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Sweet false hopes… but BrewDog saved the afternoon!

A few days ago, The New York Times ran an article about Khachapuri, a popular dish made of fresh bread, cheese, and egg, in Transcaucasian countries, to include Georgia and Armenia. I lived in Armenia for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and while I can’t say I ate a lot of Khachapuri when I lived there, I’ve come to appreciate the milder versions offered outside of the country. When I lived in Armenia, the dish was made with stinky cheese, which I could not abide. When it’s made with milder cheese, it’s more delicious to me.

Anyway, when I saw the article in The New York Times, I was reminded of the times Bill and I have enjoyed Georgian food. We went to Georgian restaurants in Stuttgart and Frankfurt, as well as several in Wroclaw, Poland. The Frankfurt restaurant was a bit of a disappointment, but the ones in Stuttgart and Poland were awesome. I did a Google search and learned that much to my shock, Wiesbaden has an Armenian restaurant unsurprisingly called Ararat. I looked them up, and it appeared that they were open today. So Bill and I ventured out there to see if it was a good place to eat.

The restaurant is located in an area of Wiesbaden that is known for its Eastern European population. That’s where one can visit the Mix Markt for eastern goodies. It’s in a residential area, and probably gets lots of locals as visitors. It also looks like they host a lot of parties and such, with live music.

We approached, and the door was open. There was a young guy on the phone and a young woman. The proprietor came out and said they were closed on Sundays, even though Google and their sign said they were supposed to be open every day.

I couldn’t resist, and asked in Armenian if they were from Armenia (Hayastan), since the place also advertises Russian food. Their faces lit up as they answered yes, in Armenian, and asked if I was Armenian, too. I actually answered “no” in German, then explained in Armenian that I know some Armenian. Then I said in English “I used to live there.” What can I say? It’s been 25 years since I last had to speak Armenian on a daily basis. Anyway, I could hear them commenting and chuckling as we walked away. We’ll have to call and find out when they have regular hours. I’d love to try their horovats… or shashlik, if they prefer.

We went back to Wiesbaden and parked at the Kurhaus, then walked into town. It didn’t look like anything exciting was happening, so we headed to BrewDog, where we ate a couple of months ago. I knew they’d be open, because they don’t take a pause. It was almost 2:00pm.

We drank a couple of beers and each tried something different from the last time we visited. I had a “Cluck Norris” sandwich, which was fried chicken breast with avocado, red onion, cajun mayo, and coriander with a side of fries. Bill had a roasted chicken sourdough bowl, which was basically a big salad with pieces of chicken and a piece of toasted sourdough bread. His dish also included chilli, chia seeds, and avocado.

We enjoyed the music, and I took a few new selfies, because I was wearing makeup and the lighting was good. Plus, since it wasn’t super hot outside, I wore something besides a t-shirt and shorts. While we were sitting there, a waifish blonde girl came in and dropped off a keychain with a note. She was quick as a flash, and we watched her go in and out in a matter of a minute or so, before she went across the street and did the same at a cafe. This isn’t the first time this has happened to us. I’m not sure where she was from, but I would guess it’s an eastern nation, and this is their way of collecting money. They try to sell little trinkets to sympathetic people who are trying to eat. I don’t think she had any luck.

Below are a few photos. I didn’t manage to get any of Ararat, although I’m sure we’ll try to visit again when they’re open– after we’ve called to verify. The owner had a very kind face and seemed super friendly. But I don’t mind that we went to BrewDog, either. That’s a fun place!

I really do hope we can try Ararat. I love finding new restaurants, especially when they offer different food than what is available everywhere! And I have missed Armenia… and Armenian people!

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Sundays

A little Sunday fest in Hofheim…

Our beautiful weather continued on Sunday, so Bill and I decided to take the Mini out again. We had several appealing options for places to go. The cute town of Ingelheim am Rhein was hosting the Hamburger Fischmarkt, which is an annual tour the Hamburg Fischmarkt does most years. It was canceled in 2020 and 2021, but it’s back again. Ingelheim was going to have it for the weekend, so I thought maybe we could go to that. But then I remembered going to that market in Stuttgart and recalling that it gets pretty crowded. Since I’m still getting over a cold, I’d rather not be around a bunch of people.

Then we thought maybe we’d go to Wiesbaden and find a restaurant for lunch. But as we were driving out of Breckenheim, I remembered that Hofheim was having a flea market. We decided to go there instead. I can’t tell you too much about the fest itself, since we got there a little late. They had live music, a fire engine display, food, and lots of performers on stilts walking around Hofheim. It was also a shopping Sunday, so a number of stores were open– a rare thing on Sundays in Germany. We enjoyed what we heard of the band, which was finishing up as we arrived. I managed to get a minute of footage, posted below.

After we walked around a bit and ran into a balloon animal making children’s performer with an organ grinder, we decided to have lunch at Cafe Tass, a place we’d never tried before. The food was pretty good, if the service was a little casual. Bill tried speaking German as he was telling the server which dressing he wanted for his salad. The server immediately switched to English! Sigh… such is life. That’s why I kind of gave up on trying to learn German.

We didn’t stay too long, because it was hot and sunny, and we’re very white people… Hofheim doesn’t have the lovely grove of oak tries Eltville has by the river. But it was nice to get out for awhile, and while we were eating lunch, the band came over and had rumpsteaks. A guy came over to them and asked in German where they were playing next. They said Bayern (Bavaria). They were a pretty decent band, singing songs in German and Italian.

I also observed a lot of people smoking and vaping, including a couple of young ladies sitting near us. They shared a vegetarian Flammkuechen (Alsatian pizza). I don’t mind vaping as much as cigarette smoke, which came from the people sitting behind Bill. But, other than the air pollution, it was a nice lunch. I had gyros, which came with t’zatziki, rice, and pommes. Bill had a summer shrimp salad with yogurt dressing. I couldn’t finish my lunch, so we brought half of it home with us. I’m glad “doggie bags” are more of a thing in Germany now. Lunch was less than 40 euros.

I actually got choked up with how happy people were during the fest, enjoying the music, dancing, and just being good to each other. What a sharp contrast to the image I get of the United States, as people continue to fight over basic human rights for women. I felt very grateful to be part of the celebration yesterday… and I have so much love for Germany, which is feeling more and more like home, even if it really isn’t. I’m grateful I get to live here.

Below is a cute children’s performer singing, playing his organ grinder, and entertaining everyone!

Below are some photos from yesterday’s outing. It was a beautiful day!

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2022 Sekt Fest on the Rhein in Eltville!

We had absolutely gorgeous weather yesterday, so Bill and I decided to take a short trip to Eltville, a charming town on the Rhein River. We decided to go there because there’s a “Sekt Fest” going on all weekend. We love Sekt, which is Germany’s version of “fizz”, and Eltville is an absolutely charming hamlet.

Yesterday’s visit was only our second time in Eltville. The first one occurred in the blissful days of June 2019, before COVID-19 shut down the world. Eltville is a SUPER cute town, and we only live twelve miles from there, but there’s another issue that kept us away from there, besides COVID-19. There was a bridge that runs through A66 (Autobahn) that, in 2021, was declared unsafe. The bridge was closed and demolished last fall, which means that going to certain towns on the Rhein requires taking detours. The bridge is now being rebuilt, and will hopefully reopen in 2023.

Because my Mini Cooper convertible is 13 years old and has less than 39,000 miles on it, we decided to drive it yesterday. We also took a short detour through the lovely, but congested, town of Biebrich, where some guy tried to parallel park in a street parking spot while we were in heavy traffic. He was trying to back up, but we weren’t able to move for him, because there were people behind us… and naturally, they all started honking. Before I knew it, I was yelling at the guy, and actually called him a dickhead! Technically, that would be “Beleidigung”, which is a personal insult and is illegal in Germany. But at least I didn’t flip him the bird, which is also illegal.

Soon enough, we had forgotten about the dickhead who almost caused a collision. Bill was parking at the local Rewe, which is also the site of a large “Parkhaus”. We walked into the old town, stopping for lunch at a place called the Eltviller Rosenstübchen. We decided to eat there, because they were offering continuous service, with no “pause” after 2pm. In retrospect, we could have just gone to the Sekt Fest and gotten food there, but we didn’t know how big the festival was going to be.

I’m glad we stopped at the Eltviller Rosenstübchen for lunch. The restaurant has kind of a cozy, old fashioned look to it. Service is very friendly; prices are reasonable; and we had a delicious lunch of smoked trout that probably came from the Rhein. I shared a laugh with one of the chefs, who was drinking a draft beer as he made lunch! I could see him from my high pub bench, which offered a view into the kitchen.

After lunch, we went down to the riverfront, where the fest was going on. Some people were selling their creations in booths, while there were also plenty of food vendors and wine stands. We stopped at a couple of wine stands and enjoy some Sekt while we watched ships pass. At one point, we even saw a Viking river cruise ship pass, although I didn’t get a chance to see which one it was. I’ve never sailed with Viking, but I’ve heard good things about their cruises. It’s interesting to live near a place where luxury cruise ships pass on a daily basis. I would probably never want to take a Rhein River cruise, since I can drive to most of the places where they stop! Maybe I would take one years from now, for old time’s sake… but then again, I probably wouldn’t. There are other places I want to see more.

At another point during our visit, we saw a couple on the river. It looked like they were just married, and we did see a fancy old car at the church that had flowers on the hood. That’s usually a dead giveaway that someone got married. But then my German friend shared a link about Eltville’s Sekt festival, and I’m wondering if maybe the couple wasn’t part of the fest. They waved at the crowd as they passed, and there was another canoe full of photographers. So were they a newly married couple, or were they part of the act? I don’t know… but I did get some interesting photos. The weather was just awesome. Wish more days were this gorgeous.

Bill got nervous about the dogs, so we headed back to Breckenheim. I wish we could have stayed longer. They were setting up for live music as we were leaving. We will definitely have to spend more time in Eltville. It really is a lovely town. And who doesn’t love drinking wine on the Rhein? Okay… maybe teetotalers wouldn’t. But we all know I’m not one of those. 😉

Weeee! We need to drive the Mini more often!

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Turning 50 in Antwerp… part seven

At last it was Monday, June 20th… the big day. It was still cloudy and chilly in Antwerp, although it wasn’t like that in Germany. We went down to breakfast, where I was presented with a beautiful strawberry mascarpone tart and champagne. Bill also gave me a birthday card, which for once, wasn’t mushy. Bill and I managed to finish half of the tart; the rest was kept in the fridge for us. The hotel manager was very friendly, telling us about an upcoming trip she had planned to Africa. It sounded very exciting and exotic. I’m still not ready to brave airports, thanks to COVID-19, but I love to hear about other people’s trips to distant lands. Maybe we’ll get back into that at some point, if the fates allow.

After breakfast, we took another walk to the old town, this time to do some shopping. Whenever we travel, Bill likes to pick up little gifts for his grandchildren and his younger daughter. So we visited a tiny chocolatier near the church and bought a bunch of stuff. Bill picked up a pallet, incorrectly assuming it was a basket for putting stuff in. The shopkeeper laughed and explained the pallets were for the chocolates, and he was the first person who thought they were shopping baskets! We also bought some magnets, one of which I dropped and broke as I pulled it off the display. Bill paid for it anyway, and the cashier thanked him for being honest. I love being married to such a mensch.

We took the chocolate back to the hotel, since it’s June and the weather can get hot and sticky. The proprietor was kind enough to pack our goodies in an insulated bag. The gifts we got for my husband’s daughter are not meltable, but we did pick up some chocolates for home because, well, chocolate makes life worth living.

We walked around some more before stopping by a coffee store, where we found several pounds of coffees from different African countries. I still miss my Peet’s coffee, but it’s fun to try new beans from different producers. I also saw a magazine shop advertising “tasty and delicious” American candy, which seemed kind of crazy to me, given that we were in Belgium, where the very best chocolate in the world is made. We eventually went in there looking to see if they had an English version of A Dog of Flanders story. I had seen a cute children’s book in Flemish and thought it would be a great gift for Bill’s grandkids. Unfortunately, we were unlucky in our search, even on Amazon.

When it was time for lunch, we walked around a lot looking for the “right” place. One guy at a touristy looking Italian place tried to get us to come in, promising extra mushrooms. I turned to Bill and said, “Did he just say what I thought he said?” Bill answered affirmatively… and I said, “That’s the best way to get me NOT to come into a restaurant!”

We finally noticed a mysterious looking door next to another big restaurant that appeared to cater to tourists. The people going into the door were obviously more local than we were, and I saw a tour group being told about this strange alleyway we encountered… where we also found a fabulous “secret” restaurant called ‘t Hofke. Somehow, we had stumbled upon the oldest alley in Antwerp, which is very well hidden and easy to miss if your eyes aren’t open. I love to explore alleys and alcoves, so that’s probably why we found ourselves there on my birthday, enjoying excellent shrimp croquettes for me and Thai inspired chicken pasta for Bill. I noticed everyone in the place was local, which is usually a good sign. And, once again, it appeared to be a family/couple run place, with food that was made with love and care, rather than a mind for profits. Bill’s only complaint was that we asked for water that we never received, and the charge showed up on the bill.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel to drop off our second round of shopping and have a short rest. Then, as the afternoon continued, we found ourselves at Wijn Bar Bette, a little outdoor cafe run by an obviously gay friendly proprietor who had many local friends. Since it was my birthday, we decided to split a bottle of prosecco and people watch for awhile, which is always a treat. You never know what you’ll see… and that particular location was nice, because it was shady and unhurried. I really liked the relaxed ambiance and the obvious friendship the proprietor had with some of the locals. However, based on Trip Advisor reviews, we got lucky… apparently, a lot of people have gotten bad service at this place.

Finally, it was time for dinner, so we walked around to find the right place and eventually ended up at De Peerdestal. This place was obviously meant for meat lovers, as they had several different types of steaks and meat dishes available. They also served horsemeat and lobster. I like lobster, but we ended up sitting near the lobster tank. Seeing the doomed lobsters in there with rubber bands on their claws made me think of Leon the Lobster on YouTube (a guy rescued a lobster from the grocery store and turned him into a pet). I realize that it’s not much better to eat cow, but at least I didn’t have to see it before it died.