Our pandemic dog rescue story… part three

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When we take trips, I usually take a lot of photos, even from the car. Before a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Kransjka Gora, and had no idea of what we were in for. I did remember how beautiful Lake Bled was and had been wanting to visit Slovenia again. But Bill and I are getting older and it’s hard to drive for seven or eight hours straight, so that means it’s best if we can break up the trip. And, as most Americans know, there’s only so much leave a person can take. When Bill worked for his first company, the pay wasn’t as good, but they were very generous about letting him take time off. His current employer pays very well, but it’s not as easy to go away for longer trips. Not that we’re complaining. Six years ago, when we first came to Germany, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. I managed to pay them off two years ago, nine years ahead of time!

While I usually like to take a lot of photos on our trips, I was more preoccupied this time. I didn’t think to take any pictures until we stopped for lunch at a KFC. German KFC is not like American KFC. And American KFC is not like the Kentucky Fried Chicken of my youth, which used to be a lot better than it is now. We decided to stop for chicken, even though it’s not as quick and convenient as other fast food is. I was kind of astonished by the rest stop where we pulled off. It had an amazing assortment of choices, especially for Germany. There was a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a KFC and a Subway!

And right next to the Subway was an enormous “adult” book store, complete with blow up dolls outside the entrance! I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the erotic book store. I wish I had. In the United States, the adult book stores aren’t quite as prominent as they are in Germany, although I do remember repeatedly passing Club Risque in North Carolina many times as I drove back and forth from Virginia to South Carolina to and from graduate school.

I guess the erotic book stores are intended for the lonely truckers who traverse Germany from all over Europe, especially the East. I notice that they are well catered to in this country. Many rest stops have showers, as well as pay toilets that are clean. Where I come in the States, the rest stops are a little bit nicer than the free ones in Europe, which are really bare bones. But they don’t usually have restaurants (except in the Northeast). In Europe, the rest stops that aren’t just a place to pee have restaurants, fully stocked convenience stores, gas stations, and yes, something for the truckers who need a little distraction from the road.

Lunch was pretty filling. We ate it in the car, mainly due to having Arran with us and because of COVID-19. I watched people going in and out of the restaurant, ignoring the request to exit from the opposite side of the entrance. I also noticed in the ladies room, that someone had dumped pasta all over the bathroom floor. I couldn’t tell if it was cooked or not. It was an odd sight.

Once we got lunch sorted, we got back on A3 and headed south. I had forgotten how long the drive to Austria by way of Salzburg is. It seems to take forever to cross the border because you have to keep going east. I always enjoy driving over borders, but on this first day of our trip, we were about 90% in Germany before we arrived in Salzburg. We made another quick stop at an excellent rest stop not far from the border so Bill could buy an Austrian vignette (toll sticker). They are required for the Autobahn and you can buy them for ten days at just under 10 euros.

That’s another interesting thing about Europe. Many countries over here either have systems where you either pay for a vignette to use the motorways or you pay tolls. In Switzerland, you buy a sticker for the year and it costs about $40 (40 Swiss Francs or 30 Euros). In other countries, they are for shorter time periods and cost less. Many of the countries that have vignettes also have tolls for when you go through a long mountain pass. Germany is the only country I’ve seen so far where the Autobahn is free. But we don’t know for how much longer it will be free. Of course, you still have to pay 70 cents to use the bathroom at the fancy rest stops. That’s why it’s not at all unusual to see people peeing on trees here. They’re pretty brazen about it, too.

The proprietors at the Haslachmühle B&B had requested that we check in by 6:00pm. We arrived there at about 5:30pm, having driven through Salzburg’s traffic and passed by a guy driving a carriage pulled by two white horses. The horses spooked Arran, who barked and startled us both. I wish I’d had my camera, though. Those horses were a lovely sight.

So… about that B&B. It’s a winner. Getting to it is a little bit tricky, since it’s located on a very narrow “goat trail” type of road. But it’s a very charming place, with six unique rooms and a small free parking lot for guests. The lady in charge, along with her very sweet female dachshund “Luezy” (pronounced as if you were rhyming it with “noisy”), met us as we pulled up. She was quick to check us in and show us to the beautiful room I rented for the night. We stayed in the Room City View, which was just awesome. It had a big bed, a huge balcony that offered a view of the city, and a gorgeous masonry heater. I especially loved how the walls had built in bookshelves loaded with books (in German, of course). It was really unique and lovely. I was sorry we could only stay one night.

We were tired from the drive and still full from lunch, so we had no need for dinner. However, the B&B has a fridge where guests can get wine, beer, or soft drinks, as well as snacks. You just write down what you took and pay on checkout. Our room came with two bottles of water (looked like they came from a Penguin), mini Ritter Sports on the pillows, and three apples. Adding in some crackers and wine, we were pretty much set for the night. I enjoyed watching the sun set over the mountain. We also watched some network TV, which we rarely have the chance to do.

If we had needed food, we could have ordered from Lieferando.at or, if we were feeling determined, driven into town. There aren’t any restaurants near the B&B that I could see.

Breakfast in the morning included the usual buffet spread, with cheeses, cold cuts, fruits, juices, and breads. The proprietor made us coffee and scrambled eggs. While we were eating, Arran started pitching a fit. We hadn’t brought him into the breakfast room. I was very pleased to see that the proprietor didn’t mind Arran’s howling and even said we could bring him into the breakfast room, which we ended up doing. Another couple also had a dog with them and Arran behaved like a perfect gentleman.

After a leisurely breakfast, we loaded up the car and checked out. I would definitely go back to Die Haslachmühle B&B, next time without any canines. However, I am happy to report that they are very welcome there, even if children aren’t (according to Booking.com, anyway). We weren’t even charged extra for Arran. I was expecting a pet fee, so that was a really nice surprise. Below are some more photos from our stop in Salzburg. It really is a beautiful city. I would love to go back and do another tour of it when we don’t have business to attend to.

By late morning, we were heading south to Slovenia, which isn’t that far from Salzburg. I think it was about a three hour drive. I managed to get a few pictures of castles from the side of the Autobahn… again impressive sights. We really should come down and actually visit sometime. We had a chance to tour Salzburg when we did our very first Space A hop from the USA back in 2012, but that was just a day trip that we took from Munich. We had a great time, but it wasn’t long enough. Time to look into visiting again. We’ve been to Salzburg three times and still haven’t done the Sound of Music tour. 😉

More on the drive to Slovenia in the next post.

An August walk in the vineyards…

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I run a Facebook group for wine lovers in the American communities of Germany. I started the group when we lived near Stuttgart, and have continued it since we moved up here to Wiesbaden. Stuttgart is “German wine country”, but the Rheingau, which is where Wiesbaden is, could be considered “German wine world”. I had no idea, when we moved up here a couple of years ago, how much more of a wine region the Rhein area is compared to Stuttgart, which now seems much more like beer country to me. If you like German wines, or just want to see if you like them, this area is “must visit” territory. I used to dislike German wines, but I eventually found quite a few that I enjoy. Every year we’ve lived here (since 2014, anyway), I have found even more that appeal to me.

One of Bill’s co-workers, Nora, happened to befriend a trivia loving American lady named Jennipher Schwarz, who married a German man named Klaus, whose family is in the wine business. Naturally, Jennipher and Klaus have a special “in” to German winemakers, but Jennipher is also a chef who has extensive experience captaining boats, too. She’s a fascinating person, and I’m delighted that Bill’s co-worker met her at trivia night! They are both tremendous assets to my little Facebook group, which has grown by leaps and bounds since I started it in 2016.

Jennipher and her husband have a business called Winestones, and they run wine tastings, winery tours, and facilitate wine sales. Last night, they hosted a “wine walk” at Lunkenheimer-Lager, one of several family owned wineries near Ingelsheim am Rhein, a picturesque wine producing town about 40 kilometers from where we live. For 24 euros per person, we got to try generous pours of several wines and have some vegetarian fare…

A few months ago, when the pandemic was in full swing, Jennipher hosted an online wine tasting via Zoom. Bill and I participated in that and had a great time, but this was the first time we’d made it to one of the special wine walk events Winestones hosts. We tried several different wines, walked around the vineyards, and socialized in person for the first time in many months. About everyone in attendance last night, save for the vintners, were Americans who are part of the U.S. military presence up here, but Jennipher has said she gets all kinds of people at her events. Here’s a link to Winestones’ Facebook page, for anyone who happens to read this and would like to get in touch.

The weather was awesome, and Bill and I took Arran with us… I got lots of great photos, too. Here are a few of them.

The wine walk was up a slight hill, which afforded many beautiful views of the valley. Anyone who visits a winery and does a walk should expect to walk up hills, since grapevines are planted on them for maximum sunshine. Jennipher and Klaus helpfully explained some of the methods used for gathering the local grapes for delicious German wines. She showed us some vines that were planted in April of this year, and told us about a couple of vines that date from the World War II era. The older vines don’t produce as many grapes and are harder to tend, but the grapes they do produce put out very interesting wines for the discriminating palate!

I probably could have sipped wine and taken pictures all night, but unfortunately, it was getting cooler and darker… and all of that wine has to go somewhere. I needed to ladies room in the worst way. Nora and I, feeling our collective oats, headed back down the hill to the facilities. The rest of the group followed, and we went back into the tasting room for a little dessert, more wine, and more talk about wine, as well as a few inappropriate subjects. I’m sure the people who were sitting near Bill and me probably think I’m totally nuts, and I am. But I’ve also been mostly locked down for months and haven’t had anyone to talk to. Even when we took our recent vacation, our most engaging conversation was with the “Shaman”, the artist in Italy who identifies with Geronimo… and maybe the other artist we met in Bolzano. I am somewhat introverted (much more than people realize), but I do need human contact sometimes.

I really regret not participating in one of Winestones’ earlier events this year. What can I say? 2020 has definitely been an unusual year for us and everyone else on the planet. Jennipher says she may do another event in the fall. I hope she will, because now I’ve done two with her and had a blast! And for one of them, I didn’t even have to get dressed or leave my home!

And now that we’ve been to Ingelsheim am Rhein, we will have to go back. We noticed several other inviting looking “Weinguts” in the area, but I would also love to get some more photos. It really is breathtaking scenery. I have missed beautiful countryside views, since we left Jettingen in 2018.

We may manage to get out for a bit today, too, so there could be another post in the very near future!

Parker goes to France, part one…

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It’s been about two years since Bill’s mom, Parker, last visited us. Parker lives in Texas and has very generous friends who used to work for United Airlines. It’s through their generosity that she gets to see us in Germany. Every time Parker visits, we have some kind of adventure.

Last time she was here was in December 2017, when we still lived near Stuttgart. Before that, she was here in June 2009, also when we lived near Stuttgart. In 2017, we took her on a blind booking trip to Berlin. In 2009, we took a roadtrip to Oberstaufen, Germany, down in Bavaria. That trip turned into a day trip to Italy, whereupon we got temporarily trapped due to flooding. I have written about those trips and they can be found in this blog, although I still need to fix the formatting on them. She also visited Bill when he was posted in Bavaria back in the 1980s, but that was way before my time.

Anyway, back to 2020… It was nice to be able to get Parker in Frankfurt and only have to drive about twenty minutes rather than a few hours. Arran, the dog, was quite happy to see his grandma again. He hadn’t forgotten her from the last time and gave her an adorable welcome. Bill had to work all last week, so Parker and I hung around the house and talked. Bill had asked me to arrange a short trip for us, since Parker hasn’t had the chance to see as much of Europe as she’d like. When she visited us in 2009, we did take the briefest of detours into France so we could have lunch and Parker could say she’d been there. Other than that, she’d never been to France before.

Regular readers of my travel blog might recall that back in 2017, Bill and I discovered beautiful Ribeauville, a little town in Alsace right next to the much more touristy Riquewihr, which is supposedly one of France’s most beautiful villages. In 2017, Bill and I visited Ribeauville three times, which should really say something, given how many awesome places there are to visit in Europe. We found a great gite (vacation home in France) there, and it was so easy, since we only lived about 2.5 hours away and the owner of the gite was so pet friendly.

Our last visit to Ribeauville was in May 2018, but then we had to move to Wiesbaden. Last year was a bit of a cluster fuck in terms of getting settled and making some decisions about the future. We never made it back to Alsace in 2019. When I saw that Yannick, our faithful Ribeauville host, had availability in his largest gite– called Riesling– I jumped on it. We spent four nights visiting Ribeauville during the dead off season. We had a wonderful time, too! Ribeauville is a place we completely missed the first time we lived in Europe, but it’s now one of our go to locations whenever we need a break from Germany.

Yannick Kopff has several gites for rent. He’s got four studio sized apartments, a one room place, and an apartment with three rooms. Bill, Parker, and I stayed in his largest apartment at the wine house he converted into super convenient lodging in Ribeauville. I usually book his places through Booking.com, but he’s also listed on other sites, including reservation-gite.alsace. I would link to it, but at the moment, it does not appear that the site is working yet.

For four nights, I paid about 425 euros, and that was without a discount. Booking through Booking.com results in higher prices because Booking gets paid for reservations made through their site. I also have Yannick’s number, though, so next time we need an Alsatian break, I’ll just send him a text.

We usually bring our dog(s) with us when we go to Ribeauville, but since we had Parker and there were some places Bill and I specifically wanted to visit, this time we put him up at the Tierpension Birkenhof. We look forward to having him home tonight. I always miss our pooches when we go on trips, even if they’re relatively short.

This was probably one of the best trips to Alsace we’ve had yet, although I did miss having the dogs with us… especially Zane, who has now been gone for just over four months. I kept expecting to see them there, and remembering the times Bill and I have visited Ribeauville alone and brought both dogs with us. Sigh… well, maybe soon we’ll find a dog who needs a home. For now, here’s my latest series on Ribeauville and its environs, truly one of my favorite places in France that spoils everyone for choice in how much there is to do there, even during the off season! Stay tuned for part two!

Our first French Christmas, part one…

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Bonjour, faithful readers. I am currently sitting in Beaune, France. We were here in this same gite (holiday home) a week ago, when we were on our way to Nimes to see my friend, Audra. Now we’re on our way back to Germany, and I have arranged to stay at the same house until tomorrow morning, provided we can get out of here due to a misfortune we encountered yesterday at a rest stop. More on that later. For now, I want to start at the beginning and explain how it was that we’ve had a “French Christmas”.

Audra is American, and we met back in 1987, when we were students at Gloucester High School in Gloucester, Virginia. We both had the same journalism and world history classes during the 1987-88 school year. When we met, I was fifteen and she was fourteen. We got to be friendly in journalism class, since it was a course that required collaboration.

It wasn’t just school that brought us together. Our dads were friends back in the day. Both were Air Force veterans who participated in singing groups in Gloucester. Audra and I are also both graduates of Longwood College, now known as Longwood University, in Farmville, Virginia. We didn’t run in the same crowd when we were at Longwood, so it’s only been within the past ten years ago, through Facebook, that we’ve become closer.

Back in May 2014, Bill and I took our third military “hop” from Baltimore, Maryland. He was on “terminal leave” from the Army, just before he retired. We landed at Ramstein and decided to travel through France by train. On that trip, which I’ve chronicled in this blog, we visited Reims, Dijon, a suburb of Lyon, Nimes, and Nice. Then we flew from Nice to Frankfurt, took a quick trip to the Rhein, and flew from Ramstein back to the States. You can find the story of that trip by searching the blog, although I haven’t yet gotten around to reformatting it since I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I will fix those posts when I get home to my desktop computer. When they’re fixed, I’ll link them to this post.

We visited Audra, her then boyfriend, Cyril, and Audra’s kids during that 2014 trip. A few weeks after we got back to Texas, where we were living at the time, Bill got a job in Stuttgart, Germany. We moved back to Europe, and ever since then, Audra and I were hoping to arrange another rendezvous. A few months ago, she and Cyril, who is now her husband, invited us to spend Christmas with them. They even invited our dog, Arran.

Originally, the plan was that we’d stay at their house, since two of Audra’s children were visiting their dad. But since Audra has cats and Bill is allergic, and Arran loves to harass cats, we decided to book another gite in Nimes. Beaune, which is where I am right now, is roughly halfway between Nimes and Wiesbaden. It’s actually slightly closer to Nimes. I had originally tried to find another gite in a different city, but had difficulty finding one that offered what we wanted and was pet friendly. So here we are, once again, at Au Miracle du Pain Doré, a charming apartment within walking distance of Beaune’s lovely center.

Today’s plan was, originally, to go into town and purchase some wine to bring back to Wiesbaden with us. Unfortunately, we were victimized at the rest stop at the northbound rest stop heading into Beaune. We had stopped so I could pee and we could let our hosts know that we were almost at our destination. During what was intended to be a short stop, a lowlife criminal gouged a hole in one of our tires. So, instead of wine shopping and wrapping up what was a mostly wonderful trip to France, Bill is making a police report and trying to come up with a way to fix our car so that it will get us back to Germany. He did manage to get the tire patched, which makes me a bit nervous, since the gouge was on the sidewall. But the other option is to have the car towed home, since the local tire shop did not have the size we need and we can’t drive it with the “donut” tire spare. The closer we get to Germany, the better… I just hope we don’t have a blowout and cause an accident.

I’m pretty sure the asshole who punctured our tire was hoping to relieve us of our dirty underwear. Unfortunately, this scam is rampant in Europe. Pirates linger near high speed roads and damage motorists’ tires, then offer “help” while an accomplice steals purses, electronics, and whatever else they can find. They target tourists, especially those in rental cars. Tourists are more likely to be unfamiliar with the area, loaded with cash and valuables, and eager to accept “friendly” help. They’re also less likely to make police reports and press charges.

We were not robbed yesterday. I think the would-be crook was spooked when I stayed in the car with Arran and Bill got on the phone with ADAC, one of Germany’s auto clubs. He lingered for a moment, then vanished once Bill gave him the stink-eye. Still, he and his maggot accomplice managed to ruin a perfectly good tire that has only been on the car since July, when it was built in Sweden. And though he’s given me a new life experience and a good story for this blog, I am actually a bit concerned about our safety tomorrow. If it weren’t going to be a Sunday, I think we’d wait and try to get a new tire. If you’re the praying type and you don’t mind, please offer up a few kind words for us.

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part five.

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On Sunday, we decided to visit Maastricht.  I really didn’t know what to expect, since I had never been to the city before.  I did know that there aren’t any “coffee shops” open to foreigners in Maastricht.  It’s one of the areas in the Netherlands that has chosen to restrict pot sales to people who aren’t locals.  If you want marijuana, you have to go west.

It was no big deal, though.  Maastricht proved to be entertaining without the benefit of pot.  Not only is the city beautiful, it’s also wide open on Sundays.  Yes, you can go shopping, have lunch, or simply people watch.  There was some kind of race going on there Sunday, so there were several brass bands playing along the route, along with a drum band and a group of violinists.  As a music lover, this really appealed to me.  Despite the bitter cold, I stood there and listened to a group of musicians play “Canon in D” and Vivaldi.  I’m not ashamed to admit that their version of Pachelbel’s masterpiece had me openly weeping.

We parked in a huge lot on the outskirts of town and walked in…

Right off the bat, we heard the thundering sound of drums.  An awesome drum band was beating an infectious rhythm and had attracted a crowd.  The music would be a theme in Maastricht on Sunday, as we ran into a number of bands playing in the street.  

What’s that sound?

 

You can also load up on cheese!  I wish I liked cheese more.

We rounded the corner, just out of earshot of the drummers and promptly encountered a quartet of string musicians.

I often get choked up when I hear really well played live music.  I was listening to these people with tears streaming down my cheeks.  They played so well out in the cold and their music went straight to my heart.

As you can see, other people were affected by the music, too.  

We reluctantly moved on, because it was so cold and Bill needed to get some cash.  I managed to get a few more pictures as we searched for an ATM.  We were looking for lunch and a place to pee.

Our route took us past the runners and several more excellent brass bands!

We walked through one area near a mall and several very touristy looking restaurants.  One alley smelled distinctly of cheeseburgers, which was kind of strange.  But then I noticed we were near a McDonalds.

And these guys were playing jazz… I loved that they had a tray of empty beer glasses nearby.

 

Just as we encountered our fifth musical ensemble of the day, I turned to the left and we found a place to have lunch…

 

I have a knack for finding good places to eat.  There are a few things I look for.  Mainly, I like places that aren’t either too crowded or too empty.  I prefer them to be off the main drags.  And it doesn’t hurt if it smells good outside of the restaurant, too.  A lot of people were sitting outside, despite the cold weather.  I didn’t want to sit outside, but Bill was about to bust.  So we walked inside De Twee Heeren, which turned out to be a pretty awesome bar/restaurant.  They were playing good music and had menus in English, as well as places to sit.  We ended up spending a couple of hours in there, enjoying lunch, good Dutch and Belgian beers, and fun music.

Obligatory menu shot of Bill.  They had a number of appealing choices, everything from steaks to falafel.

 

Bill had what amounted to a “sauerbraten stew”.  It came with a big basket of frites and a salad.

 

I had fish and chips.  I considered a few of the other choices and actually had some trouble deciding, but since the Netherlands is a sea faring nation, I figured the fish and chips would be good.  And they were!  I even tried the fries with mayonnaise.  That’s how they eat them…  Not bad at all, though a little bit of mayo goes a long way.

 

Bill had a double espresso while I enjoyed an excellent Belgian brew suggested by the waiter.

And one more for the road.  It’s probably a good thing German beers aren’t this interesting.

 

It was late afternoon by the time we were finished at De Twee Heeren, so we decided to get some cheese for Bill and head back to the dogs.  I might have liked to have tried another restaurant later, but I just can’t eat as much as I once did.  You’d never know it to look at me, though.

This place had lots of free samples, which Bill was happy to try.

Here he’s trying the gouda with garlic.  I think he brought some home.  I found us some beers and waffle cookies, too.  If it turns out he loves the cheese, we can order more.

We headed out of the city and I took a few more photos.

The grand looking building houses the visitor’s center, which sadly, does not have a public toilet.  Fortunately, I found one at a bustling looking hostel with a huge bar.  It was nothing to duck in, which was a huge relief.

So long, Maastricht.  We’ll be back!

 

I missed the lunar eclipse, but did manage to get a picture of the huge full moon.

 

Yesterday morning, we got up bright and early, had breakfast, let the dogs have one more romp with Yogi, and loaded up the car for the drive back to Germany.  Nel was the most awesome hostess and invited us back.  I think she said we were her first real American guests, although she has hosted Canadians.  I’m hoping a few of my American readers living in Germany might visit Vijlen.  I have a feeling we’ll go back, especially if we stay in Germany for much longer.

I love visiting small towns and talking to locals, getting a feel for the real culture.  While we always enjoy visiting big cities, I find that it’s harder to get a feel for the culture, mainly because so many other international visitors are also there.  So, if there’s anything to be learned by this trip, it’s that small towns are worth a look.  They tend to be less expensive, safer, and the locals are more likely to make a connection.  I felt like we’d made a friend when we left Nel’s place yesterday.  I hope this series will inspire a few others to visit her in lovely Vijlen!

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part two.

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Off to the Netherlands!

I had let our hostess, Nel, know that we would be arriving sometime between four o’clock and five, since we needed to check our APO box on post.  Bill is going to be out of town for the rest of the week and I can’t be arsed to go to Clay Kaserne to check the mail.  I don’t even have the combination to our mailbox.  That turned out to be a good plan anyway, since we had a few chores to do before we could head for the Autobahn.  From Wiesbaden, Viljen is about a three hour drive, but most of it is on high speed highways.  And unlike Stuttgart, it appears the the Autobahn up here is pretty well appointed.  There are probably more people here than down there, but traffic isn’t as bad.

We had a mostly uneventful, yet beautiful, drive to the Netherlands.  Here are a few pictures I took on the way.

As we got closer to Aachen, I noticed these signs on the side of the Autobahn.  They were names of trees and years.  My German friend explained that they are “trees of the year“.  The count started in 1989 and every year, a new tree and year is erected.  On the Autobahn, you can see the signs from 1989 to 2014, although I saw no evidence of actual trees planted there.  However, they are planted at the Berlin Zoo.  Since 2010, a German “tree queen” is also elected to represent the project.


Another tree…

 

I also noticed this interesting truck, which had artistic depictions of the Crusades painted on it…  

The art was pretty cool looking, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some people were distracted enough to have a wreck at the sight of it.

We stopped here for a little late lunch.  This rest stop has a Nordsee, which had pretty good food.  Since we had the dogs with us, we ate in the car.

I always enjoy the reading material on the stall doors in German rest stops.  They’ll let you charge your phone, but you still have to pay 70 cents to pee.

Thanks for being there, Serways.

We arrived in the Netherlands at about 3:40pm and arrived at our apartment less than 20 minutes later.  Our hostess was waiting for us.

I like how some places have a canopy of trees formed by lines of them on either side of the road.

 

Pretty country on the way in, with rolling hills…  this is the most “mountainous” part of flat Netherlands.

One of the reasons I like border towns is that you can see how countries change.  You cross the border and the signs change, the language changes, and the laws change.  In the Netherlands, I noticed a difference in architecture, with many brick buildings and painted shutters.  And yet we were really just minutes away from Germany.

I remember enjoying our first trip to the Netherlands in 2015 and wanting to go back there, but it was so much easier to go to France from Stuttgart.  Now that we’re in Wiesbaden, I predict a lot more trips to Benelux, where the beer and the chocolate is better.

Below are some photos of our accommodations, which were very reasonably priced.  I paid just 336 euros for three nights in this two room apartment in rolling farmland.  We also paid 9 euros taxes in cash on the way out today.

The living room area… note the very steep stairs.  Our dogs had a little trouble with them at first, but then got used to them.  The bathroom is on the first floor, which makes our middle of the night pees a little less fun.  We left a light on in the living room for safety, although there is a hall light, too.

A washing machine, but no dryer.

The master bedroom has what I presume was a queen sized bed.  This room also has a TV.

These are two twins pushed together, I think.  There is no TV in this room.

Steep!

It’s a little like climbing a ladder.

The dining area is adjacent to the living room and kitchen.  It does not have a traditional oven, but there is a microwave that has a convection setting.  There’s also a dishwasher.

Another view of the bedroom.  It was a bit chilly during our visit, but the bed linens were warm enough.

 

There is a TV in the living room and a broken DVD player.  The are also a few board games like Rummikub and Yahtzee.

This was a hit at our family reunions when I was growing up.  Nice to know the Dutch like it too.

 

But probably my favorite part about the accommodations was the big fenced in paddock.  Our dogs were welcome to run around in the paddock to their hearts’ content.  They were also allowed to play with Nel’s dog, Yogi, an adorable Shiba Inu.  These Japanese dogs look just like foxes and are bred to hunt birds.  Yogi is just eight months old at this writing and she had a good time getting my 9 and 10 year old dogs to play with her.

Nel also has chickens, which were kept very safe from the dogs and foxes, and she offers boarding for two horses who made Zane and Arran bark.  In warmer weather, we could have walked a route around town, stopping at different restaurants and bars for refreshment every few kilometers.

We decided to stay in on Friday night after Bill made a quick run to the grocery store.  After a good first night’s sleep, we did some exploring on Saturday.  More on that in the next post.

Wiesbaden, take two… the dog friendly housing quest continues. Part two

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I was a bit nervous about our stay at GL Suites.  Check online, and you’ll see this particular property gets some pretty shitty reviews.  I think it’s because people somehow get the idea that the apartments are in downtown Wiesbaden.  The apartment we stayed in was actually in Wiesbaden-Sonnenberg, which is in a residential area on the outskirts of town.  I can see why people hoping to see downtown Wiesbaden would be disappointed in where the apartments are located.  However, for our purposes, the apartment we chose worked out great.

There are two (possibly three if people park tightly and have small cars) free parking spots at the property and plenty of street parking, at least while we were there.  I counted four restaurants within easy walking distance, a bakery, an English speaking veterinarian, and it’s close to Sonneberg, where there’s a cool castle and a huge Edeka with a separate drink market.  Last time we stayed in Wiesbaden, we stayed in a very pet friendly hotel downtown.  Yes, it was nice to be downtown, but when you have dogs, a tiny hotel room is not ideal.  GL Suites wasn’t inexpensive, but it had all the comforts of home and was a lot more practical than the Wiesbaden Town Hotel was.  There’s also public transportation in the neighborhood.

Anyway… we booked apartment one, which came with a whirlpool and a rainfall shower.  We didn’t opt to use the whirlpool.  I was a little tempted last night, but I was also feeling a little under the weather and decided I didn’t want to mess with it.  The rainfall shower was luxurious enough.

Below are some pictures.

Awesome shower and whirlpool!

Living room.  There’s a huge HD TV in there with Sky TV, which gets a few channels in English.

Foyer.  You use an electronic code to access the building and the apartments themselves.

Fully equipped kitchen has an induction stove, oven, and dishwasher.  There’s a table and chairs, too.

Huge fridge and freezer, although I don’t think the water and ice maker work.  They don’t appear to be connected to a water source.

Bedroom.  I think the bed was queen sized.  It was very comfortable.  My only complaint was the street lights outside.  Rolladens or blackout drapes would have been nice, since the lamps shone into the room.  

Couch.

On the first floor, there’s an infrared sauna, a toilet, a couple of pieces of workout equipment (treadmill and elliptical), and a straw bed.  There’s also a barbecue area where you can grill out and eat al fresco.  Bill took the dogs up there because there’s also a trail where the dogs could easily relieve themselves.

I usually try not to book places that charge pet fees, mainly because I find places that don’t charge fees are less anal retentive about dogs.  I didn’t really have a choice this time, since the Town Hotel was fully booked.  We paid 15 euros per dog per night, so 90 euros… It’s a little steep, since I could have put them in the hunde pension for only a few euros more.  But I doubt I would have been able to book them with Max with such short notice.  It was nice having them, too.  I like having my dogs with me, even if they do hog the bed.

For three nights, we paid about $600 to stay at GL Suites.  I’d book there again, now that I know what to expect.  But I can understand people being irate if they were expecting downtown Wiesbaden.  It’s NOT in downtown Wiesbaden.

Below are a few more pictures of the amenities.

Sauna.  We didn’t use it.

Straw bed.

Exercise equipment.

Coffee and drinks…

Towels…

Labor Day weekend in lovely Lesa, Italy on Lake Maggiore… Part one

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Bill and I usually go somewhere for the long Labor Day weekend, although last year we didn’t do anything because we had a cruise planned for Scotland and Northern Ireland.  This year, we hadn’t really talked too much about it, since Bill had a big business trip to Morocco the week prior.  We also just found out that we might have to move and the need to secure a job and potentially new housing has kind of dominated our thoughts.

I got to thinking about it, though, and decided I did need a short break from Germany.  So, a few weeks ago, I casually asked Bill what he wanted to do for Labor Day.  He said he wouldn’t mind a quick trip, despite having to travel to Africa the week prior.  I had been looking at going to Ticino in southern Switzerland, which is near Lake Lugano, but I knew we’d need to bring our dogs with us and I wasn’t finding any appropriate self-catering properties.

Then I looked at all the places I had saved on Booking.com and most of them were already booked.  Suddenly, I remember that my German friend, Susanne, had recommended Lake Maggiore.  This lake is close to Lake Como, which we’ve visited a couple of times, but was rumored to have a quieter vibe.  Also, although I had been looking at Ticino, Switzerland, when it comes down to it, Italy is much cheaper.  And if you’re going to be that close to Italy, you might as well just go there.  So I searched Lake Maggiore on Booking.com and found the Rose Apartment in Lesa.  Bill flipped a coin; it was between the Czech Republic and Lesa.  Lesa won.

The word “apartment” is kind of a misnomer for this property.  When I think of apartments, I think of small rented quarters sharing walls with other people.  The Rose Apartment is, in fact, a good sized house, complete with a huge fenced in yard.  I noted that it was very close to the lake and the price was right, so I booked it for three nights.  In retrospect, I should have booked it for at least four nights.  Our break in Italy wasn’t long enough.  However, we were in Lesa long enough to get a feel for the low-key town.  I now know that I don’t have much of a reason to go back to Lake Como.  Lake Maggiore is definitely more my style.  It’s less flashy and more homey.

First thing’s first.  How do you pronounce Lesa?

No, it’s not like “Lisa”.  It’s more like lay-zuh.

Bill got home from Morocco late Thursday night.  Friday morning, we considered waiting to pick up the mail before starting our journey south.  Fortunately, I realized that waiting for the post office to open would really put us behind.  We set off from Germany at about 9:30am or so, expecting to arrive in Lesa by 4:00… maybe 5:00 at the latest.

The drive to Italy through Switzerland is very beautiful.  You pass through stunning mountains and lakes that will take your breath away.  I probably should have been enjoying more of the scenery, but I also got to try out the cellular capability on my new iPad.  I signed up for a month of data from GigSky for 50 euros (5 GB).  It worked very well and I only used one gig to and from Italy.  Sometimes I’m surprised I was born in the 70s.  You’d think I never had to live without Internet access.  But for a small country, Switzerland takes a long time to get through and since it’s not in the EU, roaming charges are a bitch.  Gig Sky worked well enough that I’d use it again.

This lake is so beautiful.  We need to stop sometime so I can take proper photos.  We had sun on the way back today and the lake was even more gorgeous.

Sadly, because we had our hoodlum dogs with us, we ended up eating lunch at a Burger King, where we both had sandwiches that were sodden with mayonnaise.  I don’t know why, but fast food restaurants in Germany and Switzerland really overdo the condiments, especially mayo.  Next time, maybe we should pack our own sandwiches.

Way too much mayo!!!

Then… fate conspired to keep us on the road much longer than we originally planned.  First, we hit a ton of traffic in Switzerland near the Gotthard Tunnel.  It took awhile to get through the 16.9 kilometer passage.  Once we were through that, we hit more traffic in Italy.  We got there just as rush hour was starting.

Just over the Italian border.  It was like this the whole way.

And then, we hit a section of the autostrada, really not that far from Lesa, and ended up sitting for in traffic that was pretty much at a standstill.  We were stuck there for well over an hour and, when Bill honked at a young woman who was apparently asleep at the wheel, she flipped him off.  In Italy, it’s not illegal to flip people off like it is here in Germany.  I wouldn’t ordinarily do something like that, even though we were really tired and our tempers were very short.  When you’re sitting in traffic that has come to a standstill after you’ve been driving for hours, you tend to have less patience.  Bill was amused and surprised by her vehement response.

We paid just under three euros in tolls to drive on the autostrada.  Bill remarked that it was very cheap.  I turned to him and said, “You would have wanted to pay more for that experience?”  He had a good laugh at that.  While we were stuck in the Stau, we managed to stop into an Autogrill (Italy’s rest stop chain) and the gas station attendant pointed out that the back wiper on our RAV 4 was slightly cracked.  The attendant offered to replace it for us.  Bill got the sense he might have cracked the wiper himself, looking for extra euros.  We’ve been to Italy enough times that we’re seasoned when it comes to small time scams.  Unfortunately, this was not the only calling card our car brought back from Italy.  More on that in the next post.

Bumper to bumper traffic.  Turned out the holdup was a very bad accident.  My mouth dropped open as we passed what appeared to be an overturned truck.  I’d be surprised if the driver walked away from that with his or her life.

 

First view of the lake.  I was so glad to see it!

 

By the time we got to Lesa, it was about 7:30pm.  Since he and his wife had dinner plans, the host sent his two very beautiful and charming teenaged daughters to give us the keys to the house.  They got to try out their English skills and our dogs, Zane and Arran, got lots of welcoming pats.  I don’t think I could have picked a more dog friendly rental!

Below are some pictures of the inside of the Rose Apartment.

Huge chestnut tree in the yard.  There are swings.

 

Sliding board next to a pavilion where you can grill.

Crib in the master bedroom.

 

Master bed.  Fairly comfortable mattress.

Laundry room in the basement.  There’s a washer and an ironing board.

 

Hall bathroom.

 

Kids’ bedroom has four beds.  There’s also a twin bed in the living room and in the basement.

 

Basement bed.

 

Basement half bathroom.

 

Couches in the living room and another twin bed.

 
 

Nice sized kitchen.  Opens to a lovely terrace with an awning.

We were too tired to go out to eat, so Bill found a local pizzeria and got a margherita pizza and tortellini with sage.  

Then he tried on the hat that was left behind.  I’m not sure the Italian look is for him.

This is a post office we passed in a big town on the way to Lesa.  I thought it was an interesting mix of dramatic art and 60s kitsch.

  

We didn’t stay up long after we had dinner.  The drive down was very exhausting.  I was kind of bummed, since we might have found a nice restaurant if we’d had a little more time on Friday.  Food, wine. and a change of scenery were pretty much what this trip was all about, anyway.

I should mention that the Rose Apartment has old style Italian three pronged L outlets, which means that our regular electronics didn’t fit.  However, the owners did provide a power strip in the kitchen that gave us enough outlets that we could charge up our phones and such.  Also, WiFi worked great, which is more than I can say about our experience in the last Italian rental we stayed in last year.

I will continue this series tomorrow, after I’ve had a good sleep.  The drive back to Germany today wasn’t quite as exhausting or obnoxious, but I could use a drink.

Heavenly hiking at the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle

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Still chasing waterfalls in the Black Forest!

On May 19th of this year, Bill and I paid a visit to the lovely Burgbach Wasserfall in Bad Rippoldsau.  On that day, we had made tentative plans to also visit the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle (All Saints Waterfalls), which I found out about when I read this guy’s blog about waterfalls in Europe.  His post about the Allerheiligen falls led me to believe they weren’t anything special.  I was also thinking they were closer to Bad Rippoldsau than they are.  We couldn’t visit the All Saints falls on May 19th because while we were eating lunch, the sky opened up with rain.  Having now been to the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, I’m pretty glad we chose to visit them on a different day.  The visit was a lot more intense than I was expecting.

We left the house at a few minutes past noon and made the trip to the Black Forest National Park.  The falls are located just north of the village of Oppenau.  As usual, we enjoyed a lovely ride through the Black Forest, past Freudenstadt and Kniebis.  The only thing that made it a little stressful were the many bikers sharing the road with us.  The Black Forest is very beautiful, and it attracts motorcycle enthusiasts in droves.  They can be rather aggressive in their need for speed.  More on that later.

A lot of people had the same idea we did.  We arrived at the falls at about 1:00pm and the first parking lots we encountered were pretty full.  We parked on the street, where there are a number of spots available.  Here’s another hint.  Keep going past those first lots and you will eventually find the main entrance to the waterfalls.  There is also a large, free parking lot there.  On the other hand, if you want to eat before you hike, parking at the first lots will get you close to the very good gasthaus there.

A lovely view of the mountains, meadow, and a war memorial honoring men who died during World War I.

Besides the majestic waterfalls, Allerheiligen is also the site of a ruined monastery, the foundation of which originated in 1192.  Evidently, the site of the monastery was determined by a donkey, which threw off a sack of money in the area.  A wooden chapel was built, and by 1657, it became an abbey.  The Allerheiligen Kloster was at the height of its power during the 18th century, but in 1802,  Margrave Karl Friedrich of Baden began a course of secularization.  He dissolved the abbey and took all of its possessions.  The monastery was already damaged by several large fires between 1405 and 1555.  In 1804, there was another fire caused by a bolt of lightening.  It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when people started to tour the Black Forest, that anyone thought to preserve what was left of the ruins.  So many years later, they are still very interesting and kind of majestic in their starkness.

We encountered the ruins first, as they were at the end of the trail we took from our roadside parking spot.  Below are some pictures.

Now you see Bill…

Now you don’t.

This creek eventually turns into the waterfalls…

A more modern church on the hillside.  We didn’t investigate it because frankly, after walking up and down the falls, we were exhausted!

If you like photography, this is a beautiful place to be.  There’s a lot of interesting scenery.

 

The gaststätte is conveniently located next to the ruins.  Bill and I arrived just in time to snag a table. The hardworking staff was busy the whole time we were there and no table stayed empty for long.  We sat down next to two tables consisting of two couples with kids.  I’m pretty sure the husband of one couple was German.  Everyone else was very obviously American and spoke loudly enough for everyone to know from where they came.  It made me chuckle.

A very slender and extremely friendly lady took our order.  She spoke some English and was relentlessly chipper.  I admired how much she seemed to enjoy her work.  She was all smiles.  I used to wait tables myself and I can promise that I struggled to smile a lot when I was doing that work.  It was truly a pleasure to be served by her, though.  Not only that, but the food at the restaurant was surprisingly good.

Bill peruses the menu, which was passed to us by a nice guy at the next table.

Bill settled on Schweinebraten, which was served with brown gravy and a mound of delicious mashed potatoes.

I had fresh trout, topped with toasted almonds and served with mashed potatoes.  Those potatoes were off the chain!  They were very buttery and delicious!  It was such a treat!  I don’t remember ever being served mashed potatoes at a German restaurant before, but these would have made my mother proud.  We both enjoyed Weizen beers.

 

The food at the gaststätte is typically German.  They do have vegetarian selections and both a children’s menu and a menu for seniors.  We were pretty full after lunch, but I had to try the Black Forest cake.  All told, we spent 46 euros.

We shared a piece.  It was delicious.  Definitely not what you’d find at Busch Gardens in Virginia.  I used to decorate the fake Black Forest Cakes there. 

As we were about to leave, a group of bikers sat at the table next to ours.  It was good that we were leaving, since they pulled out their cigarettes and clearly intended to foul the air with smoke.  Sorry… I don’t mind smokers unless I am forced to sit next to them, especially when I’m eating.  But we were on our way to the falls by the time they lit up, so it was all good.  

Another shot of the ruins.

They were still busy when we left… and when we came back an hour later.  This restaurant only runs until 6:30pm, but it appears they work all day.  We thought it was well worth the trip.

There is a public restroom.  It’s not the cleanest and the doors have locks on them that require 20 euro cents to open.  I didn’t have to pay, though, because I got one that was left open by someone else.

A small museum with three rooms in it.  If you can read German, you can learn more about the history of the Allerheiligen monastery.

A fountain.

As you walk toward the falls, you encounter a fork.  If you go straight, you will go straight to the waterfalls.  If you bear left, you climb a gentle hill to the war memorial I mentioned earlier and pictured below.

You can unlatch the gate and look at the memorial close up.  We chose not to, which in retrospect was a wise decision.  We had many steps in our future.

You’re not supposed to wade or swim in the creek.  However, we saw plenty of people ignoring these ubiquitous signs.  We even saw one group that were actually wearing bathing suits and in the water.  Not saying you should do it, but I will say that there was no one policing.

The walk to the waterfalls is pleasant, easy, and flat.  You don’t know what’s coming…

 At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that we parked at the first parking area we encountered.  I think that was a mistake, even though I wanted to have lunch before we started our hike.  If you start at the top of the falls, you will get tired going down.  Then you will have to turn around and hike back up.  The hike up is a lot more strenuous than the hike down is.  There are seven levels, most of which aren’t steep drops.  However, at the bottom of the system, there are two big falls with many steps to climb up and down.  Keep that in mind if you visit.  Also… do not come to the falls with a stroller or a wheelchair.  This is a moderately difficult walk and requires participants to be able bodied or carried.

Below are photos from the walk down the falls.  It was fairly busy today, so a lot of people were taking pictures.  I think I did a pretty good job of not including most of them in my shots!  It took us about an hour to hike down and back, with another hour or so for a leisurely lunch.  If you have a lot of energy, you could combine this activity with another one.

One of the steep staircases to climb.

And a look at just how far down the mountain you are…

At the end of the falls, as we were approaching the main entrance.

Piles of rocks left by other visitors.

A map of the area.  If you wanted to, you could do a lot of heavy duty hiking here.

This is a picture of the main entrance– seems most people use it.

We turned around and started walking back.  This is a sign warning against winter visits, when the falls are closed.  I would imagine it would be dangerous to walk along the falls when it’s very icy.

A chair?  I sure could have used one.

Another long trip up the stairs!  Good thing I have a strong heart!

Although it didn’t take long to visit the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, it was a challenging walk for Bill and me.  I was alternately panting, sweating, and thanking God I’m still able to do these kinds of activities.  I thought of my mom as I was climbing the steps.  She’s turning 80 in August and can no longer walk like she used to.  She would not have been able to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls here.  On the other hand, we did see a number of very fit seniors visiting this natural wonder.  So I will keep hauling my ass up the hills and taking pictures.  Even if I sometimes grouse at the hard physical work, crowds, and stinging nettle plants, I am never sorry I do these day trips.  I always come away better off for having made the effort to visit.

I was tempted to hike up and down this very short but steep shortcut.  But then I remembered being stung by plants yesterday and decided not to cheat.

One last shot…

 Now… earlier in this post, I mentioned the bikers and how they were creating a bit of a hazard on the road to the waterfalls.  Those of you who ride motorcycles should pay close attention.  Bill and I got in the car and started heading home.  My cell phone had absolutely no signal in the area.  While this was initially a nuisance for an Internet addict like me, it actually became what might have been a matter of life or death.

As we were driving along the road between where we parked and where the main entrance to the falls are, we passed a young woman dressed in biker garb.  I noticed that she looked very distraught.  She waved at us to slow down.  As we approached a sharp bend, I could see why she was waving.  There was a small group of bikers on the side of the road, next to the treelined cliff.  A young man stood in the middle of the road and flagged us down.  He motioned for us to lower the window and asked us if we had a “handy” (cell phone).  Bill and I were confused as to what was going on, but the look on his face told us something bad had just happened.  Clearly, he was hoping I had a signal so he could call for help.

I noticed the groups’ bikes were parked nearby and a couple of the men were looking over the edge of the mountain.  I can’t be sure, but it appeared that a very serious accident had just occurred.  Bill and I surmised that perhaps a member of their group had been unable to negotiate the turn and went over.  I don’t know this for sure, though… only that the people in that group appeared to be very upset.  It looked like whatever had happened had only just happened.  Hopefully, whoever came after us was more helpful than we were and no one was either hurt or killed.  But that’s sure the way it looked.

So if you ride a motorcycle, please slow down and be careful, especially on the very curvy mountain roads at high altitudes.  We saw an awful lot of people taking stupid chances today, even if we hadn’t run into this distressed looking group.

Edited to add:  Here’s a news report about the accident.  Our impressions were correct.  Looks like he survived.

Oppenau (ots) – On the county road 5370 between Allerheiligen and Oppenau came on Sunday afternoon at 16:25 clock a 47-year-old motorcyclist alone involved in a right turn to fall. The driver of a group of four slipped over the road after the fall and threw first against a tree on the left lane side and in the sequence down a slope. The man was seriously injured about 50 meters below the road to lie down, his admitted in France two-wheelers crashed about 80 meters in depth. The casualty was hospitalized in a hospital. During the extensive recovery, the county road was closed for about 2 hours. The damage to the bike is around 12,000 euros.

Minutes after we passed the guys on the side of the road, we passed the main entrance.  If we had parked there, we probably would have missed the whole drama.

It was a really beautiful day to visit the waterfalls.  And… I was thanking God we did it in June instead of late July or August!  I was still radiating heat when we got to the car.  By the way… it doesn’t cost anything to visit these falls.  Frankly, I thought they were gorgeous.  Triberg may have Germany’s highest falls, but I think Allerheiligen’s falls are much prettier.  In fact, I also liked them better than the falls at Bad Urach.  If you like waterfalls, I definitely recommend a trip to the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle.

Below are just a few photos I took on the way home.  The route took us a different way than we’d ever been before.  Oppenau looks like a really nice town.  I may have to explore there next.

Hello again to the Holzkrug!

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Back in August 2014, around the time Bill and I moved back to the Stuttgart area, we paid a visit to the Holzkrug in Vaihingen.  I had fondly remembered the tiny little eatery from our first tour in Stuttgart, from 2007-09.  For the first six weeks of our stay, we lived at the Vaihninger Hof, a run down hotel within walking distance of Patch Barracks.  Because it was a no frills German hotel, we only had a little dorm sized fridge in our room.  We had to eat out for most of our meals.  As a consequence, I got to know the restaurants circa 2007 in the Vaihingen area very well.

I remember liking the Holzkrug because of its local style charm and the fact that they sometimes serve roasted chicken there that is to die for.  I see by my last Holzkrug post, Bill and I both had chicken the last time we were there.  Today, we stopped in for lunch because we stopped by Patch to gas up my car.  They weren’t serving any chicken today, but we still had a nice lunch.

The door was open and the German pop was playing…

 

Holzkrug offers hot food from 10:30am until 2:00pm on Saturdays.  They also offer lunch with specials from 10:30am until 2:00pm and then dinner from 4:30pm until 8:00pm all during the work week.  On Sundays, they are only open from 10:00am until 2:00pm.  Dinner is not offered on weekend nights.

The Holzkrug is the only restaurant in this area that I’ve been to that sometimes offers roasted chicken.  The only other time I’ve seen it has been at fests or from “chicken men” with food trucks.  If there are other local restaurants that have chicken, I haven’t run into them yet.

Bill checks out today’s limited menu.

 

Today’s offerings.  Bill originally settled on “Forelle” (trout), but they were out of it.  They did, however, have fried fish of some sort.  That’s what he ordered.  I ordered “Cordon Bleu und Krokettes”, basically a fried schntizel stuffed with ham and mild melted cheese.

 

The Holzkrug has a very local vibe, even though it’s close to Patch Barracks.  Although I did see a plaque with an American flag on it, I don’t know that they get a lot of Americans in there.  We had to share a table with a guy who was clearly a regular and kindly made room for us at the “Stammtisch” (a table set aside for regulars).  I think it’s mostly a bar, though we’ve always gone there to eat and have enjoyed every experience.

“Stammtisch”– if you see one of these signs in a German or Austrian restaurant, it means it’s reserved for regulars.  However, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen too many regulars taking advantage of one.  Maybe it’s because I make a habit of trying so many different places that I haven’t really become a “regular” at many restaurants here.  The Stammtisch is different than a table that’s “reserved”.  

 

The view of the bar from where I was sitting.  This is a small place, but it’s very quaint and kind of charming.  I’m pretty sure they have English menus if you ask for them.  Sometimes the servers speak English, though today’s didn’t really.  I like the interior of the Holzkrug.  It’s the kind of place I wish we had in our own little town… you could go there and soak up the atmosphere over a couple of beers.

 

Here’s a picture of our deep fried goodness…  Bill had the fried fish special, which came with potato salad.  He washed it down with a Hefeweizen.  I had the Cordon Bleu and fried potato croquettes.  It was a lot and we brought home leftovers from my dish!

 

The guy sitting next to us was humming off key.  It was driving me nuts.  I happen to be a very musical person with “perfect pitch”, which means that when things are off key, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.  I felt badly about being annoyed, though, because he was nice enough to share his table with us.  The guy sitting behind Bill, also clearly a local and a regular, kept shooting glances at us.  But the wait staff was very kind and attentive.

This is a decidedly dog friendly place.  A large Doberman was enjoying a visit while we were there.  It’s also kid friendly.  I noticed the bartender gave a little boy a little bag of popcorn while he was waiting for his Oma to finish up.  There are also a couple of kid-sized choices on the menu.

After we ate, I noticed the sign on the wall.  It basically translates to “If you’re the type to forget to pay when you drink, pay beforehand.”

 

A Pilsner…

After lunch, I had a Pils.  I don’t usually drink Pils, but every time we visit the Holzkrug, I am reminded of our first time here.  Bill ordered a Pils at this restaurant and thought they had forgotten about his beer when I got served my Hefeweizen first.  He asked the barkeep where his beer was.  The bartender chastised him and told him that a proper Pils can take up to seven minutes to pour.  A quick Googling tells me that she was telling the truth about that, but truth be told, I have yet to ever visit a bar in Germany where it’s taken that long…

At about 2:20pm, it was time for our server to clock out, so she asked us to settle our bill.  It came to about thirty euros before the tip.  I finished my beer and visited the ladies room.  Here’s a handy tip for anyone who happens to be in Vaihingen and needs to pee.  The Holzkrug will allow non-guests to use their restroom if you pay 50 cents.  Yeah, I know paying to pee is the norm here, but at least you know there’s a place to go if the need strikes.

Anyway, we like the Holzkrug.  I like them even better when they have roasted chicken, which they also sell to go.  This is a nice local hole in the wall with typical German food, friendly service, and very reasonable prices.