customs

New neighbors clue me in to a German tradition I had never heard of…

Bill had to go out of town on business, so I’m spending most of the week alone. We got a bunch of Amazon deliveries yesterday– a new spool for the weed whacker, dog food for Noyzi, contact lenses for me, and two bottles of liqueurs that I was curious about trying. I thought I was finished answering the door when the bell rang again. I will admit, I was a little annoyed, mainly because I wasn’t wearing clothes that people outside of the household should see. But I answered the doorbell anyway…

It was our neighbors-to-be, whom we met on Friday night– mom, dad, and two young children. They were all dressed up, and the wife was holding a plate with what appeared to be a piece of bread on it. She said, in her heavily accented and somewhat broken English (which is still much better than my German any day), that yesterday was the first day of school, and it’s a tradition for sweet “Brezels” to be served for good luck. I think she also said that it was tradition to share the treat with a neighbor, and originally she had described what looked like a yeast bread as “cake”.

In ten years of living in Germany, this has never happened to me before, so I was unaware of the custom, but I was very moved by the gesture, nonetheless. Especially since they are going to be our neighbors as of next month! I did enjoy talking to them at our party the other day, mainly because she was born and raised in the Stuttgart area and had some rather candid opinions about her hometown that I found amusing. Let’s just say that she has the same impressions of the Swabian culture that a lot of people seem to have, and she prefers living in Hesse. Personally, I really like the Stuttgart area, but I have to agree that Hessians are stereotypically friendlier.

She presented the piece of “Brezel” to me on a lovely plate. I asked her what I should do with the plate when we were finished with it. She said I could return it when they move in next month. I am enjoying the Brezel bread for breakfast today, with my coffee. I thought it had raisins in it, too, but now that I’ve tasted it, I think they’re chocolate chips! Even better!

I posted about this surprise gift on Facebook, and my German friend– also hailing from Baden-W√ľrttemberg– was initially confused about the tradition herself. But then when I explained that the “cake” was actually Brezel, she wrote “alles klar”, and explained that it‘s customary for sweet pretzels (Brezels) to be made for the new school year, and passed out to the kids. Usually, one only sees them at New Year’s, when they are made fresh and passed out to family and friends for good luck and cohesion. However, in some areas, they also make them for St. Martin’s Day, or for the new school year, which starts in September in these parts.

Here’s a video about the New Year’s Pretzel, which I guess is the same as the pretzel handed out yesterday.

My friend asked if the bread was braided, and I wrote that I couldn’t tell, as it was only a generous sized piece of the Brezel, and not a whole one. But after a few minutes of research, she was able to find the answer for me. Now that I think about it, I believe our new neighbor’s husband’s family– who is also going to be our neighbor– is from a bit north of Wiesbaden. He brought some special beer to the party that can only be found in that area, and he and Bill bonded over it.

One of the things I like about living in Europe is that there are a lot of surprises. Most of the time, they’re pleasant surprises, like the time we lived in Jettingen and I got serenaded by three kids dressed up for Three Kings Day. They were collecting money for the Catholic church, and they were so adorable I couldn’t resist giving them some spare euros. There’s always something going on here, and so many traditions. We’re also heading into my favorite time of year, when the summer heat dissipates, and the weather gets cozy. I can stop wearing my t-shirts and Daisy Duke shorts (which I can’t pull off worth a damn), and wear pretty sweaters, scarves, and jewelry.

Hopefully, this new family will turn out to be actual friends. So far, so good. The wife even laughed at my jokes… especially when I was talking about having to leave Stuttgart early the first time and said, “I was PIIISSSED…” Come to think of it, I was probably also “pissed”, in the British sense of the word, when I was telling that story… But it’s a good sign that she wasn’t offended. ūüėČ

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Getting to know my German neighbors… after almost four years!

A couple of weeks ago, our next door neighbor, Uli, told Bill she was going to have a barbecue, and we were invited. At the time she made her invitation, we were thinking we might be going to see our dentist in Stuttgart. But we couldn’t arrange boarding for Arran and Noyzi, so we postponed our dental appointments until later this month. That freed us up to attend last night’s festivities.

I’ll be honest. I was a bit apprehensive about this event. You see, I’m not that great in groups. The older I get, the worse I seem to be. I tend to say more than I should. But Bill is a very friendly, jovial guy, and he wants to be neighborly. Plus, he just brewed some beer, and mentioned it, which automatically excited our hostess. Of course, the beer Bill makes, while very good, is not German style beer. He makes British style ale, mainly because the yeast required for lagers is more fragile than ale style yeast is. But, over the past twelve years or so, he’s gotten better at his craft. Maybe he’ll delve into making lagers eventually. I would like that.

I did tell Bill to go to the commissary and pick up some Bubba Burgers and American style burger buns for Uli. I know she likes them, and I have a feeling the people before us used to pick them up for her on occasion. Bill gave her the burgers and buns and she seemed quite delighted. Personally, I’m more of a fan of handmade burgers with German buns. But if Bubba Burgers help facilitate neighbor relations, I’m all for giving them out sometimes. Uli seemed surprised when we told her we don’t shop at the commissary very often. We prefer German markets.

We had a nice gathering of about twenty people, with plenty of food and libations. There were sausages, salads, a couple of burgers that Bill contributed and I was too full to eat, and breads. There was lots of wine and beer, including a few bottles of Bill’s brews. At the end of the evening, a lovely Italian man who lives across the street brought out a round of espresso and an Italian digestive. He gave Bill some homemade limoncello, too, and said he would teach him how to make it.

Noyzi and Arran complained loudly at first, but then we brought them outside to see what was going on. Arran was over it quickly. Noyzi was feeling friendly, but he still gets freaked out by people he doesn’t know. So after they came out for a few minutes, we brought them back inside. Our neighbor’s lab, Tommi, spent most of the evening being a host. He is adorable.

Our host’s English speaking mother, Margot, was also there. She lives in the house that borders ours on the other side. I have often seen her walking Tommi, but she told us she had to stop, because he’s too strong for her. Last summer, Tommi got away from her while I was walking our dogs. I happened to have an extra leash, because Noyzi was still pretty skittish. Tommi didn’t have a leash, so I was able to give Uli’s mom the extra one so she could capture her pooch. I even wrote about it, because last year, pandemic restrictions made travel blogging more challenging.

Margot said, “Your dogs make so much noise when you go out.”

Without missing a beat, I said, “Luckily, I almost never go out.”

Bill later mentioned that he thought that was a sign of progress. When we first came to Germany and people would remark about my dogs, I would get nervous and offended. I was still a little put off, but then I said, quite reasonably, that they are seldom alone. Moreover, I know they don’t bark the whole time we’re gone, because they’re never still barking when we get home. I don’t think they would necessarily know to shut up when we were driving up to the house. We do keep our outings short, though, precisely for that reason.

Later, Margot said she wanted to talk to me, simply because she says people ignore the elderly. I told her that I would love to talk to her, because I enjoy having conversations with older people. They always have interesting stories to share. She brightened quite a bit, and told us about what it was like in Breckenheim in 1945, when the US Army came in. She said the Germans all had to give up their homes for the soldiers, and her brother wasn’t allowed to live with her and her mom. They somehow got to stay in their house.

Now… consider that 1945 was World War II… and who was in charge at that time. Yes, I would love to talk to her about that era! I think it would be fascinating. And she said she wants to practice her English, which is already good. But she reminded us that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Then she chastised me for not speaking very much German. LOL… But if people want to speak English to me, how can I speak German? I do understand a lot more than I did in 2007, when we moved here the first time… and 2014, when we moved here the second time. However, I am more successful singing in German, than speaking it. ūüėČ That’s not saying much… although I really can sing quite well. It’s just that I can memorize the lyrics and learn to pronounce them without necessarily knowing what all the words mean, even though we did have to translate the foreign songs when I was studying voice. Margot also told us that she only drinks Grauburgunder wines. She doesn’t even like Rieslings. And beer is out!

Toward the end of the night, I think I kind of horrified Uli, when I told her that we had to sue our ex landlady. Although lawsuits in Germany are pretty common– in fact, I think Germans are more litigious than Americans are– they don’t seem to want to talk about them. Uli is a landlady, too, so this was probably something that made her blood run cold. She probably thinks I’m a little crazy, and I bet she tells our current landlord. But if he says anything about it, we’ll just tell him that he’s nothing at all like the ex landlady. He’s courteous, reasonable, and respectful, and he’s done things legally. Uli was probably just shocked that we knew about legal insurance (and liability insurance and pet liability insurance– all things that Americans really should buy in Germany)… but she shouldn’t be, because we’ve lived here a long time, we’re older, and she knows how much our house rents for. Of course we’d be smart to have legal insurance. We had to pay two month’s rent as a deposit. It was a lot of money.

The topic of suing came up, though, because the neighbor was showing off their kid’s school Tute, for the first day of school. Uli kept talking about how much she hated “suing”. I realized that she meant “sewing”. I was very confused at first! Then I confided that I don’t like sewing, either, even though my mom is a master at needlecrafts. I don’t have the patience or dexterity for it. Another lady talked about how her daughter spent the school year in Michigan, and got to attend the prom and football games. I said, that must have been very interesting for her, given how different American schools are. German schools don’t usually have school sponsored sports teams or big, fancy dances… or, at least that’s what I’ve heard. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, we enjoyed hanging out last night, and meeting some of our neighbors. Uli’s new tenants are moving into their place in October. I especially enjoyed the wife, who hails from B√∂blingen, in Baden-W√ľrttemberg. She said that she taught math, and met her husband in Karlsruhe, while they were at the university. She likes Hesse better. She flat out said it, without any prompting. Why? Because people are much friendlier up here. It’s funny, because she’s not the first German, even from Baden-W√ľrttemberg, who has mentioned that Swabia is a very “special” part of Germany. But I actually like Baden-W√ľrttemberg very much, in spite of the different culture. It was the first part of Germany I really got to know, and it is legitimately a very beautiful place– even if Stuttgart is kind of a homely city. I look forward to going back down there at the end of the month.

Again… I’m not very good in groups. I speak my mind too much, and am not one for small talk. Some people love that about me. Other people hate it, and think I’m an obnoxious freak. And that’s why I have dogs. At least Tommi likes us… the featured photo is of him, knocking on our door. He doesn’t do it often, but when he does, it’s super cute. He also jumped up on Bill and gave him a big smooch, which seemed to horrify Uli. Yes, our dogs bark, but so does hers. And we keep ours on leashes, although we did talk about maybe letting Noyzi and Tommi play sometime. I think they’d love it. If we didn’t turn her off too much, maybe they’ll finally have the opportunity.

Uli says in a few months, we’ll have to share some Gluwein. That is, if the temperatures get low enough to enjoy it. We did get some rain today, which is a great thing. I’m not sure if we’ll venture out today. We were both kind of tired after last night’s festivities. Also… I don’t want my dogs to disturb the peace.

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Our neighborhood Flohmarkt (flea market)…

I had the idea that we’d go out today. I found a couple of interesting restaurants that I thought might be fun to try. But Bill decided to make cheese souffl√©s for breakfast, and that made our morning get off to a late start. Then I started watching DUI videos on YouTube, and those are always a laugh riot. CoronaWarn told me the other day that I got exposed to COVID in Eltville last weekend, anyway. I’m not sick, unless you count the residual crap from whatever it was I got in Belgium. I tested for COVID twice and both tests were negative, but one never knows…

Luckily, our neighborhood had a little something special going on, giving us the excuse to stay home so we could wander around and see something new. I noticed there was a beer trailer at the neighborhood church clubhouse, which is where our Wein Stands are being held right now as the new public toilet is being built in the Dorfplatz. People around our village were opening up their yards, selling their stuff, and there was also a refreshment stand, selling the usual beer, water, Schorle, and sodas, along with brats and stuff. This was the very first neighborhood “flea market” or Flohmarkt. According to the Kulturklub Breckenheim, there were over 60 participants! It was a success, so there will probably be another one.

Cool!

I love that our community has these events. Breckenheim is a much friendlier village than our other neighborhoods in BW were. I saw one girl selling what looked like a ton of plastic and glass model horses. Boy, when I was a lot younger, I would have coveted those! I saw a lot of people selling books, glassware, clothes, CDs, toys and furniture. One lady had a table of stuff she was inviting people to just take gratis.

I might have been tempted to buy art. I would like a couple more pieces for our house. I know there’s an artist in our village, and her door was open. But we decided to take the boys with us, which was quite a thrill for them. Below are some photos. The participating houses had balloons to mark themselves, but it was pretty obvious who was in on the fun, anyway. I don’t remember there ever being an event like this in Jettingen. I know the pictures suck, but I had the dogs, and I didn’t want to be too obvious.

In other news… Bill and I are talking about our next big trip. I’m thinking we might see if we can go to Norway by car. We went to Norway in 2009 and enjoyed it, but that was part of a cruise that originated in Oslo. I would like to go there for a few days and just experience life in a pretty little town. Yes, it’s expensive, but Norway is beautiful, and I love the people. They are so friendly! And the ferry, while expensive, would be a fun experience, especially if we go from Kiel, because that is an overnight trip. The other option is to drive to Copenhagen and go through Sweden. We may do that going up or back… if this plan comes to fruition, that is.

Bill will be gone all next week, back to our old stomping grounds in Stuttgart. I hate it when he travels for work, but it’ll give me a chance to do some music recordings. And I’ll be researching potential trips, too.

Hopefully, we’ll go out tomorrow… check out a new restaurant, or something.

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Who are the people in our neighborhood? Last night’s wine stand helped us find out more…

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. ūüėČ

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.

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anecdotes, emergencies

Pet pandemonium pauses our promenade!

Today is Bill’s birthday, and we have wonderful weather this morning. Yesterday, it rained most of the day, and the dogs didn’t get their walk until the afternoon. I was going to take them for a walk this morning and actually got underway. But our plans were abruptly thwarted by other people’s pets.

It started with an unusually brave white cat, who was loitering on our path. I saw the cat first, as it was big as life clinging to the wall. The cat saw Arran and Noyzi, but didn’t seem to be afraid. Cats usually run when they see my dogs, but this one was pretty defiant. He or she pinned their ears, arched their back, and probably hissed. I couldn’t tell, because Noyzi had just noticed. Arran, super hound cat buster that he is, was a bit like Barney Fife this morning. He was the last to see the white feline, who was warily watching the boys.

And then, just as I thought we might make it down the hill, along comes our neighbor dog, Tommi, the friendly Labrador. He charged up to Arran and Noyzi, completely unattended, although he was at least wearing a collar. Hot on his heels was our neighbor’s mother, a slim lady I’ll call Oma. I’m guessing she’s in her 70s. She speaks English well and is very nice, but she’s probably not strong enough to be walking a rambunctious young Lab. And, in fact, she wasn’t walking him. She had treats with her, but no leash.

Naturally, the dogs went nuts. The cat did not go nuts. I kept waiting for it to run away, but it just kept staring down the dogs. Noyzi was facing the wrong way as I tried to lead him away from the tantalizing pussycat…

The funny thing is, I have been using two regular nylon leashes and a harness with Noyzi because he’s a rescue from Kosovo and still pretty afraid of a lot of things. I attach one leash to his collar and one to his harness, in case I drop one. I might then have a prayer of stopping Noyzi before he bolts for the Autobahn.

Noyzi’s walking manners have improved a lot; he’s become much less fearful and wants to run more. Last week, on two occasions, he tried the retractable tape leash I currently use with Arran and used to use with Zane. I waited a long time to try the retractable leash with Noyzi because he’s so much bigger and stronger than were either Arran or Zane, or both of them together.

We did have some success with the tape leash last week. Noyzi seemed to get the concept of running just a little bit ahead and not charging off so fast that he pulls me over. I was going to try the tape leash again today, but a little voice in my head told me to use the two leash system instead. It might have just been sheer laziness, since I already had the nylon leashes out and ready to use.

Well… that second leash was a God send this morning, because Tommi was completely out of control! First, he greeted my dogs with boisterous jumps, crotch sniffing, and tail wags, and Noyzi, of course returned the favor. Then he ran over to some guy working on his car. Oma grabbed for Tommi’s collar, but it somehow slipped off. She finally got it back on him and started trying to drag him away, yelling at him and spanking him all the while. Tommi was not at all fazed by the corporal punishment.

Meanwhile, that damned white cat was STILL defiantly sitting there, watching everything unfold, completely unbothered! A lady with a baby carriage was about to come down the hill, but thought better of it when she saw and heard all of the commotion. Arran was braying like a seal/donkey hybrid. Noyzi was yipping excitedly, dancing around like a whirling dervish. And Tommi, who has developed a full on Labrador bark, was telling off the cat and trying to give chase. He ran behind the bushes and Oma went after him, shouting in German, trying to grab his collar.

I suddenly realized I had that second leash, so I quickly unsnapped it and handed it to Oma, who thanked me profusely as she attached it to Tommi’s collar. The whole lot of us then turned toward home, because I had worked up a sweat and wanted the dogs to calm down a bit, and Oma wanted to get Tommi back to a place where he wasn’t running amok. I also obviously needed that second leash back! Arran helpfully took a big dump at the top of the hill, so he probably feels better. Oma was showing off Tommi to a group of school kids who had heard and witnessed some of the show.

Oma explained to me that her 18 year old granddaughter (whom Noyzi LOVES) has to study for exams. And the man and the lady of the house are on vacation. Oma’s son told her not to walk Tommi because he’s so strong, but she said there’s no one else who can do it. I don’t actually think she was trying to walk him this morning. I think he snuck out of the house.

Just like his Labrador predecessor, Levi, used to do, sometimes Tommi comes over to our house. We can see him through the glass. The dogs go nuts! It might do them all well to have a play session and wear each other out a little! Tommi is very sweet, but I think he might need a trainer. But I’m not about to suggest it, because I’m sure they don’t need me to tell them that… I did notice that Oma petted Arran, who was the calmest of the lot, which is really saying something, if you know him. On the other hand, Arran is old and rather petite, so it’s not too hard to keep him in line.

Anyway, I guess that incident was a sign from God to keep using the two leash system on Noyzi for a bit longer… if only so Oma can wrangle Tommi when he gets loose! And you’ll be proud to know that I managed to get some video footage of all of this, too.

And now that I’ve cooled off and calmed down, maybe we’ll try again.

Edited to add: We just had our walk. It was much less chaotic.

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When neighbor dogs don’t want to social distance…

The soggy weather continues here in Germany. We’ve had nothing but rain and snow since the new year. The weather is a bit of a bummer, especially since everything is still locked down here. We’re running short on fun lately, which is why it’s so great to have a new rescue dog around. Especially one from Kosovo!

Ever since Noyzi, the Kosovar street dog, and Tommi met a couple of weeks ago, Noyzi has been obsessively watching the fence that borders our neighbor’s yard. I see him sniffing the air, as if to catch a whiff of his new friend, Tommi the Lab. I let him and Arran outside for a pee break yesterday, and they both went nuts at the far corner of our little yard. I kept seeing little flashes of movement under the fence. I have seen mice, hedgehogs, birds, and the odd cat or squirrel on or in that fence. I thought maybe there was a cat or something there, making the dogs react…

Bill is not too pleased about having to upgrade the fencing. He was in the middle of something work related when this excitement happened. Party pooper!

But then I saw a blond doggie face and the happy eyes of our German neighbor’s cute little puppy. It turns out he’s been as interested in hanging out with Noyzi as Noyzi has been interested in hanging out with him! He was trying to wriggle under the fence. I wasn’t able to get the best video, since Bill came out and broke it up before I was able to catch the scene. But later, we let them out again, and Tommi tried again.

Noyzi and Tommi are desperately trying to find a way to be buddies, even though they are separated by a tall fence!

Pretty soon, I reckon Tommi will be too big to even try to go under the fence. And Bill will probably fortify it with something to prevent a breach. It was still pretty cute to see Tommi’s little face. He was very happy to try to come play.

Later, Noyzi came up to me while I was sitting at the table and I started scratching his butt. I have now created a monster. Now, not only does he show up like a silent canine taxman whenever I’m eating something, but he also wants butt rubs. Every time I rub, he drops a ton of hair. But it’s worth it, because look at the big smile on his face in the featured photo.

We’re seeing that silly grin more and more often, since he’s joined us from Kosovo. In four months, he’s gone from being so scared he’d pee on himself whenever Bill took off his jacket or belt, to begging for butt rubs, table scraps, and walks around the neighborhood. Maybe he’s not the best behaved dog around, but he sure is enjoying life. And he’s made this COVID-19 nightmare easier to bear. I have never regretted taking in any of the dogs we’ve rescued… even the tragedy of Jonny last spring ended up doing some good. But Noyzi has been especially rewarding to watch. And I’ve even made a couple new friends in the process.

Tomorrow, Arran will get his stitches out, having had a mast cell tumor removed on his left hind leg. Maybe the vet will be able to tell Bill the results of Noyzi’s DNA test, too.

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restaurant reviews

Burrata brings people together at Momo’s Osteria und Restaurant!

My neighbors have a sense of humor… I spotted this while walking Zane and Arran yesterday.

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.

Spicy olives! And salty olive tapenade…
I liked the bread. It was served warm, which is kind of a rarity over here.

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.

I know… I always seem to go for pasta with salmon. I really like fish.
Bill enjoyed his dish, but I preferred mine. I think the fish is better than German beef.

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…

No pants!

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.

There were dozens of geese last night!
“What’s up, Doc?”

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.

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Partying with Germans!

Last night, the neighbor two doors down from us held a party for the neighborhood.  They planned this gathering several weeks ago.  I found an invite in German with a handwritten note in English asking us to join them.  We were asked to bring something to grill and a salad.  Bill cooked ribs on the grill at home and made a minted cucumber salad, which was really good.  He also brought a few of his homebrews.

Quite a few of our neighbors speak English, so we weren’t without people to talk to. ¬†Bill speaks some German and I understand more and more every day, although I still don’t speak it. ¬†It was nice to hang out with these people we’ve been living among for the past three years.

Bill bonded with the host when he shared his latest homemade beer, a red ale. ¬†The host liked it, although his daughter tried it and I don’t think she was all that impressed. ¬†I have a feeling Bill will be teaching him how to brew beer. ¬†We learned that the host and his wife and kids lived in Boston for a few years, so they are quite familiar with us Yanks.

Unfortunately, Bill got to talking beer with the host while we were heating up the ribs, so they got a bit overdone. ¬†Next time, we’ll bring wurst or something.

It was actually kind of interesting talking to the neighbors, especially the lady who lives next door to us. ¬†I learned that she was a nurse for years. ¬†She doesn’t speak much English, though she speaks more English than I do German. ¬†I learned that she was athletic as a youngster and likes to sing, as I do. ¬†And another neighbor is an opera singer. ¬†I’ve been known to sing a few arias myself.

Having great neighbors is a huge plus. ¬†I haven’t gotten to know the people in our neighborhood, but they’ve been tolerant and respectful of us. ¬†And now that we’ve partied with them, I think the mood will be even better. ¬†It will certainly be better than it was in Texas. ¬†Every day in July, when I look at Facebook’s “On this day” feature, I am reminded of the hell that was July 2014, as we were planning to move to Germany and I was recovering from my dad’s death. ¬†I must admit that it was absolutely worth it to move back here.

This was one of the beers our hosts offered us. ¬†It was an excellent dark beer. ¬†We’ll have to find it sometime.

Bill starts a new job today… well, it’s not a new job in that he’s working in the same office with the same people. ¬†It’s just a new company. ¬†So this week, he and his other colleagues who are joining the new company will be doing all of the administrative stuff that comes with starting a new job. ¬†I will need a new ID card, which is always a pleasure… ¬†NOT. ¬†But at least I’ll get to see Bill during the day sometime this week.

As we were socializing last night, I was reminded of how glad I am we didn’t have to move this year. Germany is really feeling more and more like home, which is sad, since I know I will someday have to leave. ¬†Oh well… for now, we will enjoy our good fortune.

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And finally, how my late beagle Flea helped break down barriers in Germany…

We lost our beagle, Flea, in November 2009, right after we moved back to the States from Germany. ¬†While we lived in Germany, Flea ended up being both a hinderance and a help to us. ¬†Most of the adults didn’t like him because he was really loud and obnoxious. ¬†Kids loved him, though, and he did help break the ice between us and our German neighbors.¬† The featured picture is of MacGregor, who also helped us meet people.¬† Below, is Flea when we still lived in Germany the first time.

Flea

Flea, canine ambassador, helps us break cultural barriers in Germany!

Sep 12, 2008 (Updated May 9, 2012)

The Bottom Line If you live in a German neighborhood, it’s good to have dogs.

It’s hard to believe that on September 17, 2008, my husband Bill and I will have been living near Stuttgart, Germany for an entire year. The time has gone by fast and, after just a little bit of a culture shock and six weeks spent in a hotel, I find that I actually really love living here.

Bill and I have been very lucky since we arrived in Germany. First off, we didn’t get stuck living in a stairwell apartment on any of the local military installations. Bill is an Army officer and, as such, is subject to strict rules regarding housing. The biggest rule is that if there is housing available on a military installation, the servicemember must accept it unless he or she has a very compelling reason not to. As it turned out, when we first arrived in Germany, a lot of the housing was being renovated or was otherwise occupied. That meant that we were allowed to live in German housing on the economy. We ended up finding a huge house in a charming little town about twenty miles south of Stuttgart. The area is beautiful and authentic. Better yet, we have quiet and privacy.

A lot of people prefer the stairwell apartments on post because they are convenient. After all, people who live in those quarters are surrounded by their fellow Americans. Work, school, and shopping are closeby and the area is certainly secure, since armed guards man the entrances. If Bill and I had children, perhaps living on post would have been worthwhile for us. However, living off post and out in the country has turned out to be great… mainly because after ten months, I’m finally starting to get to know and like my German neighbors!

Even though Bill and I first moved into our house in November 2007, it’s only been very recently that we’ve started talking with our next door neighbors. Their household consists of an older couple and their daughter, her husband, and their adorable little two year old boy. When we first moved into our house, I immediately sensed that the family patriarch next door didn’t trust us. He seemed to gaze at our unkempt lawn with contempt, while his lawn and garden were kept pristine. Once, when my dogs were barking at him through the window, I saw him yelling back at them… of course, I couldn’t hear what he was saying because he was in his glass enclosed patio area. Even if I could hear him, I wouldn’t have been able to understand him. But his facial expressions and body language said a lot.

Ironically, it was our dogs that eventually got us talking to each other. My older dog, Flea, is a beagle who sort of behaves like a little canine ambassador. He loves children of all ages and is especially enchanted by little ones. The little boy next door, an adorable tyke with blond curls, is certainly worthy of enchantment. Every time we took Flea outside and he heard the little boy, Flea would start to whine. The little boy seemed equally intrigued by Flea and MacGregor (my other beagle). He would stand at the edge of his lawn and gaze at the dogs as if he longed to pet them.

One day, Flea saw the boy and let out a pained, eager yelp, which made the boy’s parents laugh. Bill took the dogs to the edge of the lawn and starting using his very basic German skills. It turned out the younger couple spoke some English. They chatted for a bit while Flea eyed the two year old, who shyly backed away. But it wasn’t long before the boy finally started to pet Flea, who was as gentle as a lamb.

After that, I noticed the family was a lot friendlier. We would trade “Guten Morgens” in the mornings and wave cordially. Flea would continue to fret whenever the boy was outside, amusing everybody.
One day a few weeks ago, the boy’s mother stood at the edge of our yards with a small bucket and asked me in German if we liked raspberries. Apparently, they’d had a bumper crop! With that invitation, Flea dragged me over to where she was standing, eager to visit with her little boy, who was hiding behind her. She apologized for her English skills, which I thought were pretty darn good. We ended up chatting for awhile and she confessed that her son had developed a fascination for dogs.

A couple of weeks later, when Flea demanded to have a chat with the toddler next door, the boy’s mother said that she and her husband had bought the boy a toy dog. He had named it Flea and slept with it every night! Also, the boy had taken to using the word English word “dog” instead of the German word, “hund”. We both had a big laugh when I asked her if she knew what the word “flea” means in English. I soon found myself describing what a flea is and telling her that Flea’s rescuer had been the one to name him! Her little boy presented me with a little branch full of cherry tomatoes he’d helped his dad grow in their green house. The boy’s mom said she hoped they were sweet enough.

The other night, Bill was working late and I found myself chatting with the neighbors again. The family patriarch had joined us. I was a little worried about how he would react to Flea and MacGregor being nearby, since they had seemed to annoy him when we first moved in. But when Flea went up to him, he seemed happy to give him lots of attention. Apparently, he’d had dogs as a boy, though he was not familiar with beagles… for which I finally learned the German word. I haven’t seen many beagles in Germany and have actually been stopped a couple of times by neighbors who have asked me if Flea and MacGregor are beagles. I get the feeling they aren’t common here, though people seem to think they’re pretty cute. On the other hand, I’m not sure that many Germans understand that beagles bay when they get on a scent. I’ve gotten a lot of surprised and annoyed looks at times…

Since we’ve been in Germany, my dogs have helped me break the ice with my German neighbors all around. I also get the feeling that they provide some entertainment for the local children. A couple of months ago, we were victims of repeated “ding dong ditching”. A local prankster would ring our doorbell in the early evening, then run away. Of course, it would get the dogs going, which I’m sure was the purpose for the prank. We ended up disconnecting all of our doorbells. In a way, that’s not a bad thing. Most of the people who ring our doorbell nowadays are people trying to sell something… including religion.

It’s true that getting our dogs to Germany and taking care of them here has been, in some ways, a challenge. And goodness knows we’d be able to travel more if we didn’t have our dogs to consider. On the other hand, I doubt I’d be getting to know the neighbors if it weren’t for Flea and his affection for kids. I think having our dogs is going to really enrich this whole international experience for us. And MacGregor, as shy as he can be, is even getting in on the act!

 

MacGregor is looking at the camera while Flea looks off to the side…

 

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