Baden-Württemberg, Sundays

Stuttgart, Germany… it’s as lovely as ever in the springtime… part four

Sunday morning, we woke up to more wind and rain. Naturally, that made me decide it was perfect weather for visiting Hohenzollern Castle. Actually, we took some time to decide where to go. I checked the Ausflugstipps für Baden-Württemberg Facebook page again, and saw a couple of possibilities. But I don’t think we felt like driving too far afield, and Hohenzollern is not that far from Stuttgart. It’s near a town called Hechingen, which is just south of Tübingen, a really cool college town Bill and I know very well.

We had been to Hohenzollern before, back in the spring of 2008. Bill’s coworkers at the time had recommended it, so we went there and were mightily impressed by the castle’s beauty and imposing presence on top of a mountain. I remember on that trip, we stopped at the cheesy tourist restaurant near the castle. It was obviously intended for busses, as there was a large parking lot that could accommodate them. On that 2008 trip, we ate some pretty terrible German style Mexican food, served in virtual “troughs”. Well, it probably wasn’t as bad as I remember it, but it was definitely missing something in the translation.

This time, we skipped the tourist trap and drove up to the large parking lot near the castle. Bill used the free WC, and bought our tickets. As of April 1, summer tickets will be available, which means the museum will be open. But, when we visited on March 26th, it was still considered “winter”, which meant we could only visit the grounds. Our tickets were seven euros each. Summer tickets are 22 euros, but include entry to the museum. I seem to remember that when we visited the first time– also in early spring– we had a choice of getting a ticket for just the grounds or one that included the museum/tour. Since we were financially poorer, and didn’t speak German and/or understood a lot less back then, we got the cheap tickets and stuck to the grounds. Now, we would opt for the museum/tour tickets.

One other thing we did differently this time was choosing NOT to walk up the steep path to the castle. This time, we took the shuttle bus, which was seven euros round trip. I gotta say, after having had the mountain goat like experience of climbing the hill, the shuttle bus is so worth it. Especially when the weather is as crazy as it was on March 26th. Bill and I are probably still capable of walking up the mountain, but I remembered it to be pretty exhausting when I was 35 years old. I’m 50 now, and only have so many spoons. 😉

The weather on top of Hohenzollern can be pretty wild. I remember writing about our visit in 2008 and advising visitors to make sure to bring a jacket, unless it’s just the dead of summer… and even then, it’s not a bad idea to have one. I don’t think I brought a jacket during our first visit, and I got pretty cold. This time, I was better dressed, but we experienced quite an array of weather conditions during our visit– everything from rain to wind to sun… and it was noticeably chillier up there, too.

I’m pretty sure our visit in 2008 must have happened in April, because I distinctly remember having a beer in the Biergarten, which wasn’t open during our most recent visit. We did visit the restaurant in the castle and had a nice lunch. I had very hearty Maultaschen, while Bill had the veggie bowl, which was attractive, but kind of bland. I liked my dish a lot, but I didn’t really need food again for the rest of the day! 😉

The current incarnation of Hohenzollern is the third. The castle as it is now was built in the 19th century, so it’s pretty modern as castles go. However, there’s been a castle on Mount Hohenzollern since the 11th century. It’s currently privately owned by the House of Hohenzollern, “with two-thirds belonging to the Brandenburg-Prussian branch, and the balance to the Swabian branch.” Family members still occasionally stay in the castle, with each branch flying their respective flags whenever either is there.

I would like to go back to Hohenzollern again sometime and visit the museum. I actually like this castle more than the much touted and unfinished Neuschwanstein, built by Mad King Ludwig. Hohenzollern is beautiful, and offers impressive views of the surrounding terrain. I’m not sure, but I think Bill and I could even spot the elevator test tower near Rottweil, which we visited in 2018.

I was surprised to see a number of people bringing their dogs to the castle. It’s totally allowed, as long as the dogs stay on their leashes. I’m guessing they walked up the mountain, too. I know I’m no paragon of fitness, but that walk up the mountain is not for slouches. I seem to remember there was a sign after the first stretch near a bus stop, for those who changed their minds and wanted the bus. But maybe they just walked along the road, which takes longer, but isn’t as steep. I remember we walked down the road when we came back down from the castle in 2008. In 2023, we were happy to take the bus.

Here are some photos…

The below photos were taken in 2008. Check out the difference! I kind of wish I’d brought my digital camera. It looks to me like cameras rather than phones produce pictures that look less computer generated.

We went to the gift shop on the way out of the castle, because I saw some souvenirs I thought Bill’s grandchildren might like. We bought a wooden sword and shield for the eldest, a fairy tale princess dress for the middle, and a stuffed hedgehog for the baby. I had to laugh when I noticed the princess dress was made in Canada. It’s now going to be shipped to Utah. I also bought a new jigsaw puzzle for myself.

After our visit to the castle, we decided to drive to Tübingen, as it’s always a good time. However, when we got to our usual parking garage, it was closed! It looked like they were renovating it. So we decided to go to Panzer for. a pee break and to see if the rug guy was there. I wanted to buy a new rug to replace the one Arran repeatedly used as a toilet.

We were in luck! The rug guy was there– but he didn’t have the rug I wanted to replace. We chose a different one. As the guy was folding it up for us, I said “I think we might need the bigger version of that rug.” Bill said he thought I was mistaken… Well, it turned out I was right, so the new rug went in the dining room instead of the living room. But, the rug guy said he was coming to Wiesbaden in three weeks, so maybe we’ll try again then.

We also ran into one of Bill’s old work colleagues from Stuttgart. And… while we were rug shopping, Mother Nature treated us to a nice hail storm! March weather in Germany is absolutely batshit nuts!

After we bought our new rug, which is currently clashing in the dining room, we went back to the hotel and enjoyed another evening of libations. I ended up having a chicken Caesar salad for dinner. Bill had a cheese course. We tried several local wines, too… Below are some miscellaneous iPad photos I took, starting with breakfast. Our poor waitress forgot to put in our orders for egg dishes! Luckily, they were worth the wait. All in all, I’d say Sunday was a great day.


Welcome back to Stuttgart… part 1– lunch at Mikomi in Vaihingen and rug shopping

About six months ago, Bill and I moved from the Stuttgart area to Wiesbaden.  We’ve lived in the Stuttgart area twice during our marriage– from 2007-09 and 2014-2018.  It has the distinction of being the place where we’ve, so far, spent the most time during our married life, followed closely by the D.C. area.  It’s starting to feel a little like home.

We wouldn’t ordinarily go to Stuttgart for a fun trip, especially since we just left there a few months ago.  On the other hand, it’s absolutely possible to have a lot of fun in Stuttgart, especially if you know where to go.  We needed to go down there for both business and pleasure.

On a whim, back in February 2018, I bought tickets to Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” concert, which took place last night at the Hans-Schleyer Halle in Bad Cannstatt.  It was the first of a string of tickets I’ve bought for concerts in 2018 and 2019.  I think I’m trying to make up for all of the years I didn’t have enough money to go to shows.  That, and a lot of my favorite artists are retiring and this is the last chance to see them.

I was really looking forward to last night’s concert.  Not only did I buy the tickets over a year ago, I actually had to wait a year to get them.  Although I have loved Elton’s music ever since I was a tiny child many years ago, this was the first time I had ever seen him perform live.  I’m glad we made it to the show.  Last night, I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen.  More on that later.

We also needed to go see Dr. Blair, dentist extraordinaire, to get our teeth cleaned.  I know we should probably find a dentist in Wiesbaden, but we really like Dr. Blair.  He’s the best dentist either of us have ever seen.  Besides, there’s every chance we’ll one day wind up living near Stuttgart again.

I had a bunch of wine corks to unload to a lady in the food and wine group I run on Facebook.  I always like to offer them to crafters before recycling them.  I also wanted to buy some more rugs for our house with the brand new floors.

The spring fest was also going on, and while I’m probably getting too old for festing, we decided we’d try to hit that, too.

On Thursday, May 9th, we loaded up our two dogs, Zane and Arran, and took off for Stuttgart.  On a good day, it takes about two and a half hours to get from Wiesbaden to Stuttgart.  Thursday wasn’t a good day.  The weather was crappy and there was a lot of traffic.  It ended up taking us about four hours, and we were racing against the clock, because Max at Dog Holiday closes his doors at noon to have lunch.  He’s pretty strict about time and Bill likes to be respectful of other people’s time, so he was getting pretty stressed out as we hit Stau after Stau.  There’s a good reason Stuttgart is often referred to as “STAUgart.  Traffic is often a nightmare there.  I had forgotten how bad it is, even though we haven’t been gone that long.

I really haven’t missed this shit.

After we dropped off the dogs at Max’s, we headed for the Schwaben Galerie, the mall every American affiliated with the U.S. military gets to know intimately.  We were hoping to find lunch before we went to Panzer to purchase our rugs.  Once again, I was feeling whimsical as we decided where we were going to eat.  I went to see if the pseudo Mexican restaurant “Chilli’s” was still there.  I reviewed it once in 2016, right after it took over the space from the defunct Neuer Ochsen restaurant that was there for years prior.  I had liked the Neuer Ochsen and was sad to see that it was supplanted by a pseudo German Mexican place.  If I recall correctly, I didn’t hate our meal at Chilli’s, but it definitely wasn’t authentic Mexican food.

As I turned the corner, I noticed that Chilli’s was gone.  In its place is a new sushi restaurant and grill called Mikomi.  Bill and I love sushi, so we decided to stop in and see if the new place was any good.

I learned that this restaurant has only been open for about a month.


A very pleasant Asian lady invited us to sit down.  I was taking note of the new decor in this restaurant space.  It’s been interesting watching it go from the Neuer Ochsen to Chilli’s to now Mikomi.  I like what they’ve done with it.  There are lots of comfortable booths and the ambiance is calming.

I really liked the look of these booths.  You could host a good sized party there.


They have regular tables, too.


Bill tries to figure out the menu.  There were a lot of choices.

A young English speaking waiter explained the restaurant’s Bento Box deal, where you can get a main dish, two sides, a drink, and a dessert for a low price.  Or, alternatively, you can order one of their sushi deals for an equally low price.  I was really thirsty, so I ordered a beer.  A small beer would have been included in the price of the Bento Box, but I ordered a large.  I ended up drinking both.  Bill went with a Japanese brew.

“Goldilocks and the three beers?”

I went with one of the sushi Bento Boxes.  This was very satisfying.  The salmon was especially fresh and tasty, as was the spicy tuna roll.

Bill’s Bento Box was a good deal.  He got noodles with vegetables, pickled cucumbers and carrots, and shrimp skewers.  I loved the noodles and had to steal a couple of bites.

After we finished, we were invited to partake of the dessert buffet.  They had little cakes like this or fresh fruit.  I also saw donuts.

All of this was priced pretty reasonably.  I think we got out of there at under 30 euros.

 I think Mikomi will be more successful than Chilli’s was.  I didn’t hate Chilli’s as much as some Americans did, but I definitely didn’t need a second visit.  Mikomi, on the other hand, I would dine at again, given the opportunity.  I would recommend it to those who like Asian food– especially sushi.

After we finished having lunch, we went to Panzer and loaded up on new rugs for our house.  Our new landlord just put in brand new floors, so we’re doing our best to keep them as nice as possible.  Also, I like having rugs on the floors because they help cut down on echoes and are nicer to walk on than cold parquet.  The Turkish guy who runs the carpet shop was playing Rabiz– a type of Turkish pop music.  I was telling him about my adventures in Turkey and Bulgaria back in the 1990s, and how I had gotten used to hearing it in Armenia.  He said I had been to more parts of Turkey than he has, probably because my trip took me through the east.  The northeastern part of Turkey is truly some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.  It rivals Switzerland…  or, at least it did in 1996.  I’d love to go back to Turkey again someday, when it’s safe.

Once we dropped some euros on new rugs, we headed to our favorite Stuttgart area hotel, the Wald Hotel.  More on that in my next post.


All roads lead to Wiesbaden! Our intra-Germany move, part two…

On Tuesday, we went back to the house and watched the movers get all our stuff on their truck.  I ran into our neighbor again as I was loading more stuff into my car.  He asked again if we were moving.  I confirmed that we were moving to Wiesbaden for Bill’s new job.  He wished us luck and said “Auf Wiedersehen”… and again, smiled pretty!  I guess I can’t blame him for that.  For his sake, I hope the next tenants don’t have a huge American style truck.

We were finished loading up by noon, so Bill and I started our northern trek to Hesse.  I don’t do a lot of driving anymore, not because I can’t, but because I hate traffic.  Frankly, I don’t socialize very much with other people, either.  I was a little worried about driving on the Autobahn for so long, knowing that we’d no doubt hit traffic jams.  I’m proud to report that despite rainy weather and a few Staus, Bill and I both made it through our journey unscathed.  In fact, Bill even paid me a high compliment by saying that I would have made a fine “tanker”.  Before Bill became an exercise planner, he was a tanker… so I guess he knows what would make a fine one.

Time for a break!  This photo inspired a number of comments from my Facebook friends.  We didn’t visit the well advertised erotic store, but I was advised that there’s a good selection there for those who are still Christmas shopping.

Apparently, I have a good sense of how to be in a convoy.  More than once, I made it possible for Bill to change lanes and kept up a good “march distance”.  What can I say?  My dad was a navigator in the Air Force and endowed me with an excellent sense of direction.  Unfortunately, he didn’t endow me with his adrenaline junkie tendencies or love of fitness.  Oh well…

We spent our first night in Wiesbaden at the Hotel zum Wiesengrund, a very reasonably priced hotel near our new home.  I had originally booked a different place, but changed my mind when I read about Hotel zum Wiesengrund’s well regarded restaurant.  I wanted to go somewhere we’d be able to have a good meal after two days of hard work and driving.  I’m not proud of it, but we resorted to a couple of McDonalds’ meals during our moving out process.  It had been awhile since the last time I ate in a McDonald’s.  It was kind of a shocking experience.  I knew they have kiosks now, but I’ve never actually used one.

Bill was showing me how one orders at McDonald’s nowadays…  this actually makes me kind of sad. 

We arrived at our new house at about 5:00pm on November 27th.  Our new landlord gave us the keys after we paid him the Kaution and first month’s rent.  Our new house is larger, more modern, and much more expensive than the one in Unterjettingen is.  What’s more, our new landlord lives next door to us.  However, he has only rung our doorbell once.  So far, we’re getting along fine.

The view from the balcony on the front of our new house.

The view from the balcony on the back of the house.  Our yard has a nice tall fence and is plenty secure for Zane and Arran, which is a really nice convenience.  Apparently, the people who lived in our house before us were Americans with a dog.  They hooked us up!


We laid down the rugs we bought from the Turkish rug guys at Panzer Barracks in Boeblingen.  I’m glad we bought rugs before we left, since it doesn’t appear that Wiesbaden has a similar shop.  I bought rugs from the Turkish guys a couple of years ago, but they weren’t nearly as nice as the ones we just got.  I actually wish we’d bought a couple more rugs, since our new house has brand new parquet floors that I want to protect as much as possible.

After we laid down the rugs, we went to the hotel and checked in.  The Hotel zum Wiesengrund is located on a busy road, but it has a large parking lot with free parking for guests.  We checked in and were assigned a very basic, but clean, room.

A tiny, basic room at Hotel zum Wiesengrund.  Fine for a night.

A tiny shower, but very clean and good water pressure.


After we dropped off our bags at the hotel, we decided to have dinner.  Although I had wanted a nice meal, I wasn’t that hungry after all the traveling and stop at Mickey D’s.  I did really want a beer, though.

Bill decides what he wants.  He wasn’t hungry, either.

Ahhh…  This hit the spot.  Wiesbaden is really more wine country than beer country.

I went with fried fish…  It wasn’t the healthiest choice, but it tasted good.  I liked the remoulade that came with it.  Kind of like really fancy tartar sauce.

Bill had smoked salmon.


I think Hotel zum Wiesengrund is better known for its restaurant than its lodging.  Bill says some of his co-workers have been to the restaurant, and we noticed it was popular with locals.  There was a large party of Germans near us and they were enjoying Christmas goose and Schnapps.  I had “apple most” for dessert.  Basically, it was non-alcoholic, home pressed apple juice… very tasty!  I expect to become acquainted with apple wine now, since that’s supposedly a local speciality.

Breakfast at Hotel zum Wiesengrund is included in the price of the room, which was about 90 euros.  It’s served buffet style and offers the usual cheeses, cold cuts, breads, and jams.  Unlike the Hotel Adler, the Hotel zum Wiesengrund also has hard boiled eggs, which was a nice touch.

After we checked out of the hotel, we headed for our new house and the dreaded chore of moving in. The same foreman was going to be there, along with several more guys coming in from Heidelberg, which is in Baden-Wuertemberg, like Stuttgart is, yet is located closer to Wiesbaden.