Sunday morning, Bill went to the bakery to get us some breakfast. He had already gone to the store the night before to get snacks, wine, and orange juice, so his bakery stop was just for croissants and coffee. We could have had the breakfast at the hotel on Sunday, but we decided not to bother with it. Hotel breakfasts are often pretty overpriced, and we had already paid for the room.
While we were eating, I discovered that we happened to be in the area at a fortuitous time… if you like visiting caves, that is. On the first Sunday of the warm months, a local caving club opens the Olgahöhle. Since it was the first Sunday of October, they opened the cave to the public (it can also be booked by special request). We decided to head to Lichtenstein-Honau, the little village where the cave is located. We happened to catch the last tour date until spring.
I have already written about our visit to this very special cave, but in the interest of continuity, I will recap a bit with this post and add some more photos. There was a group of German teenagers at the cave, notable because it’s a primary cave made of tufa, a type of stone. Unlike most other caves, this particular cave isn’t formed from limestone. It’s also described as a “very young” cave, as it formed post Ice Age.
As caves go, this one was pretty easy to visit. There was just one flight of stairs to go up and down. The tour was done in German, but we managed to understand a little of what was said. Plus, the club had information in English for us, which was handy. A few of these photos are in the earlier post about this cave, but I figure I might as well share them again. Check out the cauliflower rock!
While we were waiting for our turn to tour the cave, I looked up and noticed the dramatic sight of Lichtenstein Castle, which is a gorgeous Schloss on a mountain top. Bill and I tried to visit the castle after our visit to the cave, but there was no parking anywhere. It was okay, though, since we’d been there before and I already had many beautiful pictures of the grounds. I was glad to be able to take photos from another vantage point, down in a village overlooked by the castle.
It also turned out to be lucky that we missed the castle, because if we’d gone there, we would have missed watching sheep cross the road to another pasture, as well as meeting a couple from Augsburg. We ate lunch at Nebelhöhle Cave, which we chose not to tour, since we’ve been there before. Instead, we just hung out and people watched, enjoying the fantastic weather.
I got some very pretty photos of the trees that were just about to turn into a spectacular color show… It was just a great day to be in that part of Germany!
When we got back to the hotel, we decided to change into cooler clothes. We were dressed for a chilly cave, which it actually wasn’t on October 1. Since it was Sunday and we’d had a rather active day, we decided to stay in and watch goofy German game shows while we ate pizza from the local joint. I suspect that some Germans have learned some English from watching South Park. This one show we watched involved the host holding up a fake piece of shit. One of the contestants called it a “hankey”, as in Mr. Hankey, the Christmas poo. But a “hankey” or a “hanky” is actually a handkerchief, not a piece of shit. On the other hand, maybe it was an actual Mr. Hankey doll. Who knows? If that’s the case, then the contestant wasn’t wrong to call it that.
Eh well… yet another one of the thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools…
Bill and I were among the last group to disembark from Regent Seven Seas Splendor. We were later in getting off, because we had hotel reservations at the Clarion Airport Hotel, which attaches directly to the airport. We arrived here after a lengthy cab ride– maybe 40 minutes or so– and were greeted by a huge, modern hotel. It’s definitely not like the Clarion hotel we stayed in when we visited Bergen a couple of weeks ago.
Fortunately, the hotel is not fully booked, so we were allowed to check in early with a 500 Danish Crown upcharge (about $70). That was fine with us, because Bill and I are pretty tired and in need of some relaxation. Isn’t it crazy to have to need to relax after a vacation? We have a room on the 11th floor, which offers a view of Copenhagen. This hotel also has a spa and a restaurant, so we’ll be okay today. Maybe tomorrow, if the weather is good and we’re up to it, we’ll venture into the city and see what’s going on there. We might go out today, too, if the mood strikes.
Our Regent cruise was pretty busy, as we had excursions every day that took up several hours. Most of them involved a lot of walking, which was good for me. But when you aren’t used to being around a lot of people on a daily basis, it can get kind of tiring. Also, I’m still doing some hacking and wheezing from my recent cold.
We managed to say goodbye to our friends, Ger and Gail, whom we met on SeaDream in 2011. We also said goodbye to a nice Scottish couple from Dundee we met on our Tallinn tour. Unfortunately, the husband had a health issue that required him to use Regent’s medical facility. He said it cost about $6000! I didn’t ask what the issue was, as it was none of my business. He did look relatively well as he was walking off the ship. I had heard about insane prices for cruise ship medical care, and Regent is an American line. Still, what a shock! He says his insurance will pay when he makes a claim. I sure hope so!
The other couples we met were also from Europe– two from Germany and one from Belgium. We spent no time talking with our countrymen. I will delve more into that when I begin writing my series for this trip.
We almost skipped yesterday’s excursion to Bornholm, which would have been a mistake. I think it might have been my favorite of all the places we went. I could see myself coming back there for a vacation and exploring the island. But I was tired yesterday, and the excursion didn’t start until 4PM. I’m glad I stuck it out and went on the tour, even if the guide wasn’t the best speaker I’ve ever heard.
I may start writing my series today or tomorrow, if the mood strikes. But for now, I think I’m going to take a nap. 😉
The featured photo is our view from the west wing of the Clarion Airport Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s a nice view, isn’t it?
Here’s another quick post about Noyzi’s progress becoming more socialized. Since we lost Arran last month, Noyzi has become more insistent about coming with us when there are Friday night wine stands. I don’t know how he does it, but he always seems to know when it’s a wine stand versus us going out somewhere.
We were a little late getting there last night, because Bill is involved in a big project at work and was later getting home. Consequently, we ended up sitting on the other side of the Dorfplatz, on a bench, instead of at a table. That turned out to be a good thing, as we met another one of our neighbors for the first time. She lives in an old house right by the Dorfplatz and works at the local Kita (kindergarten). One of her students came up and gave her a hug while we chatted.
It turned out she has a dog, too. His name is Billy, and he was once an Italian truffle hunting dog. When he got too old to hunt, his former owners gave him away, and she wound up adopting him. She later brought him out, and he and Noyzi got along great.
Our next door neighbor was also at the wine stand, and she went to get Tommi, her labrador. Meanwhile, between dog company sessions, Noyzi met some of the attendees, many of whom were curious about him. More than one person asked if we’d had his tail docked. I was able to tell them that he was born with a bobbed tail. We had his DNA tested by Embark and the results indicated that he was born with a short tail.
Most of the people we talked to were really nice. We did meet one fellow American who was a veteran and had married a local. When he found out Bill is a contractor, he seemed to get kind of bitter. He mentioned that contractors and government civilians are hired in the States and brought over to Germany. I sensed that he was kind of upset about that. However, Bill’s company does hire people locally, if they have skills they can use. They might not get the same local benefits or access to facilities that States based hires get, because they are local residents. But, if the company can use their skills, they will pay them a salary that is adjusted for the local tax rate. I don’t know the guy at all, or what his skills are, but it’s my guess that he might simply be unqualified for the jobs available on the US military installations here. That’s not our fault, and not really a valid reason to be pissy toward us.
As he broke off the conversation, he noticed that Noyzi is neutered and said, “Poor guy.” Well… that’s something else we had nothing to do with, as he was neutered before we adopted him. I thought that was kind of a strange comment to make. It’s true that a lot of locals don’t get their animals “fixed”, but Germany generally has much less of a problem with stray dogs than the United States does. Personally, I kind of agree that it would be better to do vasectomies or ovary sparing surgeries on animals than simply removing their sex parts. Those surgeries can be done. But they aren’t popular yet, so they aren’t widely known or done at this point in time.
At least the guy’s wife was really nice to us. She was enchanted by Noyzi, who was doing his best to charm everyone. Every time we take him to a wine stand, he gets more comfortable with meeting people. I’ve even noticed that he’s much less afraid of men, now. That’s a pretty awesome development. He used to be terrified of most men, even Bill.
We met another lady who had adopted a dog from Spain, but hadn’t brought her to the wine stand. Several people showed us pictures…
I think dogs are the very best social icebreakers in Germany. Recently, The Local: Germany ran an article about how to make friends in Germany and German attitudes toward English speakers. I noted that having dogs was a great way to meet and interact with locals. Many Germans LOVE dogs. However, some of them also act like they know best how to take care of them. Our neighbor has, for instance, occasionally commented about our departed beagles, Zane and Arran, barking when we weren’t home. But she also has a dog who barks. We don’t complain about him, because he’s very sweet and adorable. Noyzi loves him. But he’s not perfect, either.
Anyway, we had a good time last night, and Noyzi really obviously had fun meeting new people. It was gratifying seeing his little tail wag, and watching him happily meeting new people with increasing confidence. He really does love people. He just needs to learn that most of them love him back.
Below are some photos from yesterday. The top three are Noyzi saying good morning to me, and the rest are from the wine stand. We really enjoyed ourselves, although I woke up with quite a headache. I think I need to embrace drinking apple juice or Schorle instead of wine. 😉
We might go out to dinner tonight. Bill had to go into work today. He has to go TDY next week, and will be gone for eight nights, I believe. I hate these work trips, but at least he has a good job, and at least this time, I don’t have to fret over Arran. And once he’s done, we can prepare for our vacation. It’s pretty much all set now. I just have to pay the bills we’ve run up so far. 😀
For the past few months, I’ve been following a Facebook group called Ausflugstipps für Baden-Württemberg. Members share photos and day trip suggestions for Baden-Württemberg. I’m also in similar groups for Hessen and the Schwarzwald. I don’t contribute much, but I do get some good tips from actual Germans on places to see. In some ways, I kind of like the old way I used to find places to go… suggestions from people I know, seeing signs on roadsides, or even just by doing a trusty Google search. I have to admit, though, that the Facebook groups make finding places a lot easier!
Anyway, someone in the aforementioned Facebook group recently shared some stunning photos of Brenztopf (aka Brenzersprung), a pond near the Rathaus in Königsbronn, a municipality near Heidenheim, a nice town on the way to Ulm. They also shared some photos of what looked like a really beautiful creek, but people in the know recognized that the background scenery in the photos didn’t match the terrain in Königsbronn and its environs.
I was intrigued by the beautiful photos of the spring/pond on the eastern side of the Swabian Jura. I told Bill I wanted to check it out; it reminded me of when we visited Blautopf in March 2017. Blautopf (Blue Pot) is a gorgeous pond in the town of Blaubeuren. A lot of people have heard of Blautopf; it gets plenty of visitors. By contrast, I had never heard of Brenzertopf, nor the nearby town of Heidenheim, which boasts a big hilltop Schloss (castle). So, although the weather was positively bipolar, Bill and I set out for the attraction, which is about a 90 minute drive northeast of Stuttgart. I got a few rainbow pics… March weather is nuts!
For those who don’t want to drive, it’s possible to take the train. Bill said it involves taking the high speed ICE train from Stuttgart to Ulm, then getting a regional train to Königsbronn. The train stop is right by where the spring is.
Before we went on our excursion, I did some basic checking out of the area. I learned that although Königsbronn is quite industrial, there are a few nice restaurants near there. I thought maybe we’d score a good lunch, too. On the other hand, such things usually require planning… more than I ultimately did.
We managed to find our way to the Brenztopf. It was raining a bit when we arrived, and Bill had to pee… blame those high blood pressure meds. Nevertheless, we gamely found a (free!) parking spot, and found our way to the pond, which I came close to missing, as it’s beside the Rathaus and Hammerschmiede (blacksmith) building. The blacksmith was closed, but Bill sweet talked some lady into letting him use their restroom while I walked around and took a few photos. While Bill was doing his business, I found my way around the building, where the pond is. Although it was very pretty even in the rain, the brilliance of the water doesn’t come out unless there’s sunshine. There I stood in the rain, taking pictures… At least it was free!
Then, just as we were about to drive away, the sun came out. I asked Bill to drop me off by the pond again, to see if I could get some sun kissed photos. As you can see, the effort was well worth it!
So, the moral of the story is, give it a few minutes if the sun isn’t out… I’m actually glad I got to see the pond when it rained, too. I thought the more opaque baltic blue was gorgeous… it’s one of my favorite colors to wear! But it was especially exciting to see how the sun changed the perspective so dramatically. Seems like a metaphor for life, too.
Bill didn’t bother to look at the pond a second time. He relied on my photos. Then we got on the road again and went to Heidenheim, which was having its Saturday market. I think we mainly just wanted to look around a bit, maybe find some lunch. On the way there, Bill saw a woman at a bus stop who wore a long black coat with the hood up. She also wore a white headscarf. He said, “It’s a nun!” I looked up and realized that the woman was actually Muslim and trying to keep warm in the chilly rain. We shared a laugh.
Although Heidenheim has a number of restaurants, not all of them were open. Some appeared to be more like cafes. It was chilly, and the rain was off and on, along with the sun. We were starting to get a bit grumpy. I had noticed an Italian restaurant when we first arrived, but although the sandwich board was out, it looked empty. I thought maybe it would open for dinner. We walked around and I got more photos. I tried to get a good one of the Schloss, with varying results…
Finally, we went back to the Italian place. Noticing a sign for the WC, Bill walked up the stairs, where he found the entrance to La Strada Osteria. On the menu, it looked like they didn’t take a pause, either. Score!
We were greeted by a very friend and tall waiter, who invited us to take a seat in the quaint dining room. He asked what we wanted to drink, and I blurted out “Rot Wein!” It was mainly because I was cold, cranky, and wet. We both enjoyed a healthy pour of red wine. For lunch, Bill had a pizza with buffalo mozzarella and ham. I had lobster ravioli with “hummer sauce”.
The food was very good, and I was charmed by the waiter, who was very pleasant. I noticed everyone seemed to be enjoying their lunches, including an adorable Bichon Frisé at the next table, who smiled and wagged at me when I sat down.
It was about 1:45pm, and we were finishing up lunch. The waiter asked if we wanted anything else. I wanted another glass of wine. He hesitated. I then noticed that he and his coworkers were eating pasta. They were having a pause, after all. So he was hoping I’d have coffee or dessert, rather than wine. I guess he thought we’d linger. Bill had wanted an espresso, and God knows I don’t take that long to drink a glass of wine.
When the guy hesitated, we were about to just pay the check and leave. I was a little embarrassed. But then he compromised and said he’d bring us “Wein für Eins”… I guess he thought we’d split it, which we ultimately did. I was confused, though, because it would have taken just as much time for me to eat dessert, plus they’d have to prepare it. Below are some photos.
We weren’t even the last ones to leave… but the guy got out of the restaurant at just after two, and Bill gave him a nice tip so he could buy himself some more smokes. Then, tired of the crazy ass weather, we decided to head back to Stuttgart. Heidenheim is a nice town; I’d go back, especially if there’s an event going on, and the weather isn’t shitty. A few more photos from our drive back to Stuttgart…
As special as Saturday had seemed at that point, it was about to get even more special… We sat down in the bar and ordered a round, noticing that a large family was wandering around the area. Some of them had musical instruments.
After a little while, we noticed a couple at the end of the bar, who heard us speaking English. It turned out to be a woman and her son. She had long white hair and a face that gave away her German heritage. They had come to Stuttgart from Vermont; her very elderly father had died, and they were there to help her German stepmother bury her dad.
She told us her story. Her dad was born in Stuttgart and had left due to World War II. He married and raised his family in Maine– a place Bill and I visited in 2011. Then, years later, he married his second wife, a German woman who lives in Stuttgart. However, although they were married, the couple lived apart for years. She’d come to the USA for a few months, and he’d visit her in Germany. Finally, about ten years ago, he sold everything and moved back to Germany permanently. He’d finally passed away at the age of 91, so the lady from Vermont and her son were there for the funeral, visit family, and see other sights.
Just after she told us her story, a manager warned us that the big family in the bar was celebrating a birthday, and they were going to be playing music. The lady from Vermont and her son decided to leave, but Bill and I opted to stay… and I have to say, by the time the evening was over, I’d had a good cry.
I’m not totally sure what was going on with the big family. I think they were celebrating their grandfather, but this family had several acts, most of which were very professional. The first performers were three little girls who sang, with violin accompaniment. One of the girls was noticeably talented as a singer; one was noticeably less so; and one was probably tone deaf. All three were adorable.
Next, a teen girl sang what sounded like a German pop song. She was pretty good, but seemed a little nervous– still, obviously more trained than the girls.
Then there was an older young lady who played cello beautifully. That’s when the tears started. She was followed by other family members– a boy on trumpet, a woman at the piano, someone playing a recorder, two violinists… and they played so beautifully for the patriarch. I was very moved, and grateful they didn’t kick us out of the bar. I was very happy to witness that concert. Besides the excellent playing, it was just so obvious that they were a close and loving family.
It made me miss MY family, which is also very musical. We used to be bound by our Granny, who was almost 101 when she died. Unfortunately, her passing, along with the deaths of many aunts and uncles has made it less imperative for me to go home to Virginia. Maybe we’ll make an effort to go back again soon. Some of my extended family might remember me, right?
Below are a couple of videos of the music. Since I wasn’t actually in the party, I didn’t film faces… just got clips of the music they played. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Although there were heavy clouds in the sky last night, and the air was decidedly muggy, Bill and I decided to attend last night’s wine stand in Breckenheim. It was the first one we’d been to in awhile, since the last one was scheduled due to dangerous weather, and the time before that, I didn’t feel like getting dressed. But we usually do like to attend the wine stands, because they are held for good causes– fundraisers for various local clubs, who host them. Also, it’s often a fun chance to meet new people who live in our little suburban burg.
Our local town square (the Dorfplatz) is usually where the wine stands are held. However, the stand was held at the town hall, because the square is currently undergoing renovation. They’re putting in a public toilet. I understand the toilet idea isn’t particularly popular, especially since the Dorfplatz has only existed for a short while– by German standards, anyway– and there’s a fountain that was only put in about ten years ago that might need to be removed. Prior to its becoming a Dorfplatz, the area was a parking lot.
I guess the toilet will be a good thing, though, since it will allow people at the wine stands to stay longer, rather than either going home, or using the toilets at the Rathaus. Also, there’s been talk about starting a weekly farmer’s market, which I’m pretty psyched about. I hope that happens before we have to move again.
Anyway, because a large portion of the square has been cordoned off for the construction of the toilets, the wine stand has been moved, and that’s a good thing for us, because we live even closer to the town hall than we do the Dorfplatz. So, even though Noyzi and Arran protested loudly, Bill and I walked down the street to have a couple of glasses of wine. It started to sprinkle, but we decided to let the locals have the tables under the shelter.
After about ten or fifteen minutes of sipping Riesling and telling jokes, we met two Americans who live very close to us… Actually, they live even closer to the town hall than we do, since their house is just behind the parsonage for the church. They heard our American accents and came over to introduce themselves. It turns out that the two women have two kids, and they’re living here as ordinary residents. I was really fascinated, as one did have ties to the military, but is in the Reserves and drills back in the States. The other is a lawyer and a pastor! She told us the combination isn’t as unusual as one might think! Right now, she works as a pastor, but will soon start a new job as an American lawyer for a bank. I’m assuming it’s an American bank with a branch nearby, but I didn’t ask about the details.
They told us about the process of getting new German driver’s licenses, and what is required for that. Unfortunately, they didn’t come from a state where they could simply exchange licenses. Some US states do have a reciprocity agreement with Germany. Texas is one of those states. And their kids go to the local schools, one of which is within sight of our house. Both speak German, too, even to their kids.
We really enjoyed talking to them… I do hope I didn’t come off as too forward, though. Not everyone knows what to make of me, especially when I’ve been socially distanced for two years. But I thought they were a nice couple, and I’m sure we’ll see them around.
We won’t be at the next wine stand, which will also be held at the Rathaus, because it will take place just before my 50th birthday. Bill has plans to whisk me off to Antwerp, Belgium for the weekend. I look forward to it, since I love Belgium. There’s great beer, delicious frites, exquisite chocolates, and dirty humor… Any place where one of the country’s symbols is a little boy peeing is alright with me. 😉
Here are a few random photos from last night’s activities!
I think we’ll go out for awhile today… See if we can find anything fun to do.
Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile might remember that a couple of years ago, before the COVID-19 plague began, my currently adopted town of Breckenheim would have wine stands during the warmer months. Naturally, that tradition had to pause last year, as the threat of the coronavirus among unvaccinated people was too great. We didn’t have them for most of this year, either, and the local powers that be even dismantled the permanent kiosk that used to be set up in the Dorfplatz.
In August, the wine stands finally started again, although not with the same regularity that they were held in 2019. We had to miss the first one in August, because we were in the Black Forest visiting the dentist. 😉 They had another one two weeks ago, but I got sick with my cursed stomach bug and we couldn’t attend. Finally, last night, the stars aligned, and Bill and I managed to make it to the wine stand, located just down the hill from where we live.
I was wondering what the stand would be like in the COVID era. I brought my purse with me, just in case masks were required. As it turned out, they weren’t. I also thought to wear warmer shoes and a wrap, because I had a feeling it would get chilly as the sun set. Here are a few photos!
Last night’s wine stand turned out to be especially interesting. At one point, a lady came up to us and asked in German if she could sit down with the two adorable children with her. Bill answered in German. She continued speaking German, but Bill misunderstood her. She wanted to push in the bench so the kids wouldn’t get soup all over them. He thought she was just asking to sit down.
It turned out she was American, and had moved to Germany over forty years ago when her father was in the Air Force and stationed in Wiesbaden. She married a local and is now a very convincing German Oma to the two kids, who looked to be about 4 (boy) and 6 (girl) and were absolutely charming, with blond hair and blue eyes. They had these little bags of what looked like puffed rice cereal that they poured into the pumpkin soup. They reminded me of Trix, only they weren’t colorful. The American lady said they were salty. I had never seen them before, but I was curious. It looked like maybe she got them at a bakery. I’m not sure they were puffed rice, either. She said they were a type of grain.
I never did learn her name, but we traded a few stories. Her family is back in the United States, but I could see that she was totally integrated here– and I would have imagined so, after forty years! The folks at our table knew her and she was chatting easily with them. In fact, the locals were even friendlier than usual to us, too. Oma asked where we were from, and we told her– Arkansas for Bill, and Virginia for me. She didn’t know either state… although she does know Texas, and Bill spent a lot of time in Texas. I got a sense that maybe she kind of missed the US a bit, but that was only due to a fleeting look of wistfulness on her face.
Oma and the grandkids left, and the very friendly lady across the table, who didn’t really speak much English said she wanted us to meet someone. She kept mentioning that he was a gardener. Next thing we knew, a British guy was standing near us, chatting. The guy’s name was Steve, and he came from the northwest of England, which gave me a thrill. It turned out that before he had moved to Breckenheim, he had lived in Nagold, down at the edge of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest). Nagold is, of course, the town that was closest to us when we used to live in Jettingen! Bill and I used to go there all the time before we moved up to Wiesbaden! It was one of our favorite places in our old stomping grounds.
Steve said he’d lived in Nagold for about fifteen years. We sat there and talked about all of the little restaurants we visited, and Steve told us about how, back from 2008-2010, the city of Nagold did a massive beautification project because they were hosting a garden show there. We lived in Germany from 2007-09, also near Stuttgart, but that time we were in a little town called Pfaffingen, which is closer to Tubingen. We never discovered Nagold during our first German stint, although I do remember hearing it mentioned.
For all of the crap we went through in our last home near Stuttgart, I am still glad we lived there, because it did afford us the opportunity to visit a lot of places we would have missed if we’d lived closer to the military installations. I still miss Nagold a lot. It had a lot of what I love about cute towns, without the huge crowds and obnoxious traffic. If we ever move back to that area, I wouldn’t mind finding a home in Nagold… as long as the landlords are fair and respectful.
Steve was telling us that he really missed living in Nagold. I could relate. Wiesbaden is a nice area, and there are things about it that I enjoy, like wine stands. But I find the area near Stuttgart to be more authentic and interesting. It offers more of a pure German experience– or, actually, more of a Swabian experience, which is something else entirely. Up here, people are friendlier and more laid back, and there’s not as much thriftiness, but housing costs more and it’s a bit more built up. Curiously, despite being more built up, the traffic is much less terrible up here. Steve explained that a lot of the people in Breckenheim are politicians or are involved in finance. I can tell this neighborhood is kind of well-heeled. It has a different feel than either of our previous German towns. Down in BW, the atmosphere is more agrarian, although that doesn’t mean the standard of living isn’t high.
I think a big reason why the Frankfurt area seems less charming and authentic is because a lot of historic buildings were destroyed during World War II. And the ones that were rebuilt don’t have the same old world quaintness that the destroyed buildings had. But, I am glad we moved up here, if only because I can compare and contrast my German experiences, now. And wine stands are one nice tradition that Bill and I really enjoy.
Hopefully, this weekend, we will continue to have some fun, especially since it’s technically a holiday weekend. I think Bill is going to work on Monday, though, so we can take a trip soon.
Bill and I decided to visit our local Globus today. For those who don’t know, Globus is an enormous store– a hypermarket to end all hypermarkets. We didn’t have them near Stuttgart, but they’re elsewhere in Germany and we have one a few miles from our house. I used to think the Real, which was once German Walmart, was huge. Globus puts the Real to shame… or, at least it puts the one we had in Jettingen to shame.
I don’t like going to huge stores, so this was only my second or third time at our Globus. We went there to restock our liquor supply and pick up a few other things. Also, I wanted to see how crazy things were after people were advised to “social distance” because of the Coronavirus. Here are some photos from our trip…
We ended up having an impromptu gin tasting in the liquor section. A guy was hawking Upstairs Gin, which comes from Heidelberg. They had a few varieties. We tried two, and bought bottles of each. The guy spoke excellent English and was taking care of us and a German couple, who said they could speak English… to which Bill told them in German that we speak a little German, too. It occurred to me that this would never happen in the United States. A lot of states don’t allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores and/or require it to be sold in a government controlled store. It depends on where you are. In South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas, we had liquor stores. In Virginia and North Carolina, we had “ABC” stores run by the state government. Or, of course, we could shop on military installations or online. But there we were, tasting gin at a huge store that sells everything but toilet paper… at least when there’s a virus running amok. Gin is all the rage in Germany these days. They’ve got some good ones.
After we went to Globus, we decided to have lunch. It had been some time since our last visit to Spirit of New Orleans, our local Cajun restaurant run by an Army veteran named John and his wife. We’ve been there a few times, since it’s located very close to where we live. Last time we were there to eat in, John was having kind of a bad day. But he was in a good mood today. I had barbecued ribs and Bill had fried shrimp. It was all delicious, even if I did need a good flossing afterwards…
Today’s visit to Spirit of New Orleans was fortuitous, because as we were finishing up, another American came in. His name is Ernie and he works in the area. It turned out he and Bill both took advantage of the National Defense University’s cybersecurity program and graduated during the same year. So we were chatting, having a great time. Ernie says he’ll be moving back to the States soon, but not as soon as he planned, because the government has frozen everyone for the next 60 days. Coronavirus has put a hitch in a lot of plans… and is making finding toilet paper quite a project.
It was great to see John again, and have some Cajun food. The ribs were spicy and wet, and really hit the spot. The fried shrimp were also good. And John even brought out what he called moonshine, which he gave to me in a glass he says his mother in law made for him. Whether it was shine or Schnapps, it lit me up! Between the liquor tasting at the grocery store and the house shot at lunchtime, I’ve definitely enjoyed a midday repast I never could in the United States. Total bill for us was about 55 euros… not bad, considering that we also took wings to go.
After lunch, we went to the Lidl, because Bill wants to make a Guinness Cake and needed some cream cheese. Globus is humongous, but they were out of plain cream cheese. All they had was flavored. Luckily, Lidl had what we needed. We got our cream cheese and some Gruyere… but I couldn’t help but notice that like the Globus, the pickings were slim. Check out these photos!
After we got our cheese, we went to the drink market to turn in our empty beer crate and pick up some more… as well as some Guinness for the cake.
This was the first time I’d been out of the neighborhood in awhile, so today was kind of fun. I’m hoping that when the weather turns permanently nice, we’ll start doing the fun stuff we did two years ago, before we had to move and things got weird in Wiesbaden. That is, of course, if neither Bill nor I get deathly sick from Coronavirus…
I don’t understand the toilet paper hoarding. I think Rewe still had some on Friday, but the two markets we went to today were completely out. I don’t understand why toilet paper is so important now. People have lost their damned minds.
Bill will probably do some teleworking next week. That suits me fine. I’ve missed him, so having him at home will be great.
I suspect that if this toilet paper shortage continues, people won’t have to be encouraged to “social distance”. The smell will keep people apart. Maybe it’s time to buy a Bum Gun.
The sun is out this afternoon, and temperatures are kind of pleasant outside today. Arran missed yesterday’s walk because it was yucky outside and I was waiting for a package that never arrived. The package still hasn’t arrived yet, but I couldn’t miss the chance for some fresh air and exercise. Walks are also when Arran does his business best, otherwise we run the risk of him going in inappropriate places at inappropriate times.
On the way out of the house, Arran and I ran into our landlady. We don’t talk to her very often because her husband handles most of the business with us. We learned from the landlord that his wife’s brother built the house we’re living in. Our landlord then joked that he gets called “slumlord” a lot, but Bill told him this is the nicest house we’ve ever lived in. I think I agree with him. We’ve lived in a few houses we’ve enjoyed for various reasons, but overall, I think this one is in the best shape. The only place I absolutely hated in all ways was our apartment in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was the true epitome of a dump, along with inconsiderate neighbors, high crime, and shitty infrastructure. For that dump, we paid about $900 a month in 2003. By contrast, the house we’re in now is the most expensive of any we’ve ever lived in. But, for the most part, it’s completely worth it… and not just because it’s a nice house, but because we are treated respectfully, like adults with the right to privacy. It’s also a very comfortable home with many nice amenities and no one freaking out over dog hair in the doorway.
One nice thing about our current landlords is that they don’t mind dogs. Arran went over to say hello to the landlady. She gave him a pat and asked about Zane. I told her that he’d died. I’m sure they were wondering, but probably didn’t know how to bring it up. I mentioned that maybe we’d have a new dog after the holidays. She nodded in agreement, which makes me feel good. A few weeks ago, one of our elderly neighbors asked about Zane, and remarked that the dogs are like our children. That’s definitely true in our case. I was kind of happy that he’d asked, since I never know how the neighbors feel about our dogs. It seems like they’re well liked in this neighborhood. Obviously, Zane has been missed, and not just by Bill and me.
So we did our usual loop, and on our way through the messy field by the Rewe, I noticed an older lady coming down the hill with a little Yorkie. The Yorkie was off lead, which usually makes me nervous, since you never know how dogs will act when they first meet each other. The little dog came running up to Arran, who was whining and shrieking, trying to make contact. The lady smiled at me as our dogs sniffed. Her little dog was so cute, dodging, barking at Arran, yet curious and wanting to sniff my hand. I said to the dog, “Hello… aren’t you cute?”
Then the lady laughed and said, “You’re American?”
“Yes!” I responded, with a giggle.
“Me too!” she laughed.
We shared another awkward moment, then said goodbye. What are the odds?
I’ve heard there are a number of Americans here in Breckenheim. I know there’s a little hotel and there are a couple of Air BnBs here, too, where people have stayed until they find housing. This was the first time I’ve bumped into an American while walking the dog near my home in any of the three places in Germany I’ve lived so far. Or maybe I have run into them, but because I pass for German and so do a lot of other Americans, I just didn’t know it.
Anyway, it was kind of a funny encounter. Maybe we’ll run into each other again sometime. I hope so, since I think Arran and her dog may be buddies now. I love how our dogs serve as such excellent canine ambassadors. I’ve met a lot of nice people in Germany thanks to my dogs.
Today also happens to be the seventh anniversary of losing MacGregor, who was Arran’s predecessor. MacGregor was such a wonderful dog. He was best friends with Bill, who was probably the only man he ever liked. I can’t believe it’s been seven years already since we lost him. Time flies!
Because we’re going on vacation tomorrow, I told Bill I needed to stop by AAFES. I have a couple of dresses I plan to wear on our cruise that require pantyhose. I don’t often wear hose anymore, even on the rare occasions when I do dress up, but there will be a couple of “gala” nights during which Bill will be wearing his kilt. I don’t want him to upstage me too much.
So we went to the PX. I got a pair of tights and two pairs of hose in the largest size I could find… because if I have to wear hose, I don’t want to feel like I’m stuffed in sausage casing. Bill got some socks and I got more face cream to help stave off wrinkles for as long as possible. Once we were finished with our chore, Bill proposed having dinner downtown.
We rarely go out to eat during the week, so I decided I wanted to go somewhere we don’t usually go. I remembered a side street off of Wiesbaden’s big square that had a couple of restaurants we’d never tried. Although there was some building construction going on next to Momo’s Osteria und Restaurant, a barrier was put up and they were fully open for business and welcoming. We took a seat and quickly decided on what we were having.
A long haired, swarthy gentleman who appeared to be Italian, came over and asked, “Deutsch?”
“American.” I said kind of sheepishly. “But it’s okay, we can read the menu.” The specials were in German, but the actual menu had most everything translated anyway. An attractive blonde woman who spoke English came over and took our orders. She brought us warm bread, spicy olives, and olive tapenade to go with our primitivo and San Pellegrino.
I decided to have taglatelle with cubed salmon and a light tomato sauce. Bill had linguini with strips of beef, vegetables, chilis, and Parmesan cheese. The food was good– your basic Italian fare. I particularly liked the salmon, which was cooked perfectly and melted in my mouth. There’s a real trick to getting salmon to turn out moist rather than dry and tough.
About halfway through our dinner, another couple sat down next to us. I immediately noticed the man was wearing a metal bracelet, the same kind people wear to remember Vietnam veterans. They could have passed for German, but then I heard them speaking and they were Americans all the way. They were trying to figure out the menu and Bill overheard the lady talking about burrata, which I just had a few days ago at Little Italy. I don’t usually go for cold cheeses or raw tomatoes, but I must admit I have become a fan of burrata ever since we first tried it at Osteria da Gino’s in Nagold. Incidentally, we made new friends that night, too! Burrata brings people together!
The woman seemed confused about what burrata is, so Bill interjected into their private discussion. He explained burrata, but then I asked, “You did say burrata, right? Not dorade?”
The woman smiled and said, “Yes, burrata.”
“Because dorade is fish.” I clarified.
Next thing we knew, we were getting to know this couple, who had come to Wiesbaden to find their next home. She’s taking a job on Clay Kaserne and he’s probably going to telework… or, maybe he’ll do what I do. It sounded like he wanted to keep working… or maybe felt like he should keep working. But then he said he didn’t have to, especially since he’s retired from the military and presumably gets paid to get up in the morning. The couple has a young son who will be joining them when they make the move. Frankly, if I were him, I’d take the golden opportunity to bond with the boy and show him Europe. But then, I have never been known for my puritan style work ethic. I don’t believe life should be entirely about work.
We spent a good hour or so chatting with our new acquaintances, trading stories. It turns out we’ve been a lot of the places they’ve been, and in fact, we were even in some of the same places at the same time. They surprised me by knowing the town where I grew up, having visited the campground there. I went there myself as a youngster; my dad bought a VW pop top camper and we spent the night at that campground to try it out, even though we were locals.
Our new friends decided to go have gelato at Wiesbaden’s best ice cream joint, so Bill and I shared a Ramazotti on ice after we paid the check. “Once again,” I mused, “I had a feeling about a certain place. We go there to eat, and we’ve run into new people.”
I have a weird knack for either making new friends in restaurants or running into people whom I either used to know or who know someone I know. Once, when we were in San Antonio, I ran into a guy and his wife I had met in 1994, when we all worked at a summer camp in tiny Star Tannery, Virginia. We hadn’t seen each other in almost 20 years.
Another time, while waiting tables, I met a couple from Belfast who happened to be neighbors with a friend I met at the same summer camp. He’d come to Virginia to work, and left with an American girlfriend, who eventually married him. They now have six children and live in Belfast. What are the odds I would have met my Irish friend’s neighbors while waiting tables at one of Williamsburg, Virginia’s many restaurants? But this kind of thing happens to me all the time. It’s one of my many quirks.
A few years ago, in Herrenberg, Germany, Bill and I ran into our former neighbors from the first time we lived in Germany. They immediately recognized me, but it took me a minute to remember them. I never did know their names, although I used to talk to the English speaking daughter and son-in-law all the time. We bonded over our old beagle, Flea, who was in love with their little boy, Robin.
We made our way back to the car, passing a bizarre looking Gucci display in which one of the headless mannequins appeared to have forgotten something important…
We also ran into some wildlife… many geese and rabbits enjoying their evening meal, completely unbothered by people or predators. We used to see hares a lot in our last town, but here in Wiesbaden, it appears that rabbits are king.
Well, that about does it for today’s post. I may or may not do much writing while we’re away. Depends on my mood and whether or not I think it’s worth bothering. I will be writing about the cruise when we return, though, and I’m sure it will be epic.
Sunday morning, I woke up at about 3:00am. I couldn’t help but notice the sun was already rising. Sweden is a bit weird for the uninitiated, especially in the winter and summer, when days are either really short, or really long. A few hours later, we got up for real, enjoyed the awesome rainfall shower, got dressed, and headed to the 25th floor for breakfast. At Upper House, breakfast is always included in the rate. You get a very nice buffet, as well as “small plates”, which are prepared by the chef. Most people get two or three of the small plates, as well as whatever they want from the buffet. Below are a few photos of items we enjoyed over the course of our two night stay.
Awesome scrambled eggs with chives and bacon.
Chocolate filled cream puff.
Delicious strawberry crumble with cream. I think this one was my favorite.
A beautifully set table.
A view of the city.
On day two, Bill had the royal and the shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and garlic.
At 11:30am, we headed to the spa for our massages. One thing I want to mention about the spa in Sweden. It seems that when it comes to nudity, the Swedes are more like the Brits and us Americans. We were advised to come dressed in our bathing suits. Even in the locker room, there really weren’t any places to change in privacy. So, if you’re reading this in Germany and you want to visit the Upper House spa, be advised that it’s NOT textile free, even in the sauna. In fact, we even had our massages while wearing bathing suits, although they were rolled down. We were fully covered the whole time.
Our aromatherapy massages went on concurrently– Bill and I were in the same room with two female therapists. We spent 80 very peaceful minutes getting the knots knocked out of our tired muscles, although the bed at the Upper House was the very best of all four hotels we stayed in this week. Then, we checked out the amazing spa area with its views of Liseberg.
Heated lounges overlooking the amusement park.
Bill in his snazzy robe. I brought mine from home.
This pool is 18 floors up and has a glass bottom… Yes, it’s very secure, and yes, you can see to the street when the water isn’t bubbling.
A saltwater pool… It had jets.
A peek at the pool from the ground floor of the towers.
After a few pleasant hours in the spa, we were hungry. We got dressed and went looking for food. Unfortunately, just as it is in Germany, a lot of Swedish restaurants also take a “pause”. Consequently, we ended up at Ristoria, an Italian eatery in the towers. They had a Sunday brunch, which didn’t really please me much. The food wasn’t bad, but it looked like it had been sitting for awhile. Also, the chairs were uncomfortable. But it satisfied my hunger well enough…
From the buffet at Ristoria. It should be mentioned that cash isn’t accepted anywhere in the hotel or restaurants, so bring your credit cards.
Not too impressed.
One drawback to Gothia Towers’ location is that it’s not close to downtown, nor is it in a particularly walkable location. Moreover, while we were in the spa, I overhead a guy telling the staff that he was robbed. So after we finished lunch, we went back to the room. I proposed a visit to Liseberg to Bill, but he wasn’t interested. He doesn’t like rides, particularly ones that are extremely high or just plain extreme. I will admit, while I wouldn’t have hesitated to ride most of the rides at Liseberg when I was younger, they did seem a bit extreme, even to me. And I don’t like crowds or being part of a captive audience… so we decided to hang out and talk.
At about 5:00pm, we went to the Upper House’s bar and proceeded to spend the evening drinking… and talking to a British woman named Janet who lives in Doha, Qatar and works in the airline industry. Bill struck up a conversation with her when she said she wanted to sit out on the balcony. The wind up on the 25th floor was extreme, but Janet said she had been dealing with 50 degree weather for weeks and she wanted some fresh air. Dopey me… I thought she meant 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Nope… 50 degrees Celsius. That is some HOT weather! No thanks!
Janet was a total stranger prior to last Sunday, but she turned out to be a lot of fun to talk to. She also reminded me a lot of my sister, Becky. She said she was going to have to get up very early on Monday morning to fly to Stockholm for business purposes. Then, I guess, she was going back to Doha… We had a lot to talk about, though, since it turned out we liked the same kind of music and had lots of travel stories to share. We found ourselves talking about everything from 9/11, Princess Diana and where we were when she died (I was in a sleeper care with a Chinese family on a train from Vienna to Venice) to her trip to Vietnam and, of course, religion and politics. She even kissed us goodbye!
This was dinner… two small plates. Pork belly and some kind of sea scallop soup. I was partial to the pork, but that probably surprises no one.
The next morning was the day we picked up our new car. Things got off on the wrong foot, when the elevators wouldn’t work. We had to climb a tight spiral staircase to get to the restaurant. Then, while we were eating, our waiter came over and said Volvo had sent a taxi for us. Bill was upset, since he was told they wouldn’t come until after 9:00am. But he never got any confirmation one way or the other and, I guess, trusted that things would go according to plan. He was pretty upset that we weren’t ready for the taxi and they hadn’t told us it was coming.
After breakfast, we went to the reception and explained what was going on. A very beautiful blonde woman with delicate features and big blue eyes was running the desk. She offered to call Volvo for us and find out what to do. Meanwhile, we went back to our room to wait. While we were there, I noticed the below sign.
This is pretty awesome! If you smoke in your room, they’ll charge you a lot to clean it. Then, they’ll donate half of the fine to Sweden’s Heart and Lung Foundation. I love the sense of social responsibility the Swedes have.
One more view of the dining room. Next time, we’ll be sure to reserve a table for dinner. Upper House has a restaurant with a Michelin star.
Volvo agreed to send us another taxi at 10:40am, so we waited in our room, checked out, and hung out in the lobby to wait for yet another taxi driver driving a Volvo to take us to our new wheels. I prepaid for the room, so the only bill to be settled was for our dual massages and drinks in the bar. It was about $400.