Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part five

When we woke up in Ribeauville on Saturday, November 19th, I looked at Facebook to see if there were any announcements about James Taylor’s show. I didn’t see any emails from the ticketing venue, or on James’s social media. That meant we’d be going home a day early.

I was a little sad to be going, since I really had wanted to go to Riquewihr at least once, if only to get macaroons. Bill didn’t want to go to Riquewihr, because it was in the opposite direction of home, even if it was just two miles. He said he’d go look for the macaroons in Ribeauville. So he went out, picked up more croissants, and FAILED to find the cookies I wanted. Instead, he bought three bags of other cookies.

Maybe I should be ashamed for feeling this way, but I was a little disappointed. What he brought back were not what I wanted. Then it occurred to me that I could probably order the macaroons, which is precisely what I did (they arrived this morning). So I got over my disappointment, and we started packing up to go home. As I was walking the dogs to the car, my hands full of whatever else I could carry, a French woman approached me, speaking rapid fire. I said in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”

She nodded and smiled, then backed away. I soon realized what she wanted. It was mid morning and the parking lot was already pretty full. She wanted our parking spot. I saw her lurking in the lot, just waiting for us to move. I always hate it when people do this, even though I understand why they do it. I wasn’t the one driving, and we weren’t quite ready to leave. She finally gave up at some point, after Bill had done a sweep of the Riesling gite, and came back to the car. By then, there were a couple more lurkers, just waiting…

It was probably a half hour later when we were on our way home, after a quick stop at the Daniel Stoffel Chocolatier outlet on the way out of town. Bill went in and picked up some goodies for us, and his daughter’s family.

Our drive home was almost totally uneventful. Arran went to sleep, and Noyzi was a perfect gentleman in the back. Maybe we have finally broken him of his habit of barking in the car. The only strange thing that happened was that, as usual, I witnessed public urination at a rest stop. I vented about that here. Below are a few shots from the drive home. As you can see, Arran was relaxed.

When we got home, our landlord came over to tell us our off kilter dishwasher, which had come off its foundation, wasn’t fixed yet, because the repair guy needed a part. Yesterday, he said the repair guy was sick, but would be able to fix the machine when he was well again. He said we should just be careful using the machine. When I told him we hadn’t been using it, because the dishwasher had given me an error code last time I ran a load, he said if the repair guy couldn’t figure it out, he’d just get us a new one. I am still stunned by how different he is, compared to our former landlady. They are like night and day!

I did the requisite load of laundry and a few other chores, then we got ready for the show in Frankfurt. We had to pick up our tickets at the box office, I guess to thwart scalpers. I pictured a long line of people, but when we arrived at the Jahrhunderthalle, we were pleasantly surprised by the ease of parking, the short distance to the venue, and the short line to get our tickets. Then we enjoyed some libations while we waited for the doors to open.

James Taylor had a stripped down band for this show. There was no keyboard player, and no opening act. We had second row seats, which was a first for me. I saw my first James Taylor concert in 1990. In fact, that show, when I was almost 18, was my very first “rock” show– if you could call it that. I remember I went with my parents and one of my sisters, and I paid $18.50 for nosebleed seats.

For this show, I paid 82,50 euros which I thought was very reasonable to see a guy who has won 6 Grammys and spent more than 50 years enchanting people all over the world with his wonderful guitar playing and angelic voice. While we waited for the show to start, I noticed the music that was playing. I recognized songs from albums by James’s daughter, Sally, as well as backup singers Kate Markowitz and Andrea Zonn. I downloaded Kate’s album from the concert hall. I already had Andrea’s.

This was the fourth time I’d seen James Taylor play, but there was a difference between this show and the others. For one thing, there weren’t drunken, idiot women standing in front of us, dancing and shrieking the whole time. There were no huge screens showing close ups of James and his band. And while he forgot a few words, he still played and sang beautifully. I was charmed by his efforts to speak German to the crowd, as well as the encouraging message he had for anyone “in recovery” from drug and alcohol addiction, as he has been since the mid 80s.

James told us some of the stories behind some of the songs he performed, including “That’s Why I’m Here”, from his 1985 album by the same name. I remember that he had dedicated that album to Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Imagine going to an A.A. meeting and seeing James Taylor there! But anyway, “That’s Why I’m Here” was a song he wrote in memory of his friend John Belushi, who died of an overdose in 1982. James was a pretty serious addict back in the day. He’s still addicted, of course, but no longer indulges. Before he started singing, he said, “If you like getting fucked up, that’s okay. I just can’t handle it myself anymore!” Everybody laughed.

At the beginning of the evening, I thought James looked a little pale, perhaps because he’d had COVID. But as the show went on, he was more and more animated, at times jumping around the stage. I enjoyed watching him interact with his band, most of whom had been with him for many years. Dorian Holley was the only one on stage I had not seen with James before. I suspect he’s the replacement for Arnold McCuller, James’s longtime backup singer who just retired from life on the road. I enjoyed Dorian’s singing. He has quite an impressive resume. James listed the people Holley’s sung with, which includes the late Michael Jackson. That actually surprised me, because he didn’t look old enough to be one of Jackson’s backup singers… but then, Michael was well known for enjoying and employing young performers for his shows.

James’s long time guitarist, Michael Landau, was well within view of us on the right side of the stage. He stood up and flexed his legs, I smiled at him, and he smiled back. That was kind of a cool moment. One thing I love about European concerts is that I seem to have a much easier time scoring good seats here. Another thing I love about European shows is that most people don’t act stupid at them… at least not at the shows Bill and I attend. And you can get a beer or a glass of wine without mortgaging your house.

At one point, James was introducing a song from his 1971 album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. A man in the audience held up a vinyl copy, which James immediately offered to sign and bite. The guy rushed up to the stage with his album and presented it to James, but then they needed to find a pen. Another guy came up and said he had something that had been signed by a bunch of famous singers, including Johnny Cash. He requested an autograph, which James was happy to oblige. In fact, at the break, I ran out to go to the restroom, and when I came back, James was still on stage, signing autographs and shaking hands. I was very impressed. I wondered if he needed to pee as badly as I did! It struck me as a very humble and generous gesture toward his loyal fans.

I decided not to try to get an autograph myself. I would be honored to have James’s signature, of course, but autographs don’t really mean that much to me. Earlier in the show, someone yelled out that his dad loved James. James made a comment reminiscent of what he said on his Live album from 1993. Basically, he reminded the guy that they don’t know each other. It made me think how strange it must be for performers to be “loved” by people who don’t know them. James himself reminded us that he is a deeply flawed person, as we all are… but what impresses me about James Taylor is that he’s clearly worked very hard to become much better. He’s clearly not the same person he was in the 70s or early 80s.

At the end of the show, of course there were encores… and James and his band encouraged people to get up and come close to the stage. It was one of the most intimate concert experiences I’ve ever had. I think the only one who topped that was James’s somewhat less famous brother, Livingston, who puts on a FABULOUS live show and is extremely approachable. I remember seeing Liv in 2003 at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, a couple of months after I saw James at Wolf Trap in Bristow, Virginia. James’s show was MUCH bigger than Liv’s was, and we had those drunk women in front of us, careening around sloppily as they slurred the lyrics of James’s best songs. I remember thinking Livingston’s show was so much better, if only because there weren’t any obnoxious drunks there. But Liv also engaged the audience and was thoroughly entertaining. This most recent show by James, while slightly pared down, was akin to Liv’s show, only it was in a much larger, yet still intimate, venue.

In any case, we obviously had a wonderful time! I’m so glad we went. It was the perfect ending to our 20th anniversary weekend. And yes, even though James will be 75 years old in March, he’s still a hell of a great performer. I think the money we spent on this show, even with its delays, was well worth euro cent.

Dorian and Kate dance!

Getting out of the Jahrhunderthalle was very easy. Bill was happy about that. But then we hit a Stau, so Bill went through Hofheim to get us home. And when we got home, we were confronted by a big mess caused by Arran. He got into the basement and raided our dry goods, and peed and pooped on my rug. Fortunately, he was no worse for wear. We have thoroughly dog proofed down there, as we’re going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner today. Noyzi had nothing to do with the raid. He was tucked in bed when we got home. He’s very classy for a street dog.

Well, that about does it for this series. It wasn’t a super exciting trip, but we had a good time… and it was great to have Arran and Noyzi with us. I’m so grateful to be here on many levels, and for so many reasons. I’m glad James Taylor is still with us, too. And before I forget, below are a couple of clips from the show.

The magical ending.
Auf Wiedersehen…

A day in a parrot paradise– Vogelburg

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a German Facebook group that offers ideas for fun day trips in and around the German state of Hesse. Actually, I joined an American run version of that group, but decided to join the German version when I noticed the group admin was mostly just reposting whatever was shared in the German group. He was adding very little original content or even a US perspective as he was resharing the German group’s content. So I decided I might as well join the German group, since locals often add information that Americans don’t have.

I know I recently mentioned that I would like to take this blog back to the way it was from 2014-2018, before we were dealt the double blow of a lawsuit with our former landlady and COVID-19. In 2019, we were new to Wiesbaden and trying to get used to our new town. Then, everything shut down for a long time, so that prevented us from exploring the way we would have, otherwise. For now, we are allowed to travel freely, but it’s taken time to get back in the mood to take day trips. Part of the reason I decided to go out today is because the weather was nice. It was sunny, but not too hot. Also, I needed to take my mind off of a threatening, harassing, message I got this morning on my now defunct Overeducated Housewife Facebook Page. One of the best ways to get me to temporarily forget about trouble is to visit animals.

Someone shared a post about Vogelburg, a sanctuary for rehomed parrots, parakeets, macaus, and cockatoos in the German Facebook group. I was intrigued, since I’d never heard of it. I showed Bill the official Web site, noted that it was open today, and we made plans to visit! The sanctuary is just north of Wiesbaden, on the way to Limburg, which is where we visited a few weeks ago. We probably could have gotten there in about 40 minutes, if not for a horrific pile up on Autobahn 3. We counted at least fifteen ambulances passing us, along with cop cars, fire engines, and the doctor’s car. The Stau held us up for about an hour, as we watched people exiting their vehicles to pee on the side of the road. It was quite frustrating, as I was also a bit hangry. However, once we got to the park, it was well worth the wait.

We paid eight euros each to enter the facility, bought some sunflower seeds, and made our way around, feeding the gentle and beautiful birds, watching them preen, listening to them communicate, and enjoying their antics. We saw one pretty cockatoo sitting on a girl’s shoulder while she petted it. Others were talking, hanging upside down, or begging for food. At first, I was nervous about feeding the birds, since there were picture signs warning about bloody fingers (see my photos). But I soon got the hang of things, and really enjoyed giving the birds treats. Quite a few of them really knew how to pour on the charm, as you can see in the video below.

Listen for the cuckoo bird!

After a couple of hours enjoying the birds, who came from all over the world, we decided to have a quick lunch at the park’s restaurant, which serves things like wurst, Frikadelle, potato salad, and cake. Bill and I both had bratwursts with potato salad. I could not finish the huge serving of potato salad, but did enjoy washing everything down with a cold Weizen beer. I did notice that the facility looked like it had been around a while and could use some refurbishment (ETA: it dates from 1981). But the birds are well cared for and very entertaining. They also have a Parrot School, which I guess is a program where visitors can learn more about the birds (ETA: My German friend says that the school is for the parrots). All of the signage is in German, though, which makes me think the “school” probably is, too.

We both left Vogelburg smiling, and I decided that we need to spend more time in this part of Hesse, which is quieter and less built up than Wiesbaden is. It reminded me a little of the lovely rural areas near Stuttgart we used to enjoy regularly when we lived down there.

This is a great activity for young children, although strollers may not be the best idea there, because there are cobblestones. They even have a cool slide at the top of the hill that kids can slide down and land in a sand pit. Plenty of adults were enjoying the park, too, as the birds are very social, healthy, and friendly! On the way out, there’s a gift shop. We didn’t stop in. This park opens every year on March 15th, and the season runs through October 31st. It’s open daily, from 10am to 6pm. Parking is free!

I’m happy to report that the drive home happened without incident– no wrecks or Staus. That’s always a plus in Germany!

All in all, it was a great day! I’m so glad we went to see the beautiful birds of Vogelburg today. They really helped me enjoy the day, and forget my troubles for awhile.


Voila! The new village toilet offers a new pot to piss in!

… I just hope it doesn’t become a place for sharing more than neighborhood gossip…

A few days ago, much to my amusement, the guy who runs our neighborhood Facebook group shared photos of the brand new public toilet that was erected in, and now proudly graces, our Dorfplatz here in Breckenheim. If you’ve been following this blog lately, you know that building this toilet has been a long and painful undertaking, and it hasn’t been without controversy. Last fall, a radio host even tried to ask me what I thought of it, but decided my opinion was irrelevant when it became clear that I’m not a local. The local reactions to this seem to be varied. Some people love it. A lot of people think it’s… shitty. Bwahahahaha! I am getting a kick out of all of the reactions and snarky comments translated from vernacular German.

The first summer we lived in Breckenheim, we had biweekly wine stands in the Dorfplatz. It was a great place for everyone to commune together and bond over the region’s star product– WINE! But then 2020 happened, and there were no wine stands or other community events. Then, last summer, a crew of men came in and took down the kiosk, from which all of the fundraising events were operating. I was sad to see the cute little kiosk come down. At the time, I didn’t know about the big plans for the Dorfplatz, and had no clue it was going to get its very own toilet! I was surprised when I found out, but now I know the reason. It’s so people don’t have to use the Rathaus toilets or go home to answer the inevitable call of nature during community events. I stopped to take a picture of it today, and noticed that it costs 50 cents to pee there. No need to hire a Klo Frau, after all…

Edited to add: I see that our local leader has said the toilet will be free to use. A free public toilet is something to behold in Germany!

Earlier this week. The powers that be are very proud of this new development, although not everyone is a fan.

Not for nothing, though, it’s taken forever to get this work done. The Dorfplatz has been fenced off for months, making the trash can harder to access. People have been putting trash in the can anyway, and it wasn’t always getting emptied, because it was behind a temporary fence. I noticed today, the whole area is open again. All that has to happen now is getting rid of the port-a-let that’s been in the Dorfplatz for weeks. I think getting rid of the port-a-let will be a huge improvement. Hopefully, this toilet will stay nice, but having seen them in other places, I have my doubts. However, I can also say with certainty that there have been many times when I have been very grateful to find one of these when I’m out and about. I like the ones that can be “stored” underground and brought out for special events. That was probably cost prohibitive, though… and Breckenheim doesn’t really warrant it. It’s just a little suburban village, after all.

I read that they’re going to rebuild the wine stand kiosk right next to the new toilet, which seems quite large for the space it’s in. I have an image in my head of people buying glasses of wine in one building, while others process it in a similarly sized adjacent building. Below are a few photos of Breckenheim’s latest upgrade, as well as a few pretty flowering trees in my neighbors’ yards. I’m impressed by how fresh and beautiful they are, in spite of the heat wave we’ve endured this week.

Of all of the things I’ve observed since our move to Wiesbaden, I think the great toilet debate has been the most entertaining. I will also admit that I wasn’t expecting this kind of toilet. I don’t know why I wasn’t, since they’re all over the place in Europe. I think I expected something more conventional. I will also note that there were many times when we lived in Jettingen that I wished for a toilet when walking my dogs. I had to pee in the woods a few times. 😉 But the woods are in much shorter supply in these parts.

Anyway, now there’s a place to pee, and soon we will have wine stands in the right place again… and weekly farmer’s markets, too! I look forward to having a farmer’s market we can walk to. We already have a grocery store and a “kwik mart” near us. As I have mentioned more than once, you get trade offs when you exchange country living for suburban living. Maybe someday, we’ll get vending machines with local produce, too. One can always dream!

In other news, today we will get a visit from the chimney sweep. In Germany, it’s legally required to have one’s chimney examined every year. They leave little notes on your door telling you when they’re coming over. We got one this week. It’s a good thing we were home. Our last house didn’t have a fireplace, but we still got visited by the cleaner, who had to check out our heating system and make sure it was safe. Here, we have a beautiful fireplace, and thanks to the war in Ukraine, I suspect we will be using it a lot more this year.

Props to my clever German friend, Susanne, for supplying this funny clip about Schornsteininspektion… 😉

Don’t know what we’ll be doing over the weekend. I’ve been sick all week, but I feel better today. And I am in need of some fun… so hopefully, we’ll find some and I can return and report.


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 cognac is always a treat. And when we were finished, it was time to head back to the hotel, drop off the car, and head to the expo where we could pick up some wines from all over France! More on that in the next installment!


Parker goes to France, part two…

After taking Arran to the Hundepension, Bill, Parker, and I loaded up the Volvo and headed to France. It was cold and cloudy, as it usually is this time of year. However, it wasn’t so cold in Germany that I packed my down jacket. I eventually regretted that decision, because it did get pretty cold in France. I did at least bring a cape that I could layer over my wool sweater. Global warming is definitely a thing, though. When we were in Germany the first time, I would not have dreamed of going outside without down. The past couple of years have truly been unseasonably warm here. We haven’t even had any snow yet. Last time I saw a decent amount of white stuff was when we lived in Jettingen.

We got on the road at about lunchtime on Saturday, January 18th. In retrospect, we probably should have eaten before we left, but I was eager to get on the road. We made one pit stop before lunch, where I managed to take a few inappropriate pics. I always get a kick out of the signs and ads in the bathrooms, as well as the people who prefer to go au naturale rather than pay the 70 cents to pee in private…

We ended up stopping in Landau, a pleasant town in southern Rhineland-Palatinate, not that far from the French border. I had told Yannick we were shooting to be at his gite between 3:00 and 4:00, but hadn’t realized that lunch would take as long as it did.

As it was, we stopped very close to the “witching hour” of 2:00pm, which is when a lot of restaurants shut down for a pause. I managed to find us a Paulaner restaurant, the Paulanerstuben-Landau, which still had lunch going. That turned out to be a fortuitous stop. The food was delicious, even if came out at a rather leisurely pace.

I had the delicious half chicken, which was crispy and probably done “extra spicy”. I say that, because they used a lot of black pepper to season it. I also noticed that they offered less spicy and mild versions. I wish I had specified, because when it comes to spicy food, my tastes are very German… or British. Makes perfect sense, too. Bill had the Wiener Schnitzel and Parker had sausages. Both of them liked their choices as much as I liked mine.

The rest of our drive to France was uneventful, except for when we stopped at an unusually rustic rest stop. There was another couple ahead of me. The man used the pissoir, which was outside (on a related note, I sure did see my share of public urination on this trip). The woman was in one of the two little wooden sheds, but she’d neglected to lock the door. Consequently, I opened the door on her when she was mid piss. Sigh… sorry lady, but I didn’t know you were in there. The doors lock for a reason.

We arrived at Yannick’s gite in the heart of Ribeauville at about 5:30pm. It was dark outside, and we were still full from lunch, as well as a bit tired from the drive. Yannick came over to say hello, and we got to meet his adorable little son, Raphael, who is about 18 months old. During our last visit to Ribeauville, Yannick’s wife was in labor with little Raphael; he was born the night we departed during our last visit over Memorial Day weekend in 2018. He was very shy, but adorable. Yannick said he wasn’t used to hearing English, but after a couple of minutes, he went to work entertaining himself with the drawers full of wine corks. Yannick says his wife will be having another baby in May or June of this year; then their family will be complete. It was a real pleasure to finally meet Raphael. I have no doubt that he’ll be bilingual in no time.

We all went to the little Carrefour grocery store located about 100 yards from the gite and loaded up on wine, beer, chips, breakfast fixings, and chocolate. Parker took one of the upstairs bedrooms, and Bill and I took the usual back bedroom. Here are some photos from Riesling, which mostly looks the same as it did last time we stayed there, in November 2017. Yannick says he’s trying to upgrade, but he’s had trouble finding workmen who are available. All of his gites in the wine house are named after local wine specialties.

We like to stay at Yannick’s place, mostly because he’s very nice and loves dogs. But his place is also very convenient to Ribeauville, has access to free lot parking, and has most everything you’d need. It’s also reasonably priced, and Yannick makes checking in and checking out a breeze. You just access the lockbox, for which he sends a code before you arrive. It’s super easy and convenient. In fact, about an hour after we left, he texted me to see how we enjoyed our time. It was, indeed, a great time! Now… on with what we did in Alsace this time! Stay tuned for part three.


Wining and dining at Ratskeller in Tübingen

We had beautiful sunny weather today, although it was cold and kind of windy.  I got the idea to go to Tübingen to pick up some wine at Vinum Weine & Feines, one of my favorite wine stores in the area.  I wanted to see if they had any Georgian Saperavi.  It’s the only wine shop I’ve found yet in Germany that carries Georgian wines.

Before we hit Vinum, though, we needed to have lunch.  We decided on Ratskeller on a whim.  We’ve passed this place a bunch of times, but never noticed it had a restaurant.  Apparently, it’s a club that hosts bands in the evenings.  I was actually lured there by the sign below…

The sign above the bowl reads :”Bitte, hier trinken anstatt zu pinkeln.”  Translation: Please drink here instead of peeing.  I’d love to know what prompted the management to post that sign…


Today’s specials.


The front facade.  


Bill stares in wonder at the locally produced IPA he found.  It was actually very good.  He was impressed.


Nice to see the Germans getting in on making craft beers.


I had a glass of wine (grenache and syrah blend), which came with a small glass of sparkling water.  Notice under the tulip is an ad for a Jam Session.  The Ratskeller hosts bands.  I think our table was actually on the small stage.

Ratskeller seems to specialize in burgers.  They had everything from a plain ol’ cheeseburger to veggie burgers.  They even had choices for vegans.  I noticed they had a few other items for those who didn’t want sandwiches, as well as soups, salads, and specials.  Bill and I decided to have burgers, although neither of us went for the usual American beef variety.  I had a chicken burger and Bill had a vegetarian apple and cheese burger.  He said the cheese was somewhat mild and it came with a dressing and tomatoes.

Bill’s apple and cheese burger.  This was one of the weekend specials.  He didn’t realize it was a meat free sandwich, but enjoyed it just the same.  The fries were ordered a la carte and came with a “dip”.  They had ketchup and mayo, as well as a number of more exotic dips.  We both had ketchup.


My chicken burger had thin breaded chicken breast filets, sliced tomatoes, a curry dressing, lettuce, cheese, roasted onions, and pineapples.  It wasn’t bad at all, although the burger was pretty large and got kind of messy.  I couldn’t eat the whole thing.


The interior of the restaurant is pretty nice.  There’s an attractive bar area, as well as a cavernous dining room that looks like it was the old cellar.  I noticed they had lots of board games there for people to play.

The “cavern” dining room… on the way to the ladies room.


Board games for the bored.

And the bar.


I noticed there were signs posted warning clients of the patrons of date rape and sexual harassment.  Apparently, Ratskeller and other local night spots are committed to preventing their guests from being harassed.  It was translated into several languages.  I was glad to see it.

“No means no.”

In French and Arabic.

In English…

Our bill came to about 33 euros.  All in all, we enjoyed our lunch and would eat at Ratskeller again.  It has a nice atmosphere, reasonable prices, and pretty good food.  Maybe next time, one of us will brave one of the more conventional beef burgers.  After Bill paid, we headed to Vinum for wine shopping.  I snapped a few more photos on the way.

Someone has a weakness for Gremlins, Garfield, and Odie.  Guess they must be about my age.


The city square is looking fine, as usual.


I especially love visiting here when the sun is out.  Lots of people were enjoying the sun, drinking coffee and beer outside.  It was still a little too chilly for me.  I guess you can take a girl out of the South, but not the South out of the girl.

The entrance to my favorite bottle shop in these parts.  


They have whisky and other tastings, too.  We didn’t partake of any whisky today.


But if you want to try some of their wines, you can help yourself to the ones they set out.


Just grab a glass and go to town!  I only tasted two today.  I’m usually pretty shameless when it comes to tasting wines at Vinum, but restrained myself.


We did manage to score two bottles of Georgian Saperavi.  In fact, we cleaned them out of what they had on display.  I want to encourage them to stock more.  For those who are curious…

This is what we’ve picked up on our last few visits.  If you like leathery, full bodied reds with a lot of character, you may want to give it a try.


This was the total haul.  We were conservative because Bill forgot his wine bag and we are already pretty flush with vino right now.  I just got a bunch of Armenian wines from Armenian Brandy and Wines out of Belgium.


Right next to Vinum is an optical shop.  I liked the eye charts they had for men and women.

Apparently, women prefer shoes…


And men prefer beer.  Actually, I’d rather take the beer test.

On the way to the parking garage, I noticed someone was using a US mailbox.  I haven’t seen one of these in over three years.

Tübingen is always lovely, but especially when the sun is shining!  Bring on spring!


Tomorrow, it looks like we’re going to head to a place we’ve not yet been… provided the weather is decent and we get up and going in time.  We probably should have spent more time out and about today and probably would have, if not for the gusty wind!  I am so ready for better weather!


Last minute getaway to Ulm: Part two

We had intended to eat breakfast at the hotel.  It was included in the price of the room.  Unfortunately, luck was not on our side yesterday morning.  We all got in the elevator.  It stopped on the second floor, where we were confronted by the old guy who had checked us in.  He had a cart full of dirty dishes and seemed to need the elevator more than we did.  We got off the elevator and started down the stairs.  When we got to the lobby, standing by the elevator was a woman with a big boxer.  Zane got one look at the boxer and started barking.  Arran joined in with his own deafening howls.  Once again, I was dragged out of the lobby by my two crazy dogs.

I suggested to Bill that we go find a McDonald’s or something.  If worse came to worse, we could eat in the car.  Bill figured we’d stop at the one we passed on the autobahn, not realizing until it was too late that there was a McDonald’s in the next town.  We spotted its golden arches as we were getting on the autobahn.  Rather than turn around and go back to Mickey D’s, Bill headed for A8.  It turned out the McDonald’s we thought we were going to was located further away than we realized.  Spotting a Burger King, we pulled off at a truck stop, thinking we might score a Croissan’wich or something.

The boys enjoy a truck stop.  Lots to smell there.

The truck stop was located in Aichen and it was pretty disgusting.  The air smelled bad… kind of like a combination of garbage and sewage.  There was trash all over the place, especially near the picnic tables.  Nevertheless, Bill went in to find us some breakfast while I tended to Zane and Arran.  What we didn’t realize is that apparently some Burger Kings in Germany don’t offer breakfast.  The Burger King at the Aichen truck stop definitely didn’t.  So Bill ended up getting a true truck stop breakfast, which took some time.  I was standing out there with the dogs, wondering what was going on, not knowing that Bill was getting us a full on breakfast packed in styrofoam and accompanied by plastic utensils.

He got me fried eggs and bacon and himself scrambled eggs with potatoes.  The scrambled eggs were supposed to come with ham, but the guy didn’t have any on hand.

That’s a lotta eggs!  The orange juice was excellent, though.  It was fresh squeezed!

Bill’s deficient eggs.

We sat down at a picnic table and I remarked to Bill that there had been a steady stream of guys headed for the wooded area behind the truck stop.  Obviously, they didn’t want to pay 70 cents to use the toilet.  I couldn’t blame them for that, I guess.  However, there were a few fellows who didn’t want to take the time to walk to the woods.  I saw at least two of them take a whiz right in front of everyone.  It’s not uncommon to see people doing that at truck stops, though most people at least try to be a little private about it.

Germany sure is beautiful, isn’t it?


After we ate, I decided to use the restroom.  As I walked into the truck stop, I was confronted by a family of four with no sense of urgency as they headed down to the facilities.  They were blocking the pay station, fishing for change.  I reminded myself that we weren’t in a hurry because we had nothing planned.  I still wanted to do my business and get away from the nasty truck stop, though.

I suppose seeing this ad for desperate pregnant women was worth 70 cents.


Finally, we got back on the road and headed into Ulm.  Ulm is a very nice city.  I would definitely like to go back there sometime without the dogs.  It reminded me a lot of Munich in some ways.  In other ways, it reminded me of Tuebingen.

One of the first things we saw were signs for a wine fest…

It was to open at 11:00am!

A farmer’s market was also going on.  Unfortunately, Bill forgot to bring our shopping bags.  It’s a shame, too.  We even had our cooler that plugs into the car and makes a little fridge.

The produce looked beautiful!

We did not go inside the cathedral because we had the dogs.  Had we gone in there, I think we would have climbed up the steeple.

I had to pause at this corner where three skilled musicians were busking.  Fiddle, guitar, and upright bass conspired to touch my heart as we wandered around the market.  In fact, even though we were only there for a couple of minutes, their music actually brought tears to my eyes.  I am a terrific sap when it comes to music.  We ended up giving them some euros.

We finally made our way toward the river and wandered through a very charming part of old town Ulm.  As we crossed over one of many bridges, I saw something puzzling…

Someone apparently decided to take a seat.

But really, much of the area near the fish market is just lovely, with waterfalls and ducks…

The people here very kindly left a water bowl out for passing dogs.

We should have stayed in Ulm.

Some guy stopped Bill to ask him a question.  A lot of people do that.  It’s probably because he has a very kind face.  While he was struggling to speak German, I busied myself by taking this photo.  

Right about at this point, I decided I needed to make a pit stop.


We ended up at a Coffee Fellows.  I had hot chocolate that tasted more like hot chocolate milk.  Bill had a cafe Americano.  The boys got a rest.

I ended up being amused by this ad that was by the restrooms.  Look closely at the guy’s underwear.  You’d never see that in the States!  I also thought the music at this particular coffee shop was pretty bad.  They were playing songs where N bombs were repeatedly dropping.  

Once we were finished with our coffee break, we started thinking about what we wanted to do next.  My German friend Susanne had given me some tips on a local place where there were pretty trails and biergartens.  I figured that might be a good place for us to take the dogs… but then as we rounded the corner, we realized it was 11:00… The wine fest was then open!


Beer and Fucking Tour… a visit to Fuckersberg… and peeing on a snake!

Sunday morning, we were up bright and early, ready to move on to our next location.  After breakfast, we loaded up the car and checked out of the hotel.  Our total bill for two nights, two beer spa packages (beer bath, partial massages, and four course beer menu), Friday night’s four course “menu” dinner, and several beers, came to about 480 euros.

I noticed that the proprietor meant to take the day off.  She had set a sheet of paper with hotel keys on it next to the names of people scheduled to check in.  I guess these folks would later show up, grab their keys, and deal with the check in process later.  Obviously, the lady in charge was going to rest and enjoy her Sunday.  As we were about to leave, she showed up in a beautiful dirndl, said goodbye, and wished us a pleasant trip.

I really enjoyed staying at the Moorhof, even though it’s a bit 80s and in a somewhat rural area.  Salzburg is close enough to visit for those who need to see a city, yet the hotel is in a very serene, beautiful area.  The food is good.  The prices are reasonable.  There’s plenty of free parking and there are many places to take walks.  And, if you want to, you can even rent an “old time” tractor and go for a ride.  Though I thought Franking was lovely, I really liked the friendly people.  I would go back there if I ever need a place to completely unplug.  Franking is very tranquil and serene.

After we settled up, I told Bill that I was dying to see a place called Fuckersberg.  I was alerted to the existence of this place in Austria by ListOfTheDay, a hilarious guy on Facebook who posts funny stuff.  He claims he lives in Fuckersberg.  He’s hysterical and now runs the Everything 70s group on Facebook.

Anyway, because we were in Austria, I had to see this mystical place called Fuckersberg, even though we had big trouble pulling it up on the GPS.  While plenty of people posted pictures of Fucking, no one had posted pictures of Fuckersberg.  Yet I knew from Google (and now having seen it) that it’s a real place.  So, even though it was Sunday and Fuckersberg is over an hour northeast from Franking and in the opposite direction of where we were going, I convinced Bill to take me there.  Since it wasn’t in the GPS, we picked a small town about three miles from Fuckersberg’s location per Google maps.

The drive to Fuckersberg was absolutely beautiful!  I was really enjoying the scenery.  Unfortunately, I eventually really had to pee.  Since it was Sunday, a lot of places were closed.  I determined that I needed to find a bush somewhere.  As a side note, since we moved back to Europe, I am finding that I have fewer and fewer inhibitions when it comes to public urination.

Bill found a spot on the side of the road near a wooded area.  I don’t think we were supposed to park there and given what happened, I kind of wish we hadn’t.  But my bladder was screaming and I spotted a place I could duck behind and relieve myself quickly…

I ducked behind here… it was a good hiding spot for a whiz…

I was pretty pleased with myself for finding this particular spot, even though there were briars and debris back there.  I had just dropped my pants and squatted down when I spotted a stick near my foot.  As the first drops of urine flowed to the ground, I saw the stick move and realized that I was actually peeing on a snake who had the misfortune of hiding back there while I took a much needed whiz.  I let out a small scream, finished up, and rushed out from behind the machinery.  Later, I looked up the snake…  It wasn’t very big, nor was it poisonous.  Still, it gave me the creeps.  In fairness, I guess I gave it the creeps, too.  ETA: My German friend Susanne thinks maybe it was a different kind of snake.  She’s probably right.  Anyway, it was sort of gray and brown and not very scary.  Just creepy.

Near Fuckersberg…

We finally got to a town called Zell an der Pram, which is near Fuckersberg.  Bill turned on roaming services on his phone and we used Google GPS to get to the exact place where Fuckersberg is.  Fuckersberg is in a very beautiful area, but I could tell the locals aren’t used to strange people cruising through there.  One lady gave us a bewildered look as we drove past.  She was saddling her horse for a morning ride.  We passed her again when we determined that Fuckersberg only has one sign.  It’s pretty small and you could very easily miss it.  But here it is in all its fabled glory…  Fuckersberg is apparently a big field.

I had to take this photo in a hurry because the horse lady looked perturbed with us…

Once we finished our business in Fuckersberg, we headed for Lermoos, which is in the Tyrol region and very close to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  In fact, Bill and I passed through Lermoos several times last time we lived here because he had a bunch of conferences at the Edelweiss Lodge and I always tagged along when he went there.  I gotta say, I liked our traditional hotel in Lermoos a lot better than the Edelweiss Lodge.

Because we were so far east, we ended up going to Lermoos by way of Germany, which involved driving through Munich.  Bill was not a happy camper and neither was I.  In fact, I got pretty “hangry”.  More on that in the next post.


A quick trip to Bad Urach to see the waterfall…

Since it’s Labor Day weekend and we didn’t make any travel plans, I really wanted to try to do something different today.  Sadly, after last night’s indulgent dinner and wine excursion, Bill and I got off to a slow start.  Finally, around noon, I got dressed and Bill asked me what I wanted to do.  I said I wanted to visit Bad Urach.

I actually wanted to see the town of Bad Urach and, perhaps, drop by their thermal baths.  But Bill determined that we needed to hike up the famous Bad Urach waterfall.  We set off from Unterjettingen at about 1:00 after I had a brief OCD moment worrying whether or not I had shut the door firmly.  Bill had thought to pack me a bag of peanuts in case I got hangry, but I had a better idea.  I said we should stop in Tübingen and have lunch.  Bill agreed, and we ended up having a really nice meal at Die Kelter, which is a very cool restaurant on the main drag coming away from our favorite parking garage near the university clinic.
We last dined at Die Kelter last time we lived in Germany, though we have since been in there for drinks.  Die Kelter has a very unique atmosphere and very good food.  In fact, today when we had lunch, I couldn’t get over how great the place smelled… kind of like fresh bread and Mom’s Sunday roast.  
Bill looking bored…  It’s time to order him some new clothes.
We  sat at one of the big tables on the main floor and a friendly waiter who spoke perfect English took care of us.  I had the New York pastrami on focaccia with a salad.  Bill had the pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw and fried potatoes.  He had mint iced tea and I had a beer.  But before lunch could begin, I had to hike to the ladies room.  And when I say hike, I mean hike.  You have to go up two or three flights of stairs (I lost count) to get to the toilet.
There are several of these signs to help you in case you lose your way…

Here’s a shot of the restaurant.  I took it on the way back down to our table.  Cool, huh?

Nice Baisinger beer.  Locally brewed and I think it’s Die Kelter’s brew of choice.  The bread was very fresh and yummy.

My delicious pastrami.  Seriously, this was very good, and at 13 euros, not too pricey.  The pastrami was cool to the touch, with a toasted focaccia bread bottom.  It was served with a nice mustard sauce on the bread.  The salad was delicious, especially because of the dressing.  I don’t usually eat a lot of salad, but I could eat this every day.  The dressing was like crack.  And the cherry tomatoes were sweet and almost like candy.

Curiously, Bill’s sandwich (which the waiter said was a good choice) was advertised on the “small hunger” part of the menu.  It was also very good.  I enjoyed helping Bill eat the potatoes.

Bill is waiting for the bill…

A couple more interior shots.

Well worth a visit!  We’ll be back again.  

With our hunger satiated, we went back to the car and watched as a nervous woman tried very hard to get out of her parking spot.  I guess she and her man were teaching a young guy with them how to drive.  We were stuck behind them for awhile and it was a bit hair raising.  But soon, we were out of the city and the countryside turned pretty.  I told Bill I wished we’d gotten an earlier start because I knew I’d want to see more than the falls…

First glimpse of the trail to the waterfalls.  There is a train station located very close for those who’d rather ride the train than drive.  Plenty of parking is available, too.  You have to pay to park, but the pass is good all day.  There is no charge to see the waterfall.

By the time we parked and Bill got his parkschein, I really had to pee.  Sadly, there were no public toilets to be found.  There was a restaurant nearby, but I figured there would be something near the falls.  I was mistaken.  

Though I badly needed to find a toilet, I tried to focus on the natural beauty of the Bad Urach area.  Clouds were rolling in and it made for some very dramatic photography.

But then we came upon a swiftly rushing brook… just what my aching bladder needed!  

Castle ruins in the distance.  We weren’t up to hiking there today.  Perhaps another time.

There were many people at the waterfalls today.  With no bathroom in sight, I was hoping to be able to pull off the trail and find a bush.  Unfortunately, the opportunity didn’t present itself and even if there had been a good bush to duck behind, the throngs of people made it difficult to do so discreetly. Just as I was about to lose hope, I spotted what looked like a deep dry creek bed with lots of tree cover and a convenient overhang.  I sneaked down into the creek bed, found a private spot, and took a glorious whiz away from the glare of onlookers.  It’s a good thing I did, too…  It would not have been fun to hike up the falls needing to whiz.

We reached the base of the falls, where a sign warned us against drinking the water.  It looked cool, clear, and clean, but apparently it’s been known to cause waterborne illnesses.  I’ve had giardia before.  Don’t need a repeat experience.

We started the walk up the falls, which mostly consisted of taking some steps up the side.  I’m pretty slow going up these things since I’m not very thin or fit, but there were many fearless kids running down as if the steps were nothing.  There are no handrails.  I did my best mountain goat impression as I made up way up.  I was sad to see that some people had thoughtlessly left trash in the area.
The roots on this tree reminded me of a horde of fighting monkeys.

About halfway up.

At the top…  I am told that there’s usually more water, but we didn’t have much rain over the summer.

The view off the top of the falls.

People making their way up.

I managed to annoy several people behind Bill and me because I took my time going down.  Like I said, I’m not as fit as I’d like to be and the last thing I want to do is break my ass coming down those hard steps.  They finally made a move to pass just as I was putting out my hand for balance.  One of them said, “Hallo.”  I stepped aside, let them pass, and asked Bill if there was anybody else.  He said no, then got in front of me and let me steady myself by putting my hand on his shoulder as we descended.  Oh, how I miss the days when I was a kid and hadn’t yet fallen on my face in public.

Dramatic shots of the castle ruins.

On the way back to the car, Bill decided to pull off at the same place I did and relieve himself.  Of course, when he did that, he attracted the curiosity of a couple who were wondering what they were missing.  I wanted to say that all they were missing was my husband taking a whiz.  You can see that on the side of the autobahn anytime.  The same couple was ahead of us and I had a good laugh when someone walking the other way inexplicably said “Hallo!” in a cheery tone of voice.  She laughed as she passed and the male half of the couple turned and stared at her with a confused expression on his face.  I guess random people don’t go around saying “Hello!” so enthusiastically in these parts.

While Bill peed, I distracted myself by taking a photo of this tree.

An adorable and friendly golden retriever took an extended dip in the creek.  Bill almost got a shower when the dog came up and shook off the excess water in front of him.

Another shot of the dog playing fetch in the water.

We left Bad Urach after our short visit, vowing to come back and see more sometime soon.  On the way back to Unterjettingen, we decided to see the Mad Scientist at Agais in Entringen.  We didn’t really need to eat, but we knew he needed the business and it’s always fun to see him.  So we dropped in at just before 5:30 and had a nice Greek meal.

Beer instead of wine…

A small salad…

I had grilled turkey.  Bill had souvlaki, which I didn’t photograph because he’s had it before.  I have had the turkey before, but not since we moved back to Germany.  It was a nice change of pace.
When we got home, Zane and Arran went absolutely nuts.  They showered me with beagle kisses after they ate their dinner and had a potty break.  They had a brief play session.  Now, I suspect they’re asleep.
We had a really good day, despite starting off with a hangover.  Next weekend will be even better because we’ll be in Austria while everyone else is back at work!

18 months for pissing on The Alamo!

Don’t mess with Texas!

A man who peed on The Alamo got sentenced to 18 months in prison.  Back in April 2012, 23 year old Daniel Athens of El  Paso, Texas took a whiz on the landmark and just got slapped with the time and a $4000 fine.

I have to wonder if Athens was drunk when he made this faux pas.  He was spotted by a ranger who happened to see him in an area that was not intended for the general public.  He probably would have been better off jumping into the San Antonio River from the Riverwalk and relieving himself there.

Best find a restroom before you hit the Alamo…


While I know it’s not good to deface national monuments, I think this punishment is a bit extreme and not all that beneficial to society.  I think it would have made more sense to fine the guy and make him clean up the area around The Alamo in 100 degree heat.  Now he’s going to go to prison and the prisoners are going to ask him what he’s in for…  “Pissing on the Alamo” probably won’t get him much street cred.  In all seriousness, this could damage this guy’s future.  Yes, it was a dumb mistake, but I think in the grand scheme of things, he could have done much worse.

But then, I’m from Virginia and Virginia is for lovers…  😉