Our busy Saturday… good food, Irish whiskey, and clear vision!

Yesterday was an unusually busy Saturday for us. First, we needed to visit Apollo Optik in downtown Wiesbaden to pick up my sample contact lenses and Bill’s new bifocal lenses. The weekly market was going on, and there was a huge circus tent erected for a youth circus that is currently appearing. I would have liked to have strolled around a bit, but we had evening plans to go to a whiskey tasting about 100 meters from our house in Breckenheim. So we focused on getting our eyes straightened out… I still couldn’t resist walked through the market and smelling the street food.

After a somewhat chaotic time at the eyewear shop, we went to Little Italy, one of our favorite local restaurants, for lunch and a potty break. Little Italy is a tiny place, with a lot of tables close together. However, they have really good food– specials that change, and pizza and pasta dishes, as well as a full bar and the best Zabaione in town. I had a wonderful salmon filet with orange sauce, rosemary potatoes, and a vegetable medley of ratatouille. Bill had shrimp with risotto and a similarly composed vegetable medley. As usual, the food was delicious!

After we ate, the wait staff promptly went “into the weeds”, and we had to wait a bit before they took our dessert order. Then, after dessert, we had to wait even longer for them to swing by so Bill could request the check. But overall, it was a really lovely lunch. I had zabaione with ice cream for dessert, and it was heavenly! It’s basically a warm custard made with marsala wine and a dusting of nutmeg. A scoop of vanilla ice cream really made it a treat– one that I probably shouldn’t be eating, but life is short. Bill had a lemon tartufo– basically an ice cream “truffle” that was also very good. Lunch came to just under 100 euros.

We came home to be with the dogs, as Arran is starting to be affected more by lymphoma. We are trying to arrange for chemotherapy for him, but Bill and the vet were unable to connect the other day. We’re hoping to get him in soon for treatment, and that it will keep him going a little bit longer. Unfortunately, Bill has to be away for most of this coming week and the next, but he does plan to come home next weekend. I hate this stage of having animals in my life… but the bright side is, maybe we can eventually bring another dog out of a bad situation and into the sweet life. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

Last night’s Irish whiskey tasting was a lot of fun, even though it was mostly in German. Our soon to be neighbor sat with us with his friend; the neighbor’s wife stayed home with their kids. In a few weeks, they’ll be moving in to our next door neighbor’s apartment. I like them so far. They’re very outgoing and friendly.

We had German style Irish stew last night at the tasting. I say German style, because it was made with beef instead of lamb. I was glad for that, because I don’t like lamb. My first time eating meat from a sheep happened in Armenia. I probably ate mutton, rather than lamb, but the gameyness of it made me feel very sick to my stomach and I almost puked at my host mom’s dinner table. Ever since then, I can’t abide eating lamb or mutton. I don’t mind, since I’d rather not be attracted to more types of meat, anyway… especially that which comes from a baby animal.

The live music at the tasting was supplied by a Breckenheim based Irish folk band called DreyKant. They were pretty good! I also learned last night that one can even purchase gin made in Breckenheim. Wow! This little village has it all!

Bwahahaha! Who says Germans have no sense of humor?

What was especially funny is that this whiskey tasting event took place at the local evangelical church Gemeindehaus– basically the fellowship hall for the big local church! I had never been in there before. I know there are some liberal churches in the United States, but I can’t imagine the church I grew up in allowing such an event. This is one more reason why I really like living in Europe.

The dogs were glad to see us when we got home at about 10:00pm. Arran was even doing a happy dance. Of course, he also left us a present on the rug. ūüôĀ Oh well… I guess I should try to cherish these moments, because they are slipping away. But maybe soon, we can do something for him that will make him feel better for awhile.


The first night of Breckenheim’s very first wine fest!

This year, we seem to be attending so many wine fests! It’s probably on account of COVID-19 restrictions finally going away. October is coming, and there may be new restrictions, based on what the virus does. For now, Germans are having their beloved festivals, and where we live, they’re all about the wine. Remember that we moved to Wiesbaden in late 2018, so we missed the 2018 season. In 2019, it was “normal”, but we were dealing with stress associated with our departure from Stuttgart that put a damper on our spirits. Then came 2020 and 2021, and fests were significantly reduced. In 2022, things have rebounded a lot.

Our little town of Breckenheim is up and coming. We just got a weekly market, which started last week, probably to justify the installation of the new public toilet (which I got to use last night). This week, had a market AND a wine fest. I anticipate that there will be a lot more socializing in our village, and it’s a great thing. I’ve stated more than once how much we have enjoyed how convivial Breckenheim is. It’s a very different, friendly, mostly inclusive vibe here that helps to make up for losing the awesome beauty of the Schwarzwald in our backyard.

Bill came home from his latest business trip yesterday afternoon. He took Arran to the vet, because he’s been a little “off” lately, plus his run ins with the hedgehog in our backyard resulted in his getting fleas. Hedgehog fleas apparently don’t infest dogs and cats like regular fleas do, but they do bite. I noticed Arran had swollen popliteal lymph nodes, too. So he got a fine needle aspirate, antibiotics, and flea meds. One of the fleas was kind enough to jump off of Arran when he was being examined. Bill said the vet, two techs, and he all worked together to corral the nasty beast so it can be studied under a microscope. I’m hoping that whatever has Arran acting odd will turn out to be related to the fleas and isn’t due to cancer. He’s about 14 years old now, and our last three dogs succumbed to cancer. Arran was a little slow this morning, but after he had some breakfast and a walk, he perked up a bit.

The wine fest is going to go on all weekend. We’ll probably go again, because we had so much fun last night. At first, there were a couple of ladies giving us the side eye when they heard us speaking English to another American. Later, our next door neighbor’s mom came over to talk to us. She went over and sat with the ladies, and probably told them we weren’t tourists. Then our landlord bought us a round of wine. And then the young family who is moving to our neighbor’s vacant apartment came over with their kids, and we had a great time chatting with them. I have a feeling they are going to be good friends. They even asked us to carve a jack o’ lantern for Halloween, because they want to celebrate it. I’m happy to do that. I’m not very good at carving pumpkins, though.

Halloween is kind of hit or miss in Germany. One year, during our first stint in Germany, we had people come to our door and we weren’t prepared. Then we weren’t home other years. Bill now picks up candy in case anyone rings the bell, but no one ever does. Looks like this year will be different. This is the same family who brought me a piece of the pretzel the other day. I found out that the mom is half Italian, which explains why she found the Stuttgart area to be less friendly. It’s my experience that Italians are stereotypically a lot warmer– sympatisch— as my Italian friend who lives in Germany would say– than people from Swabia are. At least at first. I’ve found that most Swabians will eventually warm up, once you get to know them. It just usually takes more time than it does up here in Hesse.

We were only going to stay a little while last night, then go home and have dinner, which is why we didn’t try the food vendor’s wares. Instead, we ate a pretzel with Spundek√§s, which wasn’t enough… especially considering how much wine we enjoyed. There were maybe four or five wine stands going, plus live music, plenty of seating, and the new toilet, which we learned last night cost taxpayers 120,000 euros or so… No wonder so many people were upset about it and a news guy from the local radio station was asking for opinions last year! But it is a nice facility, at least for now. And it’s Kostenfrei (free of charge), which really makes it special. ūüėČ I tried the new toilet, but failed to lock it properly. Luckily, I was finished when someone opened the door on me and said, “Entschuldigung!” (excuse me) I suppose I’ll learn the right way to lock the door, now that the village is about to be bustling with events.

Below are some photos from last night’s fun, plus a couple of videos from Bill’s return home.

Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see Bill after his trip. So was I!
Arran had to give his favorite person a hug. I was working on my latest puzzle.


Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part five

Friday morning, we woke up to fog and chilly weather. On Thursday night, I had turned on The Crown, Netflix’s series about the British Royal Family. I had seen all of the episodes, but Bill hadn’t, so we quickly got hooked. While we ate breakfast, we watched another episode of The Crown as we made our plans for our time in Croatia. In retrospect, we should have made more of an effort to make plans before we got to Croatia, but I think COVID and the uncertainty of what might happen at any border, kind of made of reluctant to book ahead.

I knew we definitely wanted to see the lakes, but it wasn’t possible for us to visit on Friday. Visitors can purchase tickets online at least 24 hours in advance or at the gate on the day of the visit– but tickets can only be bought on site if the tickets haven’t already sold out. We had already tried to buy tickets for the Krka River National Park and found them sold out online, which is why we didn’t also visit there during our trip. In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t buy tickets for the other park. I’ll explain why in the next post.

So we decided to take a drive, eat lunch in a restaurant, and have a look around. That wasn’t a bad compromise, as there were a lot of leaves changing color. There are also some sites nearby that, if we had been more curious, we might have stopped and looked at. I was content to enjoy very fresh trout, likely from the lakes, which I could see were brimming with fish.

First, we had to find a restaurant that was open. We stopped at one place, but Bill said he didn’t have any Kuna, which is the Croatian currency. Although Croatia is a very card friendly place, we found our in Wels, Austria that not every place takes credit cards. The Greek restaurant where we ate was a cash only establishment. So Bill decided to look for an ATM, only to find TWO of them at the first restaurant and at the place next to it. We ended up eating at Plitvice Holiday Resort, which had a huge menu, friendly service, and it looked like a lot of lodging options, particularly for active types.

The cheerful blonde waitress spoke excellent English and happily brought us a couple of Croatian beers while we decided on lunch. For me, it was easy… I was having trout. Bill decided to have pork skewers. Unfortunately, both dishes came with mushrooms in the garnishes. I noticed that the Croatians are very fond of mushrooms, which is not fun for a person with mycophobia. The restaurant at the resort got mixed reviews, but we had a good experience there. We also enjoyed watching the Croatians at a neighboring table. The wine was flowing very freely, even though it was early afternoon.

After lunch, we kept driving for awhile, checking out the beautiful scenery and interesting scenes in what was once a socialist country that most Americans couldn’t visit. Having lived in the former Soviet Union, I am kind of fascinated by Eastern Europe, especially when there are still signs of the past. Slovenia doesn’t look at all like it was once part of Yugoslavia. It’s very westernized. But Croatia still has some reminders of the past. As you can see from the photos below, I concentrated mostly on the natural beauty of the region.

It was almost dark when we got back to the house. It was chilly and the wind was blowing. We were almost out of wood, so Bill went over to the caretaker’s house to ask where the wood was. He ended up getting invited over for homemade brandy. He called me, and I went over to the caretaker’s house. We sat outside, drank brandy, and talked. It turned out brandy was the only spirit the caretaker, name of Duje, would drink. He told us he had once been a pilot for Yugoslavia, and had flown all over the world to places in Africa and South America. He met his wife in Belgrade, and they eventually moved to Korenica, where they’ve been since 1968.

Duje showed us some of his hunting trophies, as well as the chickens he keeps. He has a couple of dogs, a small black one that had a house in his front yard, and a larger black one who was penned up near the chickens. We saw the bigger dog frolicking in the field behind the house one morning. I felt a little sorry for him. He seemed lonely.

Duje’s wife, whom he called “Babba”, was adorable. She brought out cookies and made Turkish coffee for us. At one point, Duje shouted for her attention. He muttered that she doesn’t hear so well anymore. But she does make a hell of a fire. After we visited, she came back to the house with us, helped Bill gather wood, and made us another roaring fire in the fireplace! We got back to watching The Crown and enjoyed Croatian wines and snacks, since lunch filled us up. Maybe we should have tried to do more on Friday, but there’s something to be said for resting and soaking up the atmosphere… especially since Saturday was the opposite of restful!

I love how, on our travels, we somehow always manage to meet interesting people. When we lived near Stuttgart, we heard many stories from Greeks who had prestigious careers before they came to Germany and opened Greek restaurants. Our old friend, the late “Mad Scientist” in Entringen, had been an engineer in Canada before love brought him to Germany. And the proprietor at the Greek restaurant at the Sportsplatz in our old town of Jettingen had been a pilot for Lufthansa. He had a Korean wife. Probably met her in his flying days… but who knows?

Anyway, Duje and his wife are now country folks who are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of Croatia. We were glad to meet them and share brandy with them. We probably would not have had that experience at a hotel in a bigger town.

Stay tuned for part six, which will feature beautiful photos… and many complaints about my aging and aching body.


Noyzi makes a friend! Can Tommi come out to play?

Our German neighbor used to have an adorable Labrador Retriever named Levi. Levi had been adopted from Americans who were leaving Germany and couldn’t take him with them. Levi recently got very sick and passed away, so our neighbor acquired a new puppy, name of Tommi. Tommi, like Levi, is a lab, although it looks like she got him from a breeder. I adored Levi, and was very sad when he died. He was a very sweet, friendly, and gentle dog, who always wanted to say hello. He was also well behaved and well trained, and would come over to visit us. Tommi looks a lot like a young version of Levi, and is just as friendly and outgoing. It looks like he’ll be a lot like Levi when he grows up.

A few days ago, I had Arran and Noyzi on their leashes, ready to take a walk. Our neighbor was outside with Tommi, packing up her car. It looked like she was headed to the barn, where she boards her mare. I once tried to have a conversation with her about horses. I spent most of my childhood showing my Appaloosa. But she seemed doubtful that I knew anything about horses and, in fact, even doubted that my horse had been an Appaloosa. The picture I showed her was of us mid flight over a fence and his spotted rump evidently wasn’t so easy to see. When I showed her another photo of us winning reserve champion at a state 4H horse show, then she realized I knew what breed my horse was. In that photo, she could see his spots.

Yes, that’s me when I was a horse person. Rusty, the Appaloosa pony, was my best friend. We won over 200 ribbons , a medal, and several trophies together, but the biggest prize was getting through high school unscathed and many years of companionship.

I think this is a common thing with some Germans. Sometimes they act like they know better about certain things, even when it’s clear they don’t. ūüėČ But rest assured, I did spent years working in barns and taking care of horses and, at least in those days, I knew what I was doing. Someday, when we settle down, I would love to have a horse in my life again.

Anyway… I think our neighbor distrusts Arran, mainly because Arran’s a bit high strung and bossy. When we first moved to the neighborhood, he didn’t seem as friendly as our other dog, Zane, was. Zane was a beagle with a touch of lab in him. He never met a stranger. Arran is a beagle with, I think, a healthy portion of German shorthaired pointer, and possibly a touch of coonhound. He’s very sweet, but kind of cranky and emotional.

Arran showing off his junk.

Noyzi, by contrast, is very nervous around people he doesn’t know, especially men. But he LOVES other dogs! He’s only about two years old, and still wants to play. Arran will play, but Arran is eleven and doesn’t have the stamina he once had. And he’s only now, after three months, starting to come around to liking Noyzi at all. Consequently, when Noyzi and Tommi first touched noses, I think Noyzi fell in love.

A couple of days later, Bill took the boys out for a walk. The neighbor was outside with Tommi again, and he came over to greet Arran and Noyzi. All three of them started trying to play. Bill had Arran on a long Flexi-lead tape leash, while Noyzi was in a harness and two regular nylon webbing leashes. Tommi was off lead. Bill said it was clear Noyzi liked Tommi and wanted to play some more. After their walk, he kept looking over at the neighbor’s house, eagerly searching for his new friend.

Noyzi loves snow, too.

As you can see in the video, he now knows Tommi’s scent and seems to want to leap the fence to get to him. I think he’s more likely to try to climb the fence than jump it, and he’s big enough that I think it’s possible he could clear his obstacle. However, I have not seen any indication that Noyzi wants to run away from us. He doesn’t charge the door when the doorbell rings, and he seems very attached to me… and to his bed and food.

We may have to find him a younger playmate, though. It’s so nice to see Noyzi acting more like a regular, goofy, funny dog. He’s really settling into his life in Germany, and making life during a pandemic a lot more interesting and fulfilling. I hope someday, he and Tommi can have some fun. If he was a human, I think he’d be knocking on the door, asking our neighbor if Tommi can come out to play!


Noyzi’s savior… a sunflower planted in the right place

By savior, I mean the man who saved Noyzi’s life when he was unceremoniously dumped on a street in Pristina one day in 2018. Noyzi’s very first rescuer is a young man named Florent who has a habit of taking care of street dogs. There are many homeless dogs in Kosovo, and a lot of people don’t like them. So Florent does what he can to help them. He gets some help from others who like dogs, like my American friend Meg, who was responsible for bringing Noyzi into our lives. Meg used to live in Kosovo and has many contacts in the countries that were once collectively known as Yugoslavia.

Kosovo’s population is mostly Muslim. On the whole, the Muslim culture doesn’t value canine companionship. There are also many poor people living in Kosovo. Many of the dogs that have value in Kosovo are working dogs, rather than pets. At the same time, spaying and neutering pets is not a popular practice.

Just last week, someone dumped three female puppies near Florent’s house. Meg has told me it’s because females get pregnant and people don’t want to deal with pregnant dogs. I saw a picture of the female puppies that were rescued in another part of Pristina last week. They look like could be Noyzi’s sisters, and they are just as young and tiny as he was when he was found… about four weeks old. They’re lucky they were simply dumped. I read a horrifying account of what regularly happens in nearby Albania, when it’s time to cull street dogs. A woman from New Zealand who lives in Albania rescued a street dog and blogged about it, as well as the plight of beautiful Albanian dogs who roam the street and are horribly abused or killed in very inhumane ways. Parvo virus is also a constant threat to puppies in Kosovo.

This is Noyzi’s namesake!

So there I was last night, newly friends with Florent, and he was telling me about Noyzi, and how he got his name. Kosovo is a “brother nation” to Albania. The people who live there are mostly ethnically Albanian and speak Albanian. There is a rapper in Albania whose name is Noizy. Florent says he likes Noizy’s music, and the dog, Noyzi, was kind of noisy when he was found. He’s not very noisy anymore. I did change the spelling of Noyzi’s name for a couple of reasons. First off, I’m a spelling nerd, and kept wanting to write Noisy instead of Noizy. And secondly, on his paperwork, it’s spelled Noyzi. I figured it would be easier to keep it spelled as it is on his documents. I had originally meant to change Noyzi’s name, but I could not think of an appropriate new name for him. Now that I know that the name has a connection to his homeland, I’m glad we kept it.

Around the time we first got Noyzi, Meg told me a bit about how she came to take him into her rescue. I wrote about that on my original blog. It was back in October, just a few days after we finally had him in our home, when I was thinking about how the stars aligned for us to have this dog from Kosovo in our family. We’d been waiting a long time for a new dog to come into our lives after we lost our sweet beagle, Zane, on August 31, 2019. We tried to adopt another beagle in March of 2020, but that experience ended in senseless tragedy. About a month later, April of last year, I saw Noyzi’s picture for the first time. There was something about his face that touched my heart. I wanted to know more about him. Before I knew it, I was agreeing to adopt him.

It took six months until we were finally able to get Noyzi and bring him home. That adventure, which happened in early October, involved going to Slovenia to pick him up. That was the last time I left our neighborhood… and the last time I was in a car. COVID-19 has really altered my lifestyle in so many ways. A year ago, we were planning trips to France. Now, we’re waiting until it’s safe to travel… and instead of writing about our adventures in other countries, I’m writing about this big, sweet, skittish, and shy dog from a country not everyone even recognizes. And I literally haven’t been anywhere in months since we brought him home. Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t bother me that much.

Last night, while many of my friends and loved ones were reeling from the drama happening in our country, I was sitting in Germany, and Florent was telling me about what it’s like to live in Kosovo. According to Florent, Kosovo is kind of like a “jail”, which is only good for people who are wealthy or politically affiliated. Maybe Donald Trump ought to look into moving there, since it seems like no one else wants him. On the other hand, Florent makes it sound like Kosovo has more than enough problems. I got the sense that maybe he’d like to move somewhere else. I understand how that feels. I was ready to leave the United States in 2014, and that was before I knew what was on the horizon.

Florent shared a couple of videos of the tiny puppy version of Noyzi, greedily eating kibble and yogurt. I can see that he’s always loved food, although it took him awhile to learn the concept of treats and “people food” in our house. He will let Bill pet him and give him a treat, but only if he’s in his bed. The bed seems to be his safe zone, and he stays there almost all the time. But he will come to me for treats and snacks, and to be walked. He loves taking walks, though I had to teach him about leashes and show him that they aren’t meant to hurt him. He will let Bill walk him, but only if I put the harness on him. He won’t let Bill do it.

Although his savior was a man, Noyzi doesn’t like men. When he sees male strangers on the street, he panics, and will backpedal or try to bolt. When we first got Noyzi, he used to get so scared that he’d pee involuntarily. Some things would literally scare the piss out of him. That behavior has stopped, which is a blessing. However, I have never needed to house train him. He naturally goes outside to do his business. Noyzi also doesn’t like sudden movements or noises. It’s like he has PTSD. And yet he’s so sweet and basically well-behaved. He doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body. He keeps himself clean, and even takes care of the dog toys, “saving” them from our other dog, Arran, who likes to destroy them. Noyzi will grab them when Arran isn’t looking and stack them in his bed, like they’re his friend.

Noyzi has been acting more like a normal dog lately. He loves to run around the yard, especially before and after a dump or a walk. He loves being brushed, and although he’s so far only had one bath, he does enjoy being bathed. Once he realized that warm water feels good and being scrubbed is a pleasant experience, he was happy to sit in the shower and get clean. Florent told me that street dogs are very smart. They know what it’s like to have no food or water or love… so when they find a home, they adapt fast. Florent also told me that he had rescued a dog that ended up going to one of our soon to be President Joe Biden’s friends. I can believe it, since there are Americans who work in Kosovo. It wouldn’t surprise me if one of them, working in government service, took one of Florent’s rescues.

Our conversation went on for about an hour or so, and then Florent said something that was very profound to me. He told me that he rescues dogs because “they are angels, and God is testing us with them. And if we help them, God will love us.” I remember being a senior in high school, when the Eastern Bloc was falling apart. My government teacher, Mr. Jim Eccleston, was talking about the fall of the Iron Curtain, and described Albania as the “Iron Lampshade”, since all of the other countries were opening up and Albania was the one holdout. At one time, it was the site of the harshest and most repressive Communist regime in Europe. When I lived in Armenia in the 1990s, there was a violent uprising in Albania that became the Albanian Civil War. The Peace Corps program there was suspended and the Volunteers had to be evacuated. They later reopened the program. I have always been curious about Albania, and I’ve seen that parts of it are very beautiful. I would like to visit sometime… but hopefully at a time when the street dog problem is handled more humanely.

Florent says Kosovo isn’t such a great place right now. A lot of people don’t have anywhere to go. He described himself as “a sunflower planted in the wrong place”. But then he told me about how he and Meg once rescued six puppies stuck in a hole at a train station. One by one, they pulled them out… and if Florent hadn’t been there with Meg, those puppies would not have survived. I can’t help but think that this young man, who obviously has faith in God and a love for animals, is a sunflower planted in the right place. He brings light, beauty, hope, and humanity to dogs who just want to find loving homes. They just want a safe, warm, dry place to sleep, enough food, walks in the sun, and someone to shower them with love in the form of kind words, loving pets, and treats. And every time one of Florent’s dogs finds a new home, the sunflowers are planted anew… in Germany or the United States, or Poland… or any of the other places where they find themselves with people who want them and are committed to loving them forever.

An example of the good work Florent has done.

It’s been such a privilege to have Noyzi in our lives, especially during this endless pandemic. He’s given us something to focus on besides all of the bad stuff. And every day, he surprises us with something new and adorable. By saving Noyzi’s life, Florent gave us an amazing gift… and a permanent bond to a country where there are still many sunflowers waiting to be harvested. Florent may not know it, but what he‚Äôs done has had ripple effects way beyond Kosovo.


Our little Adventmarkt!

A year ago, Bill and I spent December 1st moving into what was our new home in Wiesbaden. He was recovering from cleaning our old house in Jettingen, which turned out to be a complete waste of time, since our former landlady was determined to find and charge us for every little defect, whether or not we were responsible for it. In retrospect, I wish we had just broom swept the place, as required by our lease, and been done with it. Trying to clean that house to her impossible standards was a waste of energy that took away from the energy we needed to set up our new home.

Anyway, because we were in the process of moving, we never did make it down the hill to Breckenheim’s adorable little Adventmarkt, which goes on for just one day every year. They had it last night, so we went down for a couple of glasses of Gluhwein. I got some pictures. Most of the booths were for food and mulled wine, as far as I could tell. They had waffles, crepes, and I could see the Breckenheimer bikers were selling brats off the grill. They were the ones who threw the awesome rock festival over the summer.

I love how community minded Breckenheim is. This is a community that does a lot of neighborhood events and I can see that the neighbors are friendly and social and like to do stuff together. I experienced this a lot less when we lived in the Stuttgart area. They had events, but they weren’t necessarily neighborhood events. It was also a lot harder to meet people down there because it seemed like the general mood was more reserved. I did make friends in the Stuttgart area, but it usually took more time. A lot of times, our dogs facilitated the meetings, too.

The lady who owned the dog, Sammy, was also working the Gluhwein stand. She noticed Bill’s German accent wasn’t native and quickly figured out we are English speakers. It turned out she lived in the United States for awhile and worked for Seagram, the beverage company. She came out and had a lovely chat with us on topics ranging from The Rolling Stones to Donald Trump. I found myself apologizing for our president, who is not popular over here for obvious reasons. But Germans have a laugh about that, since Trump’s origins in Kallstadt are not far from where we’re living now. Some of Trump’s poor extended relatives in Germany have been treated badly because he’s a distant relative.

Our new acquaintance from last night had plenty of opinions about American politics, which she expressed in excellent English, as well as a funny story about visiting the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky and being shocked that it was in a dry town. We chuckled and told her that Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee is also in a dry town, and that folks who live there have to bring in their booze from a neighboring town that doesn’t ban alcohol.

When we told our new acquaintance we used to live in Swabia, she had a good laugh about the dialect, which even a lot of Germans don’t understand, and the stereotypes about people from Stuttgart. She said they are very good at business, since they’re very detail oriented and hate to spend money. I suppose I can agree with that, although I don’t know that being that way always leads to good business sense. Sometimes, both of those qualities are alienating and can get in the way of business. The trick is knowing when to be that way and when to lighten up and go with the flow. Sometimes a person can be “penny wise and pound foolish”.

Sammy, the dog, was incredibly adorable. His owner told us that he doesn’t like little kids and she worries that he’ll bite them. I noticed Sammy started barking whenever kids ran past him, but he was utterly charmed by the two fluffy furball puppies another family brought. I wish I had Arran with me, but he’s at the Hundepension Birkenhof today, because Bill and I have to go to Landstuhl and spend the night. Bill is having routine tests done at the hospital and I am the designated driver, because he will be under the influence of sedatives. God help us. At least we have a Volvo!

We headed back to the house when it became clear that my kidneys are in good working order. I suppose we could have gone back to the festivities and hung around for the appearance of Santa… Maybe if we’re still here next year, we’ll do that, if it’s not too cold. Last night’s weather was chilly, but not too unpleasant, but you never know in Germany. A few years ago, we had snow on December 1st. But then, that was down in Stuttgart, where things can be chillier in more ways than one!


Wine with a new friend at the Breitenholzer Weinfest…

Yesterday, Bill and I met up with one of Bill’s co-workers and the three of us went to the annual Breitenholzer Weinfest. ¬†We would not have known about the wine festival had Bill’s co-worker, Travis, not stumbled across it last year with his wife. ¬†Travis told Bill about how a winemaking family in Breitenholz was serving and selling their wine during their yearly Weinfest, which happens the last weekend of every August.

Breitenholz is located in Ammerbuch, a county just south of Herrenberg. ¬†Bill and I lived in Ammerbuch the first time we lived in this area, from 2007 until 2009. ¬†It holds a special place in our hearts, since that was where we first experienced life in Baden-W√ľrttemberg together. ¬†Bill lived in Bavaria in the late 1980s, well before he knew me, and I had visited the Rhein and Bavaria before we met. ¬†But BW was a new place for both of us during our first tour here. ¬†We lived about two villages south of Breitenholz when we were here the first time, in a town called Pf√§ffingen.

Ammerbuch is so beautiful! ¬†It’s always nice to visit our old stomping grounds.

Travis had asked Bill if we’d like to accompany him to the wine tasting, since his wife is out of town this weekend. ¬†Bill said yes, although there was a period yesterday during which we wondered if the weather was going to hold for us. ¬†If you live in the Stuttgart area, you may have noticed that the weather suddenly got rainy and chilly yesterday. ¬†I also wasn’t feeling very well. ¬†Fortunately, wine was a good cure for what ailed me and the weather didn’t turn out to be so bad. ¬†We stayed several hours at the fest, enjoying conversation, locally produced wines, light food, and fellowship with wine loving Germans.

Below are some pictures from yesterday’s fun, which continues today, starting at 10:00am.

First thing’s first. ¬†At an event like a Weinfest, proper facilities are a must.

We arrived just before things got into full swing.  You can either go up to the counter and self serve, or wait for one of the young women to wait on you.  Most of the people working yesterday spoke excellent English, but were very willing to let Bill and Travis practice their German.

A small “wine trail”, where one can see the process of making these local wines.

The price list.  There were four wines offered yesterday, all of which I managed to try.  They also had snacks and sandwiches.

Smoking is also allowed.

An inviting road into the orchards.

Travis talked Bill into trying “Schmalzbrot”, which is basically bread smeared with bacon grease and topped with dried onions. ¬†I tasted it myself and enjoyed it, although it’s not the kind of thing my stomach can take too often. ¬†

The men chat while I busied myself with vino and people watching.  A family with two adorable little kids was sitting next to me.  I was amazed by their boy, maybe aged three, who was climbing up and down the tentpole like a little monkey.  He had very impressive upper body strength!

This is a fest for friends.  We saw lots of people gathering, enjoying the food, wine, and fellowship with their neighbors.  It was really kind of cool to be a part of it.

As we were leaving, Bill and Travis decided to buy some wines.

Lots of people were enjoying the fest yesterday, despite the showers and clouds in the sky.  There are more tables behind the tents, too.

And there’s something for the kids to do while the adults enjoy the wines or non alcoholic beverages, like coffee and Apfelschorle.


We were blessed with beautiful skies as the sun was starting to set.

The guys and their haul.

There’s plenty of free parking. ¬†You just have to walk up a slight hill to find the festival.

Germany is so pretty.


As I mentioned before, the fest continues today, starting at 10:00am.  If you are in the area and inclined to try some rustic German wines, I highly recommend visiting.


A four hour birthday meal and new friends at Osteria da Gino in Nagold…

Yesterday was my birthday. ¬†As is our custom on my birthday, Bill and I went out to eat. ¬†Originally, we planned to dine in Stuttgart because I had to go to the dental lab. ¬†I’m in the process of getting a dental implant and we’re now in the end stages. ¬†We went to the dental lab so they could determine what color the new tooth should be and get photos of my mouth. ¬†I thought maybe when we were done, we could find a place in Stuttgart to celebrate birthday #44.

I took a photo of the female form on display at the dental lab… ¬†I guess they don’t just do teeth there. ¬†ūüėČ

Bill decided against the Stuttgart plan and booked us a table at Osteria da Gino in Nagold. ¬†I have written about this restaurant several times and continue to write about it because every time we go, we have a great experience. ¬†Gino is a wonderful host who is very friendly and engaging. ¬†He serves fantastic food. ¬†Bill knew he wouldn’t disappoint me on my birthday. ¬†Besides that, the restaurant is very close to where we live and getting to and from there lacks the logistical hassles that can come from dining in Stuttgart.

One of my favorite beers, Prairie Bomb!  This is an American craft beer from Oklahoma that I ordered from Saveur Biere.  I enjoyed this before we went to Nagold for dinner. 

So off we went last night, arriving just in time for our 7:00pm reservation. ¬†We were warmly greeted by Gino, who was sporting a conspicuous bandage on his right hand and thumb. ¬†He somehow managed to cut it. ¬†I was relieved to see that he still had all his digits! ¬†Last night, Gino was offering seating inside and outside. ¬†It was the first time we’d ever been to his restaurant and had a choice of venues. ¬†We ate inside because it looked like it was going to rain. ¬†He and his wife showed us to our table, a six top that we knew we’d end up sharing.

A blurry obligatory shot of Bill.  I must have taken this in a hurry!

The concept of table sharing at a restaurant can be strange for Americans. ¬†We’re used to having our own space. ¬†Here in Europe, where space can be a premium, it can be awkward to share a table with strangers. ¬†Fortunately, last night, we were seated with people who ended up making my birthday more special and memorable.

A few minutes after we sat down, another couple were seated at our table. ¬†I was confused at first, since they started speaking German with Gino, then switched to French. ¬†Then, once they realized we were Americans, they spoke English. ¬†It turned out the husband was French and the wife was German and hails from the Black Forest. ¬†She and her husband had come from Paris to visit her family and were staying in Nagold. ¬†Last night was their first visit to Gino’s after having found it favorably reviewed on Trip Advisor. ¬†I think after last night’s meal, they’ll be back.

Birthday bubbly!

After bringing us a round of prosecco, Gino brought out the usual antipasti, which immediately impressed our new friends from France. ¬†We got to talking after Gino scolded me for not knowing any languages except English. ¬†I corrected him by telling him I speak Armenian (which isn’t so useful outside of the country or areas where Armenians are concentrated). ¬†I also speak some Spanish, though lately when I try to speak it, it comes out Armenian. ¬†It turned out the male half of the couple dining with us had been to Armenia and we were talking about how well the French and Armenians get along. ¬†That segued into an evening of stimulating conversation!

Huge antipasti… Grilled vegetables, cheese, salami, orange and fennel salad, olives… and bread, of course!

I had to take a special photo of the tuna carpaccio… ¬†This stuff is absolutely sinful.

We explained to the other couple that we’d been to Gino’s restaurant several times. ¬†He’s never once brought us a menu, although I have seen one posted on the wall outside and in the dining room itself. ¬†We are always content to let Gino bring us whatever’s available. ¬†Although you can order as many or few courses as you want, we always end up eating four courses when we visit Gino because it’s that good! ¬†Don’t go there looking for pizza. ¬†Gino doesn’t make pizza, but he does have a small deli where you can purchase food to go or a bottle of wine.

Bill enjoyed truffles and angel hair pasta… ¬†He loved it, though I lead a truffle free lifestyle.

I had spaghetti.  This was delicious!  The sauce was so fresh and perfectly seasoned that it almost defies description.  

This is the second time Bill and I have gone to Gino’s and wound up making new friends. ¬†Because his indoor dining room has limited seating, it’s very common to have to share a table if you’re dining inside. ¬†The last time we were there, we ended up dining with fellow Americans who had read my blog and decided to try Gino’s hospitality. ¬†Last night, Gino had many French people in attendance. ¬†Another large group of French speakers joined us about an hour after we sat down. ¬†Gino handled it all with his usual aplomb. ¬†I really don’t know if he speaks French, but he was charming everyone equally. ¬†In fact, because he was so friendly and charming, there was a very long pause between the pasta course and the second course.

Our new friends skipped the pasta. ¬†I enjoyed watching them enjoy the second course. ¬†He had osso bucco and she had the fish, John Dory filet. ¬†It was really fun to see them reacting the same way our American friends Sarah and Mike did when they ate with us at Gino’s back in December. ¬†It was a good thing that we were getting along so well with the other couple at our table. ¬†The conversation made waiting for the main course a lot more enjoyable. ¬†We talked about everything from travel in Africa to American politics. ¬†Amazing, considering we had only known each other a couple of hours!

Bill and I both had the fish last night, served with very fresh white asparagus and a shrimp.


It was getting close to 11:00pm when Bill and I finally shared dessert…

A panoply of Italian sweets!  Strawberries, panna cotta, chocolate cake, and ice cream!  The total damage for four courses for two was about 179 euros.  Gino will take credit cards, though we paid in cash.


It was finally time to call it a night and we exchanged cards with our newfound friends. ¬†If we ever make it to Versailles, they have promised to show us the sights! ¬†I love living in Europe. ¬†You never know what will happen or who you’ll meet. ¬†That being said, I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes. ¬†I hope our new friends didn’t think I was too much of a chatterbox!

On Thursday of this week, Bill and I will venture to Talblick, a hotel and restaurant in Wildberg.  We have been trying to get reservations at their gourmet restaurant for months, so I am excited to finally get to try it out.  Stay tuned for a review!


Marching into spring at Tommi’s Bistro!

Last night Bill and I went to Tommi’s Bistro for their monthly live jam.  We hadn’t been planning to go until we visited them last Friday and caught the concert they hosted.  Our favorite waitress, Dani, was there and encouraged us to come see her last night.  We made a late reservation and showed up at about 7:00pm, once again crashing a table with a couple of Germans.   They turned out to be colleagues.  One of them brought a bass guitar with him.

As we were getting acquainted, more people showed up.  Last night’s jam session was very well attended.  By 8:00, the place was packed.  I had my usual steak, though they brought me a bigger one than I ordered.  It was delicious, though it took effort to finish it.  Bill had one of their humongous salads with bits of steak in it.  The uniform jacket he’s been trying to fit into now fits again, but he’s trying to maintain it until our Scottish cruise is over.

Bill’s huge steak salad.  It was very good, though one of our German companions made a sarcastic crack about how “healthy” it was.


The usual band leader, Vitek Spacek, was there, as well as his usual bandmates.  They got things started with a couple of tunes, then invited a band called Bullshit to the stage.  They played four numbers I didn’t necessarily recognize.  They reminded me a bit of AC/DC and were pretty impressive.  I liked them just for their name!

The band starts to warm up.

Bullshit takes the stage.

More jamming.

This guy did a fine rendition of “Dust In The Wind”.

The guy playing bass guitar was sitting with us last night.  He was pretty good!


I caught a very short clip of their performance…  Next time, I’ll get more.

Despite Bill’s exhaustion, we stayed until the bitter end.  I even took the stage myself!  I sang “Summertime”, a song I used to sing all the time, but quit doing because the words are forever burned on my brain.  I was reminded to do it again the other day when a former colleague from my days as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia reminded me that I used to sing “Summertime” a lot back then.  Since so many of us are sick of German winter weather, I figured I’d do a “rain dance”.  It went off without a hitch!  We have sun this morning, so maybe it worked and we’ll be done with the snow until next year.  Edited to add…  I wrote too soon.  The clouds are back!


This isn’t “Summertime”, but it’s kind of the sound we went for last night.

On March 19th, Tommi’s is hosting a Scottish folk band called Tweed.  If we weren’t going to be in Scotland that day, we would definitely be attending.   All of the music we’ve heard at Tommi’s has been pretty good and I’m sure Tweed will put on a great show!


The bulimic elf…

Last night, Bill and I visited some new local friends who were having a cookout.  There was much fun and merriment going on… people were mingling and getting to know each other.  The socializing was lubricated somewhat with alcoholic beverages.

One gentleman in attendance last night is Irish and clearly enjoys creating and making mixed alcoholic drinks.  He created one beverage, which he named after himself.  I was sitting outside drinking a beer when a new friend offered me a taste.  Somehow, I misunderstood the name of the drink.  What she’d called it didn’t sound very appetizing to me, so I passed on trying the cocktail.

My friend persisted in her encouragement.  Again, I demurred, owing to the name of the drink, which just sounded very unpleasant to me.

She tried again and I said, “Why would I want to drink something called The Bulimic Elf?!”

That made everyone bust out laughing because that was definitely not what the drink was called…  I wonder what a graphic representation of a bulimic elf would be…  Something like this?

Does this make you want to drink?
Or how about this?

I have an ex boyfriend from my high school years who often told me I reminded him of an elf.  He’s an artist and used to draw depictions of me with elfin features.  If a cocktail existed that made me puke rainbows, maybe I’d be persuaded to drink it.  On the other hand, I could probably be persuaded even if no puking is involved.  I do take note of the names of things, though.

We all had a great time last night.  I’m always glad when I can hang out with friends offline.  I’m not sure what we’ll do today.  Unfortunately, I’m not really feeling like a long hike uphill.  I may just stay in and watch pornographic vomiting elves on YouTube.