Health, Schwarzwald

Baiersbronn in the Black Forest– Bareiss Style! Part three

Thursday morning, it was time to try breakfast at the Hotel Bareiss for the very first time. As it was our first time, we weren’t sure what the process was. A huge, full, breakfast buffet is available in the hotel restaurant, but a few folks also took advantage of the small, continental breakfast in the pool area. We didn’t do this on any morning we were at the hotel because we were staying in the Landhaus. If we stayed in the main hotel, I might have enjoyed eating down there.

On the first morning, the staff told us to sit where we sat the night before. Like other resorts with board programs, the Hotel Bareiss has assigned seating for meals. There, on our table, was a basket for picking up bread. We ordered coffee, and then tackled the enormous selection in the buffet. I counted over 20 kinds of bread, plus pastries, fruits, vegetables, shrimp, smoked salmon, smoked trout, and a huge meat counter, where there were many different cold cuts and sauces. There were lots of juices, sparkling and still water, and of course, Sekt! There were cereals, crepes, heart shaped waffles, and sausages. Eggs can also be made to order. I took advantage of that option on two of our five mornings at the hotel. Most days, my eyes were bigger than my stomach… which is quite a feat!

After breakfast, we decided to make our way to Stuttgart, figuring we would be arriving in time for lunch. Our dentist has an office on Calwer Strasse, which is a pretty nice address downtown. It so happened that the Historic Volksfest was going on. Bill and I had attended this fun little festival in 2018. Like the Cannstatter Wasen, the Volksfest has rides and attractions, but it’s much smaller and tamer than the big fest is. It’s located in downtown Stuttgart, rather at the Wasen grounds, which are in another part of town. Don’t get me wrong. We love the Wasen, but I prefer the calmer, more sedate, and less hectic mood of the Volksfest. An added bonus is that it was taking place within walking distance of the dentist’s office.

Before we hit the Volksfest, Bill and I both needed bathrooms. He took a chance on one of the pay toilets in the city. I was smarter, and used the much cleaner and better equipped toilets near the Markthalle that were also FREE of charge! I did get some funny footage in the video below… plus some footage from the Volksfest. We went there for lunch– half a chicken each, plus potato salad and Festbier!

Some musical fun we had in Stuttgart…
I enjoyed the bandleader! He was having fun!

Below are some photos from Stuttgart and the Historic Volksfest.

After lunch, we went to see our dentist and got our teeth cleaned. Our dentist, who is probably the best one either Bill or I have ever had, saw issues for both of us. In my case, I have a remaining baby tooth that needs a new filling. Six years ago, our dentist in Stuttgart placed an implant for another baby tooth that he had to pull, because it was abscessed. The matching bottom tooth, also a baby tooth, will probably also have to be pulled and replaced with an implant. But, he’s willing to try refilling it to see if it will continue to work. In Bill’s case, there’s a tooth with a crack in it that needs to be repaired. So, when we visit in the spring, we’ll probably just stay in Stuttgart, because I expect we’ll want to go to the hotel and relax after we get the work done. We do have a favorite hotel in Stuttgart, so hopefully we will be able to book it. Last year, when we wanted to go there, it was totally full!

At about four o’clock, we started making the journey back to the Hotel Bareiss. It was bittersweet, driving back through the same area where we used to live. Because of construction going on in the route from Baiersbronn to Freudenstadt, we went through a few towns we hadn’t seen before, and one or two that we did visit, back in the day. It’s definitely true that we liked living in the Stuttgart area, in spite of everything that happened when we left there in 2018.

Dinner on Thursday night was Italian themed, so the huge buffet had Italian salads. The menu was Italian themed. I was feeling a bit irritated after our dentist visit, so I decided to order a rib eye and steak fries, with Bearnaise Sauce instead of trying the themed meal. Bill did try some of the dishes… which I may or may not remember! There was just so much offered! We had the same waitress as we did on Wednesday, as well as a very sharp young man who is likely up and coming. I liked him so much that I took note of his nametag and mentioned him positively in the questionnaire I filled out on exiting this morning.

Below are some photos from dinner…

We decided to skip drinking at the bar on Thursday night, so that meant we got in before turn down was done. We figured out that they do turn down at around 9:00 or 9:30pm. It consists of closing the drapes, setting down mats by the bed, and turning down the split duvets. They also leave programs for the next day, and delicious chocolates! We found the programs and the chocolates hanging on our door the next morning. More on that in part four.

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customs, markets

Breckenheim’s very first village market…

Yesterday, something happened that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for awhile. Our little village had its very first neighborhood market on the Dorfplatz. It was also the first day of September, which means that, right on cue, the weather started to change in earnest. I’ve lived in Germany for ten years of my life and it never fails. As of September 1, it immediately gets cooler in Germany, even if it was broiling hot the week prior. Usually, by the 15th, I consistently need to wear a jacket, and have put away the air conditioners until summer comes around again. In fact, just a few minutes ago, I pulled the air conditioning hose inside and closed the window in my office for the first time in weeks. It’s really cooling down outside. I hope that means we’ll soon get some rain.

Some people might not think the neighborhood market is a big deal. I mentioned it on social media, and two of my American friends posted that their towns in the United States are doing the “same” thing. With all due respect to my American friends, I don’t think it is quite the same. Remember, I spent a good 35 of my 50 years in the USA, and have lived in several states, so I’m in a position to know something about life there. I would be very surprised if I went to a market in, say, my home state of Virginia, and found someone selling fresh harissa, locally produced sausages, or unpasteurized cheeses, which are usually pretty hard to find in the US.

I would also be surprised if they were pouring local wines. In the States, there’s a big emphasis on alcohol laws. Anyone appearing to be under 21 will be carded. This isn’t to say there are no booze laws here, but the drinking age is lower, while the driving age is higher… and fewer people drive here, anyway. And drinking seems to be more of a normal part of society, just as smoking is. In our case, the market was just down the hill from our house, and all of the people at the market are literally our neighbors.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful markets in the United States. I just don’t think they’re quite the same there as they are here. The market that happens in Wiesbaden is totally different than the market we had last night, which was very small and felt more like a wine stand with a few vendors selling their wares. However, I have a feeling that once the market catches on, it will be bigger, and there will be more things to buy than what was available last night. As it was, there was a flower vendor, someone selling vegetables, and a Turkish Feinkost represented. And the wine kiosk was open, so they were selling wine, beer, Schorles, and other non-alcoholic beverages. It looked like they had the usual Brats and Brotchens, too. I had Noyzi and Arran with me, so I didn’t get very close to the action.

Maybe it sounds petty, but it kind of annoys me when people back home assume they know how it is here… and claim it’s the “same” as it is in the United States. As an American who has lived many years in America, I know it isn’t, really. But then, a lot of things in the USA are not the same as they are in Germany. For instance, it’s pretty hard to find some of my favorite American style comfort foods over here. I am fortunate enough to shop at the military commissary, order from Amazon.com, and have stuff come through APO (government mail for US citizens). I regularly buy high quality grits from a farm in South Carolina, which are vastly superior to the Quaker quick or instant grits “crapola” in the commissary. I wouldn’t be able to find grits at all in a German store. Instead, I’d find polenta, which is not really the same. It’s only somewhat similar. Grits are also NOT semolina (Cream of Wheat). They are made of ground up hominy, which is corn.

The boys were amused by the sights and sounds of our little market.

It’s been my experience that Europeans tend to be more community minded than most people in the United States are, but of course there are always exceptions. And I’ve found that Breckenheim is a lot more of a friendly community than either of the towns we lived in near Stuttgart. Maybe it’s because of the wine. Stuttgart does have wineries, but the emphasis in the southern part of Germany is more on beer. Up here near the Rhein, it’s wine country. Maybe it’s because Hesse is not Swabia. Seriously… there is a different mindset in the Swabian region of Germany. It’s not that the people aren’t nice. They are. It’s just that it seems to take longer to make friends down there. The mood is a bit more insular, especially in smaller towns. There’s a different dialect that even native Germans sometimes have trouble understanding. And people, on the whole, seem to be more reserved and formal than they are in Hesse. In that sense, Germany IS like the United States, because as we all know, there are many different cultures within the regions of the US, too.

Anyway, below are some photos from last night. I didn’t get as close as I would have liked to, because we brought the dogs with us. Noyzi still gets pretty freaked out by strangers, although I can tell his instinct is to be very friendly. He’s still overcoming traumas from his youth, though, and that takes time and experience. I was proud of him last night, even if he was a little spooked by everything. Overall, he behaved very well. Arran, of course, couldn’t care less. He’s getting pretty old and is now unimpressed by a lot of things that used to set him off. Next weekend, Breckenheim will host its first wine fest. That should be fun, especially since it will be easy to haul home purchases from the Dorfplatz. Last night also heralded the opening of Breckenheim’s public toilet! I know that was exciting, too. The men of the village have been all over setting it up for weeks now.

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Wine week in Wiesbaden… one last hurrah, and two rip offs!

Bill and I were trying to decide what we wanted to do today… when we were younger and less cranky, we might have decided to go to a place further afield, like Bad Homberg, or maybe Rüdesheim, which was having a wine fest this weekend. I’ve actually been wanting to go back to Rüdesheim myself, because I want to ride the Seilbahn. I’ve never done it before, and now is a good time to try it, before the weather turns to shit, as it usually does in September. But we didn’t feel like risking a Stau, and weren’t wanting to go far, so we decided to go back to the Wiesbaden Wine Fest, which ends tonight.

Overall, we had a good time. I drank lots of wine, and teased Bill, who didn’t drink nearly as much, since he had to drive. We ate good food and enjoyed the agreeable temperatures, which aren’t as bad as they have been lately, even if my house is still hot. We need rain very badly. But I know it’s coming, because the seasons are going to change soon. And, in my experience, they will change quickly.

We sat in a different part of the festival this time, and tried wines from three different Weinguts. We had different food, and I enjoyed a different public toilet. Sadly, Bill and I BOTH got ripped off.

It started with Bill. As it was mid afternoon, we required some food. He went off and came back with a fruit/cheese platter that was plenty of food, but not enough of what I wanted to eat. Bill had been talking about Langos, which is a popular Hungarian street food, that consists of fried dough topped with savory treats. Before today, I had never heard of them, but Bill talked them up. Then we saw someone with one that looked really good. So I told Bill I wanted to try one.

He went to the stand, very close to where we were sitting, and ordered me an Italian Langos– fried dough, tomatoes, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and paprika spread. It was actually delicious, but the guy who made it, ripped off about 15 euros from Bill by shortchanging him. Bill was pissed about it, but didn’t want to confront the guy. So I dispensed a piece of wisdom, which was “You don’t always need to be driving the karma bus.”

It’s true. When it counts, Bill stands up for his rights. He did sue our ex landlady, after all. This was a minimal loss, and we were having a good time… and that guy is going to be caught eventually. Last night, we booked five nights at the very nice Bareiss Hotel in the Black Forest, a place that guy will probably never get to experience. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I empathize with Bill being pissed, though. I just don’t think it needs to ruin the day, especially if it’s not enough of a big deal to say something about it.

Then I got up to pee. I paid the 80 cents with a two euro coin… I got change. Guess what? The “one euro” coin I got, came from Argentina. Yep… I got ripped off, too. I guess he saw me coming. Oh well. I took the coin and put it in my special foreign coin purse, which I bought in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996. It has coins from all over the world, as well as US coins that date back to 1880. No, a coin from Argentina doesn’t have monetary value in Germany, but having it provides me with a good story, which, to some people, is probably worth more than a euro. And I’ve never been to Argentina, so now I have a reason to go there, right? To spend my almost worthless two pesos, exchanged for a euro. The two peso coin is currently worth about .01 euro cent.

Anyway, we still had a good afternoon. This time, we had wines from three different wineries in the Rheingau. When we left, a lovely lesbian couple had taken over the table. They were doing what Bill and I always do when we buy wines to taste– trading the glasses. What a love language. The wine week ends tonight, so next weekend, I hope to have different photos. But for now, here’s what I have…

All in all, it was a nice afternoon, in spite of being ripped off. We learned new things. And, in the grand scheme of things, being ripped off twice isn’t a big deal. Because eventually, those guys will likely get busted, and we don’t miss the money, anyway. Next month, I will be writing about a legendary Black Forest hotel, after I get dental care. If you ask me, we are pretty blessed… as I write this, Elton John’s “Blessed” is even playing.

But I understand why Bill was pissed. No one likes to be a chump. At least he wasn’t alone today. 😉

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Lunch at Mangia, Mangia in Kronberg…

Although we had wonderful weather again yesterday, Bill and I never managed to venture out anywhere. Instead, we stayed home and enjoyed our usual backyard wine and music. Bill also made a “savory cheesecake”, which was something I used to serve when I worked lunch shifts at The Trellis in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Trellis was started in 1980 and run by Marcel Desaulniers, John Curtis, and for some years, the late Tom Powers. Mr. Powers eventually divested himself of his share of the restaurant and opened a competitor, The Fat Canary, which is still running and very popular. When I worked at The Trellis, Mr. Powers was already out of the partnership.

Anyway, a savory cheesecake is a cheese based pastry… but it’s “savory”. It’s a cheesecake made with cream cheese and some other kind of cheese. In our case, we used Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese, but in Marcel’s cookbook, it calls for Dry Jack and Gruyeres cheeses and at the restaurant, they made it with cream cheese and Swiss.

Bill tries his hand at cheesecake. Yes, it looks like a sweet cheesecake, but it’s not… and it’s not a quiche, either. It’s cheese based, not egg based.

While we were enjoying the cheesecake, Bill asked me if I would like to go out to lunch today. I said that would be fine, so we made reservations at Mangia, Mangia, an Italian eatery in Kronberg im Taunus, which is just on the outskirts of Frankfurt. Kronberg is right next to Koenigstein, which is where I had my birthday lunch in June, and not at all far from Bad Soden, a spa town that also has an Italian steak house and rib joint called Rocco’s Italian Grill.

Our reservation was at 1:00pm. We live about twenty-five minutes or so from Kronberg, so I had to hastily wrap up my guitar practice so we could get there on time. We needn’t have been so concerned. Although the terrace was bustling when we arrived, there were many tables available indoors. We decided to sit outside and enjoy the last days of summer before the weather turns to shit. There’s a parking garage very close to the restaurant, as well as an outdoor lot right by the restaurant itself.

Here are some photos from our visit.

Lunch was very good, although I probably wouldn’t get the Smokey Avo Burger again. I’m pretty picky about my burgers. Bill loved it, though, and ate what I didn’t want, as well as his own pasta dish. I think next time, I’ll go for a pasta dish or maybe grilled dorade or salmon. The pizzas also looked great, but they’re always too big for me. Despite appearances to the contrary, I don’t generally eat that much. I just drink too much. 😉

Service was a little slow, but basically friendly. I enjoyed watching and listening to the people around us. I noticed a lot of people who were there were Italians, which is always a good sign in an Italian restaurant. On Sundays, they offer non-stop service, though they take a pause on other days of the week. The inside of the restaurant is very modern and kind of glam. It looked a little like it was influenced somewhat by American tastes. The pizza bread burger buns are unique.

I noticed a young couple who appeared to be on a first or early date. They looked like they might be teenagers. It reminded Bill and me of when we had our first date, although we were well beyond the teen years when that happened. It’s hard to believe that this year, we’re going to celebrate our 18th anniversary.

After we ate, we decided to take a walk through the very quaint town, which reminded me a little of Ribeauville in Alsace, France. There are many beautiful half-timbered buildings and interesting architecture. I guess Kronberg was not too badly decimated during World War II. Here are some photos…

On the way back to the car, I noticed the garage had a pay toilet. Since I drank water and wine at lunch, I decided to spring for a pee before hitting the road. The WC wasn’t too dirty, but there was a lot of graffiti. Since I know I have at least one German reader who enjoys reading the public’s thoughts on things, here’s what was written on the walls. Who says Germans can’t be crass?

Kronberg begs for a return visit and further exploration. As nice as Hofheim was last weekend, I think I might like Kronberg even more. It’s a very ritzy town. Too bad we couldn’t take the Mini. It needs gas and air in the tires, which Bill will take care of tomorrow. Then, he’s off to Stuttgart to attend to business for a few days. Whoopee. Guess I’ll play Sims 4 and watch more Call the Midwife.

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Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part four

Saturday morning, we woke up after a nice night at the hotel. After a hearty breakfast that included a generous portion of scrambled eggs, we drove into Strasbourg on a mission to buy beer. I had heard the city had some really nice beer shops. Not that Germany doesn’t also have places to buy beer– they do! But Germans are very proud of their beer, so it’s not as easy to find suds from other countries. When we lived near Stuttgart, we used to visit Heinrich’s 3000, a huge beverage market near Ludwigsburg, where one could find beer from all over the place. But we haven’t yet found anywhere similar near Wiesbaden.

Bill was a bit worried about driving into the city, but it turned out fine. He made his way to the Gutenberg Garage, which is located right in the heart of the old town. It was fortunate that we got there somewhat early. Strasbourg was alive with activity on Saturday, complete with a sort of mini carnival with rides. The only thing I didn’t see, that I usually see in French cities, was a carousel. I’m sure one exists somewhere in Strasbourg.

We Googled and found that Strasbourg has three beer shops that would have what we were hunting for, so Bill grabbed his trusty Rewe bag and we headed out… but not before I made a pit stop. A lot of garages in France have public toilets, and Gutenberg is no exception. Unfortunately, it’s also no exception to my personal habit of catching people urinating. Seriously, this happens to me all the time, and not just in Europe, where public urination is common. I either see someone peeing outside, often just feet away from me, or I inadvertently open a door that wasn’t locked and catch the occupant mid stream. Believe me, it’s not something I aspire to do. I wish people would lock the door, but maybe they worry about being stuck in the toilet. I don’t know.

Anyway, I managed to see a toddler’s bare behind as his mother was tending to him. Then, while I was waiting, a man and another child joined what was apparently a party in the loo. It took a long time before they’d all done their business and came trooping out, all smiles. It turned out they were German speakers who also spoke French. The mom apologetically said, “Toute le familie” to me with a laugh. Okay, I admit it was pretty funny, even if they did hog the ladies room for about twenty minutes.

After I took care of my personal business, Bill and I headed toward the Strasbourg Cathedral. We figured we’d be loaded down with beer, so it was better to stop in there first. It was the first time I had ever been in the cathedral in Strasbourg and, I must say, it was absolutely beautiful. It’s probably one of the most breathtaking cathedrals I’ve seen yet, and I’ve seen a lot of them. I think the organ was what got me. Bill got choked up, just like he always does. Here are some photos.

After we recovered from the sheer sensory delight of the cathedral, we headed down an alley and found ourselves at a well stocked by rather small beer shop. We spent some time finding brews from everywhere from Belgium to Cary, North Carolina! We bought as much as we thought we could haul back to the car without hurting ourselves.

After unloading our beer haul, we headed to a restaurant called Au Pigeon. This place doesn’t get great ratings, probably because it offers rather run of the mill Alsatian cuisine as opposed to anything really fancy or inventive. However, we had a wonderful time eating there. Service was friendly and we could tell that it’s a favorite of some locals. While we were waiting for our lunches, I watched one of the waitresses kiss about twelve guys French style– on both cheeks– as if she was in receiving line. The guys all sat at a big table obviously reserved for them and they ordered some wonderful smelling traditional dishes. It was so much fun to watch them enjoying the food and their fellowship. They laughed a lot, talked a lot, and made the restaurant feel very festive, which probably improved our experience. It felt like we were eating with locals, which I think we were. And we enjoyed our lunches, too…

My duck leg was pretty good, although it was a little overdone. I was just glad the gravy wasn’t loaded with mushrooms, like Bill’s dish was. I guess some people really love their fungus. If I loved it too, my life would be so much easier. The service was pretty good, although I think it’s better if they know you there. I could see they were very warm and friendly to those they knew, but not to those they didn’t. I guess that makes sense, though, especially in a touristy area. I read in Trip Advisor that the restaurant is family owned and the grandfather does the cooking. Also, the lady who waited on us didn’t speak English, but she did speak German, so we had no problems. All in all, it was a nice lunch!

Dessert was excellent. I love profiteroles, and I paired mine with a little cognac. Yeah, it was extravagant, but