Rheingauer Weinwoche in Wiesbaden– 2023 edition! And more dental woes for Bill…

Yesterday, I lamented to Bill that yet another Saturday was about to get away from us with no fun outside of the house. His answer to me was to suggest that we go to downtown Wiesbaden, where the Rheingauer Weinwoche is going on. This annual event started on Friday and will run through August 21st. COVID kind of messed it up in 2020 and 2021, but we attended in 2019 and we went several times last year.

Although we had some rain yesterday, we managed to get to the festival after most of the weather had passed. It was just partly cloudy with some breezes and a few drops from the sky. As usual, the big celebration is going on in the Schlossplatz, and there are dozens of wineries from the Rheingau region represented, along with some food stands and live entertainment.

Bill and I parked at our usual garage at the theater, where we soon noticed that they had a brand new parking system in place. It used to be, when you drove in, a machine would give you a ticket that you’d later feed into the payment machine. It would tell you how much you owed when you reclaimed your car. Now, you just drive in and input your license plate number when you leave. I also noticed that they had designated a bunch of spaces on the first floor for electric vehicles. I guess that’s one reason to get an electric car. You get prime parking spots downtown! ūüėČ

Anyway, it had been awhile we were last in downtown Wiesbaden. We should probably go there a lot more often than we do, because it’s a really nice town… much prettier than downtown Stuttgart is. There is often a lot going on, too.

We walked around the fest, just to see what was available. I stopped at the first WC I saw, noticing that the price of a whiz has gone up to 1 euro. However, you can purchase an all day ticket for four euros, or a family pass for six euros. I ended up going four times and Bill went twice yesterday. Next time we go, we’ll have to get a family ticket. ūüėÄ

We stopped at a random wine stand that had plenty of seating and a good view of the festivities. I had a glass of Riesling and listened to a female singer in the distance, but noticed I could also hear a brass band on the other side. I was more in the mood for the brass band, so we left after one glass and went to the other side. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of seating there, so we went around the corner and sat at another random wine stand that happened to specialize in Sekt.

That other stand was also near a WC, which was very handy for me… so we just sat there and people watched, drank wine, and took some photos. I’m sure we’ll be back again at least once, because just as they did last year, Bill’s co-workers have reserved a table for this coming Friday night. I have a feeling Bill will be ready for a celebration, because on Monday morning, he has to visit a local dentist to have a tooth extracted and start the process for his very first dental implant.

Wednesday, he was at work, eating a gummi bear, and suddenly noticed that there was some rattling in his mouth. He spit out a hunk of gold, which turned out to be a root canaled and crowned molar that he’d had done in 2011 or so. It just sheared right off! He called our usual dentist in Stuttgart, but as usual in August, he had shut down his practice for his annual vacation. Since this was not a situation in which Bill could wait until next week, when Dr. Blair returns, he asked a colleague for a local suggestion. Her dentist turned out to be pretty excellent, too.

He called that dentist’s office and they got him in at 10:30. The oral surgeon– a young German guy who went to school in nearby Mainz– said he couldn’t save the tooth, which had a huge cavity in it under the gold crown. But since the tooth had already been root canaled, the dentist said Bill could wait until Monday to have it extracted without risking infection. Then, perhaps, he might even be able to get the implant put in without having to wait for the tissues to heal first (like I did when I got my implant in 2016). Truthfully, though, I have a feeling he’s going to have to come back later for the implant. They’re probably going to have to do a sinus lift, which will take more time. I had to get one of those, too.

So… not only did we just buy a bunch of new appliances for our house, but now Bill is going to have a big dentist bill. We do have dental insurance, but it’s still going to be pricey work. And when we go back to see Dr. Blair in October for our cleanings, he’s going to be like “WTF”? ūüėÄ

Honestly, though, given the number of appointments it takes to get a dental implant, it’s probably a good idea for Bill to have it done locally. If and when my other baby tooth finally gives up the ghost, Dr. Blair can do another implant for me. I know he does excellent work. The one I had done in 2016 is still perfect.

I figure the wine fest will offer Bill some pain relief, after he has his extraction on Monday… I don’t know if we’ll go back today. Bill just brewed a new batch of beer last weekend, so he needs to bottle his brew. My car also needs a spin to keep the new battery functioning. It looks a bit cloudy, too. On the other hand, the wine fest is a lot of fun– there’s also beer and non alcoholic beverages for those who aren’t into wine, as well as plenty of food. We capped off yesterday by having a rare east Sicilian treat called arancini. I noticed them early in the day and was intrigued. They’re deep fried rice balls, covered with bread crumbs and stuffed with mince meat and/or vegetables, mozzarella cheese, peas, and ragu. The ones we had yesterday were delicious and filling!

Here are some photos from our excursion…

I do love this about living in Germany… There’s always some kind of fun or interesting activity going on, and the vast majority of people are well-behaved. Yes, the police were there, and there was security, but I saw little need for them to intervene. The same isn’t necessarily true at events in the United States. So, I’m grateful to live here… and raise yet another toast to the annual wine festival week in Wiesbaden!

trip planning

We now have a hotel in Prague!

We got word yesterday that Noyzi is booked at the Hundepension from September 30 until October 10. That allowed me to book the last hotel for our big Czech tour after we see the dentist. This dental discovery excursion is definitely the most ambitious one we’ve done yet. Just to recap, we’re planning:

I was actually planning to book the Aria Hotel in Prague, having seen Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe episode about Prague. She made that hotel look like it would be such a fun place to stay! But, I changed my mind last night, when I did a search on and noticed that Hotel Nerudova was listed first, and it had great reviews. I was dazzled by the photos, but what really gave me pause were the consistently glowing comments about how friendly the service was. It’s also a family run place.

I decided to check other sites and noticed that on, Google, and TripAdvisor, Hotel Nerudova got similarly great reviews. But they didn’t have a lot of reviews, which made me wonder if they’re new. I see now that the hotel was closed during the pandemic and had fallen into disrepair until it was bought by Jan and Sarah, the husband and wife who now own it. I did read that the hotel was fully renovated in August 2022, and they only have ten rooms/suites.

According to their story, the hotel used to be known as Hotel Santini until the pandemic. The building dates to the 1500s, although the original house was destroyed in a fire. It was rebuilt in the 1700s, and renovated starting in 2002. That must have been a very exciting undertaking, as they found original features such as frescoes, wooden ceilings, and an original porcelain cocklestove.

The only thing making me hesitate was the parking situation. The hotel’s website said there was off site parking available at 15 euros per day. I worried a little about that, and would prefer a secure parking garage. There was another highly rated hotel that offered a garage, and I almost booked the other hotel for that reason. However, I just couldn’t shake the desire to try Hotel Nerudova 211. It was in my head. So, I took the plunge, and I think I booked this room.

Immediately after booking, I got a welcome message from the hotel which included information about parking. That was reassuring. I wrote back to let them know we’d be driving, and they told us to send them our license plate number and they’d put us in a registry to allow us to park near the hotel on the street. I asked if they needed the information now, or closer to October. They quickly responded that we could do it at the reception. Such quick responses are a really good sign. We had a great time when we stayed at the Old Town Hilton in 2008, but I think Hotel Nerudova will definitely be more charming, memorable, and personal, which I definitely love!

Hotel Nerudova appears to be at a very good location. It’s very close to the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, and Prague Castle. As an added bonus, Bill also spotted a sex machines museum nearby. I’m sure we’ll make a point of stopping by, if it’s open while we’re in town. ūüėČ Or maybe we won’t, since there’s a lot to do in Prague, and it doesn’t look like that museum gets the best ratings. It looks like people think it’s overpriced for what it is. I’ll probably want to visit it anyway, though. I love weird museums.

We will probably visit one of the beer/wine spas for treatments. I haven’t had a good beer spa visit in ages, and we have never been to one in Prague. When we visited in 2008, the spas in Prague didn’t exist. We went to Chodovar Beer Wellness Land for our first beer spa experience. Actually, looking at the link I shared, it appears to be the same system used at Hotel Moorhof and Hotel Diana in Austria.

There’s another beer spa in Prague that offers a wine spa treatment. We might do that one for a change of pace. I doubt the ones in Prague can hold a candle to the beer pools of Starkenberger Brewery. Unfortunately, I think the beer pools have stopped operating in the wake of the pandemic. I’m so glad we had a chance to have that experience when they were still working. Swimming in a vat of warm beer wort is an experience I will never forget!

Anyway… even if we end up doing things that are less sinful in Prague, we’re sure to have a great time. Prague is a fabulous city on so many levels. I especially look forward to buying some new art for the house!

I think this trip is going to be so much fun! I’m really looking forward to it, probably more so than I usually look forward to travel. We always have a great time when we visit the Czech Republic, and we’re long overdue for another visit.

As for the rest of the summer, I’m not sure if or when we’ll go anywhere. I’d kind of like to go to Austria for a few days, but I don’t know if we’ll manage it. For the next three months, it looks like Bill will be doing a new temporary duty involving finance. The good news is that he won’t have to travel when he’s doing the finance job. The bad news is, he’ll probably be pretty busy. Or maybe not… He’s a multi-skilled, multi-talented man, though. Case in point, below is the breakfast he made us this morning, minus the made from scratch biscuits that were still in the oven when I took this photo.

In fairness, I did kind of teach him how to make cheese souffles. The orange juice is fresh squeezed!

Today, it’s raining a bit, so I don’t know if we’ll venture out. We’ll see. Anyway, it’s time to write a post for my main blog, so I’ll check y’all later. ūüėČ I’m excited about this trip, though, and I think we’re going to have a blast!

The featured photo is a screenshot from Expedia of the room I booked.


Mother’s Day at Rocco’s Italian Grill & Bar in Bad Soden am Taunus…

I’m not sure Bill was remembering what today is, when he decided he wanted to go out for lunch. It’s Mother’s Day in Germany, just as it is in the USA. Having been a waitress in a prior life, I knew what that could mean for those who wanted to go out to eat. But Bill was gone for eight nights, and we were hankering for a date somewhere, so he decided to book us lunch at Rocco’s Italian Grill & Bar in Bad Soden.

We’ve been to this restaurant a few times, having discovered it, and the wonderful spa town it’s in, a few years ago on We love the bar in this restaurant, and when it’s nice outside, it’s pleasant to sit outdoors and people watch. Today, because of the clouds, I determined that I wanted to sit inside. I figured it would be packed… and it was very busy, but not fully booked.

Parking in Bad Soden is generally difficult. We made a few passes before Bill finally let me out so he could find a spot. He remembered where the relatively hidden parkdeck was. That was a blessing, as there were several spots open there. Lots of other people were trying to park at the same time we were and having no success. Bill said he saw a sign indicating that the parkdeck would be closed starting tomorrow through July. Guess we won’t be back to Bad Soden for awhile! ūüėČ We made today count, anyway…

We decided to eat indoors, mainly because I didn’t want it to rain on my new wool dress. Bill got dressed up, which meant I had to dress up, too. He wanted to see how his injured foot would do in dress shoes, since he’s going back to the office tomorrow. He seemed to do fine in his business casual attire.

As I mentioned up post, the restaurant was busy, but not totally full. Lots of families were out with their kids. A table near us was loaded with kids and a dog who protested a few times from under the table. At another table near us, I watched the young girl go to the bathroom about a half dozen times within the span of an hour. A couple of times, she took her mom with her. I won’t lie. That made me a little nervous, but it turns out there was no need. As usual, the food was top notch.

I had a 300 gram U.S. Prime Rib-Eye steak with a side of mashed potatoes. It was cooked to a perfect medium, and topped with rosemary. Bill went with veal spare ribs, which came with barbecue sauce and fries. We had a lovely Malbec and a bottle of sparkling water to help wash things down. Before we got out main courses, we had wonderful, hot, fresh olive bread with aioli and huge green olives with peppers.

If we’d wanted to, we could have had pizza or pasta, fish, burgers, or something vegan or vegetarian. But Rocco’s really seems to specialize in steaks and ribs. On prior visits, we’ve had other choices of ribs and steaks. They’re always outstanding.

I got some photos of our lunch, which culminated in delightful desserts. I had a red velvet lava cake with cream cheese frosting. Bill had an almond and cherry ice cream parfait. I normally don’t like lava cakes, but this one was different, as it wasn’t the usual chocolate.

I’d like to spend more time in Bad Soden. It’s a beautiful town, with nice restaurants and a lovely park. Parking can be quite a pain there, though, as we were reminded of again today.

I think lunch ran about 200 euros or so. We paid with a card. It was pretty noisy, mainly because of the young children who were dining. When the families near us left, the decibel level went down by about half. But everybody seemed to be having a very nice time. As usual, I can only recommend Rocco’s, although there are some other restaurants in Bad Soden I’m hoping to try.

Maybe we’ll get our chance soon…


Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part seven

Finally in Florence!

We arrived in Florence during the mid afternoon. It was Bill’s first time driving there, and he was pretty nervous about the prospect of finding parking. Tom, our winery guide, a member of the wine group I formed on Facebook, had advised us to leave our car in a “free” parking lot, not far from the hotel he had booked for us. But, by the time we got to Florence, all of the spaces in the lot were full. When we first arrived, Bill also didn’t know that there was a huge parking garage located nearby. If we had known about the garage sooner, it would have spared Bill about an hour of driving around, looking for a space. Florence is a very busy city!

Castle ruins on the way to Firenze.

The GPS sent us down a narrow, one way street that didn’t seem like it should have vehicular traffic. Bill turned left, only to be confronted by a congested side street with cars crammed together. We found our lodging, Hotel Firenze Capitale, which was located on the second floor of a beautiful old building with frescoes on the ceilings of the bedrooms. However, thanks to the many scooters parked in front of the building, unloading our luggage was a very hasty project resulting in indignant horn honking from the vehicles behind Bill. I finally jumped out of the car with several bags and dashed into the building, completely missing the doorbell for the hotel. That was a critical error, but I was so flustered and anxious about successfully moving the bags, I just didn’t see it. I might have noticed it if someone hadn’t left the front door open, which was not a normal thing, as we found out over our three nights there.

Next, I was confronted by the old fashioned elevator. It was very tiny, and the kind of elevator in which one must close the doors manually. I barely fit in the lift with my two big bags and purse. Then, I realized I had to lean over and close the front door, then the two internal doors, and hold my breath as the tiny elevator ascended. Once I got to the second floor, I got myself and my stuff out of the tiny lift. To my left, there were the electric sliding doors comprising the hotel’s entrance point. However, there was no doorbell, and the doors didn’t open automatically. I stood there puzzled for a moment, not knowing what to do.

Remember, I had been preoccupied with getting the bags to the hotel, and I wasn’t given instructions about accessing the lodging. Bill had gotten the instructions from Tom, but he hadn’t mentioned the unusual means of accessing the lodging. Or, if he did, I missed the memo. But yes, I was confused when I reached the hotel. Usually, when I go to hotels, the door is open– and there’s someone there to help with bags or valet parking of some kind. I sent Tom a Facebook message, asking what to do.

An Asian man, who had been cleaning the stairwell, noticed my confusion as I stared at the door, not knowing how to access the hotel. He spoke Italian to me, and I didn’t understand… however, the gist of what he was saying had to be something along the lines of, “Why are you just standing here in the hallway looking clueless with your bags?”

Then, without another word, the guy leaned over and knocked on the door for me. How embarrassing! I should have thought of doing that myself. But, in my defense, I didn’t know what was behind the sliding electric door. I was also flummoxed by the sudden movement, and being confronted with an unorthodox hotel that I didn’t choose. I knew nothing at all about the place, or what was expected of me when I arrived.

Thanks to the kind custodian’s knock, the door opened. I profusely thanked the Asian man who helped me. Then I turned my attention to my host. There stood a man named Giuseppe. I did know from one of Tom’s messages that I was looking for Giuseppe. He greeted me and asked why I hadn’t rung the doorbell. I said I hadn’t known about it. I wasn’t the one who received the information about the hotel. I told him that Bill was looking for parking. Giuseppe told me about the parking garage and advised me to call Bill. But then I realized that, one, I didn’t even have Bill’s phone number, and two, even if I called him, he probably wouldn’t answer while he was driving. I did make a point of getting Bill’s number when we were reunited, about an hour later! He had found the garage on his own.

I gave Giuseppe my passport and, as he took it, he put on a mask. So I put on a mask. That turned out to be the only one or two masked interactions we had, as it seemed that the city of Florence was not quite as strict about masks as the cities we visited in Emilia-Romagna had been. We were assigned room 7, a superior class room, which, as promised, had very beautiful frescoes on the ceiling. Giuseppe gave me a very brief tour of the room, but forgot to give me the WiFi code. Fortunately, I had bought a cellular plan for my iPad, so I didn’t have to sit there in boredom while I waited for Bill to make his way to the hotel.

I turned on the TV, and was shocked to find an episode of the 80s era American show, The A-Team, airing. That was an ongoing theme all week in Italy. Lots of 80s vintage shows that were popular when I was a child were on prime time. It was pretty funny!

Once Bill was settled, we decided to take the fifteen minute walk to the historical center of Firenze… that would be where the city’s huge Duomo is. We didn’t bother to go into the cathedral during our visit, since we went to Florence in 2013, and visited it at that time. Frankly, I am much more impressed by the outside of the cathedral there, which is very striking to me. When we visited in 2013, the inside of the cathedral seemed rather plain. I didn’t want to stand in line to see it, either. So we skipped the church in 2022, but you can see my 2013 photos here.

It was exciting to be back in Firenze/Florence, which is a wonderful city. Because it’s so wonderful, there are many, many visitors there at any given time. This was my third visit to Florence, and I remember it was packed on the other two occasions, too. Tom told us that the beginning of COVID was kind of interesting, as the tourists all funneled out and Florence was quiet and empty. I would have liked to have seen it that way. I mentioned that Parma and Modena were not touristy. Well… Florence definitely makes up for that. I heard so many Americans in Florence! It almost seemed like there were more Americans than Italians!

After we walked around for awhile, we realized it was time for dinner. I was getting cranky because of the crowds. Somehow, we ended up on the wrong street, and an enterprising restaurant hawker noticed the look of irritation on my face, as I slowed down to look at a menu. He said, “You want something to drink?”

“Yes.” I said. “God bless you.”

We sat down at a table just inside the restaurant… and much to my shame, I somehow forgot to get a picture of the name of the place. It wasn’t a particularly special restaurant. The waiters all wore t-shirts with the name on it, and I looked it up on Google and noticed the mixed reviews. But I was still grateful for the rest and the beer. We were seated near another American couple. The male half kept raving about the Florentine steak he ordered, which was 800 grams. Bistecca alla Florentine seems to be Florence’s most famous dish. Every restaurant we visited had their own version of it. The guy tried to talk us into ordering the steak. I had to admit, it smelled great. But we knew we would be having it on Friday night, when we met our tour. So I had fried fishy stuff, instead. Bill had beef tagliata, which is steak with rucola and Parmesan cheese.

The American guy who had the steak was so impressed that he came back twice more to tell us! It was pretty funny! I wonder if he had it again during his visit. He looked like he enjoyed steak a lot, if you catch my drift. But then, so do I. ūüėČ I think if I was going to have steak Florentine, I would pick a slightly more upscale place. In spite of the lukewarm reviews, we had a good time.

Edited to add: Thanks to the Dream store photo below, I figured out that we dined at Ristorante Pizzeria Ginori. I knew the name started with a G.

After we ate, we went back to the hotel and crashed. It had been a long day, and we had big plans for Thursday morning. More on that in the next post.


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

Thursday morning at breakfast, Bill and I were amused by a French family who was staying at the hotel. It was an attractive mom and dad, younger than we are. They were English speakers, since that was how they communicated with the breakfast lady. After they got their breakfast, the dad and the eldest son had an animated discussion… but what was especially funny was that they were arguing about American politics. Dad played a video of Barack Obama, then described Donald Trump as a “monster”. I didn’t understand most of what they said, since I don’t speak French, but I could definitely follow the gist. It sounded like maybe the son admired Trump, while dad sees him the way Bill and I do. I giggled at the fact that we were Americans, overhearing a raucous discussion in French about American politics, while we were sitting in a breakfast room in Slovenia!

The weather was still kind of tempestuous, so we took our time before we set out again. I thought maybe we’d visit Bled Castle, but we ended up having lunch at a cute restaurant called Restavracija Central Bled in Lake Bled. I had noticed the place on our previous passes through the town. It’s open every day and doesn’t take a pause, which is always a plus. The waiter at the Central House spoke perfect English and was very friendly. I had ribs. Bill had the “Trufflelicious Burger”, which of course was not for me, because I don’t like truffles. He loved it, though, and we both loved the hand cut fried potatoes that came with our dishes. Afterwards, we split a piece of Lake Bled’s famous Cream Cake. I liked the interior of this place, too. It’s very cozy, even if the bench I was sitting on was so high up that my legs dangled.

The restaurant was very convenient to the huge public parking lot in Bled. It was also inexpensive. I don’t know how we missed it the first time we visited. I also don’t know how we missed the huge parking lot! It’s right next to an ice arena and gym.

Then I took more photos, because Slovenia’s rugged beauty is so amazing.

I guess if I had to describe our time in Slovenia, I would call it “restful”. We rested a lot, mainly because of the weather. But sometimes, it’s not a bad thing to just enjoy the beauty of a place and do a lot of talking. Bill and I talked a lot, and just enjoyed each other’s company, as well as experiencing the magical surroundings we were in, both in Croatia and Slovenia. This time of year, it’s very quiet in Slovenia… but, as you can see, the natural beauty of the landscape lingers. I’m glad we went if only to get these photos.

I also tried really hard to capture some photos of dramatic waterfalls by the road to Lake Bohinj. There was one big waterfall that was super hard to catch on camera because it was right next to the road. I sure tried hard, though.

By this point in the trip, I was getting kind of tired of traveling and was missing my dogs. I was especially worried about Arran, because he’s getting old and looked a bit crestfallen when we dropped them off. But I didn’t have to worry. They were doing fine.

Stay tuned for part twelve.


The Eagles sure didn’t stink in Cologne… part 1

Last October, as Bill and I were preparing for our big move from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden, I found out that the Eagles, one of my favorite bands of all time, was going to be playing two dates in Germany in 2019.  2018 was our summer of concerts.  We saw The Rolling Stones in Stuttgart, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, and James Taylor (all at one show) in Dublin, Roger Hodgson in Stuttgart, and the Irish Folk Festival in Stuttgart.  I also knew we were going to be seeing Elton John in Stuttgart in May 2019.

Given that we’d already spent so much money on shows and knowing that a move always requires more spending, I hesitated slightly before I bought the tickets.  When we go to concerts, they usually turn into major spending events.  I usually book us a nice hotel, so we don’t have to worry about driving far to get to the venue or trying to park (although we made the mistake of driving to the Elton John show).  I also don’t bother with “nosebleed” seats.  There was a time when those were the best seats I could afford, but now I want to sit closer, which always means more money.

I asked Bill what he thought about seeing the Eagles, even though the band’s legendary frontman, Glenn Frey, passed away in January 2016.  After some thought, Bill was okay with attending the show.  Now it was time to choose a city.  I had a choice between Cologne and Munich.

We had been in Cologne once before, back in May 2012, when we took our very first Space A military “hop”.  I remember we stayed at the Ibis in the train station, which was fine for a night when we were totally exhausted, but probably wouldn’t do now that I’m older and richer.  I also know Munich is expensive, since we did a blind booking out of Cologne on Germanwings (now known as Eurowings) during that same Space A hop and got Munich.  Don’t get me wrong– Munich is so much fun; but it’s super pricey.  Even average hotels down there cost a mint.  Munich is also further away from us, now that we’re in Wiesbaden.

Both of the shows were on work nights, but the Cologne show was the day after Memorial Day, so we decided it would be easiest to go to Cologne.  Bill would use up one less vacation day, and both the concert tickets and the lodging were less expensive than Munich.  Now that we’ve been back to Cologne, I can say that we’ll probably go there for more shows.  Not only was it super easy to get to the concert venue, it’s also super easy to get to Cologne from where we live.  And, as a bonus, we discovered an amazing hotel in the Excelsior Hotel Ernst!  As long as we can afford it, I think the Excelsior Hotel Ernst has effectively ended our Ibis days in Cologne.

This trip was also important, because it provided an excellent opportunity for our dogs to try out a new doggy pension.  When we lived in Stuttgart, we used Dog on Holiday, which I would absolutely recommend to anyone.  In fact, we’ve decided that anytime we need to go to or through Stuttgart with our dogs, we will try to have them stay with Max and Christine.  But it wasn’t practical to take the boys to Dog on Holiday from Wiesbaden, so we needed to find a place for them closer to our new town.  In February, we visited the Tierpension Birkenhof, and arranged for our boys to have their first stay during this quick trip to Cologne.


I got us fifth row seats!


With all of the arrangements made, we set off for the “city of pleasant smells” on Monday of this week– Memorial Day.  Since our hotel was super close to the train station and the train station had a stop near Cologne’s Lanxess Arena, which was where the Eagles would be “crying”, we decided to take the Inner City Express (ICE) train from the Frankfurt Airport.  The Tierpension Birkenhof is fairly convenient to the airport, although not as convenient as Max’s pension is to the Stuttgart airport.




The Tierpension Birkenhof was recommended to Bill by one of his co-workers.  It’s always interesting to see the differences in the “doggy hotels” in Germany.  When we were in Stuttgart the first time, we used to use Hunde Hotel Haase, which was a beautiful facility in Bad Niedernau, a very country hamlet south of Stuttgart.  Kiersten, the  lady who ran it back in those days, was absolutely awesome.  But, when we came back to Stuttgart in 2014, she’d left and took the hotel’s good reputation with her.  We used the Hunde Hotel Haase a couple more times, but kept hearing horror stories about dogs that were left there.  That’s when we switched to Dog on Holiday, which has been universally great, despite it’s somewhat urban location.


Tierpension Birkenhoff is a rather large facility that cares for dogs and cats.  It’s located in a somewhat suburban area, yet it’s near farmland.  The owner doesn’t accept VAT forms, and we haven’t yet met him.  We have met two of his employees, both of whom seemed very kind.  


I have noticed that each German dog facility has its quirks.  At the Birkenhoff, you’re not allowed to bring your own dog bed.  I’m not sure exactly why this is… I think it’s because the other doesn’t want to have to worry about the owners’ beds getting dirty.  Nevertheless, it does make things somewhat more convenient for us, since we’re about to trade in our RAV 4 SUV for a Volvo SUV and will probably have to bring the dogs in my Mini Cooper next time they stay.  Mini Coopers are small.  Dog beds take up a lot of space.


Frankfurt Airport train station to Cologne Messe


Once the dogs were dropped off, we made our way to the Frankfurt Airport.  Bill had reserved parking with ACS at the airport, which turned out to be very convenient, once we figured out where P4 was.  The reserved spots are reasonably priced and located near the terminal, so there’s no need to haul heavy bags long distances from far away lots.  Frankfurt Airport is a bit more confusing than Stuttgart Airport is.  It’s huge, and finding parking can be super confusing and annoying.  But now that we know where the ACS parking is, I’m sure we’ll use it all the time.  It really made parking super easy.


Frankfurt Airport also has a big train station, making it easy to access a lot of cities.  If we had left from Wiesbaden, it would have taken a lot more time, required us to park in the parking garage from Hell, and we would have needed to change trains at least once.  From Frankfurt Airport, it was a straight shot to Cologne.  


I like how, in Germany, “bullshit” isn’t a bad word.  You’ll even see it on billboards.


We had time for lunch, so we stopped at a restaurant called Little Italy, not to be confused with the Little Italy in Wiesbaden, which has become one of our favorite Sunday lunch stops.  The Little Italy at the airport is in the shopping area called The Squaire.  It’s not long on ambiance, but the food and service are good.

Mmm…  food!

Bill went vegetarian with spaghetti and fresh vegetables, tossed in a little olive oil and washed down with a tempranillo.


I had a very lovely tagliatelle salmone.  The salmon was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth.  I love salmon that isn’t overcooked, and they did a really good job with this.  However, I probably would have preferred about half this much food.  


With lunch sorted, we headed down to the platform where we’d catch our train to Cologne.  But then, about ten minutes before we were to depart, our original train was cancelled due to some people on the tracks.  Don’t ask me what that means.  I have no idea.  Bill ran up to the Deutsche Bahn (DB) information kiosk, where he was advised that we should take another train. 


Instead of dropping us directly at the Cologne Hauptbahnhof, would go to the Cologne Messe stop.  That would require us to take a city train one stop over the Rhein River.  The nice thing about the train we took was that it went directly from Frankfurt to Cologne, with no stops.  It was also practically empty, which was a good thing, since changing trains also erased our seat reservations.  Within an hour, we were whisked to Cologne, having flown past beautiful scenery at about 280 kph.


I was surprised by how fast our trip from Frankfurt to Cologne was on the ICE train.  It was also very comfortable, since the train has clean toilets and a restaurant.  We did not use the restaurant during our trip to Cologne, but it was nice to have had the option.



Bill checks the schedule…


This is the life.  First class all the way.  Second class probably would have been fine, too.


We could have taken a more leisurely train to Cologne and probably saved some money, but this was a really nice way to get where we were going.  It’s been too long since our last train trip.  I think we need to take them more often.


It was a simple thing to take the S-bahn over the Rhein River to get to Cologne’s main station, home of the city’s majestic Dom and our hotel, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst.  



A delightful Greek lunch at Der Grieche in Erbenheim…

Until this afternoon, it had been awhile since Bill and I last enjoyed Greek food.  Unlike our former neighborhood in Unterjettingen, our current house isn’t within spitting distance of several Greek restaurants.  Sure, there are plenty of Greek restaurants up this way, but they aren’t clustered near us, and the ones that do exist don’t all have all day hours or even lunch hours.

Nevertheless, Bill managed to find a great Greek place in Erbenheim, a charming little hamlet not far from Clay Kaserne.  Der Grieche turned out to be a great pick for lunch, although we had a challenge trying to find parking near it.  Fortunately, there was a free spot open right by the Rathaus and the restaurant has its own tiny lot, though it was full of cars today.  Apparently, this is a popular Greek place.  Most of the tables were full when we arrived at about 1:30pm.

Near the Rathaus in Erbenheim.  It’s quite quaint!


And look!  They make cleaning up after your dog a cinch! 

We were seated at a comfortable four top next to the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.  I was taking note of the charming building and how well maintained it appeared to be.  I was glad to see it, since this area does not seem to have as many beautiful old buildings at Baden-W√ľrttemberg does.  I asked Bill if Hesse got bombed a lot in World War II, since I don’t see as much old architecture here as I did near Stuttgart.

I was really in the mood for gyros, so that’s what I decided to have.  Bill went with the H√§hnchenspie√üen– grilled chicken on a metal spit with peppers and onions.  Both dishes came with t’zatziki and salad.  Bill had pommes and I had patates– although I was supposed to get tomato rice.  I think our very charming waiter took one look at me and thought to himself, “There’s a woman who likes potatoes.”  He got one of my winsome grins when he asked me if I’d prefer those.

Obligatory shot of Bill, looking handsome as ever.

Both of our dishes came with this salad, full of kraut, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, a single black olive and a single pepper.  The dressing was the usual yogurt dressing Germans seem to like.  Personally, I prefer less dressing than this, but it was a nice start to the meal.

I almost ordered the chicken spit myself, but Bill decided to have it.  He said it was delicious.  I tried it and agree.  The chicken was very juicy and flavorful and looked festive next to the colorful peppers and onions.

The gyros were also very good.  They were well-seasoned and juicy and I loved the potatoes.  The t’zatziki was also very good and matched beautifully with the pork.

It was nice to see all of the families out today, enjoying each other’s company.  I noticed the people behind us got chocolate mousse, which I didn’t see on the menu.  I was tempted by it, but decided we’d had enough calories…  so we called for the check and had our ouzo…

And then our charming waiter brought us chocolate mousse, anyway.  I have to say, that really put a smile on my face!

The total bill was about 41 euros.  Bill topped up the waiter to 45 euros, not realizing that he’d stuck an extra 20 in there.  The waiter noticed it and gave it back to Bill.  I mused that in America, the waiter probably would have just grabbed the cash without looking.  I was left with a very good impression of Der Grieche after lunch, but it improved after that little mistake was pointed out to us.

We’re going to visit again…

They have a Biergarten, too.

Actually, Erbenheim has some possibilities, even if it sucks to have to park there.  This whole area is loaded with cars and not enough parking spots.

After lunch, we went to AAFES to buy a lamp and a couple of other necessary items, as well as to gas up my car.  Now that we’ve had our Sunday fun, I’m going to buy a couple more bookshelves so I can put the finishing touches on straightening out our living quarters.  My next project is to unload our horrible futon and get a real couch.  Interestingly enough, when I searched for “couch” on, I came up with one very interesting and unexpected result.  I’ll let you discover it if you’re interested, but be prepared.  It’s not exactly safe for work.


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

Wednesday morning, the movers arrived right on time with our stuff. ¬†As they were scattering rug protection for the floors, Bill said “We’ve already had our first shouting match.”

“What happened?” I asked, not sure if I really wanted to hear about it. ¬†I have mentioned before that moving turns me into a raving bitch, especially if I’m also “hangry”, which I was before he started telling me the story. ¬†Moving is a process I truly despise. ¬†I don’t need a reason to get any bitchier.

Throwing caution to the wind, Bill explained that due to the congested road that leads to our house, the movers were forced to drive the wrong way down a one way street. ¬†Just before the movers arrived, the trash truck was forced to do the same thing– drive the wrong way down the one way street. ¬†We are now located on a very narrow street with many people parking their cars on the side. ¬†It simply wasn’t possible for the moving truck to get down there the “legal” way.

Well… it seems that the moving truck inconvenienced a fellow American, who had to wait a couple of minutes for it to get down the street so he could make his turn. ¬†The man got out of his car and started speaking perfect German… at least until he completely lost his shit and reverted to his native English tongue. ¬†Bill said the guy was beet red and was absolutely furious that he’d had to stop so the movers could pass. ¬†Bill took note of the man’s close cropped haircut and Washington, DC baseball cap, as well as his complete outrage at having to wait a minute for the movers.

First he screamed at the movers, who simply shrugged in response; then he started screaming at Bill. ¬†We don’t know who this man is, but it appears that he runs a local business and Bill said he had the air of an extremely entitled retired colonel. ¬†Apparently, he lives in our neighborhood or close by. ¬†I’m glad I wasn’t there to witness this spectacle, because as Bill started telling me about it, I felt my own temper start to rise.

I can’t abide people who are verbally abusive. ¬†I have a tendency to respond in kind, although I’ve now gotten to the point at which my responses are mostly non-verbal. ¬†Make no mistake, though. ¬†If I shoot you a death ray with my eyes, you’ll definitely know it. ¬†Then I’ll start blogging. ¬†If I start speaking when I’m in that state, there is no telling what will be said. ¬†So I have learned to zip it. ¬†I’m not sure I would have “zipped it” for that guy, though. ¬†Actually, I might have had a good laugh at him. ¬†Bill’s description of his out of control ranting and raving was kind of hilarious.

Fortunately, Bill is a very even tempered person and, when the pissed off American started his belligerent tirade, he calmly turned and walked away. ¬†There is no reasoning with people who get that enraged over a moment’s inconvenience. ¬†Perhaps a nice stroke will settle that man’s hash. ¬†If he keeps up that level of vitriol, I think it’s a real risk for him. ¬†Anyway, the whole incident would have lasted half as long if the guy had just STFU and stayed in his car.

One of the movers was really awesome. ¬†I have a large dresser that the movers initially said they would not be able to get upstairs. ¬†This guy, very enthusiastic with a “can do” attitude, managed to convince his co-workers that getting my dresser upstairs was possible. ¬†The one insistent naysayer was the lone German on the team. ¬†Well… the Croatians proved the German guy wrong. ¬†Although it took some doing, they hauled my bulky dresser up the stairs with nary a scratch! ¬†Bill rewarded them with a generous tip.

Our stuff was unloaded by early afternoon, so the movers left us to our mess. ¬†Kudos to Weichert for sending us such a professional team. ¬†They were truly outstanding. ¬†I wish we could have them for all of our moves. ¬†We’ve had a few doozies over the years!

We took a brief break from unpacking to visit IKEA for some household items and get some lunch. ¬†I once swore I would never visit IKEA again. ¬†Indeed, it had been a full four years since our last hellish IKEA experience in Sindelfingen. ¬†I still hate IKEA, but we had a real need for storage solutions and didn’t want to wait for an online order, especially since we had no Internet and I was relying on my iPad with cellular access. ¬†Our local IKEA is pretty nightmarish, but it wasn’t quite as bad as our last visit to the one in Sindelfingen. ¬†We have visited our new IKEA twice since our move and I think I can safely say I won’t be back again for some time. ¬†Once every few years is plenty of IKEA exposure for me.

Naturally, I was hangry after our IKEA experience, so we found a local Italian restaurant that turned out to be very nice, even if finding parking was appalling. ¬†One thing I have noticed about the Wiesbaden area is that it’s really hard to find parking. ¬†This area is very built up and everyone drives. ¬†Nevertheless, we had a delightful lunch at Casalinga da Rita, tiny “hole in the wall” eatery in a nearby Hofheim am Taunus. ¬†I notice it gets average reviews on Google, but we had a good experience there. ¬†The other guests were Italians, which I take as a good sign in an Italian restaurant.

Bill’s blurry hands.

Spaghetti with pesto!

Tagliatelle salmone.  This hit the spot!

It’s a very tiny place, with ice cream, pasta dishes, pizzas, and cramped seating. ¬†We’d go back.

A little culture break.

I took note of this charming bumper sticker in the car parked near ours.


By five o’clock, I was decidedly pissy, so Bill told me to sit down and drink some wine. ¬†He’s a good husband because he knows when I’ve had enough bullshit for one day. ¬†I wanted to take a shower, but the cold water tap in our upstairs bathroom was frozen from too much corrosion. ¬†I ended up taking baths for several days, until we got the faucet replaced. ¬†Our move also taught me the magic of using white vinegar to descale the taps, but the tap in our shower was too far gone for that to work. ¬†Not even Liquid Wrench could free the cold water for us.

I sat on my can until Thursday morning.  Bill got up and drove back to Stuttgart to clean our old house again, pick up the dogs, and close us out of Stuttgart.  I stayed behind in Wiesbaden and continued unpacking and putting stuff away.

Bill found this in our bio bin. ¬†I have so many questions… ¬†Who would throw away an obvious going away gift? ¬†Was it the recipient who tossed this, or a disgruntled spouse? ¬†I may have to write a short story about this, once we’re totally settled and I’m bored.

I’m really glad I stayed in Wiesbaden. ¬†I definitely would not have wanted to witness the final walkthrough with our former landlady. ¬†More on that in the next post.