Bill and I just got back from the BRECKOMENTA event at the local clubhouse, a place we had never been before. I let Bill lead the way, and unfortunately, he got the wrong address, which meant we had to walk further. I wore new shoes, so this wasn’t a pleasant turn of events. Nevertheless, we did eventually get there, having taken a longer than necessary route. The club house is on the back side of the fire station, and the complex itself is near the walking trails we never visit.
I got some photos, and we were exposed to some of excellent works of local artists. The art was very interesting and, in at least one case, quite sexual.
After we looked at the art, we visited the snack bar… because what German event doesn’t have one? Our neighbor was running it, and we had a rather lengthy German chat with her about the neighborhood. She did joke that they didn’t have any “house made” beer. Our new neighbor told her that Bill makes his own beer. Actually, they had no beer at all. This is wine country! So we had wine.
Our neighbor told us about other Americans who have lived in our little cul de sac, as we drank local wines and ate pretzels. I noticed some of the works were for sale… I seriously might have been tempted, since I’ve been wanting to buy some more art for the house. Maybe we’ll go back tomorrow, since the event continues tomorrow until 6pm.
The really nice part is that we ended up walking to parts of Breckenheim we hadn’t seen, even having lived here for almost four years. And we finally found the cool little bee bomb vending machines that I posted about a few months ago.
I am impressed by our landlady’s art. I had no idea she was so talented!
The first photos are of self service commerce in our little town. we would have missed the first one, if Bill hadn’t taken us on a detour. The art is all done by local citizens in our village.
There was everything from sculptures to Bonsai trees, with jewelry, photography, paintings, and drawings. A couple of people were even drawing and sketching in the exhibition. On the way home, we noticed the JWs left a gift on the Bee Bomb vending machine. I also got a couple of shots of the church from the other side. The town manager was at the art event, and chuckled when he heard me successfully translate the word “gleich”. I get the sense they know us as the Americans, now, even though we aren’t the only ones.
Well, Halloween has come and gone, and this year, we actually celebrated. One of our new neighbors had asked us to participate in Halloween because she and her husband have young children. However, even though we carved jack o’lanterns, lit them with candles, and turned on our lights, that neighbor didn’t visit us. I’m not sure why she didn’t, but it was okay, because we got visits from other neighborhood children.
The first ones showed up in a group of three at about 6pm. They didn’t ring the doorbell, but I could see them because we have glass panels by our front door. Bill met them at the door and said they looked utterly shocked when he offered them candy. They didn’t say a word as Bill gave them Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s bars, Hershey’s Almond Chocolate Kisses, and Dove Minis. I could see two teenagers with them who looked quite amused and delighted. One of them laughed when he asked if they wanted any candy.
The next group of three showed up a little while later. They didn’t ring the doorbell either, but did manage to say “Süß oder Sauer!” (sweet or sour, the German version of “Trick or Treat!”) I didn’t mind that they didn’t ring the bell, since it would only make the dogs freak out.
A couple of bigger kids came by, and I heard one of them quite confidently explain to Bill in German that they weren’t sure if anyone was going to have candy since this isn’t really something that is done in Germany. I have a feeling that it’s going to catch on, though. At about 4:00, I noticed a group of costume clad children heading down the hill from our house. I figured maybe they were going to a party. I have noticed more Halloween themed stuff this year as opposed to other years, and the kids that were participating were clearly enjoying themselves.
Then the Italian couple across from our house came over with their child. Bill gave him Kisses and Minis, but astutely noticed the child eyeing one of the full sized Hershey Bars. Bill gave him one of those. I noticed the peanut butter cups were popular, probably because they aren’t widely available in German stores. I never hear so much about peanut allergies here, either. Personally, I think German chocolate is a lot better than American chocolate is, but kids love novel stuff.
One other thing I noticed is that most of the participants either had very small bags for collecting candy or no bag at all! But then, I also noticed that they didn’t have a lot of candy, either. We might have been among the very few houses passing out sweets!
I’m quite pleased with the turnout from last night. There have been years when we’ve lived in America and gotten just slammed with kids, and other years when we’ve lived in rural areas and gotten no one at all. One year, when we lived in Germany the first time, we got kids, but had no candy. Another year, we had candy, but only got a visit from two teenaged boys who looked like they were dressed as their drunk uncles. This year, we had a nice number of local children, all of whom were in the spirit of things in their costumes and very appreciative that we gave them candy. I almost felt like it was an international relations act of goodwill. See? Americans aren’t all bad. 😉
If we’re still here next year, maybe we’ll decorate more, so the kids who participate won’t be so shy. I might even put on a costume myself… or maybe I’ll just wear my Dirndl. We turned off the porch light at about 8:45, and we still have candy leftover. But at least this year, we did manage to give some away, which is a good thing. My ass doesn’t need more presents.
This has been an unusually busy week in our little town of Breckenheim– as opposed to Bethlehem… 😉 Thursday, we had our weekly market, and Bill picked up some sliced cold cuts for me. We had a little wine and came home about 45 minutes later. Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see us.
Arran is still doing okay. We found out his lymphoma is B cell, which is the milder type. And because it’s B cell, and he seems to want to live, we’re hopefully going to get him on canine chemotherapy before it’s too late.
Last night, we had our wine stand, which happens every other Friday. We spent an hour there, too, enjoying the convivial atmosphere of our neighborhood. I swear, this is probably the most social neighborhood we’ve ever lived in, outside of college. I like to see everybody hanging out and having fun.
Tonight, we’re going to a whisky/whiskey tasting. Maybe I should spell it with the “e”, since I believe the whiskeys are from Ireland, rather than Scotland. That is taking place in the local church’s Gemeindehaus (I think that’s what it’s called). There will be food and music, and lots of talk in German. 😉
Today, we’re also planning to go to Wiesbaden and pick up our new eyewear. New glasses lenses for Bill, and new multi-focal lenses for me. I look forward to being able to read things with corrected vision again. My next purchase for my eyes will probably be bifocals.
I got some photos from the last couple of nights. They aren’t super exciting, but they offer a glimpse of what life is like where I live. The first eight photos are from Thursday night. We didn’t buy a lot, because I will be home alone all week. Bill is going on a business trip. The rest are from the wine stand last night, hosted by the local Volleyball Club. I did hear one guy sound excited last night when he saw that they were serving Spundekäs. I think they ran out, because not an hour later, I saw people eating the pretzels with some kind of white substance. Maybe it was quark? I don’t know.
One lady came up and asked if there was room at our table. We said yes, so she exclaimed “Endlich!” and her family sat with us. She reminded me of the lady who used to sit with me at church when I was growing up. Her husband was in the choir, with my dad. My mom was always playing organ, either at our church, or somewhere else.
I probably shouldn’t go to the whiskey tasting, but what the hell… My liver can recover while Bill is away.
Yesterday, something happened that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for awhile. Our little village had its very first neighborhood market on the Dorfplatz. It was also the first day of September, which means that, right on cue, the weather started to change in earnest. I’ve lived in Germany for ten years of my life and it never fails. As of September 1, it immediately gets cooler in Germany, even if it was broiling hot the week prior. Usually, by the 15th, I consistently need to wear a jacket, and have put away the air conditioners until summer comes around again. In fact, just a few minutes ago, I pulled the air conditioning hose inside and closed the window in my office for the first time in weeks. It’s really cooling down outside. I hope that means we’ll soon get some rain.
Some people might not think the neighborhood market is a big deal. I mentioned it on social media, and two of my American friends posted that their towns in the United States are doing the “same” thing. With all due respect to my American friends, I don’t think it is quite the same. Remember, I spent a good 35 of my 50 years in the USA, and have lived in several states, so I’m in a position to know something about life there. I would be very surprised if I went to a market in, say, my home state of Virginia, and found someone selling fresh harissa, locally produced sausages, or unpasteurized cheeses, which are usually pretty hard to find in the US.
I would also be surprised if they were pouring local wines. In the States, there’s a big emphasis on alcohol laws. Anyone appearing to be under 21 will be carded. This isn’t to say there are no booze laws here, but the drinking age is lower, while the driving age is higher… and fewer people drive here, anyway. And drinking seems to be more of a normal part of society, just as smoking is. In our case, the market was just down the hill from our house, and all of the people at the market are literally our neighbors.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful markets in the United States. I just don’t think they’re quite the same there as they are here. The market that happens in Wiesbaden is totally different than the market we had last night, which was very small and felt more like a wine stand with a few vendors selling their wares. However, I have a feeling that once the market catches on, it will be bigger, and there will be more things to buy than what was available last night. As it was, there was a flower vendor, someone selling vegetables, and a Turkish Feinkost represented. And the wine kiosk was open, so they were selling wine, beer, Schorles, and other non-alcoholic beverages. It looked like they had the usual Brats and Brotchens, too. I had Noyzi and Arran with me, so I didn’t get very close to the action.
Maybe it sounds petty, but it kind of annoys me when people back home assume they know how it is here… and claim it’s the “same” as it is in the United States. As an American who has lived many years in America, I know it isn’t, really. But then, a lot of things in the USA are not the same as they are in Germany. For instance, it’s pretty hard to find some of my favorite American style comfort foods over here. I am fortunate enough to shop at the military commissary, order from Amazon.com, and have stuff come through APO (government mail for US citizens). I regularly buy high quality grits from a farm in South Carolina, which are vastly superior to the Quaker quick or instant grits “crapola” in the commissary. I wouldn’t be able to find grits at all in a German store. Instead, I’d find polenta, which is not really the same. It’s only somewhat similar. Grits are also NOT semolina (Cream of Wheat). They are made of ground up hominy, which is corn.
It’s been my experience that Europeans tend to be more community minded than most people in the United States are, but of course there are always exceptions. And I’ve found that Breckenheim is a lot more of a friendly community than either of the towns we lived in near Stuttgart. Maybe it’s because of the wine. Stuttgart does have wineries, but the emphasis in the southern part of Germany is more on beer. Up here near the Rhein, it’s wine country. Maybe it’s because Hesse is not Swabia. Seriously… there is a different mindset in the Swabian region of Germany. It’s not that the people aren’t nice. They are. It’s just that it seems to take longer to make friends down there. The mood is a bit more insular, especially in smaller towns. There’s a different dialect that even native Germans sometimes have trouble understanding. And people, on the whole, seem to be more reserved and formal than they are in Hesse. In that sense, Germany IS like the United States, because as we all know, there are many different cultures within the regions of the US, too.
Anyway, below are some photos from last night. I didn’t get as close as I would have liked to, because we brought the dogs with us. Noyzi still gets pretty freaked out by strangers, although I can tell his instinct is to be very friendly. He’s still overcoming traumas from his youth, though, and that takes time and experience. I was proud of him last night, even if he was a little spooked by everything. Overall, he behaved very well. Arran, of course, couldn’t care less. He’s getting pretty old and is now unimpressed by a lot of things that used to set him off. Next weekend, Breckenheim will host its first wine fest. That should be fun, especially since it will be easy to haul home purchases from the Dorfplatz. Last night also heralded the opening of Breckenheim’s public toilet! I know that was exciting, too. The men of the village have been all over setting it up for weeks now.
Bill came home yesterday morning, after having spent most of the work week in our old stomping grounds, Stuttgart. We were all glad to see him, especially Arran, who looked pretty pissed off when Bill dropped off his bag and headed to work. I wish I’d had the camera with me to take a picture of Arran sitting there, staring up at Bill with his big eyes, as if to say “And just where do you think YOU’RE going?”
It wasn’t so bad, though, because he came back home early, and then we decided to go to the wine stand in our village. It was being held in the parking lot between the Rathaus and the little elementary school that I’ve heard is going to be torn down in the next year or so. A new school is being built on the other end of town. I don’t look forward to that, since it will bring noise, construction, and more traffic to our already congested street. But as I am just an American, and not even an ordinary resident, at that, my opinion is pretty irrelevant.
I’ve mentioned before that our Dorfplatz, which is where the stands are usually held, is unusable right now, because a toilet facility is being erected. It seems strange to put a public toilet in the Dorfplatz, especially since the Rathaus is just up the hill, and there are toilets there. We live so close to the Dorfplatz that when we have to pee, we just go home. Nevertheless, the powers that be decided that a new toilet facility is necessary. So that means the wine stands had to be moved. The good thing is, they’ve been moved even closer to our house! It’s even easier to stumble home!
We don’t always attend the wine stands, mainly because they get crowded, and it’s just as easy to drink our own wine in our backyard. I wanted to go last night, though, because I could hear the lovely dulcet sounds of a pop choir called Die Weinseeligen. I’m wondering if the people who performed last night were the ones who were supposed to perform a couple of weeks ago. The wine stand was canceled then, because several of the members had COVID. They sounded healthy last night, as the tennis club hosted the biweekly fundraiser, which also offers a great opportunity for the community to come together and mingle. The wine stands weren’t allowed during the height of the COVID mess, so it’s been great having them again.
We saw one of the American ladies we met at the last wine stand. She said her partner was quarantining, because she had gone back to the USA to drill for the National Guard, and came back just in time to catch the virus. Apparently, she’s now recovered from the sickness, but still faintly tests positive. My guess is that she’s simply more introverted than her partner is, and would rather hang out at home. I can understand that. Not everyone wants to hang out in a big crowd. I feel that way myself a lot of the time.
I did take a few videos and photos, which I’m sharing below. Bill and I had a great time breaking my alcohol fast. The weather was wonderful; the wine was good; and although we didn’t partake of the food, it looked like they had some good offerings. I saw a guy walking by with smoked salmon sandwiches, which is a departure from the usual pretzels, brats, and broetchen that are usually offered at these events! The video isn’t the best, because it was crowded, and I was drinking. But it does offer an idea of how the choir sounded, and the atmosphere of the event. We love the wine stands, which we never had in either of the towns we lived in near Stuttgart. Down there, we had more Biergartens, and they weren’t standing events, like they are up here in Wiesbaden.
I have written a couple of well received blog posts about the differences between life in Stuttgart versus life in Wiesbaden. I think this is one thing I like about Wiesbaden. Folks seem friendlier and more social here, and it’s easier to get to know people. Or, at least that’s how it seems. That’s not to say that there aren’t friendly people in Stuttgart. There are. It’s just a different culture. There’s actually a lot I really miss about Stuttgart… but I am glad we had the opportunity to move to Hesse, because it gives us a whole different experience of living in Germany, and that’s a beautiful thing.
When our bladders had enough wine, we went home and hung out in the backyard, where we could still hear the choir a little bit. The temperature was perfect, and it was just so nice to have Bill home again. I even gave my German friend from the Stuttgart a thrill by posting in German on Facebook, without any help from Google Translate! Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?