was younger, I’d always walk around my new neighborhoods to make new discoveries.  I usually have the dogs with me, though, and our new town doesn’t have very good sidewalks, since it’s very densely populated.  I guess I figured the area was too congested for them, making it hard to dodge cars.

We walked down Dorfgasse, which is the main drag, passed the antiques dealer, a Kurheil practitioner, a pension, a bakery, an architect, and a druggist with a gynecologist’s office attached to it.  Aside from the bakery and the druggist, I had no idea the other stuff was even there.  We also passed a bunch of guys sitting in their garage, drinking beer, and having a party.

Then we saw a country road on the edge of the neighborhood.  Yes… Breckenheim is on the edge of the country, and we discovered a large park where we can take walks with the dogs.  Perhaps my days of walking them in the poo and dildo infested fields near the Autobahn and the Rewe are over.  Here are some photos from our walk.

This looks familiar… our old town of Jettingen had a similar sign asking people to pick up their dogs’ crap.

Turns out there’s a pretty big walking area, complete with orchards.

There’s even a woods!

 

After a few minutes of walking, we came across a small paddock where a group of ponies were enjoying some hay.  I call them ponies, but they might have been miniature horses.  I mean, they’d be ponies because of their height alone, but they had the more delicate features of horses, with a lighter bone structure. I don’t have much experience with minis, although I have plenty of experience with ponies.  Whatever they officially were, I was delighted to see them!  I spent most of my childhood around horses and even used to have my own pony.  It’s been too many years since I last had a horse in my life.  They are wonderful company.  I even miss their wonderful aroma.

 

One of the mares had a colt by her side.  It looked like a couple of the others might also be expecting, although it’s a bit late in the year for that.  They might have just been fat.

They were very friendly, although I didn’t dare try to pet them.  I have a lot of experience with electric fences, too.  I’m glad we walked up this way, since my dogs go nuts when they see horses.  Now, if I try to walk them here, I’ll be forewarned.

The further we went down the road, the quieter and more bucolic the views were.  I was reminded of the more country areas where we’ve previously lived in Baden-Württemberg.  I’m really a country girl at heart, so finding out our new Hessian town has country scenes did my heart good.  The one thing I’ve been missing about Jettingen are the beautiful wooded areas where I could walk my dogs.  Now I’ve found Breckenheim’s version.

 

The church on the other side.  I think there’s a concert there today.  We might have to check it out.

 

On the way back to our neighborhood, we happened to pass by a tree as several birds of prey had engaged in what appeared to be a violent attack.  I grabbed my camera and tried to film them in action, but was just a little too late to capture the fight.  But then I saw something strange.  A bird was hanging upside down by one talon.  It hung there for an agonizing minute as we looked on, wondering if it was just stunned.  I filmed the bird and my German friend told me it was an Eichelhäher, otherwise known as an Eurasian Jay.  It bore a slight resemblance to our blue jays.  Just after I turned off the camera, the jay lost its desperate grip on the branch and dropped to the ground.  It was still alive when we left it, but I doubt for much longer.  I was a little sad about witnessing that scene, but unfortunately, it’s the way of nature.

By the time we got back to our street, the fest had exploded.  Most of the tables were full of people drinking beer, Sekt, Aperol spritzes, and Jack Daniels.  There were several bands, all of which were quite good.  Our landlord and his wife were there, having a good time.  I like them both, although I haven’t really spent much time talking to them.  Our new landlady doesn’t speak much English, but she’s always very friendly and seems happy to see us.  The landlord seems to like Bill, and he speaks more English– likewise, Bill speaks more German than I do.  We said hello and watched a few acts.  The landlord said they usually do this fest every year, although some years they’ve skipped it.  I’m glad we were around for it this year.

The bikers put on a hell of a party!  I remember Jettingen had events too, but none like this.  A lot of the fests in Jettingen were religious or agricultural.

Cheers!

I got video of a couple of them, which maybe I’ll turn into something I can share here.  I did think to take a few pictures, especially of an enthusiastic gentleman who danced to several well covered classic rock songs.  The group before the rock band consisted of four very talented men singing a cappella in surprisingly good harmony.  I am myself a singer, so I know how hard to can be to stay on pitch when you sing unaccompanied.  They did a really good job of it.  I was especially impressed by their version of “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”.  For some reason, Germans seem to love Scotland, just like I do…  I got some raw video, which I might turn into something sharable at some point.

This guy was dancing his ass off.

This dude sounded like a mix of Bon Scott and Meatloaf.  He was singing songs by Foreigner, Billy Idol, and Bob Seger, among others.  His female partner covered a Bryan Adams song and Pink.  They were surprisingly good.

They brought up a young girl… a family member, perhaps, who joined them on the Bryan Adams number, “I Need Somebody.”

This guy was awesome.  He was inspiring people to cut loose.

We went back home and Bill cooked burgers on the new grill.  The party went on down the street.  At about 10:45pm, they set off some fireworks– maybe a minute or two’s worth.  At about 11, the party was over.  All in all, from Idstein to party time, our Saturday was amazing.  I’m not sure what we’re going to do today, but we sure did have a great day yesterday!

Fireworks!

Breckenheim bikers throw a good party!

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Every time we move to a new place, I’m always intrigued by our neighborhoods.  Some places have been better than others.  This time around, we seem to have chosen a very social neighborhood.  Last week, we had the wine stand.  This week, we have a street fest that was capped off by a concert hosted by a bunch of bikers from our current hamlet, Breckenheim.

The club members all had these vests.  Most of them were very personalized.  As you can see, this group was celebrating their 20th anniversary!

If we’d wanted to, we could have just sat out on one of our balconies.  The bikers had a band and were selling brats, brotchen, beer, and Jack Daniels.  I loved that they all had matching leather vests with their names on them.  I got the sense that during the work week, they were all working conventional jobs.  On the weekend, look out!  They were born to be wild!

We stayed at the fest for a couple of hours and listened to the band’s first set.  Here are a few pictures.

The view from our balcony.

 
We had a little bit of rain, but the locals were prepared.  They put up a tent and, with some teamwork, were able to put it over about half of the tables.

A plane on the way to Frankfurt, no doubt.  We live about twenty minutes away.

Bill was in a festive mood.  He likes a good Friday night fest, even though he knew he needed to stay sharp because we finally got the VIN for our new car and he had to call the bank about arranging the loan.

 

Drinks were flowing…  They even had four dispensers for Jack Daniels.  I guess that’s a biker thing.  I used to like Jack Daniels a lot.  When I used to fox hunt, the master of the hounds would pass around a flask full of the stuff.  I didn’t drink it then, because I was just a teenager.  I don’t drink it much now, but when I was in college, I was a fan.

The brats were grilling.

Lots of people were socializing.  This looked like a very friendly group.  I like that there are so many clubs in Germany, one for every possible interest.

 

This was dinner.  It was very good!  I don’t usually go for brats at these events, but I think the bikers put me in the mood.

The band was also pretty swell.  They were playing all manner of hits, from well-known pop songs in English to German songs.  One lady sang a well-known Adele song; another covered Amy Winehouse.  They were quite competent and even had a sax player!

 
The crowd was into it.
 

I tried one of the Jack and Cokes.  It was a lot sweeter than I remembered it, and not just because of the cola.  This one was a double…  I’m feeling it this morning.

 

They had lots and lots of Jack Daniels.  I didn’t know Tennessee Sour Mash whiskey was so popular here.

 

After awhile, we decided to go home so Bill could attend to his loan business and I could play him a new song I discovered yesterday.  I think there will be a lot of activity choices for us this weekend… lots of fests are going on right now.  We’re definitely spoiled for choice!

 

Just another June afternoon in Wiesbaden…

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We were blessed with more sunny skies and warm temperatures today.  I thought maybe we’d hit that castle I was thinking about yesterday, but Bill wanted to go to Wiesbaden.  Originally, his plan was just to get some ice cream and maybe have a look at where Elton John had his concert last night.  I bet it was a great time.  The weather was perfect for it.

We could see the work crew starting to break down the stands and stage set up for Elton as we wandered past.  It wasn’t long before we found ourselves in an area that looked like maybe they were concessions stands set up for the concert.  Upon closer examination, we discovered that we’d stumbled upon the Kranzplatzfest.  It started on Wednesday and today is the last day of what appeared to be a music and beverage festival.  We also saw lots of people selling stuff.

Lots of stands were selling stuff… mostly drinks, but a few had some handmade crafts and clothes for sale.

The Kranzplatzfest has been going on for 38 years, but we had no idea about it.  In fact, we would have completely missed it if we hadn’t ventured into the city today.  That would have been a pity, because I got some great footage of people dancing to Cuban music.  We happened to get there just before Los 4 Del Son started their 2:00 show.

It was warm today… and it looked like steam was coming off of this fountain.  I don’t know if the water was really that hot or if it was a special effect.  Edited to add: My German friend says this is no special effect.  We stumbled across the Kochbrunnespringer.  Indeed, we saw steam, as the temperature was about 67 degrees Celsius/152.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was attracted to these paintings.  I wouldn’t have minded bringing one home with me.  But I wasn’t sure what the price range was and Mr. Bill has already spent a fortune this summer.  And summer hasn’t even started…

 

Before the Los 4 Del Son show started, we were entertained by watching a crotchety clown yell at some guy who was messing with his bubble blower.  The clown– who wore a festive clown patterned vest, a matching newsboy cap with pom pom, denim capri pants, and a sour expression on his face, noticed the guy adjusting the blower with the wind.  There he was, holding a balloon he’d been turning into an animal for a small child, bitching out the man who dared to touch his bubble blower.  It was a really funny scene, though maybe you had to be there.

Cool sculpture.  This was where the cranky clown had put his bubble blower.

 

Setting up for the show…

This guy was not amused when some random dude started messing with his bubble blower.  He told him off, which didn’t seem very clown like to me.  The guy responded by laughing at him, which seemed to piss off the clown even more.

See the blower?  It was delighting kids and adults alike.

Bill and I tried apple wine for the first time.  It’s a specialty up here near Frankfurt.

One was sweet and the other was sour.  The sweet version had lemonade in it.  I like it better than the sour, which really was very sour.

We had cold chicken shwarma for lunch.  It was cheap and filling, but really messy.  I was glad I saved Wet Naps from our last fest.

And some German craft beers to wash it down.  Bill’s was an IPA.

Lots of people were dancing.  I got some video, which I may be able to share here.

 
Here’s the video!
I got a kick out of the guy in yellow and red…
 

There was another young man who appeared to have been drinking quite a lot.  He was really showing off his moves in a dramatic way.  I bet he’s a hit at dance clubs because he obviously has confidence to show off his stuff.  We saw him approach a young woman with two small children with her, as if he’d asked her to dance.  She turned him down.  He turned and walked away, dejected.

After about an hour of watching people dance and listening to festive Cuban music that made me wish we were in the Caribbean, Bill and I decided to get some ice cream.  We stopped by Eis Cafe Rialto for the first time.  This is supposedly one of the best ice cream joints in Wiesbaden.  The ice cream is made locally and there are many flavors.

And passed this cool vintage car on the way there… lots of money is up here in Wiesbaden…

It was hot and sunny, but we managed to find some shade.

I had a Black Forest cup and Bill had a Wild Berry cup.  Germans love their ice cream creations.  They are very fancy and can cost as much as an entree in a restaurant.  I was amused by the cherries in my ice cream, which tasted like they were carbonated.  I love a cheap thrill whenever I can find one.

I’m glad we went to Wiesbaden today, even though we always end up there somehow.  I wouldn’t have wanted to miss today’s fest, especially since I hadn’t known about it.  If we’re still here in a year, we’ll have to make a point of coming to a couple of days.  I’m sure yesterday, it was a zoo thanks to Elton John’s concert.  On the other hand, I’m sure the lucky concertgoers had a lovely time.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous for a show.  It was probably nicer than the Stuttgart show, anyway… I sat downwind of some guy with halitosis.  I don’t know how Elton was last night, but I did read he had to cancel his show in Verona due to a cold.  Hope he’s better now!

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part five.

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On Sunday, we decided to visit Maastricht.  I really didn’t know what to expect, since I had never been to the city before.  I did know that there aren’t any “coffee shops” open to foreigners in Maastricht.  It’s one of the areas in the Netherlands that has chosen to restrict pot sales to people who aren’t locals.  If you want marijuana, you have to go west.

It was no big deal, though.  Maastricht proved to be entertaining without the benefit of pot.  Not only is the city beautiful, it’s also wide open on Sundays.  Yes, you can go shopping, have lunch, or simply people watch.  There was some kind of race going on there Sunday, so there were several brass bands playing along the route, along with a drum band and a group of violinists.  As a music lover, this really appealed to me.  Despite the bitter cold, I stood there and listened to a group of musicians play “Canon in D” and Vivaldi.  I’m not ashamed to admit that their version of Pachelbel’s masterpiece had me openly weeping.

We parked in a huge lot on the outskirts of town and walked in…

Right off the bat, we heard the thundering sound of drums.  An awesome drum band was beating an infectious rhythm and had attracted a crowd.  The music would be a theme in Maastricht on Sunday, as we ran into a number of bands playing in the street.  

What’s that sound?

 

You can also load up on cheese!  I wish I liked cheese more.

We rounded the corner, just out of earshot of the drummers and promptly encountered a quartet of string musicians.

I often get choked up when I hear really well played live music.  I was listening to these people with tears streaming down my cheeks.  They played so well out in the cold and their music went straight to my heart.

As you can see, other people were affected by the music, too.  

We reluctantly moved on, because it was so cold and Bill needed to get some cash.  I managed to get a few more pictures as we searched for an ATM.  We were looking for lunch and a place to pee.

Our route took us past the runners and several more excellent brass bands!

We walked through one area near a mall and several very touristy looking restaurants.  One alley smelled distinctly of cheeseburgers, which was kind of strange.  But then I noticed we were near a McDonalds.

And these guys were playing jazz… I loved that they had a tray of empty beer glasses nearby.

 

Just as we encountered our fifth musical ensemble of the day, I turned to the left and we found a place to have lunch…

 

I have a knack for finding good places to eat.  There are a few things I look for.  Mainly, I like places that aren’t either too crowded or too empty.  I prefer them to be off the main drags.  And it doesn’t hurt if it smells good outside of the restaurant, too.  A lot of people were sitting outside, despite the cold weather.  I didn’t want to sit outside, but Bill was about to bust.  So we walked inside De Twee Heeren, which turned out to be a pretty awesome bar/restaurant.  They were playing good music and had menus in English, as well as places to sit.  We ended up spending a couple of hours in there, enjoying lunch, good Dutch and Belgian beers, and fun music.

Obligatory menu shot of Bill.  They had a number of appealing choices, everything from steaks to falafel.

 

Bill had what amounted to a “sauerbraten stew”.  It came with a big basket of frites and a salad.

 

I had fish and chips.  I considered a few of the other choices and actually had some trouble deciding, but since the Netherlands is a sea faring nation, I figured the fish and chips would be good.  And they were!  I even tried the fries with mayonnaise.  That’s how they eat them…  Not bad at all, though a little bit of mayo goes a long way.

 

Bill had a double espresso while I enjoyed an excellent Belgian brew suggested by the waiter.

And one more for the road.  It’s probably a good thing German beers aren’t this interesting.

 

It was late afternoon by the time we were finished at De Twee Heeren, so we decided to get some cheese for Bill and head back to the dogs.  I might have liked to have tried another restaurant later, but I just can’t eat as much as I once did.  You’d never know it to look at me, though.

This place had lots of free samples, which Bill was happy to try.

Here he’s trying the gouda with garlic.  I think he brought some home.  I found us some beers and waffle cookies, too.  If it turns out he loves the cheese, we can order more.

We headed out of the city and I took a few more photos.

The grand looking building houses the visitor’s center, which sadly, does not have a public toilet.  Fortunately, I found one at a bustling looking hostel with a huge bar.  It was nothing to duck in, which was a huge relief.

So long, Maastricht.  We’ll be back!

 

I missed the lunar eclipse, but did manage to get a picture of the huge full moon.

 

Yesterday morning, we got up bright and early, had breakfast, let the dogs have one more romp with Yogi, and loaded up the car for the drive back to Germany.  Nel was the most awesome hostess and invited us back.  I think she said we were her first real American guests, although she has hosted Canadians.  I’m hoping a few of my American readers living in Germany might visit Vijlen.  I have a feeling we’ll go back, especially if we stay in Germany for much longer.

I love visiting small towns and talking to locals, getting a feel for the real culture.  While we always enjoy visiting big cities, I find that it’s harder to get a feel for the culture, mainly because so many other international visitors are also there.  So, if there’s anything to be learned by this trip, it’s that small towns are worth a look.  They tend to be less expensive, safer, and the locals are more likely to make a connection.  I felt like we’d made a friend when we left Nel’s place yesterday.  I hope this series will inspire a few others to visit her in lovely Vijlen!

Halloween in Stuttgart at the Irish Folk Festival!

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It’s showtime!  

 

If you’ve been following this blog, you might know that the summer of 2018 was our summer of concerts.  Since I recently bought tickets to three more shows and have one more that has been planned since February 2018, I can safely say that 2019 will continue on the concert theme.

Some months ago, I noticed an ad on Facebook for the Irish Folk Festival.  This is an annual tour that celebrated its 45th anniversary this year.  Every year, bands that play Celtic music travel through Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Benelux.  And yet, even though this festival is almost as old as I am, I somehow never knew about it until I saw that Facebook ad.  Since I was on a roll buying tickets for shows, I decided to pick up a pair for Bill and me.  They were comparatively cheap.  I think I spent a little over 80 euros for two tickets and we sat in the second row.

Thanks to all of the big name acts we’ve seen this year, there were a couple of times I actually forgot that we’d bought tickets for this show.  I set up a reminder on Facebook, just so we wouldn’t forget to attend.  I’m so glad we did manage to catch this festival.  We had a wonderful time!

Last night’s show started at 8:00pm at the Stuttgart Theaterhaus, located very close to Robinson Barracks.  Bill and I have passed that Theaterhaus a few times, but this was the first time we ever took in a show there.  It’s a very nice venue.  Next door, there is a restaurant that we would have liked to try if we’d had time.  Unfortunately, we were caught in hellacious Stuttgart traffic and arrived at the venue about an hour before showtime.  The restaurant was very full and we didn’t think we’d have time to eat.  However, there were a couple of bars open and they did have sandwiches and candy available.  We each had a beer.

The theme was the hope for Ireland’s reunification after Brexit.  The lineup included several acts that I had never heard of, but I left the venue with several new CDs that I can’t wait to plug into my Celtic music mix.  We had the pleasure of being entertained by: Joanna Hyde & Tadhg Ó Meachair, Christy Barry & James Devitt, Ailie Robertson’s Traditional Spirits, and The Outside Track.  The show lasted a solid three hours with one twenty minute break.

Bill and I left as they were doing the last song, because it was already 11:00pm, and he gets up early for work.  The mostly German crowd was on its feet at the end.  They enjoyed the show as much as we did.  We saw more than one person wearing a kilt.  I was sorry Bill hadn’t worn his!

Below are some photos from last night’s show, along with a little light commentary.

It was just starting to get busy in the Theaterhaus when we arrived.  I was marveling at how nice it was.  I wish we’d had the chance to go to other shows during our time here.  Maybe we’ll have another opportunity at a later date.

 

Some information about other planned shows.

I got a kick out of this giant sign for the toilets.  I didn’t get a picture, but next to this lit up sign, there’s an Andy Warhol style graphic depiction of toilets.  That’s one way to make sure theatergoers know where to go when they have to go.

 

The venue has quirky decor.

 

My goofy husband, being a good provider.  He bought peanuts and crispy M&Ms so I wouldn’t get too hangry.

 

I’m always intrigued by graffiti and stuff people leave in bathrooms.  Here’s a statement on the evils of prostitution…  Prostitution is legal in Germany.

 

Our view before the show started.  A German couple sat next to us and asked if we were from Ireland.  We admitted to being Americans, albeit with lots of Celtic heritage.  The couple seemed surprised we’ve been in Germany for four years and are moving to another German city.  They wondered if we would eventually go back to the USA.  I’m sure we will at some point… but then again, maybe we won’t.  Time will tell.  I noticed they didn’t come back after the pause.  I hope we didn’t offend.

 

The local concert promoter was a German guy who wore a green suit covered in shamrocks.  He reminded me a little of Steve Martin before his hair went completely white.  I almost expected him to have an arrow through his head, the way Martin used to about 40 years ago when he did stand up comedy.  I understood some of what the guy was saying and noticed he had a good sense of humor.  The performers spoke a little bit of basic German, but the rest was done in English.  I noticed most of the people around us understood English perfectly well.  Once again, I regret not studying German in school instead of the six years of Spanish I took.

I did not take any photos during most of the show, nor did I do any filming.  Having performed on a stage myself, I understand that photography can be distracting, especially when people use flash.  Also, I think it’s rude to watch a concert through a cell phone screen.  I did get a few photos at the end of the show, when the excellent performers were doing their finale and taking their bows.

 Ailie Robertson, playing harp, seemed to be the evening’s bandleader.  She performed first with her band, Traditional Spirits, and explained how her music was about the making of whisky in Scotland, particularly in splendid Islay, which Bill and I have had the good fortune to visit twice.  After the pause, she joined her band, The Outside Track, which consists of almost all females and includes members from Ireland, Scotland, and Canada!  The lady in the sparkling green dress is lead singer, Teresa Horgan, who also served as a great bandleader and has a stunningly beautiful voice.

Mairi Rankin, the beautiful redhead from Cape Breton, Canada dancing front and center, was absolutely enchanting as she played her fiddle, sang, and danced.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  She had a wonderful stage presence and seemed to really enjoy her work.  I was drawn to her and probably would have loved to have had the chance to chat with her after the show.  She has a very friendly and kind aura.

 

A close up of the dancing!

Mairi is joined by Joanna Hyde and a guy named Cillian O’Dalaigh.  Cillian had fabulous hair and played flute and guitar and danced and sang.  He was another one I was drawn to watch.

Taking a bow!

The rest of these pictures are a little repetitive, but I’m including them for the curious.  It really was a wonderful show and the house was packed.  The tour continues tonight in Ravensburg and ends on November 17th in Hamburg.  I would definitely recommend getting tickets to any of the upcoming shows or planning to see this next year.  I see that they stopped in Mannheim and Frankfurt earlier in their tour, so if we’re still in Germany a year from now, we’ll have to make plans to attend.  It was time and money well spent for us!  And frankly, I was a little jealous because I wanted to be on stage, too… and I wish I had kept studying music when I was young.  Oh well…  At the end of this post, I’ll include a video I did of one of the songs we heard last night.  Yes, it’s me singing.

Well deserved accolades!

The song on this video, which includes pictures from Capri and Amalfi, is “Get Me Through December”.  I originally heard this done by Alison Krauss and Nova Scotia native and fiddle player Natalie MacMaster, but it was also performed last night by Teresa Horgan and the rest of The Outside Track.  I may have to do this one again today…  By the way… I would love to see Natalie MacMaster and her fantastic family play in Germany.  Maybe someday…  This version is mine, and the arrangement is similar to the one done by Alison Krauss and Natalie MacMaster.  Last night’s version was done in a lower key, but was no less ethereal.

The Sindelfingen Streetfood Fiesta meets Music! And Bill and I meet new friends!

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You’d think a person like me would me chomping at the bit to attend a “streetfood fiesta” coupled with music.  I am a food lover, and it shows.  And I also both love and create music.  This should have seemed like an event of my dreams.

Well, I’ll be honest.  I wasn’t that excited about it.  It was in my Facebook alerts and, because Bill is my husband, he noticed it on my Facebook feed.  He asked me if I wanted to go.  To be truthful, I was kind of thinking I might like to stay in and enjoy the day.  Yes, it’s been hot in Unterjettingen lately, but the forecast was calling for rain.  I don’t like getting caught in the rain.

The Afrika Fest was also going on in Böblingen and will also be tomorrow.  We went to it last year and enjoyed ourselves.  I was thinking it would be good to see the Sindelfingen Streetfood Fiesta, if only because it would be different.  This event, by the way, will also be happening tomorrow in  downtown Sindelfingen.  You can enjoy food from food trucks, lots of craft beers, and plenty of live music.  To be honest, as much as I enjoyed last year’s Afrika Fest in Böblingen, given a choice between the two events, I’d pick Sindelfingen’s event.  But then, I really like food, beer, and music.  I also know that there will be an Afrika Fest in Tübingen.  We attended in 2016 and had a great time.  Pretty soon, the 2018 fest will be on, affording us to enjoy African cuisine and buy African products.

So we went to Sindelfingen, parked at the Stern Center, and started walking into the familiar downtown area.  The first thing I noticed was a lovely German lady singing a song I translated to “Dance with Me” in German.  I was pretty proud of that, not that it was that hard.  She had a great voice and I kind of wanted to get a table at a restaurant and listen to her and her acoustic guitar playing friend some more.  But we kept walking and eventually ended up at a craft beer tent where there were a couple of Americans.

We heard the telltale accents and it wasn’t long before the wife and I were realizing we have a whole lot in common, even though I am way older than she is.  She’s 30 and I’m 46, but we both lived in Northern Virginia for awhile.  We were born in the same Hampton, Virginia hospital.  She went to William & Mary for grad school and my sister got her undergrad there.  I also did a lot of temp work there after I finished my degree at Longwood.  And our husbands both work on Kelley Barracks…  As we talked longer, we learned that we had even more in common.  It was freaky!

Bill enjoys a new craft beer.

Then, I noticed she and her husband were updating their beers on Untappd, an app Bill and I both use.  In fact, Bill had his Untappd baseball hat with him and was able to show it off.  This was a beer loving couple, which Bill and I both are.  I showed them some of our more interesting beer vacations and we had another round.  We kept chatting and eventually moved on to a food truck…

These guys make some great craft beers.

 

More craft beers.

Bill got me a “crunchy box”, which included a couple of dumplings and what appeared to be homemade potato chips.

 

He was very pleased with himself.

But there was actually a lot to choose from.  There were burgers, Polish goodies, Korean goodies, and barbecue interspersed with different musicians stationed throughout the route.  Sadly, we didn’t get to see the whole thing… or maybe it’s not so sad, since we truly did make new friends.

There was even a truck that used a Camden, New Jersey schoolbus for dispensing its burgers.

This guy met us when we were tasting craft beers.  He followed us and was very keen to share the moment, German style.

 

The whole time we were enjoying beers and food, we were getting acquainted with new people in our community.  And, besides meeting new people, we also got to pee for free.  This event has a public restroom truck that doesn’t cost anything to use and is surprisingly clean.

Homemade potato chips!

And craft beer…

And if you hit the Sindelfingen fest, you should hit this truck.  There are good eats there.

Our drunk German friend again, who was very nice and harmless, although we didn’t understand everything he said.  I did do some nonverbal bonding with the craft beer sales people, who were enjoying watching us communicate with him.  He wasn’t a bad dancer, either.

See?

They have stuff for kids to do, too.  Even a “bull” for those who think they can hack it.

I probably should have been more conscientious about recording the scenes, but we were having too much fun getting to know our new acquaintances and soaking up the atmosphere.

I don’t know what we’re going to do tomorrow, but I wouldn’t be averse to visiting this fiesta again… or maybe hitting the Afrika Fest.  Having been to both, I can say that both are worth the stop, depending on what you want to do with your time.  The lovely thing about Germany in the summer is that you are spoiled for choices when it comes to things to do.  Someone is always having a fest if you haven’t already planned to see a park or another attraction.

If you didn’t get out today, I highly recommend making the attempt tomorrow.  You never know.  You might make new friends, too!

Early dinner at Cortijo in Stuttgart!

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A month ago, I got my teeth cleaned at Dr. Blair’s office in downtown Stuttgart.  I didn’t have any cavities, but he was concerned about an area of redness in the gums under my front bottom teeth.  It wasn’t like gingivitis or anything like that.  The redness was below the area where teeth and gumline meet.  He asked me if I have Crohn’s Disease.  I don’t.  Then he asked me about allergies.  I do have those, but he said if the redness was caused by allergies, my whole mouth would be red.  There’s only one area that was reddened.  He was concerned, so he asked me to come back in a month so he could see if the area got better on its own.

Today was the day I was to return so Dr. Blair could check out my gums.  We got an appointment for 2:00pm, which is not the best time for an after appointment restaurant visit, especially in Germany.  Bill came with me, which I always appreciate.  Trips to the big city are always more fun when Bill’s around.

I saw the dentist this afternoon.  He checked out my “rash”, for lack of a better term, and said it was better, but not completely gone.  I have to go back in September to see him.  Then he explained why, in Germany, it’s important to differentiate between a physician and a doctor.  We started talking about my education, his education, my sister’s education, and Armenia.  What I was expecting to be a five minute appointment turned into a half hour.  Oh well.  He’s bar none the best dentist I’ve ever had anywhere.  Besides, whenever I go see him, I get to have dinner in Stuttgart.

After we were finished with the dental business, we went to the Galeria, where I had read I might find some Georgian wine.  Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky today and found no Georgian wines.

So we decided to look for a late lunch/early dinner.  Originally, I was thinking maybe we’d have Italian food, but then realized the place I’d been eyeing was right next to a large construction site.  So we kept walking and soon found ourselves standing by Cortijo, a Spanish restaurant I’d been wanting to try for some time.  I’d heard good things about it in the Stuttgart American community and liked their Facebook page, which constantly advertises Flamenco dancing and guitar players.  They also don’t take a pause during the afternoon.

Bill prays before he makes his decision…  (kidding)

We took a seat and ordered beers and Paella Valenciana.  Paella can only be ordered for two or more people and takes at least 30 minutes to prepare, so we had a wait in the sunshine.  I heard the party behind us speaking Spanish, which is a good sign.  I noticed the menu also featured a number of other interesting dishes and tapas, some that seemed more German than Spanish.

This restaurant is right next to a strip joint.  It’s also next to a pizzeria with a wood oven.  It looked promising.  Maybe next time we’re in Stuttgart.

 

Bill was pretty hungry because he didn’t eat anything after breakfast this morning.  However, he was not displeased with our paella, pictured below.

Paella Valenciana– for two people or more at 15,90 per person.  It’s the cheapest of the three types offered at Cortijo.

 

I was delighted by the paella, which is a great change of pace here in Swabia.  It’s made with rice seasoned with saffron, shrimp, mussels, calamari, peas, chicken, and red peppers.  Squeeze a little lemon juice on it and you’re ready for a good meal!  The only disappointing thing about this paella was that the shrimp were a little hard to peel.  Oh… and I made a really gross joke about what mussels look like that turned Bill off.  In all seriousness, though, this was a really lovely meal, both in taste and presentation.  All they need there is a fly zapper to get rid of the flies who want to share the meal.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if zappers are illegal here.  I’ll have to research it.

A few offerings at Cortijo.

When we were finished eating, I went into the ladies room and found it immaculate and smelling slightly of bleach.  That’s also a good sign.

A tri-lingual sign to assist you in your flushing duties.

 

The stage where there are singers and dancers later in the evening.

Cortijo has a large dining area and two dining rooms.

I liked the bar, too.  You can sit around it and see the stage.  And check out the decorations made of sombreros from local tequila!  Pleasant Spanish guitar music filled the dining room.

 

Total damage for tonight’s dinner was just under 40 euros.  Cheap!

Front entrance.

And outdoor seating.  This is also near a construction zone, but they weren’t building when we were sitting there.  If you look at the obligatory shot of Bill at the beginning of this post, you can see the construction site.  A lot of building is going on downtown.

 

We walked back to the car a different way and realized Cortijo is very close to Primo, a wine bar and Italian restaurant where Bill and I ate last month.  This part of Stuttgart is rich with good places to eat.  Unfortunately, it’s also rich with traffic, which we got caught in on our way out of the big city.

Now that we’ve tried the paella at Cortijo, we want to come back for dinner and check out the live entertainment.  Definitely recommended, especially if you want a change of pace from German, Italian, or Greek food.

Our Rolling Stones weekend in Stuttgart… part two

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On Saturday morning, we had a leisurely breakfast in Wald Hotel’s restaurant.  They serve a pretty good buffet, with breads, fruits, vegetables, eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, and fried potatoes, among other things.  They will also cook eggs to order.  When we arrived at the buffet, the wait staff was very busy.  It took awhile before we could score a carafe of coffee.  My husband is usually a very mild mannered guy, but I could tell he was getting impatient for his morning caffeine shot.  I, for one, was more impressed by the Kessler Sekt that was made available.

While we were eating breakfast, I took note of all the people joining us.  Quite a few of them were obviously planning to attend the concert last night.  In fact, as we were out and about in downtown Stuttgart yesterday, I saw many people sporting t-shirts from previous concerts.  I had already read the information about the event that was emailed to me indicating that they were expecting 40,000 people at last night’s show.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I don’t go to a lot of concerts.  This was the first one I’ve ever been to with that many people.

After breakfast, we walked to the nearby train station and traveled to Charlottenplatz, where we knew we’d find something going on.  Sure enough, the city was alive with people yesterday, many of whom were there for the Children and Youth Festival.  We walked through the festival and I was very surprised by how many activities and exhibits they had.  Many groups had come to advertise their clubs.  I saw people from a fencing club, a dance club, and various sports groups.  I also saw a cooking school for kids as well as an impressive display by Porsche.  Below are some pictures from the festival.

The festival was scattered from the Schlossplatz to Charlottenplatz.  I was surprised by how many exhibits there were.

They had plenty of activities for kids to actively try, like this football exhibit.

Lacrosse.

Dance club.  You know the dresses were a draw.

 

We wandered out of the festival for a short time as we made our way toward the Schlossplatz.

They had set up a red carpet for a documentary festival that went on all weekend.

 

There were buskers everywhere, including this guy who was gamely singing Rolling Stones songs.  Bill dropped a couple of euros with him because he was genuinely entertaining and giving his performance a lot of go!

The Schlossplatz.  This was where we saw Van Morrison in 2016.  I can’t help but marvel at the people whose job it is to set up and take down bleachers and stages.  It seems like a huge undertaking.

 

A cooking school for kids.  I enjoyed the guy dressed like a chef who was working the crowd.  He wore chess board patterned pants and spoke enthusiastically into his microphone, inviting kids to participate.

Porsche was also onhand, with their own driving school for kids!

It was very safety oriented!

I snapped this photo just as we were about to cross the street.  Parts of Stuttgart are truly lovely.  I also noticed the church had its tower open earlier in the day.  We didn’t get around to climbing it.

The hour was getting closer to lunchtime, but we were still pretty full from breakfast.  We were about to head over to Karlsplatz, the square where the Hamburger Fischmarkt usually takes place every July, but ended up stopping by the Landesmuseum Wurttemberg.  We’ve passed it many times, but never bothered to visit.  Yesterday, we noticed entry to the permanent exhibits was free of charge, so we decided to stop.

There is also a children’s exhibit that I think does require an admissions fee.  Since we don’t have kids, we didn’t visit that part of the museum.  However, I am a big kid myself, so I probably would have liked it.  As it was, the Landesmuseum impressed me by being very extensive and including explanations in English.  It’s also kid friendly, with quite a few activities designed to engage children.

This is what you see as you enter the courtyard where the museum’s entrance is.

Information on the signs.

When we got our free tickets, the receptionist noticed how big my purse was, so she asked me to put it in one of the lockers situated in the lobby.  Large bags and some other items are not allowed in the museum, so if you have a big bag or a backpack, you will be expected to lock it up.  You use a one or two euro coin to lock the locker, and when you return the key, you get your coin back.

If you wanted to, you could spend a couple of hours in the Landesmuseum.  It’s surprisingly large.  In fact, we only explored the second floor.  On the first floor, there’s a permanent clock exhibit.  I took note of all of the history of Baden-Wurttemberg, particularly among Neanderthals.  Thanks to 23 and Me, I recently found out that I have a lot of Neanderthal genetic variants.  That explains a lot.  Neanderthals came from the Neander Valley here in Germany and many of their remains were found in Baden-Wurttemberg.

Besides information about Neanderthals, the Landesmuseum includes many paintings, artifacts, and precious jewels.  They’ve designed the exhibits to allow visitors to get a lot out of the experience.  For instance, a few exhibits had cleverly designed magnifying glasses that allowed visitors to see the detail of some of the precious artifacts being displayed.  In another part of the museum, there was a really interesting exhibit about religion.  They even had a hilarious oil lamp in the shape of a man with a very large phallus.  I wish I’d had my camera with me for that one.

After we explored the museum, it was time to hunt for lunch.  As I mentioned previously, Stuttgart was loaded with people yesterday.  A lot of restaurants were at capacity, especially outdoors.

We headed toward Karlsplatz, where a flea market was going on.  Lots of people were selling everything from military relics to carpets.  A Turkish food stand was open and putting off heavenly aromas.  A rockabilly band was playing live music.  The atmosphere was very festive.  Below are pictures of what was being sold.  

This band was pretty great.  I got a few video snippets of them playing.  

We probably should have stuck around to see if they were selling CDs.

The lure of beer was too strong and drove me away from this scene.

This seemed promising, but turned out to be a disappointment, since there were only tables able in full sunlight.  

Things were looking more promising as we approached the Markthalle, where we discovered a shady spot at the Marktstüble, a restaurant that is not open on Sundays.

The menu offered typical Schwabish delights like maultausen, schnitzel, and other porky delights.

But what I was after came in a mas krug…

Prost!  I’m glad we got the krugs because our poor waiter was pretty busy.  People were desperately seeking lunch outside in yesterday’s glorious weather.

And then, these buskers showed up and accompanied our lunch with their perky brand of accordion music.  I probably enjoyed them more than I should have.  They had game!

The guy in the orange shirt and his companion stayed at our hotel and took the same train into downtown.  All day, we ran into people from our hotel or folks who had been in the museum with us. It was kind of funny.  On the way back from the concert, we saw a guy who’d had breakfast at the same time we did.  He was distinctive because of his hat.

Bill had cold pork roast with potato salad and a green salad.  It was very good!  In fact, if we eat there again during the summer, I may order that myself.

I went with a green salad with shrimp.  I don’t usually go for salads, but I wanted something that wouldn’t be too heavy.  This fit the bill nicely.  It filled me up without making me bloat.

Below are some more photos from the Children and Youth Festival, which we passed through to get back to the train station.  It was time to go back to the hotel and get ready for our big concert!