Bill and I were thinking about going to Mainz today, since there’s a wine festival going on. I’m reminded of the cheery toast some people offer at such occasions… “Here’s mud in your eye!” I could definitely do that today.
The only problem is, I somehow messed up my left eye with a subconjunctival hemorrhage. I don’t know how it happened, which the medical Web sites all tell me is not that unusual. Sometimes you can remember an actual incident that causes these things… and sometimes you can’t. I usually get this when I vomit, but I haven’t recently done that. I do cough and sneeze sometimes, and I read that this can happen after that. I wear contact lenses, and sometimes they can cause these bleeds. I also probably have high blood pressure by now… it runs in my family.
My left eye looks pretty bad. The side closest to my nose is all red. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done to get rid of this condition, other than just wait for my body to absorb the blood. It could take up to a couple of weeks, although in my experience, it’s usually healed within a few days.
We might go to the wine festival anyway, in spite of my scary looking eyeball. Or maybe we’ll just stay home, like we did yesterday. Although the weather was beautiful, we decided to do yard work instead of going out among the masses. We cut the grass, trimmed the shrubs and the revived myrtle tree, and used the trimmer. The yard looks a lot better, although pretty soon, it’s going to be bare again. August is just about over. The summer flew by!
I suspect I may need to see a healthcare professional pretty soon… Whether or not I fulfill the need depends on how insistent Bill gets. I hate dealing with doctors. However, I think my gallbladder may be about ready to be yanked. Or maybe something else is wrong with me.
It sure does suck getting old.
If we do go to the wine fest, I will probably write about it later. If not, I’ll be back when I have something new to write about.
I don’t have anything to report travel wise this week, as Bill is away on another business trip. He left for Bavaria on Thursday and will be gone until this Friday. I hate it when he travels without me, but at least we have a trip upcoming. I’ve been trying to make the best of my alone time by sprucing up the garden furniture. Yesterday, I put teak oil on it, and I have plans to add a sealant. However, it looks like it’s going to rain, so maybe it’s just as well that Bill isn’t home.
Before Bill left for his trip to Bavaria, he visited a doctor in Mainz. Several months ago, I noticed a spot on his skin that looked weird. He showed it to his military doc, and she referred him to a dermatologist. Or, she told him to go see one. He had to find one on his own, since he’s retired from the military.
Bill scheduled a visit with a doctor in Mainz, but she had to cancel his appointment because she was sick. I believe the original appointment was supposed to happen in March. The appointment was rescheduled for May 3, and Bill dutifully went in on Wednesday morning. He said the waiting room was full of people.
When he made his appointment, he was advised that he could either pay 50 euros for a spot check, or pay 120 euros for a full exam, complete with high resolution photos. As Bill is a very white guy who’s of a certain age, he went with the 120 euro option. Bill described the procedure to me after it was all done.
He went in, met the doctor and showed her the spots that were questionable. She had him strip completely naked (though I don’t know if he had to keep wearing a face mask). She stayed in the room while he disrobed. Then, she methodically checked his entire body, to include all of the places the sun doesn’t shine– between his toes, on his gums, under his balls, and probably between his ass crack, too.
She took photos of four or five places, then had him get dressed, again while she was in the room. The whole thing took about an hour. Afterwards, she said the questionable spots were not of concern, but she had noticed that he had fungus on his feet. Bill probably blushed and said, “Yes, I have a problem with athlete’s foot.”
“I’ll prescribe you something for that. You must apply it three times a day until the fungus is gone, and wash your socks in hot water.” I think he should just get new socks, if you ask me.
After the appointment, he paid the 120 euros, then went to a nearby pharmacy and got the foot medicine. That was another 17 euros. He’ll file the bill with our insurance and probably get the money back. Still, I thought that was pretty affordable for such a thorough exam. I probably should visit her myself, given that I’m as white as he is. I don’t like doctors, though.
It was a lucky thing that he had enough euros on him, though, because the doctor’s office only takes EC credit cards (European). Our cards are American. I tried to get Bill to open a German bank account so we could get local cards, but he ignored my advice. Of course, now German banks don’t like messing with Americans, thanks to our crazy ass tax reporting laws.
Anyway, I’m glad his skin is healthy, for now. I ordered him a couple of new Irish flat caps to help keep his scalp skin cancer free. I’m sure they’ll come in handy on our trip next month. He sure can rock a flat cap! The ones in the photos are summer weight, as opposed to the wool tweed one he usually wears in cold weather. Aran Sweater Market for the win.
Okay, actually, it wasn’t really mandatory fun… It was highly encouraged fun.
Bill’s company allocated funds for a holiday party that never happened due to hectic schedules. So, last night’s gathering was basically what would have been the “holiday party”. I don’t always enjoy Bill’s work parties, because they’re often about people “talking shop”. They also involve set menus. Such was the case last night.
Arran had a better week, too. One of his lymph nodes is still swollen, but his energy and appetite are still fine. The vet called to check on him, since he had a rough week last week. Bill was happy to give her a positive report. After extensive “beagle proofing”, as Bill puts it, we were ready to go.
Fasching is about to commence, starting February 16th. I noticed a lot of people in Mainz dressed up in costumes. Next weekend, it will probably be pretty wild as there will be parades and parties aplenty. In 2019, we ate lunch at a restaurant in Wiesbaden and got MOONED by a reveler. Actually, he mooned the entire dining room. Yes, I got pictures. The post I wrote about it said it was our “first taste”, but I probably should write that it was our first taste of fasching in Wiesbaden. Of course we encountered the celebrations down near Stuttgart, too.
We were a little bit early to last night’s festivities. Bill wasn’t sure about how bad traffic would be. It turned out it wasn’t so bad at all… and once again, I had forgotten just how close to Mainz we are. We really should spend more time there. It has a very different vibe compared to Wiesbaden, which is more of an elegant, grand town. Mainz is more of a dynamic college town.
Originally, we sat at one of the large tables in the middle of the dining room. It was mainly so we could get out of the way of the busy wait staff. But then I realized that I don’t like sitting in the middle of the room. I spotted a small round table on the side, which was a little more secluded and offered a better view of everything… especially the bar area. 😉
Bill’s co-workers trickled in, and soon there was a large crowd in a very cavernous restaurant. I knew they planned to have a trivia contest, which would make it hard for people to hear. As the evening wore on, and the libations flowed, that is what came to pass. We decided not to stay until the end, because we were both kind of tired (especially Bill) and concerned about Arran. Arran did fine, save for a minor lapse in house training.
The food was pretty good, although it wasn’t very hot. We all had charcuterie, pumpkin soup that was a little spicy, and a walnut brownie cake with vanilla ice cream. For the main course, we had a choice of salmon, lamb, or the vegetarian dish, which I believe was eggplant. I didn’t get a good look at it, although Bill’s colleague, who was sitting with us, had that. I had the salmon, which came with a very interesting black rice and broccolini. Bill went for the lamb, which had cauliflower and some kind of Parmesan dumplings. Bill liked the cauliflowers and dumplings more than the lamb.
Here are some photos… We have plans for another outing tonight, this time with one of Bill’s old Army buddies, who is now his boss/co-worker. Going out twice in a weekend! It’s like the good old days! Before long, we will be coming up with some actual travel.
After we left, we walked back to the entrance to the parking garage, which was locked. So we had to take a stroll around the massive building to get to our car. And because we entered from a different way, it took some time to find it. But we were eventually successful after our discovery mission. In all, it was a good time.
In 2003, when Bill and I were first married, I bought Lyle Lovett’s then newly released CD, Smile: Songs From the Movies. In those days, we didn’t have much money at all, so it was kind of a big deal when I bought things, even when they were as seemingly insignificant as CDs. On the other hand, I’m a frustrated musician myself, so CDs have never really been insignificant to me.
I loved that CD. I was a pretty new Lyle Lovett fan back then, but it wasn’t long before I became a real admirer of his music. On that CD, there was a collaboration Lovett did with noted blues singer, Keb’ Mo’. They had covered “‘Till It Shines”, a song Bob Seger wrote in the 1970s. I actually owned Bob Seger’s album, Stranger in Town, on cassette tape. I’ve since replaced it at least twice. I instantly recognized the song, and I loved what they did with it. I think that was the first experience I had with Keb’ Mo’.
Some time passed, and I encountered Keb’ Mo’ a few more times. One time, I bought a compilation put together by Martha Stewart, of all people. Yes, that Martha Stewart– the one who went to prison for insider trading! She marketed a CD for new parents called Sleepytime, and it included a collection of soothing songs that were meant to inspire babies to fall asleep, yet didn’t annoy their parents. Keb’ Mo’ contributed a lovely song called “Infinite Eyes” to that CD, which was released in 2004. I see Martha’s Sleepytime CD is no longer available, even on Amazon. That’s a shame, because it’s a really nice CD. I still have it, although it’s in storage now. I hope the extreme heat in Texas hasn’t ruined it. I do have it downloaded to my computer. Additionally, you can find it uploaded on YouTube.
Then came the day when I became a confirmed Keb’ Mo’ fan. Bill and I were having a weekend lunch at Austin Grill, in Springfield, Virginia. They were playing some really great music in there, and I was enjoying my burrito and pink lemonade to some righteous blues. Suddenly, there was Keb’ Mo’s unmistakable voice, covering Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. After we finished lunch, Bill and I went directly to a Border’s store and I bought three of his CDs. None of them had his cover of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but the spell was cast. I was soon hooked, and started buying his music regularly. Years later, I found and downloaded his version of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but by the time I found it, I had discovered so many other great songs by him!
It’s hard to believe that about twenty years have passed since the first time I heard Keb’ Mo’s voice. It’s ever harder to believe that last night was the first time I ever saw him play live. Especially since Keb’ Mo’ seems to love Europe and has played over here several times in the almost eight years we’ve lived here. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be in Germany, but I am sure last night won’t be the only time we see Keb’ Mo’ in concert. He was so wonderful last night at the Frankfurter Hof! Thanks to the pandemic, the show, which was originally planned for November 16, 2020 (our 18th wedding anniversary), had been rescheduled three times. It was well worth the wait!
Last night’s concert was the first one Bill and I had been to since July 2019, when we saw Mark Knopfler in Leipzig. I remember Knopfler’s show was memorable for a lot of reasons. The most memorable thing about that show, though, besides the fact that it was the last one after a string of concerts Bill and I attended, was that we were staying in the same hotel where Knopfler and his band were. And all of them came to the hotel bar, so I got to gawk at them from afar.
Something similar actually happened last night. Bill and I were eating dinner outdoors at a place called L’Angolo, an Italian restaurant near the Frankfurter Hof, in Mainz. Bill had ordered a half bottle of wine, and just as our waiter was dropping it off, I looked up and there was Keb’ Mo’, walking down the street, completely unbothered and unfazed by anyone! I didn’t have the chance to take a photo then, but I got plenty of them last night, along with some video. I don’t usually like to take video at concerts, but he was pretty open to it, and everyone was doing it. So I got a few minutes from last night’s intimate show, which included opening act, Anthony D’Amato, who was equally great. I had not heard of Anthony D’Amato before last night, but he was very entertaining. His style reminded me of Springsteen’s or maybe Bob Dylan. He’s also been compared to Josh Ritter, but I’m not familiar with Josh Ritter (yet), so I can’t say for sure.
I was pleasantly surprised by last night’s show. I had been a bit worried about it, given the COVID-19 situation. Germany only did away with mask requirements in most places just a few weeks ago. I didn’t look forward to having to sit in an auditorium wearing a mask for hours. Fortunately, people in Europe are pretty good about letting people make their own choices, as long as there aren’t official rules. There were some folks who wore masks at the show, but the vast majority of people didn’t. And I didn’t see anyone giving anyone a problem, either way.
The Frankfurter Hof is a small venue that seats a maximum of 480 people, and offers standing areas on the sides. I would guess there were no more than 600 people at last night’s show. We were in seats one and two in row four, which offered a great view of the stage, even without using the zoom function on my camera. I would not hesitate to attend another concert at the Frankfurter Hof, especially since it’s so close to where we live. My only caveat for the uninitiated is that it’s not so easy to find the entrance to the venue, which is between two restaurants/bars.
As usual, the audience was well-behaved and appreciative, which made for a nice atmosphere. People were singing along and clapping, and for the most part, being very considerate of each other. I haven’t been to a whole lot of US based concerts, but I have noticed that I much prefer the shows in Germany to the ones I’ve attended back home. People are expected to act like adults. Those who don’t will be called out. At the same time, if you want to enjoy your adult beverages, you can do that without harassment or price gouging. It’s refreshing to be treated with dignity and respect, without worry that some idiot will ruin the mood for everyone. Last night was also memorable, because we ran into one of Bill’s colleagues. Before she started working for the US government, she used to do sound and lighting for concerts. She even did them for Joan Jett, at some point before she switched careers. 😉
Below are some photos from our evening, and last night’s delightful show. I’m so glad we were finally able to go! I hope Keb’ Mo’ will be back soon. If he follows his usual modus operandi, I expect it won’t be long before we have another chance to enjoy his music live. And if you like blues and haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out. We only paid about 45 euros per ticket to catch that show. It was one of the better concerts we’ve attended! Overall, it was a fantastic evening; he played all of the songs I was hoping to hear, plus some I really need to listen to again! If I don’t wind up with COVID-19, that is a bonus!
I was surprised by how humble and down to earth Keb’ Mo’ seemed. He was so funny and obliging, engaging with the audience and sharing entertaining stories with the audience. I also noticed that there were a lot of English speakers at the show, and they were getting his jokes. Bill and I saw the aforementioned Lyle Lovett in Stuttgart in March 2009, and he spoke English and made jokes. Bill and I seemed to be the only ones laughing! That is not what happened last night. The audience loved him! And most of them were very well behaved, save for a couple of squabbles over seats, and dirty looks due to empty beer bottles falling. For once, they weren’t my bottles, either. 😉
Below is a video I got from the first song in the encore, a sweet rendition of “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. I wish I had gotten the very last song, which was one of the highlights of the show, in my opinion. It was an upbeat gospel number his late mother had loved. Keb’ Mo’ delighted me by quipping, “Germans go to church, too!” And indeed, they were clapping, stomping, and singing along, just like they had been raised on that homespun southern gospel sound. Once again, I missed my own southern roots, especially when he mentioned southern food. But I can’t help but realize that Bill and I shared a bond with the locals last night… and at this point, Germany will always be one of my homes, too. <3
I am shocked to see that September 2021 is now more than halfway finished. The time is flying by… and we still haven’t done our usual long vacation this year. At this rate, I’m not sure if we will, although fall is a nice time to travel, especially as global warming makes Germany more pleasant during the “ber’ months. I distinctly remember being here in 2007 and 2008, and thinking September was COLD. Not so much anymore…
We had nice, sunny, and somewhat warm weather today, so I wore shorts on our brief outing. Originally, we planned to go to Mainz, and we even drove my MINI, since I managed to find a lightening cable hookup for my car to replace the one I used for my iPod. I bought an iPod touch a few months ago, and when my iPod classic croaked, I figured it was time to enjoy a more modern setup. But really, I think it might be time for a new car. At the very least, a new car will have a built in GPS system, so Bill can quit fucking with the portable one he uses in my car, which constantly unsticks itself from the windshield. Personally, I never use GPS. I get around by my wits and cracker jack sense of direction.
Anyway… we got to Mainz, and it was super crowded. Then we ended up in this godawful parking garage. The first level was full, but if you went all the way around to the other side, you couldn’t access the next level and had to exit the garage. You could only access the next level when you first entered the garage– searching for parking on the first level meant you were locked in to staying on that level. It was a mess. I don’t know who designed that garage, but I give him (or her) an F.
I was feeling cranky after that experience, so we decided to head back towards Wiesbaden. I was thinking maybe we could hit that Biergarten in Mainz-Kastel we visited a few weeks ago, but Bill misunderstood and thought I wanted to go to Wiesbaden, which I didn’t want to do. I like Wiesbaden fine, but I’m a little tired of it. I compromised and suggested Hofheim. We got there at about 2:00, which wasn’t good, since that’s when a lot of restaurants take their pauses. I did notice that Hofheim was decorated with lots of colorful umbrellas…
I like Hofheim. It reminds me of some of our favorite small towns in Baden-Württemberg. Hofheim was also busy, but not nearly so much as Mainz was. I was definitely not in the mood for a lot of people or confusion.
After walking around for awhile, we finally found a place to have lunch that wouldn’t be closing at 2:30pm. Zum Turmchen was a new place for us, but it’s definitely not new for the town. The building dates from the 14th century. The premises were once used as a Büttelturm and, from 1788 to 1938, as a synagogue. It became a wine bar in the 80s, and at this point, it’s a German restaurant with lots of Schnitzels, potatoes, and Pfannkuchen.
We sat at a table with a view of a pleasant fountain. A friendly waitress took our orders as we watched two adorable little girls who looked like twins, as they played with a bright, blue balloon. Actually, I don’t know if the girls were twins. One was a little bit taller than the other. But they both had long, brown hair that covered their butts; they both wore glasses; and both moved non-stop. I was a little jealous, watching how much energy they had, and how easily entertained and happy they were, just playing with their balloon and chasing each other. I was glad we came to Hofheim, where it was safe enough for them to be playing in such a carefree manner.
Then the food arrived…
We both enjoyed our lunches, although I’m not overly fond of tons of sauces or condiments. A little dab will do me just fine. I also have a bit of a hangup with it comes to white stuff. It probably comes from my traumatic childhood, when I couldn’t digest dairy products. To this day, I don’t eat a lot of dairy. I like cheese, but only mild ones that are melted. I don’t drink plain milk or eat yogurt. I do like butter and ice cream, and cream in my coffee, though. In any case, the potatoes were good. So was the salad. I just could have done with about a third of the sauce. Edited to add: my German friend says I missed the point and was supposed to mash the potatoes and herbed quark together. That thought did occur to me…. But I like my mashed potatoes pre-mashed.
Bill liked his stuffed pancake. Actually, if we go there again, I might have that. Or maybe a Schnitzel will suffice… I thought of getting one of those. I appreciated that they had small ones. I can never eat a whole Schnitzel.
While we were finishing up, a tall man with a mustache that had curly ends approached. He had an interesting look going on. He wore denim shorts, a vest with a short sleeved shirt under it, open-toed, navy blue knee socks pulled all the way up, and Birkenstock sandals. We spent a minute wondering if he had hot toes or needed compression socks or something. Everything matched, though, so he was stylin’. He was very confident, too.
The dogs were a bit sad that we left them, so after lunch, we decided to hit the Edeka and pick up some wine and buttermilk. The buttermilk is for tomorrow’s breakfast. I like shopping at Edeka. I think it’s my favorite German supermarket chain. I wish we had one in Breckenheim.
Anyway, lunch was enjoyable. It came to 33 euros. Afterwards, we came home, driving with the top down on the MINI (maybe for the last time this year, as it’s getting cooler)… tomorrow, Bill may brew beer, depending on the weather. If that happens, I’ll probably do laundry. Maybe we’ll stay in. Or maybe we’ll go somewhere for lunch. It’s tempting to stay in, but going out is good for the blog, and my disposition. I must admit, though, my enthusiasm is waning a little. But then I see two cute little kids playing with a balloon, having a blast, and realize that going out is good for the soul.
We had more beautiful weather today, so Bill really wanted to get out and do something fun. Yesterday, someone in the local pets group on Facebook posted that a Freibad (public pool) in Mainz was going to allow dogs to come hang out and swim. Bill and I had experienced this very German custom in Nagold back in 2018, a few months before we moved to Wiesbaden. At that time, we had Zane and Arran. Neither were fond of swimming and both were kind of old, so we opted to go without them. It was a lot of fun watching all the athletic dogs enjoying the water. You can see some of the photos from that outing by clicking here.
This year, we have Noyzi and Arran. I was curious about how Noyzi would like the pool/dog park like environment. But Noyzi hasn’t yet been with us a year, and Bill still has trauma from our unsuccessful bid to adopt a more local dog. Initially, he wasn’t too keen on going to Mainz with the boys. So we were going to come up with an alternative plan. I suggested we visit either the Mainz or Kastel “beaches” (Strand), which are Biergartens on either side of the Rhein. Bill was okay with that… but Noyzi had other plans.
As we tried to exit the house, he made it very plain that he wanted to go with us. He even parked his big, lumbering body, right by the door! I took it as a sign that we should take the boys to the pool. Bill was still worried about accidents or potential tragedies, but I wore him down and he finally relented. So that’s what we did! We loaded the boys into the car and headed off to Mainz. Noyzi even jumped into the back of the Volvo all by himself, and parked himself in the back like a canine gentleman. Every day, I am amazed by how naturally well behaved he is, and how quickly he learns. It’s hard to believe he was born on the streets of Pristina. He is living proof that street dogs can make wonderful family members.
Below is a video I made. I put in a couple of my previously unreleased songs… they maybe aren’t the best I can do, but without them, you just get seven minutes of dogs running around and some shaky footage. It was all recorded on my iPhone. I had to be careful, too, as this is Germany, and not everyone at the pool was wearing a bathing suit. Didn’t want to catch anyone in the buff!
This event ran from 10am until 4pm. We left right at the end. I kind of wish we had come a bit earlier, although the weather was perfect, and everyone seemed to be having a blast. Our dogs didn’t seem too interested in leaving us, so we kept them on their leashes most of the time. If we hadn’t, I don’t think it would have mattered much. They were stuck to us like glue.
As it was the end of the season, they didn’t have much in the way of food… Just beer and pretzels and, I think, maybe some ice cream. Consequently, I’m pretty hungry now. I’m glad we went, though, because it was so much fun to watch all the dogs playing and swimming, as well as their owners. I didn’t see any bad behavior at all! And I was so proud of Noyzi, who even followed me into the kiddie pool. He wasn’t interested in the big pool, though. Maybe next year, if we’re still here, we’ll try again.
Below are some photos for those who’d rather see those. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday. These kinds of activities are pretty much why I love living in Germany. I think it’s great that they let dogs swim in the pool on the last day of the summer season! But I am sad that the weather will soon be schlecht.
One thing I love about Germany is that people here relish outdoor activities when the weather permits. There’s always something fun going on. And if you can bring your dogs, so much the better. Dogs are treated very well in this country!
I’m glad we opted to go to the pool with the boys today. We can go to the “beaches” in Mainz or Kastel some other time!
Last month, when Bill and I went to Zürich, we visited the Fraumünster church. That church is famous for having beautiful stained glass windows created by the Jewish French-Russian artist, Marc Chagall. I wasn’t familiar with Marc Chagall before we saw his windows in Switzerland last month. After I posted some photos on social media, a German friend told me that I could also see Chagall’s work in Mainz, at The Collegiate Church of St. Stephan. We live close to Mainz, but before yesterday, we hadn’t been there in a long time. Not only did COVID-19 keep us away, but there was also some construction being done on the bridge over the Rhein River which made crossing over there problematic. The bridge connects our home state of Hesse with Rheinland-Pfalz. I had actually forgotten that going to Mainz means leaving the state!
I think the last time Bill and I went to Mainz, it was to see my old friend, C.W., who is an American learning about German wines. I worked with C.W. in Colonial Williamsburg, back in the late 1990s. C.W. moved to Washington, DC and worked in a succession of fancy restaurants. He later decided he wanted to work in the wine industry, so he’s been getting educated. In the fall of 2019, he came to Germany to work at a winery as part of his education. He came back in the spring of 2020, just before COVID shut everything down. We weren’t able to see him on that visit, and we didn’t visit Mainz again last year or this year. That means that yesterday’s visit occurred almost two years after our last one! We had a good time yesterday. We’ll have to visit Mainz more often, now that we’re vaccinated. It really is a neat town with much to discover.
After looking at the location of St. Stephan’s Church, Bill decided he’d like to go out to eat. He found Heiliggeist Restaurant (Holy Spirit) on Open Table and decided that its status as the oldest citizen hospital in Germany fit nicely with our church theme. He made reservations for 3:30pm because, apparently, there weren’t any earlier ones available. I’m not sure why that is, since there were plenty of tables available when we were there yesterday. But anyway, the church was open for visitation from 12pm until 4pm, so the late lunch/early dinner time slot worked out fine. We took my neglected Mini Cooper, since the weather was fine and I could put the top down. I had forgotten how different the atmosphere is in Mainz, compared to Wiesbaden. It’s a refreshing change of pace.
After parking at the theater garage, we trudged uphill to the church. It was about a ten minute walk from where we parked. I hadn’t realized the church wasn’t in the old part of the city and was kind of unimpressed with the neighborhood that surrounded it. From the outside, St. Stephan looks like so many of the other churches in Germany. That’s not to say it isn’t a beautiful or impressive structure. It is a very lovely church, especially compared to many American churches. I’m just saying that compared to a lot of churches in Europe, from the outside, it didn’t look any more or less spectacular.
But then we went inside, and my mind immediately changed about the beauty of St. Stephan… I was overcome by the cool, soothing, incredibly beautiful, and peaceful mood cast by the extraordinary blue windows… The entire inside of the church is bathed in a blue glow made by Chagall’s windows, the first of which was installed in 1978. Chagall was 91 years old in 1978, and he lived until 1985, which only goes to show you that when it comes to great accomplishments, age really is just a number.
As I took in the azure splendor of the great artist’s work, I realized that I much preferred Chagall’s windows in Mainz to Chagall’s windows in Switzerland. A bonus is, it costs nothing to visit this church. In Zürich, we had to pay five Swiss Francs each admission to see a few of Chagall’s windows.
Of course, I might have loved these windows more because my favorite color is blue. I also just loved the way they all worked in concert to give the church an overall mood. I donated some change to the church while Bill lit a candle for his father, then he purchased a CD of the organ and some postcards at the gift shop. He says he’s going to try his hand at picture framing. Since my dad made his post Air Force living framing pictures, it’s a shame he’s no longer around to show Bill the ropes. The CD is, of course, for me. I am more moved by music than visual artistic endeavors. My mom was a church organist for over 50 years, so I probably have more of an appreciation for organ music than a lot of people do. However, as I listen to the music now as I compose this post, it occurs to me that if I could have been listening to it while touring the church, I probably would have been overwhelmed. I definitely am glad we took the time to visit St. Stephan and see these gorgeous windows! The church itself has an incredibly long history, having been established in 990. It is the only church in Germany that has windows by Marc Chagall, and I must say, the windows dazzled me! What an inspiration!
It took about ten or fifteen minutes to walk from the church to the old town. I needed a restroom, but we had about an hour before our reservation at Heiliggeist, so Bill and I decided to stop at a cafe. I took some more photos on the way down. Mainz really is a nice town, and there’s still a lot we haven’t seen or done there.
At last, it was time to head to the restaurant. Thanks to COVID, everybody was sitting outside. I was a little disappointed, because I wanted to see the interior. I did get a few shots of the inside of the restaurant, but I would have preferred to eat indoors. Actually, I prefer eating indoors most of the time, as the seating is usually more comfortable; there’s no smoking; and we don’t have to contend with insects or other creatures. But the weather was good yesterday and it wasn’t too hot outside, so aside from uncomfortable chairs, I can’t complain too much.
Heiliggeist serves “fusion” food– Asian inspired and “new German”. They have a full bar, and a summer “carte”, as well as menu staples. Bill had the “Lachs Bowl”, which was very “Asian inspired.” I had the cold roast beef, which was more of a European thing. We both really enjoyed the food and the service. Prices are reasonable. Both my dish and Bill’s were priced below twenty euros each.
After about two hours at Heiliggeist, we headed back to the parking garage, which was about fifteen minutes away by foot. I took a few more images. All told, we walked about 2.5 miles. At least, that’s what my iPhone tells me.
We got back to the house at about 6:00pm. Arran and Noyzi were very happy to see us and gave us joyful greetings. We went to bed feeling pleasantly tired by the day’s activities. I think we need to spend more time in Mainz. It really is a nice town, and it’s so different than Wiesbaden is on so many levels. I feel fortunate that we have this chance to live in another part of Germany besides Stuttgart, and experience how different the regions are. I continue to be grateful that we can live here and see so much.
I thought maybe we’d go out yesterday. The weather has been nice lately, and it’s been awhile since I last had a proper outing. But then the sky opened up with rain, so we decided to stay in…
It’s sad when a Saturday is messed up by rain, but we do actually need the rain to fall. It’s been pretty dry lately. Our rain barrel was so depleted that I put in a few buckets of water from our tap. We use the rain barrel water for the plants Bill is trying to nurture into bearing fruits and vegetables, since there isn’t a spigot in the back yard (but there is one in the garage).
Bill went to the store yesterday to pick up a few things. He says the plexiglass barriers remain, but the cashiers aren’t wearing masks anymore, nor is there anyone “standing guard” to enforce wearing them among shoppers. We also got our tickets to FINALLY see Keb’ Mo’, who is scheduled to visit Germany again in November. He’s doing a show on our anniversary. I’ve been wanting to see him for ages. Hopefully, this will go on as planned and we’ll have our chance. We’ll see. At least Mainz is close to home for now.
Our landlord says he’s going to send in his work crew to check out a piece of siding that came off during a windstorm last year. He asked Bill about our plans, especially since Trump is making noises about reducing the number of troops in Germany. As far as we know, we will be here for at least another year and probably longer. On the other hand, one never knows about these things. Personally, I think Trump is full of hot air, especially right now. Our landlord also worries that we’ll leave Germany for Poland, since Trump has been building up our relations there and there had been talk of a “Fort Trump” (God help us). When we visited Poland a few months ago for Bill’s work, the landlord wondered if it was to house hunt (it wasn’t).
Honestly, I don’t know if a move to Poland would ever happen. I guess I wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Poland if it ever came down to it. Poland has been steadily improving since our first visit in 2008, and I have heard that Americans are moving there to work. But we did reassure the landlord that we like Germany very much and don’t want to move unless we have to. We didn’t want to leave Stuttgart, either, but that turned out to be a the best thing that could have happened, if only because it got us out of an abusive living situation. Our current landlord is a much better fit for us, treats us with respect, and leaves us in peace.
I’ve been reading a lot about the new rules regarding flying. To be honest, as much as I hated flying before COVID-19, I think I’ll hate it even more now. I am not on the mask wearing bandwagon. I know a lot of people think they are helpful, and wearing them is the considerate thing to do, but to be very honest, I think their effectiveness is limited, especially since many people don’t even wash their hands when they use the bathroom. I do know how masks are supposed to work, in theory. In fact, one of my degrees is in public health, so I probably know more about this subject than a lot of people do. I just think the masks are mostly more about comforting the masses than actually preventing infections. When it comes down to it, social distancing and hand washing are a lot more important, and we’re hearing much less about that because they are impossible to monitor or enforce. Simple, loose fitting masks do not stop viruses from spreading, especially when people are constantly touching and fidgeting with them, although they might slow the viruses down a bit if they are worn properly and laundered or replaced regularly.
Masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable, and the idea of being forced to wear one for hours on a plane is very unappealing to me, especially given that air travel is already unpleasant and expensive. Being glared at, judged, and harassed by strangers over the wearing of masks is also unappealing, especially given how expensive it is to fly. I will wear a mask if I have to for essential travel (say, if my mom dies while we’re in Germany or we have to move), but I will not be happy about it, even if it makes other people *feel* safer, *judge* me less, and *think* I’m more polite.
And so, this blog is probably going to be less interesting to most people for the foreseeable future. That makes me sad, since we really had a great time a couple of years ago, visiting places near Stuttgart. I enjoyed writing and taking pictures, too. Maybe I’ll get back to writing about local spots again, but I doubt we’re going to be taking as many great trips, although Bill definitely wants to. I probably won’t be updating this blog as often, either, since no one wants to read about our life at home. It was fun while it lasted.
Speaking of things that are going away. It was announced the other day that our neighborhood restaurant, the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen, has been forced to close. Bill and I only ate there once, in January 2019, because it was always packed and reservations were essential. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, it looks like yet another great local haunt is being forced to close its doors. This virus has really screwed things up for a lot of people. I also read that the wine stand is going to be dismantled at the end of June. That is especially tragic, since we really enjoyed attending last year, and getting to know our neighbors.
But people are trying to keep up their spirits. Kids in Hofheim and apparently other communities, according to my German friend near Stuttgart, are making painted rock snakes. Here’s a screenshot from our local group about that.
Anyway… I try to keep perspective. I’ve noticed that the kids at the local school seem happy and are still playing. Some wear masks and some don’t. I’m grateful that people where I live are sensible and reasonable about mask wearing, and don’t freak out if people leave their residence without one, since it is entirely possible to stay more than six feet away from others in our neighborhood. I also realize that this is certainly not the first or last time humans have been confronted by pandemics. They always eventually pass or become controllable. This particular pandemic has only been a thing for a few months, so people are still very scared. Some are downright panicky. That’s understandable, given the horror stories about people who have come down with COVID-19. However, I think most of us will eventually be exposed to it and most of us won’t die. Some will die, and some will be left debilitated. And hopefully, there will be some semblance of normal life and travel again at some point in the future.
We’ll see what happens. This blog has been slowly dying anyway, since we left Stuttgart and I quit promoting it and left most of the Facebook groups (which was really a smart thing to do, but that’s a rant for another day).
I mentioned a couple of posts ago that Bill and I went to Mainz to meet an old friend of mine from my days as a waitress in Williamsburg, Virginia. On our way to his hotel, I happened to notice the plaques (Stolpersteine) featured in today’s post. I haven’t spent a lot of time in Mainz yet, but I did recently discover similar plaques in my own neighborhood of Breckenheim, a suburb of nearby Wiesbaden. That discovery led me down a rabbit hole of a fascinating tale about a local family who escaped the Holocaust.
The plaques I discovered in Mainz were in memory of the Oppenheimer family. Father, Wilhelm Gabriel Oppenheimer was born in 1888. His wife, Anna Metzger Oppenheimer, was born in 1896. They also had a daughter named Rosemarie Oppenheimer, who was born on December 9, 1924. Together, the family lived at Schillerplatz 5, which today is a tony address in downtown Mainz, very close to the center of the city.
Just as I did for the Kahn family in Breckenridge, whose plaques I found in August, I looked up the Oppenheimer family’s history. The Kahns were lucky enough to escape the Holocaust and relocated to the United States. The Oppenheimers, unfortunately, were unable to avoid deportation. The three family members are commemorated in Stolpersteine.
In 1939, Rosemarie Oppenheimer left Mainz via Frankfurt on a children’s transport bound for the Netherlands. She had joined other young refugee children at a Quaker school in Eerde to learn how to farm. Oppenheimer and the other youngsters were trained by a Jewish teacher. She had hoped to eventually continue learning in the United States, but World War II prevented her escape.
On April 10, 1943, Rosemarie and other children were deported to Vught Concentration Camp. Vught Camp, which was constructed in 1942, was the only official Nazi camp in northwestern Europe. It was originally divided into two sections– a transit camp designed to hold Jewish prisoners before they departed for Westerbork, another camp– and a security camp, where all of the Dutch and Belgian prisoners were held. Rosemarie Oppenheimer was in the security camp.
On July 17, 1942, Rosemarie was transferred from Vught Camp to Westerbork, another transit camp in northeastern Netherlands, where she stayed for a couple of months. Westerbork was constructed by the Dutch government, and was supposed to serve as a camp for Jewish refugees who had entered The Netherlands illegally. It was used as a staging camp for the deportation of Jews, and from there, Rosemarie Oppenheimer was deported on September 21, 1943. Her final destination was Auschwitz in Poland, where she was ultimately murdered on September 24, 1943. She was just 18 years old.
Rosemarie’s parents, Wilhelm and Anna, also died before they could escape the Nazis. In 1939, they fled to Belgium, but they were captured and sent to Mechelen Transit Camp. The city of Mechelen had a railway hub between Antwerp and Brussels; it served as a convenient place for Jews to be rounded up and deported. Most of the people who ended up at Mechelen were later sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Mrs. Oppenheimer was deported in 1942 and died at Auschwitz. Mr. Oppenheimer died on his way to Kosel.
Rosemarie’s older sister, Hilde, was born in 1921. She had gone to the school in Eerde ahead of Rosemarie and was accepted as an apprentice in England in 1939. Hilde was in a group of students who went to England before the war made travel so much more difficult for Jewish people. Unable to get back to the Netherlands, Hilde remained in England and survived.
It would be so easy to miss these “stumbling blocks” that appear in this area. I walked past the ones in my neighborhood for months before I happened to notice them one day while waiting for traffic to clear. I have made it a point to look up the histories of the people behind these inconspicuous memorials scattered around the Frankfurt-Mainz-Wiesbaden areas. They were real people with fascinating and often tragic stories. Given what’s been going on at the southern border within the United States, I think it’s important to read about what happens to people who are declared “illegals” and deported simply for being who they are. I have to admit, reading about the “transit camps” and “detention facilities” for World War II era “illegals” kind of makes my blood run cold. You would think we would have learned something from World War II. Clearly, a lot of people haven’t.
In the spring of 1998, I was 25 years old and living with my parents in Gloucester, Virginia. Six months earlier, I had come home from a two year stint in the Republic of Armenia, where I had served as an English teacher with the Peace Corps. While I will never regret spending those years in Armenia, I came home with a pretty serious case of clinical depression. I was broke and having a hard time finding a job that would pay enough to get me launched out on my own. I also came home to some significant family issues, which made my living at home a burden to my parents.
I spent the first few months home working as a temp, mostly at the College of William & Mary in various capacities. In the spring of ’98, I found myself working in William & Mary’s admissions office. That was an eye-opening experience, but it didn’t pay enough and the work was incredibly tedious. My parents were eager to have me get out on my own and I was eager to leave. I didn’t get along with my dad, who had his own issues with depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcoholism. My mom was at her wits’ end trying to keep their business going, which they ran out of their house. Dad had gone to rehab the day after my return from Armenia. Dad’s rehab ultimately wasn’t successful. He and I fought a lot.
One day, after a terrible row with my dad, I marched myself over to The Trellis, at that time one of the best restaurants in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was then owned by renowned Chef Marcel Desaulniers, who has written many cookbooks and used to have cooking shows on PBS. His partner, John Curtis, owned several businesses in Williamsburg and had himself been a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960s. My mission was to get a job that would pay more so I could GTFO of my parents’ house and get on with my life.
My eldest sister had worked at The Trellis in 1980, when it first opened. She graduated from William & Mary in 1981 and had gone on to do bigger and better things, including joining the Peace Corps. She went to Morocco from 1984-86. I had followed in her footsteps, but unlike my big sister, I wasn’t finding success. Although I had never worked as a waitress before, all three of my sisters had waited tables. I figured if they could do it, so could I. I liked working with food and was giving some thought to going to culinary school. When I was in Armenia, I had done a number of food related projects and had even once been employed as a cook.
The Trellis had a reputation for being a great place to be if you wanted to make bank, but it was also an extremely demanding work environment. I had applied to work there once in 1994, but the manager passed. I worked in retail for a year, then went to Armenia. In 1998, I was determined to get a job at The Trellis. I was mostly motivated by my rage at my dad and the need to stop living in his house. That must have been the magic that was missing the first time I applied, because that time, I got hired. Or, it could have been that they simply needed warm bodies. In 1998 and throughout my time working at The Trellis, they were always hiring because they were chronically short staffed! A lot of people were hired, only to quit or be fired in short order.
I had a really hard time learning how to wait tables at The Trellis. Marcel Desaulniers had been a Marine and he ran his kitchen with military precision. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have experience waiting tables, though. In fact, the management preferred people who were brand new to waiting tables. That way, there weren’t any bad habits that had to be remedied. But it was difficult getting the hang of the job. I remember it took a few weeks before I was finally at ease with the job itself. And then I had to learn about the food!
The menu changed seasonally, and all of the wait staff had to demonstrate their knowledge. There were daily specials, which we had to recite from memory. We were tested on the menus and learned about wine and liquor. Everyone started working at lunch, which was fast paced and required a lot more work to make cash. As a waiter’s skills improved, he or she would be promoted to “Dinner Cafe”, which was even worse than working lunch. It was basically a hybrid menu that included certain lunch and dinner dishes and patrons were seated on the terrace or in the “cafe” area. The money was nominally better, but the work was just as hard. Finally, when menu tests were passed and table maintenance skills were high enough, the waiter would get dinner shifts and start making good money.
It was a lot to take in, and I felt like I was back in college. In those days, I was strictly a beer drinker and I knew nothing about wine, fine food, or liquor. I remember fumbling with the wine tool, trying to get accustomed to opening bottles of wine with style. I got yelled at all the time by the powers that be, which was hard on me. The job was physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. There were a few times when I felt like giving up and trying something else.
Even though I was crippled by depression and anxiety, I was determined to succeed. I just thought about how much I needed to have my own apartment and reminded myself that waiting tables is a very portable skill. After many weeks of hard work, I did eventually make it to a venerable dinner waiter position and even trained some people. But there were many meltdowns along the way… and at first, quite a few people thought I might be one of the many people who didn’t make it through the first week of training. I worked at The Trellis for about a year and a half before I left to go to graduate school.
One of the captains working at The Trellis in 1998 was a guy named CW. I was immediately impressed and inspired by him. He was hardworking, funny, and kind. However, he was also very detailed oriented and task directed. I liked and respected him immediately, especially when I learned that when he started at The Trellis, he took the bus all the way from Norfolk, Virginia to get to work. There were times he missed the last bus home. Still, he showed up to work every day on time and busted his ass to provide great service and make money. He was tough when he needed to be, yet compassionate. CW was a fine role model.
CW left The Trellis a few months after I started working there. I remember his farewell at line up one day. He announced that he was going to work at Kinkead’s, a legendary (and now defunct) restaurant in Washington, DC. I remember the kind send off he received from the restaurant’s more senior staffers. Years later, when I turned 30, Bill and I celebrated at Kinkead’s because I remember CW talking about it. He didn’t wait on us, but I remember that birthday dinner as one of the first of many great meals Bill and I have had together.
CW still works in DC, and has had the opportunity to work at a lot of great restaurants with some amazing chefs. He is now studying to become a wine expert, specifically in German wines. Last week, as part of his sommelier training, he came to the Rheingau to work at a winery. We had the opportunity to meet up in Mainz last night. Even though I hadn’t seen him since 1998, he was easy to spot and there wasn’t a moment of awkwardness all evening.
We had a lovely evening at a Weinstube called Weinhaus zum Spiegel. It’s a charming place in one of the many “alleys and alcoves” in Mainz, a city Bill and I are still getting to know. Over several glasses of wine and small plates, CW, Bill, and I talked for several hours. Here are a few photos from our evening. I do mean a “few” photos, because we were so focused on chatting that there wasn’t much time for picture taking.
Weinhaus zum Spiegel is in a super charming timbered building. I wish I had gotten a picture of it when the sun was still shining. We’ll have to go back to Mainz so I can get a proper photo of the historic looking edifice. I can’t say I was terribly impressed by the food, especially since I had originally wanted smoked trout and they were out of it. I did see a lot of people enjoying Federweisser (new wine) and Zwiebelkuchen (onion “cake”, which looks more like a tart). Although Zwiebelkuchen is a famous dish in southern Germany and popular this time of year, I still have yet to try it. I wish I’d had it last night, although I did like the Spundekäs.
Anyway, we weren’t really there for food as much as we were the company, and CW is excellent company. It was exciting to hear about his plans to break into the German wine industry. Who knows? He may soon join us over here… if we don’t end up having to move again. He has many tales of working in Washington, DC and dealing with some major high maintenance folks– politicians and their ilk– as well as some surprisingly down to earth celebrities.
We finally called it a night at about 10:30, when it was becoming clear that the Weinstube was winding down its service. As Bill and I made our way home, I was musing about how special the memories of working at The Trellis are to some of us. It was a place where I went through many different levels of hell. I remember “shitting Twinkies”, as CW once put it, on the terrace on beautiful spring and fall afternoons and major holidays. I lost a lot of weight working there, and also found myself in therapy and on medication to finally deal with the depression and anxiety that had hindered me for so long. I made enough money to get health insurance, and gathered the resolve to seek the help I desperately needed. I socked away money for the day when I would finally move out on my own. Finally, when I was ready, I launched into graduate school, which led to this “overeducated housewife” lifestyle I currently enjoy.
I only worked at The Trellis for about 18 months, and much of the actual job was hell, but I left there with so many friends I can still count on today, even twenty years after my last shift. We’re all scattered around the world now, but we have the camaraderie of that common experience binding us and, through the magic of Facebook, can stay in touch. And, just like CW, when it was time to leave, I got a warm send off, complete with a signed cookbook from Marcel, and a song from the resident harp guitarist, Stephen Bennett, whose music got me through so many horrific Saturday night dinner shifts. I learned about good food, fine wines, table maintenance, hard work, and even great music. Not only did I discover Stephen Bennett at The Trellis, I also made enough money to invest in voice lessons for myself! And, as difficult as it all was, working at the Trellis absolutely changed my life for the better. In fact, working there might have even saved my life, given my mental state at the time. 😉
The Trellis still exists in Williamsburg, but it now has different owners and is no longer a fine dining establishment. I haven’t been there to try its new incarnation. I’m not sure I could bear it. I think I’d rather remember it the way it was back in the day.
Cheers to all of my former Trellis colleagues who once shat Twinkies in the weeds with me!And cheers to CW as he continues his path to bigger and better things!I have a feeling our paths could cross again on this side of the Atlantic.