Our pandemic dog rescue story… part three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on the drive to Slovenia in the next post.

Wine bar! And our very first visit to the Block House…

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Yesterday, Bill and I visited the dentist in downtown Stuttgart for our biannual cleanings.  As is our habit, after we visited the dentist, we hung around downtown for dinner.  I was unusually stressed yesterday, but the truth is, for months I’d been wanting to try a certain wine bar near the Markthalle.  Die Weinhandlung Kreis is a small wine shop, but you can also go there to taste wines and enjoy snacks.  We’d passed by the place so many times and I wanted to go in to see what it was about, but every time I paused by the door, Bill convinced me to move onward.  Yesterday, I was determined to finally try the place.  And frankly, after my dental cleaning and the huge Stau that preceded it, I was in need of a soothing red for my jangled nerves!

Die Weinhandlung Kreis near the Schillerplatz in downtown Stuttgart is a very small place, but they have wines and local spirits.  Yesterday, I noticed they were selling Chartreuse and Monkey 47 Gin, which is a gin made here in Baden Württemberg.  We discovered Monkey 47 Gin when we visited Hamburg in January 2015 and since then, we’ve enjoyed it ourselves.  My German sucks, but I can see from Die Weinhandlung Kreis’s Web site that this little wine bar is just one address affiliated with Die Weinhandlung Kreis.  They have a main shop in Stuttgart South, as well as an online store.  They even have a vineyard.  I can tell that Bill and I are going to have to get to know this business better.

Anyway, the lady who was running the shop yesterday wasn’t super friendly, but she was quick to get Bill and me a couple of large glasses of vino.  I tried a lovely Gigondas that was very nice in the late afternoon.  Bill had a Spanish red that had almost a menthol tinge to it.  It was very interesting.  They were playing cool jazzy music on vinyl in the cozy tasting room.  Had we not had plans to visit the Block House afterward, we might have tried a snack to go with the wine.  They had quite a few reds and whites available, as well as at least one sparkling wine.  We will definitely be back.

Ahh… red wine in the afternoon.  You can get a small or large glass.  I went with a large.

Bill sporting his new sporty goatee as he enjoys a red.  On the wall, you can see a list of what was available yesterday.  

Tiny bar.  Sorry this picture is a bit blurry.  I was trying not to be conspicuous.  Behind the turntable is a blurry list of snacks.  We ended up buying a bottle each of the reds we tried.  It’s worth mentioning that this wine bar takes credit cards– even the ones from America! 

 

I felt a bit more relaxed after the wine and my stomach told me it was time for dinner.  I had been wanting to try the Block House chain restaurant in Stuttgart for some time.  Now that I have, I can write a review.  Later, I will write a post detailing all of our local steakhouse experiences.

I saw this on the way to the Block House and thought it was nifty.  It was in front of a shoe store.  

I also noticed this coffee shop right next to the Block House location on Eberhardstraße.  They sell cups of coffee, but they also sell beans.  We may have to pay them a visit, so maybe I won’t need to spend 40 euros in duty taxes plus $40 in shipping for Peet’s again!

The first thing to know about the Block House is that there it’s a chain restaurant.  There are 47 Block House restaurants, 38 of which are in Germany.  Two of those 38 locations are in Stuttgart.  In that way, Block House is not unlike Maredo, another German steakhouse chain that has two locations in Stuttgart.  Curiously, the two Stuttgart area Maredo locations are practically within sight of each other.

The next thing to know about the Block House is that it runs all day.  There is no pause between lunch and dinner.  This is a very fine thing.  We were able to visit the restaurant yesterday before it got super busy.  Indeed, it was somewhat chill when we arrived at 5:00pm and was pretty full by the time we left a couple of hours later.

Bill anticipates a good hunk of meat.  He said the restaurant reminds him of an American place.  I agreed.  In fact, they were even playing early 80s pop music, which I kind of dug.

 

Block House is a very casual place.  We were invited to sit where we wanted.  When we sat down and the waiter realized we weren’t German, he asked if we needed menus in English.  Of course we said no!  Bill likes to show off his mad skills… which unfortunately, I am still trying to develop.

We started with a very nice bottle of Malbec, along with San Pellegrino.  I ordered the Hereford Rib Eye, while Bill went with a Filet.  Both dishes came with salads and Block House bread, as well as a potato or pommes.

 

As we were sitting there soaking up the atmosphere, Bill got a strange look on his face.  I asked him what was the matter, and then it became obvious.  The waiter put my salad in front of me and it was loaded with huge sliced mushrooms.  I took in a quick gasp of surprise and horror because I have a phobia of mushrooms.  Fortunately, Bill was kind enough to take them out of my salad.

 

Next time, I’ll know to tell them to hold the fungus!

The steaks were very good.  I was able to ask them to hold the sour cream and got butter instead.  I could have also had garlic butter.  My rib eye was about 250 grams and cooked to a perfect medium temperature.  The bread appeared to be a bun sliced, buttered, topped with garlic salt, and toasted.  It was pretty good, if not a bit generic.

Bill’s filet and sour cream covered potato.

 

We decided to have dessert.  It turned out to be a treat.  Those of you who love lava cakes will be happy to know you can get one at Block House.  I have an aversion to lava cakes, so I went with the New York Cheesecake, which came with a lovely warm blueberry sauce.

This was pretty damn delicious!  I am a sucker for cheesecake, even if I don’t eat cold, stinky cheese!

Bill had the Eis und Heiß, vanilla ice cream with a warm berry sauce.  He enjoyed it very much.

 

The bill came to about 82 euros before the tip.  While it wasn’t the best steak I’ve had in Stuttgart, I will say that we did enjoy our visit to Block House and would go again.  And now that I’ve finally tried the Block House, perhaps it’s time to write a comparison of all the steaks we’ve had here so far.  Stay tuned!

The outside of one of Stuttgart’s two Block House locations.

 

This is the end of my restaurant review.  Stop reading if you have delicate sensibilities about sex.

On the way back to the car, we passed Dr. Mueller’s Sex Shop.  I have never actually been inside the place, but this particular chain store has the distinction of being one of my most vivid memories of my first visit to Germany in 1997.  I came here on the way home from Yerevan, Armenia and two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The Frankfurt Airport, at that time, had a couple of Dr. Mueller’s locations within it.  I remember being shocked as I passed it.  So, in honor of that memory, I decided to snap a few photos of the location in downtown Stuttgart.  Maybe someday, we’ll venture inside.

Looks pretty tasteful to me.

 

Tune in next time for whatever crap I discover next.